Flux coming to Kickstarter

Steve Aryan and I have been friends for years, we originally met when we both had tables at comic conventions for our self-published books. In the subsequent ten plus years we’ve become close friends, not only do we podcast together (Bags of Action), we also co-write together too.

Sci-fi thriller comic book mini-series Flux was the first thing we worked on together and we realised very quickly that our differing writing approaches complimented each other very well. Skype calls helped us shape the story beyond Steve’s original idea and then we met up in person to really break the story fully. That was in Leeds for Thought Bubble one year, though I can’t remember which one of us was sitting at the laptop and which one was pacing the hotel room. Once we found artist Maysam Barza on the Small Press Commandos Facebook page things really started to take shape.

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“An ongoing, complex mystery, FLUX shows readers a twisted version of today where time travel terrorism and casual homicide have become a terrifying norm. Fans of Looper and Blade Runner will feel right at home in the world Rogers, Aryan, & Barza have created.”
— Sterling Gates, writer/producer, The Flash

We’ve come very close to the book being picked up by a large publisher on more than one occasion, but now we’ve decided that the best way to get Flux out into the world is via Kickstarter. We’re planning to launch our first campaign in November for Issue 1, with the subsequent three issues and trade collection following in 2020 if we’re successful.

Sean Rinehart is doing lettering and pre-press on the book, Paul Nicholas designed the Flux logo and Zach F Evans is helping us with our video and imprint logo design work for the campaign. If you’re on twitter you can keep up with our progress by following FluxFi and if you like the sound of the book, you’ll be able to pre-order via Kickstarter very soon.

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Smartly using the familiar framing of a Police Procedural, Flux introduces us to a world like our own but with a serious twist: Time Travel is REAL. Time Terrorism is real. Echoing the best of Fringe and the X-Files the team take us in a world we only think we understand. Fantastic.
— Mike Collins, artist for Marvel, DC, 2000AD. Storyboard artist on Doctor Who, Good Omens and His Dark Materials
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Work very much in progress

As September has crept around I thought it was a good time to take stock on some of the things that I’ve been working on in 2019. As ever the times when you have the least to share tend to be your busiest periods of writing, so there is quite a bit to update you on.  The folder in this photo contains artwork from comic pitches my co-writer Steve Aryan and I have worked on over the past few years, so we’ve definitely been keeping ourselves and our artist collaborators busy.

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And there are plenty of things going on outside of what’s in that folder too. Much of this year has been spent on developing completely new projects.  Steve and I are in the early stages of development on a fantasy comic mini series idea and are also starting work on a TV series proposal for another concept.  (Check out Steve’s award winning fantasy novels here

Steve and I are a bit further along with a horror adventure comics mini-series, that’s all plotted out and we have an artist working on the initial pitch pages. I can’t say much more about that at the moment, but if you follow me on instagram you may be able to see a sneak peek as I occasionally post some work in progress there.

I’ve also been pitching quite a bit of non comics work that I’ve written solo. I’ve worked up a series treatment for a sci-fi audio drama series/narrative podcast and written the first two episodes, written a standalone straight up/non genre audio drama and also worked up a proposal for a horror screenplay too. I’m not sure where any of those ideas will go at the moment, but I’ll post here if they do go into development anywhere. Alongside this I’ve also been pitching comic series to some new contacts at a couple of publishers, including reworking some ideas that were already a little way along.

As well as all of these newer things, some of my longer established writing projects Seven Shades, Flux and Chalk are starting to gain traction and you’ll be hearing more about them in the coming months.

There is an over-sized one shot coming for supernatural western series Seven Shades, following on from the first four issues that series creator/artist Dave Clifford and I put out last year. Hell’s Belles is currently being lettered and a release date will be available soon from Deadstar Publishing (hopefully at Thought Bubble in November). And we are working on our next four issues for release in 2020 too. 

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Flux is a sci-fi book that I’ve co-written with Steve, with art by Maysam Barza, lettering by Sean Rinehart and logo design by Paul Nicholas. We have all four issues written and the art is currently taking shape on Issue 3. We’ll have more information on what we have planned for this series in the next few weeks and keep an eye out for the #FluxFriday hashtag on social media where we’ll be sharing things each week too.

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Chalk is an urban fantasy series, which I’ve been working on with artist Diego Simone set in the city of Winchester in England, ten pages are fully completed with letters by Sean Rinehart. If you liked my work on The Interactives and how that book blended real world locations in Monmouth, Bristol and London with fantasy elements then I think you will really enjoy it. Comparisons to Rivers of London have already been made by one editor and I’m currently reworking the overall proposal and doing script rewrites. I’m hoping that in some shape of form you’ll be able to read it next year.

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Not bad for the first eight months of the year as a part-time writer with a busy day job and there is more to come on the horizon too. I’ll try to update things here more frequently alongside social media as things progress.

Bags of Action podcast now on YouTube

I’ve been podcasting with Steve Aryan for a number of years, having previously been a guest host and interviewee on his long running show Grouchy Old Geeks (previously Comic Book Outsiders) that he does with Scott Grandisson.

Our podcast Bags of Action , where we spend about an hour mulling over an action movie from the past or present, has been running for a number of years. Our 64th episode (Creed II with special guest Barry Nugent) recently came out on the Geek Syndicate network and we try to get a new full length episode out about once a month.

BOA logo, designed by Azim Akberali

BOA logo, designed by Azim Akberali

We’ve covered some of my old favourites that Steve had never seen, like Blind Fury and Stone Cold, Netflix Originals like Triple Frontier and The Foreigner, classic films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon and some embarrassing gaps in my viewing history like Big Trouble in Little China and Aliens. We don’t always agree on what makes a good film, or on how to pronounce Christophe Lambert’s name but we do always give each film a score out of five bags of action (with no half bags allowed). We also have occasional guest hosts like Barry from Geek Syndicate, Gavin from the Sidekickcast and former Marvel and IDW comics editor, writer and educator Andy Schmidt. You’ll find us on all good podcasting apps.


As well as the main show, we have started to do quickfire 5-minute reviews of films we’ve seen between episodes.. You will find these and the main show on our new YouTube Channel, where we upload full episodes every Monday and 5 minute reviews on Tuesdays. If you like action movies please have a listen and make sure you stay bang up to date by subscribing to the channel.

Stephen Aryan - Magebane

I’ve been friends with Steve Aryan for a long time now, when we aren’t putting the world to rights we record our action movie podcast Bags of Action together and co-write comics too.

Steve is also the award winning author of the Age of Darkness trilogy (Battlemage, Bloodmage, Chaosmage) and Age of Dread trilogy (Mageborn, Magefall, Magebane), both published by Orbit books. If you are a fan of fantasy novels I’d highly recommend checking these out. The latest book Magebane comes out in August and you can pre-order it here.


To celebrate Steve is doing a series of events, currently he has plans to be in Glasgow and Birmingham, with talk of a trip to Swansea too. You can find out more about those events and his upcoming Reddit AMA here.

His debut novel Battlemage won the decidedly metal Hellfest Inferno award in France, and you can see Steve picking up the award and being interviewed about it in this video.

