Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Indifference Engine: A Holographic Novel launches on PSN Today

“Being a science fiction fan, I sometimes ache for a comic that will challenge my perceptions of the world, of the universe, of my way of thinking...The Indifference Engine, written by Cy Dethan (Cancertown)with pencils by Robert Carey, scratches that itch spectacularly!" said Wayne Hall of Sci-Fi Pulse.

Happily, you can now find relief for all your own inter-dimensional itches as, with a little holiday magic, The Indifference Engine (Dethan, Carey, Cook, Wilkinson) has been bumped up Markosia Enterprises’ release schedule and has made its way to the Playstation Network Comic Store just in time for Christmas!

Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, Alan Blake, 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.

"Cy Dethan's script is superb on this book", said John (Sci-Fi Art Now) Freeman on Down The Tubes "This [is a] tightly-written multi-universe-spanning adventure tale and it's...definitely a book to look out for."

My name is Alan Blake. I've got no resources, no skills and no friends. But if I were you, I'd be the very last person on Earth I'd want coming after me...

The Indifference Engine reunites the Cancertown team of Dethan, Cook and Wilkinson, joined this time around by penciller Rob Carey in his first full length graphic novel.

Harry Markos, publisher, speaking about the launch on the PSN forum said: “You’re going to be freaked out. I warned you , a while ago, that The Indifference Engine would blow your minds. Well, as promised, issue one is here to do just that!”

Meanwhile, over on the PSN blog, Pauline Martyn (Publishing Manager, PSN Digital Comics) posted: “Cancertown was one of the highlights of our early offerings – a great series which steadily grew a loyal cult following during its time on the store. Now, writer Cy Dethan is back with the superlative The Indifference Engine through Markosia.”

And a final word from Sci-Fi Pulse:

"I LOVED having to pay attention and taking my time to keep track of what was going on. I LOVED the pay-off at the end as well. It’s a great mental exercise–my brain was tired for a long time after reading it....In fact, I LOVED that, too! What a great comic!"

If you want to try before you buy then you can read a free preview of the first 14 pages over on the website along with a sneak peek at art from later episodes.

If you are a journalist, reviewer or podcaster and would like review copies, artwork samples, more information or to interview any of the team, please do get in touch.

For those who don't have a PSP, look out for other formats next year!

...and there is already a sequel in the works!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Southern Discomfort

Okay, first things first: Ultimate Congratulations are due to Cancertown/Slaughterman's Creed artist, Stephen Downey and noted comics model Aimee (whose likeness can be seen most prominently in Cancertown's Babyface character) on the announcement of their engagement. Full details of Stephen's awesome proposal can be seen on his blog, and the whole thing reads like a masterclass in doing this sort of thing right.

I first read about James Pearson's Bayou Arcana anthology on the Small Press Big Mouth website, and was surprised to find myself called out by name in the article. Never one to turn down an opportunity to get involved in something truly fascinating, I've pitched in a story with Nic Wilkinson signed on as artist. Nic and I have several writer/artist collaborations to our names already, ranging from the Layer Zero short, Remember This Moment to two years' worth of Starship Troopers: Extinction Protocol (a first professional comics gig for both of us), so I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into this.

The Bayou Arcana project has been described as a "horror-laced, adult faerie tale" which is a good fit for where my head is right now. Meanwhile, the ropey, aggressively organic swamp environment should play beautifully to Nic's style - so watch this space for further news of Swamp Pussy and the Hanged Man, in which a faithless lover is cursed to a hundred years of mourning in the shadow of a heartbroken tree.


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

...And the World Will Tremble at the Name: SPLINTFINGER!

Okay, this is for anyone who doesn't already know what's been going on with me for the last eight weeks. It's a Secret Origin of sorts - a tale of inexplicable happenstance triggering a double pendulum of chaos and transformation.

Well, not exactly - but it's a tale of something annoying happening to me and, consequently, me being inconvenienced over a long period.

So anyway, on the Saturday night of this year's BICS, I suffered an injury. It was a strange, unexpected and entirely trivial incident, with no definable cause or warning. I was in the process of demonstrating an uncanny ability to bend just the top joint of each of the fingers of both hands while keeping them otherwise entirely straight. Any coin magicians among my largely imaginary readers might recognise this physiological quirk as being the prerequisite for Stanley Collins' "The Jumping Sixpence" sleight variation, as described on p.338 of JB Bobo's "New Modern Coin Magic (1966)."

No? Nobody? Okay, then - moving on...

Anyway, this is the same, dumb stunt I've been showing people since I was five years old, and I have to say it's the first time I've ever snapped a fucking finger tendon doing it.

In fact, I've spent the last two months explaining to doctors and orthopaedists that there was no impact injury to the finger at all. The most strenuous activity I'd undertaken with the hand that day had been signing a set of contracts for Markosia. Still, the undeniable fact is that I snapped a tendon and the top section of my left (dominant) ring finger hooked over and refused to straighten.

Undeniable, that is, except by the retarded fuckhat at Accident & Emergency who kept me waiting four hours for a misdiagnosis of Trigger Finger. It took another two days and an angry phone call from my GP (about whom I have zero complaints in all this) to get that verdict overturned and to score me the Mallet Splint that I've worn for the last fifty days.

Anyway, the splint was a total joy, as you can imagine. At no point during the recovery period was I permitted to let the fingertip droop or bend, as to do so for even one second (as was made very clear to me) would set me back to square one with an increased chance of surgery.

One thing that this experience has taught me is that I have lived an entirely trouble-free life so far. I must have, for something so trivial to have annoyed me so deeply. Admittedly, as a magician, having a key finger out of action is a legitimate pisser. Even typing is fiddly and slow. Today, the splint finally came off, and I was informed that I'd never be able to form a tight fist with my left hand again.

