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.
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.
'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.
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).
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.
I thought it would be a good idea to look back at some of my previous work and to give a bit of insight into what went into their creation. I'm kicking things off with the first mini series I had published, after years of writing short stories, "The Interactives" was released by Markosia in August 2011.
This book was definitely a labour of love and The Interactives was a very personal piece of work. I clung to the old adage about writing something that only you could write, dispensed with thinking too much about the audience or market and just wrote what felt right. Less dark and less sophisticated than other books I'd started to write, changing direction for this series was very liberating. A couple of the Marvel books I was reading at the time ended up being big influences on the book's tone, Paul Cornell's Captain Britain and MI-13 and Dan Slott and Christos Gage's Mighty Avengers run. Those two books gave me the confidence to have more fun with the subject matter and to be more comfortable setting it in Britain too.
The book was inspired by lots of of different things, although articles on library closures and falling literacy rates helped fuel the over-riding concept, as did the rise in online media and user generated content. The main character Scallywag (named after the nickname my Father in Law gave my daughter) is loosely based on me. The character has to come to terms with not being able to do everything himself, or expecting others to contribute to a task in the way he would have. That's all familar territory for me personally. Learning to be part of a team and an effective leader, without trying to do everything yourself or getting people to do things your way was part of my journey into management.
I was living in Monmouth and travelling back and forth to Gloucester when the bulk of the book was written, those journeys played a key role in the visuals. The first part of the story is set in Monmouth and the book's opening visuals, a dragon flying over the Welcome to Wales sign, was conjured up on my commute.
Later scenes are set in the field behind our garden at the time and then the action moves into the town, so it was very much a case of writing what I could see around me. Stonehenge also features in the book, an obvious mystical destination and also one fuelled by a school trip many years ago. Shifting the action to London (which was originally going to be the US) was partially to make the book more universal, but also to tap into my fascination with the tourist side of the city. I wanted to do some big moments like in Godzilla or King Kong, but with London landmarks being under siege instead. It was great fun getting to bring that to life.
Scallywag's shop 'Killed the cat' is in Bristol's St.Nicholas Market, a place I used to love walking around when I was in the city for comic conventions or work. I actually used to meet for coffee with writer Rob Williams (Unfollow, Ordinary, Dr.Who) right next to the market to get writing advice. He also gave me some great notes on the first draft of the script, one which has a completely different team being dispatched in the second issue. It also featured a dwarf Axl Rose impersonator and an appearance by the Cerne giant.
There's a sense of nostalgia in the book too, which has since become even more prevalent in the entertainment world with constant reboots, reimaginings, reworks and delayed sequels to the things we all liked as children. In 'Killed the Cat' you can see a wealth of items that relate to my childhood viewing and reading, like Alf, Centurions, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Airwolf, Fighting Fantasy Books etc. Music is also something that ended up playing a big part in the book, with some of my musical heroes showing up, particularly those who are no longer with us. When I look back I do wonder if some of these elements were self indulgent, but I always justify it by thinking that the main character is around my age and would have had the same cultural influences I did. These were also elements that helped make the book something that I don't think anyone else would have created.
I pulled in things like the Suicide Angel from another mini series I'd plotted out but aborted, took more influence from trips to London, including my first ever MCM Comic Con, and from a family visit to Puzzlewood. Looking back I'm not sure how I managed to pull all these different things into a little three issue book.
Ultimately it was the team of collaborators I had on the book that played the biggest part in making The Interactives something special, which was very fitting to the theme of the story. I advertised for a penciller/inker on a number of different sites and had an overwhelming response. 17 different artists ended up doing some iniital sample pages and it was Argentinian artist Luciano Vecchio whose work ended up suiting the book the most. His take on the characters made them suddenly far more three dimensional and his work on additional sample pages ended up having a big bearing on the rest of the story. I only had a few pages written when I started looking for collaborators, so his approach helped shape the characters and the world they inhabit. Luciano's artwork has an animation feel, which fit the tone and feel of the book perfectly. He's since gone on to work with both Marvel and DC, but I'd absolutely love to work with him again one day.
