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.

41755211_10156708628774722_2910883049430319104_n.jpg

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. 

IMG_4232.jpg

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. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 22.02.52.png

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. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 22.03.17.png

 

 

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

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 23.49.39.png

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. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 23.51.25.png

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. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 23.50.48.png

 

 

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.  

IMG_9941.JPG

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. 

Deep-Purple-Smoke-On-The-Water-1973.jpg

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. 

221126218-60fb11f6-e83b-47c1-b24f-aff5231479a8.jpg

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. 

Nice-Guys-poster.jpg

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.

50f29ad2-b67a-4425-be6a-5d3073177b20.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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. 

image (1).jpg

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

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.

image.jpg

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). 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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

 

Lady Mary hits Comixology

The Lament of Lady Mary, the second one-shot story I wrote for Barry Nugent's Unseen Shadows universe made its way to Comixology yesterday. You can find out more about the writing process here

Lady Mary Cademus lost both the men she loved in the First Crusade.  But now 8 years later one of them, her son Oliver, has returned alive.   And he isn’t alone. 

Script: Pete Rogers  Pencils: Conor Boyle Colours: Jo McLelland  Letters: Conor Boyle

 

 

Source: https://unseenshadows.com/comics/the-lament-of-lady-mary/

Collaboration not commoditisation

Unless you are working in prose and self-publishing without an editor, writing tends to involve other people. When you are putting a comic project together you are very much becoming part of a creative team. 

Declan Shalvey posted something on twitter yesterday that reminded me how important it is to approach every book you work on as a true collaboration.  It was an ad that a writer had placed online, looking for an artist for their long-term project. 

I'm going to give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume that somewhere in amongst these twenty points they have the best of intentions. I'm not going to focus on the sheer misogyny of #8, the sheer ludicrousness of #7 or even the infeasibility of #10 on a back-end only deal, instead I want to turn my attention to the overall sentiment of their post. For me this is a prime example of commoditising creativity, seeing the creation of a comic as a production line and not something fluid that evolves as more people bring their own talents into play . Not only does it suggest a 'writer is king' mentality, it also shows a complete lack of respect for the most important person in a comic project  - the artist. If you can't draw and you can't convince an artist to work with you, you don't and never will have a comic. Writers have to be prepared to court their potential artist, rather than pillorying them in advance. 

I'm going to guess that the person who posted this ad has been let down before (possibly by a female child who drew one page of stick figures with no faces or hands and had to walk away due to their fear of success) and is using that one bad experience as the basis for how to treat a potential artist. Even if this writer has bucket loads of cash to throw at an artist up front, I think the attitude they have taken would make finding someone to work with challenging. Ironically it would leave the kind of unreliable, unprofessional collaborator that they seem to fear as the most likely respondent. Add to that the fact that there is, as seen in #17, no money on the table then the one potential motivator for anyone with talent and an ounce of self respect to apply doesn't exist.

 The Interactives creative team. 

The Interactives creative team. 

Having worked with a number of artists over the years, some of whom I met through posting ads online, it's easy for me to be judgemental about posts like this one. I've also worked in radio, television and advertising where being part of a creative team is central to all aspects of the work, so probably have more experience of bringing out the best in collaborators. Even so, treating others as you'd like to be treated is just a basic part of being a decent human being. And I strongly believe that a commoditised creative process is fundamentally the wrong approach. Work with talented people, make them feel valued, let them express themselves, give them a strong sense of ownership and watch them fly. Collaboration for the win! 

Something old, something new...

I decided that I wanted 2016 to be a year where I procrastinated less and wrote more, and so far that's be going to plan, as the year has gotten off to a very productive start.

Title - TBC

(Comic short) 

In January I took an idea that had been in my head for about four years and finally put it on the page as a short story. It doesn't have a title yet, but I already had it accepted for an anthology title once a suitable artist is found. This story ended up taking on a life of its own and went in a slightly different direction than I had planned and the ending wasn't what I was expecting. I think the story is all the better for these changes though. 

Working Title - Viva Las Venus  

(Comic mini-series) 

Re-evaluating old work has been part of this year's plan too. Looking back on unfinished projects and deciding whether to ditch them and move on or give them another chance has been a wise move. 

This space opera project started life about ten years ago and I wrote the whole mini series for submission to Visionary Comics. I've gone back to the concept a few times over the years, but disliked so much of what I'd written that I could never quite get past it. This time I ditched a lot more, kept the world and the two main characters but dropped parts of the high concept. I also brought in characters from two other sci-fi story ideas that had stalled in the early stages. Creating an ensemble piece gave the series a new life and pushed me to take the story further and I'm really enjoying working on it. I think two pages from the original book have made it into this new version. 

I wrote Issue 1 in January and did two rounds of rewrites in February. The plan is to do some more rewrites this month and then to look for a suitable artist while working on the other issues.  

Title - The Package

(Short Film) 

     

 

 

This project started life a short comic script in about 2009, when I first came up with the idea. Two years later, having lost the original script I wrote it again, following the same plot and that version has been sitting on my hard drive ever since. Every now and then I'd consider pitching it to an anthology title, but it never quite felt like the right fit.  

