Thursday, 26 November 2009


What secret project have the Smedley Bros. been working on in the secret project bunker hidden 300 feet beneath the village post office? What dastardly plans for world domination do they have? Is it true that they have a death ray and a tank full of man-eating lemurs in their lair? And what will their next move be in this terrifying game of - you know what, I'll just tell you.

We've been building a website. Not just any website, oh no, but a 'Too Close For Comfort' website - a place where the cartoons here and not here are available as greetings cards, postcards, prints and (soon) mugs. It's my creativity meets Richard's technical skill, all wrapped in one little family business and it's rather exciting. The website is nearly done (I had to draw most of it in order for it to look like an interactive comic so naturally it's taken quite a while) and once it's up and running - by next week - it'll look spiffing. You'll be able to look around and see what's on offer, although that'll be all. The shopping basket will be sorted by the week after. There is a dedicated section of Fun Stuff as well, where you can play games, see new cartoons and link through to the Wordpress blog (see I told you I had a plan for that) where stuff about the site will be put up. This blog won't change a bit.

So now you know what the secret project is. I hope you like it when you see it. And should you choose to buy anything from it then there will of course be lovely discounts for friends. There'll be an update post next week telling you the address and all about the site so you can cruise around it then, but until that point I'll whet your appetite with a look at a section of a page to give you an idea of what the whole thing will look like... The idea was to make the whole site look as fun and cartoony and generally as 'un-website-like' as possible, so the whole thing is laid out like a comic strip, with characters popping up and about as you click on the comic panels. In short, it'll be fun, whether you're buying cards or just looking around.
Right, well I'd best be off. I have some final pages to draw. Hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse, and I hope you'll enjoy the finished site even more. It'll be coming very soon indeed.

I hear those mandibles are fake...

The Ladybirds of Bangkok...

First up, a very happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! (and even if you're not American, have a great day anyway. You deserve it).
And unless you've ever spent a Thanksgiving in Thailand watching a group of transvestites put on a stage show, this cartoon has absolutely nothing to do with the esteemed American holiday of thanks and friendship.
I must point out I have never been to Thailand, or indeed ever seen such a show (and really, nor would I ever want to. Ever.), but everyone I've ever encountered who has seen one enthuses about it and tells me that the productions values are very high and the show very entertaining. Still, no thanks. I'll stick to traditional theatre. Anyway, from information garnered from their anecdotes, this is the tamest cartoon I could come up with that would adequately convey the joke. Really, some of the stuff I've heard has put me off my dinner. And, weirdly, ever playing ping-pong again...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

They play a great tune, and the Monster tap-dances...

The Pianos of Frankensteinway & Son...

Ahh, I love thee.

Those with long memories may remember this from way back when I first started out and this blog was a measly three posts long. I'm particularly proud of it, but the original (which I imagine you could find easily if I was the kind of man who labelled his posts), like a lot of the stuff from back then, now looks so shoddy and faded that it demanded a re-draw. It's a joke that's worth it I think. Like I said, I love a bit of wordplay. But then who doesn't?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

All that's missing are the brass goggles...

Oh how I love all things Steampunk: the brass, the ray guns, the goggles, the...steam. It's great to draw too: just let your imagination loose, remembering to add a few polished brass touches and some clockwork here and there. Bingo! You've got yourself some Steampunk. You'll notice that our intrepid space explorer is wearing a diving suit of seal skin (perfect for protecting him against the harsh vacuumational effects of space), and our feisty heroine has a corset made of the finest Sheffield steel, plus the latest bellows-powered 'portable respirational aerator' to induce and encourage lung activity in even the thinnest of atmospheres. And both sport top of the range 'aether-accelerating' ray guns to fend off any unwanted natives. 'That'll show those alien blighters!'

This was just a drawing I did today while bored (actually it started when I was doodling and realised I'd drawn a man in a moustache, and it sort of all spread across the page from there), and it's taken from the 'Martian Steampunk' genre that you can find millions of pictures on already, but the more I look at it and think about it, the less it looks like a picture and more like a book cover... Hmm...time to write some short steampunk adventure stories...?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Like two Peas in a Pequod...

'Moby Dick at Home...'

Monday, 16 November 2009

"Hello, ooh, new teeth, that's weird...but not as weird as the return of Rob's Random 5!"

Did you miss me? Best not answer that. Oooh so many things bubbling in my mind! Why don't villains hold their guns by their side like they used to? Is a bloody shovel and a bag of lye on your doorstep enough to keep trick or treaters away? What does a horse trying to take off a pair of jeans look like? Whatever happened to Secret Squirrel? Does a teabag think it's having a lovely hot bath when it gets put in a teapot? None of these questions will be answered!

