Monday, 22 December 2008

Spoilt for Choices

So, we come to the end of 2008, which has been a fantastic year for Insomnia.

Below you can see the finished, fully coloured cover for Layer Zero: Choices, which was delivered well before its deadline as an extra special Christmas present to kick off the holiday season.

Pencils and inks by Scott James
Colours by Jason Millet

Scott and Jason will be joining Cancertown writer Cy Dethan on a project for Markosia next year, The Case Files of Harlan Falk.

Speaking of Layer Zero we are also delighted to have welcomed three new artists into the fold this last week, and paired them up with writers. Say hello to:
We have also found a very special new colourist for Daemon, by Alasdair Duncan and Daniel Lopez:
So, that about wraps up a very busy year.

Thanks to everyone we've worked with in 2008 and we're looking forward to working with a lot more of you in 2009.

We'll See you all again on the 5th of January, and some of you on our first visit to the New York Comic Con - drop by and say "Hi" if you're passing.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to every one, and remember, if you're going to be naughty, play nice!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Trade Secrets

Latest Updates

Here's a quick round up of what's been going on at Insomnia this week:
  • Stephen Downey, penciller for Cancertown, went to the a show in Dublin where he was able to hand Jonathan Hickman a copy of the newly printed Cages which features his fantastic cover, hand out lots of badges and get lots of compliments on his stunning artwork.

  • Stref, creator of MILK (out next year) was interviewed about the book for RKYV Online
    and Jazma

  • We signed Death Hunter: Dead Man's Gold by James Johnson with Georgios Dimitriou - Artist, Thanos Tsilis - Layouts, Leonardo M. Giron - Conceptual Artist:

    Profit is a haven of fortune that bears more resemblance to a 'Western Utopia' than any familiar backwater town. It has been built from the pockets of one man - a man whose past is about to return and fulfil a forgotten curse.

    Welcome to the dead west, where greed and corruption shows its true origins.

  • We signed Six Months by Jim O'Hara:

    An uneasy exploration of what happens when, perhaps too late, you discover the answers to what it is that gives your life meaning, the relationship between law and society, and what it means when you longer need to hide anything from yourself or others.
Full details on both of these in the new year.

As you will have seen from posts about upcoming books and projects, Insomnia decided a while back to publish "instant trades" or "albums" of all our books rather than any floppies.

This week I thought I would talk about the main reasons for this, as this difference always seems to be one of the main talking points with creators, readers, retailers and other publishers when I get a chance to chat with them at conventions.

When people say "comics" they think of 22 - 24 page "floppies" as representing an entire medium. I find this strange. When people say "books" or "sculptures" or "paintings" they are not nearly this prescriptive in their thinking. I find this close tie between the artistic medium and physical format odd.

"So what's wrong with floppies then?". Well, nothing, actually. One of my most prized possessions is my original run of V for Vendetta. Not the mention the full sensory delight that is taking my Jim Starlin Warlocks out of their box (not only is the art mind blowing but they feel and smell so nice!). And, being a reader-turned-artist I still personally have a pretty hefty pull list that is like a little slice of Christmas when the package shows up every month.

The question is really "What are floppies good for?" and I think the answer to that is "What they were designed for", which is, of course, on-going stories that are produced on a regular schedule and have a loyal audience that waits for each new issue in anticipation.

Of course the form influences the storytelling structure so they lend themselves to the kinds of stories that are naturally episodic and have a pace and shape that leaves the reader satisfied by 22 pages but still wanting more. Maybe I'll talk to some of our writers about doing a piece about structuring next year - that is a hidden art or science that is not seen explicitly on the page in the same way as the art style, or the dialogue, but one that can make or break a story.

So far probably most of the greatest examples of the medium have been created to fit this "floppy shape" mostly for business reasons (regular revenue streams, how the logistics of the previews, printing and distribution have worked, creators needing regular paychecks) rather than artistic concerns, but things are starting to change. This change is coming through technology, through a different view of "what comics are" and "what comics can do" from publishers and creators, through classifications being broken down and rebuilt in new forms, through people wanting to experiment with what they love.

Insomnia's format decision, though, springs mainly from our focus on creators and our desire to deliver something different. Neither of these things will work with a "floppies" model for a smaller publisher because:
  • Different is understandably scary to readers and retailers on tight budgets
  • Monthly schedules are practically impossible for newer creators with other commitments.
Both of those things contribute to a vicious circle that mean, in effect, you already have to be successful to be successful, retailers already need to know your books sell to try and sell your books and readers already need to know your work to know they want your work a try. Tricky, huh?

But, as has happened elsewhere, the internet has helped. The getting known is becoming easier. One of the good things about comics being the "problem child" of the art world is that the comics industry, and I use the term very loosely, is made up of a fairly anarchic bunch - now technology has got us all talking to each other the biggest question being asked is "Why I can't I do it my way?", "Do you want to try this?", "Are you the boss of me?".

An unfortunate fact is that the independent specialist comic shop is becoming an endangered species. There are now only around 100, give or take, in the UK. Of course you can find comics in other places, but many of those places have no place for single issues in their ordering, stocking or shelving systems.

A bright side is that many more people are discovering the medium from many angles, and by many routes, the audience is diversifying incredibly and the demand for a huge variety of styles and subject matter is increasing.

