Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Nic Wilkinson: World's Greatest Human Being. Fact.

Just for a second, I'd like to talk about something other than my awesome self (actual awesomeness may vary).

Nic Wilkinson, my girlfriend and collaborator on both Extinction Protocol and Remember This Moment, has just been interviewed on the Whatever Comics forum. It's the same format as the one I did a little while back.

To put things in perspective, whatever foothold I've kicked into the comics business so far, I unquestionably owe it to Nic. When my original artist on Extinction Protocol dropped out without once putting pencil to paper, Nic immediately volunteered - fitting the monthly strip around a demanding career (and a more demanding boyfriend). She learned the horrendously complicated skill of narrative composition in an absurdly short time, and put up with endless last-minute revisions and story edits from me without ever once complaining. There was no question in her mind that this would lead somewhere for me, and she dedicated herself to helping me jam a steel toecap into any door that cracked open.

So, with that said, feel free to check out the interview and see what Nic has to say for herself.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Too Old For This Shit...

Lulled into a deeply false sense of security by the Birmingham convention, and seeing as how I'm pretty local, I went to the London MCM Expo on Saturday. Nic and I travelled in on the Docklands Light Railway, which is basically the world's most boring rollercoaster. Nic likes to sit at the very end of the last carriage, so she can pretend she's driving from the back.

To be fair, the event was primarily a manga/anime/cosplay thing with a few token nods to movies etc. Not necessarily a bad thing, by any means - but not exactly my crowd, either. Markosia had an impressive stand there, and both Nic and I got free entry passes from them, which was unexpected and extremely cool.

Got off to a slightly shaky start while standing in line at a noodle vendor. I found myself directly behind a pink-haired zombie kitten creature of some sort. My knowledge of zombie kitten literature is patchy at best, but its costume basically consisted of a white shirt and some elasticated bandage. This, as it turned out, was pretty fortunate for the creature, given the fact that it appeared to be bleeding slightly from the leg. It didn't seem unduly bothered, but the tone for the day was already set in my mind.

Spent the better part of the first hour devising collective nouns for convention attendants. Came up with an "epileptic spasm" of Power Rangers and a "self-delusion" of Streetfighter characters.

The "free hugs" thing was a new one on me, which pretty much shows how out of touch I am. Loads of that going on but, fortunately for all concerned, I just don't attract that kind of attention. Whatever the "hug me" vibe is, I radiate the exact opposite - and so was able to go about my business largely unmolested.

The manga schoolgirl mafia was out in full force, naturally - although I can't help feeling that the point is being fundamentally missed when the costumes are being worn by actual schoolgirls or old men. Added a "superdeformity" of anime cosplayers to my collective nouns list and avoided them like the plague they are.

Anyway, things started looking up when Nic and I got talking to Cherie from Orang Utan Comics. She's got a lot of energy and a great love for the medium. I hope things go well for her. Also got a chance to talk to Ian Sharman, who seems like a hugely multi-skilled guy with a good handle on what he's aiming to accomplish.

Finally got an opportunity to talk to the extraordinary Dan Boultwood, who's got some really strong comics artwork to his name. Dan and I have narrowly failed to meet on a number of occasions, so when I saw him pinned down under a bewildering flurry of conversational gambits from a nearby writer, I seized the opportunity and introduced myself. Now, I just need to find some way of tricking him into working with me...

Can't round this off without a quick mention of the guy dressed as future WWE Hall of Famer, The Undertaker - who had apparently drawn the wrestler's characteristic "SARA" neck tattoo in the mirror, since it read "ARAS". Also worth noting was the guy giving away free wine gums from his stand, under a sign reading "No-Poison Candy". Funny stuff.

An unexpectedly great thing happened on the way home. Standing on a platform at Tower Hill, I caught sight of a guy across the tracks. He was smartly dressed, and wore a large wire pyramid on his head. I imagine he was either enhancing his brain power or fending off aliens. In any case, he wasn't associated with the convention, and a quick Google search reveals that I'm not the only person who has seen him and found him noteworthy. I stared politely for the best part of a minute, which I felt was the least I could do given the effort he'd gone to. I then went home for an exciting evening of shifting furniture around in preparation for the carpet fitters coming this morning. We've got a lot of stuff, so the whole operation took a little over seven hours.

As I type this on Monday morning, the guy's just rung to say he can't come until Friday. I feel slightly sick.



