Monday, May 28, 2007

Brothers, Zombies and Small Press (spit!)

The second sweep through the Brothers script is now complete and I'm about 70 per cent happy with it. There are still bits of the plot and characterisation that need tightening up but it's definitely moving in the right direction. I'm now going to put it aside for a week or so to crack on with writing up the Alan Moore piece for Tripwire. I've missed a couple of deadlines for its delivery already.

To be honest, it'll probably be the last piece of comics journalism I do for the forseeable future; not because I don't enjoy it, but rather because there aren't enough hours in the day to devote to anything else beyond my full-time job, young family and comics writing. I want to get a minimum of three more one-shot scripts finished this year (plus a few shorts) and really don't need any more distractions.

* There's a glowing review of Blood Psi over at

Reviewer Joshua Pantalleresco gives the book 5 out of 5. The only problem is that for some utterly inexplicable reason the site is using the book's original cover to illustrate the review rather than Declan Shalvey 's new one. The review went up last Wednesday and, despite several requests to change it, the old cover remains defiantly in place five days on. Still, it's a hugely positive review so I'm not going to get too upset about it.

* There's an interesting debate going on over at the Quality Communications Yahoo Group forum about what constitutes a comic being "small press" or "Indy". The only thing I have to add to the argument is that "small press" is a term I've come to despise. It makes the UK self-publishing scene sound so bloody twee and inoffensive ("Where's the small press table, vicar?" "Between the tombola and Mrs Frobisher's cake stall."), rather than the thrilling underground DIY culture that I know it to be.

* In all the recent excitement I quite forgot to give Accent UK's Zombies book a mention, so I'll rectify that now (especially as it contains a story by Natalie Sandells and I called Pop Zombies about an undead boy band).

The first thing to say about the book is that it looks lovely - beautifully printed on thick glossy paper and all wrapped-up in a striking cover by former Swamp Thing artist Steve Bissette. It's massive too - with 41 stories filling out a bumper 166 pages. All for a modest six quid.

Of course, all of that would mean nothing if the material inside wasn't of the highest standard and Zombies doesn't disappoint in that regard. As you'd expect the best stuff comes from the pros and established indy creators like Laura Howell (her story has a hilarious twist), Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor, Jason Cobley, Dave Baillie and Falling Sky's Ben Dixon.

Not all of it works - and there are a couple of real clunkers - but that doesn't stop Zombies being one of the most impressive anthology titles I've come across in years. The Accent UK boys are hoping to get it in comic shops through Diamond, so if you see a copy buy it and devour it!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Last one, I promise...

I didn't have my camera at the Eagles, so this piccy is nicked from Dec's blog. I haven't the foggiest who took it though...

Back to reality

You'll be undoubtedly relieved to know that Dec and I have now finished patting each other on the back about our Eagle win so it's back to reality – and for me that means trying to write some comics.

I have about half a dozen different projects at various stages of development at the moment and have already been in touch with some of the artists I met at Bristol. Hi Alma and Liam, if you're reading this!

The plan is to get Septic Isle finished and with Diamond for as early in January 2008 as we can manage. That way, if they decide to pick-up the book for distribution, it can be solicited in February or March, and I can get it printed in time to do a big launch at next year's Bristol. It will be 52 pages with a spine, and topped off by that lovely cover I posted a few weeks ago.

The first draft of Brothers is pretty much written but there'll be plenty to fix in my second sweep through it. There's a major element of the plot still not working as it should, I probably need to slim down the cast and the final third still isn't doing it for me. Not much to sort out there then! Still hoping to have it finished before the end of the month.

* Read a rather bemusing review of some of my work over the weekend in some fanzine or other. It referred to my stuff at various points as both "dreadful" and "superb". Now that's what I call keeping your options open!

Still, bad reviews don't bother me too much, 1. Because you can always learn something from them and 2. Only a deluded egomaniac expects everyone to like his work.

One thing the review did for me was crystallise something that has been floating around my head for a while. The reviewer in question really enjoyed a story I did called Tim Skinner: Total Wanker, which appeared in a horror and humour one-shot I published around 18 months ago, called SHRIEK! The printing was horrible and I didn't really think the material overall was strong enough to submit to Diamond. But the Skinner story – about a horrible scumbag who can insert himself into comicbooks and interact with the characters – was a definite hit with readers (all 100 of them) and every reviewer who's written about the book.

Anyway, I've decided to bring back Skinner at some point in the near future in his own all-singing, all-dancing one-shot. It would probably be an expanded version of the original story and feature the main character visiting comicbook worlds a bit similar to those of Judge Dredd, Transmet, Blankets and Crisis On Infinite Earths. Watch this space...

