Friday, 20 December 2013

Obligatory Favourite Things of 2013 List

As is traditional at this time of year, here are our lists of our favourite things from 2013.

Films

  1. World's End
  2. Django Unchained
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  4. Machete Kills
  5. Now You See Me
Honourable Mentions: Despicable Me 2, Pacific Rim, Elysium

Most Contested: Only God Forgives (Favourites for Nic, Most Disappointing for Cy)

The Prometheus Award For Most Disappointing Since Prometheus: Diehard 5

Comics

  1. The Hive (Charles Burns)
  2. Porcelain (Benjamin Read, Christian Wildgoose)
  3. Powers Bureau (Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming.)
  4. Bodie Troll (Jay Fosgitt)
  5. Chew (John Layman and Rob Guillory)
Honourable Mentions: Blacksad, Locke and Key (only read one issue so far, but it looks like it would have made the list), Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes, Butterfly Gate

Most anticipated for 2014: Briar (Benjamin Read, Christian Wildgoose)

TV
  1. Breaking Bad
  2. Hannibal
  3. Venture Brothers
  4. Sons Of Anarchy
  5. Archer
Nic was also introduced to Max Headroom by Cy, to her delight, and older series we watched and deserve honourable mentions are Deadwood and Logan's Run.

Fiction  (May not have been written this year, but read this year!)
  1. The Fall Of Arthur (Christopher Tolkien)
  2. New Finnish Grammar (Diego Marani)
  3. The Hurricane Party (Klas Östergren, Tiina Nunnally)
  4. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
  5. Some Kind Of Fairy Tale (Graham Joyce)
The Fall Of Arthur is a poem, well, a book about a poem, really, but it is still the best book Nic read this year so is going on the list.

Also deserving of a mention is Nic's discovery of the poetry of Mike Allen and Neile Graham via the quarterly Goblin Fruit anthology.

Games
  1. The Last Of Us
  2. Tomb Raider
  3. Bioshock Infinite
  4. Batman: Arkham Origins
  5. Resogun
Honourable Mentions: Contrast

Non-Computer Games deserving of a mention: Mice And Mystics (Plaid Hat)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Moment's Quiet Reflection...


...aaaand BOOM!

What you're currently sucking into your eye-holes is Pete Mason's frankly glorious cover image from The Company of Killers. I'm grinning. Can you tell I'm grinning?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wrath of God Comes to ComiXology


Unseen Shadows brings you the Reverend’s stand-alone graphic novel, Wrath of God on comiXology. Available for the first time online since its release, you can download it here.

About Wrath of God
The Reverend: a holy weapon forged in tragedy and flame - a murderous martyr whose cold judgement strikes with the force of a vengeful God. Despair, for the Reverend walks among you. He is the right hand of vengeance. He is Wrath.

From the twisted brain of Cy Dethan comes this 22-page story following Fallen Heroes favourite The Reverend - a cold-blooded and ruthless killer hell-bent on a path of righteousness and destruction.


 
Published by: Barry Nugent
Written by: Cy Dethan
Art by: Steve Penfold
Coloured by: Gat Melvyn
Lettered by: Nic Wilkinson 
Edited by: Barry Nugent
Price: $0.99 / £0.69

Review copies of Wrath of God are also available. If you need any further information or want to request a review copy, contact Press Manager Sara Westrop on sara.westrop@unseenshadows.com.

About Unseen Shadows
Unseen Shadows Ltd is dedicated to expanding the world and characters created in the bestselling novel Fallen Heroes through transmedia storytelling.

“These are not just little side stories with no impact on the events surrounding them,” Barry Nugent, the founder of Unseen Shadows explains. “The spin-offs develop and enhance the characters’ lives and relationships within the novels. It was important to me that they can be read, watched and listened to independently of each other and the novels, but you will get more insights into the characters by experiencing everything the Unseen Shadows universe has to offer.”

Resources:
Website www.unseenshadows.com
Previews www.unseenshadows.com/previews


Monday, 25 November 2013

Nic's Sticky Notes:There And Back Again...Or Thought Bubble 2013

So it was that we found ourselves running out of our door, waving our Thought Bubble booking and without so much as a pocket handkerchief, shouting, "We're going on an adventure!".

And make no mistake, Thought Bubble is always an adventure. As usual, Cy has so much following up to do when we get back, that I am writing the blog.

