Getting back in the game

I’ve had a couple of weeks off everything, as I was fortunate enough to have another child! My first baby girl arrived recently and I’ve spent my time with my awesome family getting to know her. 

As a result I’ve not done any art or writing, as I have had a much more important schedule to keep. Since I’m the sort of person who needs to always be creating and doing things, I thought I’d be feeling very frustrated by this. Lockdown has been odd for us all and, like many of my comic creating peers, I have taken solace in my art. However, the break has been worthwhile. Its given me the chance to immerse myself more books, art and movies than I would otherwise been able to. I’ve got through the backlog of comics on my reading pile and moved onto re-reading some old favourites (currently on the mid-90s, harpoon-handed Aquaman). I’m also getting through novels a little faster than usual thanks to embracing the Kindle app on my phone for much needed, low-light entertainment in the early hours.

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Consuming so much content has made me excited to get back into creating again. I’m half-way through the final issue of Heads! right now and itching to finish it off. Plus, I have two other projects starting up (more about those in coming blogs) so there will be plenty for me to get my teeth into.

In order to start flexing my creative muscles again I’m opening up commissions. I’m doing A4 sketch commissions for just £10 right now, so if you were in the mood to throw me a challenge and treat yourself at the same time please give me a shout.

While I start limbering up to get working on comics again it would be great to hear what you guys have been thinking about the latest Heads! comic. I’ve got loads of loose ends hanging in issue 4 and I’d love to know what you are expecting in the final issue.

 

First printing

Heads! Issue 4 was released right on top of lockdown kicking in. Its been a bit frustrating, as I feel like that release ended up going rather unnoticed. Understandably, people had other things to worry about, but other than Kickstarter backers I haven’t been able to get it out there very much. This includes getting a copy to one significant person. 

James Clarke (known as Brown, for reasons best not delved into here) is one of my best and oldest friends. We’ve known each other for longer than I can remember. We have played in bands and made music with each other for about twenty years. He started dabbling in digital art several years ago, but last year he made a big commitment to upping his game as a colouristAmong many artists whose line art he honed his skills on, Brown tapped me for any and all line art that I had lying around including sketches from my first every Inktober. 

I desperately wanted him to help out a Heads! cover so we decided to work on issue 4 together. Rather than just give him line art to colour, I decided to give him full reign on the design. I knew what the cover needed to be, so I gave him the brief and all the inks and let him off the leash. 

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I’ve never worked with another artist in this way, so it was interesting to see how Brown interpreted the brief and how he chose to add his own flair to it. I discovered how picky I actually am about the way my art is presented – I lost track of how many times I asked for a head shot to be moved to a different position behind Datsun, or to change the by-line placement. Luckily, Brown didn’t go too mental dealing with my shit! As well as this, I also gave Brown a concept sketch of Datsun firing a raygun. It’s a sketch that is for future reference, as its to do with one of the places the story will eventually go. I liked it a lot and when I showed Brown he snapped it up immediately and came up with the wonderful colour and background treatment you see here.  

When Heads! Issue 4 came out, the one person I wanted to see to give a copy to was Brown. But I couldn’t. I posted out the backer rewards and hoped to get to see him, but lockdown stopped that. Then my local post office closed so I couldn’t even post him a copy. But at the weekend Brown was able to swing by and say hello. We cracked open the back gate and he sat out in the woods behind the house while I sat by the shed. I gave him copies of Heads! and a stack of raygun prints – his first work in print! Those of you who have every had anything released in print, it’s a pretty big deal. Something that has always existed as a single piece of art is now suddenly a proper comic or a high-quality print. It’s impressive to behold. Brown now has his first print work in his hands – and judging by the work he’s pumping out right now it won’t be the only print work you see from this guy. 

You can follow Brown on Instagram @merejackals. And you can buy Heads! from my online store. 

Help me finish Heads!

The fourth issue of my sci-fi mystery comic Heads! was released in March. It’s the penultimate issue of the first series and was quite a challenge to get finished, but now it’s out there I’m hugely proud of what I’ve achieved. In two years I’ve single-handedly written, drawn and lettered four issues of a series, which is not mean feat. However…the final issue looms…

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For those that have been following the series, you’ll know that I’ve left so many threads hanging at the end of issue four, with sixteen characters orbiting the main story. Those that haven’t read it yet can download issue one for FREE! Covering all this off in the final issue is not just going to be a creative marathon but also a test of my writing and editing resolve. I’m lucky enough to have Patrick Kennedy, a great editor and copywriter who has helped ensure that the writing is on point, the plot is consistent and that I haven’t made massive typos everywhere. He’ll be guiding me on this issue also.

