Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Day with the Demon

I've hit the last three Demoncons in Maidstone, and each time I've had my expectations obliterated. With this in mind, I was beyond gutted to discover that I was going to be unable to attend due to engineering works on the lines between me and the venue.

However, timely intervention from the event's organiser, Graham Beadle, along with a truly heroic regular of his Grinning Demon store named Sean, scored us an unexpected and extremely welcome lift to and from the gig. Free creator's table plus door-to-door chauffeur service - how awesome is that? Completely fucking awesome is the answer.

Sandwiched between a diverse array of Dans (Thompson on one side and Boultwood on the other), Nic and I had a genuinely terrific day. Demoncon is a tightly focused one-day event with a strong following and a great atmosphere. The range of styles and diversity of creators on display equal any of the larger conventions I've been to, and we were again struck by the number of people who'd bought books at previous events who returned to see what else we had to show them, or who brought friends to recommend the things they'd bought previously. We were kept busy for pretty much the whole day and everyone we met was enthusiastic and open to new types of material.

It's great to see so many people I've got to know through the main UK convention circuit appearing at one-day events like this and taking them as seriously as they deserve. Orang Utan had an impressive stall, staffed by Ian Sharman, David Wynne and Holly Rose (whose first comic, Shrapnel, was on display at their table). Beyond the Bunker's Dan Thompson and Steve Penfold were selling their outstandingly surreal crime parody, Moon while Grant Perkins and Mark Laming were pretty much swamped with sketch requests all day, from what I saw.

Our day was made within minutes of the doors opening, when a lady with obviously impeccable taste walked straight in, straight up to the table, and said "I loved Cancertown, I'd like one of everything else you have!" Despite the best efforts of the universe to ruin things with the public transport meltdown and torrential conditions, the event was a fucking triumph!

So that's basically it - my Demoncon 4 experience in four hundred words or less. Thanks and congratulations go out to Graham Beadle for another brilliant day. Sign me the Hell up for the next one!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Stately Wayne's Manners

I've recorded several interviews with Wayne Hall, formerly of SciFi Pulse and currently with Comic Booked, and he's one of the most courteous and genuinely enthusiastic people I've met in comics podcasting. Naturally, when he asked if I'd like to appear on Wayne's Comics to talk about Cancertown 2 and a few other things I've got coming up I practically bit his hand off accepting.

We recorded last night, and the show's already up on the Comic Booked site. Help yourself!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Demoncon 4!

Just a quick heads-up, really. Nic and I'll have a table at the fourth Demoncon show this Sunday in Maidstone. We always have a great time at Demoncon, so we've been looking forward to this for a while.

Cancertown 2 colourist Peter Mason will be there too - the first time he's had a table of his own at a convention. Pete and I have a couple more projects in the pipeline already, so feel free to stop by and check out his artwork for an idea of what's to come from him.

Friday, 14 September 2012

"...Shocks or Scares or Delights You on Every Damned Page"

Well, the first reactions are coming in for Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours. Here's what the Geek Syndicate has to say on the matter in Dion Winton-Polak's detailed review.

COMIC REVIEW: Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours

Posted by Dion on September 13, 2012
Back in 2009 Cy Dethan gave us his debut graphic novel, the breath-takingly original Cancertown. He’s continued to forge his own path ever since, with gems like The Indifference Engine and Slaughterman’s Creed. Last year he managed to wring both our hearts and our necks with the emotional tale that was White Knuckle, and it became clear that a new master had arrived.

I’ve marvelled at each of these works, but Cancertown is the only one that cried out for a sequel. I loved the noirish tone, the wild imagination, the bat-shit crazy monsters and the sheer bad-assery of Vince Morley – a man who doesn’t give a damn about the horrors he’s facing, ’cause he thinks he’s dying anyway. I found it pretty confusing the first time round but then I was reading single issues on a tiny screen over a number of weeks. Collected in trade, it flows a lot smoother, the artwork is more appreciable and it ties up beautifully by the end. Although the central plot was wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion it always felt to me like there was more to be explored in this twisted world. Thankfully Cy felt the same way, so let’s take a look now at Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.

The story is an absolute cracker with an ending that had me applauding. Trouble is I can’t discuss it without major spoilers. Puts me in a bit of a tough position. Look, do you have any idea how rare it is to find a comic that is genuinely gripping? Oh, we all have plenty of characters and story arcs that we love but to find a comic that keeps you on your toes throughout; that shocks or scares or delights you on every damned page; that keeps your mind whizzing right up to the very end? Hell, that’s something to treasure! All I can tell you is this: something new has come to Cancertown. It’s big, it’s powerful and it’ll rip the world apart until it finds what it’s looking for. The Players hate Morley, but he may well be all that stands between them and annihilation. Each chapter has a great cliff-hanger and the peril just keeps escalating. The walls between the worlds are getting thinner, and time is running out rapidly. Destiny awaits, but how will Morley face it?

(Not got a clue what I’m talking about? Go and read the first volume, you numpty. Better yet, skip to the link at the bottom and order the double pack. Bargain price. Seriously. Right… Onwards!)

