Saturday, November 18, 2023

Not Everything You Do is For An Audience

After my recent post about how I was frustrated at my drawing and wanting to do something but it being a little... how's the best way to put it?... crap, I received a perfect message on Instagram from a good friend pointing me to a wonderful comic strip by @pascalcampionart (seriously, check out the art, it's lovely).

In the strip (I won't post it here as I haven't asked for permission) the frustrated artist says that he has ideas, but doesn't like them. 

The wonderfully drawn cat says that he should just do it, get them on paper - it may inspire something better. The strip closes with the line "Not everything you do is for an audience". And that one kinda hit hard. Maybe that's my problem. Everything I've done except for a couple of rare passion projects (WILD, and Missing) have had an audience in mind. 

And that is what's holding me back. The weekend comes, I have time away from the dayjob, and I want to be creating something, but I think 'what's the point if I don't share it with people?'. Sometimes you just have to get it out of your system, put it on paper, and you'll feel better.

I need to get over myself and just do it. I mean, look at me, I'm displacing by writing a blog post on a blog that barely anyone reads. 

So here I go. Putting the computer away again, and just going to do something for me for a change. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Genre Defying (continued) - Moving and Behind Your Touch


A few months ago I posted about a couple of series I'd been watching, mostly South Korean series as I've been having difficulty focusing on things. A lot going on in my head at the moment, so I'm finding it hard to sit in front of a TV series and actually watch it, if you know what I mean, rather than having it on while sitting on my phone doomscrolling. 

I found that watching a series that had subtitles meant that I had to concentrate on the screen, not get distracted by anything, and actually taking in the information. It meant that I had been watching some seriously amazing series that managed to defy genres by squeezing in romance, action, supernatural stuff, superheroic powers, humour, horror, and more, all in one series. My favourites so far have been The Uncanny Counter (series 2 was just as great as the first), Sell Your Haunted House, and The Bad and the Crazy

My head has returned to that state of distraction, and when I wasn't watching The X-Files I was getting easily distracted by the slightest thing, my mind wandering to work worries, that feeling that I'm not accomplishing stuff, or doing what I wanted. So I returned to those South Korean series and discovered some amazing dramas.

First up was Behind Your Touch, which really should have been titled the other way around. The premise is incredibly silly - vet Bong Ye-bun returns to her childhood town to work in her family practice, and is out seeing to a cow at a farm when a meteor flashes and she gains the power to see people's (and animals') memories by touching their butts (as she was touching the cow's behind when the flash occurred).

Her power helps her find out the problems of the town's animals, but when a serial killer strikes, she tries to work out who it is by touching people's butts. Grumpy detective, Moon Jang-yeol, wants to go back to Seoul, and thinks Bong is a pervert, but when he learns of her 'gifts' they team up to track down the killer. 

Yes, it's a silly premise, and leads to a lot of hilarious scenes, but there are some seriously dark moments in there with the serial killer. There's a great helping of romance, some red herrings, a subplot of drug smuggling, action, and good ol' detective work. And, as with so many of these series, the characters and the supporting characters are all interesting with great backgrounds and some brilliant acting. 

Really, really good fun. It's on Netflix at the moment and highly recommended.


We finished that series, after a really tense finale, and switched over to Disney+ (Hulu within the US) to check out Moving, a series that seems to be getting a lot of critical acclaim and is heralded as 'Heroes' (but the first series, when everyone loved it). 

It was not disappointing at all. At least, not so far. I've got two episodes to go to finish it, and I seriously hope there is going to be more. 

Moving starts as a simple tale of a few school kids at Jeongwon High School, mostly focusing on Jang Hui-soo, a new transfer who is great at PE, and Kim Bong-seok, a friendly and cheerful student who carries a lot of bags.

We quickly discover that Hui-soo heals really quickly, and Bong-seok floats off of the ground when he's emotional (hence all of the bags full of weights). They become close friends, and it's freakin' adorable. There are other characters who seem to have superpowers, like the school bus driver, and the class president, but the school seems to be a training/clearing ground for potential new powered kids.

It's brilliantly done, and the introduction of a powered assassin adds tension. Then, after seven or eight episodes, the focus changes completely, looking at the lead kids' parents. 

We discover Hui-soo's father's story, who also heals really fast, and we see Bong-seok's parents, the awesome Kim Doo-sik with his flying ability, and equally awesome Lee Mi-hyun who has extraordinary senses. We get seven full episodes of backstory and flashbacks before returning to the present, and it's flippin' awesome. These characters we thought were pretty cool to begin with are suddenly completely fleshed out with complex histories that intertwine, and their struggle to save their kids is even more urgent. 

