Monday, 19 December 2016

Magic Torch 2016 Review

22 Pages Exhibition Artwork - Mhairi M Robertson

2016 was, lets be fair, a pretty rubbish year on many levels. However, in between the moments of inescapable darkness, teetering over chasms of endless despair, Magic Torch did have great fun with our projects.

There was our awesome 22 Pages exhibition at Paisley Museum - which reinterpreted key Scottish events and characters as comic book covers. Hopefully, more folk will get a chance to see the exhibition again next year.

22 Pages Exhibition Artwork - Andy Lee

Our First World War graphic novel Achi Baba - Gallipoli 1915, won a national award for innovation from the Community Archives and Heritage Group. You can still read Achi Baba for free online.

We were supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland and Inverclyde Place Partnership to reinvigorate the tradition of performing a Galoshans play at Halloween. We created a new version of the play, which you can read and download for free, and film-maker David Newbigging filmed the projects workshops in schools and also a performance of the play by our new Galoshans Troop volunteers.

We published our first adventure of the Rowan Tree Legion - The Skeleton Key - a Dad's Army with witches romp, inspired by local legends and featuring a few local landmarks. Skeleton Key is available from the Magic Torch Comics shop.

Rowan Tree Legion - The Skeleton Key by Paul Bristow and Mhairi M Robertson

And of course, more than anything else, we made lots of comics this year, with Magic Torch Comics getting support from Firstport to develop into a separate educational social enterprise. We created comics with Whinhill Primary, Gourock Primary, Newark Primary and Ardgowan Primary. All this years comics, with schools and for various events, can be read for free on our Magic Torch Comics ISSUU page or below.

2017 is the Scottish Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology - and we have a few projects lined up already. Comic wise we have our adaptation of John Donald's The Stowaways created with Ardgowan Primary for the Heritage Inverclyde project. And we will finally be publishing our Captain Kidd graphic novel in May.

We'll also be working on a new comics project with Notre Dame High School. And hopefully, we'll be delivering on our new interactive fictions project IF / Then - with all sorts of unusual creative outputs. Fingers crossed.

For now, be merry, be safe, share stories and hugs with your nearest and dearest.

See you in 2017.

The Stowaways created by Magic Torch Comics and Ardowan Primary School for Heritage Inverclyde

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

From Heritage to Creativity / ECAF Community Comics

In November, we're delighted to be presenting on the work of Magic Torch Comics at two fantastic events.

On Saturday November 19th, we'll be up in Inverness at the From Heritage to Creativity workshop in association with Scotland's Urban Past and the Dare To Dream Storytelling Festival. We worked with the SUP team and Newark Primary School on our Ghost Train comic earlier in the year, and as well as showcasing some of that work, we'll be running a workshop on creating your own comics.

On Saturday November  26th, I'll be through at the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival, presenting on Community Comics and Cultural Identity.

Hope to see some of you around.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Yokai Work Experience

Alucard by Adam Leitch

Back in September, Magic Torch were delighted to have Adam Leitch from Inverclyde Academy along on his work experience. Adam is an artist, and so we gave him a brief script to work on - a lot to get done in a's some of Adam's artwork, some thoughts from Adam and the finished piece Yokai - which is appropriately spooky for Hallowe'en.

SSJ4 Vegito by Adam Leitch

My name is Adam Leitch. I am 15 years old and I love drawing manga. I especially like drawing fan art of Dragon Ball Z. I worked with Magic Torch for my 4th year work experience because I want to do something related to illustration when I leave school. I have also attempted to draw my own manga using both traditional inking methods combined with digital drawing software for colouring.

Note : If you thought that creature was weird, explore some of the other Yokai. Gotta catch em all....

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Go Yer Own Galoshans


We have been out and about distributing copies of our Galoshans Play to every Primary School in Inverclyde, every pupil will get a free copy - and hopefully some folks will begin performing their own versions of the play again.

Copies will also be available from The Beacon and The Dutch Gable House during the Galoshans Festival weekend - be sure to grab one.

And don't forget that we have two different versions of the play being performed at The Dutch Gable House this weekend, on Saturday at 12 and 3 we have a rehearsed reading of our new version of the play and on Sunday at 3 we have a puppet show performance from Sokobauno Theatre. Both are free but the puppet performance is ticketed - email for tickets.

