I thought it would be a good idea to look back at some of my previous work and to give a bit of insight into what went into their creation. I'm kicking things off with the first mini series I had published, after years of writing short stories, "The Interactives" was released by Markosia in August 2011.
This book was definitely a labour of love and The Interactives was a very personal piece of work. I clung to the old adage about writing something that only you could write, dispensed with thinking too much about the audience or market and just wrote what felt right. Less dark and less sophisticated than other books I'd started to write, changing direction for this series was very liberating. A couple of the Marvel books I was reading at the time ended up being big influences on the book's tone, Paul Cornell's Captain Britain and MI-13 and Dan Slott and Christos Gage's Mighty Avengers run. Those two books gave me the confidence to have more fun with the subject matter and to be more comfortable setting it in Britain too.
The book was inspired by lots of of different things, although articles on library closures and falling literacy rates helped fuel the over-riding concept, as did the rise in online media and user generated content. The main character Scallywag (named after the nickname my Father in Law gave my daughter) is loosely based on me. The character has to come to terms with not being able to do everything himself, or expecting others to contribute to a task in the way he would have. That's all familar territory for me personally. Learning to be part of a team and an effective leader, without trying to do everything yourself or getting people to do things your way was part of my journey into management.
I was living in Monmouth and travelling back and forth to Gloucester when the bulk of the book was written, those journeys played a key role in the visuals. The first part of the story is set in Monmouth and the book's opening visuals, a dragon flying over the Welcome to Wales sign, was conjured up on my commute.
Later scenes are set in the field behind our garden at the time and then the action moves into the town, so it was very much a case of writing what I could see around me. Stonehenge also features in the book, an obvious mystical destination and also one fuelled by a school trip many years ago. Shifting the action to London (which was originally going to be the US) was partially to make the book more universal, but also to tap into my fascination with the tourist side of the city. I wanted to do some big moments like in Godzilla or King Kong, but with London landmarks being under siege instead. It was great fun getting to bring that to life.
Scallywag's shop 'Killed the cat' is in Bristol's St.Nicholas Market, a place I used to love walking around when I was in the city for comic conventions or work. I actually used to meet for coffee with writer Rob Williams (Unfollow, Ordinary, Dr.Who) right next to the market to get writing advice. He also gave me some great notes on the first draft of the script, one which has a completely different team being dispatched in the second issue. It also featured a dwarf Axl Rose impersonator and an appearance by the Cerne giant.
There's a sense of nostalgia in the book too, which has since become even more prevalent in the entertainment world with constant reboots, reimaginings, reworks and delayed sequels to the things we all liked as children. In 'Killed the Cat' you can see a wealth of items that relate to my childhood viewing and reading, like Alf, Centurions, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Airwolf, Fighting Fantasy Books etc. Music is also something that ended up playing a big part in the book, with some of my musical heroes showing up, particularly those who are no longer with us. When I look back I do wonder if some of these elements were self indulgent, but I always justify it by thinking that the main character is around my age and would have had the same cultural influences I did. These were also elements that helped make the book something that I don't think anyone else would have created.
I pulled in things like the Suicide Angel from another mini series I'd plotted out but aborted, took more influence from trips to London, including my first ever MCM Comic Con, and from a family visit to Puzzlewood. Looking back I'm not sure how I managed to pull all these different things into a little three issue book.
Ultimately it was the team of collaborators I had on the book that played the biggest part in making The Interactives something special, which was very fitting to the theme of the story. I advertised for a penciller/inker on a number of different sites and had an overwhelming response. 17 different artists ended up doing some iniital sample pages and it was Argentinian artist Luciano Vecchio whose work ended up suiting the book the most. His take on the characters made them suddenly far more three dimensional and his work on additional sample pages ended up having a big bearing on the rest of the story. I only had a few pages written when I started looking for collaborators, so his approach helped shape the characters and the world they inhabit. Luciano's artwork has an animation feel, which fit the tone and feel of the book perfectly. He's since gone on to work with both Marvel and DC, but I'd absolutely love to work with him again one day.
Colourist Yel Zamor has been working with my colleagues at Orang Utan Comics already and when I saw her colours on Luciano's artwork there was no way anyone else was colouring this book. She did an exceptional job, not only on the colours, but also as a sounding board and as a stroy editor, letting me know when a scene or sequence didn't quite work for her. That level of investment in the project really made it a pleasure to work on, with ideas and concepts flying back and forth between all three of us. Yel even cosplayed as girl7, one of the book's main characters at Bristol Comic Expo. You can see more of her work on The Only Good Dalek (BBC Books) and The Irons: Hybrid (Madefire). Adding longtime collaborator Ian Sharman on letters, pre-press and edits rounded off our team.
Reviews from the likes of Broken Frontier, Comics Bulletin and Sequential Tart were very positive and my only real regret is that more people didn't get to read the book. I do have a sequel loosely plotted, so maybe one day I'll return to the world again.
You can find out more about the book on my old blog - Always Write and if you'd like to pick up a copy, you can do that by clicking on the cover below.