Twelve months in comics

This time last year I was happily relaxing after successfully running Wimbledon Comic Art Festival. That event actually marked the start of 12 months of comic awesomeness for me. Here’s what I managed to get up to in that year.

Wimbledon Comic Art Festival

2018-3Running this event was a big deal for me and I was so pleased that it went so well. I’d wanted to put on an indie comics event in Wimbledon for ages, so to have twenty amazing creators tabling at my event was humbling. Hosted at Merton Art Space, I secured the venue by exciting the Head of Libraries and Heritage in Merton with my plans for the day and I even managed to convince the Deputy Mayor to open it with me. I tried my best to mix the content up so that newbies to comics could come and discover that its not all just about muscles and spandex. David Broughton kept the 2000AD crowd happy, Matt Garvey had something for everyone, Gareth Hopkins introduced people to abstract comics, Inko and Vam Nim represented manga, Richy Chandler had some wonderful kids comics and the Awesome Comics Podcast extolled the virtues of all things indie. It was knackering, but I loved it!

Rock In Purgatory

01-FRONT-COVERI was trying to launch Rock In Purgatory at the same time as running WCAF, so understandably I couldn’t manage both. In the end, I released Rock In Purgatory in spring 2018, pleasing its fans by collecting the horror comedy strip as a parody music magazine. I threw in a poster pull out, fake gig ads, instrument endorsements and articles about the bands that inspired the strip. At 48 pages, this is not just my debut solo comic release but also the biggest thing I have created to date. I’m really pleased with this comic and was ecstatic when it sold out at MCM this year (more on that later).

Unfortunate Tales

DVwnX4xW4AAm7cH.jpg largeProving that networking works, be it online or face to face, in the wake of Rock In Purgatory finishing its run in Popcorn Horror, I was asked by Ken Wynne of Attack From Planet B to take on art duties for his webcomic Unfortunate Tales From Planet B. Each strip features a re-working of a classic VHS horror movie scene, but with little links which take you from one strip to the next. Even I’m not sure where Ken is taking this narrative, but its been an absolute pleasure so far to draw loads of garish horror comics!

Heads!

menu 1Having ruminated on Heads! for nearly two years I finally took the plunge and began drawing my first issue based series as soon as WCAF was over. My plan had been to be able to release issues in farily quick succession by indie standards, which was quite a goal to set for myself. As with Rock In Purgatory, Heads! is created, written and illustrated by me. That includes colours. And editing. And lettering. And compiling for print. And marketing. So I changed my creation process to see what I could do to speed things up without compromising on quality. The distinct difference with Heads! is that I create the pages at actual size, so the only editing I do is to correct a mistake if I find one. It means I can carry pages around with me anywhere, as I’m working on A4 britsol board. I can draw pages anywhere and anytime. And with the scale being 1:1 there is less to draw. I’ve had to adapt to that the most, as some of my page layouts have slightly less panels than I would put in if I was drawing detail at a larger scale, but its actually helping me get better at the amount of detail I can put into a panel.

Issue one was released in September 2018, but by this point I had already completed the art in issue two and had begun to draw issue three. Ideally, I would have loved to have had three issues fully drawn inside of a year, but life gets in the way sometimes. However, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve achieved two and a half issues in a year, which means I can still release three issues within a year. Hopefully by then the next two and a half will be ready so that I can keep up the regularity.

MCM

I closed of my year of comics by tabling at MCM London for the first time. It was a great experience and I’ll be back next year for sure. I officially launched Heads! to the masses at the event and loved being able to get people as excited about as I am. If you are interested in reading more about that event read my previous blog about it.

Now I’m heading into a new period of comic creation and promotion. Besides Heads! issues two and three plus loads more events, I have new projects that I want to get started with. Will I achieve more in the next twelve months than in the last? Stay tuned to find out….

Guitars are cool and everyone is called Chris

Having never done an MCM before (nor ever having been to the ExCel) it’s fair to say my first one was nothing like I imagined it would be. I’ve tabled at comic cons, run comic cons and been part of various events in the past, but MCM was quite unique.

A massive venue filled with so much stuff for three long solid days is quite tiring to think about, let alone be involved in. Luckily I had enlisted horror writer Craig Jex to help me out for the weekend so I had someone to hang out with and hold the fort while I went for a wander. But first, we needed to set up.

I found Comic Village and was enormously pleased to discover it was not in a hall of its own. I think I’d drawn this conclusion because there’s so many things going on that I assumed we’d be tucked away in a separate room. But MCM is all open plan, allowing punters to walk through everything unencumbered. Though I am sure many people never ventured over to Comic Village, there were plenty of people who don’t normally read comics that did come by, take a look and have a chat with creators.

