Novel for a dark Christmas for Tarja

Following the recent motion comic style music video for Deep Purple, I have been working on another music based project for earMUSIC in my role at Bait Studio.

Tarja Turunen, the former Nightwish lead singer (I have a CD copy of Once in my collection), has a new festive album coming out called 'From Spirits and Ghosts' (Score for a Dark Christmas)'.  

To support the album we have created a graphic novel, inspired by and loosely based on 'Together' a new original song by Tarja. Written by me, with art by Conor Boyle (Hook Jaw), colouring by Matt Soffe and pre-press by Sean Rinehart

You can order a copy of 'From Spirits and Ghosts (Novel for a dark Christmas)' exclusively here.  

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Surprising project with Deep Purple

In my role as Creative Producer at Bait Studio I've been fortunate enough to combine two of my passions on a recent project, comics and music. When the studio was approached by Coolhead Productions to discuss the prospect of a potential animated music video for Deep Purple I was very excited.  Way back when I was about 11 my class teacher played us Smoke on the Water to explain how stories can be told through song and I've held the band in high esteem ever since, sitting alongside the likes of other rock luminaries Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. 

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The script was ambitious and some of the visual references were from the comics world, specifically the Corto Maltese Italian adventure comics created by Hugo Pratt. With this in mind I suggested a motion comics approach, rather than full animation and put forward some artists I felt could create something epic and also capture the likenesses of the band members. 

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Matt Rooke was the artist we brought on board, following consultation with the producers and our contacts at record label Ear Music. I was already used to work with Matt, as Stephen Aryan and myself are currently developing a comic series called The Promise with him. His portfolio already included some excellent likenesses and as he is a motion graphics artist himself, so he knew how we would need to receive the artwork in order to animate it.  He also plays guitar in a rock and pop covers band called Kong which also helps. 

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The song that the video was for, The Surprising, happened to be my favourite on the Infinite album, Deep Purple's 20th studio outing. It has a strong progressive rock feel, having been written by the band from an idea that started with guitarist Steve Morse whose work I knew well from the band Flying Colours.  Matt did an amazing job, not only illustrating and colouring all of the art, but also co-directing alongside me and working with the producers Collin Ganes, who also edited the film, and Craig Hooper. Alex Hollowood, Aidan Brook, Francesca Fornoni and Nick Dacey from Bait's motion design team and Production Manager Helen Pooler worked tirelessly to bring the video to life.  I'm still pinching myself that I've worked on something that involves legendary music producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Deftones, Jane's Addiction). 

“The official video for The Surprising takes the viewer on a journey through the magical 50-year history of the band. With high attention to detail, the animated masterpiece follows the five heroes of our story – Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Don Airey and Steve Morse – through a stormy ship cruise full of allusions and sees them riding off into the sunset.”

 

Feedback on the video has been universally positive and I've enjoyed reading the YouTube comments where people have been trying to identify the different Deep Purple albums that are referenced within the video. I have some more work in my role at Bait with some other musicians in the coming months, so watch this space. Also, if you order the gold edition of the Infinite Gold CD, you will get your hands on more of Matt's artwork.

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Packaged on BBC Two tonight

A quick reminder that short film Packaged, based on my script and directed by Lemarl Freckleton, is on BBC Two Wales tonight at 23.15. 

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If you're outside Wales you can watch it on Sky or Freesat on channel 971. The film will also be available on the BBC iPlayer after it airs. 

Phillip John, who plays Jack in Packaged, deservedly won the Best Actor award at the It's my Shout premiere last weekend, so this is your chance to see his portrayal for yourself.  Packaged is the penultimate It's my Shout film to be shown on the BBC this year. They are all well worth watching and all seven English language films will be on the iPlayer for the next month or so. 

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Packaged on the big and small screen

Last night this year's It's my Shout Premiere and Awards Evening took place at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. Packaged, the short film based on my script (originally entitled The Package), was one of the nine films shown at the event. It was immensely satisfying to get to watch the film on the big screen and to experience the audience's reaction to it first hand.  