The problem I face is that, though this issue will end the arc it isn’t the end of the whole story. Some questions will remain unanswered, some new questions will be asked. I already have a plan of how this issue pans out, but how will I know if I’ve close this arc properly?

That’s where you come in.

I want to know what you guys are expecting to be resolved in the final issue. What are you hoping to find out? What revelations do you think will be uncovered? And what do you think deserves to be explored in more detail in the next arc?

Comment below, or reply to my tweets on the subject. I’d love to know what you are hoping for…if only so I can laugh maniacally at your responses when I realise my plan for issue five will mess with your head even more!

Crowd scenes, casting and articles

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Haven’t blogged in a little while, but that’s because I’ve been hard at it working on comics and story development. And drawing crowd scenes. And crying…

Heads! issue three is coming on very nicely and is nearly finished. This one has taken me a lot longer than the previous issues, but for good reason. The art is the most ambitious I’ve gone in respect of comics, for a start. Those who have been following the story will be pleased to know that this issue is where Datsun confronts mysterious doom metal band Vortex Face in an attempt to rescue the kidnapped husband of his latest client. This all culminates in a ten page scene at a gig, which of course means crowd scenes! Quite aside from the fact that most panels contain a lot of people in the background of some crazy action sequences, I chose to open the scene with a double page spread crowd scene featuring 82 people. It’ll look amazing when it’s done, but it’s taken a long time. I can’t sit and do too much at once, otherwise everyone ends up with the same face. So, I’ve been doing four or five people every few days or so to keep it fresh. I took this scene as an opportunity to practice my portraiture skills, so you’ll find some metal related cameos, including Slayer’s Kerry King, Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf and Motley Crüe’s Vince Neil, to name a few.

I’ve been pooling references and influences lately. Two things that I find really useful in making comics is casting and soundtracks. Yes, I’m aware Heads! isn’t a Netflix show (yet). But when I consider how the characters behave, I find it useful to consider who would play them in a movie or TV show, so I can play out scenes with those actors. Similarly, I play music when I draw and find certain songs and styles help me develop characters and scenes. I’ve been considering which songs would fit together well as a soundtrack to Heads! and have nearly finished a scene by scene soundtrack for the first issue. Check back soon for an update on that which can interact with your comic reading experience.

I’m also reconsidering the blog, and trying to decide if its worth putting effort in here, if people would prefer to subscribe to a newsletter, or whether regular short videos on YouTube would go down well. Let me know which medium you prefer and the sort of things that you’d like to see from me.

Press, pre-orders and comicons

My month of comics overdrive is coming to an end, but I’ve got not intention of slowing down.

The Heads! Kickstarter has funded – thank you to all backers and everyone who has helped promote it. It’s been sent out to the mighty Comics Printing UK who is busy turning it into a sexy, physical product. I can’t say enough good things about Rich at Comics Printing UK, and I know that the print quality of the comic is going to be just as awesome as the other books he’s done for me and numerous other comics creators.

Those of you who are kicking yourself for missing out on the Kickstarter will be pleased that I have added a pre-order for it to my store. You can also get hold of the first issue of Heads! if you are a newbie to the story.

If you need convincing to try it out, here’s a review of the first comic from Pipedream Comics. I was very pleased with this write up by James Blundell, who really got into the story and enjoyed the mystery I’ve established.

My son and I are very nearly finished with our Little Heroes comics submission. It’s been loads of fun and we’re both really happy with how its coming together. We have a very tight deadline to meet now and still some tweaks to make, but we are working hard to get it all done in time and to the quality we want it to be at. Watch this space for more details soon…

If you are in Brighton on Saturday 9 March come down and join me at ICE Comic Con. This will be my first event of 2019 and there are some fantastic guests and exhibitors there, such as Rachael Smith, David Broughton, Clint Langley and Ram V to name a few. See you there!

Sensory overload

Currently I am…

  • Reading: Everville by Clive Barker
  • Watching: Charmed Season 5
  • Listening to: Rust by Monolord

 

February comics overdrive

Well, February is shaping up to be one of the busiest comics months for me this year. Yes, I know it’s a bit soon to say that, but just look at what I have on the go.