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Once me and Craig had set up and met our table neighbours (the über talented Mr Picto and Yannis Rubbis) we were ready for action. I’d brought my SG to display Rock In Purgatory and unveiled the characters from Heads! who I’d had made as models for the table. I hoped that these unique elements would help start conversations and get people interested in my comics. This really did help get some people over who may have missed out otherwise, and as a result I actually sold out of Rock In Purgatory half way through day two! I spent a lot of time talking guitars with people, which was really nice; it turns out a lot of rock and metal guitarists love comics as much as me too. Heads! captured imaginations as well and the unofficial launch of the book went really well. I was surprised at some of the people who did and didn’t take a punt on it, so I’ll certainly be hearing that in mind when I start marketing it again in due course. Talking to comics fans what makes these events worthwhile. It’s all well and good tweeting away all day and having a bit of online banter, but actual face to face conversation makes such a difference in getting my comics across to people and seeing what really excites them about my work. Oddly, almost all of the men who introduced themselves to me were called Chris, which at least made it easy to say hello to them again when I saw them the following day.

I managed to escape from the table plenty thanks to Craig and got to experience the rest of the show. I saw a horror panel, failed to meet some cool guests due to timing (but did wave to Amanda Conner) and got lost amongst various awesome trader stalls many times. I got round Comic Village and met some great people. I finally met Ken Reynolds in person, ran into Wimbledon Comic Art Festival exhibitors Richy Chandler and Silvia Carrus, traded abuse with Matt Garvey (obvs), and drank far too much coffee with Josh Harris.

By the end of the event I was knackered, but really pleased to have unleashed my comics on so many new people. And I had two really wonderful high points. Firstly, a fella came over to buy a copy of Rock In Purgatory because he’d been following it online. This one person who knew my work and sought it out really made the weekend for me. Great as it is to find new readers, it’s the first time someone I have never met has tracked me down to get one of my comics, so this meant a lot. Secondly, apropos of nothing Ken Reynolds told me how much he thought my art had levelled up lately. I agree – I’ve been looking back on older stuff and am really proud of how my current work is looking, so it was fantastic to know that someone as talented at Ken not only acknowledged this but has been watching me develop as well. Cheers Ken!

Those of you who were following my antics on Twitter will know I also spent all weekend tallying up the various cosplayers I fist bumped. That was a good laugh, so here’s the list of everyone I got:

  • Harley Quinn (loads of them!)
  • Starlord
  • Blacksad
  • Hellboy
  • Dick Tracy
  • Michael Myers
  • Frank from Donnie Darko
  • Amanda from SAW
  • John Constantine
  • Doctor Who mistaken for John Constantine
  • Bloodshot
  • Rocketeer
  • Preacher
  • Thanos
  • Ghost Rider

What I did while you were at Thought Bubble

I wasn’t at Thought Bubble celebrating the awesomeness of comics with the vast majority of the UK indie comics scene. But rather than dwell on what I missed (which looks to have been pretty amazing, judging by everyone’s updates), I got stuck into doing loads of comic-related stuff myself.

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Orbital Comics now stocking my titles

I was really pleased to deliver Heads! and Rock In Purgatory stock to the wonderful people at Orbital Comics in London’s Leicester Square. A beaocn for London’s comic crowd, Orbital is a brillant store whatever your comic book tastes. There is an entire small press and indie section of the shop, and I’ve managed to pick up some awesome titles there, such as Chunks by Matt Garvey, Bubbles O Seven from Bounce Comics and Katzine by Katriona Chapman. I love the fact that my books are now sharing shelf space with these kind of titles, and I hope that it helps to get my work in front of new readers. If you have a pull list at Orbital, or happen to be popping by for a comic fix please check out the indie section and pick up something new.

Heads! issue two….and three!

Heads! issue one is still warm from the presses and already my plans for the next issue are well in hand. All the art and editing is done, and I spent some time at the weekend starting the lettering. However, I put more effort into the art for issue three, which is already taking shape really well. The first three issues of the series will weave lots of mystery and delve into the character development of the main cast. I am also bringing Vortex Face into the mix. Rock In Purgatory fans will be familiar with Vortex Face, and will be pleased to hear their appearance in Heads! continues on from their origin. How do I managed to get a soul sucking doom metal band into the Heads! mix? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Interview in Popcorn Horror

I finished off my interview with horror magazine Popcorn Horror. You can get hold of their double length Halloween issue in October (follow @PopcornHorror on Twitter for updates). I was interviewed by horror writer Craig Jex for a piece about Heads! and my future comics project. The Halloween special has some great articles and a hellish cover by Chris Barnes of Brutal Posters, so its well worth checking out.

