Monday, June 30, 2008

Get your geek on, ninjas!

Septic Isle is very positively reviewed by Barry Nugent and David Monteith in episode 86 of the Geek Syndicate podcast. They start discussing the book around 20 minutes in, but I'd heartily recommend you listen to the whole thing as it's entertaining, informative stuff.

You'll find it here

Friday, June 27, 2008

Broken Frontier

THERE'S a nicely-written and very perceptive review of Septic Isle over at Broken Frontier. You'll find it here

It isn't the most glowing write-up the book has had, but reviewer Tonya Crawford clearly gets what Mick and I were trying to do with the story even though she doesn't think we're always entirely successful.

Actually, Broken Frontier's a really decent site for comic reviews and news, and one that doesn't get half the attention it deserves.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Failure to launch

I'M always jabbering away on here about the stuff I've written or am in the process of writing. But since I started doing the comics thing back in 2001 there have been a few projects that I've started with good intentions and great enthusiasm that have ended up falling by the wayside. Some of them deserve never to see the light of day again (I'm looking at you Dead Rock Stars) but there are one or two that could feasibly make it back onto my schedule at some point in the future. In the meantime, here's just a taste of the ones that got away...

This was a bawdy comedy featuring an aristocratic demon called Dhaxx who was supposed to be Satan's cousin. Even by Hell's standards he was a total wrong 'un and spent all his time causing trouble as he tried to build a power base for himself in the Inferno. Alas, everything Dhaxx did rebounded back on him spectacularly - it was sort of like Blackadder in Hell.

I wrote practically all of the first issue in which Dhaxx had to travel to Earth to retrieve a photograph of his flabby bare arse that was for sale on eBay. I seem to recall he encountered a future Messiah, monsters on a council estate and angels that performed some kind of song and dance routine. I quite liked this one actually but I wrote it not long after the third volume of Devilchild and ended up deciding to move right away from demon-related stuff with my next batch of work.

This was a story about a British all-female superhero team named the Reckless Girls because of their gung-ho approach to adventuring. The idea was that the Girls' oldest foe - Amok - had supposedly been rehabilitated and actually married a member of the team, only for her to be found brutally murdered a few weeks after their wedding night. The story would have centred on whether the Girls' ex-arch-enemy was the killer or not. For reasons I can't exactly recall I really struggled to write this one but having read the plot synopsis for the first time in ages the other day it could be one I return to in future.

This was the graphic novel project I started immediately after finishing the first Devilchild volume in 2002. It was set in the near future when Britain had become a fascist state in which all rock music was banned.

The plot saw the ghosts of famous musicians and rock stars (Jimi, Kurt, Biggy etc) visiting a young lad who had been chosen by mystical forces to lead the rebellion against the government. It was a bit like The Invisibles with lots of rather clumsy music references chucked in. The artist who agreed to work on it bailed out to do something significantly less shit.

This graphic novel project is the one I most regret not finishing. It was a story about warring East End crime gangs, one of which just happened to be run by a pair of homicidal vampires. Lethal Lenny Limehouse was the Cockney vampire hunter in the middle of it all, aided and abetted by a friendly female vamp to whom he was obviously attracted. The arrival of the unfairly maligned Blade TV show killed this one off as there were more than a couple of similarities in the premise, but I will do something with Lethal Lenny, especially if I ever bring back Blood Psi.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Up Shoot! creek

I WAS sad to hear this week that kids' football magazine SHOOT! is to close at the end of June. I was editor of the title for a couple of years in the late '90s and although the job wasn't nearly as much fun as you'd imagine, the magazine will always have a special place in my heart.

Being made Shoot! editor was important to me as I'd been a keen reader of the title when I first got into football as a kid in the early '70s. Back then the mag was serious of tone and fairly wordy, and gaining access to big-name footballers was as easy as walking into the pub in which they were boozing away their afternoons.

By the time I took over in '98, Shoot! had become more of a "soccer Smash Hits" (that isn't meant as a criticism, I worked for SH, too) - everything was short, punchy, design-led and full of rather embarrassing "yoof" speak (Mega! Wicked!). Talking to players was also considerably tougher and we'd often be expected to jump through all sorts of hoops by a star's kit or boot sponsors just for a half-hour chat and a quick photo.

The biggest disappointment in my time at Shoot! was the day I travelled up to Chester to conduct an interview with George Best and Michael Owen. They'd just been voted No.1 and No.2 respectively in a readers poll to name their favourite footballers of all-time (Owen was so high because this was 1999 - barely seven or eight months after the player's fine showing in the previous year's World Cup finals). The idea was that I would talk to them together and that they'd get to swap anecdotes (the pair had never met before) and muck about for the Shoot! photographer.

Alas, Owen was ridiculously late (at least a couple of hours, if memory serves) and Best didn't show at all (apparently, his agent thought the interview was the following day). We'd even had a really nice award made to give Best (some sort of engraved crystal bowl). It now sits gathering dust in my attic and poor old George never even laid eyes on it.