Heads! Into The Vortex is up on Kickstarter until 15 February (in case you hadn’t seen me plugging it to death). I’m proud to say it has hit its funding target so it’s all systems go on getting it ready for all you lovely backers. Now is the best time to back the comic, as all rewards are guaranteed to be fulfilled. There are comic universe bundles, print and digital editions, original art packages and commissions available, so go fill your boots! If you aren’t able to back the campaign I’d massively appreciate you sharing the link with your friends and followers. This will help new people discover my work and is a great way to reach potential new readers. Big thanks to everyone who has backed it, shared it or a bit of both already.

In preparation for the campaign I did an interview with the mighty Richard Sheaf of Boys Adventure Comics. Richard is a huge supporter of the indie comics scene, so it’s a privilege to have him take such an interest in my work. You can read the interview on his blog. While you are there I urge you to check out his other articles and subscribe, as it’s an excellent source of comics news and info.

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When talking to Richard, he asked me about the piece I’m producing for Little Heroes Comics new anthology. If you haven’t heard of them, Little Heroes is a charity which makes comic creation kits for kids staying in hospital. This is such a fantastic cause and I’m a big supporter of what they do. Each year they produce a themed anthology and this year’s theme is science. As comics fans and science fans, me and my son Dylan heard this news and immediately set about working on a short comic together. The submission date is 28 February, so we haven’t got long to pull it off. Dylan wrote the script and I am drawing it, plus we have the help of designer extraordinaire Ken Reynolds on lettering duties. I’ll post a separate article about our creative process soon, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the work in progress.

As if all this wasn’t enough, I’m finishing off art for the third Heads! comic, which will be out later this year. Plus, I’ve already made a start on the script for the fourth one! I’m having an absolute blast creating Heads! and I just want to get more and more of it out there.

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Finally, I’m prepping for ICECOMICCON in Brighton on 9 March. The line-up is stellar and I’m looking forward to catching up with David Broughton and meeting loads of other fellow comics creators. So yeah, February is pretty mental. I’ll need a pint by the time I get to ICE so if you see me at the bar afterwards feel free to join me!

Heads! Into The Vortex is LIVE on Kickstarter!

BACK IT NOW ON KICKSTARTER!

I launched the campaign this week, and at the point of writing this post it is already 50% funded! The campaign ends on 15 February so if you want to be among the first to get hold of the new issue you haven’t got long to do so.

For Heads! newbies there are reward options which include the first issue, and one that gives you Rock In Purgatory as well. This issue introduces villain group Vortex Face, who made their first appearance in Rock In Purgatory in 2018.

Prices start at just £1, so head over to the Kickstarter campaign and back it NOW!

Awesome digital comics bundle for 2019

Let’s kick off the new year with some bargain comics!

I’ve just launched a digital bundle of Heads! and Rock In Purgatory for just £1.50. You can jump right into both books foress than the price of a coffee.

Both books were published in 2018 and since I have more books due out this year I thought it was a good time to put a bundle together. So if you love horror, sci-fi, comedy, noir or (most importantly) comics, get over to my store and get yourself a bundle now!

Motivational sharing

End of the year has rolled round and I’m enjoying several large brandies each day, might even break out the cigars. In an odd turn of events, despite a very positive and productive first ten months of the year, the end has been quite frustrating for me in respect of keeping the momentum up.

When I posted back in November I wrote about finding ways to get out of a slump. This did work for a bit and to be honest the more recent weeks have been under productive due to lack of opportunity to dedicate time and focus to finishing page art off. Whenever I have had the chance, its been great, and looking back on the sparse amount of work I’ve produced this month, I’m really pleased with what I’ve come up with.

Sometimes you just need as bit of a random boost to keep you moving though. I was lucky enough to have that just the other day. I was drawing Heads! pages and panels in one of my regular coffee shops and a new barista saw my work. She came over for a really quick chat, saying how she liked the stuff I was drawing, that she’s a huge comics reader and loved the fact that I was sitting there, where she works, drawing comics. I gave her a business card and a fist bump and carried on mainlining espresso and churning out art but with a bit more of a motivated buzz.