Seven Shades of inspiration....in the pub

Last night I met up with my Seven Shades co-creator Dave Clifford (Dexter’s Half Dozen) for a few drinks and some food in a city centre pub. This isn’t a particularly rare or surprising event, as a great deal of this comic series has been created in places that serve beer. Come to think of it Dave originally pitched the idea to me in a different city centre pub over some post Cardiff International Comic Expo drinks a few years ago. Spending a few hours discussing some of our plans for the series last night did serve to remind me how different working on Seven Shades is from the other comics projects I’ve been involved in.

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Dave came to me with an idea for a book, a supernatural Western series and after some back and fore over a year or two I agreed to come on board as the writer. I soon came to realise that the amount of ideas Dave had for the book was astonishing, and that was one of the reasons it took me so long to say yes to being involved. I was flattered that he wanted me to be part of the series, but I wasn’t sure what I could really offer. We started to meet semi regularly over a few pints to work out the best way to tackle the series nonetheless. Prior to this title many of the books I’ve worked on have been with artists from the other side of the world, so collaborating with a fellow South Wales creator meant getting together in person was something we were able to do. When we chatted last night and worked out some back matter for the next issue, we both came to realise these in person meet ups have played a huge part in how we’ve shaped the comic.

Not only did Dave have hundreds of ideas when we first discussed the book, he also had hundreds more that he’d dreamt up in the time that passed before I committed to working on it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who comes up with so many ideas as Dave, he has thoughts on what we can put into the book on a daily basis and comes up with far more character, plot and visual concepts in a few weeks than most people do in a lifetime. He just needed a way to contain them into a story and at first that was my main role, listening to Dave and trying to find the narrative throughline, taking some of the more disparate conceits and working out cohesive ways to pull them together. Really, for the first few pub chats I was a story editor more than anything else.

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Over time the dynamic has changed and we’ve found ways to focus on the overarching story while also honing in on what is needed for each arc, each issue and each page. Now when either of us thinks of an image or scene that is seemingly unrelated to where the series is heading we spend time to explore how to use it and if we find a way to make it work, we then create springboards to future plot or character moments. The key to our process has become breaking story together and we’ve had a great deal of our best Eureka moments while sitting in a bar, which is in keeping with the fact the local saloon is a key location in the story.

The other thing I’m glad we’ve done is working Marvel style. We leave our meet up with the next issue plotted out, then I turn that into a loose script, no panel breakdowns just a paragraph or two about each page. As Dave came up with the concept and his art is fully painted, this gives him greater freedom and it’s also helped us find ways to put more humour into the book too. It’s been great fun to build visual gags from issue to issue this way. Dave sends over some thumbnails, then the fully realised painted pages and I set about writing the dialogue, captions and sound effects. I’ve only ever done one story this way before (Seniors) and Dave has never worked from anything other than a full script, so it was a challenge for us both at first. Now that we’ve found a rhythm it works well and I enjoy the challenge of scripting this way too. I actually think Issue 3 of the first arc is one of the best things I’ve ever written.

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Last year we managed to put out four issues of our supernatural Western series, with local publisher Deadstar Publishing and we took the book ICE in Birmingham and Thought Bubble in Leeds and via the publisher all around the UK. This year we’re focussing on a bumper sized one shot that bridges the gap from our first ‘season’ to our second, that’s painted and scripted and we’re hard at work on the back matter to take it to sixty pages. There will be more news on when and where that launches soon. Our ambitious Seven Shades in seven trades intention means if all goes according to plan we’ll have seven such arcs and six one shots before the series is complete. If you haven’t checked the book out yet, you can pick up the issues via Deadstar and if you happen to find yourself in Cardiff and notice two guys laughing and making notes in the corner of a pub, it may well be us.

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Favourite Things in 2018

Another year over and I’ll be quite glad to see the back of 2018, all things considered. Thankfully we’ve had plenty of interesting media to consume to take our minds off the bizarre direction the world seems to be taking these days. This year I’ve made a slight change to the format, as well as adding an extra category. I’ve found it tougher than ever to pick my favourites this year as the competition has been so fierce (and I wanted to avoid any ties), so I’m giving each category a podium, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finish this time around. So without further ado here is my list of the things I liked most during the year, not necessarily the ‘best’ but what I personally enjoyed the most. You can check out my 2017 list here. 

TV Drama – 

1. Cobra Kai


I wasn’t sure if I was going to watch this, despite being a big fan of the Karate Kid films. It was on YouTube for starters and it felt like yet another nostalgia fuelled continuation that probably would be done with its tongue firmly in its cheek. When friends whose opinion I really trust started to rave about the show, I decided to give it a go and I was very pleased that I did. It shouldn’t have worked, but it really did. Both William Zabka as Johnny and Ralph Macchio as Daniel put in pitch perfect three dimensional performances, it is funny, heartwarming and dramatic in equal measure. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend that you do.

2. The Last Kingdom (S3)


I loved the first two series of this historical drama based on Bernard Cornwell’s books, having missed them on the BBC and caught up on Netflix, so I was very excited when Netflix announced they would be bringing the show back for a third season. This series was a textbook example of how you pay off things in a TV show and reward viewers who have been with you since the start without betraying the characters or their motivations. Many of the plot lines and interpersonal relationships of the previous series came together to make a thoroughly satisfying series from start to finish. I may have even shed a tear or two along the way.

3. Daredevil (S3)


By far the best of this year’s Marvel Netflix shows and sadly ending with this season having been cancelled. I was on the edge of my seat, with my heart in my mouth throughout the series and only The Punisher, Jessica Jones’ first season and Daredevil’s own first season pulled off this level of tension. The stakes kept getting higher from episode to episode and that made it a truly gripping set of thirteen episodes. Across all three of my favourite shows this year there have been times when the main character has frustrated or annoyed me, but in a compelling narrative way. I’ve shouted at the screen to Johnny in Cobra Kai, Uhtred in Last Kingdom and Matt Murdock in 2018. The best main characters are so well executed that they make you care even when you don’t agree with their actions.

Honourable mentions –  It was Netflix that showed my two favourite new shows too. I loved Maniac, the remake of a Norwegian show and I’d highly recommend animated series Final Space too. Both balance humour and pathos beautifully and had me thinking about them long after I finished watching. I’m halfway through Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which would based on what I’ve seen so far would have made it onto this list. Godless, Happy and The Punisher were great too, but came out last year so aren’t eligible and I didn’t get to the likes of Killing Eve, The Bodyguard or The Haunting of Hill House.

Of the other returning series Glow came back stronger in Series 2,. Better call Saul maintained it’s incredibly high standards in its fourth season and Ozark took a slight step back from its debut season by pushing the believability of the storyline too far for me. The Walking Dead started well but the cast changes and time jump had me finally calling it a day on the show. I didn’t get to Iron Fist, Jessica Jones wasn’t great this time out, but Luke Cage was strong for 90% of the series until a dodgy conclusion. Legion, which was my favourite show in 2017 was still good and had some superb episodes but as a whole I found it too confusing and out there for its own sake ultimately.

