Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Convention Report: Thought Bubble 2014

Wow - pretty hard to believe that we almost skipped this one when it turned out that the Indifference Engine sequel wouldn't launch in time. Missing this year's Thought Bubble would have been a serious mistake on basically every level.

Right from the first hour, it was clear that there was a real energy to the convention this time, and the fact that we didn't have a new book to launch actually ended up giving us a lot more freedom to explore the three venues than we've had in recent years. When I started out doing UK cons, I was a blur throughout the whole weekend. As time went on and my catalogue of books stacked up, I found my horizons gradually drawing in to the point where I've barely been able to leave the table. Nic and I were determined not to let that happen this year, so we organised a tag team system that let us both prowl the floors in a flurry of catching up with old friends and furiously networking new ones. It looks like that's the format we're going to be pursuing from now on.

A major highlight this year was getting to watch Ollie Masters doing his first signing for his new Vertigo series, The Kitchen. Ollie's an old friend from the Insomnia days, and he posed for Stephen Downey as the body-double for the "Mr. Green" character in Slaughterman's Creed, so I've been enjoying watching his dazed, increasingly bewildered expression at being so violently catapulted into the spotlight. I scored a copy of The Kitchen #1 from him on the Saturday, and I have to say it takes me right back to the first days of Vertigo, when they were exploding out in all directions, creatively. Ollie's really onto something strong with this book and the fact that Vertigo saw that so clearly has actually ratcheted up my respect for them several notches as a publisher.

I picked up my copy of Cross from Lizzie and Conor Boyle at the Disconnected Press stand. This book was an amazing experience to work on, and Matt Timson's art on our story, Pulling the Plug, is breathtaking on the page. I grabbed a few extra copies to put on our table as well, because full-blooded satire is thin on the ground these days and that's actually a legitimate cause for concern.

Book sales in general were flat-out fucking scary from the start. We blew through our entire Cancertown vol. 2 and Harlan Falk stacks well before kick-out time on Saturday and, despite having brought literally double what we'd expected to need, we ran out of Cancertown vol. 1 the next day. More than anything, though, this year's Thought Bubble was about plugging back into the community and remembering why I signed up in the first place.

With that in mind, here's a partial run-down of the people who made it worth showing up, with immense apologies up-front to those I've inevitably missed:

Laurence Campbell: for continually proving that it's possible to be a major talent with mainstream recognition while remaining one of the nicest, most genuine people in the business.

Harry Markos: immortal, unstoppable - the indie publishing world's true Man of Steel.

Steve Tanner: indie Godfather of the UK scene and arguably the most energetic organism I know.

Sara Dunkerton: for this amazing cyberpunk/MULP commission...

Jennie Gyllblad: super-talented artist and probably the best dressed human ever.

Yomi Ayeni: amazing ideas man, writer and deliverer of the "double-fisting" joke that almost caused a catastrophic tea spillage.

Brett Uren: because catching up with the man behind Torsobear would have been worth the trip on its own.

Richmond Clements: a weapons-grade wit and among the most mercilessly hilarious people I've met.

P. M. Buchan: for making me look like the sane one with the family-friendly portfolio.

Valia Kapadai, Pavlos Pavlidis and Andreas Michaelides: three immensely talented storytellers I'm genuinely honoured to know.

Tim Pilcher: for tirelessly staffing the Humanoids stand all weekend and skilfully convincing Nic to let me buy her that glorious Barbarella hardback for our anniversary next month.

Eoin McAuley from Lightning Strike: for stopping by and getting me hyped up about potential projects.

Ben Read and Christian Wildgoose: because that new Porcelain teaser is a thing of heartbreaking beauty.

Nic Papaconstantinou: effortlessly likeable raconteur and self-confessed Ron Jeremy of comic book podcasting.

Jane from We Have Issues: whose last name has never been revealed to me, but who said very nice things about the Cancertown books.

Conor Boyle - getting another mention here for teaching me a trick that totally works to completely remove Snow's fuck-awful 1993 track "Informer" (I'll spare you the link) from my head.

Andy Bloor: for putting up with one of my more adrenal talk-bombs and still having the wherewithal to sell me a copy of his excellent Midnight Man (sadly, missed Mo Ali on the Saturday).

