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, 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 -

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.
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