Film – 

1. Avengers: Infinity War


I was worried going into this film that they wouldn’t be able to pull it off, too many characters and visual styles to try to combine in one film. I needn’t have worried. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was just what I wanted as a spectacle and as an emotional journey in a crossover movie. This is the closest a film has made me to feeling like an eleven year old reading Secret Wars again and the ending has stayed with me all year. I’m pleased that Marvel now feels confident enough in the following their cinematic universe has to go fully Marvel with their stories, rather than skirting around the edges as they have in the past. This film was firmly rooted in proper Marvel lore and was all the better for it. I’m counting down the days until the next one. It felt even more poignant in retrospect after my childhood hero Stan Lee passed away too.

2. Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse


I was totally sceptical when I first heard about this film, I wasn’t sure we really needed an animated Spider-Man film right now. I was very wrong. I’ve been a fan of Spider-Man since I first read the comics and saw the Spider-Man and Friends cartoon series when I was about eight and he’s the character that’s been most present in my life overall. This film was the perfect way to give a new generation of movie viewers their own Spidey, much like the comics did when Miles Morales was first introduced. This may be the most fully realised superhero adaptation, as it takes so much from the source material and also uses that medium as part of the storytelling process. They are easter eggs within easter eggs for seasoned comics readers, a wonderfully moving Stan Lee cameo (as it’s the first one to arrive on screen since he passed away) and much to love about the characterisation of Miles and Peter Parker too. Even without all of that this film deserves the highest praise for its visual style, it’s breathtaking to look at and is one of the most engrossing animated films I’ve even seen. More of this kind of thing please, it gives me hope.

3. Creed II -


Creed 2 was another sequel that had me a little concerned going in. No Ryan Coogler in the director’s chair for this one and the return of Ivan Drago felt like an intentionally crowd pleasing and somewhat cheesy move. Despite those hurdles, this was a very enjoyable and emotional film, with some clever nods to the past while keeping one eye on the future. It didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous outing, but I’m not sure how it could have done. The acting across the board is great, not just Michael B Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Sly Stallone but also Dolph Lundgren and former boxer Florian Munteanu who played Drago Jr. My only real criticism, considering the outlandish premise, was that the training scenes were too short.

Honourable mentions – I keep forgetting that Black Panther came out this year too and that helped Marvel to have an very strong year and widened their cinematic universe further. Not only was this an important cultural film, it was also very enjoyable too with a very strong cast delivering throughout . Ant Man and the Wasp was an excellent sequel, just as much fun as the first movie and a reminder of how charming Paul Rudd always is.

Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t a film I was that keen to see. I love Queen but have struggled with what May and Taylor have been doing since Freddie Mercury passed away. It sounded like this was going to be a saccharine version of their charismatic frontman’s life. It was hardly a warts and all expose but I really enjoyed it and it hit the right emotional beats and put on the right kind of show, despite playing fast and loose with the timeline. Good fun

Hereditary and Widows were two films that I appreciated more than I enjoyed. Hereditary was beautifully shot and extremely atmospheric, but the second half didn’t work for me at all, probably as I’m not really a horror fan. Widows had a great cast, interesting story, evocative cinematography, long deliberate takes but it didn’t blow my socks off in the way I expected. There was something missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Solo: A Star Wars story was pretty good, but doesn’t quite make this list as it fell into the Expendables trap of using lines from other movies as knowing nods. It also explained things that didn’t need explaining and in a few cases in very unsatisfying ways. Incredibles 2 left me cold, despite being a big fan of the original movie. By far the biggest disappointment had to be The Predator, Shane Black writing and directing a Predator movie should have been my absolute cinematic sweet spot. There were some good scenes, but overall it was a mess and use of lines from the other films made a mockery of the whole franchise. A film I expected to be my favourite of the year, was actually the film I least enjoyed on the big screen. There was a raft of other movies I didn’t get to see this year that I wish I had.

Album – 

1. Prequelle by Ghost


The first few singles didn't really grab me and I wondered if the Ghost bubble might have burst since it essentially became a Tobias Forge solo project. Once I heard the full album a few times I realised how wrong I was. Yes, it’s catchier and more anthemic than their previous albums, but in a very good way. There are some more proggy elements in here and in producer Tom Dalgety (who also co-produced Opeth’s Sorceress album) I think they’ve found the perfect studio partner. The lyrics expand on their usual satanist schtick too and you can interpret them being about the Black death or possibly the lawsuit filed by former band members. Pro Memoria and Witch Image are brilliant tracks and there are two breathtaking instrumentals on here too, Miasma and Helvetesfonster. The main thing I love about it is how well it works when you listen to it end to end. I now wish I’d seen them when they played the Royal Albert Hall. Essentially this is what would happen if Benny and Bjorn from ABBA united with Jeff Lynne to make an album with Iron Maiden after listening to 80s cartoon themes for a day. How could it not be my album of the year?

2. The Blue Hour by Suede


I hadn’t listened to a Suede album since I bought Head Music in 1999, but I kept hearing good things from people I trusted. I gave it a few spins and was surprised by how different, yet familiar it sounded. Once I’d watched the Sky Arts Suede documentary and listened to the album a few more times I suddenly realised quite how special an album it is. The old magic is there, but there are so many new elements that it feels like a new band or at least a completely reinvigorated one. Came very close to toppling Ghost, it’s another one that works so well when listened to in one setting.

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3. Friendship by Rikard Sjoblom’s Gungfly


Rikard is one of my favourite musicians and songwriters, so it comes as no surprise to see his latest album in my Top 3 with the follow on to my joint favourite album of 2017. In some ways he is spoiling us but putting out so much music, but you certainly won’t hear me complaining. He continues his rich vein of form with this excellent album focussing on the loss of a childhood friendship. A great collection of songs and another album that works best played in one sitting particularly as it works around one theme. I particularly enjoying hearing If you Fall, Part 2, as the first part was on the previous record.

Honourable mentions –

There was an awful lot of good music released this year, with new albums by the likes of Phideaux, The Fierce and The Dead, A Perfect Circle, Riverside and The Pineapple Thief all scratching my prog itch with very strong records. My friend Dave Clifford gave me a copy of Queen of Time by Amorphis which is described online as melodic death metal, if it wasn’t for the screamo vocal moments it may have broken my Top Three.

In the more electronic side of things Wanderlust ,the latest from Blancmange, which I listened to in preparation for seeing them live was a wonderfully dark album. And The Grind Show by North Atlantic Oscillation, which was recommended to me by Spike Worsley was a real treat too. In the more straight up rock world, Alice in Chains and Skindred both put out very good albums in 2018 too.

(NEW) Live Album -

With so many amazing live albums being released in 2018, it made sense to add this extra category to showcase some of them.

1. Merchants of Light by Big Big Train


Sometimes a live album can perfectly capture a magical moment in your life and this record does just that. I went to the Big Big Train Sunday matinee at Cadogan Hall last year and this album takes the best performances from that three day London residency. It was my favourite gig of 2017 and the shows also won Prog Magazine’s Readers Poll Event of the Year. This is a supremely talented group of musicians playing some wonderful songs, with excellent production. There will also be a Blu-Ray to accompany the album, that’s due next year and I would highly recommend that too as I was lucky enough to see it at a recent cinema screening.