Roy Stewart: a man of few words and unbelievably expressive artwork. More from him as projects develop.

That Guy I Met Last Year: who came back to the table while I was away this time with a reminder that I'd promised an eventual Cancertown 3.

The entire crew of the now-traditional Post-Bubble Decompression Session, which this year consisted of Nic Wilkinson, Conor and Lizzie Boyle, Row Bird, Will Pickering, Valia Kapadai, Pavlos Pavlidis, Andreas Michaelides, and that guy named Duncan.

Wrapping it all up, I think it's done me a lot of good to reconnect. A few interesting possible projects cropped up, and I'll be talking more about those if, as and when they develop. For now, I've got a metric shit-tonne of following up to do, so I'd better get into it. Onward!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Get Cross!

A while back, I was approached by Disconnected Press about an anthology of satirical short comic stories they were putting together. I sat and thought about it for a while, and before long realised that there were things that I was angry enough to write about. Now that anthology, featuring three pages of heartfelt venom from legitimate artistic phenomenon Matt Timson and myself, is up on Kickstarter under the title "Cross".

The official page for the project does a superb job of explaining the concept and reasoning behind the book, and with a contributors list that includes Mary Talbot, Rob Williams and PJ Holden, it's definitely worth taking a look at.

Cross is Disconnected's most ambitious project to date, and serves as a timely reminder that satire still has purpose in a world where the predators it targets have forgotten that they ever used to fear it. Check out the page here.

Monday, 22 September 2014

How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics

I've been flat-out on non-comics work for the last month or so, but I'm breaking radio silence for a moment to bring you this important message...

I've met Dani Abram precisely one time for a grand total of less than sixty seconds (just after a talk by David Hine in Bristol), and my primary recollections of that sub-minute encounter are an impressive flurry of energy, an explosion of red hair and being introduced to a nearby, unsuspecting innocent as "Cy Dethan - Argh!"

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know her name already, Dani's a dangerously talented artist and animator whose professional work you've very probably seen in The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists (or The Pirates! Band of Misfits if you're in the US), where she did lip sync animation. She's also the artist of Razarhawk and has worked on The Pride Adventures, Bayou Arcana and a bunch of other cool stuff - including her own webcomic, Worry Wart, which is the reason I've gathered you all here today.

Dani was down to two copies of the collected Worry Wart on her Comicsy shop when I managed to score mine, selling through her entire inventory in a week. If you're the least bit plugged in, that ought to tell you something. Worry Wart isn't the most expensive book I've bought this year, nor is it the most aggressively promoted.

It is, however, almost certainly the most important.

Dani was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2009, working her way through a range of treatments and coping mechanisms and coming out stronger for the struggle. Worry Wart is less a roadmap of the journey she took than a series of snapshots of some of the landmarks, crossroads and dark, blind alleys she negotiated along the way. The book ranges from the fearlessly personal to the supremely practical. It's inspiring, eye-opening and, in places, legitimately heart-breaking.

Structurally, the book is sort of an illustrated diary, with text passages running alongside the artwork. Dani's art has the kind of raw emotional content that only a skilled cartoonist can manage, but there's nothing cynical or manipulative in the way it's delivered - just a painful honesty that drives the whole book.

Listen - I don't write a lot of reviews on this blog, so when I post one it's because I feel strongly about it. Worry Wart is important, so just fucking buy the thing, okay?

You can find Dani on Twitter and Facebook, and buy from her directly at her Comicsy shop.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Villain's Journey

Rounding off this series of Torsobear posts, here's an overview of the evolutionary process Peter Mason took our protagonist through as we kicked ideas back and forth between us.

Pete's initial take on Snaplok was pretty cutesy, but you can already see most of the character's key points in place. His horizontally hinged mouth, robotic appendages and peg leg are all there. However, I felt pretty strongly that he needed to have more weight and danger to him, as befits an 80s action figure.

With the main shape of Snaplok nailed down, Pete and I talked over some costume options. As Snaplok had traded in his old villain persona for the life of a private investigator, Pete was experimenting with a crumpled suit. It looked cool, but with only eight pages we needed to get as much information about the type of character he was across visually. Something wasn't quite "there" yet.