The final chapter (so to speak), the last five episodes of the twenty episodes, are brilliantly orchestrated, with some amazing superpowered action that puts some of the Hollywood movies to shame. And it's so tense, as you really feel for the characters. The villains are bad and hateful, and I'm hoping something happens to the school principal ("Mr Sniffy" as we're calling him) as he's just... arg!

Seriously can't recommend it highly enough, and if you don't like reading subtitles I've heard it is being re-released on Disney/Hulu in English Dub due to its popularity. 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

If it wasn't so comic it'd be tragic


The old Missing Comics from 1998-9

Many, many, many years ago, back in the very late 90's, I used to write, illustrate, and publish comics. This was back when Autocratik was "Autocratik for the Masses", a play on the REM album name, 'Automatic for the People'. 

My main comic was called Missing, a planned 90+ issue series about a hotel on the Scottish border, after England had become the 51st US State, and after global warming at raised the water levels to the point where cars needed to be amphibian, and highwaymen used surfboards to attack unsuspecting travellers. There were subplots of psycho boyfriends, the local sheriff department, kidnapping of the President's daughter, and weird metal bands. So much was planned, but alas it only lasted four issues and looking back at it now it's a little 90's and a bit cringey. 

After Missing was cancelled due to losing my distribution, I published one more comic for the legendary artist D'Israeli (Consequences) before pulling the plug on comics. I had ideas for a weird story involving a massive cathedral, motorcycling paladins, and an alien creature being worshipped as a god, but didn't get very far. 

Original sketch for I in the WILD major arcana

Since then, things have been very quiet with my drawing. I gave up completely, only really putting pencil to paper when I was storyboarding the webseries, or doing my initial sketches for the tarot cards for WILD

WILD was always going to be a square book, and I found a company making cool square sketchbooks for artists (so of course, I bought three, one of each size). 

However, I realised my art wasn't up to scratch for WILD, and Stoo and I recruited my old friend Gareth Sleightholme to do the Tarot deck, which came out brilliantly.

I thought about using these sketchbooks to do something different, something autobiographical, but I only really got a handful of pages into it before I gave up again, mostly due to the frustration of what was in my mind not making it onto the page.

During the pandemic I was inspired to do something, to finally get drawing and creating again. And again, my mind went to something autobiographical. Maybe it was the stresses of the pandemic, and the weird paranoia it brought on, but I really just wanted to get things on paper.

I went to the art department of our local department store where they had a great deal on A5 exercise books that had blank, sketchbook quality pages. I bought ten of them, inspired by artists I'd seen on Instagram, and thought this was going to be my next creative pursuit...

But once again, what I saw in my mind just wasn't what came out on the page. Frustrated, I gave up again, and those many sketchbooks seem to taunt me from the shelves next to my seat. 

I keep getting the urge to draw, but I just don't seem to be able to do what I want. Maybe I'm too impatient? I remember when I was working on Missing I used to work on that daily, determined to get it done, but looking at it now I kinda think it was pretty awful. 

Will I ever go back to comics? Will I get over my own self-doubt and hyper-critical self-depreciation? 

Who knows, but for now, I'll remain a lapsed comics artist...

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The X-Files at 30 - Close Encounters of the First Kind


Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the airing of the first episode of my favourite TV series - The X-Files. I've talked about The X-Files multiple times on this blog, and you know how obsessive I am, but as it's the anniversary I couldn't help but talk about it again.

Bear in mind that it's not really the thirtieth anniversary for me. Over here in the UK we had to wait just over a year before that first episode aired on BBC2. However, to mark the anniversary I thought I'd do a series of posts about it, picking out my favourite episodes and memories of the series. 

The best place to start is at that very beginning - my first contact with the series. I was obsessed with TV series in my teens. I LOVED TV. I fell in love completely with Moonlighting, watched every episode of Midnight Caller making notes of great lines of dialogue, and then along came Twin Peaks. When I left school I didn't go off to university immediately, and was kinda left behind, trying desperately hard to write RPGs or draw comics, and spending my weekends renting VHS movies by the armful. I watched the VHS of the UK 'Twin Peaks' movie, was immediately hooked and loved every second, so when the actual series started airing in the UK I was faithfully recording them on my parents' VHS so I could watch them over and over again (I still have them somewhere, though I'm guessing the tape has probably degraded a bit now).

This started a trend in me - FBI agents investigating weirdness. Sign me up! Dale Cooper was everything I wanted to be in life, and I couldn't believe it when they left us hanging for so long.

Eventually, I went off to art school, or university as it is now, and even there my love of Twin Peaks influenced my projects (graphic design projects to explain something became complicated flowcharts explaining the relationships in the series). I started buying Wrapped in Plastic magazine, and this only fuelled my love of the series. 

Now, bear in mind I didn't have access to the internet then, and the UK was a whole year behind the States, but whispers of this new series called The X-Files had made it over the waters, and when Wrapped in Plastic dropped that issue looking at The X-Files as well as Twin Peaks, I knew this was a series I had to check out. 