2. All One Tonight by Marillion


If my number one live album served as a reminder of a show I attended, then my second choice introduced me to a show I really wish I’d been to. Over the past few years I’ve come to really appreciate Hogarth era Marillion and their 2016 album F E A R in particular. I got the Blu-Ray of this show before the album came out, but I have been listening to the album a lot since. They play all of FEAR in their Royal Albert Hall show and it’s truly astounding, emotional and inspiring and the same can be said for the rest of their set too. As soon as Marillion announced their 2019 dates I made sure to buy myself a ticket.

3. Home Invasion by Steven Wilson


Another Royal Albert Hall show and another seminal artist. The setlist here is almost the same as the show I saw in Cardiff, but what elevates this show is the fact that Ninet Tayeb is there in person rather than recorded. A good mix of Steven’s solo work and old Porcupine Tree songs, all performed by an excellent group of musicians. Even the most casual Wilson fan will enjoy this. I now have the Blu-Ray to go with this one too, which also features extra songs from rehearsals.

Honourable mentions – Magenta’s live album, We Are Seven was within a cigarette paper of the top three and it really reminded me of the excellent show I saw in Cardiff. This recording at The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton featured the whole of of We are Legend and Seven albums and I have the accompanying DVD of this one too.

Steve Hackett and Haken also put out live albums this year that I really enjoyed. Hackett’s covered last year’s tour which I attended in Cardiff and was recorded on the Birmingham leg . Haken’s recorded show was from Amsterdam and I liked it enough to book tickets to see them in Bristol next year.

Song -  

1. I don’t know by Paul McCartney

I certainly didn’t see this coming, that’s for sure even if it is a single from one the all-time greatest ever songwriters. It totally disarmed me on first listen. It’s a beautiful song and from the very first note there is so much to love. The lyrics and Paul’s aging voice give the whole song a charming vulnerability that really gets under your skin. Add in some mellotron and no other song I heard this year came close.

"I wrote this after going through a difficult period. Like people have nothing sort of madly serious or anything, but just one of those days when it’s like, "Oh my god, am I doing wrong here", you know. And sometimes that’s a good way to write a song, because you’re coming from your soul. And we often used to say that writing a song was like talking to a psychiatrist, a therapist or something. Because you’re saying it… You are saying it in a song rather than in a room to a specialist. Yeah, so it was me just thinking this problem out, and putting it into a song." Sir Paul McCartney.

2. Vale of Tears by Riverside

I’d never taken that much notice of Riverside, but this single (their first sing their guitarist sadly passed away) grabbed me by the scruff of the neck the first time I heard it. A mix of prog and alternative rock, this is a really strong anthemic track that will get stuck in your head.

3. Self Destructive Mind by Ninet Tayeb

Another song that I heard outside of its album context, which is a rare treat. Like many people I discovered Ninet through her collaborations with Steven Wilson, but the former Israeli Idol winner has a successful career in her own right. She has also performed with the likes of Jesus and the Mary Chain and Cyndi Lauper and her Tiny Desk concert is absurdly excellent (shades of PJ Harvey). She cites Pink Floyd, Nirvana and Pearl Jam amongst her influences, but this song has a touch of Sheryl Crow about it. Another infectious treat.

I’ve decided against doing any Honourable Mentions for this category, as the other songs by Ghost, Gungfly, Haken and Pineapple Thief were singles I heard first on their respective albums which is a different experience to hearing a single cold.


1. Tin Spirits, The Victoria, Swindon

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This was the second time I’d seen Tin Spirits play live. The first time was as a warm up for their Japanese tour, so the set focussed on XTC tracks more than their own material (guitarist Dave Gregory, who is also in Big Big Train is ex-XTC you see). This time out there was room for their own songs, including my personal favourite Little Eyes. It was the two new songs, Harder to Break and Saline that completely blew me away though. Harder to Break saw the dual guitarists, the aforementioned DG and bandmate Daniel Steinhardt in rock god mode, swaggering around delivering monster riffs. And Saline was a prog listener’s dream, complex, intelligent and involving. This was always going to be in my top three shows as a result of those two songs, but having heard since that the band have called it a day, being at their final show means a lot. I sincerely hope those two new songs see the light of day, even without a third album.

2. Zervas & Pepper, The Globe, Hay on Wye

I saw Zervas and Pepper three times this year, but it was there acoustic show in Hay on Wye that was my favourite of the three. There were a number of external factors that made that the case.

  1. It was on my birthday.

  2. It was in one of my favourite towns, which gave me the excuse to spend a weekend in book shops.

  3. My wife and daughter were both able to come with me.

  4. We in the front row of this small, friendly venue

Even without these extra bits of icing on the cake, it was a magical show. The acoustics and layout meant that you could really appreciate Paul Zervas and Kathryn Pepper’s amazing voices and harmonies. It was goosebumps time from the moment they came out on stage.

3. Big Big Train, The Anvil, Basingstoke

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This was the third time I’d seen the full Big Big Train line up play live and it came just at the right time and the wrong time. It was a time when I needed my spirits lifting, so I spent the following day exploring Winchester which was a wonderfully relaxing time. The gig did clash with England’s World Cup semi-final match, which meant more empty seats than usual and a few people surreptitiously checking their phones during the show.

The Beatrix Players were an excellent support act, I was very impressed with their performance. The BBT set was decidedly more proggy than the two previous London shows I’d been to and it was good to see the band let their hair down a bit more. This was however a warm up gig for their triumphant headlining show at Night of the Prog in Loreley, Germany and I am still kicking myself for not finding a way to attend that show. I think that’s probably taken it down the list as a result.

Honourable mentions –I was meant to be cutting down on my gig going in 2018, but having embraced the “live music as therapy’ mantra over the past few years I ended up seeing more live music than ever before this year.

Focus at the Earl Haig in Cardiff was the only gig I could walk to from my house. Hocus Pocus has been a big song in my life and it was good to hear that live. The whole show was superb and the guitarist and drummer blew me away.

Steven Wilson at St David’s Hall in Cardiff was an important show for me, as I’ve loved his music since Porcupine Tree’s Stupid Dream in ‘99. The show happened when I was at a bit of a personal low, I was a bit too far from the action seating wise and the guy in front of me flouting the no photos or filming rule, so it wasn’t quite the experience I wanted which robbed it of a top three finish. I’m glad I have a blu-ray from the same tour to allow me to appreciate it more.

Zervas & Pepper were the band I saw most, and all three shows were absolutely brilliant. As was as in Hay, I also saw them at St Johns Church in Cardiff with the full band and Christopher Rees in support and then more recently at The Globe in Cardiff.

Magenta at The Globe was something special, as they played both We are Legend and Seven in their entirety and the whole band was on fire. Like last year their Acapela show was also noteworthy as Alan Reed played too and joined them for a superb version of Don’t Give up, which was just one of many highlights.

TC&I would be the number one gig for most people who attended their shows in their hometown of Swindon. This was as close as we are likely to see to a full XTC reunion, with bass player and singer/songwriter Colin Moulding reuniting with original drummer Terry Chambers and rounding things out with some other excellent musicians. I’m a relatively new XTC fan so don’t have the history others do. It was the fourth night of a residency and we seemed to be surrounded by people who had already been earlier in the week which changed the atmosphere and also two people in the row behind me talked through the whole show which really didn’t help.

