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I admit, I’m something of a lapsed reader when it comes to John Allison’s Scary Go Round, which was one of my favorite webcomics for the longest time. There was Allison’s cheeky and very British humor that treated mystical horrors with a heaping dollop of cartoonishness, and the thrill of following his evolving art style.
Scary Go Round started at Joey Manley’s Modern Tales site, when it featured a simpler and gentler computer-generated style created with Adobe Illustrator. In 2005, Allison switched to hand-drawn art that was more angular, boldly whimsical and thickly inked.
Both styles were very appealing, although they affected the humor in different ways. The earlier art was more low key: when eventual main character Shelley Winters becomes a zombie, part of the humor stems from how it’s brushed off as a minor nuisance. Later, Allison is more willing to embrace the maniacal ridiculousness. Basically, it went from being Friends to something out of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavour Cornetto Trilogy.
Cartoonist John Allison surprised many in 2009 when he ended his long-running webcomic Scary Go Round and soon launched Bad Machinery, which follows the adventures of two groups of child detectives in the fictional town of Tackleford, England, he established more than a decade earlier in his first online strip Bobbins.
Allison is the first to acknowledge those first months were rocky for the kids of Griswalds Grammar School, with a number of Scary Go Round readers abandoning the new comic, despite its familiar setting. But four years later, it’s a different story for Bad Machinery, which in 2012 won a British Comic Award; the first print collection, released last spring by Oni Press, was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best children’s books of 2013.
With a second volume, “The Case of the Good Boy,” set to arrive in March, Allison took some time during the holidays to talk with ROBOT 6 about finding an audience, making the jump to print, returning to Bobbins and what the future holds for Bad Machinery.
Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery, and Giant Days webcomics impresario John Allison is throwing down the gauntlet. In his “Manifesto for UK Indie Comics in 2010″, the cartoonist offers some very blunt advice for aspiring comics creators, on everything from content to format to fandom to your personal demeanor as a creator. As is the case with most comics manifestos, there’s stuff in it I applaud, stuff in it that’s somewhere between a nasty rude awakening and a much-needed kick in the pants, and stuff that makes my skin crawl.
For example, I am generally speaking a diary-comics skeptic, and thus point #7, “Diary comics: stop it,” strikes me as advice potentially worth heeding, especially for new cartoonists looking for a way to channel their energies. On the other hand, point #3, “Make comics for people who don’t make comics,” though it sounds like a good enough idea, basically writes off vast swathes of the medium’s best work:
Why is anyone other than your comic making friends and a few select interested parties going to read an art-damaged visual tone-poem about the inside of your psyche? Learn how to engage and entertain people. It’s a profoundly useful skill.