* After all my bitching and moaning, it looks like I'm going to be attending the Birmingham International Comics Show after all. It's in October this year and therefore only a few months after Blood Psi hits stores, so it might be a good opportunity to shift a few copies. I'm also interested in attending the Dublin con in November but will make a decision on that nearer the time.

* I've been slowly reading through some of my Bristol indy press purchases and have been very impressed so far.

The Wolfmen (from Accent UK Press) is a hard-boiled crime tale with some lovely art by Andy Bloor, about a criminal gang with a deep, dark, scary secret. It's short, sharp and very effective.

Falling Sky (from Scar Comics) isn't as good artwise but more than makes up for it with a cracking, beautifully-told story about the end of the world. Writer/artist Ben Dixon's definitely a talent to watch.

I've also been picking up 2000AD a fair bit lately and have been mightily impressed with Bob Byrne's Twisted Tales series that's running there at the moment. Twist ending stories have been done to death everywhere (god knows I've done my fair share), but Bob's work is brilliantly inventive and original. Check out the "Final Exams" tale in this week's prog (1537) and marvel at Bob's twisted imagination and terrific storytelling.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bristol pics

Here are a couple of pics from the weekend - there's Dec and I at the Moonface Press table on Sunday morning still basking in the glory of our Eagle win. Dec looks suave and cool. I look like someone from a special school. Nice.

Below that is a close-up of the lovely award itself. By the way, the Role of Honour award Warren Ellis won was huge - about the size of a small child by my slightly tipsy reckoning. Probably just as well he wasn't there to collect it or getting it back to his hotel room would have given him a hernia.

Best. Bristol. Ever.

I've been an attendee at the Bristol Comics Expo, in its various incarnations, for six of the last seven years, and have to say the 2007 vintage was the best yet. And I'm not just saying that because Hero Killers won an Eagle Award, although it certainly helped.

The Saturday was just absolutely crammed with fans, and most notably far more women and kids than I'd seen at Bristol before (the lure of manga publishers such as Tokyopop being the main reason, I suspect). Punters had also been encouraged to come in costume (it guaranteed free entry) and they certainly rose to the challenge, with the fella dressed as the Silver Surfer (complete with silver surfboard) being particularly impressive. He must have been absolutely boiling...

The Moonface Press table did pretty good business for most of the weekend, even though we had absolutely nothing new to sell. More importantly, it was a good opportunity to review some portfolios and sign up new artists for future projects. Of everyone I saw, there are three artists I'm definitely interested in working with, including someone who'd fit my manga-influenced one-shot perfectly.

As ever, I didn't get much of a chance to attend panels but Joel Meadows was kind enough to invite me on to his Tripwire panel to talk about the magazine's forthcoming resurrection. To be honest, Tripwire is Joel's baby and I didn't have a great deal to contribute other than a few bits about my interview with Alan Moore. It was also nice to meet artist Duncan Fegredo, who was Joel's other panel guest.

Hero Killers artist Declan Shalvey and I had a blast at the Eagle Awards dinner. We were on a table with about ten other people, only one of whom I'd ever met before but we all got on like a house on fire. Most of them came and bought copies of Hero Killers from us the next day!

Of course, the highlight of the entire weekend for me was winning the Eagle Award for Favourite Black and White British Comic. I really thought the 2000AD-linked Future Quake would beat us but for once I'm glad to be wrong. When the comic's name was read out as winner I genuinely had to restrain myself from crying/dancing/high-fiving Dec and generally making an utter tit of myself. What was particularly gratifying was the thunderous cheer we got when the nominations were read out. To paraphrase Sally Field's much-mocked Oscar acceptance speech from 1985 - they like us, they really like us!

No sooner had Dec and I sat down with our very nice Eagle-shaped trophy than a bottle of champagne arrived on the table, courtesy of Mike, from Aberdeen's Asylum Comics and Books (Dec's studio is in the store's basement). Cheers mate!

Because you're encouraged to keep your acceptance speeches to no more than about 10 seconds, I didn't thank all the people I would have liked to on Saturday night. So... thanks to Daley Osiyemi and Gary Spencer Millidge (for their sage advice), Regie Rigby, Kelvin Green and Ambush Bug (for writing nice things about Hero Killers), Mike Carey (for all his help and support) and Ben Cornish at Diamond (for taking a chance on the book in the first place). Done!

