Archive for the 'Comics' Category


“My Friend Pookie”: Part 2

Here is the second instalment of “My Friend Pookie” – an experimental webcomic written by myself and illustrated by David Frankum. You can check out the first instalment right here (originally published online by Top Shelf Productions, based in the US).

In this follow-up, we return to the story of Jack… a six-year-old kid with an imaginary friend he likes to call Pookie. At the end of the first episode, Pookie went missing when Jack lost his temper. Now, Pookie has reappeared in Jack’s bedroom: but something about him is unaccountably different.

Mr Frankum came up with some wonderful artwork for Pookie #2. I love the first panel on Page 2, where Jack is yawning in bed – rendered in neon shades of chalk. Equally impressive is the way the “scrapbook” background goes from light to dark as the story is told (we were trying to strike a more sinister tone, this time around).

If you like “My Friend Pookie” so far, please get in touch and let me know your thoughts!

My Friend Pookie #2: Page 1

My Friend Pookie #2: Page 1

My Friend Pookie #2 (Page 2)

My Friend Pookie #2 (Page 2)

My Friend Pookie #2 (Page 3)

My Friend Pookie #2 (Page 3)


an original prequel to the tempest

In a previous post, I mentioned that I once tried to write a graphic novel prequel to The Tempest. Sycorax Waning, as I called it, ground to a sad halt when my artist moved on to other things… but I still have lots of materials left on file – like concept drawings, back-stories and character profiles.

Concept art for Ariel

Concept art for Ariel, the androgynous spirit from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

It took me a long time to create a believable story that could precede the action of The Tempest. Many nights were spent poring over the play, working backwards in time to build a consistent “origin” tale for Sycorax the witch. I also read a great deal of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as Sycorax (many will argue) shares a lot in common with Medea, the ancient Greek sorceress.

Concept art for Bruin

Concept art for Bruin, an original character I created for a prequel to The Tempest.

I was pleased with the story that eventually took shape. I’m not going to post the full plot here, as I still hope to do something with it in the future. But I am going to publish the character profiles I wrote for the project. These contain detailed breakdowns of every single character in the prequel… and give a better idea of the kind of tale I was hoping to tell.

Read all of my Character Profiles right here: Sycorax Waning_Character Profiles

Concept art for Augusto

Concept art for Augusto, a 16th century Spaniard I created for Sycorax Waning.

Let me know your thoughts on the cast of this fantasy Shakespearean prequel! Some day soon, I’ll publish the first chapter of the final script.


A tale of Arabian survival

Wilfred Thesiger in the Empty Quarter

Wilfred Thesiger on his five-year journey through the desert.

Here’s the very first comic script I ever wrote. It was originally commissioned by Insomnia Publications, a small UK press going to big places back in 2009 – or so I thought, until they went dramatically bankrupt before I got paired up with an artist. This story was supposed to appear in their annual “Layer Zero” anthology… and the theme for the 2010 volume would have been “survival” (an ironic choice, really, given the publisher’s subsequent demise).

Anyway: at the time, I’d been reading “Arabian Sands” by Wilfred Thesiger (1959) – and I was mildly obsessed with the Bedouin people and the ancient deserts of The Empty Quarter. I wrote a story of survival set in the 19th century, told by an English sailor shipwrecked in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s a tale of culture clash, based on a true event that Thesiger briefly mentions in his book:

“During the days that I was at Mughshin my companions often asked me for medicines. Bedu suffer much from headaches and stomach trouble. Sometimes my aspirin worked, but if not the sufferer would get someone to brand him, usually on his heels, and would announce a little later that his headache was now gone, and that the old Bedu remedies were better than the Christian’s pills.

Bedu cauterize themselves and their camels for nearly every ill. Their bellies, chests, and backs are often criss-crossed with the ensuing scars. I had heard that many years ago a British cargo steamer was ship-wrecked on the southern coast of Arabia. A few survivors were picked up by some Junuba who, hoping no doubt for a reward, took them eventually to Muscat. Camel’s milk and dates had given the Englishmen acute diarrhoea, and the Bedu, despite their protests, forcibly cauterized them. They eventually arrived at Muscat nearly killed by dysentery and this primitive treatment.” (Arabian Sands, Penguin Classics)

I called my story “Baptism of Fire”. You can read it here: Baptism of Fire_Script_R Norris

This script has never been illustrated; if there’s an eager artist out there willing to give it a go, please drop me a line. It will help if you’re familiar with Bedu dress and the Arabian landscape – or have some kind of connection with Middle Eastern culture. A tall order, perhaps!

Enjoy the story, everyone… and let me know if you liked it.


an abstract comic strip

The Angriest Dog In The WorldAt the end of this post is a simple comic strip I created, one day, after reading through a book called “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity”. The book offers up a collection of tips from David Lynch – yes, that’s the same David Lynch who brought us the likes of Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway… a man who, it would seem, owes much of his success to the daily practice of Transcendental Meditation.

David Lynch is something of an enigma, as everybody knows. I love his work but at the same time I find it frustrating. His path to creative greatness was a truly unique one and as such, very difficult to follow. Abstraction and surrealism will more often kill a career than make one – and while Lynch has proved it’s perfectly possible to put a dancing midget in a TV sitcom or a psychological Kabuki demon in a feature film, if almost anyone else tried to do it… they’d probably get laughed away as self-indulgent navel-gazers. This makes me slightly wary of Lynch’s artistic advice, therefore, although “Catching the Big Fish” still makes for an inspirational read. Pick it up if you can find a copy.