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The awards ceremony that followed the screenings was as uplifting and entertaining as the films had been (the standard this year was very high across the board).  From beginning to end I was reminded just how many people from across Wales get to take their first steps into the film industry through the work that It's my Shout does. Every single award winning trainee seemed to be more humbled and grateful than the one before. The awards part of the evening was rounded off in style with a suitably rousing speech from Inspiration Award winner Russell T Davies. 

The after party that followed gave me the opportunity to catch up with, amongst others, the film's director Lemarl Freckleton and lead actor Phillip Jones, who deservedly picked up the Best Actor award earlier in the evening for his portrayal of Jack.  It was also great to catch up with many of the other writers who I met at the BBC Writer's Room as part of the selection process too. 

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You can see Packaged on BBC Two Wales on Monday 18th September at 23.15 (Channel 2 or 102 in Wales and in the rest of the UK on Channel 971 on Sky and Freesat). It will also be available on the iPlayer for 30 days after it airs and I believe all the films will be on YouTube eventually too. It was a really enjoyable experience to be part of It's my Shout this year and it's made me keen to get more shorts made in the near future. 

 

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The Interactives villain comes to life

Working on 'The Interactives', my creator owned fantasy series for Markosia, was one of the most enjoyable collaborations I've ever had as a writer. Six years since it came out that's been borne out by the actions of the book's wonderful colourist Yel Zamor. 

Alongside artist Luciano Vecchio and letterer and editor Ian Sharman, Yel played a huge role in the series, not only did she add exceptional colours to the book, she also served as perfect sounding board, giving some insightful notes on both the script and character designs as we developed the series. 

Now she's taken things a big step further forward, by putting aside the time, effort and talent needed to cosplay as the book's antagonist Lord Legend. To say I'm humbled would be a massive understatement. 

 

Photos below are from Lord Legend's recent appearance at MCM Manchester, photos are courtesy of Food and Cosplay, who is also on facebook & twitter.  You can buy The Interactives here you'll find a detailed build journey for on Yel's cosplay page - Cos Moustache.

On set for The Package

I spent the day on location yesterday,  the second day of a three day shoot for short film "The Package". Written by yours truly and directed by Lemarl Freckleton, The Package is the eighth film produced for this year's It's My Shout scheme. 

It was truly humbling to see so many people, a mix of industry professionals and IMS trainees, working together and braving the elements to bring my script to life. It gave me the same warm and fuzzy feeling I got when I first received comic pages back from an artist many years ago.  It was an honour to be there to see some of the filming and I can't wait to see footage from the other two days, editing starts next week. 

The film premieres on the big screen at the Wales Millennium Centre on September 10th (tickets are available here), before being shown on BBC Wales later in the year.  

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Writing for hit series Gutter Magic

Gutter Magic, written by Rich Douek, was a four issue fantasy mini-series, published by IDW in 2016 to critical acclaim.  

Gutter Magic is smart fantasy that’s well worth your time and treasure.
— Charles Soule (DAREDEVIL, DARTH VADER, DEATH OF WOLVERINE)
Set in modern day New York City where World War II had been fought with magic and wizards are the elitists, the series follows Cinder Byrnes, a member of a wealthy family of magic users, who was born without powers and his journey to learn how to cast spells.

Rich recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to continue the series in a new anthology, Tales from the Gutter. The anthology will feature three new stories from Rich and artists Renae De Liz (Legend of Wonder Woman, Peter Pan), original series artist Brett Barkley and Eryk Donovan (Quantum Teens are Go, Memetic). 

As well as these three stories, there are also going to be two additional back up stories written and drawn by members of the Comics Experience workshop community, where Rich originally developed the project. I am pleased to announce that my story 'Throwing Caution' was selected from the CE workshop writer submissions and that it will be appearing in Tales from the Gutter, along with "Til Death' by Kenny Porter.  My story is focussed on a character from the series called Blacktooth, giving a little insight into his background, and what makes him the goblin he is today.