We departed The Shire, well, Kent, on the morning of Friday the 22nd November. I had double checked that I had remembered the table cloth. Forgetting it always haunts me, pre-convention. 4 hours later we found ourselves on the doorstep of the Holiday Inn in the Dwarven Kingdom of the North.

Actually, before we had taken even 2 steps from the train we were hailed by a cheerfully familiar voice crying, "Happy New Year!" Hundreds of miles from home and who should we find, but Yoms (of the Clockwork Watch), who we hadn't seen since last year (see, it makes sense) and his adventures at SDCC. Things like this are just one of the reasons that Thought Bubble is brilliant.

So, given the very small number of hours of sleep I have had over the past 4 days, let's try and remember the highlights.

Our table looked like this:


For the first time ever we did not run into Steve and Suzanne Tanner of Timebomb Comics in the hotel reception, but our sense of balance was restored when we found that our table was next to theirs. Even if you don't know Steve, you will have seen his jackets lighting up the convention floor, and this year he had a beautiful gold and black velvet frock coat. I persuaded him to let me try it on. Sadly, he managed to get it back before I could get it out the door.

 


Timebomb have always done great books, and if you don't know their stuff then you need to get over to their website and have a look. We were privilieged to hear about some books in progress and see some previews of upcoming projects. Longships is a beautiful, fully painted and deeply emotional story. Steve told me it is the first comic work from both creators, which makes it even more amazing. Defiant (by Andy Winter) is a comic based around The Battle of Maldon. This is one of my favourite poems, and I cannot wait to get my hands on both of these.

Sasha, Steve and Suzanne's daughter, has been coming to cons ever since she was only a few months old. This year she was practically running the table. Here she is sketching for the public.

While that's all cute and lovely it does actually lead into an important point about Thought Bubble in the light of a lot of recent discussion about certain aspects what is acceptable con behaviour, inclusivity, diversity, etc. We are actually seeing a new generation of con goers who have been brought up at the tables, who have been taken along and involved by their parents from an early age. These kids are our hope for the future. Conventions will be just be second nature to them. There will be no worry about "who belongs here".

Thought Bubble is showing the way into this brave new world with visitors from babes in arms to pensioners, all fully involved, all excited to be there, all sharing what they love. It just makes you happy in your face.

On the other side of us we had Stephen Downey and Lighting Strike. This created some sort of nexus of incredible Irish talent and we made a lot of new artist friends. Rob Carey was also back and forth a lot, so it was something of a reunion.






Art by Kev Crossley © Markosia
We caught up with Harry Markos, on the Markosia stand, right away and admired his lovely new hardback range, including Luna 1947, Crowley: Wandering The Waste and Pirates of The Lost World (more on that later).

We picked up our copies of The British Showcase, which looks great and is full of British talent. Adam Cheal, the editor, did a wonderful job putting it all together as editor, and Ian Sharman, as ever, made it look beautiful. You can pick it up in print from Markosia, or on Comixology.











Art by Scott James © Markosia
We also met Toby Short in person at last, and got our first look at Cy's new book The Case Files of Harlan Falk (art by Scott James and Alex Johns) in physical form before it went on sale.

A quick look it was, too, as the books flew off the table in record time. We had to restock from the publisher twice over the weekend!









Art by Paul Cartright © Markosia
We had a preview of Indifference Engine 2 chapter one on the table. This is the first time Russ Leach's gorgeous art on the book had been really on show, and it was really exciting to hear how many people enjoyed the first book and are looking forward to the sequel. They all loved what they could see so far.

Saturday was Cy's birthday and we had already got up super early so he could have the presents that I smuggled up. As it turns out, having a birthday at a convention is brilliant!








Cards arrived at the table from Conor and Lizzie Boyle and Stacey Whittle (although to my immense regret I did not see her all weekend, in the mad rush), donuts from GM Jordan and pages of original art from the shockingly talented Row Bird (from Gateway Drugs), Steve Penfold (from The Wrath Of God) and Stephen Downey (an original piece with headshots of characters from all the stories he has worked on with Cy), not to mention loads of birthday wishes and love.