One thing in the book that caught my attention was The Angriest Dog In The World, an absurdist comic strip created by Lynch between 1983 and 1992. I’d never heard of this strip before (published in the LA Reader and the Village Voice, it never appeared in the UK press) but it struck a chord with me nonetheless. What intrigued me most about it was this: Lynch only ever drew the strip once – four self-repeating images of a dog straining on a leash – but he kept it fresh for nine years, simply by updating the dialogue. His visual framework was flexible enough to allow for an almost endless stream of scenarios… but when you look at the strip itself, it seems anything but flexible; all of the hand-drawn panels are virtually identical. As a concept it’s a total paradox and yet somehow, it just works.

Something about this minimalism appealed to me, so I decided to give it a go myself. I drew a crude sequence of panels in Microsoft Paint that I felt, given the right dialogue, would always be able to tell a different story. The visuals include two floating spheres (gods? planets?), some speech bubbles… and absolutely nothing else. I called it “The Music of the Spheres”, an attempt to introduce some bathos i.e. what if the stars/constellations/heavenly bodies that hold us all in awe are, in fact, just brainless entities making stupid comments? The four-panel sequence runs like this and, in theory, would never change:

FIRST PANEL: Sphere 1 makes a comment to which Sphere 2 responds.

SECOND PANEL: both spheres stare blankly for a moment.

THIRD PANEL: Sphere 1 makes a comment that negates their conversation.

FOURTH PANEL: both spheres turn away in irritation.

My childish artwork appears below. All comments are welcome!


THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES: High above the Earth, the celestial bodies weave our fate in perfect harmony… by Russell Norris

Music of the Spheres - Panel 1Music of the Spheres - Panel 2Music of the Spheres - Panel 3Music of the Spheres - Panel 4


A Choctaw story

The Great Seal of the Choctaw NationMy mother is American. She was born and raised in Oklahoma, before she met an Englishman and emigrated to the UK in the 1970s. Her family, originally from a small town called Spiro, has given me some Native American roots: my mum is 1/8 Native American, which makes me 1/16… a tiny fraction, you might think, but it’s enough to make me eligible for membership in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

More specifically, then, this family heritage is Choctaw, the Native American tribe that gave “Oklahoma” its name (literally translated, a word meaning “red people”). The Choctaw people have a fascinating history that stretches from antiquity right up to the modern day. In one interesting episode from 1918, the Choctaw language was used as an Allied code in the First World War… because only a handful of people in the world could understand it.

I’ve always felt far removed from this strain of my DNA. Living in England, in the Old World that’s so very different to the New World, it’s easy to lose sight of my American roots – specifically the Native American side, which can feel distant and dislocated from the British culture I’ve grown up in.

In an effort to get back in touch with this Native American heritage, I did some research on Choctaw mythology and wrote a short comic script called “The Heart of Thunder”. It deals with a few figures from Choctaw legend and it’s quite sentimental in tone – borderline soppy, in fact… which is uncharacteristic for me. It felt somehow right for the story, though, so I decided to keep things that way. You can read the final script here: The Heart of Thunder_Script_R Norris

This story still needs an illustrator to truly come to life, so if anyone’s interested in lending their artistic skills – please get in touch!


a script for travis the chimp

Travis The ChimpI came across a truly awful story on the internet, once, about Travis the chimpanzee. I won’t go into any details about the reason for his fame – you can learn all about it on Wikipedia. It makes for some seriously gruesome reading, though… and for many weeks after I first came across this info, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I was writing lots of comic book scripts at the time and felt I had to somehow incorporate this shocking material into my work.

In the end I wrote a six-page script focusing on Travis the chimp, with FutureQuake Press in mind as the publisher. I was happy with the story once I got it down on the page – but I always had misgivings about the ending. FutureQuake tend to prefer a “twist in the tale” and I struggled, for a while, to think of a suitable twist that would work with the story I was trying to tell. What I came up with wasn’t 100% right and, in hindsight, it feels forced… like I’ve tacked it onto the end just to get a reaction. FutureQuake agreed, once they’d read the script – and decided to pass on it.

My script, “An Unconventional Pet”, can be found here: An Unconventional Pet_Script_R Norris

What do you think of the ending? Any ideas on how to fix it are welcome!


a graphic novel prequel to “The Tempest”

Prospero: Hast thou forgotten the foul witch Sycorax, who, with age, and envy, was grown into a hoop? Hast thou forgot her?

Ariel: No, sir.

The Tempest (Act I Scene II)


Sycorax Concept Art

Some character sketches for Sycorax the witch

For a while now, I’ve been trying to get a particular project off the ground… a new graphic novel I’ve written called Sycorax Waning. The story is a prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest and features some of the key characters from the play: namely, Sycorax the witch and Caliban her deformed child.

My plot is fully developed and I’ve written the first 25 pages of the 200-page script. Earlier this year, after a long search for a suitable artist, I teamed up with a very skilled lady named Inko based down in Brighton. She’s put together a collection of excellent concept drawings for me, some of which you can see in this post.

My aim is to work with Inko over the coming months to get the first 15 pages of the script illustrated. Using this sample, I’ll approach relevant publishers to see if they’ve got any interest in the project. As I’ve been discovering the hard way, UK publishers really aren’t keen on graphic novel scripts on their own. They want to see the finished, fully drawn product… or a chapter-length portion of it, at the very least!

Caliban Character Art

Some character sketches for Caliban: half man, half fish

If you fancy an introduction to the project and some background to The Tempest, you can read my high concept story proposal right here: Sycorax Waning_Introduction

If there are any publishers or editors out there who want to know a bit more, please get in touch with me and I’ll send you a whole swathe of supporting materials. To get this project off the ground would be a dream come true and I’d love to see Inko’s drawings really get a chance to come to life.

PS – in case you weren’t aware, The Tempest itself has recently been adapted into a graphic novel by the clever folk at Classical Comics. I highly recommend it. Their entire collection, in fact, is seriously impressive and is doing great things for Shakespeare in the 21st century.