Bollocks to that - I live to make fists with my left hand. They can't take that from me - they'll have to pry it out of... eh, fuck it - make your own joke. I'm too pissed off.

So, the bottom line right now is that the finger healed slightly too well. The new tendon is way too tight and I can't bend the joint past a painful, swollen 15 degree angle. Supposedly, there's some kind of rehab I can do (and by "rehab" I assume they mean "Rock Band 3"), so I'll get to that as soon as they set me up with the local hand specialist. As I always said, I'm more interested in making a complete recovery than a quick one. Until that happens, the horrifying legend of SPLINTFINGER will lumber on.

They say he only wears it at night...

(...and occasionally during strenuous activity)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Nic's Sticky Notes: Sláine the Horned God

Sláine The Horned God

Writer: Pat Mills
Artist: Simon Bisley

Sláine had his debut in 2000AD in 1983, and is still going as I write. 25 years under his belt now and I do not think it too many!

This review deals with the arc “Sláine the Horned God” from 1989, but I will include a bit of background first for those who haven’t encountered the character before.

Sláine charts the adventures of eponymous Sláine Mac Roth in an alternate European past based primarily around Celtic / Gaelic myths and legends with a sprinkling of Lovecraftian time bending elder gods and British historical figures. It also has discernible influences from Robert Graves and modern paganism, Moorcock, Robert E Howard and, being by Pat Mills, has one or two political points to make along the way.

As a great warrior, Sláine wields the mighty weapon, Brainbiter, shouts “kiss my axe!”, rides to battle on his dragon, The Knucker, and is subject to the Warpspasm. Based on the “riastrad” or “battle frenzy” of legendary heroes such as Cu Chulainn (Sláine’s closest literary cousin, I would say) and King Arthur (oh yes, if you read the older legends rather than the sanitized Victorian ones) where a warrior channels the energy of battle itself and warps into a terrifying, unstoppable monster. In many adventures he is accompanied by Ukko the dwarf, a filthy, lewd, degenerate, snivelling, untrustworthy creature who provides the framing device for The Horned God as he records the adventures of Sláine many years later.

The story is set in the land of Tir-Nan-Og (the land of the young) where many Irish myths take place. Pat Mills has described it himself as “the land of Celtic Twilight”. In several arcs, Sláine also travels through time (2000AD is a sci-fi comic, after all) to fight alongside key figures from British History and Legend such as Boudicca and King Arthur, but at the time of The Horned God all that is yet to come.

The Horned God is, I think, the first “grown up” comic I read, several years before I “got into” comics, as they say. With the thrill power turned up to eleven and eye-wateringly beautiful painted art by Simon Bisley, it is a perfect way to encounter the medium, and the character, for the first time.

The Horned God cycle follows the story of Sláine fighting various battles - political, religious, spiritual and physical – as he struggles to find the lost treasures of Ireland and unite the clans while suffering a personal apotheosis that will see him transformed into the latest incarnation of Carnun (the horned god of the title) and being crowned the first High King of Ireland.

The violence threshold is high and there is plenty of hewing and hurting and hacking and harming. No place for the squeamish here. The Nature Worship on show, and its Goddess, is as much about red-in-tooth-and-claw brutality as it is about love and laughter and romping in the meadows. Expect glistening gore and flying gibs a-plenty.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg, first encountered in earlier Sláine stories, returns to oppose Sláine in a brilliant take on growth and stagnation (good and evil being far too simplistic a stance for Pat Mills) and its personal and political implications. Being a Mills villain, there is enough of the hero in him to problematise the relationship between Slough Feg and Slaine – in fact, they are even more closely bound than Nemesis and Torquemada - but to go into that would be a huge spoiler so I will leave it there. Slough Feg is no mere foil to, or reflection of, Slaine – he is following his own dark dreams and desires and the story occurs because the paths of the hero and villain cross.

It is extremely hard to review the Horned God without giving away any of the story. As it builds on mythic patterns, a lot of the “what happens” is already familiar. “How it happens” is what gives this story its place in the Hall of Fame of British comics.

As a product of its time, there is a strong ecological message, threaded with mysticism, underlying the hacking and slashing. While it seems that Mills greatly enjoys writing Sláine, it is as much for the opportunity to slyly subvert the tropes of heroic fantasy as it is to celebrate it and use its best aspects to tell a heart-thumpingly good yarn. It is this playful and chaotic approach to his art that makes me such a big Mills fan.

The dance between freedom and control, society and individualism that informs much of Mills’ work raises its head once again. In this case the discussion really centres on “religion” vs “spirituality” and some sharp satire about church and state. There are more questions than answers, though, and the reader is really left to make up his own mind as to whether the choices made by the characters are the ones they themselves would have chosen and whether things could have turned out better.

There is rhythmic quality to the writing and the story construction that echoes the poetry of the ancient sagas. This builds to a great crescendo as the story thunders along, sweeping you up as it passes like the Wild Hunt itself. It will leave you hag-ridden, gasping and dishevelled in the morning – but you will be back for more.

The art is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Simon Bisley effortlessly captures the strutting, exultant, heroic arrogance of the world of the tribes in all its glory. His woman are strong and sexy and beautiful – easily the equals of the men in lust, laughter, loyalty and slaughter. The men themselves are iron-thewed fighting machines, glorious and magnificent, striding masterfully about the land. Lord Weird Slough Feg, inspired by “the sorcerer” from the Lascaux cave paintings is one of my favourite character designs in all of comics, sinister yet strangely sympathetic, compelling and revolting all at once and conveyed in all his ragged, shadowy sublimity. And as for monsters, well no one draws a monster like Bisley.
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