Monday, 22 January 2018

Some you win, some Zulus!

Some Zulus! My artwork, Matt Soffe colours from forthcoming graphic novel!

As is traditional today, I've spent a little time reflecting on events in Zululand 139 years ago which, as readers of this blog will be aware, has had rather a profound interest (or is it obsession?) for me for almost as long as I can remember. Much of that time my interest was simply that, an interest stirred by that movie, and a genuine desire to learn more about the military history behind those colourful set-pieces and action scenes. The more I read of course lead to a greater understanding, reaching a pinnacle with my first visit to the South African battlefields themselves with the eminent historian, Ian Knight, who's many books on the subject I've eagerly devoured.

Isandlwana battlefield cairns from 2010
Isandlwana battlefield 2014
Proud & happy Zulu children 2014

That first visit brought me directly into contact with many Zulus themselves and a growing awareness that they viewed the events of 1879 rather differently - a planned Zulu Victory for starters, not just a surprise British defeat -  and also a need to commemorate the occasion as a rare victory against the Europeans colonisation of Africa itself, which is something I guess I'd not really thought about, much to my regret. As they say, history is written by those who won and it is generally that history, that of the victors we learn about ourselves, so - in basic terms - we know that the Anglo-Zulu War was relatively short, (After the Isandlwana defeat, the might of the British Empire was thrown against the Zulus), concluding in the Battle of Ulundi on 4th July 1879 and resulting in the subsequent capture and exile of the Zulu King Cetshwayo.

Ulundi battlefield memorial 2010

After a time and an audience with Queen Victoria at her Osborne House home, Cetshwayo was restored as monarch but to a lessor territorial area and who's powers were severely restricted by the British governors. Not long afterwards Cetshwayo died, possibly poisoned by his rivals, and various periods of unrest followed culminating in the deadly and failed Zulu rebellion of 1906. British interest during this period was of course dominated by clashes with the resident Boer farmers leading to two major wars, setting a template for the World Wars to follow. Zulu influence was further and further eroded during this time, arguably leading to the rise of apartheid so that it's only comparatively recently - post Mandela - that the authentic Zulu voice has again been heard and more importantly listened to again.

King Cetshwayo's remote burial site, deepest Zululand 2014

I know I'm been very, very simplistic in these comments but I mention this really to illustrate that history or rather perceptions of history can continually evolve by those who are or were affected by it. These thoughts came to me during my 2010 and subsequent 2014 trips around Zululand, encountering many locals who, rather than be encumbered by history were very much in the now, enjoying what freedoms are available to them or may be available in the future - Zulus particularly seem a very proud and optimistic bunch!

Ian Knight and reader inside Ulundi battlefield memorial 2014

I know that Ian Knight and many other scholars have regretted the relative lack and brevity of first-hand Zulu accounts of the 1879 war compared to the almost numerous European accounts which of course can lead to a certain bias, which Mr Knight and others have done well to counter to provide as balanced a view as they can of the events which fascinate us so.

Zulu veteran from the 2016 re-enactment

Since 1999, there have been annual re-enactments at Isandlwana which modern Zulu Kings and dignitaries have attended, bringing a fresh modern interest in the conflict among the Zulu people who themselves can 'reclaim' their own history and bring the events of 1879 to a fresh perspective. This year has been no different and I've already seen a couple of contemporary reports of the 2018 anniversary which show that interest continues to grow and this surely can only be a good thing in terms of commemorating the ultimate sacrifices that so many made and allowing both countries and its people come to terms with a troubled past.

Keeping the throne warm for the King 2014

As for me, well despite my reading and learning, I'm not qualified enough to speak of the politics of the time or of now other than to try and show an equal balance between both sides in my own interpretations of this period of history. The expanded story Pointy Heads attempts to do this in my much promised forthcoming graphic novel of the Zulu Wars which is inching towards completion!