Original Art from Gateway Drugs (Row Bird), Wrath of God (Steve Penfold) and Character Study (Stephen Downey)

© Improper Books
My primary objective at the con was to make sure I got a copy of the preview of Briar being handed out by Improper Books. Cy went and snaffled one up before the con even started, and I could not believe that they also sent him back with a copy of Butterfly Gate (written by Benjamin Read, art by Christian Wildgoose). I have just read it and it's an amazing piece of work. A totally "silent" comic...but don't let that fool you. You can hear the music perfectly well. It's dark, lyrical and extremely unusual. Go and buy it now, and pick up their other book, Porcelain, while you're at it. Porcelain is our pick for "comic of the year" by a mile.

It was lovely to hear all of the well deserved success of Improper Books. In fact the whole weekend was filled with people full of good news and great stories, whether that was positive portfolio reviews, pitches, new projects, different media and collaborations...just the buzz of ideas of flying around is dizzyingly infectious. Thought Bubble always feels like a celebration of everything we love about comics.

Especial congratulations to Tom Foster on winning the 2000AD art competition and Garen Ewing on his BCA success. If you haven't read the Rainbow Orchid series then go and get them, too. I'm full of good advice on what to buy today, aren't I?

On Saturday I was assumed to be Heather Shepherd, but I was only looking after Teaceratops for her, safe on my t-shirt. Teaceratops is her Twitter avatar, so it's and understandable mistake. Really, though, she doesn't have a crest, or horns and you can buy all her delightful creations in her online shop. And if you haven't read her comic, Sunrise, then that's another one to add to that list I know you're making while reading my recommendations here.

I've been waiting for a while to pick up Pirates Of The Lost World by Richmond Clements and Conor Boyle, and got my hands on the hardback this weekend. Conor drew me a triceratops in it... using a dinosaur pen! This made me very happy.

Art by Conor boyle © Markosia
 


As always, we got the chance to meet up with collaborators and make mad plans. We made some of particularly mad brilliance with Row Bird. We had a great time with Row and Caz, and huge thanks to them for offering a lift to the station on the way home. The question is only whether or not we will awake something down there in the darkness...

More Unseen Shadows were cast in whispered conversations between Cy and Barry Nugent. Plans are afoot for several things and somehow Jason Prosser is to blame! It was also time to reveal that Sara Westrop and I are really THE SHADOW HOUNDS... but we have already said too much!

Art by Steve Penfold  ©Unseen Shadows
The divine ultraviolence, lovingly drawn by Steve Penfold was on the table in the Blood Cries Out preview. This is the first graphic novel in the Unseen Shadows project and should be out next year. People responded well to the blood and broken glass and screaming angels and babies sleeping peacefully in the nursery.

Wrath of God (Cy Dethan, Steve Penfold, Gat Melvyn, Nic Wilkinson), the first comics outing for The Reverend, will be available from Comixology from 27th November.

On Sunday morning I got stabbed with a spear and wielded a giant axe before the convention had even opened, when we met John Bliss of the Teutonian LARP group, after I admired the Elendil helmet on his table.



At various points during the weekend an angelic little face appeared through the gap in our banners. Do not be fooled, though, it was Philip Buchan, and he was clutching comics full of unspeakable things in his paws! He gave us Blackout 2. We will prepare ourselves!

Having chatted to Alistair Stuart on Twitter over the last year, it was good to finally meet him in person and find that he was also having a wonderful time.

It's always lovely to meet everyone, but particular mention must go to being suddenly terrified by an excitable Jennie Gyllblad in the queue for tea, looking ravishing as always in her beautiful costume, and to talking with Nick and Jane of MOMBcast which I always enjoy, getting into the intricacies of X-Wing with Ant and Amy McGarry-Thicket, catching up with Scott Grandison after more than a year, and our first visitor, Paul Richardson who was there at first light, ready for a pack howl.

It was so busy that we didn't get to leave the table basically at all, other than to restock on books or tea, so there were a lot of people we didn't catch up with, or managed a fleeting wave, a word and backward glance only. Sorry to Dani Abrams, Mike Garley, Martin Simmonds, Serena Obhrai...and many, many more.

Sunday night with Dion Winton-Polack, Graeme Howard, Row Bird, Caz Benner, Lizzie Boyle and Conor Boyle was...well, I guess you just had to be there. Richmond Clements was sadly missed, but we were able to channel his spiritual presence through the special words he taught us when he walked amongst us in years past. We shall go forth and spread his good word as we walk the earth...but avoiding Lewes at all costs!

