Friday, 25 February 2011

Slaughtermen, Cardiff & Nuge - Oh, my!

Barry Nugent, author of Fallen Heroes and shadowy, secretive power-player behind the notorious Geek Syndicate criminal organisation, has put finger to keyboard in the service of good for once with the following Slaughterman's Creed review over on the GS website:

Comic Review – The Slaughterman’s Creed

Posted by geeksyndicate on February 24, 2011

Thine is the task of blood.
Discharge thy task with mercy.
Let thy victim feel no pain.
Let sudden blow bring death;
Such death as thou thyself would ask for
.”
The Slaughterman’s Creed

Sidney is a professional killer working for Big Lenny Addison, a London ganglord specialising in human trafficking. He is almost completely uneducated except in his family’s trade – at which he is an unparalleled expert.

When he is called upon to breach his code and bring a pregnant woman to slaughter, Sidney’s world is changed forever. Betrayed by those he has served his whole life, the Slaughterman embarks on a bloody vendetta – determined to bring Addison’s entire monstrous empire to the blade.

There is one thing you can say about writer, Cy Dethan: he does love variety. At the moment he seems to be cutting a bloody swathe through as many classic genres as he can, and putting his own unique stamp on them.

I first became aware of Cy’s work on Starship Troopers and ever since reading the line ‘I will piss bullets down your throat’ I’ve been a fan (I don’t know what that says about me). In his career to date he has tackled sci-fi, fantasy/horror and now he is turning his hand to the gritty and dangerous world of gangland crime. One of the reasons it’s dangerous is that it’s a area where it’s easy for a lot of stories to fall into the cliche world of ‘shut it you slag’ one-liners and everyone looking like they’ve just stepped back in time to an episode of the Sweeney. Here, Cy uses this to his advantage with having mob boss Big Lenny (who really should be played by Bob Hoskins is this ever goes to film) and Sidney his professional killer or ‘The Slaughterman’ representing the past. In the future corner stands Lenny’s second in command, Lewis, and his nut-job Slaughterman part 2 representing the future, which promises to be even darker than Lenny’s time.

Two things about Slaughterman’s Creed that I should make clear from the start. First one is the clue is in the title as in what to expect from this comic. This is not the My Little Pony version of gangland tales - this comic is violent, disturbing and some of the images and phrases will stay with you long after the book is closed.

The story is a violent one and art matches it but I never found the violence to be over the top. It felt real, visceral and horrible, as true depictions of violence should be. The second thing is this book is for adults in both the aforementioned violence but also in the plot, the themes and the characterisation.

Throughout the book, Cy is willing to make the tough choices for his characters that a lot of writers either wouldn’t do, or rather would bend the story to ensure they never have to make those choices. At times steering away from the tough choices can lead to flat characters and a story that is unengaging, but not so here. Cy is standing over his characters with a sledgehammer, ready to exact bloody revenge if they dare to veer into the realm of cliche.

My plan was to take my time and read Slaughterman’s Creed over a few days, but pretty much by page five I was in for the long haul and ended up reading the whole thing in a single sitting. Cy has a way of leading the reader by the hand and letting them think they know exactly where the plot is going, and then the next thing you know he’s kicked you down the stairs, leaving you battered, bruised and with no idea where the tale will lead you next.

One of the things I loved about this story is that in many ways there are no real heroes and nothing is as black and white as it seems, which is true of all the best gangland tales. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how dark Cy’s writing is and there is no denying that a lot of his work takes the human mind to places it would rather not be (still seeing giant eyeballs chasing me after Cancertown, thanks to Cy and Stephen). However, where Cy’s greatest gift lies, in my opinion, is in his characterisation and plotting. The way he is able paint his worlds with so many layers of grey that none of his characters stand out as ‘the heroic one’ or ‘the evil one’ and that a reader’s sympathies become a fluid entity over the course of his stories is a gift not to be taken lightly. Yes, in many ways there are characters to root for in this comic but you can’t help feeling desperately sorry for some of them at the same time - whilst at the same time utterly despising them.

Again, I don’t know what this says about my nature but to see the decline of mob boss Big Lenny over the years after the force of grim nature he is at the beginning of the story kind of made me root for this monster towards the end of the book, when we are treated to a glimpse of his former self. I then flipped back to the earlier pages to remind myself just how much of a monster this man is. Lewis, Lenny’s right hand man, starts out as your typical weasel wanting the top job but his character has echoes of Iago from Othello in that he spends most of the book quietly whispering into the ear of Big Lenny, who can’t see that he is being fattened up for the kill by his most trusted advisor. In many ways, it’s the Slaughterman of the title, Sidney, that you have most sympathy for as, even though he is capable of some truly horrific acts, by the time you reach the end of the book you learn that he had very little choice in his profession.

