Friday, 28 October 2011

The Glory That Was Geek Syndicate

The 29th of October 2011 will be a sad and momentous day in the world of indie comics. It will be the end of an era. It will be the day that the ninjas get their geek on for the very last time - the end coming, as it does to so many great things, with whisky and shouting in a hotel in Docklands surrounded by Stormtroopers.

So, before they record their final outing as the Geek Syndicate, we wanted to take the opportunity to say a few words...

This is Nic, writing this up on behalf of us both. Is this thing on?

We first met the GS boys at BICS 2006 - which is very near the beginning, but actually not the beginning of the story. For that, we have to go back to the times of ignorance, to before The Geek Syndicate came to be.

We first went to a UK comic convention around the turn of the century (I love writing that), well before either of us were involved on the creative side of comics at all - although Cy knew he would like to be but we were not exactly sure how you went about breaking out of the corporate chrysalis and emerging as a beautiful, freelance, creative butterfly just then. It was a pleasant enough event, and we had fun and all, but apart from a handful of panels it was basically just like the monthly comics markets we went to in a local hotel to pick up our pull list from the stall of our (no longer L)CS and rummage through back issues and assorted delights from the many dealers there. So, it was a good weekend and people were all friendly, but we did not return for a good few years.

Fast forward to May 2006. By this time Cy, always the trailblazer, had already discovered podcasts - with The Geek Syndicate being the first British one he ever listened to, having heard about it on Comic Geek Speak.

We had been doing the Starship Troopers: Extinction Protocol strip for Mongoose Publishing for a few months by this time, having sneaked into the industry via the secret underground passages, and we had felt the walls of that chrysalis starting to give a little as we started thinking about the possibilities of creator-owned books. So, we decided to scope out the convention scene again and to gather intelligence ready to prepare our masterplan.

Suddenly, we heard some voices that we had only heard coming out of a computer before - it was Dave and Barry - and they were real! I was a bit nervous to talk to them at first, but Cy was bold enough to go up and say hello while I hovered shyly behind him.

Six months later at Bristol 2007 (what we like to think of as The Con Of Destiny where Cy scored his Markosia Starship Troopers gig and had Cancertown accepted on the same day), the con scene had changed dramatically, it seemed. True, there was a certain buzz in the air at BICS that year with many more indie publishers and individual creators having tables and much more of a social feel - but this felt like a whole different thing from the earlier con we had visited.

So, here's the thing - we put this change down, primarily, to the existence of the Geek Syndicate - and the rag-tag fugitive fleet of misfits that made up what became an incredibly strong community of creators, readers, podcasters, ninjas and... well, you name it, centred around them. Suddenly, there was a place to connect with each other and make stuff happen - and a brave new world was born.

At Bristol 2007 we had an awkward moment with Barry on a zebra crossing! We saw him across the road and after a bit of "is that him?" frantic whispering between ourselves, Cy yelled "Barry!" He looked up, suitably startled with a "I think I might sort of recognise you, but I'm not 100% sure, please don't be muggers..." kind of an expression, smiled and said "Hi...umm....". It was okay, though. We were out of costume, or at least context, and when he saw us in the bar later on the confusion was all resolved faster than you say say "Whitehall farce". We still maintain that if we had shouted "throw me the idol..." instead of his name then he would have reacted better.

Soon after that, the GS reviewed the first issue of Cy's Starship Troopers: Bad Blood arc (freaturingthe now-infamous Vanauken line, "Shame me, and I will piss bullets down your throat until you are very, very, sorry."). Listening to the review of that, I have never before been so scared that two people would actually die of giggling whilst on air! They always recognised us after that, though!

The support that the GS have shown to us, to other creators, to the many fledgling podcasters they Geek Syndicated and to the whole world of Geekdom has been nothing short of astonishing - and for that, and for all the good friends we wouldn't have otherwise made, we cannot thank you enough.

Both of their worlds have changed, as much as they changed ours, in the past 5 years with Dave now a husband and father and Barry a transmedia mastermind and best-selling author, with whom we are more than delighted to be working.

So, if we should see a man who looks like Barry, but wearing a long leather coat with a broken sword, a haunted expression and a stylishly scruffy beard we will be sure to heed any messages he brings us from the future.

Yes, that was our favourite GS thing ever, since you ask.

Best of luck to you both, wherever your futures take you.

With that, a cold Easterly wind started to blow and the Geek Syndicate knew that the time when the walls between the worlds are thin was fast approaching. Their work here was all but done and it was time for them to return whence they came and help all the other girls and boys...

Seriously, guys, thanks for everything. You changed the face of the UK comics scene completely. If not for you, lots of us would not be here now, and here wouldn't be where it is. :)

We'll keep watching the skies and listening out for your call across the wasteland in the hope that you may someday return to us and show us the way to the promised land.