So, yes, we are producing complete books "from the off" and here are the main reasons why:

1) We can have our books carried by large book chains, independent bookshops, online retailers etc as well as specialist comic shops.

2) A book has a longer "shelf life" than an individual comic which has one month "on shelf" (probably tucked away in the Indie section, realistically, as shops have limited shelf space and have to have guaranteed sellers on show) before being consigned to the back issues boxes and no longer visible to potential customers. This is a big problem for indie books that people may not have heard of, or know to ask for.

3) Many retailers and readers are nervous about taking a chance on a new indie book - will it finish its run, will it come out regularly etc. It is much easier to try something new if you can get the whole story at once.

4)Reviewers like to read a complete story to make a complete review, especially when they may not have encountered the creative team before. Readers like reviews that cover the whole story. It is easier to decide if you want to buy something on a "this was great" than a "this looks promising". We let people read the first chapter for free as an ebook in most cases as well.

5) Our books are mainly for an older (15+) audience, and, within that, people who may not think of themselves as "into comics" or ever have been to a comic shop, but who are becoming more interested as the medium, and its potential, is getting more attention. I once heard Bryan Talbot say that when he was starting out his favourite film was "Don't Look Now" - and why couldn't we have that sort of artistry in comics storytelling? He was 30 years ahead of his time, and I still feel his question stands today. If you get the chance to hear him speak about this, what he has tried to achieve in his career, balancing his commercial and personal work etc at one of his talks drop anything else you had on that day and go.

6) The most important reason of all, though, is that we are trying to provide a new route into the industry for the many extremely talented creators who want to do something different / interesting / challenging with creator owned books, but who have not yet been able to (or perhaps don't even want to) go full time as comics professionals.

By putting a complete book out in one go we are able to agree schedules with our creative teams that mean they can fit working on the books around day jobs, page rate work, other commitments etc without the pressure of a monthly schedule which would not be realistic for them.

Also the "traditional routes" through the major publishers may not be suitable for the types of stories that some people want to tell - and you usually have to be a pretty big name before you get to use your own characters at larger publishers.

7) Finally it also allows us to include some of the "extras" like concept art, script pages, interviews with the creators etc that you normally have to wait (and buy a new edition) for.

So that is why we are doing what we are doing, I hope to see some of you there doing it with us.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Cancer Scans

Cancertown is nearing completion now and new artwork is flowing in for Chapter five.

The writer, Cy Dethan has been writing on his blog last week about how it feels to see your script come to life as a comic, and I thought that it might be interesting for readers to see the stages as well.

In a departure from my usual blogs, I am going to keep this one silent and let the process speak for itself. I am going to show you how issue five, page four took shape. Yes, this is a page from deep in the book, I chose it because it is one of my favourites. This shouldn't be a spoiler though, as you'd have to know what happens in the lead up to this for that to be the case.

Click on the images to see bigger versions that you can actually read.

Cancertown Script: Issue five, page four: by Cy Dethan

Cancertown Pencils and Inks: Issue five, page four: by Stephen Downey

Cancertown Colours: Issue five, page four: by Melanie Cook

Cancertown Letters Issue five, page four: by Nic Wilkinson

And that's how you make a comic.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Also this week:
  • Cages went to print with our wonderful new printers, Warpton, more on them at a later date.

  • Insomnia got a brief mention on the famous Forbidden Planet Blog in John "Down The Tubes" Freeman's "Best of 2008" round up. Thanks John!

    If you don't know Down The Tubes go over and check it out now. It is probably the best source of British comics news out there, and John Freeman is not only a champion of independent comics, but a talented creator himself.
Until next week (and then it will be nearly Christmas!)...

Monday, 1 December 2008

Alasdair Duncan reveals his Daemons

This week I'm taking the helm on the blog as Nic's away. Thankfully you're not stuck with me rambling on as Alasdair Duncan, writer of the upcoming album, Daemon, tells us some more about the story.

Revenge is sweet.
So thinks former pilot Guy Shearman as he festers in a hospital bed. Now a quadriplegic from a terrible accident, all that keeps him alive is seeking retribution on Andrea Robinson, the woman who put him into this state.

Only it’s not that simple.
Released from his living prison through the corruption of a medical research project, Guy discovers where the blame for the accident really lies.

Having seen what it can do and to stop his research falling into the wrong hands, project director Philip Bletchley unwittingly opens a door to a place where revenge is all. Taking pity on the countless victims locked in a senseless cycle of retribution he makes it his mission to lead them all to freedom, regardless of the consequences.

Fate decides the only two people who can understand this madness are Kelly, Bletchley’s assistant, and Andrea herself. But should they, or will they, shut Bletchley’s doors? As to do so they will need the help of the one person neither wants to deal with, Guy Shearman. Kelly was used and abused by him while Andrea lost her only daughter in the same accident which crippled Guy.

Revenge is not sweet.

Revenge is complicated.

Very complicated.

Daemon is pencilled by Daniel Lopez with letters by Nic Wilkinson and is due out in 2009.

I also managed to tear Alasdair away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the writing process in the following interview:

How did a writer of novels (and some described as ‘too polite’ at that) come to write a horror comic?