The Going Galoshans project is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland and Inverclyde Place Partnership.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Skeleton Key

There's a war on, well, two wars really. There's the one everyone knows about, with soldiers and bombers and then there's the other one, with spells, magical swords, zombies and giant ravens.

The Rowan Tree Legion are here to help us win both.

The Skeleton Key, by Mhairi M Robertson and myself is available on Saturday 29th October. You can pick up a copy at The Dutch Gable House from 2pm during the Galoshans festival. Shortly thereafter it will be available online from the Magic Torch Comics shop, amazon and comixology. 48 full colour pages for £5. Mhairi will be along to sign copies on the day, rendering it all the more precious.

We will also have a new print edition of our first book Wee Nasties, unavailable since 2013. The book introduces younger readers to the popular folk characters of Inverclyde. I will be along at Inverclyde Library on Friday 28th October from 4 - 5 to share some spooky local stories, including Wee Nasties, as part of the Galoshans Festival.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Galoshans Play Performances

We have two different versions of The Galoshans Play for you to enjoy during the Galoshans Festival this year. Our new version, presented by volunteers is on Saturday 29th October at The Dutch Gable House in William Street, Greenock. Performances are at 12 noon and 3pm. It's free to attend, but spaces are limited.

The second version, you can see on Sunday 30th October at 3pm in The Dutch Gable House. This is Shane and Stan's puppet theatre version, which has been performed around local schools over the last few weeks. Again, the performance is free - but this one is ticketed. Contact to book your tickets.

And of course, you can download our new adaptation of the play for you to perform yourself.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Galoshans Play 2016

Vintage clown craze terror
Merry Galoshans everyone.

This year, we've been working to help rekindle the Galoshans Play tradition, as part of our Heritage Lottery Scotland supported Going Galoshans project. We have created a new version of the play for you to read and download for free. A printed chapbook edition will also be delivered to schools and passed out for free during the Galoshans Festival.

The new version contains elements of the play which would have been performed in Greenock hundreds of years ago, as well as some new additions which feature folk characters and motifs specific to Inverclyde. It's a bit of fun really. Just as it was originally intended to be. Maybe you can even have a wee laugh staging your own version.

You will also be able to see and maybe even participate in a few performances of the play during the Galoshans festival, on Saturday 29th October at 12pm and 3pm in The Dutch Gable House.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

What IS a Galoshan?

From the awesome Haunted Air project...
As part of the Galoshans Festival in Inverclyde, we're celebrating the roots of the term "going galoshans" and sharing new versions of the traditional play which used to be performed door to door at Halloween and New Year in Scotland.

Sokonbauno Theatre have been out sharing their puppet theatre version of the Galoshans Play with Aileymill Primary School and helping the school create and perform their own versions of the play.

Sokobauno and Magic Torch are also working with Trust Volunteering to recruit and train a new troop to create, rehearse and perform a new adaptation of the play throughout the Galoshans Festival, and to carry the torch of this reinvigorated tradition into the future.

Call Laura or Amanda on (01475) 553334 if you are interested in being involved. Volunteers must be 16+.

The video below sees our gallant Galoshaneers Stan Reeves and Shane Connolly explain the roots of the play - and share some Mighty Boosh style cardboard masks...

A big thank you to artist and film-maker David Newbigging for filming this short for us, David will be filming the whole Galoshans play process for a short documentary which we'll share later this year.

David is also working on his own film project just now - Benchmark 6. Really worth a look.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Going Galoshans 2016

We're heading into Magic Torch's favourite time of year - autumn leaves, crisp mornings, terrifying ghost stories...the season of the witch is almost upon us.

We've lots happening over the next few months, kicking off with our new Going Galoshans project, supported by Heritage Lottery - Sharing Heritage fund and Inverclyde Place Partnership.

As part of the Galoshans Festival in Inverclyde, we'll be celebrating the roots of the term "going galoshans" and sharing new versions of the traditional play which used to be performed door to door at Halloween and New Year in Scotland.