I've been thinking for a while that the concept is much more suited to film, so took the plunge and wrote it a third time last month, this time as a short film. The cringeworthy dialogue from the 2011 version has all gone and despite the plot being essentially the same, the characterisation is stronger, the pacing more interesting and the overall finished script far more satisfying. It's coming in at eighteen pages currently, so would be pushing twenty minutes so my next job is to try and get it back to fifteen minutes.  Once I've done that I'll start thinking about ways to get it made. 

Title - Break

(Short Film) 

Another short film, which I've been mulling over for the past few weeks prompted by a specific call out for submissions. The submission has some specific criteria that the story has to meet and at one point I did consider reworking 'The Package" to make it eligible. In the end I decided that having two shorts written was a better plan than trying to make that story into something it wasn't intended to be. I got the plot for this one down on paper yesterday and I'll need to have it written, polished and submitted by the end of the month. 

As well as these projects I'm also working on 'Seven Shades', a supernatural western comic series with artist Dave Clifford (Dexter's Half Dozen). It's based on an idea he had, which we fleshed out together in January. I'll be doing this one Marvel style, to allow him to really flex his artist muscles and I should be starting work on Issue 1 very soon.

Sci-fi mini series 'Flux' which I'm co-writing with Steve Aryan (Battlemage) is gathering pace. Artist Maysam Barza is hard at work on Issue 2, Issue 3 is written and we're in the process of tightening up the breakdown for Issue 4 before we start scripting it.

Lots going on, hopefully I can maintain this pace throughout the year. 

 

 

Looking back on 2015

As I start to make writing plans for 2016, it felt like a good time to look back on what has happened in the past twelve months. 

In Print

Two books came out in 2015 with my my name on them and both involved me writing in universes created by others. 

The Law Above was a short story for the second Torsobear anthology 'All Stitched Up', the brainchild of writer/artist Brett Uren. I thoroughly enjoying reading the first fluffy noir collection about detective Ruxby Bear and his adventures in Toyburg. So I was very pleased to get the chance to join forces with children's book illustrator Mike Motz to tell a tale of the prison guards who were once involved in the Saturday Morning war. As a big fan of 80s action adventure cartoons, the subject matter was right up my street.

The collection features a veritable who's who of indie creators like Cy Dethan, Glenn Moane, Juan Romera, Jon Scrivens and many more.   You can pick up the collection on Amazon or on Comixology.

'Imagine Frank Miller's Sin City... Now, color it with all the crayons from a third grader's school box . . . That's the barest inkling of the cruel delights that await you in this
incredible volume.' - Tony Caballero, Fanboy Comics

The Lament of Lady Mary was my second one-shot for the Unseen Shadows universe, created by Barry Nugent and spinning out of his pulp novel series. This time I got to stretch my writing muscles in a historical setting as my story, which centred on the relationship between Lord Oliver Cademus and his Mother the titular Lady Mary, was set after the end of the crusades. It also meant I finally got to work with artist Conor Boyle (Pirates of the Lost World), something I've wanted to do for years. He was the perfect artist for this story and colourist Jo McClelland helped give the story even more depth. It's one of the scripts I'm most proud of and you as it is set at the very start of the Unseen Shadows timeline, you don't need to have read the first novel Fallen Heroes or any of the other comic stories to follow along. You can pick the book up now from Comicsy

In Progress  

Things have been moving forward with Flux, the sci-fi thriller mini series I'm co-writing with Steve Aryan (Battlemage) with art by Maysam Barza (Fubar) . We've got ourselves a publisher,  Issue 1 has been lettered by Sean Rinehart. Issue 2 is partway through, Issue 3 is written and is undergoing rewrites and Issue 4 will be written next month. Expect news of a release date for the series to be announced early in 2016.

Work is also underway on another series written with Steve, The Promise, which features art by Simone Guglielmini (Near Death) and one written solo, Fifteen-Minute Heroes with art by Cheuk Po (Blood Dolls). 

I've gone back to my roots in 2015 by taking up various offers to write short stories for anthologies. Two stories are currently with artists, Back to Work is with Federico De Luca (Murder One) and Good Night, God Bless is being worked on by Wamberto Nicomdemes (Rage). 

 Back to Work

Back to Work

My role as Comics Experience's Digital Content Editor has been gathering pace and keeping me busy, more to follow on that front when we hit the New Year. There will also be an announcement relating to the no (comic) code anthology I'm putting together to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Pearl Jam album no code.  

All in all an eventful 2015, with lots of projects on the go, which meant my convention appearances were somewhat curtailed. Next year my convention calendar will be somewhat fuller in 2016, with London Super Comic Con, Bristol Comic Expo and Thought Bubble among the shows that I'll be attending. 

Here's to a very productive 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday - The Interactives

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. 

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. Let your imagination run wild and get ready for some inter-action!
 Launching the book at The Comic Guru in Cardiff

Launching the book at The Comic Guru in Cardiff

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. 

 'Killed the Cat' in Bristol's St.Nicholas Market

'Killed the Cat' in Bristol's St.Nicholas Market

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, CenturionsTeenage 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. 

 All new all different Avengers by Luciano Vecchio (Marvel) 

All new all different Avengers by Luciano Vecchio (Marvel) 

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. 

 The Interactives team at Bristol Comic Expo. 

The Interactives team at Bristol Comic Expo. 

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.