The Zombies at The Tramshed in Cardiff was the biggest surprise for me. I went on a bit of a whim and was blown away by the songs and the performances. Hearing Zombies and Argent songs was amazing, but having never heard Old and Wise by the Alan Parsons Project before - I’m seeing their singer Colin Blunstone solo next year as a result of this show.

Francis Dunnery at The New Crown in Merthyr Tydfil was a small, intimate gig and all the better for it. I brushed up on my It Bites knowledge and listened to a lot of his solo material in readiness for this show. The stories he told in between the songs were as entertaining as the songs themselves and he certainly knows his way around a guitar.

Blancmange at Acapela in Pentyrch near Cardiff was very good too. I enjoyed the mix of classic songs and ones from the excellent latest album too and the atmosphere was amazing.

Pearl Jam at the O2 in London was a rescheduled show, after Eddie Vedder lost his voice on the original date. I went with my regular PJ gig buddy Rob Williams and the new date meant we got to see the inflatable Trump baby at least. They did a typically eclectic and long set, with thirty three songs played altogether. They are as strong live as ever and I’m pleased that they ‘Let Stone sing’ but after years of getting up close at smaller gigs I felt oddly disconnected sitting up in the gods. I now think my days of attending stadium gigs may be coming to an end.

I already have tickets for Big Big Train (coming to Newport no less), Marillion, Magenta, Haken and Colin Blunstone for 2019, so I already have plenty of gigs to look forward to.

Comic – 

1.Slots (Skybound/Image Comics) 

Crime + Boxing + an older jaded lead + writer/artist Dan Panosian put this series right in my wheelhouse. The second half of the Slots mini series gave this book top honours, as the first half did in 2017. If you haven’t read this, you can now get the whole story in one collection. I’d highly recommend you do.


2. American Carnage (Vertigo)

“A new, thrilling crime saga from the writer of WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY and the artist of The Old Guard! Disgraced FBI agent Richard Wright is offered a chance for redemption when his old mentor sends him undercover to infiltrate a white supremacist group believed to be responsible for the death of a fellow agent.”

Brian Hill and Leandro Fernandez’s series reminded me of the likes of Scalped and 100 Bullets and felt like a return to the Vertigo of old, even down the art style and Dean White’s colouring. The premise had me intrigued and a recent Word Balloon interview with Hill coupled with an iFanboy pick of the week convinced me to pick it up. I’m very glad I did, it’s gripping and unsettling and speaks very much to how things are currently in the USA. I can’t wait to read more next year. You can read a nine page preview of the series here.

3. Grave Danger (Comixology Originals)


“She is GRAVE DANGER, agent of HEADSTONE, a joint clandestine espionage organization that handles all unspeakable crime ! [UNSPEAKABLE CRIME- Illegal acts committed by paranormal entities such as vampires, witches, demons, and Frankensteins.] Agent Danger leaps into action from the suborbital MOURNING ANGEL base, afraid of nothing! [Except getting her shoes dirty. And heights.] [Also, her past.] GRAVE DANGER is a horror/spy mash up. Like James Bond vs. The Universal Monsters. Yeah, I don’t know why that isn’t already a thing either. It’s sexy, dark, funny, and action-packed. It’s completely unique and batshit crazy.”

Revival is one my all time favourite comic series, so I was excited to see what Tim Seeley and Mike Norton did together next. This digital only series leans a bit more to the B movie mindset of Seeley’s Hack/Slash work, but maintains the deft characterisation and dialogue that helped make Revival stand out so much. The only slight criticism I have is that there were almost too many ideas for this short run to handle. All five issues came out in this mini-series in 2018 and I’m hoping that won’t be all we see of this title.

Honourable Mentions  - All three books come from Image Comics this time out. Bitter Root was a very strong contender for my top three after just two issues, it’s full of pulpy goodness and Sanford Greene’s art on the series is outstanding. Lazarus has been my pick for many years, but only a couple of issues graced the stands in 2018, hopefully the new quarterly schedule will bring the book back in a big way. Die has only recently launched, so there was only one issue to base this on. I loved the high concept, I’ve heard it described as Goth Jumanji, but as the back matter attests this book takes more from the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon than anything else. I’m interested to see where it goes.

Podcast – 

1. The Prog Report


This ended up being the easiest category, as this show has become the one I will always play as soon as an episode drops. Presenter Roie Avin is amiable and knowledgeable and he puts together a few different kinds of episode which keeps things interesting and have moved it into the number one spot. He interviews musicians, musicians take over the show to share their Top 5 Prog songs and sometimes a round table discussion to create a Top 5 (The Queen episode was a particular highlight).

2. Wolverine - The Long Night


One man’s podcast is another man’s serialised audio drama! I do find it odd how radio plays are now branded as podcasts, but the episodic nature of this series worked very well. I would agree with the criticisms that Wolverine, played excellently by Richard Armitage, wasn’t in the show enough but overall I find this held my interest and the performances and production were very strong. More Marvel shows like this would be of interest and this show made me think about writing audio again too.

3. iFanBoy


I’ve been listening to Josh and Connor (and Ron and Paul) for years and I’m impressed by how consistent it still is. Despite reading far less weekly comics than I used to, I still listen to their Pick of the Week show every Monday. The Talksplode episodes are always very informative, quality interviews with creators that matter. And when a comic based movie drops I always head to their show first after seeing it, usually to have my own opinions borne out. I think even if I ever stopped reading or writing comics, I’d still listen to the show for the hosts alone.

Honourable mentions – I’ve been enjoying the same shows as list year mainly perennial favourites like On Story and Nerdist's The Writers Panel, Geek SyndicateGrouchy Old Geeks,  World Balloon and Comics Experience.

Here’s to another year of excellent entertainment in 2019!

Seven Shades and Stephen Aryan at MCM Comic Con

If you are heading to MCM Comic Con at the Excel Centre in London at the end of this month, look out for a particular comic book and a certain fantasy author too.


If you’ve haven’t picked up supernatural western series Seven Shades by yours truly and artist Dave Clifford yet, you will find all four copies at the Deadstar Publishing stand in the Comics Village.

Although I won’t be in attendance my ongoing co-writer and podcast partner Stephen Aryan, will be there, alongside the likes of Frank Miller and Chris Claremont. If you’d like to catch him at the show, here’s where you’ll be able to find him.



17:00pm – 17:45pm – Creator Stage: So, you want to be a writer

If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer than this panel is for you.  Moderator and Author Ed Cox (The Relic Guild trilogy) joins authors Marieke Nijkamp (Before I let go) Stephen Aryan (Magefall) Lucy Hounsom (The World Maker Trilogy) Tim Pratt (The Wrong Stars) and Jeanette NG (Under the Pendulum Sun) as they discuss what it takes to be a writer.