I'm really pleased and honoured to get to play in the exciting and well developed universe that's already been established within the pages of Gutter Magic. Details of the story's artist, colourist and letterer will be announced soon and I'll be sure to share it here.  You can read the original series on Comixology and it's available as a trade paperback at Amazon in the UK and US

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic in the Skies - Genesis

My first article for my friends at Panic in the Skies was so long it had to be split into two parts. It centres around my growing love of the band Genesis and how I overcame my misconceptions about them

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Find out how I get into them in Part One.

Then follow me through the best of their back catalogue in Part Two

I really enjoying listening to the albums again with a critical ear and I'm hoping to find time to do more articles for the site soon. 

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Read my work for less in the Markosia sale at ComiXology

Digital comics platform ComiXology currently has a sale on books from UK publisher Markosia, with 50% or more off across their back catalogue until the 5th of June. So, if you want to pick up some of my previous work, now is a very good time.

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Here are some titles I worked on that you can pick up at a bargain price.  

The Interactives 

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A three issue mini series, written by me with art by Luciano Vecchio (Beware the Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Yel Zamor (Grindhouse, Rivers of London). 

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The public is obsessed with reality and the creatures from fantasy fiction fear extinction. Dragons, giants, orcs, goblins, and trolls - one by one they're breaking through from The Realm to The Real. War is coming to London and only geek blogger scallywag and his online followers stand in their way. 

UK version, full series £1.49

US version, full series  $1.99 

The Intergalactic Adventures of Zak Ridley   

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A four issue mini series, co-written by me with Ian Sharman (Hero 9 to 5, Alpha Gods), with art by newcomer Ewan McLaughlin.

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Zakk Ridley is just your average smuggler and rogue until he and his robotic partner, Dan, get caught up in an intergalactic conspiracy. Zakk dreams of an easy life roaming the galaxy and making a fast buck, but as they say, in space no one can hear you dream...

UK version, full series £1.49

US version, full series $1.99 

 

British Comics Showcase Anthology Vol.1  

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 You can read Blood Dolls, written by me with art by Cheuk Po and Matt Soffe in this excellent anthology.

UK version, £1.99

US version $2.99 

Eleventh Hour Vol.1.  

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This bumper four issue anthology, created by me and Ian Sharman, is where you can see much of my very early work, along with a host of other creators. 

What goes on in the minds of the hottest rising talent in comics?A schoolgirl haunted by demons, vampire chicks on motorbikes and retired superheroes are just some of the things you can expect in this deluxe anthology title. Eleventh Hour features exciting new creators from across the globe, with ten standalone stories and a preview of sci-fi series Mamluk.

UK version, 69p

US version $0.99 

 

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Some more of my work can be found within the later anthology series FTL and I'd also recommend checking out work by my friends and collaborators Simon Wyatt, Cy Dethan, Ian Sharman and David Wynne elsewhere in the sale too. 

The Package selected for It's my Shout

I found out a few days ago that my short film script, currently titled 'The Package' has been selected as part of this year's It's my Shout scheme. Things have been moving very quickly since I got the nod and it's only now that I've had the breathing space to be able to share the news properly. 

I had a lunchtime meeting today with my director, Lemarl Freckleton, to discuss his vision for the film.  It was a refreshing change to be discussing something I'd written in a meeting, rather than someone else's project that I was involved with the visual effects or titles for.

As hoped it was very productive, we both come at the project from a similar thought process visually and narratively and he's already brought some interesting extra elements into play just from this one initial meeting. My next job will be to work on rewrites to get the shooting script into shape, which will be happening in tandem with the pre-production phase, including casting. The ten-minute film is due to be shot in August and will air later this year on BBC Wales and at the It's my Shout event at the Wales Millennium Centre in October. An exciting few months ahead. 

Talking about other people's scripts at Cross Channel Film Lab 2016

Talking about other people's scripts at Cross Channel Film Lab 2016

 

 

It's My Shout/BBC Writers Room Wales

It's been a whirlwind few weeks on the screenwriting front. As I posted previously, I found out last month that my short film script 'The Package' was shortlisted for this year's It's my Shout. Since then I had some even better news, when I was notified that I had made it through to the even shorter list of projects that were being considered for production.