Green Lantern and Dick Tracy

I also caught up on some regular comics and grabbed some new ones. I’m all in awe of Dan Jurgens current run on Green Lanterns right now. I’m a big Lanterns fan and love where this story arc is going. Having Cyborg Superman taking over the power battery is a great idea, and the planning behind the coup is being excellently executed.
I also picked up the new Dick Tracy comic from IDW. I haven’t have a chance to read it properly yet, but it looks like a brilliant addition to the Tracy line and has gone straight on my pull list.

Focus – a tale of marketing vs creating

I’ve been a bit pre-occupied with promo activities over the last few weeks. Nothing wrong with that; it’s probably one of the reason you’re reading this blog. While marketing and creating are rather different animals, both are essential to getting a comic out into the wilderness. Finding the balance between the two is probably the trickiest bit.

The biggest thing for me right now is Heads! being published. I’m really pleased to have print copies in my hands and available for you all. Heads! is my first attempt at a logn-form comics story and this first issue will form part of the first story arc in what I hope will be a fairly long running series.

I’d always planned to do Heads! as an ongoing story, to some extent. The logisitics of creating it and keeping people interested had me change my approach a couple of times, so now it’s going to be a set of mini-series which build toward the final climax. I’m also trying to get ahead of the curve on creating it all so that I can release fairly regularly. Ideally, I want to get a new issue out every four months. So far, issue two looks ready to hit that deadline, but the marketing and promotion of issue one has eaten into my time quite a lot. However, it’s not just writing anf drawing each issue that needs to happen. I need to promote, market and sell the buggers, which takes a considerable amount of energy and resilience.

There’s a lot to be said about getting the creative / promotional balance right. As I have found when I put on Wimbledon Comic Art Festival last year (and prior to that in my music promotion past life) its hard to do both really well at the same time. Both require a lot of time, effort and – most importantly – focus. Since the start of August I’ve been pushing the release of Heads! a lot. Though it’s been really worthwhile in getting the comic out there and building a buzz around the release, its meant I have focused a lot less on drawing and writing than I would have liked to lately.

My plan for the next few weeks is to get solidly back into the creative process and let some of the marketing I’ve done look after itself. I have a few interviews and reviews being released over autumn, so other than my usual incessant tweeting I’ll be leaving the promo stuff alone until I get to MCM London at the end of October.

That said…if you do fancy buying a copy of Heads! you can get print or digital editions from my online store.

OK…I’ll stop now…

 

Chewing bubblegum and kicking ass

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Anybody catch They Live on the Horror Channel last week? It’s one of my favourite movies ever, and definitely my favourite John Carpenter movie (yes, above Halloween, which you all know I am obsessed with too).

I first saw They Live back in the early 90’s and loved it immediately. My dad put it on (it’s one of his favourites too) and he knew I’d be hooked. Horror and sci-fi movies are as much of an influence on my comics and art as anything else. They Live has been a massive reference point for Heads! and will be a movie I’ll continue to watch periodically as I develop the story further. Though I keep getting told Heads! reminds people of Dick Tracy and The X-Files (which are influences), I’d say I draw a lot of my Heads! ideas and plot methods from They Live and Luther more than anything else.

If you are looking for some awesome new comics to read (other than mine, of course, which are free to read on this website) I urge you to go and back the Little Heroes Comics Anthology on Kickstarter. I love this charity and all it stands for, so I’d love to see more people supporting them. If you haven’t heard of them, they create and distribute comics creation kits to children staying in hospital wards. That’s a pretty awesome thing to do, in my opinion, so I insist you all go and either back the new anthology or donate to them so they can provide a kit to a child.

Make sure you are tuning into the Awesome Comics Podcast on Monday as I am their guest! Yep, these guys decided that it would be a good idea to have me talk on their show for two hours – a decision they may live to regret! I will be talking about all things comics, giving you all the low down on Heads! and re-capping on my experience of organising and hosting Wimbledon Comic Art Festival last November.

Plots, Bones and print

It’s been a week of frantic Heads! drawing for me. I’ve got myself all inspired by the great responses I’ve had from the webcomic pages released so far, that I have ploughed on with getting a load more of it drawn. The story so far has been piquing the interest of lots of people, and I’ve had requests for advance previews of the rest of the first issue from excitable fans. 

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I really want to get Heads! out as a print edition. The gritty black and white feel that I have gone for would look great as a pulp-style comic. I was going to let things run for a bit longer before I jumped into this, but I am thinking of launching a Kickstart or pre-order to get it out there. What you guys think? Would you like to have a copy of Heads! rolled up in your back pocket, or do you like it just fine as digital for now? 