We shaved Snaplok's head to give him more of an aggressive look. Pete continued to experiment with the mechanism of his jaws, and we talked over some ideas about what we would see when he opened him. I wanted it to be visually interesting, but not too horrific to be believable as a toy. From this stage on, I was confident we had a legitimate badass on our hands.

At this point, we dropped the suit entirely in favour of more dynamic attire that emphasised Snaplok's tech-villain origins and brutish posture. At the same time, Pete tightened up the details of Snaplok's detachable limbs and gave him a heavier boot on his right foot.  We showed the concept to Torsobear editor Brett Uren for approval, and at his suggestion Pete reworked Snaplok's joints to make sure the toy as a whole looked solid and functional.

With the details all in place, Pete selected a suitably bold colour scheme and the job was essentially done! Brett has already floated the idea of more Torsobear comics featuring characters from the first volume, so watch this space for possible news about the further adventures of Toyburg's resident trapper and snapper...

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Big Sleepover

Thanks to Toymaster Brett Uren's seemingly limitless drive and the considerable enthusiasm of the Kickstarter community, the Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg anthology, featuring a contribution from Pete Mason, Nic Wilkinson and myself, is officially a THING, finishing its Kickstarter at 107% funded.

If you're waiting for your stuff and want to catch up on any of the extra "behind-the-scenes" info, listen to Brett talking about the project or find out more about the creative teams (and lots of other Toyburg goodness) then visit the Torsobear blog.

Extract from page 3 of "Some Assembly Required" by Cy Dethan and Peter Mason. Letters by Nic Wilkinson
I'm already getting psyched up to see the completed book in print, especially having seen some of the incredible work in progress on the other stories. One of the reasons I enjoy getting involved with anthologies in the first place is the chance they offer to meet new creators, and the various glimpses I've had of the other contributed stories have been particularly eye-opening. There's an enormous range of approaches and styles on display. Basically, it's just going to be a really cool book - and probably the closest thing you'll see to an all-ages story from me any time soon.

I've said before how the blazingly original combination of film noir tropes and picture-book aesthetics of Brett's original story was like nothing I had ever read, and was one of those lightning bolt, brick-to-the-forehead moments, so I've already got a couple of follow-up pitches building to blast Brett with if the opportunity arises for a second volume.

What nobody really tells you about being involved in a Kickstarter is that it's a huge creative job in itself. It's not a little thing on the side that you can wind up, set off and collect the money it comes back with. It's absolutely shattering. Also, there is maths.

The support we received from the comics community and beyond was incredible. Support doesn't only come in the form of pledges, although that's all Kickstarter counts in its terrifying "all-or-nothing" approach. What was surprising and humbling was the sheer number of people who wanted to help the project by spreading the word. Whether by sharing social media posts, encouraging other people to pledge, covering our project on blogs and podcasts, promoting it to societies and groups or offering advice and encouragement, many of you worked as hard as if you were on the project itself!

Snaplok, Rocko and the gang thank you all!

If you do have a Kickstarter project that is in its last week (be it comic, game or any other area of geek culture), then Geek Syndicate have a "Last Days of Kickstarter" feature that it is well worth contacting them about to get the word out as you make that final push. Also, Brett Uren has written an upcoming piece for them on the things he learned from Kickstarter that you might want to read if you are thinking of starting up your own project. That should be up on the GS site soon.

Now we are off for a very big sleep!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Nic's Sticky Notes: Nursery Crimes

Living with a writer is a wonderful, exciting and sometimes terrifying thing.  Sometimes they leap into the room, eyes ablaze, wreathed in lightning, babbling about a new story idea like a thing possessed.

This is how I first heard about Torsobear: Yarns From Toyburg and became the letterer of the story by Cy Dethan and Peter Mason.

Some Assembly Required
Torsobear: Yarns From Toyburg
Story: Cy Dethan, Art: Peter Mason, Letters: Nic Wilkinson

I was able to pick out the words “best plot bible I've ever seen”, “80s action figure villain” and a good number of “FUCK, YEAHs” from amongst the frenzy and fist punching and in no time I was reading the script for Some Assembly Required. On page one, I was captivated; by page 3 I was in tears; by the end of 8 short pages I’d been so emotionally shaken up and down that I felt like I’d been through The Playtime!

