Welcome to the Paliseum!

 I had the pleasure of speaking to our local historical society about a week ago - not your usual venue to be plugging comics but the invitation intrigued me. If you have been following my blog or receiving my newsletter you will know that lately I have been talking a lot about places my partner Esperança and I have encountered, in our travels abroad, and how they have influenced settings in the Mordecai Crow series, especially the second and third book. So I thought that love of history and old stone would be a good jumping off point for my talk.

I have always had a love of history, probably instilled in me at an early age by the books of Rosemary Sutcliffe, who wrote a series of historical novels for kids that always had a child at the heart of the story. I think that gave me not only a personal but deeply romantic relationship with history, romantic in the sense that I always equate history with stories rather than dates, battles and royal lineages. So when we travel, we often turn our backs on the cities and crowds and seek out the small historical oddities and old bits of stone that populate the more rural parts of countries like Portugal or the south of France, ferreting out the stories they still have to tell.

These travels have filled my head with images and ideas that I can draw on, literally, as I make my way through 120-150 pages of comic art. In many cases it is simply studies of crumbling walls or sagging roof lines done in my sketch book when I have the chance, or referencing back to the many photos Esperança has taken on our travels. (She is the designated photographer. My job is to complain about how long it takes and then gush about the beautiful record we have of our trip when we get home!)

A crumbling old house I sketched in Mosteiros, Açores.

But on occasion there will be something that lodges itself in my memory for years, things like Santa-Clara-a-Velha, the flooded church in Coimbra, Portugal that I blogged about a couple of months ago. Another such place is the Roman theatre in Orange, in the Rhone Valley in southern France. It is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world and is still used today for performances. 

Roman Theatre of Orange today, set up for a performance.

But my take away from that theatre was not so much the theatre itself as learning, through an image in the attached museum, that in medieval times the structure was filled with houses, built throughout the theatre and all the way up its crumbling seating. Again, it was a terrific example of how adaptive we are as a species, how this stout-walled Roman building was re-purposed, in dangerous times, as its very own gated community within a doubtlessly dangerous city.

Roman Theatre of Orange as it appeared in an early etching, prior to its restoration in 1825.

That image gave rise to the Pailiseum in Quid Pro Crow, a re-purposed modern sports stadium that is now the jewel in the crown of bandit ruler Zeya di Boticelli di Obscuro's petty kingdom, Flood Town (that's now New Atlantis, to you, pilgrim). I have shared images of the Palisem before but thought I would give a sneak preview of a sequence of pages when our heroes, Crow and Podd, arrive by boat and enter through the massive water gates into the Paliseum.

Fun fact! The fishing platform is based on the cliffside fishing platforms called trabucchi that we have seen in the south of Italy.

Secrets of Jarrow shortlisted for best indie graphic novel of 2023!
It was nice to find out last week that Secrets of Jarrow had appeared on a shortlist of best Canadian graphic novels
for 2023. The list, selected by Sequential Magazine, will now be voted on by readers over the next month. If you have read Secrets and enjoyed, please consider giving it your vote! Go to the link below and take the time to check out some other great Canadian comic talent published last year. The Graphic Novel category is part way down. (Heads up, to keep things one vote per person you will need a Google account to cast your vote.) Thanks!

Fun talk for the Millbrook Cavan Historical Society this month

Okay, so I knew everyone there as it was in my hometown, but still, it was a lot of fun to get up in front of fifty or so people and talk about the visual and historical inspirations for my books. I now have a finely polished talk that is ready to be trotted out in front of historical societies world-wide! Contact me for fees (none) and available booking dates (all of 2024).

Quid Pro Crow at the printers!
I know I have been saying this for months, but Quid Pro Crow really is at the printers now! Due out in May, we are just hammering out some last minute stuff but it's on Renegade's website for pre-order, so I guess this is real, folks!


See???! It has a cover and everything!