University of Dundee 50th anniversary mural

For the University of Dundee’s 50th anniversary we were asked to create a mural showcasing events from those 50 years. Many of our Ink Pot artists designed different elements, including Norrie Millar, Rebecca Horner, Elliot Balson, Anna Coughlan, Catriona Laird, David Robertson, Andy Strachan, and Damon Herd. We captured it all on video before it gets washed away by the rain – what events do you recognise?

Review – ‘Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s’

As a huge football fan interested in comics, Roy of the Rovers seemed like the perfect fit for me, and it didn’t disappoint! For years I’ve heard phrases like “this is real Roy of the Rovers stuff” – such as surrounding underdogs Leicester’s incredible Premier League victory in 2015-16 – but I never fully understood what it meant. However, I saw just how popular this comic was when I took the annual home and my mum reminisced about how her younger brothers’ whole week used to build up to getting the new issue, and I think my dad spent more time reading it than I did!

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Roy of the Rovers is a British comic strip about fictional player-manager Roy Race and his team Melchester Rovers, which first appeared in 1954 and ran as a weekly (and later monthly) comic magazine from 1976 to 1995. That’s almost 40 years of adventures – Roy had an illustrious playing career and the writers were very creative with their storylines to keep it going! This annual is a collection of strips that were published in the 1980s; each weekly strip is 2 or 3 pages long and they run in chronological order. It felt slightly strange to read lots of strips in a row; each one is built to a climax, often with a cliffhanger, to create anticipation for the next week’s issue, but reading so many together meant it was always very high tempo and intense!

In this almost “soap opera” like annual, Roy is at the peak of his career – unleashing many a left-footed volley into the top corner – but is forced to deal with difficult off-the-pitch problems as well. Roy faces criticism after selling fans’ favourite Geoff Giles to their rival club, the Rovers are relegated after a poor season but bounce back the next year, Roy’s wife Penny leaves him because of his football obsession but then returns and becomes pregnant with their third child, and Roy is the victim of an assassination attempt! He is shot in the Rovers’ ground and the police investigation reveals many suspects – from his Mafia-involved cousin to jealous actor Elton Blake. Clearly the strip, though focused on football matches, has much more to it and there is lots of drama, tragedy and victory both on and off the field!

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Roy of the Rovers is definitely my favourite comic that I’ve read so far, mainly because of the football scenarios which as a player I can relate to, but also because of how easy it is to read; the time passed so quickly as I was constantly wanting to know what happened next! A man of outrageous skill and incredible integrity, Roy Race is an amazing character who I think every young reader wanted to be and he certainly is the perfect role model. However, things have changed since the ‘80s and I noticed many differences between football then and now; for example, nearly all of the Rovers are English and homegrown which is not the case in any top British teams nowadays! There are many examples of classic style, from the players’ haircuts (a few mullets) to their very short shorts. The art is colourful and detailed in a classic comic strip style.

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For me, the only thing that Roy of the Rovers is missing is any mention of girls and womens’ football! Of course in the ’80s it was much less popular and it has grown exponentially since then, so I can imagine that any possible modern-day reboot would perhaps feature an affiliated Melchester Rovers Ladies team! Overall, if you are a football fan now or were obsessed with Roy of the Rovers when you were younger, hopefully this has filled you with excitement (or nostalgia) and inspired you to dig out an issue or annual!

– Caitlin

‘Patience Goes Uphill’ launch

Patience Goes Uphill is an illustrated children’s book commissioned by The Uphill Trust from Ink Pot artist Catriona Laird. The book launch is on Thursday April 20th 6.30pm at DCCS and the event will include a talk by the author/artist and you will be able to find out about the work of The Uphill Trust who are supporting Uphill Junior School in western Uganda. There will also be a mini market run by PopDundee selling jewellery and comics, with proceeds going to help Uphill Junior School. For more details see the FB event page.

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DCCS on the news!

If you were watching BBC News at 6 o’clock on Tuesday 28th March, you may have caught a glimpse of Dundee Comics Creative Space! A BBC team came to Dundee to speak to the public and gather thoughts on the second independence referendum. A small group of University of Dundee politics students were interviewed and DCCS was chosen as the location and some of our artists were given air time! Catriona Laird and Elliot Balson were featured at work in the Ink Pot studio, with Elliot producing a drawing of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon which was featured at the end of the segment. Sadly it is no longer available on the iPlayer but we saved some screen grabs. We’re trying not to let the fame go to our heads too much!

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Elliot’s drawing of the V&A museum on Dundee Waterfront which opened the news segment
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Elliot hard at work in the Ink Pot Studio
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Catriona working on her latest comic
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A close-up of Catriona’s work
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The University of Dundee politics students interviewed by the BBC news team – in DCCS. Great shots of our workshop space!
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Elliot was shown colouring a drawing he’d produced of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon to represent the debate over the referendum
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The final copy of Elliot’s drawing shown, captioned “To be continued…”
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This was Elliot’s first version of the Sturgeon and May picture – the BBC decided it was not impartial enough!

Review – ‘Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?’

My only experience with any kind of superhero franchise before last week was a trip to see The Amazing Spider-Man at the cinema with my dad five years ago; so reading this spin off, alternate-reality version of characters from Spider-Man comics was a bit of baptism by fire. Spider-Gwen is set in a universe – Marvel’s Earth 65 to be precise – where it wasn’t Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! Hence Spider-Woman is created and dives into her own adventures; facing a battle with the Vulture (an infamous Spider-Man villain, I found out after reading it – one of the many things that went over my head), hiding the truth of her identity from her police chief father, and arguing with her fellow members of girl band The Mary Janes (a reference to another well known Spider-Man character).

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As a story, it is fast paced and very action packed, as one would expect from a superhero comic. However due to my lack of experience in this genre, I struggled to understand what was going on as I missed some references to previous comics (such as Spider-Verse) so found the plot hard to follow. Whilst reading comics over the last few weeks I’ve also discovered something which was especially highlighted to me during this book; as someone who’s grown up reading lots of novels, I tend to focus on the text in comics and not so much the pictures. It’s my autopilot to just read the text boxes or speech bubbles and not necessarily pay close attention to the art – however, in this comic the pictures are incredibly detailed with lots of action so I was missing vital information! I realised this midway through and so spent some time re-reading the comic and paying more attention to the art, which helped it to make sense.

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Spider-Gwen has put a very modern, edgy twist on traditional Spider-Man comics; firstly, the protagonist is a strong woman, which as a girl I find really inspiring but is also positive in terms of representation – and reading this so close to International Woman’s Day was good timing! Also the art style is a bit more modern and digital, while the colour scheme used by the artist is very bold and vivid. Again, this isn’t something I’m used to after my first experiences of graphic novels being with the black and white Persepolis and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, but it was good to have a change!

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Honestly, I feel a little guilty saying that I didn’t really like Spider Gwen as I know that this is partly down to my inexperience with this genre of comics. So whether you are a hardcore superhero-traditionalist needing to get caught up on what’s cool these days, or a young hip comics fanatic looking for a superhero with a feminist twist, I recommend you give Spider-Gwen a go!

– Caitlin