Besides, one of the leads of this new series was iconic in Twin Peaks (as DEA Agent Denise Bryson). That issue featured an episode guide, and interviews, and I knew reading what was in store on The X-Files that I had to watch it. 

Eventually, a year after the States, BBC2 aired the first episode. I have a distinct memory of this as the adverts on TV had already made it look awesome, and a fellow student at art college/uni was also a fan of all things UFOlogy and weird. Debs and I were already dating back then, and we were invited over to this student's flat (we'll call her Caroline, even though that's not her name) to watch. Snacks at the ready, TV tuned in, we all watched, engrossed in the episode.

The Pilot

What is there to say about The Pilot that hasn't already been said? Rewatching it now I can remember the feeling of seeing it that very first time. When the opening caption saying "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts" came on screen I knew I was in for something cool. And I wasn't wrong, when the leaves are swirling around and he light shines down from the sky? Heck yes... I was grinning like a school kid.

The introduction of Mulder and Scully was great, they had a dynamic and a chemistry straight away on the screen, and I instantly loved them both. 

But there was one moment, out of all the cool scenes in The Pilot, that stood out and I remember as the moment when I knew my life would never be the same again. Mulder and Scully investigate the forest where the abductions are alleged to have taken place, but are forced to leave by local law enforcement. On the drive back the radio bursts into life, there's a blinding light, and we see these freeze frames of the agents shielding their eyes in the car. The lights go out, the car has stopped, and they're just at the X in the road Mulder painted earlier in the episode, and Mulder realises they've lost nine minutes of time. 

That was the moment I knew this was the coolest thing I'd seen since Twin Peaks and I had to watch every episode religiously. 

Going by that issue of Wrapped in Plastic, I knew that The X-Files had already taken the US by storm, and had quickly become a favourite. We may have been a year late in the UK, but I was eager to make up for lost time.


Happy Anniversary to The X-Files, here's to thirty more years searching for the truth.

Thursday, August 31, 2023



This is the end, beautiful friend. The end of #RPGaDAY2023. Another year done, and the final question of this year's initiative is possibly the most difficult one of them all: Favourite RPG of all time

Back when I started #RPGaDAY all those years ago, I asked exactly the same question. And my answer?

West End Games' Star Wars RPG

And that's because it was flippin' amazing. The system was great fun, and involved lots of dice to roll. It was great in its presentation, especially when you think it was produced at a time when there wasn't any Star Wars happening... it had been a few years since Return of the Jedi, and that game went on to shape a game system, to shape the Star Wars universe (even to this day characters and places from that game become Star Wars canon). 


Is it still my favourite? Probably. It's right up there with Ghostbusters (also by West End Games) and Tales from the Loop (by Fria Ligan). All of which have relatively simple systems that are incredibly evocative of the setting, and all of them are incredibly inspirational to everything I do. I can only aspire to do something as cool as West End's Star Wars. 


So that was 2023's #RPGaDAY. The tenth time we've done this, and once again I'd like to thank everyone who has got involved - even if it was just the odd day here and there. Every little post spreading a little more positivity about tabletop gaming can get another person playing, or give an unnoticed but brilliant game the exposure it needs. 

Thank you again, and until next year, stay safe. 

I'll return you all to your usual scheduled program.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY THIRTY: OBSCURE RPG you've played

Day Thirty of #RPGaDAY2023 changes things up a little. The first year, the question was 'rarest RPG you own' which kinda devolved down to lots of people saying that they had the Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium RPG. Maybe not as rare as I thought, at least not in the RPG circles I was frequenting.

I switched this out to be less about owning something, and turning it into a great opportunity to talk about those games that don't get enough love online. 

There are certainly a few. There's The Gaslight Club - a really cool game of Westworld style robot theme parks, but you play the 'hosts'... and Action Potential where you play operatives who can switch body-shells - like Altered Carbon but not, if you get my drift. 

You should check them out!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


 This one's a tricky one. Day Twenty-Nine asks about the most memorable encounter. Back when #RPGaDAY began I talked about our old Call of Cthulhu game where one of the player characters had been forceably retired, only to return as the big bad. 

It's still a very memorable encounter, though my thoughts are drawn to that Tales from the Loop game again. After failing to stop the explosion of the Loop facility as teenagers (play progressing through Things from the Flood), there's nothing more memorable than your teenage character's mother appearing, mutated and evil, with crab-like legs and a host of mutated minions under her control. 


Monday, August 28, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: SCARIEST game you've played

 Day Twenty-Eight of #RPGaDAY2023 returns to the question of the initial year, asking what is the SCARIEST game you've played. 

I'm afraid that this answer is the same as the first year - Kult, most notably 2nd Edition Kult, is still the scariest thing I've played. Really cool and unsettling, without resorting to the extremes of its most recent edition. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Game you'd like to see a new EDITION of...