This week there's Milton madness, Logos a-go-go, the brilliance of November, and Smedley sartorial style. Leave your brain at the door and your bum on the chair, it's 'Rob's Random 5'!

1. Robert Smedley, Wary Fiend: It's not often - or ever even - that I start a post with a quote from Milton's 'Paradise Lost', but why not break the havoc of a lifetime? I've had this line on my mind for a while now.

"Into this wild abyss the wary fiend stood on the brink of Hell and looked awhile, pondering his voyage"...

I didn't like 'Paradise Lost' when I studied it at Uni - it was long and difficult and the prospect of studying 'His Dark Materials' later on in the course meant that my mind never quite locked with it. I was preoccupied with the excitement of being able to study one of my favourite books of all time and the prospect of enthusing in an intellectual manner on the subjects of daemons and parallel worlds and the War against Authority. But that above line from 'Paradise Lost' is one that lodged in my head when I read it and has since stayed there. The 'wary fiend' is Satan (not as bad a guy as you might think in 'Paradise Lost'), who leaves his newly-built Pandaemonium in Hell to go and initiate the fall of Man. And to do so he has to cross an area of absolute nothing known as The Void, described fantastically as 'the womb of Nature and perhaps her grave'. It's a place of total chaos and total nothing - no light, no dark, no up, no down. The Void makes Aberystwyth look like a bustling metropolis. And yet from it comes everything; good and bad, brilliant and dull. The Void is where it's all made and destroyed. The Void has to be crossed if he's to get to his goal.

And right now I feel like the wary fiend.

No, I don't intend to bring Original Sin into the world. But I do have a purpose; a goal that I want to get to, career and life-wise, and right now I'm standing on my own brink, staring out at The Void that we all have to face at some point in our lives: the chaos of uncertainty about our future, the multitude of difficult choices we have to make, the fear of the unknown...all that potential in the womb, waiting to be born. That's how I see my life right now. I'm not the only one. Everyone stands on their own brink, staring at their own 'Void'. I can see where I want to be, just like everyone does, and I can see that metaphorical Void of great possibility and problems that has to be pushed through in order to get to what I want on the other side.

And I've just taken my first step into it. Not everyone does. Some people will stay on the edge, comfortable enough with the Pandaemonium they know, wanting more, but never brave enough to attempt to leave their spot and trek into uncertainty. Others will dive in, wading through the chaos and thriving on it. I'd like to think I'm somewhere in the middle. But I've learned that if you choose to throw yourself into that uncertainty then you don't have to do it alone. Among the gloom of naysayers there are brilliant, shining people out there who'll support you and believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself. The fact is that you can always ask for a hand to hold.

Unless you're going to initiate the Fall of Man. Then you're on your own.

2. Logo-rhythmic: I've been meaning to do a new, updated logo for a while now. Last week I got my chance.

Lovely. For those who like to know, it features Professor Hippo, a penguin, the Ice Cream Wicked Witch, the Drunk Beer, Mr. Hyde, a mischevious monkey, a polar bear, and 'That Random Octopus Monster' that crops up in everything and yet has never featured in an actual cartoon. Weird. But what's this new logo for? Something new. If I told you anymore I'd have to set the dogs on you. You'll see soon enough...

3. November: I love love love November. It's a brilliant month. Absolutely fantastic. You may disagree. I could write a whole solo post about why I love this month, but instead I'll just compile this list within a list of reasons why November is great, and by the end you might just agree with me...:
Bonfire Night: There's something so incredibly Human about Bonfire Night: a group of people huddled together around a warm fire, eating and being together as they stave off the darkness and the cold and the misery of encroaching winter with furiously beautiful lights and sound. I love it. That sense of everyone coming together and enjoying an experience as one. It's like Christmas in that sense. And only Christmas succeeds Bonfire Night in terms of the indellible marks it leaves on your sensory memory. My most vivid memories include Bonfire Night, especially the ones that were held at school back when I was only 9 or 10 years old, and that's because the whole event provokes all 5 of your senses (not your 6th sense though - being psychic just spoils the surprise of the fireworks). There's the sight of the night sky breaking open with colourful fire, the taste of sickly sweet toffee apples, the deafening cacophony of fireworks so loud they make you flinch, the smell of the gunpowder drifting through the chilly autumn night, and the touch of a sparkler through a gloved hand; and they're all rolled together in one beautiful sensory cloud that you'll never quite forget, no matter how full your brain gets. Bonfire Night always takes me back to those moments, makes me feel like a child again, with all the magic and wonder that went along with it. And it really is magical, if only for the way it gives us all a happy feeling in the middle of dark nights and bleak months. Like I said, it's incredibly human. And we do it so very very well.