As a result of reaching this stage I was invited to the BBC Writers Room residential, two intensive days at Roath Lock, here in Cardiff, the BBC's state of the art centre of excellence for drama and home to Casualty, Pobol y Cwm and Doctor Who.  The workshop was overseen by BBC Writers Room Development Producer Rachel Williams and run by experienced producer Henry R Swindell. The first day was an overall look at story and writing for the screen. We discussed and watched lots of film and TV, all of which really helped cement the points that were being made, including relating the theory to our own favourite mainstream movie, in my case Predator. 

The second day centred around specific feedback on our scripts and pointers on what to focus on for the next round of rewrites. I was one of the first to get notes, so I spent much of the second day tucked away in a corner with my headphones on, listening to instrumental tracks while working away on the next version of the script. 

The notes I received gave me a lot to think about and really pushed me to take the bull by the horns and start to try some new things out. I spent all of last weekend and a good few hours last Monday working on revisions, until I had a version of the script I was happy to submit. The next stage includes not only the team from It's my Shout and the BBC Writers Room evaluating the revised drafts, but also the Directors who have also been selected, who get to decide which of those shortlisted they are most interested in bringing to the screen. Decisions should be made very soon, so I'll have more to say when I hear if I've been successful. Either way, this has all been really valuable and has given me lots of diagnostic tools for not only my screenwriting work, but also my comics projects as well. 

It's My Shout Script Shortlist 2017

I was very pleased to find out this week that my short film script "The Package" has been shortlisted by It's my Shout for further deliberation. This is the second year that I've put a script forward for the scheme, having submitted boxing drama "Break" in 2016. 

Wow! So after receiving over 200 scripts from writers across Wales and abroad we’ve managed to get it down to 47! Thank you to all those who entered a script this year. It was very tough to narrow down. For those who managed to reach this shortlist WELL DONE! This is an amazing achievement!

Should find out in the next weeks whether I am one of the lucky few who have made it through to the BBC Writers Room two day residential script development workshop. Fingers firmly crossed. 

Favourite Things in 2016

Following the deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Darwyn Cooke, Steve Dillon, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Victoria Wood and many more people, it's been a difficult year for pop culture. So it's good to once again focus on some of the positives from the past twelve months. As in other years these aren't what I'm saying are the best things, merely my favourites from the past twelve months.  You can see the 2015 list here.  

TV Drama – Stranger Things

For the second year running the show I liked the most was a Netflix original. This 8-part series completely came out of the blue for me, I hadn't heard of it until friends started posting about it on social media. I managed to watch it before it went on the typical arc of being over-hyped and then derided for being too nostalgic within a matter of days. Being set in 1983 certainly helped get me interested and everything from the music to the titles lifted the whole show. It was fresh and different and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, I loved the young cast and I can't wait to see what  the Duffer Brothers do in Season Two. 

Honourable mentions –  Westworld came very close to taking top spot and in many ways was the most well constructed show I saw this year. Technically it was the show I appreciated the most and it lead us all on a merry dance, but having taken half the season to emotionally engage with the characters that meant it wasn't quite the show for me. The best of this year's returning shows included Better Call Saul, which maintained its high bar, Game of Thrones which was the best season in years particularly the later episodes, Daredevil, which wasn't quite as good as season one and Jack Irish, which successfully spun the TV movie series into a season long show. Perhaps if I had found time for Luke Cage, that too would have made this list too. 

Film – Creed

Kids films apart, I've spent very little time at the cinema this year so I had relatively slim pickings to choose from. Having said that, I love boxing movies and the Rocky franchise in particular, and was pleased when this finally got a UK release, many months after the US. I wasn't sure about the idea of continuing the story with Apollo Creed's son as the focal point, but it was an excellent decision. Much like the first two Rocky films, this had a big heart and was handled with a deft touch. The fight scenes were breathtaking and Stallone really should have picked up an Oscar for his portayal of the former boxer turned mentor. 