You can only spend so long banging your head against the same brick wall. Four novels later and still with no agent, I had a stack of rejection letters big enough to fill a black bin liner. If nothing else I felt I needed a change to stop madness setting in and a friend of mine who reads comics suggested we collaborate on one. We decided we’d really push all the boundaries we could and turn all the conventions we could find on their head. The result was awful.

However the opening chapter where the main character becomes a quadriplegic had promise, so having thrown away the rest this first chapter gradually evolved into Daemon and that when Crawford got involved and the idea of Insomnia floated.

Is there a difference between writing novels and comic books?

And how! What fascinates me is when journalists think they can write novels or when novelists try to write poetry. All the disciplines are so different that they use completely different skill sets.

Writing for a comic was so liberating, not least the fewer words you had to use. There’s no room for the three and a half pages that Arnold Bennet devotes to describing Anna’s dressing table top in ‘Anna and the Five Towns’. It really is true that every word has to earn its place on the page. If it’s not needed or is a repeat of what went earlier then it shouldn’t be there.

Suddenly I found I could maintain momentum in the story and I love the idea of trying to find a hook on every page to draw the reader on to the next one. It gave my work the pace it sadly lacked in novels. I’m not saying comics are easier to write, just that the demands they make matched the skills I have better than writing novels.

But what about working in a team? In a novel it’s just you and the paper. Surely sharing your work is hard?

A blessed relief actually. In novels you bear the rejection letters on your own; have to work through plot problems or character wrinkles alone. It’s a real grind. As part of a team producing a comic (with the right team I hasten to add) you all build on each other’s work and suddenly the whole exercise becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. In Daemon maybe I didn’t give enough direction to Daniel, but on the other hand he had enough of the bones to provide the flesh, and what flesh! Many of the small, clever details are not mine but come purely from him. Then he too is surprised by what Nic can do with the lettering, taking the whole page on yet another step further.

For me it comes very naturally, as I used to act and direct plays, and so am used to sharing a creative process and therefore trusting the others you have along with you for the ride. As with all teams – if you’re pulling in the same direction you can reach some extreme speeds, but if not, then you never really get going. Thankfully, Crawford is particularly good at getting the right people in the right place.

Will this be the beginning of a long series?

In novels I have a particular dislike of never ending series as they go on and on and on. Think of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ and its interminable sequels, or Julian May’s ‘Many Coloured Land’ not to mention Stephen Donaldson. All began with a good book and ended with rotten ones.

Having said that. I like the characters in Daemon and they have more of a story to tell, but not that long a story! Maybe there’s one more to come, but only if it remains as hard and true as the first one. And a long series? I don’t want to end up in the same place as Messers Herbert, Donaldson and Ms May!

Thanks very much for giving us some insight into the writing process. I can't wait to see the final pages!

That's all we've got time for this week. Hopefully we'll return to normal next week with Nic back in charge of The Red Eye.

If you haven't done so already be sure to check out our Myspace, Comicspace, Facebook and Linkedin.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Nightly News

Well, it's been a very busy few weeks with the Birmingham, MCM Expo and Thought Bubble Conventions. Insomnia becoming a limited company with shareholders and everything (meaning we can now offer better contracts to all our creators), and that sugar fueled frenzy of signing up new books that I mentioned last week.

Now that's all done and we're able to catch our breath we can tell you what all that means for Insomnia, and give some well deserved congratulations to some of our wonderfully talented writers and artists.

Layer Zero Update

Layer Zero: Choices is almost full now. Take a look at this:

Wow, right?

This amazing piece of work-in-progress will be the cover. By the time you see it on the shelves it will be in colour, but I was so excited I wanted to give it a preview here. It is by the brilliant Scott James. Scott is one of those artists you can just say a few words to and trust he gets completely what you want. A few days later you will open your email and something like this will be waiting for you. Just like magic, it is exactly what you wanted, but also so much better than you could have imagined.

So, what else is going to be in the book? Well, so far we have confirmed:
We are still accepting submissions until 31st of Dec.

The theme of the next anthology will be "Survival", and I have one story signed for that already.

New Books Signed

Our newest signings are:
All of these will be getting their own posts over the next few weeks with all the details.

Congratulations Due

And finally, give it up for our fantastic creators:
Until next week when I will be handing over blog duties to Crawford as I will be away.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Night Thoughts - Thought Bubble 2008

On Saturday the 15th of November Insomnia had a stand at the 2nd Thought Bubble convention as part of the Leeds Sequential Art festival.

This is a fantastic show with a really great atmosphere. It seemed more creator focussed than other cons and we met a lot of very talented people, all of whom had many unique and interesting ideas they wanted to talk to us about.

There was very much a sense that creating comics is suddenly, dizzyingly, possible, that people are no longer believing what they are told and are finding new ways of cutting through, tunnelling under, bounding over or just completly ignoring what they have been told for decades were impassable obstacles. This is exactly why Crawford Coutts formed Insomnia, and it was a real pleasure to meet so many of you face to face.

The drive and creativity of the indy scene is staggering - and extremely inspiring. The generosity of creators is always heartening and hearing how many people were recommending each other for projects, or introducing people to each other because "they need to meet" is great to see. We have seen some amazing work and met "just the right person" so many times this way, which we would, most likely, never had done so were it not for this collaborative attitude.