Monday, 15 October 2007

Convention Report: Volume Three

Another night of car-horn craziness, this time including a vocal accompaniment that necessitated several updates to my already-encyclopaedic swear-cabulary.

Sunday morning. The hotel continued to support my bacon-with-every-meal diet in good, old fashioned all-you-can-eat format. Checking out, we staggered into the convention carrying all our bags and decided that the Mignola/Fegredo talk was a lost cause, given our bad luck the day before. I scored volume two of Brodie's Law from the creators, and Nic bagged a selection of old Warriors - specifically picking out ones with V For Vendetta in them.

Bumped into Tony Lee again in a corridor, who saw that we were carrying all our worldly goods on our backs and thought we were leaving. Explaining our predicament resulted in a generous offer to stash our bags behind the Markosia table, which was something of a life-saver. We felt very special.

While we were talking to Tony, we met one of the creators who'd just returned from the pitching session. Tony had been one of the judges and, since I'd participated in the 2004 pitchfest and now write Starship Troopers, I served as a functional example of how these things can work out. Interestingly, the guy who actually won in 2004 went on to become Peter Rogers, the founder of Orang Utan Comics - so maybe there's something to that after all.

Now free to roam the halls at our leisure, we caught the Geek Syndicate live podcast. Very funny stuff, and definitely worth checking out.

We also took the opportunity to take a more comprehensive look around the venue. All kinds of cool, if somewhat educational, stuff to play with there - some of which was actually in working order. Particular highlights included an interactive representation of the human digestive process, complete with comical sound effects, and a button set into the wall that released the scent of fox urine into the air when pressed. I'm thinking of having one installed at home. Nic took an altogether unnecessary amount of delight in the more grotesque exhibits, particularly in the handle that pumped the simulated human waste through the simulated lower intestines. There was also a triceratops skull on display, and a hole through which you could smell decomposing compost. What will they think of next?

We rounded off the weekend with a quick blitz back through the main hall to say goodbye to everyone we'd met. All things considered, it was a much more productive event than I'd expected - and every bit as entertaining as I'd hoped.

Looking forward to the next one - and to the London MCM Expo next weekend...

Convention Report: Volume Two

Saturday at the con.

Found the convention hall without major incident. Not interesting or relevant, perhaps, but miraculous nonetheless.

The Thinktank is a pretty cool place. The floors are labelled in an obscure code so you never quite know where you are, and the escalators are randomly switched between up and down modes throughout the day so you're never quite sure how you got there. One of the escalators actually skips a floor, which can catch you out if you're off your game. I was, incidentally, profoundly off my game, and have the entire car-owning population of Birmingham to thank for that. For some unknown reason, every nut-job with a driving licence convened in the street underneath my single-glazed hotel window to serenade me with a rousing medley of car-horn classics that lasted from around midnight to about 5am. Happy times...

Anyway, long story short: the Thinktank is a Death Star on the outside and an Unreal Tournament CTF map on the inside. I liked it a lot.

Queued for almost half an hour for the Mignola talk, only to find that the room it was held in only seated about four people. I checked in with Alasdair Duncan from Insomnia Publications and had a nice, long chat about a story of mine they want to publish. A satisfying amount of progress was made on that, and a couple of other doors seem to have edged open.

First major revelation of the convention: the difference between turning up at a comics show as a total unknown and turning up as a guy that a couple of people have heard of and want to speak to is vast. Once one person with some credibility appears to be taking you seriously, doors do start opening. I'm only just getting my feet wet here and already people are going out of their way to help me. This is a major divergence from any of the fields I've worked in before, where everyone around you was considered a competitor and no-one went out of their way for anyone else. All quite disorienting, really.

Finally got to meet the artist on my first Starship Troopers story arc. He's a very cool guy, and really seems to be unaware of quite how brilliant his work is. I'm sticking to my prediction that he's got a big future in front of him.

Quick tangent: what's the one thing worse than being involved in a cosplay event at a comics convention? Answer: being one of only three people involved in a cosplay event at a comics convention. Major respect points for the people who made the effort, though.

Turns out that everyone I ever went to university with eventually became mates with Tony Lee. Two old friends of mine showed up, and there was suddenly a whole big thing when Tony spotted them. Weird coincidences all around. Gotta love that.