Honourable mentions – Captain America: Civil War was the film I would have day dreamed about as a ten year old, although far from perfect balancing so many Marvel characters in one film was no mean feat. And they brought Spider-Man into the MCU finally and actually made it work too. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was far better than I anticipated and felt and looked like it belonged with the original trilogy, it also had some of the best casting of the year with some top notch talent in front of the camera. Deadpool was another film which surpassed my expectations, far funnier than anticipated and really well put together. Zooptropolis (or Zootopia if you're in the US), was excellent, and much like Paddington, managed to highlight the social injustices in the world within a family movie without it overshadowing the story. Looking back, maybe in 2017 I need to make a point of seeing more original films on the big screen, as well as franchise films and reboots, I'm kicking myself for not seeing The Nice Guys, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water and 10 Cloverfield Lane amongst others.  

Album – Folklore by Big Big Train/Sorceress by Opeth (tied) . 

It was very, very close this year. And I drafted this post a few times with either album in top spot as I don't usually allow myself such indecision. When it came down to it, both albums had the same affect on me, both made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and gave me goosebumps on multiple listens.  I'm emotionally invested in Folklore, having been an extra in the title track's video and attended the album launch listening party at Real World Studios, so that album had a very high chance of being the one I liked most. Just like their previous work, and the other two non studio albums they put out in 2016, it connected with my emotional and thoughful side. With Opeth it was something different, building on what they'd done before on Pale Communication, this album hit all the different things I look for in music and the perfect balance of light and shade, within one small collection of songs. 

Honourable mentions –

F*** Everyone And Run by Marillion was very, very close to making it a three way tie. In many ways it's the most 2016 album of all, as the lyrics resonate very strongly. They planned to make an important album and succeeded, possibly creating the defining work of their career. Iy just didnt quite have the same impact on me as BBT and Opeth.

Other long players of note came from Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, featuring members of Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan, Iggy Pop, who has found the perfect collaborator in Josh Homme,  The Mute Gods, Nick Beggs' Porcupine Tree with a pop slant style project, Radiohead, who returned to form again,  ex Beardfish and current BBT man, Rikard Sjoblom, BBT drummer Nick D'Virgillio's new power trio The Fringe, and English art rockers Moulettes

Song -  The New Kings by Marillion.

The radio edit of The New Kings was the first Marillion song I'd heard since the days of Fish and the band playing Kayleigh and Incommunicado on Top of the Pops. I then listened to the five piece full prog suite in all its glory (which everyone should do) and was completely blown away. Lyrically it speaks to these difficult times (we have the keys to Russia's locked doors) and musically it transcends genre and delivers on all levels. Superb stuff. 

This title is adopted not in anger or with any intention to shock. It is adopted and sung (in the song “New Kings”) tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. I won’t bore you with examples, they’re all over the newspapers every day. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that my FEAR of what “seems” to be approaching is just that, and not FEAR of what “is” actually about to happen.
— Steve Hogarth (Marillion)

Honourable mentions –

Familiar by Agnes Obel was my song of choice until I heard The New Kings, it's a song I discovered listening to Bob Harris on Radio 2, while waiting for him to play Big Big Train. It's hauntingly evocative and sounds different on every listen, I was surprised when it started to be used as Match of the Day incidental music. 

 

Realm of You and Me by Rikard Sjoblom is a singalong classic from the former Beardfish frontman and one of the songs from 2016 that put a big smile on my face whenever I heard it.  As their albums were so impressive, of course Sorceress, Will O the Wisp and The WIlde Flowers by Opeth and Folklore and Telling the Bees by Big Big Train have a place on this list. Daydreaming by Radiohead is beautifully restrained, as is Tears for the West by Levee Walkers feat Jaz Coleman (Mike McCready, Duff McKagan and Barrett Martin supergroup goodness with the Killing Joke frontman) and Metallica's Moth to a Flame helped blow off the cobwebs. The Mute Gods singles Feed the Troll, Father Daughter and Do nothing till you hear from me all deserve high praise too. 