I’ve already heard a few people reference The Long Good Friday when talking about this comic and that’s a bandwagon I would heartily jump on. I would also add films such as ’Danny the Dog’ and a dash of Leon to the mix. Although Slaughterman’s Creed puts those films in your mind when reading, it always feels like it’s charting its own, body-part-filled course.

The art by Stephen Downey brings another layer of gritty realism to this tale and his growing improvement since Cancertown is there on the page for all to enjoy. I must give a special high-five to the work he, Vicky Stonebridge (Colours) and Andy Brown (Inks) have done on the flash back scenes towards the end of the comic. Even though the colors and art are distinctly different from the rest of the comic, they never take you out of the story. If I had one criticism with the art, it's that some of the more action-heavy scenes felt a little static and did not convey the sense of movement they could have. However, the climax of the story helps to redress the balance with some fine work on the mayhem that ensues when hell comes to Big Lenny’s world. Mention must be made of Nic Wilkinson's deft use of lettering, which is always the subtle backbone of all Cy’s stories, keeping his words on track and informing the art to ensure the reader is never lost.

Slaughterman’s Creed is a bloody gourmet serving the reader a mixed platter of gangland politics, murder, betrayal and revenge with a large side order of body parts. It’s a tale that is dripping with great writing and art. Digest it today.

Great writing is the task of blood.
Discharge thy task with no mercy but a truth to the character and the tale.
Let thy reader feel no pain, save when it is necessary to the tale.
Let every twist bring shock, awe and surprise or the tale has failed;
Write such a story as thou thyself would ask for
.”
The Cy Dethan Creed

Check out a preview of the comic here !

GS Reviewer: Nuge


There will be a pre-order sign-up sheet for Slaughterman's Creed at this weekend's Cardiff Comics Expo, where Barry Nugent is a guest. Barry will be launching his Fallen Heroes comic adaptation, and will also be talking about the book and its adaptations in the Fallen Heroes: Rising to the Challenge panel at 1.45pm.

On the subject of Fallen Heroes adaptations, I've been approached by Barry to write a one-shot comic spin-off from the novel, featuring my favourite of its characters - the Reverend. More on this as the project develops.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

That Scary Mind of Yours...

It was Nic's suggestion that we ask Marvel artist, Laurence Campbell, to write a brief foreword for Slaughterman's Creed. Laurence's work on Punisher Max was, for my money, the best that title and character ever looked, with a powerful noir aesthetic and distinctive widescreen approach. Considering the tone of Slaughterman's Creed, Laurence seemed like an ideal candidate - so the fact that he agreed to read the book and, having done so, to write the foreword was deeply cool.

As for what he had to say:

I fear Cy Dethan, the writer, may be a lost cause.

It’s Stephen Downey, the artist, who I feel so sorry for. This may be because, being an artist myself, I know what he’s going through. You see, people are going to read Slaughterman’s Creed and will be going to the artist saying, “How do you come up with this dark stuff? What goes on in that scary mind of yours?”

And Stephen Downey will say, “It’s not my fault - it’s the writer, Cy Dethan. He put it in the script.”

Stephen Downey should have known better. The signs were there when they worked together on the successful Cancertown. Saying, “I just pulled the trigger. It was Cy who gave me the gun and told me what to do” is no defence.

I was lucky enough to be sent a preview copy of Slaughterman’s Creed to review. My plan was to read it over a couple of days, as I was busy with deadlines at the time.

I read it in one sitting.

This is a tough read. There, you’ve been warned. There is no holding back. No copping out. Cy and Stephen Downey deliver.

What you will find is a nasty, dark tale which cuts into the underbelly of gangland London. Think The Long Good Friday meets No Country for Old Men.

Cy Dethan pushes the boundaries. No, not pushes them - casually disregards them and walks right over them.

Stephen Downey and Andy Brown add flesh to the bones. Not holding back, confronting the story head-on. It’s easy in these situations to make the artwork a gorefest, but they balance horror and tension perfectly. Then Vicky Stonebridge and Nic Wilkinson add the final garnish to complete.

I’m still unsure I want to know where Cy Dethan came up with this little number. All I know is I’ll be keeping a closer eye on him and Stephen Downey - and so should you.

Laurence Campbell
Marvel artist: Punisher Max, Wolverine, Moon Knight.

