25 July 2007




marja-leena said...

This is great! More, please :-)
I wonder if the magpie is as cheeky as our "whiskey jack", which resembles it a bit?


Dem said...

I had intended to write something explaining this strip as the first comment, so that it wasn't there as part of the strip and 'setting up camp' in readers' heads but you got there with your comment before I could get round to it, while I was pondering (as I am still) whether to make the pages smaller.

Anyway... thanks, Marja-Leena, glad you like it. I'm not sure whether the european magpie is related to whiskey jack but the general wikipedia page about magpies says that jay and magpie are to an extent interchangeable so maybe there is some connection. Magpies are known as thieves because they're attracted to and will steal bright objects, such that 'magpied/to magpie' has become a verb meaning to steal or plagiarise. Apart from that, they're known more for their viciousness than their mischief, in some parts of the UK as an ill omen, and for the rhyme 'one for sorrow, two for joy...' etc.

This strip is another attempt to rescue an old, unsatisfactory poem of mine by turning it into a poem comic. The poem came about after I saw two birds drop alarmingly from the sky as if shot only to turn away and fly off at the last moment. I couldn't tell what they were at the time but eventually worked out that they were magpies - I'm not sure how I worked it out, possibly because they were the only birds I saw in the place at that time. That said, I have recently observed magpies frequently and quite closely while dog walking (my border collie used to try and herd them - with some occasional degree of success) and have never seen them do anything remotely like this so I now wonder if they were magpies at all. Anyway, to undigress... Shortly after spying the two falling magpies, I noticed groups of seagulls wheeling on high at the same time as magpies were doing their characteristic dipping-glide across roads as if furtively avoiding the seagulls. As these various observations worked their way through my head, the poem took form alongside them. It was a time when I was obsessed with writing loosely rhyming sonnet-y poems and soon after the obsession burst I found it difficult to regard any of those poems with anything other than a sense of embarrassed unease.

My recent dogwalking observations returned this poem to my consciousness and determined me to make of it a poem comic. Since starting it though I've had several changes of heart and crises of belief and confidence and have lost momentum twice. At first it was going to be as naturalistic as I can be but that really isn't my strength so I quickly departed from that tack and decided to use it as an opportunity to experiment with something stylised and figurative. That new tack seemed to work well at first but close work with the original text led me to regard it as empty (if quite nice sounding) and meaningless, pretending to be something but flattering to deceive and basically pretty (but) dumb. And so work stalled for another month or so while I wrangled with that crisis. Finally, a burst of energy and momentum (arising, perversely, from the first cold I've had for years, a nasty, debilitating, depressing and persistent bugger) urged me clear the decks of unfinished projects before embarking on something BIG and SIGNIFICANT and so I hurriedly finished this off. In doing so, I had no idea how to deal with the final couplet and so blagged it somewhat. But that's it - all feedback encouraged and welcomed!

Lolabola said...

my first thought was "magpies gliding? are you sure? it seems to me they are always dipping up and down because of their tail." and then I read your comment.

Not a favourite bird around these parts (read when hubby is around) mainly because they make so much annoying noise. He makes fun of their flying almost every day in some attempt to cope with it. I love them though and we both love their antics with other animals.

I really like the composition in all the frames of this one. also the simplicity of the black and white

Dick said...

Having already identified myself as someone who struggles with depicting stick-men, any critical comment might seem spurious. But this synthesis of word & image is exceptional. Even down to the positioning of the narrative, the balance works really well. From strength to strength, Dem.

Dem said...

Lolabola - hmmm, that's a cause for concern! I'm glad my comment alleviated your doubts but it's worrying that the comic raised the doubt in the first place and wasn't clear.

Dick - thanks for the feedback. Can I just point out, however, that stick-men aren't easy! The feedback and opinions of people who don't habitually draw things are more of at least equal value to the feedback of those who do.

Inconsequential said...


So good.

Dude, you rock :)

Dem said...

Cheers Inc - I used to just roll.