18:00pm – 18:30pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNING

Stephen Aryan (Magefall) Tim Pratt (The Wrong Stars) Lucy Hounsom (The World Maker Trilogy) Marieke Nijkamp (Before I Let Go) Jeanette NG (Under the Pendulum Sky)


12:00pm – 12:45pm – Creator Stage: Orbit Presents

Orbit Authors Nicholas Eames (Bloody Rose) Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand) Mike Carey (The Girl with All the Gifts) Tade Thompson (Rosewater) Heather Child (Everything About You) RJ Baker (King of Assassins) Stephen Aryan (Mage Born) talk all things Orbit

15:30pm – 16:00pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNING

Daniel Polansky (A City Dreaming) Stephen Aryan (Magefall) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) Tim Pratt (The Wrong Stars)

16:00pm – 16:45pm – Creator Stage: Writers Block

Authors Tim Pratt (The Wrong Stars) Daniel Polansky (A City Dreaming) Marieke Nijkamp (Before I Let Go) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) and Stephen Aryan (Magefall) discuss the dreaded “writer’s block” and the various ways that it can be overcome.

The Interactives artist heads to Marvel's Ironheart

I worked with artist Luciano Vecchio on fantasy mini-series The Interactives, which was published by Markosia. Since then he’s gone on to work on a number of titles for DC and Marvel.

It has just been announced that he will be joining the creative team on the first issue of Marvel’s Ironheart series, spinning out of Invincible Iron Man and continuing the adventures of RiRi Williams. The news was announced on Bleeding Cool earlier this week.


I absolutely loved working with Luciano on The Interactives and I’m pleased to see his career in comics go from strength to strength. If his schedule ever allows, I’d really like to get to work with him again. For now I’ll make sure I pick up Ironheart #1 from Marvel.


Thought Bubble - the return

Comic conventions are like buses, none for some time and then two come along at once. Our publisher on Seven Shades, Deadstar Publishing, was busy at Cardiff Film and Comic Con so Dave Clifford and I took to the road and headed North to Leeds for Thought Bubble. This was my fourth time at the show, but my first appearance since 2014 and it was Dave’s first chance to experience what has become the largest comic event in the UK. Despite the Friday traffic conspiring to make our drive six hours long, a mix of metal albums and jaffa cakes kept us in good spirits.


As usual with Thought Bubble, the social side is just as important as the convention itself and it was great to spend a couple of evenings with some very good friends, fellow creators Chris Hurst, Chris Lewis, Glenn Moane (all CE alumni), Magnus Aspli and Dan Hill who I was meeting for the first time.

We were sharing a table with Huw “Lem” Davies and his Moon of Chance, who ably managed to put up with Dave and I for two whole days! Our table was in the Comixology Originals Marquee, which had a steady flow of people throughout both days. We launched Issue 3 and 4 of Seven Shades at the show, bringing the first arc of the story to a close. Over the course of the weekend, Dave and I chatted through plot points and made notes that have made us believe we will end up with Seven Shades in Seven Trades eventually! Books sold across both day, as did Dave’s original art.


I wasn’t able to leave our table that often, but I did find time to head to another of the marquees to catch up briefly with Mike Collins and Marc Laming and to finally meet Paul Allor in the flesh, but there were lots of people I didn’t manage to find time to see in the end. We also recorded a quick interview with another old friend, Jimmy Aquino for his podcast Comic News Insider.


Thought Bubble moved to a variety of city centre locations last year and when I heard that news I wasn’t sure at first about it leaving the Royal Armouries, but once we settled in I soon became accustomed to the new locations. Having the show right in the heart of the city made me realise quite how mainstream comic conventions have become, locals didn’t bat an eyelid at the cosplayers roaming the streets and there were a large number of families in attendance, especially on Sunday. My other major takeaway was that compared to conventions of yesteryear, that seemed to be predominantly men of a certain age, this was a truly diverse show on both sides of the table. That’s very good news for the future of the medium.

It was a tiring but inspiring weekend, which we didn’t want to come to an end. After another long drive home, this time helped by Queen’s back catalogue we were soon back down to earth.


Spending the weekend on ICE

I headed to Birmingham last weekend for ICE, alongside my Seven Shades artist/co-creator David Clifford and our publisher Kev Davies, from Deadstar Publishing. Dave and I were at the Deadstar table, helping with sales and signing copies of the first two issues of our supernatural western series. Like many one day conventions, the event was family friendly, inclusive and well run, as you’d expect from an event run by Shane Chebsey.


I also managed to meet up with Steve Aryan, my co-writer on a number of current projects, as we were both attending the Comics Uncovered keynote speech from Senior DC editor Jim Chadwick. It was an enlightening, realistic and inspirational talk and it was good to chat to Jim about our writing backgrounds during the Q&A session at the end of his session.

Although there wasn’t quite as much footfall as at some other recent similar sized conventions, the people who had attended were really engaged. We sold come copies of the book and had some interesting conversations about comics, art and creating. It was good to be back at a convention again, as ever half the fun is meeting up with other creators who you only get to see in this environment.

There’s no rest for the wicked, as Dave and I are representing Deadstar again this weekend, at Thought Bubble in Leeds. Our third convention of the year sees the launch of Issue 3 and 4 of Seven Shades, following a successful Issue 1 and 2 launch in Cardiff earlier in the year.

The Family Graves is Fantastic

A few years ago I was lucky enough to read the first draft scripts for Timothy Bach's The Family Graves mini-series.  Tim, like myself, is a member of the Comics Experience workshop and he posted the scripts for peer and pro critiques from other members. I had very few notes to give and I was instantly hooked, it reminded me of classic Fantastic Four stories and the other Marvel books I'd grown up with, escapist fun with iconic and immediate characters.

Fast forward to now and I've been lucky again, as Tim has let me read the first two issues (which are coming to comic shops very soon from Source Point Press and CE), with art by Brian Atkins. And now I love the finished honed comic just as much as those original scripts. The likes of Phil Hester and Mark Waid have already expressed how much they like the series too. 

You can read the first ten pages of Issue One for yourself here, and when you have I'm certain you'll be looking to pre-order it from your local comic shop, the Previews code is below. 


Prog inspired urban fantasy - Chalk

Back in 2016 I shared some art from a comic series I had in development entitled Chalk. Eighteen months on and the project is back on track, with a new artist Diego Simone. We've almost completed the first ten pages of Issue 1, with Diego providing pencils, inks and colours and Sean Rinehart pencilling. 

I've known Diego for some time, he worked on stories that appeared in our Eagle award nominated anthology Eleventh Hour back when I was part of Orang Utan Comics. He went on to take over as series artist on Starship Troopers (Markosia) and has worked on books like Alpha Girl (Image) and as a colourist on Dark Horse Presents. So I'm very excited to finally get to work with him myself, it's already proving to be a fruitful and inspiring collaboration. 

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The book, which is set in and around Winchester in Hampshire, England centres around folklore Professor and former prog musician Howard Chalk. I can't say much more than that until we know the book has a home. More on this in the coming months. 

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Ready Player One takes me back to The Interactives

I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of Ready Player One yesterday, thanks to ShowFilmFirst.  I enjoyed it much more than I'd expected to, it had the right balance of nostalgia and Spielberg. People I know who've read the book said it felt like it was written specifically for them and I think some of the pop culture references, nods and touches made me feel the same way about the movie 

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It was only after I left the cinema that I started to think of the parallels to not only things like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but also my own comic mini series The Interactives (created with Luciano Vecchio, Yel Zamor and Ian Sharman for Markosia). 