Sokonbauno Theatre will be sharing their puppet theatre version of the Galoshans Play with Aileymill Primary School and Newark Primary School, and helping the school create and perform their own versions of the play.

And we are working with Trust Volunteering to recruit and train a new troop to create, rehearse and perform a new adaptation of the play throughout the Galoshans Festival, and to carry the torch of this reinvigorated tradition into the future. Volunteers must be 16+. Call Laura or Amanda on (01475) 553334. More info below...

Here are the marvellous Sokobauno Puppet Theatre performing the play a few years back. As well as being performed in schools, there will be a one off performance of the play in the Dutch Gable House on Sunday 30th October at 3pm.

Plus! Magic Torch Comics will be launching our new graphic novel The Skeleton Key on Saturday 28th October as well. So it's all go. Hopefully see you around.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Inverclyde Doors Open Day Treasure Hunt

As ever, there's lots to see at this year's Doors Open Day on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September. This year, on Saturday, there's even a treasure hunt!

Start your adventure by collecting your treasure map from the McLean Museum. Follow the map to find the four different coin stickers at McLean Museum, Tobacco Warehouse, Fire and Rescue Museum and The Dutch Gable House - you can take part in arts and craft activities with RIG Arts along the way. 

The map features an exclusive comic strip from Magic Torch Comics. And if you collect all the stickers, you will get a prize at The Dutch Gable House.

The Dutch Gable House will also be sharing new work from the Heritage Inverclyde Quest for Learning project, including stained glass created by Alec Galloway and the volunteers of the HI Women's Group. And there will be a special appearance by Alex The Anchor, the popular Heritage Inverclyde Mascot.

So it's all good!

Plus, I'll be on the Dutch Gable ground floor signing copies of my children's book The Superpower Project. What's that? You don't have a copy yet?! Let these lovely reviews convince you ;)

Hopefully see you somewhere on the day.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Comics In Schools - Comic Launches

Gourock Primary 4/5 - The Doom That Came To Gourock!

From January to March, the Magic Torch Comics team got to work with Whinhill Primary and Gourock Primary, to create three brand new comics featuring a historic shinty match, a wizard princess in space and the revenge of a local witch. So, lots of variety there.

The project was part of the Inverclyde 1+2 Language initiative, and in addition to encouraging visual literacy, the comics also promoted French and Gaelic language. It's been excellent fun.

Whinhill Primary Comic Launch
On Thursday 16 June, we were invited to two totally awesome comic launches at the schools, with lots of parents and carers popping by to see all the hard work done by the classes. The Greenock Telegraph ran a couple of stories on both the Whinhill Comic Launch and also the big compliment which Gourock Primary received from the Beano Comic! (Beano thought their comic was funny!)

Jumping for joy!
You can read the full comics over on the Magic Torch Comics website, including all of the individual strips created by the classes...

Next year, we've more Comics In Schools projects in progress with Ardgowan Primary and Newark Primary. Watch this space!

And if comics, superheroes and local legends are your thing, then it would be remiss of me not to point out that my book, The Superpower Project, is part of this years Summer Reading Challenge.

In The Superpower Project, Megan and Cam discover they have superpowers and try to find out why, with the help of a forgetful steampunk robot built by inventor James Watt and using a mysterious map, left to Megan by her recently exploded grandmother. And it's all set in Greenock. You can read a free preview of the book on the Discover Kelpies website.

If that's not enough to convince about this celebrity superhero endorsement below...

Monday, 18 July 2016

Award for Achi Baba Graphic Novel

We are delighted to be able to say that Achi Baba - Gallipoli 1915, our graphic novel about the Gallipoli campaign, has won a national award for innovation from the Community Archives and Heritage Group, part of the Archives and Records Association.

Achi Baba was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, through the First World War - Then and Now programme.

The CAHG judges commented:

“Magic Torch has been helping create a record of important local events in an easily-accessible and highly-innovative comic-book format; eg, the experiences of a locally-based regiment during the First World War. The group has taken this format into local schools; it clearly has the potential to spark ideas in other groups… and fills a gap in presenting the past in a digestible format to the difficult-to-reach senior schools audience.”

You can read all about the awards and other award winners on the CAHG website.