Thanks to all the Thought Bubble organisers and crew, and to everyone who was interested in our books and wanted to chat, you make our weekend.

Same time next year, eh?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Nic's Sticky Notes: What's Bubbling Up For Thought Bubble 2013?

Thought Bubble 2013 is nearly upon us!



With only days of frantic packing and printing to go (Cy is printing previews as we speak) it's time to let you know how to find our table, and what you will find on it.

Where we are:

We are Table 121 in New Dock Hall, and very easy to locate. Just follow the red arrow!



We are in between Stephen Downey and Time Bomb comics, so lots of goodness to see in that neck of the woods.

What's On The Table. 

 

Previews.

 

Thought Bubble is always a great time to get a look at what's in progress for next year and this time round you'll be able to see "work in progress" first issues of:

The Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow.

 

Alan Blake, former mid-level programmer turned invulnerable murder machine, slaughters his way through a web of interconnected parallel realities. Blackmailed by an insane computer built out of his own brain matter, he is forced into destroying every single alternate version of himself - until one of his targets unwittingly presents a possible way out. It's his only chance of freedom, and all it will cost him is the future.

Script: Cy Dethan
Pencils: Russ Leach
Colours: Mike Summers
Letters: Nic Wilkinson

The book will be out through Markosia in 2014.

 The Reverend: Blood Cries Out

 

 Reverend Jonathan Bishop is a weapon forged by fate and the cruelties of men, his life an endless crusade waged in shadow and blood. He is a one-man holy war, but he is not the first product of the machinery that created him.

When the twisted Broken Heart cult seeks to conjure and enslave a force they are ill-equipped to control, Bishop must face a custom-built killer who knows him as only a brother can. The Reverend has finally met his equal in battle, and faith alone may no longer sustain him.

This is the first full length graphic novel from Barry Nugent's Unseen Shadows universe, and the second story to feature the biblically inspired vengeance factory, Reverend Jonathan Bishop.

Script: Cy Dethan
Pencils: Steve Penfold
Colours: Gat Melvyn
Letters: Nic Wilkinson

New Books 

 

The Case Files Of Harlan Falk 

 

We will have a very limited number of The Case Files Of Harlan Falk ahead of its full launch on sale at the convention price of £10 (RRP £13.99).





A respected hostage negotiation expert loses his mind when a bizarre kidnapping case results in a child’s unexplained death. His wild talk of murderous monsters born from the victim’s own imagination is impossible to believe, and the catastrophe sees him driven out of business in a cycle of alcoholism, denial and despair. Several years later, when a new case arises bearing all the hallmarks of the same killers, Harlan Falk emerges from obscurity a changed man: a monster negotiator. Using resources and methods beyond the scope of conventional investigators, he sets out to finally close the case that cost him his career.


Writer: Cy Dethan
Art: Scott James / Alex Johns
Letters: Nic Wilkinson

Convention Special Offers

 

We will have the following books for sale at the convention price of £10 or 2 for £15.

If there's anything you want to pre-order, or if you can't go to the convention that you would like posted out to you, please get in touch and we can sort it out for you.


Cancertown Vol 1: An Inconvenient Tooth

Vince Morley is a man with big problems and a brain tumour like a baby’s fist, living with one foot in a monstrous alternate world he calls Cancertown. When the lost and dispossessed of London start tripping over the same cracks in reality he spends his life avoiding, Morley realises he must confront the residents of Cancertown – and risk finding his place among them.
 
Cancertown Vol 2: Blasphemous Tumours

Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. The crossing points between his realities wear thin as, in a psychiatric hospital, sticky fingers pick through the darkest corners of Bugfuck's broken mind. With the old powers falling to a new creature of horrific violence and limitless rage, the deadliest of the Cancertown Players returns to claim a favour from Morley that could cost him more than just his life.
The Indifference Engine 1: A Holographic Novel

Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, a distinctly ordinary twenty-something suburban slacker finds himself in the middle of an inter-dimensional task force staffed entirely by superhuman alternate versions of himself. Struggling to fit in, he uncovers a conspiracy that strikes at the very heart of the organisation – a conspiracy that only he can stop.

