Friday, 29 May 2009

"Kind of Like a Train Wreck Where You Can't Turn Away..."

Industrious little tearaway and wildly talented Cancertown artist, Stephen Downey, has just been interviewed by Jennifer Contino over on - the virtual comics convention. Stephen does good interviews, because you can really feel his enthusiasm and energy in the way he writes. Anyway, it covers how Stephen got involved with the book, how he approached it and how he feels now that it's finally out there and people are reading it.

Feel free to read the full interview on

Friday, 22 May 2009

Soon, All Towns Will Be Cancertowns...

Now that Cancertown is officially out there, some of the places selling it have started asking about signings. Needless to say, that's been both exciting and disturbing for me. So far, we've got three dates established, and we're looking into several more. Here are the ones that are currently booked in.

1) 30th May, Forbidden Planet, Belfast
Stephen Downey's going to be appearing here between 2pm and 4pm. Insane little art machine that he is, he's offering a free, unique sketch to anyone who buys a copy. See the official Forbidden Planet announcement.

2) 6th June, Whatever Comics, Canterbury
Whatever Comics is unquestionably my all-time favourite comic shop, and its owners have been among my strongest supporters throughout my adventures in the comics business, so this one's a lot like coming home for me. I'll be there from 11am to 4pm with the ever-mighty Nic Wilkinson.

3) 27th June, Waterstones, Chelmsford (time not confirmed yet)
A real-life book shop signing, like the professionals do, but with me instead. Must remember not to swear.

More details and dates to follow, including signings in Dublin and Newport on the Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

"An Acid-Laced Trip Down the Rabbit Hole"

Like most members of my generation, my sense of self-worth is founded entirely in what people say about me on the internet. Historically speaking, and judging exclusively from the contents of my spam-trap, the online world's chief concerns about me have always been my bank account details and the dimensions of my cock. However, I do occasionally venture out into the wildernet to see what other topics may be under discussion.

All of which is a long-winded way of noting that Cancertown has received a stellar review from the gentle creatures over at The Sidekick Blog.

Here's what they had to say:

Cancertown Review

by The Bone Man

Leading up to the Bristol Expo and during the event itself there was a very definite buzz surrounding one book; Cancertown. Everyone was talking about just how good this book was, so I figured I'd pre-order a copy - along with Insomnia Publications' other offerings, Layer Zero vol.3 and Cages (all 3 for 20 quid - special expo bundle, how good is that?!). I've been laid up since the expo with a pretty disgusting ear infection. Having to lie on my side for most of the day so that my head doesn't explode in a mushroom cloud of yellow gunk, I figured I'd tuck into my stack of books I picked up from Bristol and Cancertown was the top of my list.

I really wasn't sure what to expect. I'm relatively new to independent British books, normally reading US titles from the big two publishers or at best some IDW or Boom! Studios titles. My first impression was just how polished the presentation of the book was - a stunning cover and a very professionally bound book that wouldn't look out of place next to anything you may find from any of the big American publishing houses.

The book grabs you by the throat right from the start and drags you kicking and screaming into the vividly twisted world of Cancertown. Your tour guide on this journey is Vince Morley, a man on the edge of sanity - or does he just see things you can't? He's the sort of hero I can really get onboard with, full of piss and vinegar but with a level of self-doubt that very much grounds this engaging character in the likeable range. I've heard him being compared to John Constantine, which is a fair comparison, the story itself feeling like a mixture of Hellblazer and Alice in Wonderland. Morley is more than the sum of his parts though, a truly human champion bringing with him all his own flaws and doubts.

The story feels like an acid-laced trip down the rabbit hole, only it's not talking rabbits with watch clocks you're chasing. No, instead we've got giant floating teeth and giant eyeballs with legs. Every time you pick the book up you can't help but feel slightly grimy, as though some of the freakishness of Cancertown can somehow corrupt and cling to you after every visit. This first instalment is clearly setting up the rules and themes that make up this world but the writer, Cy Dethan, manages to not only make this set-up interesting and vital but a fantastically intriguing and exciting journey that leaves you wanting more.