Until then, Geek Syndicate: we out... :)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Demoncon2: 6th November

Just a quick heads-up: the formidable Nic Wilkinson and I'll have a table at this year's Demoncon in Maidstone. This is a new event to us, and its deeply cool to have things like this happening locally so we're both looking forward to seeing what it's all about. More details as we get them.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Scratching an Itch Part #1: Cancertown Commentaries

It's always sort of nagged at me that the people who bought the original Insomnia Publications release of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth from the Sony PSP store, and who were therefore fundamentally responsible for the way-out-of-proportion success the book had on that platform, got sort of left out when it was re-released under the Markosia banner. For the Markosia edition, Stephen Downey and I were able to record creator commentary tracks that played while the book was being read. It was a really good system, and it stuck in my throat a bit that the original supporters of the comic missed out.

So, just recently, I was organising some shit on my computer and realised I still had the audio files we submitted to Sony. I've been pooling opinions on the best way to get these out there, but for the moment I reckon the path of least fucking-about is to stick the commentaries up on a public Dropbox and invite anyone with any version of the book (digital or physical) to download them for nothing. I'll start with the ones I recorded myself, as I'll need to double-check with Stephen which page each of his clips refers to.

I basically just recorded one clip for each page of the book, so it ought to be pretty easy to work out how it all fits together.

If anyone's interested, the first set of files are here, with more to follow as I locate, organise and upload them:

Cancertown Commentary Chapter 1 (21Mb mp3 zip)
Cancertown Commentary Chapter 2 (25Mb mp3 zip)
Cancertown Commentary Chapter 3 (23Mb mp3 zip)
Cancertown Commentary Chapter 4 (22Mb mp3 zip)
Cancertown Commentary Chapter 5 (24Mb mp3 zip)
Cancertown Commentary Chapter 6 (21Mb mp3 zip)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Speaking of Rob Carey...

Rob Carey first blipped up on my radar when Nic Wilkinson, then with Insomnia Publications, picked him to draw The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel. Now signed to the rather less apocalypse-prone Markosia Enterprises, The Indifference Engine rocked the PSP download charts and is about to have its print release. Rob and I are already talking about a second volume, and things are looking interesting.

So the reason I bring this up now is that it turns out Rob's been nominated in the category of Best Mainstream Published Irish Talent in the ICN awards. This is fantastic news and anyone with an opinion concerning the future of comics would be well advised to go to the page and cast a vote or two. Congratulations to Rob, and best of luck for a strong showing.

Rob and I, of course, are technically launching two books at Thought Bubble next month, as he's drawn Dan Thompson's Band of Butchers story for the Tales of the Fallen anthology. That collection is available for pre-order now, and full details can be found on the Unseen Shadows website.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Panel to Panel

So, the official programme of events for this year's Thought Bubble convention in Leeds has been posted and there are a couple of items that are particularly relevant to my interests. Firstly, we've got Nic Wilkinson (my most frequent collaborator and single greatest human I've ever known) taking the stage with Jim Campbell to give an insight into the technique and thinking that goes into their lettering work. Here's the run-down from the Thought Bubble site.

Saturday 19th of November, 13:20 – 14:10, Alea Cinema Room, 18+


Part of the WAW+P Independent Publishing Forum hosted by the Thought Bubble Writer in Residence Matt Sheret.

Nic Wilkinson and Jim Campbell take us through the art of lettering – getting your dialogue onto the page in the best way possible! An often overlooked aspect of comic making; this exploration will include a talk on the theory behind the practice, and a Q&A session.

With the exception of my Markosia Starship Troopers issues, Nic has lettered basically every comic I've ever written, so I've been getting a ring-side view of her process for literally years and I still get blown away by the subtle-yet-irresistible way she leads the reader's eye around the page.

The other thing is that there's an Unseen Shadows panel on the Sunday, where veteran podcaster Barry "Bullwhip" Nugent will be talking about the way his Fallen Heroes novel has exploded into a much larger (and still expanding) universe of comics, audio dramas and more.

Sunday 20th of November, 12:00 – 12:45, Alea Cinema Room, 18+

Meet The Team That Expanded The Universe. Learn how the self-published cult hit novel Fallen Heroes became the epicentre of one of the biggest transmedia experiments in the UK indie arts world comprising comics, prose, audio, live action and including trailblazing talent from all creative fields.

The final line-up for the panel isn't confirmed as of this writing, but if I get the call I'll be there to talk about The Reverend: Wrath of God, my contribution to the Unseen Shadows world.

Update: I've now received confirmation that I'll be on the Unseen Shadows panel. Seriously looking forward to this, as I had a great time on the story.
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