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I'd also wanted to create something that focussed on the power of people's imagination, that showed how living in an online world as an avatar was a form of escape and that revelled in nostalgia and our perpetual wish that we were still in our childhoods. I wanted to strike a chord with people my own age but also feel current for a teen audience too. 

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Elements of The Interactives’ premise unashamedly tap into our ever-changing relationship/dependency with the online world and its influence on reshaping the dynamics of our interpersonal relationships. Writer Peter Rogers’ hugely entertaining romp combines the disparate worlds of social networking, and those of myth and legend, as the foundation for a decidedly different take on fantasy storytelling.
— Broken Frontier
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If you've read Ready Player One or seen the film and are looking for something that scratches a similar itch, The Interactives is still available. Find it on Comixology, Amazon or ask at your local comic store or book shop. 






Seven Shades shaping up

It's March already and this is my first blog post of 2018, which shows just how busy I've been. As the first quarter of the year edges closer to its finish, I thought I'd share what I've been up to, starting with comic book series Seven Shades

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Seven Shades is a supernatural western series created by Dave Clifford (Dexter's Half Dozen), with a little help from yours truly. Dave came to me with enough ideas for a few hundred issues, and every time we meet he suggests more crazy characters and warped plot points.  So in many ways my role on this project is that of creative ranch-hand, herding his ideas like cattle.

This process usually takes place, rather fittingly, in a local hostelry.  Then, once we've broken the story together I get to writing, Marvel style, describing the page but not breaking down the panels. This means Dave can really go to town when he approaches each page, perfect for a fully painted book, before I do a dialogue and captions pass. 

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Working on Seven Shades has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone and it isn't the type of book I'd have ever come up with on my own. Issue 1 and 2 are both complete and Dave is about halfway through painting Issue 3. We plan to have released the first four issues and initial arc by the end of this year. Watch this space for more about that very soon. 

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Favourite Things in 2017

Where does the time go? Another year comes to an end and with so many interesting things being released in 2017, this was a tougher list than ever to compile. And with the world going to hell in a handcart and one of my musical heroes Chris Cornell dying on my birthday, it was an odd twelve months in pop culture. As in previous years these are purely and simply the things I personally liked the most across the last twelve months, rather than me declaring anything the 'best'.  You can look back on the 2016 list here

TV Drama – Legion


I wasn't sure if I was going to like the latest X-Men spin off from Fox, so colour me surprised that this was my favourite show of the year by some margin. Not only that, but I also feel that this show has massively raised the bar for TV superhero shows. As much as I've loved the Marvel Netflix shows (certainly up until Iron Fist), this show took more risks and was more creatively satisfying in its eight episodes than any of those shows have quite managed. Strong performances, shifting perceptions of reality, a mix of retro and modern styling, an amazing soundtrack including Pink Floyd and The Who, a character called Syd Barrett and an overall unnerving creepiness made this a must-watch. As much a sci-fi horror series as it is something from the X Universe, I loved every minute. Now I definitely need to watch showrunner Noah Hawley's other show, Fargo. I can't wait to see what they do in Season Two. 

Honourable mentions –  Star Trek Discovery was another unexpected treat. I'm not a particularly big Star Trek fan and those people I know who are Trekkies didn't seem to like this show too much. It certainly wasn't perfect, but the fact it didn't religiously stick to what you expect from a Star Trek series is what I liked most about the first half of the debut season. Strip it of the Trek mantle and it would have been an epic piece of quality sci-fi regardless, boldly going where a TV show like this hadn't gone before.  Another space set sci-fi that came close to being my favourite this year was The Expanse, I watched both seasons, but it was only the second one that was actually from 2017. I liked the first season, but loved the second, the characterisation got stronger and so did the plot, as things that were set up started to pay off. It's definitely a series I would heartily recommend. 


Taboo was another interesting new show this year, but anything with Tom Hardy in it was always going to be well worth watching. GLOW took us into the world of Women's Wrestling and managed to be both engaging and unpredictable in equal measure. Among the returning shows Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones and especially Stranger Things did a great job of building on what went before and made me excited to see what the next series has to offer. 

After the disappointment of the lacklustre, dated and mis-cast Iron Fist,  The Defenders was a mixed bag largely due to the Danny Rand elements but it was good to see the characters united at last.  I was playing catch up with the Marvel Netflix shows all year, so perhaps if I'd found time for The Punisher that might have made the list.  I'm also kicking myself that I didn't get to the likes of Godless, Mindhunter or Jean-Claude Van Johnson before the year was out. 

Film – Baby Driver


The trailers for this film hadn't really managed to get me that interested, it all seemed to smack of trying too hard, so I went into the cinema feeling somewhat sceptical. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. Meticulously constructed and edited, it reminded me of lots of my favourite 90s films. The inclusion of Kevin Spacey in the cast made that even more the case, but that's not something to dwell on any more. A bit like Legion, the use of music in this film was one of the reasons it resonated with me so much and both those soundtracks have been on heavy rotation this year. Hocus Pocus, Radar Love and Brighton Rock all in one film, that's heaven. 

Honourable mentions – Logan ran Baby Driver very close and if I wasn't such a big music fan it might well have pipped it to the post.  This was what I'd always wanted from an X-Men film and from a Wolverine film in particular, something with emotional weight as well as spectacle. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen are all brilliant and it's a film that felt more like a modern day Western than anything else. It also played to my love of heroes in the latter stages of their career looking for redemption, almost the Unforgiven of superhero films. I look forward to re-watching it and probably checking out the black and white cut too. 

One the superhero front in other years Spiderman Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor Ragnarok might have been up in consideration as I really liked them all, but there were lots of other films I enjoyed slightly more and for the first time it was a Fox X-Men movie that was the most interesting and different. 


Dunkirk was as brilliant as expected, Christopher Nolan turning his hands to a war movie with his usual aplomb, the way time is used in the film is exquisite. Paddington 2 was an absolute delight, giving me even more warm and fuzzy feelings than the first movie.  In stark contrast John Wick Chapter 2 made things even darker than in the film that preceded it and sets things up well for a third movie.  Hidden Figures was another triumph, a truly inspiring fact based drama. 


Star Wars The Last Jedi is a film I've seen twice but still can't quite decide what I think about. I think I fall someone in the middle, between those who have been berating it and those who are championing it. It's a Star Wars movie, so it was always going to be enjoyable on some level.  I'm gutted I didn't make it to Get OutBlade Runner 2049 or War for the Planet of the Apes, all of which I would have expected to enjoy. 

Album – To the Bone by Steven Wilson- On her Journey to the Sun by Rikard Sjoblom's Gungfly (tied) . 


For the second year in a row I was unable to separate two albums, as this category has increasingly become the hardest one to make a final decision on.  Steven Wilson didn't quite go as pop sounding as some people might have you believe, but he certainly did move into a slightly different direction than on my album of 2015, Hand Cannot Erase.  To the Bone is a remarkably consistent set of songs that showcase his talent as a songwriter and helps cement his status as one of the best British musicians around. Seeing him get wider mainstream attention, like the BBC Breakfast interview and reaching Number 3 in the album charts, off the back of some very canny marketing from his new record label, has been very gratifying as a longtime fan. Can't wait to see him live next year, for the first time. 