I had to letter it!

If you talk to a letterer, and don’t get scared off by their mad rantings about their arcane obsessions with crossbars and ligatures and bleeds, they will tell you that, sometimes, when you read a script certain things pull themselves visually out of the text on the screen or page and hang there in the air before you going “Do me like this!”

The words “Mr Robones' top-shelf Trapper and Snapper” almost bit my hands off on page one. They certainly took my breath away! Now all that remained was to inveigle my way onto the book with The Toymaster, Brett Uren, and get my sticky fonts all over it!

The original art by Saoirse Louise Towler‎
that was the reward for the backer who took
us over the 50% funded point
There has been such a lot of scope to be playful and experimental with the lettering due to the nature of the story, the script and the art that I’ve been able to come up with some entirely new ways of doing things that have opened up a whole new set of spatial and temporal techniques to add to my magic bag of visual silent sound tricks.

Peter Mason’s art has been a joy to letter, as it always is. Being, as I am, mainly a product of the 80s working on this story - actually I can’t say “working” as it’s waaaaaay too much for that - has been like a trip to Neverland. When I saw his first character sketches of Snaplok, and then the full pages, come in I could not suppress a gleefully feral whoop – straight from the heart of my 10-year-old self.

All of this was before I’d even seen any of the amazing work for the book from the other teams in so many different styles that all work so well together.  The whole is a thing of beauty and I’m incredibly proud to be involved with such brilliant and passionate people.

The book is to be self-published and distributed via a Kickstarter campaign. As well as the usual rewards for backers we also have rewards for those kind souls who may not want the book, but who are helping us to spread the word. We are grateful for any help in spreading the word, and of course, for any hard earned buttons you may be able to spare for us.

What is Torsobear?

Plushie Detective Ruxby made by
Lee-Anne Godby of The Goblin Co Op
available at higher reward levels.
Teddy Ruxpin via True Detective. Inspired by the original short story featured in Glenn Møane and Magnus Aspli’s Outré anthology, Yarns from Toyburg continues to follow rookie detective Ruxby Bear and his wooden partner officer Hazbrow, as they investigate further and fall deeper into the intrigue surrounding a number of dismembered teddies. Other stories follow the exploits of cheery Toyburg’s broken citizens in the same destructive vein.

Why should we pick this up?
‘The best contribution to Outré #2 by far (in both art and writing) has to be Torsobear by Brett Uren… It is beautiful, stunning, and haunting. And I wanted more.’ – Max Delgado, Unleash The Fanboy

‘It reads like Raymond Chandler meets Teddy Ruxpin with a generous dose of Robert Crumb and we’d love to see a full series of it.’ – Pipedream Comics

‘The art style and color choices made it feel like a more disturbing and adult Hanna Barbera piece, and the blend of issues such as racism, crises of faith, and horrific crimes with a world of toys resonated with me.’ – Jodi Scaife, Fanboy Comics

Who Is Involved In Torsobear: Yarns From Toyburg?

Cover by Hal Laren

The Toymasters

Editors – Brett Uren & Glenn Møane

The Toyburg Terrors

– Brett Uren, Glenn Møane, Cy Dethan, Brockton McKinney, Janos Honkonen, Frank Martin, Kieran Squires, Grainne McEntee & Jake Young

Artists – Brett Uren, Pete Rogers, Carlos Zamudio, Matt Rooke, Saoirse Towler, Joel Cotejar, Randy Haldeman, Harold Saxon, Jon Scrivens, Faye Harmon & Brian Traynor

Letterers – Brett Uren, Nic WIlkinson, Mick Schubert, Shawn Aldridge, Kieran Squires & Jon Scrivens

If you are a reviewer, podcaster, blogger or journalist please get in touch through the contact page if you would like more information, previews or to talk to Brett and Glenn or any of the team about the project.

Keep track of the campaign and the book’s production at http://torsobear.com 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Playtime is Over: Torsobear is Coming...