You can read a digital version of the book online for free on our Magic Torch Comics website, and also via ISSUU. Our original run of print copies have been distributed, but we printed a short run second edition, which you can also purchase on our website.

Achi Baba was a challenging project to work on, however since then, we have been able to expand our comics and graphic novel work, within schools, but also with community groups. We're looking forward to sharing our new projects with you soon.

Every town has a story to tell, find out how Magic Torch Comics can help you tell yours...

You can read our progress / process blogs for the Achi Baba project here.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Skeleton Key - Cover Reveal

Here's the cover for our "witches at war" comic, The Skeleton Key - which introduces the Rowan Tree Legion.

The 48 page all ages comic has been created by Mhairi M Robertson and myself, and it will be released in October 2016, during the Galoshans Festival. We can't wait to share it with you.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Comics In Schools - Ghost Train!

Across the nine arches...

We're delighted to report that we've been awarded £1950 from the new Scotrail Cultural Fund to work with a local school to create a spooky comic. This was the first time we had come across the Scotrail Cultural funding – and it’s a really excellent fund for smaller projects. We liked the challenge of creating something quirky that would fit with the Scotrail priorities, but also get people involved in our own areas of interest, comics and heritage.

We'll be working with Newark Primary School, Port Glasgow on the comic after the summer holidays. 'A Journey on the Ghost Train' will be released in time for Halloween, and will form part of our Galoshans celebrations this year, along with a few other projects still to be announced...

I'm really pleased that comics are increasingly recognised within school settings as a way of encouraging visual literacy and also as a creative way of engaging pupils who are less confident with traditional reading models. We've really enjoyed our Comics in Schools work over the last few months, we've tackled all sorts from French sci-fi mysteries to Gaelic songs and footballing robots. All the finished comics are being launched at schools throughout June, and we'll share the online versions with you soon.

We'll be expanding our comics work over the next year to include after school comic clubs, sessions for teachers and some community group sessions too. To keep up to date with all our comics news, and to read some of the work produced by local pupils, check out our Magic Torch Comics site. Or you can contact us directly on

Pupils at Whinhill Primary in March, working on "Le Mystere de la Princesse Sorciere"

Character design with Artist Andy

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ales With A Tale...

Magic Torch are pleased to present the first in a series of local folklore themed ales, created with the assistance of Krafty Brew.

If you happen to be visiting the Cardwell Garden Centre Craft Fayre this Saturday, you will have the opportunity to get your hands on one of these limited edition promotional brews.

Magic Torch would of course encourage you to drink responsibly. And also to brew responsibly.

Magic Torch brewmeisters, creating the magic, much like Auld Dunrod etc

Needs more hops.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Magic Torch Comics at Edinburgh Comic-Con

Comics. Also free haribo.

We had an excellent weekend at the wonderful Edinburgh Comic-Con - meeting lots of new folks and also having shots of speeder bikes and the TARDIS.

We were especially pleased how many parents and teachers were interested in Magic Torch Comics work with schools and visual literacy - it looks like we'll be doing a bit more delivery over on the East Coast soon.

We'll have another stall at Glasgow Comic-Con on Saturday 2nd / Sunday 3rd of July, and if you are looking to purchase quality folklore based books and comics meantime, there's always our online shop.

Darren races through Endor
Another childhood ambition achieved

Remember you can see lots more of our comics and exclusive work from Andy Lee and Mhairi Robertson at the 22 Pages - Scenes From Scottish History exhibition at Paisley Museum. And it's free entry!

Monday, 21 March 2016

22 Pages - Scenes From Scottish History : Comic Exhibition

22 Pages is an exhibition we've been involved in creating over the last few months, featuring scenes from Scottish history, presented as comics and graphic novels. It features some excellent and exclusive new artwork from Magic Torch Comics artists Andy Lee and Mhairi Robertson.

We tried to imagine uncovering a box of classic old comics, each one telling a different story from a key moment in Scotland's history, in a different comic style - a natural progression from the comics and heritage work we have been involved in over the last few years.

The exhibition will be in Paisley Museum from Saturday 2 April - Friday 20 May and it is FREE to attend. We'll share a few more teaser images with you over the next week, but you will need to visit the museum to see the full size artwork...