Gig– Rikard Sjoblom, The Victoria (Swindon) 

This was another very difficult one and I almost made it a tie too, but in the end this show just shaded its nearest rival. In a small pub venue in Swindon I was treated to an excellent evening of music, starting with support act George Wilding. 

What followed was a perfect set from the Swedish multi-instrumentalist which made me wish I'd seen Beardfish live before they split up. Singing along to Realm of You and Me was one particular highlight, but the evening just kept getting better. Fellow BBT members Rachel Hall and David Longdon joined him on a couple of numbers and the night was rounded off by most of Big Big Train performing Uncle Jack and Wassail. I get goosebumps just thinking about it and it cost the princely sum of £5! 

Honourable mentions –

Tin Spirits (The Road to Tokyo) at Riffs Bar near Swindon was within a whisker of being my pick. Another band with a Big Big Train connection as legendary former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory is in both bands. I love both their albums and really came to appreciate their musicianship even more by seeing them perform live, especially in the front row in such a small vene. They also treated us to a raft of XTC songs too and you can see and hear some of their version of Senses Working Overtime from the show  here.  And once again this was a gig that set me back a fiver! 

Ben Folds at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff was a gig I wasn't expecting to go to and it was thanks to friend and fellow writer Chris Lynch having a spare ticket that I got to go.  Support act Lera Lynn, as seen and heard in True Detective, was excellent and there was a real party atmosphere when Folds himself came on. 

Chris Cornell at Colston Hall in Bristol with my regular gig buddies, which includes another writer Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Unfollow) was very good too. Hearing Hunger Strike, Fell on Black Days, Rusty Cage and Black Hole Sun live was worth the admission fee alone. I would like to have heard more songs from Euphoria Morning and a few less covers, more than anything else it made me wish I'd seen Soundgarden live. 

Comic – Lazarus (Image Comics) 

 

 

Three years in a row and the only book I'm picking up in single issues now. Having said that even considering how much I enjoy the titles I read in trades, there is a reason why I pick this up monthly, it really is a must read. As the world gets stranger and darker and oligarchical this book carries even more weight and value.   

Podcast – Unjustly Maligned.

Over the years I've enjoyed Antony Johnston's writing, his convention DJing and his public speaking and I can now add his podcasting to that list of things. In this show he interviews someone who has chosen to defend a film, book, comic, TV show etc that they feel doesn't get fairly treated. It's made me want to watch General Hospital, re-watch Clue and had me listening to Tin Machine again, but it didn't quite convince me to re-evaluate cricket. 

Honourable mentions –

The Prog Report, features excellent interviews with musicians from what has become my favourite genre, iFanBoy continues to be consistent and the return of Talksplode has made it even better, The British History Podcast which I started listening to for research is extremely entertaining, my stable mates Geek Syndicate and Grouchy Old Geeks are always good value and the same can always be said about World Balloon and Comics Experience too. 

Thanks goodness for so much pop culture goodness to distract us all from the news.  When I wasn't keeping up with the latest releases I was busy watching Luther and Community, reading The Book of Genesis and 100 Bullets, listening to Bloodmage and Phil Collins: Not Dead Yet and lots of comic book collections from the library.

 

Read Back to Work for free

I've wanted to write something for Outre for some time, but sod's law always prevailed and I tended to find out about the latest issue just after the submission process had completed. 

The Outré anthology is the brainchild of Norwegian comic book creators Magnus Aspli and Glenn Møane. Both fans of short stories, we started toying with the idea of launching an online anthology with a strong emphasis on quality and meaning.

With Outré we aim to deliver a thoughtful and unique product with superb quality in art and storytelling. To feature stories by hungry creators who have something to say.

Thankfully, I heard that Magnus and Glenn were looking for submissions for their 6th collection, Grotesk early enough to be able to submit an idea. An email from Magnus got the ball rolling and it was great to have a theme to build an idea from. I was looking forward to writing a short story again and to delving into the world of horror once more. 