I would describe myself as happy about this.

Slaughterman's Creed is, as you may have heard, available for preorder now. Markosia will also be accepting preorders from their table at the upcoming Cardiff Comic Expo.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Aggressive Mutation: Graeme Howard Joins Cancertown 2

“Should’ve known better than to trust an angry, blinded monster with a spaz-hand and a grudge.”

Six months after the events of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth, Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Bugfuck is in a psychiatric hospital, sticky fingers picking through the darkest corners of the mind that brought Cancertown into existence. The crossing points between Morley’s two realities are wearing thin and all the rules are changing.

Vince Morley, a dangerously sick man, by Graeme Howard.
Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.

Of course, that's not all that's changing for volume 2. With the arrival of Cancertown: Blasphemous Tumours, the Cancer Cell has mutated to include a new artistic talent.

Introducing Graeme Howard...

Our old friend Mister Corpsegrinder, by Graeme Howard.
Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.

...or, more specifically, his first rendition of Cancertown Big Player, the Corpsegrinder. You'll be seeing more of him, as well as lots other old friends and new faces, as launch day approaches.

Graeme is currently turning in some excellent work on Dick Turpin for our friends over at Time Bomb Comics. Markosia Publisher, Harry Markos, said of him:

"I saw his portfolio and I just I thought - Cancertown 2! Not only his art, but also his timing, was pretty much perfect. He approached us through the website just as Stephen had confirmed that, having drawn 2 full length graphic novels (Cancertown and Slaughterman's Creed) in the past 2 years, and having a lot of projects currently in development, he would unfortunately not be able to draw Cancertown 2 this year."

Stephen Downey and Mel Cook have not shaken off the infection, though. It's not that easy to escape once you've fallen in! Both of them have been working with Graeme to try to make that first step over the crossing point as easy as possible.

Based on these first glimpses into what's become of the place, it looks like it's working:

Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.
Page one inks by Graeme Howard.

Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.
Page two inks by Graeme Howard.

Stephen Downey says:

"I can't wait to see Graeme's work on Cancertown: Blasphemous Tumours. His art fits Cy's script perfectly and I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of glorious monstrosity their team-up creates. Believe me, there are some crazy ideas in this book and I just hope Graeme can keep his sanity until the end."

“I got my hand bitten off trying to save the world’s biggest cunt from something worse than him. Don’t pretend you know anything about me.”

Within Cancertown, something new has appeared – a creature of horrific violence and limitless rage. The foundations are shaking and the old powers are falling, one by one. Papercut, deadliest of the Cancertown players, seeks out Morley to claim the favour he owes her – a favour that could cost him more than just his life.

Headrush, something worse than the world's biggest cunt, by Graeme Howard.
Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.

Seeing this, I honestly wondered if this time I had written a story I'd be too scared to read!

We can no longer protect you. Cancertown: Blasphemous Tumours is coming...

The remarkable metastasis of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth continues this week with news that the new hardcopy edition from Markosia is planned for release in June. This time, UK quarantine measures have been unable to contain the infection. Rest of the world - you have been warned!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Broadcast News...

Some of you may remember that around this time last year I was talking about starting to write the text for an art book by the mighty Henry Flint. It was due to be published by Insomnia, but then whatever happened happened, and we went hunting for a new home for the book.

We are now pleased to announce that the book will be published by Markosia later this year and will make its first convention appearance in October at BICS in the UK.

Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint will contain around 100 pieces of Henry's personal work, along with history, commentary and a look at Henry's artistic process. Broadcast will be Markosia's first art portfolio book, but when Harry Markos heard that it was looking for a new publisher he leapt at it, being a big fan of Henry's work himself.

Henry Flint, for the benefit of any non-comics readers, is responsible for some truly staggering artwork. He has amassed credits in books from Vertigo, DC, Wildstorm and Dark Horse - to say nothing of his truly epic body of 2000AD work. If you are a 2000AD reader you can't fail to have seen Henry's art, as it has graced the pages of not only the mighty Nemesis, but also Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors, among many others.

My job in all this will be to provide the text to go with the images, exploring the process from inspiration to final expression and doing my best to understand how a man with things like the image below in his head can somehow still function in an essentially rational world:

Henry said about the images:

"I think it's all due to health really, new family, stress, giving up smoking, losing weight. I happened to relax on a holiday to Butlins about 4 years ago and did the first of these drawings while watching TV (first drawing was the bike giant).

"Then it became a thing where I realized how much TV I was watching and decided to draw while watching TV so as not to feel I was wasting so much time. Then it became quite productive if a little compulsive."