Slaughterman's Creed

Slaughterman’s Creed is a story of the fall and rise of monsters, where an ethical knife-edge is all that separates hero from villain. A human trafficker orders the death of a killer who refuses to breach his professional code. Twelve years later, the trafficker’s world erupts in blood and chaos. Barely surviving and crippled for life, the Slaughterman has returned to put the whole organisation to the blade.

White Knuckle 

Forty years ago, Seth Rigal was a man to be feared – a serial strangler with a string of victims. Now nearly seventy and tormented by a lifetime of monstrous violence, Rigal lives on the verge of poverty and quietly waits for the death he knows he deserves. Tortured and confused, still haunted by the drives that made him a killer in his youth, Rigal finds himself almost unconsciously stalking the daughter of his final victim – only to have his precious anonymity snatched from him when he accidentally saves her son’s life. Seth Rigal, formerly known as the Gripper, just became a local celebrity. The bodies won’t stay buried any longer. 
See you at the weekend!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

One-Man Army

Following up from last week's post, and as recently unveiled by artist Russ Leach, here are the rough pencils for the Indifference Engine 2 cover.
Russ is already a good chunk of the way through pencilling chapter 2 of this four-parter, and I've been amazed at the speed and quality of his work every step of the way.

Onward!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Engine Search

Okay, this is very early-stage, low-res stuff here, but Russ Leach's "rough pencils" (as he calls them) are so good that Nic couldn't resist lettering them up for a preview of Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow, currently in production at Markosia.

Indifference Engine 2 picks up some time after the first volume ends... aaand that's really all I want to spoil about it at this stage. We'll be bringing a more extensive preview (perhaps even the entire first chapter) to Thought Bubble this year, but for now here are the opening two pages so you can get a feel for it.

 

Incidentally, I'll be back with a giant-sized can of Russ Leach-flavoured beans to spill pretty soon. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Nic's Sticky Notes: Indifferences Of Style

Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow is underway, with gorgeous art flowing in from Russ Leach almost as fast as I can letter it.

I've been looking back over The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel for various bits and pieces and came across some old lettering files that I thought I'd share.

The Indifference Engine was one of the first books I lettered, and as with all things, there is quite a bit I would do differently now, but I thought I'd share something that I decided to do differently at the time, even though it meant going back and relettering a lot of pages.

Before you see it you need to know a bit about the book and the character of the Engine itself. I guess it's been out a while, so these are probably not spoilers, and I've not shown any pages with major plot points, but if you do want to read the book first, look away now!

Ok, then. The back cover blurb for book one says:

"Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, a distinctly ordinary twenty-something suburban slacker finds himself in the middle of an inter-dimensional task force staffed entirely by superhuman alternate versions of himself. Struggling to fit in, he uncovers a conspiracy that strikes at the very heart of the organisation – a conspiracy that only he can stop."

The Engine itself is a supercomputer and it communicates with Alan Blake, our hero, by means of a direct brain interface. Rob Carey did a fantastic job of translating visually what it felt like to be taken into a multi-dimensional consciousness that could only intersect with our own in a fragmented way due to the limits of our own consciousness and understanding of 3D space. Think of it like Flatland for thoughts!

When I came to letter it I thought of lots of interesting visual ways to try and get this sliced and sliding feel across. What I came up with was something like scrabble tiles, with the idea that the Engine was having to take little fragments that could be understood by Alan's human brain and push them around and piece them together to get a very simplified version of its thought across to him.

I had thought of "ransom note" style lettering first, but that did not seem regular and "computery" enough, and gave too much impression of threat and hostage taking which would not have been appropriate (not at that point in the story anyway).

I also thought that the slight hesitation and concentration it would force on the reader as they worked out how to read it would be a good kinesthetic/mimetic experience to bring them into closer identification with Alan's experience of talking to the Engine.

So what it looked like at first was this:

From Issue 2: The Engine meets Alan Blake.Pencils by Rob Carey, Colours by Mel Cook
But that didn't quite work. The white tiles easily got lost in the colour of the art and were hard to read. Also, there was nothing to indicate that the "sound" of the Engine's voice was somehow different to experiencing normal sound.

So I turned the tiles black with white text, like this:

From Issue 2: The Engine meets Alan Blake Pencils by Rob Carey, colours by Mel Cook .