 Onto Day Twenty-Seven of #RPGaDAY2023 and we're into weirdly prophetic territory. Back in the first year of #RPGaDAY I set the same question, and my answers were - 

... James Bond 007, the amazing cool Victory Games RPG of playing agents in the world of James Bond; and Star Trek. There had been the FASA, the Last Unicorn Games, and the Decipher versions of a Star Trek roleplaying game, but since that video I was even lucky enough to be involved in the early development stages of Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures

Since then Star Trek Adventures has evolved into something even bigger than I'd hoped, and it just keeps going from strength to strength. Gorgeous books, lovely minis, and now tackling things like Discovery, Lower Decks, and more. (Personally, I'd like to see a weird alternate timeline book for the Kelvinverse, but that is just me). 

Unfortunately, Bond hasn't happened. And I don't think it will for a while, at least not until EON choose a new Bond and decide what they are doing with the Bond universe. 

So what would I say now? 

I'd still love to see a new edition of Ghostbusters, capturing the spirit (pardon the pun) and humour of that first West End Games edition. I'd love to see a new Star Wars RPG, as things seem to have come to a halt with the Fantasy Flight/Edge version - had a blast playing that one. I'd also love to see a new edition of WitchCraft, maybe using Cinematic Unisystem to speed things up, and add more action, employing the magic system of Buffy. And I'd love to see a new version of Star Frontiers, but we won't mention the horrible one that almost happened recently. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Character Sheets are often the way you can tell what a game is going to be like - almost like when you're in a book store and you pick up a novel and read the back cover blurb. When it comes to roleplaying games, I usually have a look at the character sheet and can fairly quickly tell if it's going to appeal to me as a gamer.

Originally, I mentioned the Numenera character sheet as it's really a thing of beauty. And it's certainly worth looking at the Invisible Sun character sheets, also by Monte Cook Games, as each 'class' of character (and I use the term lightly) has very different character sheets to evoke the methods and feel of the character.

I mean, can you believe these are all character sheets for the same game? Brilliant.

Friday, August 25, 2023


Day Twemty-Five of #RPGaDAY2023 and we're looking those games you buy because you really like the idea or the design, but you just haven't managed to actually play yet. 

Originally, I mentioned Everway, which was quite an inspiration to the look and shape of WILD.

Since then, there have been loads of games that just sit on my shelf - inspiration but unplayed. Atomic Robo I've already mentioned. Delta Green. Flabbergasted. Broken Compass

The one that really stands out is Lighthearted - a game of magical college students in the 80s. Just feels like a great combination of Tales from the Loop and The Magicians. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023


 Day Twenty-Four of #RPGaDAY2023 and the original question from back when RPGaDAY began asked about the most complicated RPG you own. 

I went on about the most complicated RPG I'd played (though played it a bit of a falsehood as we spent so long creating the characters I didn't get around to actually playing it) which was Space Opera, then foolishly went on about D&D - which is still, in my opinion, a bit complicated for me. 

Since then? I still love the simpler systems, and one of the biggest revelations when it comes to how simple you can make rules has to be Tales from the Loop. I remember reading that and looking at the rules section (which must be about 18 pages of the rulebook) and being amazed at how small the rules were, and how much they could handle. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-THREE: COOLEST looking RPG product / book

 Day Twenty-Three of #RPGaDAY2023, and we're asking about the coolest looking RPG / book. Back when #RPGaDAY launched I took the opportunity to talk about square books. I love square books. There is just something cool about them.

I talked about MouseGuard, and Nobilis, both of which were produced as really cool square books. And I talked about WILD, how I hoped to produce it as a square book too - and thanks to Stoo it was!

There have certainly been a load of cool looking books since that video. Tales from the Loop stands out as being particularly gorgeous. And the graphic design of Flabbergasted is really stunning, but the graphics for the forthcoming Triangle Agency really is stunning. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023



Day twenty-two of #RPGaDAY2023, and it's another one asking what you've been buying... weird. When I wrote these questions ten years ago I really was fixated on possessions. 

And my answers for this question the first time around were the first edition versions of CJ Carella's WitchCraft and Armageddon RPGs. 

I don't mind a good secondhand RPG, especially if it fills a gap in the collection. I managed to finally get the Octopussy supplement for James Bond 007 secondhand which completed the Bond collection, and multiple Star Trek RPGs (FASA, Last Unicorn, Decipher) when I was researching during my tenure working on Star Trek Adventures. 

One of my favourite secondhand purchases was the original Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium RPG that was produced before the corporate buyouts and so on. Only 3000 of them printed, and I managed to get it for a not horrific price (though it does smell a bit smokey - I've been trying to fumigate it with cinnamon for years, to make it smell like the spice melange).