It occurred to me that I’d got into a bit of a vicious loop; by not having much chance to draw I also hadn’t shown anyone my work lately, spoken to anyone about it or posted updates online. As such, no-one was talking to me about it. I don’t expect people to be waiting with baited breath for my next issue, but like anything if you don’t mention it then less people ask you about it. Because of that I felt kind of isolated in my work, and therefore didn’t feel like anyone would care to listen if I talked about it. So the little I was able to do seemed all the more less.

That quick encounter over coffee was enough to remind me that there are two reasons I create comics:

  1. I want to do it
  2. I want to share it with people

It’s the same with writing and playing music as well. I love the music I play and I want to play it for people so that they can enjoy it too.

In the spirit of sharing (and it is Christmas after all), I’ve decided to give away Heads! issue one as a digital download until New Years Eve. The next issue drops in early 2019, with issue three in autumn, so get clued up now and join the party. If you like what you read it would be awesome if you would buy a print copy.

Download Heads! for FREE

Buy a copy of Heads!

Popcorn Horror interview

Back in October Craig Jex did an interview with me for the Halloween edition of Popcorn Horror magazine. For those that missed it and for Heads! newbies who want to know more, here’s that interview in full.

Independent comic creator, Rik Jackson has had quite the eventful year. Fans of his comic strip, Rock In Purgatory, featured in these very blood drenched pages of Popcorn Horror were able to get their claws on the anthology which was published in early 2018. Unlike the characters in those rock ‘n roll pages, Rik didn’t bathe himself in the glory that his work enjoyed and end up on a path of self-destruction and grisly death. Instead, he got straight back in the saddle and created Heads!

Heads! tells the story of Private Detective Steve Datsun. An investigator that’s seen it all before, that is until these girls with those heads turn up. After a being hired to investigate a heist that the Heads! gang have pulled off, Datsun becomes embroiled in a dark world of paranormal crimes, unexplained phenomenon and twisting conspiracies. Seeking the evidence he needs to prove these anomalies and reveal what’s behind them, Datsun ends up much closer to the very unpleasant truth than he would have liked. Whether he will emerge with his reputation and his sanity intact remains to be seen, but if the story so far is anything to go by, it’s going to be one hell of a ride to find out.

Heads! is a departure from the anthology format you found successful with Brutal Bombshells and Rock In Purgatory. What made you decide to go down the serial route?

I’ve wanted to write an ongoing comic for a while, and have actually had Heads! in the pipeline for a couple of years now. Creating short-from comics has been really helpful for my visual storytelling skills, which I’ve made great use of when drawing Heads! The idea of a longer story was very daunting – especially one as ambitious as Heads! – so I decided to break it into parts instead. Heads! will be published as contained mini-series of five or six issues, each series wrapping up a particular story arc while paving the way for the next part of the story. This made it much easier for me to plan out and structure.

I’ve enjoyed working on the first few issues so far and like having the freedom to draw certain elements out for longer. This is something that I could never do with Rock In Purgatory and its great to be able to build more suspense and develop characters thoroughly.

It is clear from the first issue of Heads! that you have taken influence from different genres rather than the blood and guts you’re usually associated with. Were you getting tired of the gore or did you want to challenge yourself with a new direction?

Not at all – I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of some good old fashioned slasher style horror! I’m keeping my hand in on the horror stuff by working with Ken Wynne to create Unfortunate Tales from Plant B for his website Attack From Planet B. However, with Heads! I did want to take things in a less overt direction. Heads! is much more creeping and sinister, with both real crime and fantasy crime, giving me an opportunity to pull at different strings. There will be some X-Files-style scares as much as there will be unnerving crime thriller moments that you’d associate with shows like Luther. I wanted to give Heads! the chance to delve into different genres, and as a result I think I’ve got a comic series that will be entertaining to a number of audiences.

I got the impression that Heads! is very noir with possible sci-if influences. Can you tell your fans how the idea of Heads! came about?

I first sketched one of the Heads! gang after seeing a half finished shop window display. It had three female mannequins with large placeholder polystyrene balls for the heads and hands. I played around with the sketches a bit and thought it would be cool to combine this type of look with a Dick Tracy-style detective. It fitted nicely with my B-movie tastes, as there are a lot of possibilities as to what could be under the masks. I realised this was something that could lead to a longer story and if I threw in some other characters to give it more depth that there was a chance I could add some conspiracy elements to it. What if Datsun was the only person who knew about these girls? What if he was the only one who ever saw the other strange happenings? So I read a load of comics like Dick Tracy and Blacksad to get my head around detectives and watched things like They Live and The X-Files to get me thinking about how to put sci-fi horror into a conspiracy story. After that I had so many ideas for where to take Heads! and I’ve been trying to incorporate as many of them as I can ever since.