The Smell: Oh yes, November has it's own smell. It lasts just for the month and no longer. No other month has it's own unique odour and nothing is so nicely sums up the entire 30 days quite like it because it's a mixture of everything that happens in the month: there's the smell of smoke from coal fires, burning wood, lit gunpowder, crisp leaves on damp soil, the fresh scent of a crisp, cold early morning (isn't it weird how 'cold' has a smell?), the musty aroma of coats and scarves that haven't been used in months, the warm tang of central heating slowly starting up. They all form one great olfactory orchestra playing a single November-smell symphony and what a great smell it is. Breathe it in and make the most of it, because it won't be around till next year, and soon it'll be overwhelmed by the cinammon-scented arrival of Christmas...

Remembrance Day: There's a dignity and pensiveness that comes with November and it's brought by Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday. It may seem odd that I'm putting it in a list of why I love November, but I include it because it's an occasion that makes us stop and think, about the past, about what we've lost and why we should be thankful for what we have, and we don't do that often enough. Once again it's an event that brings us all together in common spirit, albeit with great solemnity. It's a day of immense pride and thankfulness for those who gave it all so that we can have it all, and so that folk like me can ramble randomly and you can read it. It is of course, by complete calenrical chance that it falls in November but in a way it makes sense that it does: close to the year's end and in a quiet part of it, at a time when people are starting to look back over what they've accomplished in the past months; it's another moment of reflection and recollection in a month full of them.

Christmas is just around the Corner: This is a good and a bad thing. On the one hand you know that it's fewer than fifty days until Santa stops by, but on the other, November has it's thunder stolen by a day that doesn't even occur within it's borders. You see, November often gets a little lost with all the pre-Christmas hooh-hah that goes on, and people and shops and businesses get so caught up in the festive season so early that the last days of autumn are swallowed up instead of savoured. December really is the drunk girl at the party - the one who wants all of the attention and screams 'this song is all about me! no one else! me!' while waving the gin bottle around. And poor, meek November, with it's quiet, beautiful Autumn days never gets the attention it so richly deserves. I really don't like seeing Christmas stuff up and rolling in November. It feels wrong and too premature. By all means, on the 1st of December, go crazy for Christmas, because I love it and I will too - but give November a chance to show everyone what it's all about.

Because as I've said, it really is such a great month.

4. Ssssssmokin'!: I love this website, Gentleman's Emporium. Stick a pair of Converse with any of these outfits and I'd wear them. Really, I think everyone should go back to dressing like this (trainers allowed). A few months back I bought this coat and it's a beaut: all swishy and...well, swishy. Fantastic. If it wasn't for the ridiculous amount that has to be paid on import taxes (damn you, HM Customs!) then I'd buy more stuff from there, especially this smoking jacket that Chris alerted me to. Oh-hoho! No, I don't smoke, but what man wouldn't want to gad around the house in one of these? Only a troglodytic buffoon would turn his nose up at it! It's a shame that such items of clothing are not in style - every chap would look 30% more dashing if he had one of these in his wardrobe. I can only hope that at some point there'll be a revival in Victorian and Western fashions, or a surge in steampunk interest to take the catwalks by storm, so that clothes like these are more widely available. Or maybe it's best if there's not? Maybe it's better if you stand out from the crowd with some piece of 1900s finery, rather than blend in? I'm not sure. What I am sure of though is that I'm going to write to Santa and ask him for that smoking jacket!

5. Naught about the Noughties: Who named this decade 'The Noughties'? I'd like to meet them. And punch them in the face. It really is such an awful name for the first ten years of a grand, new millennium. When the 1900s dawned no one named them the 'Nineteen-Noughties'. No. Because people didn't want to be remembered for the embarassment of living in a decade that sounds like a bag of low-calorie sweets. The 'Noughties'...honestly, I despair. And yet it occured to me the other day that we're in the last two months of this execrably named decade. That's right, a whole decade has passed us by. It's been quick, hasn't it? I remember the start of it - a new year, a new decade, a new millennium, a new start for everyone everywhere. 'Look to the future now, it's only just begun'. The 20th century and everything in it was gone, and it was time to forge ahead in this new frontier. The Smedley family wore tuxedos and watched the fireworks ripple across the valley below us and we, like everyone else on the Earth, breathed in the air of a hopeful new era, eager to see what this futuristic sounding '2000' and beyond would bring.