The visitors, publishers and creators were the most diverse mix I have seen at a comics event, and it is really becoming very apparent that comics as a form are making their way out of dank back bedrooms and clammy collectors paws to stand proudly alongside any other storytelling media. Kind of reminds me of what happened to computer games when the original Playstation made it into clubs and front rooms and gaming became not only socially acceptable, but cool. Still, I digress.

Different cons have different feels and so each is better for getting particular things done. The buzz and enthusiam from creators from all aspects of the industry made being a publisher at Thought Bubble like being a kid in the world's best sweetshop. Now we get the great job of stickily making our way through all the goodies we gathered and signing up our next wave of books and creators in a sugar fuelled frenzy.

As well as meeting up with lots of old friends and seeing people "live" for the first time that we had only spoken to online, particular Insomnia Related Highlights from the show were:

  • A great meeting with Barry Nugent where we discussed how the Fallen Heroes adaptation is going to work in practice.

  • Signed up several new stories for Layer Zero on the spot, and discussed ideas with several more writers who want to make submissions. Watch this space for a Layer Zero update about some of the stories, writers and artists very soon.

  • Found several new artists for our longer projects on the strength of some stunning portfolios on show. Any artists who brought portfolios and but didn't get to speak to us please drop me a line at (the biggest file I can receive is 7mb in one email, though)

  • Discussed several full length Graphic Novel proposals of exactly the kind of challenging, left field, thought provoking stories we are after. For those wanting to make submissions, but could not make the show then have a look at our submissions guidelines page.

  • Had a brilliantly in-depth meeting with Chris Barker about Shiver a creator owned original graphic novel that we first discussed at BICS. In the last few weeks it has gone from an outline concept to a full proposal for an unsettling story that is by equal turns , horrifying, moving and, best of all, deeply troubling. I can't reveal more at this stage, as nothing has been signed, but I am hoping to be able to tell you that has changed in the very near future.

  • Spoke with Markosia boss Harry Markos, MyeBook and the Superman of Independent Comics Publishing, Shane Chebsey about a plan to make it easier for readers and retailers to find out about independent books in a bit more depth than you get from Previews. We know all about how annoying it can be as a reader or a retailer to hear about an independent book from a friend, online, via a review or whatever and just not be able to find any details about where to buy it, or how your local comic shop can get hold of it for you. Big thanks must go to Manny Armario of Whatever Comics for adding a veteran retailer's experience to this discussion over the last few months. More on that as we work out the details.

  • Spoke to Neil "Dynamo 5, X-men, Iron Man" Edwards about drawing a new OGN by Cy "Starship Troopers, Cancertown" Dethan. More news as and when, if everyone's schedules work out so it can happen.

  • While I was having all the fun talking to creators, our sales manager and co-founder of Insomnia, Alasdair Duncan, was doing the hard graft of manning the stand and talking distribution and logisitics and all the organisational side of things with various retailers and chains. He really knows his stuff, and we are pleased to say that if your hometown has a comic shop it won't be hard to find Insomnia books on the shelves.

  • Alasdair also found time to run the interactive "Monster Wall" where you had a chance to design your own monster. This been succesful at cons in the past but was a huge hit this time.

  • I was gratified by the number of people who said they were reading this very blog, and the fact that people were coming over to speak to us about project because they had heard good things about working with us. But you'll have to ask them about that.
Which is all a very long and round about way of saying the con was great for us - if there is any chance of you making it next year I highly recommend you take the trip to Leeds.

Thanks to Tamsin, Lisa and all the other organisers for making it happen.

Until next Monday...

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ben Templesmith Caged

This Saturday (15th November) Insomnia will be at the Thought Bubble festival in Leeds for the first time. The comics convention is part of a longer festival in the city designed to "celebrate sequential art in all its forms".

At the show you will be able to get your hands on a limited number of pre-distribution copies of Cages by Xander Bennet and Melanie Cook before its official release in December.

We sent a copy of Cages to the Horror Master Ben Templesmith himself. Here he is with Xander, and the book, at San Diego Comic Con, ready to sign some copies. Everyone who pre-ordered a copy of the Layer Zero special edition at this year's Bristol Expo was entered into competition to win a copy signed by Xander Bennett Melanie Cook, Jonathan Hickman, and Ben Templesmith.

Being a lovely man as well as one of the most talented artists working in comics today, he agreed to write us a foreword. Here are some of the things he said:

"Cages is quite a book.

You can tell from the first page there's a love for the medium. You can clearly see the labour of love gone into this book, and clocking in past 100 pages is no mean feat in an age when many artists struggle to merely pencil a 22 page book.

I have to say, I'm a sucker for tentacles (yeah, bad pun). If anyone is familiar with my work, they'll know of this... and probably worry that I've got some rather strange fetishes. But by Odin's hairy balls, it's not a real book unless there's some tentacle action, if you ask me.

Cages has it in spades. You can't beat talking critters in bio-tubes either. In fact, the world Melanie and Xander have created here, the vibe they've given the work, is really quite lovely. And disturbing. Let's not forget disturbing."

And really, you can't argue with that.

If you want to see the tentacles in action before making up your mind to buy, then head over to myebook where you can read the first chapter for free or visit the Cages Comic website for more from Xander about the book.