There are a full list of this year's Eagle Awards winners here:

The following day was, as ever, a rather more muted affair but punter numbers were still up on a typical Expo Sunday. And that was despite torrential rain hitting Bristol for most of the day.

My eldest son Dylan accompanied me for a couple of hours in the morning but spent most of his time being variously menaced by a Dalek, a variety of Star Wars Storm Troopers and a woman impressively costumed as a weird manga fox thing. And that was before we even got to the Expo - he said, trying to end on a decent joke and failing utterly...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

And the winner is...

Hero Killers triumphed at last night's Eagle Awards, scooping the prize for Favourite British Black and White Comic. A full report on the Bristol Comics Expo and the awards ceremony itself will be posted here tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Five years, my brain hurts a lot

"We've got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that's all we've got"
- David Bowie, "Five Years"

This year's Bristol Comic Expo marks my fifth anniversary as a self-publisher (Devilchild Volume I: Hell Is Round The Corner was published in 2002). And yes, you're right, it probably is high time I found something more constructive to do with my life.

Seriously though, I remember the build-up to Bristol 2002 as if it was only last week. Jen (my then girlfriend, now wife) drove me from Southend into the wilds of north London to pick up the boxes of Devilchild, we then grabbed artist Natalie Sandells and her boyfriend Rob, and set-off for the great south-west. While Jen drove, Nat, Rob and I pored over the freshly-printed Devilchild volumes, excitedly chattering about how pleased we were with the book and wondering how many copies we'd be able to flog at the Expo.

As it turned out, we flogged a fair few but now, in the cold light of day, that first volume does look somewhat lacking. The printing was dodgy (mine and Nat's fault as it happens), the script overwritten, the lettering too big and Nat was still finding her feet as a sequential artist. I think we just about got away with it though and the book received some extraordinarily kind reviews (one comics website gave it 10/10, and AiT/Planet Lar supremo Larry Young loved it).

Nat and I have come on a bit since then. Nat gets regular paid work in comics and I'd be amazed if she isn't a full-time professional by the end of next year (she certainly works hard enough), while I'm a proper indie comics writer/publisher with regular Diamond distribution for my books and an Eagle nomination. Admittedly, for me, it's only in the last year that things have really started to kick on, so for the next 12 months or so it's going to be all about trying to build an audience and a bit of momentum within the industry, and just seeing where it takes me...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's May, so it must be Bristol...

Another year, another Bristol. It's going to be a weird one this year as, for the first time, I 1) don't have any "new product" to sell and 2) am up for an award.

I'm going to take the opportunity to plug the hell out of the forthcoming Blood Psi and see if I can sell a few copies of Hero Killers on the back of its Eagle Awards nomination. Otherwise, it'll be a case of trying to sign-up a few new artists for projects next year (including someone who can draw in a manga style, he added mysteriously), attempting to schmooze a few pros (that's comics professionals rather than prostitutes, you understand), and catching up with the people I usually catch up with at these things.

I don't have a lot of cash to go crazy with this year, so my comic and DVD purchases are going to be kept to a minimum. As always though, I'll still visit Chris Staros' Top Shelf table and get him to recommend a couple of recent releases. I've also got my eye on a couple of British indie books – namely volume three of Paul Scott's excellent sci-fi anthology Omnivistascope, and Scar Comics' Falling Sky, which has had rave reviews from all and sundry.

I have no idea whether Dec and I will come home with the Eagle or not. We both worked hard to get the Hero Killers vote out but we're up against some pretty popular books. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd have an each-way wager on Malcolm Magic or Future Quake to win. Well, I would if Ladbrokes actually accepted bets on obscure nerd-related awards ceremonies anyway...

Thursday, May 3, 2007


*Hero Killers gets a nice plug in this month's edition of the Judge Dredd Megazine (cover dated 29 May). The book is, ahem, "bigged-up" in an article entitled "Small Press: The Good, The Better And The Expo", along with a load of other British indie stuff. They even found room to include a gratifyingly large pic of the HK cover, too. Dec will be well chuffed!

*I am stupidly busy right now. As well as trying to finish off the script to Brothers, I'm lettering pages from Ryan Richards and Nat Sandells' Carson City mini-series, which is out later in the year through Brain Scan Studios. I also have to get cracking on the Alan Moore interview I conducted for the Tripwire annual a month or so ago.

I should really have been doing a lot of this stuff yesterday, but it was my birthday, so I celebrated by taking my eldest son swimming and watching the finale of BSG season three. A few years back, I'd have celebrated by drinking myself unconscious. I think this is what they call "growth".