The first thing that jumps out is the shift in style between books. I found it slightly jarring at first, having re-read An Inconvenient Tooth in preparation. Let me explain why. The first book was revelatory in creature design and hugely impactful in its layouts. It had a sensibility familiar to readers of Clive Barker: more darkly fantastic than raw horror. Graeme Howard shakes things up a bit in Blasphemous Tumours, but once you get your head around it you’ll see how well it works. Where Stephen Downey’s imagery was cleanly drawn and beautifully rendered, his successor gives us something supremely demented; a messed up nightmare of torment and jagged edges. What Howard loses in detail, though, he makes up for with sheer atmosphere. His ‘camera’ angles are inventive and his horror is visceral. (Monsters aside, even Morley looks like a mess, but then again he probably should after what he’s been through.)

Never a classic hero, Morley retains a core of decency and makes for a very engaging anti-hero. Visually we see this most clearly in a pencil-only flashback, where he first meets the homeless girl he has come to know as ‘Bugfuck.’ The shapes are more rounded, the linework gentler and the features more sympathetic. It’s a comforting scene in a comforting style, and it is here that Howard’s artistic choices become apparent, through contrast. Back in volume one, Morley was all about self-control. Whilst normal life collapsed around him he was practically OCD when it came to Cancertown: always watching himself; stopping the chaos from claiming him and those around him. Now though, he’s stopped medicating. He’s losing that part of himself that wants to live in the ‘real’ world, and the farther Morley spins out of control the wilder the art-style becomes. Even the layouts have become more fragmented and crazed, doubling up on the nightmarish quality. We begin to experience the world in just the way that Morley does, and it blew my frickin’ mind.

Driving this home are the combined efforts of the colourist (newcomer, Peter Mason) and the letterer (returning wonder, Nic Wilkinson.) Mason uses an intense, warm palette that lends an Oz-like richness to Cancertown when slapped up against the cold urban sprawl that Morley calls home. Somehow it feels more real, more attractive, more addictive a location to be in. The vividness and the way the colours are just out of whack, lend the piece an almost sick urgency. Throw in the mind-quakes where image and the written word are shaken so much as to be nearly unreadable and you have a true vision of a world falling apart. The size, thickness and fonts of text are used effectively throughout to depict the emotions and personality of the characters, though none so strikingly as The Players. Each of these god-like beings have a dedicated font which somehow manages to translate into a specific vocal style in the mind of the reader – thanks to the unique design work. I have never seen the art of the letterer used as intelligently before; adding so much to the overall piece without becoming intrusive or gimmicky.

So what have we got overall? Cancertown is not a nice place, I’ll grant you that. In fact, it’s a bloody nightmare – darker than night-soil and twice as nasty – but at the same time I find it utterly fascinating. It’s a grotesque creation where everything seems to be alive. We get the sense that a dream logic holds the place together, yet the individual rules escape us. Like any structure of the mind we are simply convinced of its reality. The creators have a story to tell and they don’t back away from it for a second. The horror is brutal and there is some seriously disturbing imagery along the way. The villain ‘Headrush’ seriously ramps up the menace. The speed, the ferocity and the magnitude of his attacks are shocking. The full-page spread of him charging straight towards you is quite frankly terrifying! At the same time, Dethan and co construct meaningful and layered relationships between the human characters, painting them in shades of sorrow. It’s a strong team dynamic and they make great use of the comic medium, adding depth to their narrative in ways that simply could not be achieved in any other art-form.

I doff my hat to them all. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

Reviewer: Dion Winton-Polak

You can pop on over to Cy’s blog for more information about this (and the other books mentioned), read a free preview of Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours and grab yourself a fantastic pre-order deal.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Secret Agent Man

Well, having decided earlier this year to try to take my comics career at least half-seriously, it was only a matter of time before I had to take steps to make other people take it seriously.

With that in mind, I can formally announce that I'm now represented on a non-exclusive basis by the Scar Creative Agency for professional work within the comics industry. You can check out my writer's page here.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

"Now Where the Hell Was I?"

I'm having sort of a hard time believing that it's all over. Cancertown has been part of my life for so long now that it's difficult to process the fact that, as far as I can tell, it's finally done with me.

An Inconvenient Tooth was my first creator-owned book, and it came about at precisely the moment that something very important shifted in the way indie and small press books looked, and were looked at, on the UK convention circuit. Backed by what was at the time a blisteringly energetic, ambitiously innovative and fundamentally doomed publisher, and featuring a stunning endorsement from one of the true gods of the medium, we found ourselves with a launch profile far beyond anything we had any right to expect. Pretty much everything that's happened to me in comics since 2009 has happened because of Cancertown, which is why it feels so much like leaving home now.

With the first advance review copies out and Blasphemous Tumours now just inches away from its November launch date, it's all gone eerily quiet in the part of my head where Cancertown has squatted for the last several years. Something in there is holding its breath, and I've no idea what's going to happen when that pressure is finally released and Blasphemous Tumours explodes out into the world.
It's going to be lonely in here for a while, with Cancertown gone, but I welcome the silence. More than anything, I shudder to think what's going to slouch in to fill that hollow space when Vince Morley and his family of beautiful monsters are finally out there for good.

Thanks to Stephen Downey, Mel Cook, Nic Wilkinson, Graeme Howard, Peter Mason and Harry Markos. It's been beyond emotional.

See you on the other side...

Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours is available for pre-order now.
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