In other news this week:

  • Insomnia have signed up the cult hit Fallen Heroes by novelist and co-host of the Geek Syndicate Podcast, Barry Nugent for adaptation into a graphic novel. Fallen Heroes is a stylish supernatural thriller with a rich dark heart. The sharp, multi-layered plot and slick characters of modern crime writing juxtaposed with shadowy agencies, ancient magic and pulp adventure heroes make for a heady fusion of action romp nostalgia. The creative team is yet to be confirmed but details here as soon as it is.

  • Average Joe by Thomas Romeo and Kelvin Chan has also been signed up for publication in around 12-18 months time. Joe is an ordinary Glaswegian who has become Death, the job having been passed on to him randomly after he freezes to death one night in his car. The story of how the team for this project came about, and how it came to us is an inspiring tale in itself - but that deserves a post of its own. For now we will just say "Thanks to Millarworld".
Time's up for this week, come by and say hello if you're going to Leeds.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Milk Before Bedtime

So, time to spill the beans, but hopefully not the MILK on a project we have been in discussions over for a while: MILK by Stref.

Visuals that will blow you away..
Stories that will mess with your mind...
Welcome to the world of MILK!

Instead of me telling you about it, take a look at this:

"Coming from a virtually unknown artist, MILK contains some of the most beautiful, expressive art that I've seen in a long time. It deserves to be a huge commercial success".
ALAN GRANT, June 2008

Yes, that Alan Grant. One of my absolute heroes. The man who co-created Johnny Alpha, the coolest character to step out of British Comics. In fact he wrote a lot more than that about the book, and has been very supportive to Stref during the creative process, but you'll have to wait til it comes out to find out about that.

And yes, it looks like Mr Grant is right. This is, after all, the book that got its facebook profile page suspended for having too many people sign up to it!

What is MILK all about then, and why has it got the internet so excited?

The simple answer is that MILK is a collection of short stories, but unlike most anthology titles they are all the work of one man. Every story in MILK is drawn by the same artist, but unlike most art portfolio books each piece is masterfully executed in a completely different style.

The book will be about 100 pages long, and consists of 14 short stories (so far!), a gallery of artwork, and plenty of "back matter" covering Stref's extraordinary style, the history of the project, and his creative techniques and inspirations.

MILK is a book you need to bring your brain to, with a range of story telling styles to match the diversity of the art, but it will also make you laugh. The stories are a mix of b&w, full colour and two colour work, sharing a similar themes and a very British strand of dark humour. While the stories are all individually excellent, reading them as a collection elevates them to a whole new level.

We heard of the MILK project through SmallZone a social network for independent comic creators run by the wonderful and indefatigable Shane Chebsey. This is a fantastic example of how technology, the web in particular, is changing "the way the comics industry works" and just the kind of thing we are keeping our eyes open for. Talent will out and there are so many ways now to connect creators, publishers and readers (and many people are something of each) in a glorious, blossoming chaos (to quote Cancertown writer, Cy Dethan in a recent interview) that can only be good for the medium we love.

This is one glass of MILK that won't give you a peaceful night's sleep.

Until next week.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Trick or Treat - "Choices" from Insomnia

The clocks have gone back, the year is drawing to a close and unnatural things are on the prowl in the dark. The long winter nights being perfect for Insomniac storytellers we are putting out a call for submissions for the next edition of our Layer Zero anthology: Choices

To get you in the mood here is the first panel from the first page of art from the first piece we have accepted: Magpie by Richard McAuliffe with art by Mark Chilcott.

The days may be getting colder and the nights may be getting longer but Halloween marks the start of the holiday season for many. It can be so much fun, but there are so many choices to make: where to go, what to do, what to wear, trick or treat?

We are looking for writers and artists - independently or as teams.
Submissions should be:
  • stories on the theme of Choices
  • 2-10 pages long
  • Black and White or Greyscale
  • Scripts should be submitted by 31st of December.
  • Art will need to be complete by March 2009
The pieces will be published online initially at, where we will show a selection of stories in rotation, and then collected for publication as an album in mid 2009.

There is no payment for inclusion in Layer Zero, you should think of it as an opportunity to showcase your work, but you retain all rights and may reuse the work elsewhere.

Stories in Layer Zero may also work as "pilot episodes" for longer works that we could expand into full length books if they are successful. If you would like to know more about this before you make a submission please drop us a line at

Cover art for Choices, along with a very special story will be provided by the extremely talented Scott James. This collection will also feature the very first episode of Butterflies and Moths, by Corey Brotherson, a gritty magic realist tale about balance and burdens.

Contact Nic Wilkinson by email at for more info or to make a submission.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Burke and Hare Signing: Insomnia Works the Graveyard Shift

Over a 12 month period from 1827-1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland, two Irishmen by the names of William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people and disposed of their bodies to the eminent dissectionist Dr Robert Knox at 10 Surgeon's Square. History often mistakenly references the murderous duo's graverobbing or 'bodysnatching' activities - when, in truth, the pair never set foot in a graveyard with the intention of stealing a corpse.

Writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering delve into the murky, misquoted history of Scotland's most notorious serial killers with a research-based graphic novel that unwravels a ghoulish story of medicine, murder and money.