 From Issue 3: The Engine Explains The Spectrum To Alan Blake,. Pencils by Rob Carey, colours by Mel Cook


Black was better, but even though the Engine speaks in a staccato fashion, lacking pronouns for the most part, using only the words it thinks are important, it was getting tricky to fit it in.

Reading order was also becoming an issue. Alan talks back to the Engine as well as it speaking, and in later pages he is able to communicate with it remotely, unheard by others, who may also be speaking to Alan and each other. It was important that core storytelling and rhythm were not becoming distorted for the sake of one visual gimmick.

Although I still like the concept, it just didn't work in practice because, whatever tricks you pull out of your bag as a letterer, they must always be in the service of readability first and foremost.

This is really the book where I learned a lot about the practical side of the differences in meaning you can bring to lettering with the use of space and  the shapes you are adding to the overall composition.

What I settled on was a more standard balloon shape with an "electronic blip" to it. Still white on black, but much more readable and that didn't have to try and fight the script and artwork for the sake of the idea.



I think it gave the Engine a different voice, less fractured but more intrusive in the way it speaks to Alan. The fracturing is all there in the art, so covering that information with a less effective version of the same thing was not good lettering.

As things turn out (no spoilers!) I think having some visual disconnect between what the Engine says, is seen to do, and how it feels to Alan got across something fundamental about the story and characters from the script that would have otherwise been lost if each layer was not operating distinctly but together. 

It also took a lot less time to letter! All those little boxes were fiendish! Each one had to be done by hand, and each letter put in separately. :)

If you haven't read The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel and would like to then you can buy it from our Comicsy shop, or from Comixology (as well as many other places).

We will also have copies on our table at Thought Bubble (we are on table 121 in New Dock Hall).

Also on our table we will have work-in-progress previews of Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow for you to see.

The backcover for volume 2 says:

"Alan Blake, former mid-level programmer turned invulnerable murder machine, slaughters his way through a web of interconnected parallel realities. Blackmailed by an insane computer built out of his own brain matter, he is forced into destroying every single alternate version of himself - until one of his targets unwittingly presents a possible way out. It's his only chance of freedom, and all it will cost him is the future."

The Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow will be out through Markosia in 2014


See you on the flip side!









Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The British Are Coming!

The British Showcase Anthology, masterminded by Adam Cheal and published by Markosia, is launching at Scardiff on the 27th of October. It weighs in at 144 pages, contains nineteen stories and features the work of over forty contributors - at least a dozen of whom will be signing the limited edition hardback release at the con.

My story, Gateway Drugs, has art by the ridiculously talented Row Bird and is coloured by my Cancertown 2 partner-in-crime, Pete Mason. It's lettered by the sharp-toothed Nic Wilkinson. Here's the blurb:

A domestic care worker is kidnapped by government agents in an apparent case of mistaken identity - but is the man he's tending his patient, his hostage or something else entirely?

Adam's done a stunning job putting this book together, offering support throughout the process and somehow juggling forty creators toward a single goal. I'm excited to read the thing myself.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Bone Idol (Or Why Artists Are All Sorcerers)

Working with artists is a consistently baffling experience for me. Here's a step-by-step example of a page from The Company of Killers artist, Pete Mason, in which he patiently walks me through his process. I imagine he intended it to be accessible to the life-long non-artist, demonstrating that the visual construction of a comics page is bound by rules and principles that can be grasped, learned and mastered:



When people ask me, as they occasionally do, why I write comics rather than novels, I tell them that there's still real mystery involved in the process for me. The script you turn out is only the skeleton of the story, and when you send it to the artist there's a process of interpretation going on that's (and I know I've said this before) as close to real magic as anything I can imagine. A workable definition for magic, in this context, might be the sensation provoked by the discrepancy between a perceived or expected state of affairs and their actual state, owing to obfuscation of the intermediary process. Pete's page here is a great example of that magic, because here's what I see when I try to interpret his sequence above:

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Scream Engine

The Indifference Engine was an important book for me. It was my first experience of pitching live to a publisher (screamed at the top of my lungs in a crowded convention hall), resulted in my first meeting with the phenomenal Rob Carey (at high velocity on a staircase at another convention) and was the first book I'd written that had for-real Hollywood agents actually tracking me down to ask about the movie rights.

