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.











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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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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Surprising project with Deep Purple

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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. 

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

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

WIP - Chalk

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

Here are some of the main cast.

Professor Howard Chalk

Hoshiko Deguchi

Detective Inspector Jack Long

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

WIP - 7 Shades

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

Character sketch from Dave's initial pitch. 

Character sketch from Dave's initial pitch. 

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

From Dave's initial pitch.

From Dave's initial pitch.

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

A page from Issue 1.

A page from Issue 1.

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

Bristol bound

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

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

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

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

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

 

Big Big Inspiration Part Two

As I'm writing this I'm listening to Along the Ridgeway, the third song on the new Big Big Train album Folklore (which isn't in shops until May 27th, so I highly recommend that you pre-order it now). If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll remember the name of the band, as they were the subject of a long and praise laden post last August.  

Since that blog post, my daughter and I have had two more unforgettable days that revolve around the critically acclaimed band . In March we spent the day on St.Catherine's Hill in Winchester being extras in the video for the album's title track  (which you can watch below) and yesterday we were with the band again, this time in Box, Wiltshire. We were lucky enough to spend the day alongside many more of the band's fans, known collectively as Passengers, at the Folklore listening party at Real World Studios, musical home to legendary singer Peter Gabriel and the place where the album was recorded. 

We were also treated to a two song acoustic set by the band, minus drummer Nick D'Virgilio who was back in the States but did join us by video later. Hearing Wassail and Uncle Jack played up close and personal was an unexpected treat.

This is all very good and well and just like the concert last year at Kings Place in London both these days will live long in the memory, but what exactly does it have to do with my writing? Well in my August 2015 post I said the following and it has proven to be very true. 

Music has always shaped me as a person and as a creative and Big Big Train will continue to be a big part of that. 

I'm working on a new comic project currently, I can't say much about it yet as it's very early days with no artist attached and nothing pitched to publishers. What I can say is that I've loosely plotted it as a five issue series and Issue 1 is completely broken down with seventeen first draft pages written. Tonally it's not a million miles away from my 2011 book 'The Interactives' and it's already it's shaping up to be a book only I could write. I've taken inspiration from lots of sources, including Big Big Train's back catalogue and some of the iconography surrounding their latest release. I've also been listening to two albums by another modern prog band Phideaux, The Great Leap and in particular Doomsday Afternoon along with anything I can find on Spotify's The Sound of Neo-Progressive playlist, while working through the plot. I find that the best bands in the genre have music that really helps expand your mind and frees up the imagination. I do almost all of my plotting in the gym these days, on the treadmill doing something I've christened "Running through a story", which should probably be the subject of a process post all of its own.  

If you read the previous blog, it outlined some things that becoming a fan of BBT had made me think about when approaching a new project.

  1.  Collaborate with lots of talented people.
  2.  Don't be afraid to be British.
  3. Take risks, put things together that may not obviously belong with each other
  4. Don't be afraid to be emotional.
  5. Smile.

Does this new series meet those criteria? Not intentionally, as this wasn't set out as a plan or manifesto. However, by being true to myself and evoking the mood and spirit of Big Big Train's music has definitely taken me in the right direction. 

  1.  Collaborate with lots of talented people. I'm on the look out for an artist. 
  2.  Don't be afraid to be British. The story is all set in England. 
  3. Take risks, put things together that may not obviously belong with each other. There are some interesting things in Issue 1 already. 
  4. Don't be afraid to be emotional. I can see the book going more that way over time. 
  5. Smile. I've been doing that every day while working on this story, it's been great fun. 

I'm sure that as I become more accustomed to BBT's latest long player (I'm only on listen number four) it will have an even more profound impact on my approach to my work. I should have a first draft of Issue 1 of the new book completed this month and I'm hoping that once I have an artist I can start sharing a few more details. In the meantime....Wassail! 

 

 

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.