Monday, 30 March 2009

Dropping the C-Bomb...

... and for once it wasn't me! Here's the second episode of Ian Cullen's SciFi Pulse podcast, featuring an interview with me and some great input from Insomnia's own Nic Wilkinson and Crawford Coutts. Sound levels are all over the place, but I had a lot of fun and look forward to taking Ian up on his offer of another guest slot in future.

Incidentally, some of the episode is pretty sweary so don't say I didn't specifically warn you because I just did so you'd be lying.*



*Awesome line stolen shamelessly from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Dee-thun? Di-taan? Death-un?

Out of the blue last week, I heard from Ian M. Cullen over at SciFi Pulse. He's got a brand new podcast/radio show on blogtalkradio, and he's invited me on as his guest in this week's episode to talk about Cancertown and whatever else springs to mind. Also, anyone with lingering doubts about the pronunciation of my name can have the matter settled at last.

The show will be broadcast live on Sunday, starting at 9:30pm. You can listen in from the show's main page without registering or anything, but if you want to take part in the live chat session or even call in to the show directly, you can sign up for a free account.

Sounds like it should be fun.

UPDATE: It looks like I may have succeeded in roping in some of the Cancer-Crew as well. With a bit of luck, we could have quite a gang of us on the air.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A Ragged Revelation

It's more than possible that you might have noticed the url for this blog reads "raggedman.com" (or "theraggedman.blogspot.com" depending on how you got here). There's a reason for that, and that reason has now been assigned an art team by Insomnia Publications.

Conceptually, The Ragged Man lies somewhere between Jacob's Ladder and The Man Who Haunted Himself. That's about all I want to say about it right now, other than to announce that my collaborators on the book will be the team of Neil Van Antwerpen and Peter-David Douglas. Neil and Peter, whose spectacular art can be seen in Starship Troopers #11, are currently working on Tony Lee's Harker script, to be published by Markosia. They've been deservedly going from strength to strength and, if you've liked what you've seen from them so far, believe me when I say you've seen nothing yet!

Needless to say, I'm really excited to have them on board for The Ragged Man. The story's pretty wild and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Comics in Libraries? What Sorcery is This?


Nic and I went along to help Insomnia out at the Essex Book Festival last Saturday and we were pretty impressed by what we saw there. We kicked off the day at the Shenfield Library, along with Insomnia co-founder Alasdair Duncan and C2D4's Tony Wicks. For a couple of hours, we explained ourselves and the medium to a procession of very interested visitors, with ages ranging from eight to about sixty. The six-foot standee of Crosshair from Cancertown drew a lot of attention, and was the focus of one of the exercises Alasdair had devised. The task was to suggest a line of dialogue for the character to introduce himself, and some of the entries were priceless. Personal favourites from the day included:

"What do you think I'm going to do with this finger?"

"My turn on the X-Box 360!"

"Now I'm going to eat you - Ha Ha Ha!"

I was particularly surprised by one kid of around ten who came at me with a long string of questions about Cancertown - a book that is, as we explained to the adults accompanying him, completely unsuitable for someone that age. Thankfully, Nic and I had spent the morning with Sharpies, blanking out the more colourful language in the sample chapters we'd brought along. Anyway, I was able to assure him that the Corpsegrinder could indeed beat Crosshair in a fight (a fact that he'd somehow deduced from their relative positions on Paul Cartwright's incredible cover) and that Crosshair's arm would in fact grow back if the Corpsegrinder pulled it off (which actually does happen in the comic!). That's a kid with a future in the business right there.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Harlow for the second leg of the exhibition. This time we were served Jaffa Cakes and sandwiches, which was an unexpected bonus for me. Again, visitors were invited to write lines of dialogue for Crosshair, draw monsters and devise a simple plot structure involving two characters in a cage - and again the results were terrific and diverse.

Special mention has to go to nine-year-old James, who brought with him a short Doctor Who comic he'd created from scratch. From a structural standpoint, this little gem displayed a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of layout, pacing and dialogue. He really seemed to have an instinct for leading the reader's eye around the page. In a stroke of genius, the event's organiser was somehow able to conjure up an award for James in the form of an official Doctor Who sonic screwdriver. It was well deserved, and he seemed pleased. Seriously, if you'd seen the way he'd put this comic together you'd have been impressed too.

Anyway, it was a fun day, and Nic was even able to do some potentially very useful talent scouting for future Insomnia artists. We'll have to look into more of these events in future.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Don't Say He Didn't Warn You...


Remember a while back when I said that I might have a terribly exciting final announcement to make before the publication of Cancertown? Well, I've just had the go-ahead to make it.

Legitimate comics legend and creator of the first British graphic novel, Bryan Talbot himself, has written the book's foreword! The eye-opening experience of reading Luther Arkwright as a kid was one of the key reasons I wanted to start writing comics in the first place, so to have an introduction from its creator is simply unbelievable. In fact, I'm so excited about this development that I'm afraid I have no choice but to reproduce it in full below:

For a first graphic novel from a new creative team, Cancertown is remarkable. Cy Dethan’s concept alone is brilliant. Is the protagonist, Vincent Morley, a cynical knight in tarnished armour battling unspeakable monsters in a gonzoid Chapel Perilous or a dying sad bastard besieged by visions generated by his terminal brain tumour? Vince’s chosen role, that of maintaining the equilibrium between the “real” London and its parasitic, demonic mirror image and his ability to pass between the two, by grace of his illness, sharply differentiates his story from others in the wide-boy urban sorcerer genre, notably represented by Alan Moore’s John Constantine and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor prose novels. And, though your worst nightmares are his everyday reality, Morley kicks serious arse while maintaining a self-deprecating cascade of gallows humour.