Torsobear: Yarns From Toyburg Brings Fluffy Noir Comics To Kickstarter

Torsobear is a story about the inevitable loss of innocence in a brutal world, first created by Brett Uren for the digital anthology, Outré. Expanding on the original short story, Yarns From Toyburg pulls a host of new and established creators into exploring the twisted world of Fluffy Noir.

Torsobear introduced the characters of Ruxby and Hazbrow, children's toys who are thrown into a chilling noir cycle of murder, deceit and intrigue, where the horror of events stands in stark contrast to the bright and cheerful world in which they take place.

The toys of Toyburg blissfully enjoy their waking lives. Most will never encounter anything nasty. But when they sleep, all will experience the strange and sometimes disturbing violation of The Playtime. Sometimes, they remember.
The book will be offered via a Kickstarter campaign and first week pledges will get a special extra reward of a sketch from the creator on the inside front cover of the book, in addition to any other rewards for their pledge level.

The basic pledge packages for the book alone will be:

Digital price - $10

Hardcopy price  - $25

In the fluffy noir world of Torsobear, not all toys play nice!

Welcome to the city of Toyburg, where the streets are teeming with crime, passion, and murders most foul. They are walked (for the most part) by grim detectives, burned-out has-beens, femme fatales and tragic heroes.

The dismembered bodies of teddy bears are being found in back alleys of the Mindy Mile district, and it’s up to our hero, rookie detective Ruxby Bear and his partner officer Hazbrow to solve this string of murders, no matter how high and far the clues take them.

Between cases, we take a look into the lives of Toyburg’s citizens, police and criminals. No matter where you turn, this city has something sinister hidden just behind the storybook surface.

Remember, it’s always fun until someone gets hurt..

Stories Included are:

Clean Heart, Dirty Paws – Brett Uren

Dress to Impress - Frank Martin / Joel Cotejar

Rich Toy, Poor Toy - Grainne McEntee / Matt Rooke

Some Assembly Required - Cy Dethan / Peter Mason / Nic Wilkinson

She Sang for Buttons, She Unstitched My Heart – Brett Uren / Harold Saxon / Mick Schubert

The Collector - Glenn Møane / Carlos Nicolas Zamudio / Jon Scrivens

A New Hopelessness - Kieran Squires / Faye Harmon

The Big Wind Up - Janos Honkonen / Saoirse Louise Towler / Mick Schubert

Home Invasion – Brett Uren / Brockton McKinney / Harold Saxon

Sour in the Sweet - Jake Young / Randy Haldeman / Brett Uren

We All Fall Down, Playing It the Hard Way – Brett Uren

You can find out more and keep up to date at:

The Torsobear blog – http://torsobear.com 

Twitter: #torsobear

Read the original Torsobear story for free: http://outrepress.com/?p=1216

Expected release if Kickstarter is successful: 14/07/2014
Page Count: 104
Format: Full colour

Please contact Brett Uren at bretturen@hotmail.co.uk for more details, creator interviews and samples.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Suddenly, Blakes!

Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow
Alan Blake, former mid-level programmer turned invulnerable murder machine, has spent the last year slaughtering 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.

Writer: Cy Dethan
Pencils / Inks: Russ Leach
Colours: Mike Summers
Letters: Nic Wilkinson

Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow is expected early 2015 from Markosia Enterprises. The first volume, The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel, is available now from Cy's Comicsy shop and all clinically awesome comic retailers.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Partners in Crime: Pete Mason

The frankly astonishing Pete Mason and I have developed quite a back-catalogue over the last couple of years. He was first pointed out to me by Manny Armario, owner of and evil genius behind Canterbury's Whatever Comics shop, and he proceeded to walk me through what turned out to be a stunning portfolio of his work. He's absurdly talented and creatively fearless, which is a beautiful and dangerous combination.

Pete's first project with me was Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours, for which he coloured Graeme Howard's legally insane artwork with feral intensity. He went on to colour Row Bird's art in Gateway Drugs, our contribution to the British Showcase anthology by Markosia, and is now drawing a full-length graphic novel of mine, colouring another one and both drawing and colouring our 8-pager in Brett Uren's upcoming Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg - so he's essentially inexhaustible.