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Comics In Schools - Camanachd Ghrianaig

For the last few weeks, Magic Torch Comics have been having a blast working with Whinhill Primary School in Greenock, creating a comic using Gaelic language - no mean feat considering no one from Magic Torch can speak Gaelic. Thankfully however, Gaidhlig Primary 4 - 7 are really good at it, and were able to help us out.

The comic is the first of 3 we will be creating with the support of Inverclyde Council Education Services 1+2 Language Development programme.

The 4 week project has involved the class learning about the language of comics and then researching a Gaelic song with particular relevance to the Greenock Highlanders, Camanachd Ghrianaig by Mairi Mhor Nan Oran - it tells the story of a Shinty match played in Greenock in 1877 between the Greenock and Glasgow Gaels. The class then helped adapt verses from the song into a comic strip for our artist Andy Lee.

The next step was for each member of the class to create their own characters, and tell a story about them getting to the shinty match too. Here are just a few images of some of the wonderful comics created below. We look forward to sharing the finished comic with you soon...

artwork by Rowan Watterott
Artwork by Ceitidh Cameron
Artwork by Stacie Lewis

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Superpower Project

With the help of a wisecracking, steampunk robot, two accidental superheroes discover that they have inherited some amazing, if unusual, abilities. Computer whiz Megan can fly (mostly sleep-flying, but she's working on it) while her best friend Cameron can (in theory) transform into any animal, but mostly ends up as a were-hamster. 

Together they must protect the source of their ancestral powers from a wannabe evil mastermind and his gang of industrial transformer robots who've disguised themselves as modern art installations on their Greenock estate.

It isn't easy to balance school and epic super-battles, not to mention finding time to search for other super-talents and train with their Mr Miyagi-esque were-tiger coach. Can Megan and Cam beat the bad guy, defeat his robot transformers and become the superheroes they were born to be? Kelpies Prize shortlisted author Paul Bristow creates a hilarious tongue-in-cheek superhero mash up with a dangerous twist!

My first children's book, The Superpower Project, published by the wonderful Floris Books, is now available from the Discover Kelpies website and Amazon.

The book was originally written in early 2014 and was shortlisted for the 2014 Kelpies Prize. In fact, Kelpies are running their 2016 prize now, so if you have an idea for a childrens book, have a look.

The Superpower Project is a treasure hunt mystery for 8-12s, set in and around Inverclyde and featuring popular places and forgotten spaces which will be familiar to local readers; the Sugar Sheds, the cemetery, the McLean Museum, Fergusons, King George V parkland…all sorts of nooks and crannies.

A few places were tweaked slightly to help the story along - so Ravenscraig Hospital becomes Crowfell Hospital and relocates to the East End of Greenock, and the abandoned Glebe Sugar Warehouse becomes the much less abandoned Tobacco Warehouse...but it should still be an Inverclyde local readers will recognise. And I'm really pleased that it's set here, because at it's heart, the book is trying to say something about change, and how we should appreciate the importance of where we come from - although obviously it's saying that with robots, explosions and fights in graveyards and abandoned hospitals...
You can read the first three chapters for free right here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Legacy of the Catman

From our 'Claws of the Catman' comic, art by Andy Lee

The Catman continues to be one of our more popular local legends, it is probably the story we get the most emails and questions about. In fact, even when while working in a primary school last week on a totally unrelated comic project, one of the young people was only too happy to share his own Catman story with us. And every time we hear the story retold, there's a new detail.

Late last year, following some reported new sightings of the Catman, a group of students from Edinburgh Uni came down to Greenock to create a short documentary to try and uncover the truth. Myself and some other interesting Greenock characters were interviewed for the film.

We've always been really clear at Magic Torch, that part of what is so interesting about the Catman is that his story still gets told - indeed, we've been part of that retelling. Is he an urban legend? Folklore? Fakelore? As ever, it's down to you to make your own mind up about how real the Catman is, or was...

You can purchase our Tales of the Oak comic which features the 'Claws of the Catman' strip from our Magic Torch Comics shop.

A much friendlier version of the Catman legend appears in my children's book The Superpower Project, which will be published by Floris Books Kelpies on February 18th.