I watched a ton of Bones recently, and I am still re-watching season 8. As influences go, Bones isn’t really something I refer to, but I’ve been quite intrigued by the plot balancing. Each season of Bones has a single, long running plot which either resolves by the end of reaches a cliff hanger to lead you into the next season. Some are more effective than others, with the Gormogon plot in season three being one of the strongest. But rather than the whole season be focused on that one plot, there are incidental plots each episode, to keep things interesting.

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Loads of shows do this, so it’s not unique to Bones. However, I particularly like the way they often tie the incidentals to the long plot. It gives the opportunity to bring new or supporting characters into something which may reveal them to be of more importance. Mostly, I like how it can be used to divert from things in the main plot and to add red herrings. In writing Heads! I want to be able to throw readers off the scent and lead them to conclusions that are false. I want to be able to drop some surprises along the way too.  

 

 

Heads! launch and rediscoveries

It’s been a comic-fuelled few weeks for me and I couldn’t be happier.

First up, my new comic Heads! has finally started and is getting a fantastic response. It’s my first long-form story and will be structured in ‘episodes’ like a classic private detective TV series.

I’ve started to launch this as a weekly webcomic, which is something I’ve never done before. Already I’ve had a load of great feedback, particularly people impatient for the next page to release, which must mean its grabbing people straight away! A few previews and press releases went out and have gone down well. I also got a shout out on The Awesome Comics Podcast from Tony Esmond (Down The Tubes, Never Iron Anything, Cockney Kung-Fu) resulting in this rather tasty quote – thanks Tony!

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The plan is to get it out in print very soon. Keep an eye out for either a Kickstarter or a pre-order coming up in the next month or so. You can read the story so far for free on the Heads! page of this website.

Also this month the print run of Rock In Purgatory was finally completed. This was a beast of a project to put together and I’m really proud to be able to hold it in my hands at last! Pre-order copies have been received and its been fantastic to have comments about how good it looks and people tweeting photos with their copy! The print run was limited, but there are still a few copies left if you want one, but be quick! I’ve also added a digital edition for just £1.99 as well. Check out my online store to get your hands on it.

In other comics news, I’ve been delving into new things lately – well, new to me anyway. My illustrator buddy Heather Chapman tipped me off about a ton of comics in a charity shop and I managed to get away with an armful of old Archie digests. I’ve been using these as reference here and there in the past, as they are great for showing ways to illustrate and compose conversations and keep them looking interesting. But I’d never really read Archie much before. Now that I’ve ploughed through a few issues, I’m hooked! Not only are these going to be great reference material but the short strip method and compact print format are something I’ve fallen in love with.

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I’ve also got back into Green Lantern and am loving rediscovering the Jessica Cruz / Simon Baz stories in Green Lanterns. The current storyline is pretty compelling and I’m now thinking I need to get back into the Hal Jordan titles as well…my pull list is about to get much more expensive…

 

Who’s who in Heads!

Reading Heads! or looking to jump on? Make a start but getting to know some of the characters you will be meeting along the way. Here’s a quick overview of the leads – more detailed character articles will be coming as the webcomic pilot runs.

datsunDatsun
Our hero (if you can call him that) is maudlin private detective Steve Datsun. An ex-Met Police detective, Datsun left the force and set up shop independently, only to find himself facing the most unusual crimes and criminals right on his own doorstep. Not having to answer to his old police superiors, Datsun can take matters into his own hands a little more, but does he really want to get so involved in what these weird Heads! girls are up to?

 

 

higginsHiggins
Datsun’s old police buddy Andy Higgins also decided the Met wasn’t where he saw himself staying. Cobbling together a bit of cash, he and Datsun rented an office above an Indian restaurant and started their own detective agency. The voice of reason to Datsun’s impulsive gut, Higgins does what he can to balance Datsun’s view in the face of this spree of odd crimes. But there’s only so much reassurance he can give before the coincidences don’t look like coincidences anymore…

 

burtonBurton
DCI Burton is still an upstanding member of the Metropolitan Police Force, and for his sins, is also still Datsun’s main connection to them. Acting as reluctant go-between, Burton has the tough job of upholding the law while also helping Datsun do so in his own way. The results seem to be going well, but will a day come when Burton has to choose his friend over his job?

 

 

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Three girls wearing giant animal heads and oversized ski gloves committing unpredictable heists across London? Meet the Heads! gang! Nobody knows who they are, where they came from or what they are up to. But one thing’s for sure, Datsun is on their case now and no matter what they do, or who they employ to get in his way, he’ll be coming for them.

Read Heads! for free now!