Crucially, it was a lot of fun to write. The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel charts the evolution of a committed nobody from career doormat to one-man genocide. For me, it was an exercise in torturing something essentially harmless to see if I could train it to bite. Also, as I'm generally wary of stories that "go home" neatly at the end, it leaves its world and characters in a very different state from the way it found them. Reviews tended to comment as much on the sanity of the creative team as the story itself, which is always particularly gratifying to me.

Introducing Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow:

Alan Blake, former mid-level programmer turned invulnerable murder machine, slaughters his way through a web of interconnected parallel realities. Blackmailed by an insane computer built out of his own brain matter, he is forced into destroying every single alternate version of himself - until one of his targets unwittingly presents a possible way out. It's his only chance of freedom, and all it will cost him is the future.

Indifference Engine 2 is coming out through Markosia with script from me, art by Russ Leach, colours by Michael Summers and letters by Nic Wilkinson. More when I have it, including information on the creative team - but for now, here's a deeply cool test sketch from Russ to kick things off:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Demoncon 6 Report


Even with our current, pared down convention calendar, Nic and I always make time for Demoncon. Each event seems to be bigger and more ambitious than the last, and we always have a great time there. Demoncon 6, held this time around in the Royal Star Arcade in Maidstone, was no exception.

For those who don't know, Demoncon is a one-day event held twice a year by the Grinning Demon comic shop, and attracts an ever-increasing and impressively diverse crowd in terms of both visitors and exhibitors. Dan Abnett, Mark Laming and Dan Boultwood are among its regular guests, and every time I've attended I've come away with fascinating new creators and projects on my various radars.

This time around, my top new discovery was Mike Garley and Martin Simmonds' Eponymous, which they were kind enough to unexpectedly present me with toward the end of the day. Part cloak-and-dagger sci-fi, part vigilante action story, it's flat-out gorgeous to look at and features a lean, confident writing style that maintains the all-important information density without compromising your investment in the characters. To put it mildly, I'm impressed.

Ian Sharman of Markosia and Orang Utan Comics was showing off the gorgeous new hardback edition of Alpha Gods: Emergence. I've always been impressed with the production values of Stuart Gould's UK Comics, but this hardback knocked the wind right out of me when I saw it - and the fact that it's cheaper than many paperbacks of similar length makes it insanely good value.

Our stand was set up opposite the Panda Island Designs table, and Nic was instantly drawn to both their vast range of cakes and their comic-collage merchandise. Hands-down, they had the most visually striking table of the convention, and seemed to be getting a lot of interest throughout the day. I have no doubt they'll be scoring a ton of our money in the near future.

Special mention has to go to the local cosplaying community, who really went balls-out on this one. The 501st sent Troopers in Storm, Scout and Sand varieties, along with a Vader and Royal Guard. My personal favourite was Jodo Kast, who congratulated me on being the first person to correctly distinguish him from Boba Fett (thus proving my assertion that most so-called Star Wars fans are faker noobs). Other than the Star Wars crew, I have to mention the Weeping Angel, who deservingly won the cosplay competition with stunning attention to detail and a full-on commitment.

Demoncon 6 was also a good opportunity to catch up with the likes of Peter Mason, David Wynne and Yel Zamor. Yel shares my murderous distaste for superstition and pseudoscience, and so was as delighted as I was to find our tables parked directly outside a homeopathic "remedy" shop. I'm going to forego any further comment on that topic for now, but catch me in person some time and I'll gladly rant you to oblivion on the subject.

Anyway, that was my Demoncon 6 experience. I caught up with existing friends, made a couple of new ones and got caught severely off-guard by glorious new projects from both camps. There was a lot of interest in the Blood Cries Out preview we had on the table and, somewhere along the way, we sold a lot of books, which is always a nice bonus. If you're semi-local and haven't checked out a Demoncon event yet, they're highly recommended as either a visitor or exhibitor. We're already looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Badmouth Rising


Well, the official Demoncon 6 poster is out, and the eagle-eyed reader may spot a gatecrashing Cancertown resident lurking in the background.

If you recognise the art style above, award yourselves four points for identifying the distinctive linework of Wrath of God and Moon artist, Steve Penfold. Steve's currently working on the first full-length Unseen Shadows graphic novel, Blood Cries Out, with a script from me and colours by the stratospherically awesome Gat Melvyn. If you make it to Demoncon, swing by my table for a preview of the first chapter of that.