The work begins for Outré #6. This time we’ve got one goal in mind: create the most unsettling and unnerving little anthology possible.

Our theme is along the lines of “uncannily weird” or “weirdly uncanny” - whatever fills your cup. Outside-the-box horror. Fresh, untouched territory, no classic monsters or tropes.

I had an outline for a story called 'Back to Work' completed relatively quickly, which was approved with a few tweaks and amendments. From there I pulled the script together, which then went through the editorial process before being accepted to appear in the anthology. 

I turned to the Comics Experience workshop to find an artist, initially collaborating with Federico De Luca (John Carpenter's Tales for a HalloweeNight) who has a realistic style and a real talent for the genre.  When Federico got too busy to complete the story, he's since been working on Creepy for Dark Horse, I returned to the CE workshop looking for a replacement.  This is Federico's take on Page One of 'Back to Work'. 

I was very happy to hook up with Gustavo Vasques, another artist on the CE workshop. He'd posted some of his work in June this year that I really liked and I'd been quick to suggest a potential future collaboration. So when Federico had to step off the project, Gustavo was the perfect replacement. Working with Gustavo has been brilliant, I've never had an artist deliver multiple layout options before (I plan to post those in the coming weeks, once the story has had the chance to do the rounds) and that really got me thinking about story flow and page composition. 'Back to Work' was a true collaboration in every sense and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Here is Gustavo's take on Page One, before a slight change in colouring direction was decided upon. 

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As often happens, I tighten up the dialogue on receipt of the art and then things were passed over to Mick Shubert the excellent letterer that Magnus, who edited the story, assigned to us. 

You can read 'Back to Work' here and you can download all of Outre 6 as a PDF here and it will soon  available on Comixology

Writing is rewriting

Working on the first draft of the script for Chalk Issue 1 was probably the most enjoyable writing experience I've ever had. I wrote it without a plan, with only a loose concept and some visual ideas written down, then pieced it together scene by scene. I was writing in a vacuum, with no expectations and by liberating my thought process it rekindled the feeling I used to get writing as a child. For years from a very young age I'd think of an idea for a prose story, write it quickly and then move on to something else. One of these days I'll write a blog about Summer holidays spent writing short stories about monsters at the request of my mother's employer, literally the local Lady of the manor. 

Despite having such a good time, writing without a plan for and with zero stress, I knew deep down that I'd need to put a lot of work in to make the script publishable. Having plotted out the full five issue mini-series, I've been reshaping the script so that it works for the overall story and the characters that I'm building.

 

 

I'm currently working on the eighth draft eight of the issue and it has really reminded me how important rewriting is and how much difference it can make to approach a scene multiple times. Tonight, armed with editorial notes from fellow Comics Experience workshop member Jourdan McLain, I set about making changes to the opening scene of the issue. 

It's a relatively simple three page scene, with two of the main characters involved but I've probably rewritten the dialogue at least ten times. Too much exposition, not enough exposition, clear plotting but inconsistent characterisation, too vague, too on the nose etc, etc. This evening something clicked. I'd left he script alone for a week or so and focussed on pulling together a one-page synopsis ready to pitch.  Working on that and re-reading the editorial notes I had sent my subconscious into overdrive and as soon as I looked at the pages tonight I could feel my writing mojo rising (with apologies to Jim Morrison). Each line made more sense than it ever had before. Suddently even the most subtle change seemed to serve the story and, most importantly, the characters in fundamentally better ways. Dialogue changes made character motivation clearer to the reader and to me. I had that same giddy rush usually reserved for being stuck in a plotting corner then suddenly finding the perfect answer to get your way out of it. A few hours work, three pages of script revisited, mulled over and refashioned for the umpteenth time and it was just as enjoyable as when I'd been winging it for twenty two pages instead. I loved every minute of it. After all rewriting is writing, as they say. 