Heads Ep1 - Cover

Some of the dialogue is very old school, South London sounding. Is that something you were going for? What do you think your non-British readers will make of Private Detective Steve Datsun and his colourful words and phrases?

It’s very much a conscious decision. I didn’t want to go too clichéd cockney, but Datsun is a south London man who doesn’t mince his words, so the dialogue had to reflect that. Datsun is quite a complex character who presents a lot of conflicting morals, much like a real person. He’s neither hero not anti-hero, he is just a man who does his best, makes mistakes and gets on as best he can. As such, I wanted him to feel as real as possible in the fictional world I am building. Being a south Londoner myself, it made sense to me to base Datsun’s dialogue and phrasing on how my friends and I speak to each other. There’s a lot of friendly piss-taking, swearing and slang. It seems to be going down well overseas though. I’ve had some great responses from US readers who absolutely love how he speaks. Phrases like ‘toerag’ and ‘lets have a butchers’ are particularly popular!

Brutal Bombshells you commissioned me to write the scripts and with Rock In Purgatory you successfully combined both your illustrative and writing talents to come up with some fantastic one off stories. How did you find the challenge of writing Heads?

The planning and length was difficult to work out at the start, which is why I settled on this being a series of mini-series. Even that is a challenge, as I have a lot to cram in while keeping it interesting. Actually, the hardest part has been making the art flow well to retain the reader’s interest, as a lot of Heads! is just two or three people having conversations. At this point in the story it’s about building characters and setting the scene. I needed to do that well but also make sure that each issue is a captivating read. I’ve delved into using subtle imagery a lot more with Heads! than in anything else I’ve done and I think it’s paying off. I’ve just finished the art for issue two, but there was a scene that really held me back. Datsun and his partner Higgins are having a phone conversation about a lot of essential plot points. It’s a key scene but with them on the phone they can’t even interact with each other! It took me a while, but I finally nailed it but having then doing two distinctly different things during the conversation, adding in some unusually focused illustrations which hint at a connections between the plot points. Now I have it finished I love the scene. Though there’s better scenes for action and excitement, it’s definitely the most important scene of that issue. I imagine these will continue to be the things that are hardest to do. That and editing all the pages for publishing, which drives me mental!

Can you tease your readers with what to expect in future issues?

The first series will showcase the Heads! gang and introduce a number of key characters as well as tons of false one – I’ve got more red herrings than a fish monger! There’s a skull faced murderer stalking the streets, a dirty gangster who likes to dispose of his enemies by drowning them in filth encrusted toilet bowls and plenty of other nasty criminals to make you fear going out alone at night. I’m also bringing back Vortex Face, the demonic soul-sucking doom metal band featured in Rock In Purgatory. I felt like I’d only scratched the surface of the possibilities for them so I’ve put them front and centre as a major plot mechanism, using their origin in Rock In Purgatory as a lead in. All the crimes Datsun faces have a paranormal streak to them, but there’s also a lot of science and logic behind them, meaning it’s down to the reader to decide whether Datsun is right that things are extraordinary or whether they side with Higgins, his sidekick and voice of reason.
If you love good mystery, a suspenseful thriller or a scary sci-fi B-movie then you’ll find something exciting and entertaining Heads!
I have some very grand plans for future series, but I’m keeping them under my hat for now…

What does the future have in store for you? Obviously more issues of Heads! are coming our way. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

Yes, more Heads! is just around the corner. Issue two is due out just after Christmas and I’m writing and drawing issue three now, ready for a spring release. Unfortunate Tales is due to continue and I’m talking to Ken about the possibility of another horror comic project as well. I’ve got a load of other comics ideas in mind which I hope to get started on toward the end of the year. The first of these is likely to be Tomato Latte, a teen slasher comic based around New Years Eve in 1999, very much in the vein of movies like Urban Legend and Cry Wolf. Plus I‘m always open for commissions, so if you fancy a unique piece of custom art, just get in touch!

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