Onward!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Colouring of Killers

Time for some Company of Killers colours, courtesy of newly captured colourist, Darren Brown. I was introduced to Darren by the book's co-creator, Peter Mason, and if you've seen Pete's colouring work on Cancertown 2 then you can gauge the scale of the endorsement implied when he personally recommends someone to colour his art.

The Company of Killers is going to require two separate, entirely different colouring styles. I don't want to go into the specifics about that just yet, but I will say that I was pretty sceptical about the chances of finding a single colourist who'd be comfortable working that way.



Darren's spectacular run at the test pages seen here blew those doubts away at first glance, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how he and Pete navigate the largest, and arguably most artistically demanding, story I've ever written.

More on this book as and when I can talk about it.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Half-Dozen (or so) That Got Away: Part Two

The Ragged Man, a story I've written and been interviewed about a few times over the last couple of years, started out back in 2003 as my first attempt at writing a full-length graphic novel script. It was the product of (at the time) eight years of living in London and as much a personal exorcism for me as a straight-up comic story. Hell - it was virtually a suicide note for the person I'd been up to then and the first gasping breath of who I was after. I wasn't going to be the Cy Dethan who did card tricks for a living any longer, nor the guy who freelanced writing corporate copy. Well, actually, I was still going to be both of those things, but this script meant that whatever else I was doing to make money, I was now the Cy Dethan who wrote comics. Originating with what became known as the "Golden Square Monologue" (see pages 1 and 2, right), this script meant the world to me on those terms alone and, in its original form, I suspect it was virtually unreadable.

The artist attached was a friend, and also the tattooist responsible for fully 50% of my own ink and a sizeable chunk of Nic's. He eventually ran screaming from the project when his own life took a few weird turns, but by then things were already in motion on Starship Troopers and Cancertown so it made sense to focus on those for the time being.

After it became clear that Cancertown was going to be a thing, at least in terms of indie first-timers, The Ragged Man (in a much more coherent and structurally sound form) got picked up by the ill-fated Insomnia Publications. This version of the script was stronger, tighter and altogether more like something I'd want to be judged on. It was also notable at that time as the script I'd pitched to Markosia as "the book I'm not going to sell you". That's a long story in itself, though, and a little out of place here.

Weirdly enough, after Insomnia's ugly, drawn-out death, "the book I'm not going to sell you" was among those picked up by Markosia. The new art team was one I knew from Starship Troopers, so I thought I knew what to expect from them. I was very, very wrong. I honestly couldn't have imagined how good their work would turn out to be.

For the first time in years, The Ragged Man seemed to be a genuine publishing prospect, which actually made me nervous as Hell. It was still a very personal story to me, despite having all its worst and most self-indulgent excesses pared back. I was doing interviews on SciFi Pulse, I was showing artwork here and on my website -  and all the while I was waiting for the punchline...

...which eventually came in the form of a long conversation with the artist and colourist. They'd been offered a job that was, in all seriousness, too good to pass up, and it was going to take them away from all other work for the foreseeable future. The publisher and I agreed that this was something they absolutely needed to pursue, and said we'd wait as long as it took. In fact, the very idea of working with a new art team after seeing this take on the project was, and remains, frankly ridiculous.

That was how things stood some time in 2011, and that's how they stand now. The Ragged Man is still officially in production but any estimate I could give as to a publication date would be total fantasy. For that reason, I'm mentally listing it among the ones that got away.

In case any of the above sounds unnecessarily mournful, I should clarify that I have absolutely no regrets about anything that happened on this book. Well, the one exception might be the three seconds of my life I wasted considering the advice the first editor I ever showed the script to. I never delete work emails so I quote directly here, other than tidying up his spelling, punctuation and grammar (yes, all three):

"I understand that it's going against the whole image of the character, but more fashionable attire would help (in a grungy/trampy way). Think tramp-Matrix or tramp-Alien 3."

 That's the wind-up, and here's the pitch:

Alone and despised, the Ragged Man drags himself through life with the weight of murdered billions on his shoulders. He is hated by the world and everything in it, his body a prison to a race of monsters. With every skin cell he sheds, with every drop of blood, a tiny piece of their reality escapes into ours, and a tiny piece of our world ends.

Who do you think you are?
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