Shoot! was struggling sales-wise when I took over the editor's chair and despite my best efforts its circulation continued heading south. The late '90s were a bit of a graveyard for football magazines with the likes of 90 Minutes, both modern incarnations of Goal! and the original Match Of The Day magazine all biting the dust within a couple of years of each other. I was always worried Shoot! would meet a similar fate but publishers IPC kept faith with it.

In June 2000, I quit Shoot! for a job in the States which ultimately fell through and soon after IPC decided to make half the mag's staff redundant and switch the title's frequency from weekly to monthly. The result was hideous - the sort of kids' magazine your grandad would produce. One of the things I was most proud of during my time at Shoot! was that I made a real effort to increase our coverage of women's football which was then just starting to make an impact here and in the States (the US were world champions in 1999). Of course, all that went out the window when the new editor took over, along with every shred of personality and attitude my staff and I had given the title.

The switch to monthly frequency saw the title's circulation bottom out at about 30 thousand or so and that's pretty much the way it stayed until IPC decided to try one last relaunch a few months ago. As part of its revamp, Shoot! was returned to its original weekly status and brought back the yoof speak and short, punchy articles with it. Alas, it was a last throw of the dice that didn't work.

Finally, to give this ramble down memory lane some kind of comics angle, I commissioned a regular weekly cartoon called Shoot! FC from an artist called Rob Davies. Rob, it turned out, had drawn Roy Of The Rovers (the period when Roy Race only had one foot) and had also done stuff for 2000AD, including (I think) Dredd. I lost touch with Rob after leaving Shoot! and a Google search has produced nothing about his current whereabouts. Anyone out there remember him and know what he's up to these days?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ad for Previews

Here's a look at the ad for Septic Isle that I'm placing in August's edition of Previews.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The working week

I HAVEN'T got a lot of comics writing done this week as my thoughts have had to turn to Septic Isle's forthcoming solicitation in Previews. That means I've written a press release, sorted out an ISBN number, booked a little ad space and started sending out some more review copies. I now need to design an ad, start work on a dedicated SI website (help, Kay!), hit up the news sites for coverage and sort out some publicity material with which to inundate retailers. If I had any money, I'd hire an assistant.

* ONE of the best things about Septic Isle being picked up is that it makes the chances of a sequel that much more likely. I know artist Mick Trimble is up for doing more Jacob Marley and I already have a story roughly plotted out.

The Marley you'll see in Septic Isle 2 would probably be quite different from the rather lost guy in book one. The seven shades of hell he goes through in that first story are going to have changed him; probably made him revert back to the way he was before his retirement from MI5 - ruthless, uncompromising, almost a force of nature.

The ways things are shaping up I probably won't get to write a sequel until next year but I hope it happens as doing the first one has really given me a taste for writing spy fiction. Before that, though, I have to finish Kurse, Razor Snakes, Pendragon and whatever I end up working on with Keith Burns.

* THE other thing I've been doing this week is lettering the first issue of Brit Force. This is proving to be a rather interesting and unusual challenge. Andy Radbourne, the guy who writes and draws the series, had already lettered the first six issues by hand when he submitted it to me. I suggested computer lettering would look better so Andy went through and removed all the words but couldn't take out the hand-drawn speech balloons as well as it would have meant having to redo most of the art. So, I'm going back through and putting new lettering into Andy's balloons. I'm also editing and refining his script as I go. It's a peculiar way to work but, oddly enough, I'm quite enjoying it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Septic Isle is being solicited in August's edition of Previews and will hit comic stores in October. Er, that's it for now...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Southend Book Fair

YESTERDAY'S Southend Book Fair was a very low key affair - 25 exhibitors and around 150 punters through the doors all day. Suffice to say, I didn't have to fight off customers with a stick. Despite being held at the local college, there were very few students in attendance, with most browsers in the 50+ age bracket. I waited three hours to sell my first comics and almost kissed the bloke who bought them. From what I gather, though, none of the exhibitors will be retiring on what they made from the day.

Still, despite the lack of sales, I had a good time and met some lovely people. A local artist even turned up specifically to see me and point me in the direction of his website. He's a really talented bloke and I intend to send him a script to see how he handles sequential work.

I also talked to a woman from the Southend libraries department who seemed keen for me to do some sort of workshop there. I'd even get paid!

If they run the event again next year, I shall probably give it another go. Selling my stuff at Birmingham and Bristol is a piece of piss (you're surrounded by comics fans all weekend with money to spend) but a book fair really takes you out of your comfort zone and that's something I rather enjoy.

* THE week off was fairly successful. After a number of false starts I'm finally making real progress with Kurse and it's shaping up nicely I think. Sometimes you can spend so long on something that you get fed up with the entire enterprise but I'm having no such problems at this point.