Moreover (do people still say that?) Cancertown actively embraces horror, the genre of horror fiction. It’s not trigger-shy. It doesn’t fuck around. It sets out to horrify, and it succeeds. Although Cancertown owes more to Clive Barker than Ramsey Campbell, it still, like Campbell, has its roots in H.P. Lovecraft and its evocation of genuine creepiness is undeniable. This is in no small part due to the visceral, hallucinogenic art of Stephen Downey working in tandem with the hard-bitten script, the atmospheric colours of Melanie Cook and inventive lettering of Nic Wilkinson. We’re seeing here the first outing of creators who will make their mark on the future comic industry.

Cancertown will disorientate you, suck you in, chew you up and spit you out and you might well be in need of a change of underwear by the end.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Bryan Talbot
Sunderland March 2009

Cancertown will be released in May, and is currently available to pre-order from Amazon. If you're going to be at the Bristol International Comic Expo and the Small Press Expo 2009, you'll be able to pick Cancertown up (along with its Insomnia brethren, Layer Zero 3 and Cages) at a special convention price as shown below:

Cancertown RRP = £14.99, Con Special = £10
Cages RRP = £10.99, Con Special = £7
Layer Zero Choices RRP = £9.99, Con Special = £7

Cancertown + Cages for £15
Cancertown + Layer Zero for £15
Cancertown + Cages + Layer Zero for £20

You can also take advantage of the special prices by pre-ordering directly from Insomnia before the 9th of May (either to pick up at the convention or to be posted to you if you can't make it). Just email Nic at nichola@insomniapublications.com and let her know what you need.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Yeah, I Watched it...

So Nic and I bit the bullet and went to see Watchmen last weekend. I'll try to keep this brief and relatively spoiler-free (although, frankly, if you haven't already read the comic then there really is no hope for you).

I actually think we got off fairly lightly, all in all. We'd already lost the big battle, in that the film was going to be made with or without the approval of the writer or his fans, so the rest of it was just damage limitation. Snyder "gets" the book well enough to do a decent job of putting it on the screen, but not so well as to realise that doing so is a bad idea in the first place. He certainly seems to know better than to make a pure "Snyder Movie" at the expense of the material (for example, does any of us really need to know what a quirky, darkly-slapstick Gilliam Watchmen would have looked like?), but he doesn't tie himself slavishly to the original.

There are a couple of places where his excitement gets the better of him and he fails to realise that a moment of really top-class violence can totally ruin the trajectory of an entire characterisation. There is, for example, supposed to be a sense of separation between Rorschach and the more "moderate" vigilantes, but Snyder erases that line in an otherwise deeply satisfying mugging scene by having one of the good guys start snapping necks and fatally stabbing opponents. Since the character never goes to those extremes again, even when placed in much more dangerous circumstances later in the film, it just feels out of place and makes the whole thing smell cheap. I'd much rather have seen this level of violence from one of the more extreme characters, but we really never hit that height again. Weird choice.

The much-hyped "amped-up violence" levels pretty much spit in the face of the book, in any case. Probably the most powerful act of violence in the early chapters of Watchmen occurs when Rorschach snaps a guy's little finger. That one, perfect moment produces a more powerful reaction in me as a reader than any double-page slobber-knocker, but the movie loses that scene altogether in favour of supposedly non-superhuman people punching bloody great holes in walls and sending opponents flying through the air with a single kick. The experience of watching the film is very much like having the plot of the comic screamed at you by a nine-year-old child in the middle of an incredibly noisy amusement arcade. It's a lot of fun, but you're missing out on most of the fine detail.

In the final analysis, though, given that someone was going to make this film, I'm glad it was made by "one of us". I don't think I could have restrained my Fist of Death if I'd been presented with a sequel-friendly, 90-minute, PG-13 Watchmen. That, apparently, is what Snyder was originally told to make, so in that light the film we ended up with is fucking miraculous. If most of the above sounds negative, it's primarily because of the reservations I had about the exercise going in. It's actually a very good film on its own merits, but it's undeniably a rather patchy adaptation of the source material.

I still don't see the point of a Watchmen movie, but since we've got one, I'm surprised and pleased that it's as powerful, entertaining and persuasively realised as it is.

Then again, what the Hell do I know?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Taking A Butcher's (Ugh)

Yep, weak puns based on Cockney Rhyming Slang - that's what the comics industry's been missing lately.

I've been holding this back for a couple of days, but I'll be damned if I'll let it sit unseen on my hard drive for another minute. Here's the latest piece of Slaughterman's Creed concept art sent to me by the increasingly awesome Stephen Downey. The man has barely had a second to take a breath since downing tools on Cancertown, and he's already nearing completion on the layouts for Creed issue #1. The guy's a machine!

Anyway, check this out:

Cool as fuck, right? But get this: this dead-eyed, blood-drenched, throat-slashing bastard is the story's good guy! Just wait until you see the villains...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

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