I can already see this book making the transition to celluloid very easily, helmed by someone with a distinct imaginative vision - maybe Guillermo del Toro or Terry Gilliam. But I'm getting ahead of myself. What we have here is a well crafted, fantastical story that demonstrates what a comic book should be. I for one can't wait to read more tales from Cancertown.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Bryan Talbot's Grandville Trailer!

As anyone who's been paying attention will have realised, I'm something of a Bryan Talbot fan. Bryan's got a new book on the horizon and, as this trailer demonstrates, it looks wonderful. Grandville is a steampunk fantasy thriller with an anthropomorphic cast led by a burly detective badger. If you're not already fascinated from that description, then I really don't know what to say to you.

Grandville is set for release in October 2009 and will be published by Dark Horse in the USA and Jonathan Cape worldwide. Signed copies will be available at the Birmingham convention this year. Behold!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bristol '09 Report: Seriously, What the Hell Just Happened?

So much for the Bristol International Comic Expo being a smaller, more sedate affair this year. From start to finish, the gig was thirty pounds of crazy in a ten-pound bag. Both days were exhausting, and I was blown away by the amount of interest shown in Cancertown over the entire weekend.

Stephen Downey and I kicked off Saturday with a flurry of book signing - something I still haven't got used to and hopefully never will. By the time we'd worked our way through half of the stack of pre-orders Insomnia had brought along, we were already getting a queue of people asking for the book in a show of interest that continued to grow steadily over the course of the day. The whole thing was just utterly bewildering, and far more than we'd been expecting, or even hoping for. Nic was kept busy throughout the day, meeting creators and making their comics-related dreams come true. I had a chance to speak briefly to Jimmy Bott and the Geek Syndicate crew, but most of my time was spent talking up Cancertown and generally having the time of my life.

I had a particular stroke of luck in meeting a creator called Ollie Masters, who goes to the same university I used to. Not only is the man apparently a very promising new writer (so Nic tells me, and she doesn't say things like that lightly), but he's also a perfect human reference for Mr. Green, a major character from Slaughterman's Creed. Stephen got him to run through a few poses. If you've never watched an artist attempting to get a model to mime urinating into another man's mouth, you've obviously never been to a UK comics convention.

Had another odd moment when I met Doug Bradley in the hotel toilets. For some reason, I suddenly couldn't think of anything to say...

Insomnia co-founder, Alasdair Duncan, had brought the Crosshair standee we'd used at the library gigs we did a little while back, and Paul Cartwright's astonishing rendition of the character drew a lot of attention. Alasdair was again getting people to propose a line of dialogue for him, and the entries we got were suitably perverse. I'll see if I can get a list of the better ones from Al at some point. Stephen Downey and his girlfriend, Aimee, stuck close to the Insomnia stand most of the Saturday, and it was impressive to see how many people were recognising Aimee as the model for Cancertown's femme fatale, Babyface. Simon Wyatt was also sketching at the stand for a lot of the day, and he more or less made Nic's convention for her by giving her a drawing of his character, Rax.

In the afternoon, I got talking to Scott from Comic Book Outsiders. By this time I was largely incoherent, having just been told that we'd sold 97 copies of Cancertown off the stand that day, but things are looking quite hopeful for an appearance on the podcast at some point. Exciting stuff for me, as I've been a listener for some time.

I should make a quick mention of Rich McAuliffe here, as a preview of his upcoming Damaged Goods anthology was on display at the convention. Judging from the sample story, this book's going to be a monster!