And what have the first ten years brought us? How has the world changed? Has it improved or atrophied? Are we better, wiser, more hopeful as a species? Errm...the short answer is no, not really. Yes, we've had certain great strides, socially and technologically, but there have been so many setbacks to our brave new world. We've seen terrorism on a massive scale and on our very own soil, we've seen wars begin and dictators fall but conflict continue; there have been natural disasters and human-caused suffering on unimaginable scales. The new millennium gave us YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and wifi and iPhones and with all that new technology it's never been easier to highlight not just the good but the very very bad. I sound terribly pessimistic I know, and you might well disagree with me. There have been good things, really; great feats of human achievement, but it just seems that they've been lost in all the bad things that have happened. I think it's clear that I haven't thought much of this decade. But then, what do you expect when you name it 'The Noughties'?

But I'm not going to end on a downer. Never! You see it's like I said, we're in the last two months of this decade. The Noughties are done and the Tens are a-coming. A new start for everyone. Soon there's going to be a new stretch of ten years, ripe with possibilities, and we wary fiends will all stand on the brink of it, eager to make of it all we can. Eager to make it better than the last ten. Eager to make it a worthy part of that shiny new millenium we were all promised. So what if this decade has been a bit rubbish? We've got a fresh chance to improve. We learn, move on, and make the 'Twenty-Tens' a stellar decade: a time when we all just try to be the best we possibly can, whatever good or bad comes out of the chaos. If we all do that, just think how much better everything will be and will seem, especially when we look back on it ten years later.

The Noughties are gone. You've got a new start coming. Put on your tuxedo and meet it.

Well that's all for this week. Hope you've enjoyed another spoonful of randomness. As the RAM said to the computer, 'Goodbyte!'

Table For Two...

'Dinner with Dr. Jekyll'

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


'The morning after another honey binge...'

Pooh Bear loves honey. Maybe he loves it a little too much. In the books he says he's willing to do anything for it. That sounds like an addiction to me. But depicting him going to a Honey-lovers Anonymous meeting would have been a weak joke. I even toyed with the idea of him losing his foot due to diabetes. In the end I took a more brutal approach. And maybe it's just me extrapolating the joke in my head, but there's something incredibly sad about this cartoon, and all because I put a little son in it. Pooh Bear off his head on honey or recovering from another night's binge while Piglet and Christopher Robin look on disappointedly - that's funny. Having Pooh suffering from a honey-addiction hangover and lying in his own filth while his son tries to rouse him - that's tragic. But comedy and tragedy go hand in hand, and really you get from this cartoon what you want: you can see it as a humorous observation about that bear's love of the runny stuff, or a tragi-comic take on a beloved children's character. I love it either way.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write a joke about Eeyore's anti-depressants...

'We Could Be Heroes...'

'Guitar Hero: An Illustrated History'

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ghost in the Machine...

Yeah, sorry, I have a bit of explaining to do...

It has been a busy old month. I got a job, did that job, found out I wasn't suited to that job and was terrible at it, and left that job. And in between it all I was trying to get a new project off the ground (more on that later), maintain contact with friends and loved ones, having to study, perform a nightmarish commute, and fulfill any regular monthly obligations. Oh, and I also tried to transfer my blog. And then failed at that, which is why my page on Wordpress is still blank. I just haven't had the time, but more than that, I haven't had the time and technological expertise...
You see, I thought Blogger was playing up in not allowing me to upload cartoons. Turns out I was wrong. Sorry Blogger! It didn't work on Wordpress either (oh, and by the way, Wordpress confuzzled the hell out of me with it's fanciness - graphs? I don't want to read graphs!) and I finally figured out that the problem isn't with my computer, it's with the shiny new broadband box we got a few weeks ago. That'll now get sorted and cartoons should begin to flow down the pipe as per usual.
So here's what's happening, and pay attention because there'll be a quiz at the end: I'm keeping this, my Blogger Blog, open and working. Any and all new stuff is going up on here. The Wordpress Blog is still being kept, but for a slightly different - although still cartoony - purpose (as will soon become clear). You see, my brother and I have been working on something for a while - something that I hope you and everyone you know and everyone else will like - and now that I am in a temporary state of potential possibility (aka: no longer in an awful corporate job) it's about to take off (no it's not a plane! Or even a zeppelin for that matter). In just over a week there'll be a post announcing it and then you'll see how everything binds together. Mysterious much? Yes. Sorry. I just don't want to jinx it. It's something my bro and I are spectacularly excited about and we're currently working hard to finish it.

And if this whole thing has taught me anything it's that you should always follow the career path you want - and even if it doesn't work out then at least you can say you gave it a try and had a lot of fun making the attempt. But there'll be more on that too soon, cos the next post will see the return of the rambunctious, rebellious and...erm...really good, 'Rob's Random 5'!

Ohhh it's good to be back!