I'll be working closely with Henry to write the text and translate this hallucinatory mix of the disarming and the disturbing for human readers. We hope to have some previews on show at the Bristol Comics Convention in May.

Speaking of Bristol, that will, of course, be the official launchpad of Slaughterman's Creed. Pre-orders are going strong, with 2/3rds of the limited edition already spoken for. If you want one, speak up now!

The book got a storming review on the Small Press Big Mouth podcast last week (episode 28), if you want to have a listen. In the episode they mention a free preview on my website, so feel free to take a look at that.

We're just starting to plan some post launch events, so keep an eye on the Slaughterman's Creed Facebook Group for the latest info.

In other news - and there's a lot of it to come in the next few weeks - Barry Nugent has just announced I am going to be working with him on a Fallen Heroes one-shot spin-off comic, delving into the murky history of The Reverend! More on that very soon...

...and I'm gone.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Because the Sound of my Own Voice Amuses Me...

Well, I've been sick for most of this week with a clenched-up throat that I at first mistakenly attributed to having just spent a week recording a commentary track for the upcoming PSP edition of Slaughterman's Creed. Seriously, last night it actually felt like my throat was trying to make a fist. I'm mostly better now, though. Thanks for asking.

I see that the interview I recorded with the increasingly awesome SFP-Now podcast has gone live on their site. I had a really good time on this show, as I have the last few times I've been asked on there (back when it ran as a live show on Blogtalkradio). I got to talk about Slaughterman's Creed and Cancertown, of course, but I also had an opportunity to rave on some of the books coming out that I'm excited to read myself.

So, to hear my thoughts on:

a) Why Martin Conaghan and Steve Penfold's comic adaptation of Barry Nugent's Fallen Heroes offers an ideal blueprint for indie creators

b) How Michael Moreci and Monty Borror's Quarantined restores life to an undead genre

c) What Simon Wyatt's intimate understanding of the power of mythology does to enrich his powerful storytelling in Unbelievable

The show ends with an interview with Martin Klebba, unquestionably one of the most flat-out cool actors ever to win a wrestling match with a Playboy Playmate. It's Klebbaring Time!

SFP-Now is a great show, and definitely worth catching. Feel free to listen in here.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Nic's Sticky Notes: Epileptic

Epileptic

Writer / Artist: David B




Epileptic was originally published as L'Ascension du Haut Mal by the French artist David B around 10 years ago. It was collected and translated into English fairly recently and I can’t believe it took so long.

It's an incredibly dark but moving memoir of David B.'s becoming a comics artist as a result of his need to escape into the violent fantasy worlds in his imagination in order to cope with the madness that surrounds him and his family in the real world.

His older brother is an unstable epileptic and the comic takes a painful look at the struggle his family go through in their desperation to find a cure. As his condition worsens they turn from doctors, to psychiatrists, to alternative medicine, esotericism and religion and every step they take extinguishes one more glimmer of hope.

To be honest I had never encountered a comic like this before. It seems to get pigeon-holed in the “indy auto biography” section, and while it is both from an independent publisher, and autobiographical, that isn’t really the right place for it at all. The main difference seems to me to be that while most books use a particular style of art as a deliberate choice to express a story, this book is by contrast a story to explain a style of art, the creation of an artist’s identity and how he reinvented his world as a way to “forge the weapons that will allow me to be more than a sick man’s brother.”

David B’s use of the comic medium as a tool for emotional manipulation is masterful. You find yourself not just “reading about” his life, but living it . This makes for a scary book, not least because it is intensely personal, uncomfortably so at times and you want to squirm away and not look at it anymore. This only makes you feel guilty, though, as one of the problems it discusses is precisely this kind of reaction from other people to the problems faced by the author and his family, and the directions in which that drives them.

In fact, overall making you feel guilty is what the book excels at – and what brings you into closer identification with the author. Sometimes you feel guilty for your anger, or your compassion, or your fascination – the book provokes an unease that whatever feeling you are having is “inappropriate” in some way. Much of the story is about what this means to a family, and in particular to David, and how he comes to terms with this and claims his life for himself.

The art is frightening and expressionistic, and very very powerful. It has a immediacy and psychological depth that is disconcerting, especially as it seems quite “childish” at first, and by the time you have noticed the darkness has gathered in from the edges it is too late to escape. I think this point came for me in a haunting panel a couple of chapters in, shot from way up high, where the family are tiny white figures against a black background, ringed by a procession of cavorting doctors that looks like they have paraded right out of a mediaeval “Danse Macabre”.