Pete recently launched a YouTube channel, featuring "Let's Draws" of whatever inspiration randomly collides with the soft tissues of his brain on any given day. If you ever want to get an insight into an amazing artist's process, you should definitely take a look. Personally, speaking as someone for whom comics artists are nothing less than true magicians, I find this stuff fucking hypnotic.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Nic's Sticky Notes - MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun

Writer: Matt Gibbs
Art: Sarah Dunkerton
Letters: Jim Campbell

You know when something turns up in the post that is so delightful that it makes you smile all day, then all the next day, and then whenever you think about it? It doesn't happen often, does it? But that is exactly the effect of MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun, a tale of high adventure, the romance of history and intrepid rodent heroes.

You can see from the cover that you will be in for a treat.

So much character shines from the mice before they have so much as squeaked, and the exotic locations are brought to life with exquisite detail.

How could you see this and not want to pick it up and look inside?

When you do, you will find that the world has been perfectly thought out, down to the tiniest details of how the mouse culture would work day-to-day, such as the hardworking beetles at the archeological site, or the lizard mount. Everything looks so supremely natural and plausible.

I had to use this picture in this blog, by the way. It is possibly my favourite in the whole comic - although it's very hard to choose! That skull! So many questions! So many mysteries! What have they uncovered? What do the hieroglyphics say? What are those statues? This is a world with a rich history. You want to know everything. You want to explore.

And that's it, you're drawn into the world of the mice and off on a marvelous adventure. The pacing of the story stood out as a particular strength, and amplified the emotional impact of the action throughout.

The story follows Jack Redpath, adventurer, and Vicky Jones, journalist, along with Cornelius Field and the Harvest-Scott family, who are looking into an unusual stone tablet that has been unearthed at the archeological dig in Egypt. However, they are not the only ones with an interest in this mysterious artefact, and there are others who are keen to get their paws on the treasure for undoubtedly nefarious purposes!

There is clearly a lot of history between the characters, but at no point is the pace slowed by exposition. Both the writing and the art are littered with little clues for the reader to piece together, and this works incredibly well to draw you into the story. Although this is only the first issue (of five), you feel that you know the characters well and, although it will be hard, have chosen a favourite already by the end!

The level of detail in the characterisation is wonderful, both in the dialogue and the art. The distinct personalities of the mice are apparent from the very beginning, in their actions, in their voices, and in their expressions (oh my God, the way they move their ears!), clothes and body language. In fact, the costume design could support an entire review in itself.

The art of the contemporary mouse world is not the only style you will see in the book, but I am not going to show what else there is here. I think it might be too much of a spoiler, and it deserves to be encountered as intended in the story. What I will say is that the research that went into it must have been incredible, but it wears it lightly and perfectly complements the story and shift in style.

There are some beautiful and sensitive touches in the lettering, with balloon edges tucked neatly behind ears, and the use of different fonts for different aspects of the storytelling.

This first issue also includes a sketchbook section at the back, showcasing the early sketches and character and world development.

I like to think that this is what was happening elsewhere in the world while I was reading Brambly Hedge and Little Grey Rabbit - that these brave adventurers were the ones out there keeping the world safe for the cosy firesides and cottage gardens back at home.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun is a proud addition to anthropomorphic comics, and it takes a well deserved place alongside books such as Mouse Guard, Grandville and Blacksad, as well as pulp adventures such as The Rainbow Orchid.

If you want to see more right away, and of course you do, there is a free 12 page preview available on the MULP website.

It is a truly all-ages adventure, and you should buy it as soon as you can!

MULP will be released on 7th May, and can be ordered direct from these retailers:

More details can be found at the MULP website, and you can get in touch via Twitter on @MULP

You will be able to catch up with the creators at the following events:

Bristol Comic Expo, 10-11th May 2014
Future Inns Conference Centre and Hotel, Bristol

CamCon, 30th August 2014
The Junction, Cambridge

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, 17-19th October 2014
Comic Clock Tower, Kendal, Cumbria

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Fun & Games

Big week so far. I've been proofing the coloured version of the first Company of Killers chapter, creating and updating a bunch of pitch packages and script-checking Russ Leach's amazing completed pencils for all four chapters of Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow.