Colourist Yel Zamor has been working with my colleagues at Orang Utan Comics already and when I saw her colours on Luciano's artwork there was no way anyone else was colouring this book. She did an exceptional job, not only on the colours, but also as a sounding board and as a stroy editor, letting me know when a scene or sequence didn't quite work for her. That level of investment in the project really made it a pleasure to work on, with ideas and concepts flying back and forth between all three of us. Yel even cosplayed as girl7, one of the book's main characters at Bristol Comic Expo. You can see more of her work on The Only Good Dalek (BBC Books) and The Irons: Hybrid (Madefire). Adding longtime collaborator Ian Sharman on letters, pre-press and edits rounded off our team.
Reviews from the likes of Broken Frontier, Comics Bulletin and Sequential Tart were very positive and my only real regret is that more people didn't get to read the book. I do have a sequel loosely plotted, so maybe one day I'll return to the world again.
You can find out more about the book on my old blog - Always Write and if you'd like to pick up a copy, you can do that by clicking on the cover below.
I often post about the comics I'm currently writing, but haven't shared what I've been reading as much lately so I thought that was rather overdue. I'm currently working my way through the 20 issue run of Fallen Angel by Peter David and David Lopez, from when that book was at DC. The most recent things I read before that were The Fifth Beatle and the Blacksad series of books, both through Dark Horse and the full Locke and Key series from IDW.
When it comes to ongoing books, I tend to stick with ones that I wish I'd written myself. The following books are ones I'm following, either in monthly issues or as collected versions, and they all meet that criteria.
Lazarus (Image) This is the only book I read on an issue by issue monthly basis currently. Defintiely right up my street, as it's a futuristic sci-fi series, grounded in reality with a strong political and social commentary to it. Greg Rucka writes this one, with Michael Lark on art. Issue 20 is due out on Wednesday.
Rocket Raccoon (Marvel) I was reading this monthly until the run finished, but I just found out that it's starting up again in December with Skottie Young writing and one of my favourite artists Filipe Andrade on art. I didn't know the character prior to the movie, but read the full Abnett/Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy run earlier in the year before diving into this, and the Star Lord series. I love Skottie Young's sense of humour and characterisation and I'll be subscribing again when the book returns.
Southern Bastards (Image) Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour have made something very special with this book, I got that feeling when I saw them both on panels at Thought Bubble last year and I was proven to be correct. Heartfelt and brutal, this small town thriller will live with you for a long time after you read it. I loved the second trade and can't wait for the third.
Saga (Image) At the end of every interview on the Nerdist Writer's Panel the guest seems to say that they are reading Saga. Who can blame them? Brian K Vaughan is my favourite current writer (I need to find time for We stand on Guard and Paper Girls too) and I'm crazy about Fiona Staples' art. There's probably not much left to say about this heartfelt space opera, but much like in Y the Last Man and Runaways, it's the characters that make a huge connection with me as a reader. I'm a little behind on this series in trades and need to pick up Volume 5.
Nailbiter (Image) I always say I'm not a horror guy, but seem to be gravitating to those kind of stories more and more. People kept telling me how good this is, so I decided to check it out. I've read the first two trades and need to pick up the third. It's an absolutely gripping series, written by Joshua Williamson with exceptional art by Mike Henderson. This serial killer based smalltown drama has been compared to Twin Peaks and Se7en, and with good reason.
Revival (Image) Probably my favourite book overall, because I absolutely love the way it's written and I often find myself trying to break down the creative process in this book to help with my own work. Tim Seeley writes this one, with Mike Norton on art. Another small town book and a horror/thriller with very well rounded characters, so it kind of ticks all the boxes the other books here do combined. I've read the first five trades and the sixth is out in December.
The Fuse (Image) A police procedural in a space station gives you the high concept here, but there's far more going on than purely what's on the surface. If the first two trades are anything to go by this series will be around for a while. It feels a bit like Mega City Undercover at times and that's no bad thing. Antony Johnston writes the series working with artist Justin Greenwood.