His brother’s condition is expressed as a long, sinuous dragon-like monster that winds everything in its coils, it is suffocating and oppressive and really gives the impression of there being no escape. The sheer “blackness” of some sections is slightly overwhelming, but I think that is the point.

The chaos of hope and despair in the life of the family bleeds into David’s mind as he retreats more and more into the world of his art – a place where he believes he is in control. Symbolism and reality merge into heart-breaking sequences of stylized, powerless rage – sometimes expresses as a desire to protect, sometimes to destroy and kill. The boundaries between the real and the imaginary start to blur at some points, and you get a very real sense of this being an actual danger lurking ominously at the edges of the story itself. David retreats into himself and comes to think of his drawing as a suit of armour that can seal him off and protect him from the pain he sees around him.

It is a rare comic where the author has manages to convey so much emotion and meaning through just the images, especially as they are so deceptively simple. As time goes the realisation of what he is losing, and what he never really had is stunning. It is a coming of age tale, but unlike other such stories there will probably be little to relate to, and no feelings of nostalgic recognition.

That is not to say the book is a “downer” - in fact there is something satisfyingly defiant and stubborn and life affirming about it in some ways. As David B can put fear and frustration directly onto a page he can do the same with triumph and glee – he was still a child, after all. But the fact remains that the message at the heart of the story seems to be that if you are have to have your own life you almost have to steal it for yourself, and in doing that it is impossible to avoid betrayal of one kind or another. It plays with and contrasts many different kinds of selfishness and possession and power dynamics expertly. Although this story is focussed through the lens of a particular family with a particular problem it will almost certainly throw a new light on your own past experiences and relationships.

I am very pleased to have discovered this book and highly recommend it.

However, you should not look to the book for greater understanding of the condition epilepsy – either medically or in terms of treatment/management etc.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Huge Nuge News (say it 3 times fast)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The First Issue of the Comic Adaptation of Genre Spanning Novel Fallen Heroes is set to Launch at the Cardiff International Comic Expo.

“It reads like a TV series, with cliff hangers at the end of most chapters, and larger than life characters with big egos and quick wits. The book as a whole draws on many popular culture references & influences, and is easily compared to ‘Sin City’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘Heroes’ or ‘Buffy’ – there really is something for everyone and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading or watching Sci-Fi/Fantasy.” – Waterstone’s

After selling out at several branches of Waterstones, becoming a bestselling title on Amazon and enjoying a growing cult status, the stylish supernatural thriller Fallen Heroes is now entering the realm of comics.

With a creative team consisting of Barry Nugent, Martin Conaghan, Steven Penfold and Gat Melyvn everything was in place to begun work on a comic adaptation of the novel.

When asked about taking on the adaptation Martin, who now works for the BBC had this to say.

“Fallen Heroes is jam-packed full of fantastic ideas and thrilling set-pieces. It has everything; a great blend of mythology, science-fiction, action and the supernatural – all told in a very visual style – it’s perfect for the graphic novel format.”

Soon after work began on the adaptation the team were shocked to learn that Insomnia Publications, who had licensed Fallen Heroes for a graphic novel, had ceased trading.

“It was a blow for everyone, not just us, but all the creators and staff involved with Insomnia,” explains Barry. “I don’t mind admitting that I thought that was it for the project.”

However the creative team decided that rather than quit they would continue on with the adaptation. Together they set about raising the money to produce the comic by selling advertising space in the first issue and taking donations. It was a gesture that did not go unnoticed by the creative team.

“It’s great to be part of an industry where people see folks in trouble and will do anything to help rather than see a project fail,” said Barry.

The limited edition 1st issue including art from DC, Marvel and 2000AD artists is set to launch at the Cardiff International Comic Expo on the 26th February.

To pre-order Fallen Heroes #1 please go to http://www.fallenheroescomic.com

For press information please contact fhcomic@hotmail.co.uk

About the Comic

A stalker of demons and legends, a pair of master criminals, a teenager on the brink of madness and a man forever cursed with the desire for vengeance. They are all pawns in a plan set in motion over nine centuries before their birth. Pursued across the globe by enemies both human and supernatural they must overcome their mistrust of each other and uncover the truth before it destroys them all.

Fallen Heroes is a dark urban fantasy that is a throwback to the pulp adventure stories of old but deals with the themes of betrayal, redemption, hope and sacrifice in a modern and contemporary setting.

google-site-verification: google0d3d5d05cce73118.html