 

WIP - Chalk

I've been fighting the urge to say too much about this project as it's in the relatively early stages, but I couldn't resist. Chalk is a British set urban fantasy, planned as a five-issue mini series with the potential to develop into a series of arcs or even an ongoing title. It's been co-created with artist Ho Seng Hui. If you liked my work on The Interactives, I think this will be right up your street. Much of the plot is complete and Issue 1 is currently going through rewrites. 

Here are some of the main cast.

Professor Howard Chalk

Hoshiko Deguchi

Detective Inspector Jack Long

More to follow on this as things develop further. In the meantime you can listen to the Spotify playlist of music that's helped inspire the story and shape the tone. 

WIP - 7 Shades

A couple of years ago I was approached by my friend Dave Clifford, artist on Dexter's Half Dozen, about collaborating on something together. Not only did he want us to work together, he also already had a project in mind. He ran the high concept for his supernatural western idea past me and it was enough to get me interesting in giving it a go. He then sent me a pitch package with character overviews, hints at the overarching plot and some initial sketches and painted artwork. 

Character sketch from Dave's initial pitch. 

Character sketch from Dave's initial pitch. 

We finally found time to discuss things in more detail in April this year. Being two British creators, that met meeting up in the pub. Dave expanded on the initial conceit he had, taking me through enough story for 100+ issues. I was pretty overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ideas that he had and the more we talked, the more potential storylines and characters he came up with. It took us a few more meet ups before we have whipped 7 Shades into shape. I asked Dave lots of questions about the core characters and their motivations and focussed on trying to shape a story arc that would introduce us to the world and provide a satisfactory story if that was all we were able to tell. 

From Dave's initial pitch.

From Dave's initial pitch.

Back of napkin notes were typed up into a coherent story structure, the first four arcs were loosely planned before we really honed in on the launch arc. Initially drilling down what would happen in each issue, before breaking down Issue 1 even more into a page by page breakdown. From this I set about writing a plot first, Marvel style script for Issue 1. This felt like a much better approach rather than writing full script, as the story had originated from Dave and he was planning to create fully painted artwork.  It also fitted with the spirit of how we would plotting together, taking his huge array of ideas for characters, plots, sub-plots and visual set-ups and shaping them into a linear story. It gave us scope to come up with new things in the dialogue based on how Dave approached the visuals. 

A page from Issue 1.

A page from Issue 1.

It was after our third meet-up that I set about writing the first issue. Tonight we met up again, for our fourth in person chat about the project. Almost half of Issue 1 (which will be 30 pages in total) have been painted and it was amazing to get to look through the original art. We caught up, had a few drinks and discussed some new elements that we can weave into the story based on how the art looked and the tone it conveyed. I'll have the pages to show in their digital form at the Bristol Comic Expo next weekend. I'm really excited to get this project moving. 

Bristol bound

It's only 13 days until  Bristol International Comic and Small Press Expo returns, bringing the world of comics back to its spiritual UK home. Having attended shows there since 2001 and having exhibited there since 2007 I'm very much looking forward to it.

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After years taking a table under the name of publishing imprints Orang Utan Comics and more recently Dapper Chimp Press, this will be the first Bristol convention I've attended in my own name. I'll have copies of The Lament of Lady Mary for sale, the medieval one-shot from Unseen Shadows with art by Conor Boyle (Hookjaw). 

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I'll also have preview art from a new project, supernatural western  Seven Shades created by Dexter's Half Dozen artist Dave Clifford. We've had great fun developing the series together this year and can't wait to show you how things are shaping up. Issue 1 is written (Marvel style) and Dave is about halfway through the painted art for the debut issue. 

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I will also be selling original art by Eagle award nominated artist and my long time collaborator, Azim Akberali. Dubbed the African Alex Ross, his painter pin ups have been shipped over from Tanzania for me to sell on his behalf. I'll be posting a full list and taking pre-orders, but in the meantime this Buck Rogers image should serve to whet your appetite. 

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If you're heading to Bristol for the expo, I hope to see you there. Find out more about the event here