Sex Criminals (Image) Funny, warm and clever, this book was understandably a breakout hit for Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. The central romance, between a couple who can stop time when they orgasm, is very believable from the first few pages. Saga is the other book where that's the case, they both give the film True Romance a run for its money for most believable couple in fiction. I'm two trades in and looking forward to the third.
I think that's it, unless there is anything I've forgotten. Image definitely dominates my reading currently and I'm certainly drawn more to creator owned books these days overall. There are lots of other books I'd love to be reading, but don't have enough time for many more titles.
My second one-shot for the Unseen Shadows universe, created by author, podcaster, tv presenter and renaissance man Barry Nugent will be available very soon. The Lament of Lady Mary, a story set at the end of The Crusades which focusses on Sir Oliver Cademus and his relationship with his Mother, features art by Conor Boyle,colours by Jo McLelland and letters by Paul McLaren. It's one of two new stories that will be on sale at Thought Bubble in Leeds next month. You can see a sneak preview below.
The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that I mentioned taking on an editorial role at Comics Experience in the About section of this site and also in my Twitter bio. That role, and the reason behind it, have now been made official on the CE blog.
I'm excited to be part of the team involved with the upcoming slate of digital-exclusive titles launching on ComiXology. We're also opening up submissions again next week, giving Comics Experience Workshop members a month to pitch their ideas for new titles. There's an abundance of talent in the workshop and I'm excited to help give up and coming creators an avenue to showcase their work. More on this to follow in the coming months.
It's not exactly the latest news from San Diego Comic Con, but it did think it was about time I posted about the progress of the various mini series I'm working on.
Flux - I'm co-writing this sci-fi crime series with Stephen Aryan, with Maysam Barza on art duties and Sean Rinehart on letters. Twenty pages of Issue 1 have been inked and once the final two pages are complete, we'll be prepping for colouring and lettering. The script for Issue 2 has been through a few drafts and it is currently getting peer and pro feedback over on the Comics Experience workshop. We hope to have the full four issue series completed this year and released early in 2016.
Fifteen-Minute Heroes - This super-hero series has art by Cheuk Po and letters by Tomas Marijanovic. Issue 1 has been coloured and Issue 2 is written and is about to be re-written, following the latest round of feedback from the Comics Experience workshop.
The Promise - This crime series is also co-written by Stephen Aryan, with Simone Guglielmini (Near Death) on art. The whole book is plotted out, we've written much of Issue 1 and have a pitch package that we've been sending out to prospective publishers.
Saturday Mornings - This all ages fantasy book is plotted out and half of Issue 1 is written. It was recently submitted to a publisher for consideration. Artist/s TBC.
Beta Wolf - I'm in the very early stages of this action series, having changed the title and made some major plot improvements to the initial idea I had. Plan is to complete the plot and move onto scripting very soon. Artist TBC.
Viva Las Venus - This is a very old space opera idea I had, which I've given a major overhaul recently. In the very early stages and won't be plotting it fully until other projects have moved further along. Artist TBC.
The Rush - This is an experimental sci-fi series, put together with a writer's room approach. The five issue first arc has been plotted out by myself, Stephen Aryan and Cy Dethan (which some initial assistance from Chris Lewis). Three issues have been written, one each by Steve, Cy and I. We'll be coming to this book soon and planning to have a different artist on each issue, much like Zero from Image Comics.
Forgotten Planet - This sci-fi adventure was originally developed with artist Azim Akberali. Later I returned to the book with Giancarlo Caracuzzo (Random Acts of Violence) and we ran two failed Kickstarter campaigns with Scar Comics. At some point I would like to revisit this and may attempt crowdfunding again.
Hopefully with so much going on, there will be plenty of my work on the stands next year.
I'll be making my second comic convention appearance of 2015 this Saturday, when the much missed Cardiff Independent Comic Expo makes a welcome return. The show is moving across town from the Mercure Holland House Hotel to its new home at the Masonic Hall.
I don't have a table at the show this time around and I'm not a guest of the event, but I should be around for most of the day. As it's my home town show, I also get to bring my daughter along for the morning, which is always fun. Very much looking forward to catching up with people and seeing what new books are out.
You can find out more about the show here.