Nic Wilkinson says:

"Burke and Hare could have stepped, in full lurid glory from the pages of a penny dreadful. The tale of the resurrectionists is classic gothic horror in the tradition of Sweeney Todd, Varney the Vampire or Spring Heeled Jack. It also happens to be true.

Martin and Will are getting back into mainstream comics in earnest, following a 10-year absence, and we are delighted to have them back with us."

Martin Conaghan's first published writing work appeared in Aceville Publications' Comic World in 1992, in the form of interviews and reviews with writers and artists such as Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. This was followed by a one-off Tharg's Terror Tale in the 1995 2000AD Yearbook and several short stories for the American publisher CaliberPress, including an issue of their popular Raven Chronicles title. In 1997, he produced a weekly internet column for The Big Issue in Scotland, in addition to writing feature articles for The Herald and other Scottish broadsheet newspapers. He now works for the BBC.

Will Pickering worked on the strip 'Dr Ballard' for the Glasgow-based indie comic 'Frankly' and continues to work on his self-published superhero series 'Something Fast'. He also illustrated Martin's issue of Raven Chronicles for Caliber (entitled 'The Compensators'). He has worked in music journalism and magazine editing, and was a candidate for the rectorship of Glasgow university in 1999 (beaten by former Eastender Ross Kemp). He also produced a strip for the final issue of the popular independent comic Northern Lightz.

Please contact Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director, at nichola[at] for further details, or requests for interviews with the creative team.

Until next week.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Unbelievable Signing - Insomnia Captures The Beast of Bryn Boncath

It's Midnight, it's Monday and here we are with the first of the Regular Red Eyes. This time the eyes are not red from sleeplessness, and, instead of burning, they glow.

With BICS 2008 now a fortnight in the past We are ready to announce our first signing from the show: Unbelievable (The Man Who Ate Daffodils) written and drawn by the Welsh Wonder that is Simon Wyatt.

Unbelievable: (Adjective: Not to be believed: inconceivable, incredible, unimaginable, unthinkable. Idioms: beyond belief, contrary to all reason).

The remote mining village of Bryn Boncath has its share of stories, of local legends, of half believed histories. It is a close knit community, with closely guarded secrets. It is home to the orphaned Ben Ellis and his grandfather, Emrys, and it has become the scene of a series of bizarre and mysterious deaths.

A new neighbour has moved in. A man long thought dead has returned. Livestock are missing. There are noises in the night. People are afraid to go into out after dark and sightings of a giant hound, or maybe a big cat are on the increase once again.

Suddenly it seems to Ben that what he took to be the tall tales of his grandfather may be more than just stories. It seems that something is stirring in the forests and the mountains around Bryn Boncath. It seems that ancient history is repeating and this time round Ben has an important part to play.

Unbelievable is a dark masterpiece that weaves strands of Welsh legend, modern murder mystery and horror with a dash of crytozoology that wonders: What if seeing isn’t always believing, but believing will allow you to see?

Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director says:

"I first saw Simon's work in progress on Unbelievable on his comicspace page back before I was working with Insomnia, and the art just blew me away. I love British mythology and we chatted about an earlier project of his, Mabinogion - Dawn of The Gods. He promised to draw me a sketch of my favourite Unbelievable character if we met up at BICS later in the year.

Months pass.

BICS rolls round.

I meet Simon in person at the launch party on the Friday night and he tells me he has my sketch. On Saturday morning I spot him sitting at the Orang-Utan table, drawing away and go to collect my picture. It is fantastic. Since we last spoke about Unbelievable things have changed. Under the table is a big black folder with the art almost complete and a spiral bound pitch book with character backgrounds, concept sketches, the full plot breakdown the whole works. I am now working for Insomnia.

If the samples in comic space looked good, the whole thing together was incredible - unbelievable, even. I hurry back to tell Crawford what I have found. They talk. We talk. BICS ends. There are lots of questions and emails and phone calls and things to work out. On Friday last week the deal was done.

I am very proud to be able to say this was my first signing for Insomnia, and it exemplifies everything we are looking for in a book and from a creator. In short, being able to bring out work like this is everything that we, as a company, are trying to do.

Simon has been illustrating books, comics and games for over 20 years and was National Young Cartoonist of the Year for Wales. He has worked for various indie comics publishers including Orang Utan Comics Studio, Angry Gnome Comics and Markosia. This is his first full-length graphic novel.

Part of me is hoping She-Wolf of St. Trinians will be his next, but you'll have to ask him about that."

Until next week.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Red Eyed and Bushy Tailed

Welcome aboard the Red Eye, the new weekly blog from Insomnia Publications.

Insomnia is an independent comics publisher founded by Managing Director Crawford Coutts. Insomnia is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, with various partners in London, Dundee and Vancouver.

We mostly publish "instant trades" or "albums" in the European model so that readers can find our books in bookstores and online as well as in dedicated independent comic shops. We believe strongly in the importance of creators rights, and all creators who work with us become part of the Insomnia Family. Nic Wilkinson, our new Creative Director, will be back with more on this in an upcoming post.

Those who have not been sleeping nights the past few months may have noticed a faint glow from Insomnia HQ as we have worked through through the darkness to deliver our first set of books blinking into the light of day.