Yet another high point was reached when the mighty and influential Rich Johnston accused me of having a "neo-fascistic body image". Nice to be appreciated. I also met David Montieth from the absurdly good Geek Syndicate podcast, who's another really cool guy. I crammed a business card into his hand before he had a chance to object or wonder who the Hell I was.

By now utterly dehydrated, Nic and I foraged for water near the teleporter to the Red base. Found a vending machine and shelled out £1 for a bottle. Two bottles popped out at once - biggest result of the day! Retired back to the hotel before our luck ran out.

Convention Report: Volume One

Okay, here we go.

Friday the 12th was the night of the 2007 Birmingham International Comics Show launch party. Nic (my girlfriend and artist on Extinction Protocol) and I headed up there to see what trouble we could cause, pausing only to point out an unattended sports bag at Euston station - thus saving the world, or something. I felt very proud.

The venue was surprisingly easy to find, given the fact that my sense of direction is basically limited to "up" and "down". In any event, we located the place. Spoke to Tony Lee (drunk), Harry Markos (less drunk) and an old friend from university (not drunk) - in that order. Given that this was more networking than I'd been expecting to do all weekend crammed into an hour and a half, I thought this was pretty good going.

A surprising number of people already seemed to know who I was. That surprising number was three. I did, however, get gratifyingly funny looks from one world-famous artist, one comics-writer-recently-turned-novelist and that 2000AD guy whose name I can never remember, but who seemed to like my pitchfest entry at the 2004 Bristol con. I also received a very intriguing work offer which, if it pans out, should sort me out very nicely. More on that when I'm allowed to spill the beans...

We left before the band could do us any serious or lasting harm, and roamed the alarmingly clean and spacious streets of Birmingham in search of food.

We found cake.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Heading up to Birmingham

... and there you have it - final proof that cheating is the best way into comics.

Not only am I off to Birmingham this weekend for the International Comics Show, but I'm also getting free entry, a space on the guest list for the launch party and, best of all, a badge to prove I'm an honest-to-goodness professional!

Now all I have to do is work out how to act like one...

To be honest, the move into writing comics professionally hasn't really felt like a transition to me. It was more like a slow, natural progression of something I loved doing - and would be doing anyway, even if no-one paid me.

Okay, enough sissy-banter. Let's talk strategy.

At the last Bristol con, I had a definite game plan. I had a list of people I wanted to talk to, and most of them knew to expect me. As detailed elsewhere, that all turned out pretty well for me. This time I've got a couple of bases to touch and projects to discuss, but the weekend's largely going to be about meeting people and giving them a reason to care who I am.

I also get to hang around in a big crowd and catch glimpses of people who don't even know I exist, but who have unknowingly played roles in setting me on the path I'm now following. I'm pretty sure that no-one in comics ever loses that feeling. When you hear big names like Alan Moore talking about big names like Steve Ditko...

... and immediately we're back to the sissy-stuff, but what the Hell. I hit two conventions a year at most, and only one so far as a professional of any kind. If I act like a comics fan more than a hard-core pro, I couldn't care less. I'm pretty new at this, and besides, any pro worth the name is first and foremost a comics fan anyway.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Cy Who?

Inexplicably, I've just been interviewed.

Well, actually it was more of a Q&A type of thing, run by one of the UK's very finest comic shops: Whatever Comics. I've been buying my comics there since 1990, and they've always been top class.

Anyway, if you fancy taking a look, the questionnaire's up on Whatever Comics' news page right now.

The real tragedy of all this is that one of the questions I was asked was which word I thought was underused. I now regret my admittedly flippant answer as, since replying, I've learned a whole new word - one that the whole internet has apparently been using for ages now without my knowledge.

That word is "wanklord", and now it's your word too.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

I Have Blogged and, So Help Me, I'll Blog Again...

Okay, so I’ve completed the scripts for the first four-issue arc of Starship Troopers. I write to a rhythm, and I reckon I’ve found my personal Starship Troopers beat. Hopefully, that beat will now build and develop into an absurdly over-stretched metaphor by the end of this sentence.

I’ve pitched a second arc to Markosia and it seems to have gone down well. Go me!

I’ve already posted a gallery of these pictures over on my ComicSpace page, but what the Hell - I never get tired of looking at them. These are the first seven unlettered pages of Starship Troopers #5, out in January. I'll tell you who the artist is as soon as they'll let me:

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