Another musician who I greatly admire is Rikard Sjoblom, from his work with Big Big Train and Beardfish to last year's solo record, like Wilson he's another musician who seems to live for what he does and likes to be part of multiple projects. Somewhere between his solo work and the Beardfish output, this Rikard Sjoblom's Gungfly album blends pop, art rock and prog and makes something greater than the sum of its parts, catchy and clever in equal measure. The Guardian had it on their best of the year so far list back it the Summer too. Another record that barely left my ears since its release and I really hope I get to hear these songs played live. 

Honourable mentions –

Grimspound by Big Big Train came close to making this a three way tie, having followed up from last year's favourite Folklore and then being followed by surprise companion album The Second Brightest Star perhaps it was a case of too much of a good thing which slightly edged it out.  Zervas and Pepper, a band like Big Big Train that I discovered via comic artist Marc Laming ran things very close with their gorgeous collection of folk rock songs, Wilderland.  Will be seeing them in Cardiff next year and I'm already counting down the days  

It was a year packed with excellent albums by the likes of Mastodon, Magenta, Cosmograf, The Mute Gods, Tiger Moth Tales, And so I watch you from afar, Wobbler and a very grizzly and angry Roger Waters, plus some light and shade from award winning combo Anathema.  Prophets of Rage was exactly what you would expect from the line up, but it felt like an album we needed this year, the same can be said of Living Colour who also returned with a new long player. 

Song -  Pariah by Steven Wilson and Ninet Payet

I love Steven Wilson. I love Ninet Tayeb. I love melancholy duets like Don't Give Up. I love lyrics like this. 

I’m tired of Facebook
Tired of my failing health
I’m tired of everyone
And that includes myself

As soon as I heard it I had a sneaking suspicion no other song would top it this year.  

Honourable mentions –

Hotel Bible by Zervas and Pepper is a song I like just as much as Pariah, but  my personal sensibilities tend to mean that sadder songs appeal to me slightly more. Hotel Bible is blissful, like closing your eyes on a warm summer's day, a timeless classic that it's impossible not to let get under your skin. Sadly their Burning Lantern festival appearance was cut short, so I didn't get to hear it performed live, but I'm promised it will be on the set list when I see them in February. 

It's getting harder and harder to remember which songs are singles these days so this ends up being the hardest category to pull together.  As the Crow Flies, Meadowlands and Experimental Gentlemen from Big Big Train were all very strong, as were the singles from all the other albums I picked out, although as often is the case I preferred other album tracks more. Steve Hackett's Behind the Smoke and 50 Miles from the North Pole and Deep Purples' The Surprising (although I'm a bit biased) and Birds of Prey were other highlights along with The way you used to do by Queens of the Stone Age. I'm still shocked by quite how much I liked Sign of the Times by Harry Styles, which will do wonders for my street cred. 

GigBig Big Train, Cadogan Hall, London


I was pretty certain on the day I bought tickets for this show that it would be the pinnacle of my live music going year.  Just like their Kings Place show in 2015, the Sunday matinee I attended in London was a life affirming and truly joyful event. A perfect set list, combining newer songs from Grimspound and Folklore mixed with classics from the back catalogue like Swan Hunter, East Coast Racer and Last Train. Having taken my daughter with me again and met up with various friends I've made via the band and some of the band themselves no other gig stood a chance.  Sadly we didn't quite make it to see the Tiger Moth Tales unofficial support at another venue on the Saturday afternoon, but I have been able to listen to that on bandcamp. Video from this year's shows isn't available yet, but as East Coast Racer was in the set then and now it's worth checking out. 


Honourable mentions –

Magenta get to have two honourable mentions to their name, as I saw them twice in 2017, under quite different circumstances. Early in the year they were at The Globe in Cardiff, supported by Kinky Wizzards (meaning their shared drummer did a double shift) for a loud show which included first live listens to songs from this year's excellent We are Legend album.  If the crowd didn't include so many chatty people, it would have been a pretty perfect show. 

At the tail end of the year I saw them again at Acapela,near Cardiff, for an intimate, acoustic show which included Les Penning and some other special guests and music from Rob Reed's other projects alongside Magenta's own material. It was a wonderful night and I'm pleased to be seeing Magenta in both venues again in 2018. 

Steve Hackett at St David's Hall, Cardiff was very good too. I've seen some amazing guitarists do their stuff this year, and Hackett is no exception. The first half of the show was solo material and the second featured Genesis songs largely from Wind & Wuthering, so it was the best of the both world's really. Seeing Nick Beggs on bass was a real highlight and the audience cheering when Steve mentioned Brexit was the low point. 


Deep Purple at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff was a show I was lucky enough to attend thanks to working on The Surprising video. We missed Cats in Space, but did manage to see most of Europe's set and they were exceptional live, as were the main act themselves, exceptional musicians still going strong and putting on a phenomenal show. 

The Musical Box at The Tramshed in Cardiff was a real experience and the closest I'll ever get to hearing 70s Genesis in person - I reviewed the show over on Panic in the Skies.  It now means I've heard Firth of Fifth live twice and been lucky enough to see Supper's Ready performed fully too. 

Sadly work commitments meant I had to give my Opeth ticket away, which I'm still smarting from as I think they would have been quite a show. Next year Steven Wilson, Magenta (twice), Pearl Jam and Zervas and Pepper already beckon, despite my assertion that I'll reduce my gig going in 2018. If Rikard Sjoblom takes to the road then I'll be adding that to my list. 

Comic – Slots (Image Comics) 



Dan Panosian is my favourite current artist, so when he writes, draws and colours a new hard boiled series set in Vegas and including boxing and shady hardmen I can't imagine any other book coming close, even after just three issues.

Honourable Mentions  - 

Lazarus has been my pick in every previous year. In 2017 we had one issue of the main series and then X+66 books which were told side stories rather than driving the main story forward. Still very good, but I hope we get back to the main story in 2018. 

Alien Bounty Hunter from Vault Comics  was the other book I read in single issues as the cover for Issue 2 got me interested, it was great fun and the kind of blockbuster action book that I always enjoy.


Podcast – Here's the thing with Alec Baldwin


Like most interview shows, your enjoyment will often depend on who the guest is. With Here's the Thing Alec Baldwin proves himself to be an excellent interviewer, so even if the subject matter isn't to your taste the questioning and approach make it well worth a listen. I've really enjoyed all the episodes I've listened to this year. 

Honourable mentions –

Last year's winner Unjustly Maligned was as excellent as ever, but that show sadly went on hiatus partway through the year, leaving a sizeable void. 

In the writing realm On Story and Nerdist's The Writers Panel continue to have some excellent interviews that provide a real insight into the creative process. In the music world I've been enjoying The Prog Report, The K-Scope podcast and Tabletop Genesis in particular, as their album by album discussion format works really well.  Long term favourites iFanBoy,  Geek SyndicateGrouchy Old Geeks,  World Balloon and Comics Experience continue to get well worth a listen too.  

Aside from these things I was busy watching Happy Valley and Toast of London , being disappointed by the new Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age albums and pulling my hair out about the current political climate. Here's to more distracting entertainment coming our way in 2018.


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.  


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.







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. 


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.