So, rub your eyes and take a look at the previews on MyeBook:

If you'd like to get in touch you can reach us at redeye[at]

If you would like to make a submission as a writer, penciller, cover artist, inker, colourist or letterer please contact us at submissions[at]

All aboard the Red Eye same time, next week.

A Trip To Cancertown

"Remember - nothing here is real, and everything can hurt you."

Cancertown, coming early 2009 from Insomnia Publications, is the first creator owned original graphic novel from Cy "Starship Troopers" Dethan. Art on this monstrosity is provided by Stephen Downey, who’s an important discovery for Insomnia and Colours are by Cages artist Melanie Cook and Letters are by Nic Wilkinson.

Cy Dethan says:

"Okay, so get this: Vincent Morley is a barely functional former mental patient with an inoperable tumour nestling in his brain. See that? That’s our hero. Morley suffers from a rare mental disorder that causes him to believe a number of unlikely things about himself and his relationship to his environment. Chief among these delusions is the idea that he has the ability to step out of reality and into a monstrous alternate world he calls Cancertown.

Now, that’s all very well as a personal, private little Hell – but when normal people start tripping over the cracks in reality and falling into Cancertown, Morley decides that his role in life is to find them and ferry them back out again.

Unfortunately for all concerned, there are other forces at work in Cancertown, and not all of them understand or appreciate what Morley’s trying to do..."

We will be hearing more from all of the creative team in future posts as they tell us what it was like to build Cancertown.
Cancertown is now available to preorder from Amazon

Please contact Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director, at nichola[at] for further details, review copies or requests for interviews with the creative team.


"Lovely... and disturbing. Let's not forget disturbing." - Ben Templesmith.

What if you’d spent your whole life in a cage, never glimpsing the world outside? What if everything you knew was darkness, fear and cold, clinical steel? What if one day, an angel came to you with a message of hope – a message that you were about to be set free? This is the story of CAGES, a dark future tale of horror and redemption.

CAGES is written by Xander Bennett, illustrated by Melanie Cook has cover art by Jonathan Hickman & a foreword by Ben Templesmith.

In a post-apocalyptic world torn apart by biological weapons, cities and governments no longer exist, and the very atmosphere is poisonous to breathe. The few survivors are ruled by a shadowy group of near-omnipotent leaders who dwell in an artificial underground paradise known as the Vault. These Vault-Lords have commanded their minions on the surface world to build and maintain sinister medical research facilities in which prisoners like Gabby and her two brothers are kept caged.

Gabby, Mike and Raph aren’t exactly your average twelve-year-olds. They have memories of a life spent in the miserable confines of the labs, of constant experiments, of growing up in captivity and relying on each other to survive. Aside from her brothers, Gabby’s only comfort comes in the form of an angelic being of light that only she can see.

But when an unexpected order from one of the Vault-Lords threatens to destroy everything, a chain of events is set in motion that leads to the children escaping from the lab and tasting freedom for the first time – only to come face to face with the many dangers of this deadly new world. From genetically-engineered monsters to brutal scavenger tribes and agents of the Vault, the three children must face their demons and overcome them together.

As current world events focus attention on issues of wrongful imprisonment and human rights, CAGES seeks to tackle these issues head-on.

The strongest cages are the ones we build around ourselves.
It’s time to break free.
Please contact Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director, at nichola[at] for further details, review copies or requests for interviews with the creative team.

Layer Zero: Special Edition TPB

Insomnia Publications’ Layer Zero project is an anthology book showcasing creators with a wide range of styles and approaches, but all dealing with a common theme.

Collecting the sell-out, critically acclaimed "Insomnia" and "Time" Layer Zero Anthologies. This special edition has an all new cover by Paul Cartwright and showcases the work of over 30 creators.

With over 30 creators involved, including Cy Dethan, Paul Green and Thomas Mauer along with talents such as Paul Cartwright, Alasdair Duncan, Luke Hinchley, Mike Webster, Robert Robinson, Thommy Melanson, Nic Wilkinson and many more,

The special edition was launched at the Bristol Comics Expo 2008 where the first printing sold out over the weekend . Everyone who had pre-ordered was entered into this year's Insomnia Competition for copy of Cages, all the way from San Diego, signed by Xander Bennett, Melanie Cook, Jonathan Hickman, and Ben Templesmith

Layer Zero Special Edition 2nd printing is now available to Pre-Order on Amazon

Please contact Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director, at nichola[at] for further details, review copies or requests for interviews with the creative team.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Looking Out For Creators

Insomnia Publications are inviting submsissions.

Hi everyone this is Nic Wilkinson.

I am very pleased to announce that, as of a few days ago, I have recently accepted the role of Creative Director for Insomnia Publicationsm having been involved with the company as an artist and letterer for about 18 months.

Insomnia are currently inviting submissions from both writers and artists (pencillers, colourists, inkers and letterers). We are looking for both complete "graphic novels" or "albums" of between 80 - 200 pages or short stories for our anthologies of between 4-10 pages.

I know inviting submissions like this is a bit unusual in the industry - but as we receive great scripts from writers who do not personally know artists, and great samples from artists who do not know any writers to work with - why would we not introduce you and build creative teams instead of hoping you meet by chance some time?