In the middle of all this activity, Pete Mason has again managed to floor me with a page he's turned in - this one for our upcoming Torsobear short story, Some Assembly Required.

Couldn't resist sharing it...

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Devil's Plaything...

A couple of posts back, I wrote a short update about a project I was involved in that had served as a perfect and much-needed reminder of why I keep working in comics. I couldn't say a whole lot about it at the time, but the intensity of enthusiasm I was experiencing precluded any possibility of keeping my fucking mouth shut. Frankly, the torture was exquisite agony to me.

A few weeks on, the project's masterminds have released some details and given me the green light to do the same. First off, here's the official announcement from Brett Uren:

No tricks here, friends, just great news. Here are some of the new team members for Torsobear 'Yarns from Toyburg':

On writing duties we have the amazing Cy Dethan (Cancertown, Indifference Engine), Brockton McKinney (Ehmm Theory, Deathcurse), Janos Honkonen (Kaiken yllä etana, and materials for Iron Sky) and co-editor Glenn Møane (Fubar, Indie Comics Horror) & Grainne McEntee (Apes 'n' Capes).

Artists attached so far for stories and/or pin ups are - Peter Mason (Cancertown Blasphemous Tumours with Cy), Saoirse Louise Towler (beautiful illustrations https://www.flickr.com/photos/32581604@N06), Jon Scrivens (Little Terrors), Randy Haldeman (The Jacket), Matt Rooke (Apes 'n' Capes) & the almighty Hal Laren (Reaper Comics).

More to be announced as we complete our assessment of the last few pitches, but we have a BOOK people! Thanks to all who pitched, we'll be back to you shortly.

We still have room for artists, so please get in touch with samples - bretturen@hotmail.co.uk

Emerging from the pages of the Outré anthology magazine, Torsobear began as a noir crime story set in the city of Toyburg. It's a hypnotic blend of child-like innocence and tragic reality, its inhabitants the playthings of unpredictable, capricious and often incomprehensibly cruel forces. Wide button-eyes gaze unblinking into the broken clockworks at the heart of Toyburg life and only the strongest emerge with their souls and stuffing intact.

I'm going to stop there while that's still an option. I'm in extreme danger of coming up with another Torsobear story even writing this post.

When Brett first hit me up with this, he accompanied his email with, flat-out, the most stunningly put together plot bible I've ever read. Everything about this world made glorious sense and every detail glowed with atmosphere and potential for exploration. By the end of the first few paragraphs I knew I was going to write a story for this anthology, and by the end of the first page that story had already been written in my mind. Literally hours after the first read-through, I had a functional set of characters and a page-by-page breakdown of the plot. That's when I hit up Pete Mason about the art and, true to form, the boy came through.

Pete, for context, combines the precision of a neurosurgeon with the overpowering enthusiasm of a six-foot Newfoundland puppy. He's got Swiss-army-knife versatility and a gift for navigating expressive body language in his work. Signing him up for this meant tearing him away from another project we're working on for a little while, but the first experimental character sketches he turned out proved more than worth it.

More updates to come as things roll forward. Meanwhile, if you're an artist interested in hearing more about the Tales From Toyburg anthology, contact Brett for details.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Suicide is Painless...

Cementing his reputation as one-man artistic apocalypse, Russ Leach barely drew a breath after the launch of Terminus at Fenton's Green (with rising-star writer Adam Cheal) before diving right back into the final chapter pencils for Indifference Engine 2: The Suicideshow.

To give potential readers a heads-up about the ride they'll be taken on in this book, here's the inked version of the chapter one cover, and sketches for parts two and three. Now you can't say we didn't warn you...

Monday, 3 March 2014

Remembering Why...

Once in a while, a project crops up that has you fisting the air and FUCK, YEAH-ing all over the place. Some kind of glorious gut-punch that comes out of nowhere and leaves you reeling. Moments like that serve to keep you alert, hungry and dangerously motivated.

Sometimes it's an idea you can't shake off, or a character that won't shut the Hell up until you get it out onto paper. I've had my share of those, and I've learned the futility of trying to suppress them. At other times, though, it's someone else's idea that lands on you - impacting with devastating accuracy out of a clear, blue sky.