Zulu children from Pointy Heads, my art Matt Soffe colours

Tuesday, 16 January 2018


Life Support is a wonderful idea to raise funds for Children's Hospices Across Scotland - the charity CHAS. It's the brainchild of Colin Maxwell, a Fife based comic creator who before Christmas made a request for comic creators to donate Sci-Fi themed strips and pin-ups to form a comic to be launched at Edinburgh's Capital Sci-Fi event in early February, which is also an important fundraiser for CHAS.

Many creators answered the call and I wanted to contribute but not having any existing 'Sci-Fi' themed material to hand quickly wrote a hopefully fun one-page comic strip which I drew over the festive period, completing in the New Year to get 2018 off to a creative start!

I won't reveal my finished strip but show instead a panel's progress from 'BOOM from the ROOM!', my wee homage to the Tin Tin & Oor Wullie strips of my youth!


Inks & pencils (Uncleaned)

Cleaned Inks

Finished Lettered Version (Scots edition!)

I submitted the above finished black & white version but wondered how it would look in colour so turned to Matt Soffe, who has done an amazing job on several of my Moments of Adventure strips (and forthcoming ZULU!), who once again did a splendid job!

Matt's fantastic colours!
Complete coloured & lettered version

You can support the project and guarantee yourself a copy of the finished comic by backing the current Kickstarter campaign to cover printing costs here or at its launch in Edinburgh on 3rd & 4th February.You'll have to wait a little longer to see the full coloured version of my strip which may well be included in one of my future projects 😉

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Celebrating Bowie!

Welcome to 2018 which has already delivered a couple of positives and a memorable highlight in yesterday evening's wonderful celebration of David Bowie's music. Coming only a few days after the respective anniversaries of Bowie's birthday and loss, this was both a timely reminder of his musically legacy and a damn great night out in the January chill air!

The Manchester gig was the third date of a 2018 world tour Celebrating Bowie's music produced by guitarist and performer Angelo Bundini and featuring former Bowie band stalwarts including Adrian Belew, Gerry Leonard, Carmine Rojos and the legendary Mike Garson! In addition to Adrian Belew, lead vocals were provided by 3 - new to me - names, Joe Sumner (of Flight Plan band & son of Sting!), Paul Dempsey (of Australian band Something for Kate) and Angelo Moore (of Fishbone band).

The vocalists took turns singing the classic songs as the incredible band kept the powerful rhythms going, changing key and moods to fit the tracks. Surprisingly this musical merry-go-round worked incredibly well with each amazing track surpassed by the next, as musicians and singers swapped places, waited in the side wings and ably supporting each other.

From opening track, The Next Day's The Stars (Are Out Tonight) to of course the final strains of Heroes, the energy never relented and Karen and I, like so many others in the capacity audience danced the night away. The almost odd thing perhaps was that our enjoyment of the music and the moment was matched by the joy shared amongst the band as they smiled, encouraged and congratulated each other, it was a very special experience.

There were many highlights but the fairly early in the set performances of Joe Sumner singing Life On Mars, Angelo Moore's Ziggy Stardust and a very, very emotional Rock 'n' Roll Suicide by Paul Dempsey set the scene for a glorious evening. The set was interspersed with short chats and anecdote's of Bowie's long time cherished pianist Mike Garson which added to the credibility of the evening. Everything that followed was a highlight from perhaps lesser known tracks such as Stay, D.J, Little Wonder to sing a-along anthems as Ashes To Ashes,  Rebel Rebel, Let's Dance and a mesmerising Space Oddity.


A stand out performance of Hunky Dory's Quicksand by Angelo Moore included a crowd walk thru and stage dive which only cemented the occasion as memorable and respectful tribute to the great man himself. You could feel the emotion of the crowd as with the band we celebrated the music of a legend still dancing to Bowie's music even as the house lights came on. This was no tribute act but a genuine celebration of a legend's music by musicians and fans who were there the first time, embracing the occasion of shared memories and enjoyment.

Photos by Karen with the gig's face book page having even more to offer including further personal comments and if you're still not convinced check out the tour's official trailers here;   

And the previous evening's London gig highlights here!