The books we have in progress at the moment cover a wide variety of subject matter, and we look for originality and quality rather than concentrating on any specific genre. We would rather have something unusual, challenging, inventive, creative, inspired, literate, thought provoking (you get the idea) than another version of something that is already out there. You can get mainstream works from many places, that is why they are called mainstream and there are lots of publishers who already do those kinds of books extremely well.

If you have been published before or have self published in print or online and can show us a portfolio, that is fantastic. However Insomnia is all about new writing, new art and new concepts and we certainly welcome submissions from new talent.

So, let us know:

For Writers

I need you to tell me:

About the story - proposed length, how much (if any) is complete, about the characters, the setting, What happens, Why it happens, – all of that not just a 10 word high concept "idiot pitch". That tells me if you are good at formulating snappy high-concept pitches, not what your scripting, structuring and storytelling are like - although the high concept pitch will be useful for marketing if your work is accepted.

I also need to know:

  • Character profiles for the main characters
  • Overall story synopsis (eg what happens for the whole story)
  • Story structure (eg how the plot breaks down by "issue" or "chapter")
  • Setting / Locations / Time period (important to know for finding artists - so any visual ideas you might have, although it doesn't matter if you prefer to leave all that to the artist)
  • The story rationale (eg what it is really "about" that is the concepts you will be exploring rather than the "what happens" of the synopsis that tells us how you will dramatically execute the discussion of the concepts)

Samples are good if you have them but not required at the pitch stage

We do not care if you have the right script formatting software or fonts at this stage, we want your talent, not your technical know how.

If you want to get in touch first to ask if your idea sounds like the kind of thing we are looking for before you put the whole pitch package together you can contact me at:
(remember to put the "h" in my name, it is the reason most emails don't reach me :)

For Artists (Pencils, inks, colours or all 3)

  • We would like to see sequentials as well as pin ups (unless you want to be purely a cover artist - which is fine, but let us know that)
  • What formats you work in - traditional media, digital etc
  • Whether you work in Colour or black and white
  • If you are submitting to be an inker or colourist then we need to see copies of the underlying pencils as well as your work.
Please don't send any one email with attachments larger than 7Mb or it will not come through.

Contact me at:
(remember to put the "h" in my name, it is the reason most emails don't reach me :)

Finally one of the most important things for both writers and artists is to let us know the length of story to which you feel you can commit. We have an anthology title for people who want to do short stories through to complete graphic novel series of hundreds of pages. Also we appreciate that many creators are showing incredible dedication by working on their comics alongside day jobs and other commitments, but if we like your work enough to publish we will work with you to agree a schedule that suits all parties

Many of us at Insomnia are/were creators ourselves and we appreciate that making submissions can be difficult and nerve-wracking. We will look at everything we receive, and although it may take time we will respond to everyone. The important thing to remember that your work may be great, and we may even personally love to read it, but it sometimes will just not what we are looking for right now.

We are also interested to hear from games designers, animators, and model makers as we often need to call on such services.In most cases we will look to put our books out as albums or "instant trades" so that they can be sold in bookshops and online as well as through comic shops.
If you would like to see examples of Insomnia books to get a feel for the type of material we publish then you can see previews of two forthcoming Graphic Novels and a selection from our Anthology title online at MyeBook

Cancertown - by Cy Dethan and Stephen Downey
Cages - by Xander Bennett and Mel Cook
Layer Zero Anthology Selection

You can reach me at submissions[at] or nichola[at]

Hope to hear from you soon


Creative Directions

Crawford Coutts, Managing Director says:

“Nic Wilkinson, letterer and artist on several Insomnia books, was promoted to Creative Director of Insomnia Publications in September 2008. As well as continuing work on projects using her artistic and lettering prowess, Nic will be assisting in the processes of recruiting, guidance on products and merchandise, and marketing and PR.”

You can reach Nic by email at nichola[at]

Con-tamination Cancertown infects BICS 2008

The Insomnia team had a fantastic weekend at the Birmingham international comics convention this year. Many thanks to the extraordinarily dedicated Shane Chebsey and team for their superhuman organisational skills.

We had previews of Cancertown (Cy Dethan and Stephen Downey), Daemon (Alasdair Duncan and Daniel Lopez) and Shaman (Xander Bennet and David Montoro) to view on the table, and a small number of exclusive pre-release copies of Cages (Xander Bennett and Melanie Cook) and the Layer Zero Special Edition for sale.

The Cancertown trailer we had running on a laptop on the stand attracted a lot of attention, as did the Make Your Own Monster competition, the all new Insomnia badges, and, of course, the big bucket of chocolate (well, it's nearly Halloween).

We met some great people and saw some outstanding portfolios and pitches from both writers and artists. Hopefully we will be announcing some new titles as a result of those meetings very soon. Thanks to everyone who took the time to come and talk to us.

We had a very quick interview with David Monteith from the wonderful Geek Syndicate podcast and will be sending them some never before seen internal art from Cancertown for their website very soon.

Thanks also go to Ferret, textile artist extraordinaire, for helping to mind the stand. Expect to see more Ferret/Insomnia collaborations as time goes by.

We will be at the MCM expo in London on the 24th of October and at Thought Bubble in Leeds on the 15th of November this year. Come over and say Hi, and if you want to send us submissions to discuss at the shows then get in touch at submissions[at]