So yeah - that's what just happened, pretty much.

Long story short, I've just read the best plot bible I've ever seen and turned in an eight-page script for the anthology project it came from. No idea what I can say about it just yet, but the editorial response has been enthusiastic and once I'm able to talk about it properly I assure you there'll be no fucking stopping me.

Every so often, you get the opportunity to write something purely for the sheer joy of it. When it happens unexpectedly like this, you instantly remember why you wanted to write in the first place. As a motivator, it's beyond valuable.

Side note: for those who can't handle so much unbridled optimism all in one post, I'd just like to inject a little balance to the piece by saying fuck the Robocop remake - because fuck the Robocop remake.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Incremental Updates

Last Sunday was our fifth trip to Maidstone for the Grinning Demon comic shop's increasingly popular Demoncon event. Had a great time catching up with the likes of Stephen Downey (Cancertown, Slaughterman's Creed), Kirsty Swan (Master Merlini) and Pete Mason (Cancertown 2). Demoncon keeps on getting bigger and wilder, with this iteration seeing large cosplayer invasions that ranged from the 501st Imperial Stormtrooper legion to a nearly full-sized Sauron (actually, in retrospect, a Witch King - a fantasy misidentification of which I am disproportionately proud). I literally didn't get to step away from the table more than once during the whole day, so missed out on a lot of what was going on, but in the plus column it was our most successful day at a Demoncon event yet, easily rivalling the kind of book sales we'd expect at any of the larger British cons. The Case Files of Harlan Falk was particularly popular, and Russ Leach's outstanding preview art for the upcoming Indifference Engine sequel drew a lot of interest.

Sunday also saw the unveiling of the interview I recently did with Wayne Hall for his Wayne's Comics podcast. Wayne's a big proponent of variety in comics, and always brings a phenomenal amount of energy to his show. We talked over some of my recent and upcoming releases, and discussed a few things I've got planned for the future. You can find the episode here.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Falling Into Shadow

Well, given that the last few months have been an exhilarating roller-coaster of cancer scares and Doctor Who specials (neither of which turned out to be anything important), it's worthwhile keeping one eye fixed on what's really going on here: comics exist, and they are happening. Example:

Luther Washington: Whatever the Cost
Published by Unseen Shadows
Writer: Cy Dethan
Artist: To Be Confirmed - Possibly You!

With Wrath of God and The Immaculate Abortion of Dina Leigh already in print, and both the short story Eye of Stone and the full-length graphic novel Blood Cries Out in production, this is actually my fifth journey into Barry Nugent's ever-expanding Unseen Shadows universe. Pretty soon, I'll have snaked my way into every corner of Barry's brain like a leucochloridium variae infestation (and, seriously, check that link out - it'll change the way you think about nature).

I can't talk too much about the story just yet, but the script's been approved and artists are being considered as we speak. More on this as things move ahead.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Very Bloge. Much Talking. Wow.

...aaand BOOM - we're up and running with an all-new MAGICAL COMPUTING ENGINE. I'm now busily restoring backups and waging Total War against Windows 8.1 in a noble and gloriously futile effort to get rid of all the ugly shit it comes lumped with and make it look and run like an actual desktop operating system.

Meanwhile, enjoy this podcast interview I recorded late last year in simpler, Vista-powered times with Ian M. Cullen of the SciFi Pulse website. In it, I discuss things that have happened, things that are happening and things that COULD NEVER, EVER POSSIBLY HAPPEN.

The interview starts at around the 35 minute mark in the show.


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Technical Difficulties...

Posting's going to be spotty for a little while, as I'm currently conducting a purely digital re-enactment of The Poseidon Adventure with my crippled PC. The motherboard is fatally holed below the waterline and sinking fast. Hardware and ports are dying on all sides as I frantically shepherd all my vital files out through the one remaining functional USB slot and into the safety of my external backup drive. I can honestly say I've never felt so heroic in my life.

Back when my all-new EPIC COMPUTING MACHINE is up and running. Feel free to imagine some soothing light music until then...
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