Final total for Saturday was 105 Cancertowns sold and around 50 of the Layer Zero: Choices anthology. Unbelievable, and the number of Cancertowns would actually rocket to 150 by the end of the Sunday - despite the fact that Insomnia didn't even have a stand to sell from the second day! Retired with the rest of the Insomnia crew for an evening of cake and contract signings. The Ragged Man and The Indifference Engine are now set in stone, and watch this space for news of Cancertown 2...

Tired beyond the capacity for rational thought, I was nevertheless offered one final laugh-out-loud moment as we all left the hotel on Saturday evening, as Monkeys with Machineguns' Chris Lynch lurched out of the bar area in a flashing Batman t-shirt with the cheery greeting, "What up, gangsters - I am full of the booze!"

I like that guy.

Sunday offered me my first real opportunity to scout out the Ramada side of the dual convention. I checked in with Harry Markos, who had set up an impressive display on the Markosia stand, and I finally met my Waste co-creator, Ben MacLeod (who turned out to be awesome). There's some hope of another collaboration with Ben in the future, depending on his other commitments, which would be fantastic.

The major event for us on Sunday was Nic's appearance on an indie press panel with Ed Deighton (Com.X), Richard Emms (Ardden), Harry Markos (Markosia) and Classwar writer, Rob Williams. The theme of the panel was "Change or Die", and I'm pretty sure the general consensus was "change". Nic put forward the most constructive appraisal of the way forward, and did an excellent job of backing her points up with solid facts and professional experience. The panel was recorded, so hopefully it'll crop up in podcast form at some point. I rewarded Nic for her heroism with the latest Owly book in hardback. She made a happy noise.

So, yeah - it was a bit of a blinder, all things considered. 150 copies of Cancertown escaped out into the world, and the rush of orders resulting from the book's subsequent mention on Lying in the Gutters has wiped out Amazon's stock of the book for the second time. Long story short, I've got no complaints about my life right now.

Friday, 1 May 2009

It's Here - Plus Our First Review!

I got my first look at the Cancertown trade on Wednesday, when it arrived by Special Delivery from Insomnia co-founder, Alasdair Duncan.

Happy doesn't begin to cover it.

The book's also just had its first official review, from Barry Nugent of the excellent Geek Syndicate podcast. Here's what he has to say:

Cancertown Comic Review

The short review is I bloody loved this graphic novel.

Cancertown was a complex, dark and twisted fantasy with a heavy noir feel to it. I think I need to read it again to make full sense of it all. Think Maltese Falcon crossed with Criminal Macabre and a dash of Alice in Wonderland…trippy as hell (God knows what sort of dreams I’m going to have tonight!). The art was great and it was only when I read some of the notes from Stephen Downey, the artist, that I realised the conscious decisions that were made in the way he portrayed the real world and Cancertown.

The hero (or anti-hero, take your pick) Vince Morley was an awesome character, part Sam Spade and part Cal MacDonald but all Brit. He’s not your friend and he’s not a guy you want to get on the wrong side of, but yet you can’t help but like the miserable trench coat wearing git.

I think one of the hardest things to do in writing, be it novel or comic, is creating believable characters with believable dialogue. This comic clears that hurdle with room to spare. I can only hope we see more of Cancertown and Morley in the future.

I tell you one thing, though, if this ever becomes a movie there’s no way I’m going to see it. There’s way too many messed-up images (giant eyes, I’m looking at you) for an easily freaked-out guy like myself. I worry for the sanity of the creators, given some of the crazy-ass monsters they’ve designed for this comic.

Seriously, though, pick this up as it’s one hell of a read, especially if you like the Cal MacDonald comics. There was also the added bonus of a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the comic, which was a great little read in itself.

So to Cy Dethan, Nic Wilkinson, Stephen Downey and Melanie Cook, great job, guys!

Cancertown is released this month, and is available to pre-order from Amazon. Alternatively, you can always hassle Insomnia or your local comics dealer for a copy or, if you're coming to the Bristol International Comic Expo and the Small Press Expo 2009, you'll be able to pick it up at a special convention price at the show.
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