Thursday, 30 July 2009

Truth, and murder, will out

For what seems like forever Burke and Hare writer Martin Conaghan has been on holiday in Florida and filling Twitter with his jealousy inducing posts!

Proof arrived this week that his rest has been well earned, though, when Alan Grant sent in his Burke and Hare foreword.

He says:

"There's a moment in life that I savour: that delicious, perplexing instant when you realise that something you've 'known' for years is actually a crock of nonsense. Like discovering there's no Santa Claus. Or realising your parents can't read your mind when you think about sex. The Universe ripples like Predator shimmying through the jungle...and when it rights itself, reality has taken on a slightly different hue.

I had just such a mini-epiphany the first time I read Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering's 'Burke & Hare'. At school in the 1950s and '60s I was taught almost no Scottish history, and I spent the next 50 years believing Burke and Hare were 'resurrection men', graverobbers who dug up freshly buried corpses and sold them for cash.
It was a revelation to discover they were actually serial killers, vile brutes who measured the price of human life in pounds, shillings and pence, monsters for whom alcohol and smothering were the tools of their trade.

And yet...
Burke and Hare were men, too. They were human beings who - superficially at least - weren't all that different from their Edinburgh contemporaries. The major difference between them and most of the human race is that they saw murder for financial gain as an acceptable way to earn a living.

Revealing their story in generally short, concise chapters, Martin Conaghan's script is sparing and very much to the point. Indeed, he takes great care not to over-embellish the story with fiction, sticking almost religiously to the facts as presented to us by history. It is an approach which works well, presenting the killers' heart-chilling evil deeds as being almost mundane in their execution.

Will Pickering's art fits the story - and the times - perfectly. Facial expressions are beautifully captured, as are the dress and general atmosphere of the period. The detail on many pages - especially those external shots of Edinburgh in the early 19th Century - is priceless.
And Rian Hughes' cover design is exactly what the story inside demands.

Together, Martin and Will have produced something of which they and their publisher - the relative newcomer, Insomnia - can be very proud. As well as being educational and entertaining, they've gone one better and given us something important.

Hopefully, the Universe will ripple and change for a great many of their readers. "

Alan Grant, Moniaive,
July 2009

Alan Grant is not only a great comics writer, but a great Scottish comics writer, so having his involvement in the first book from the Vigil imprint, which is itself an Edinburgh story, with Scottish creators, from an Edinburgh publisher, is perfect.

And it's a relief to many of us to finally find out that our parents can't read our minds when thinking about sex.

Oh, we've got the Frank Quitely pin up in, too, but that's for another time, when everyone has been really really good.
Stephen Downey: Exhibitionist!

Stephen Downey is taking part in a local art exhibition showing off a few pages of original Cancertown art as partof the Belfast Feile.

The event runs from 3rd to the 14th of August at Westcourt Centre , 8-30 Barrack Street, Belfast.

Not content with merely showing off his skill as an artist Stephen will also be demonstrating his prowess as a musician, running Irish music workshops on the morning of Saturday 8th in the same building so he'll be there in person on that day.

A few of the pages will be up for sale and there will be a copy of Cancertown on display but if anyone wishes to buy the book either the school will take names for orders, or direct people to amazon.

Full details of the event, the pieces on display and the program can be found on Stephen's Blog.

New Signings


  • This week we welcome talented horror writer Steven Deighan to the Insomnia family with the sinuous, sinister, time-twisting Gravemaker.

    "The ghosts lay in wait in the shadows of the streets, in those places where the old and new merge like some distortion of skin and stone. Noiselessly they become one with the city of Edinburgh. The city of the dead."

    Steven is a prize winning author of short form horror fiction, and is now set to bring the energy of his dark, raw, passionately intense style to the world of the graphic novel.

    Be afraid.

    If you want to get your hands on some of Steven's prose fiction then he has a new book out this month Stages of Undress with a foreword by Tim Lebbon (author of Hellboy: The Fire Wolves) details on his website.

    You can also order copies of his debut anthology A Dead Calmness direct from Lulu.
Damaged Goods
  • Not a new signing exactly, but another "Insomnia Supergroup" as Jim Campbell joins the Damaged Goods crew on letters. I hope they play nicely with him!
San Diego Comic Con

Mel Cook (Cages, Cancertown, Average Joe, The Indifference Engine) was at the San Diego Comic Con last week, and here is what she got she got up to:

"The overwhelming supernova of insanity that is the San Diego Comic Con has well and truly passed for another year, leaving nothing but a giant katamari of two-hour lines, back-to-back panels and an excess of Dr. Horribles rolling about in my head. For the most part the experience was relatively pleasant, save for the events of the first day in which I arrived to find I had no accommodation and accidentally boarded a tram bound for Tijuana – “Ahh... why do they need sniffer dogs at the Convention Centre?”.

For someone who's spent the majority of the last three months working in solitary confinement chained to her Wacom, the hustle and bustle of around 125,000 costumed figures found me clinging to the walls with a mild case of agoraphobia. I credit my survival thankfully to the relative quiet of the Small Press section and the cool dark of the air-conditioned panels, with the exception of Hall H which I personally believe to be a fully functioning Hell-mouth responsible for the increase of bad mojo and 3rd degree burns amongst con-goers.

Highlights for me this year include the addition of CBLDF's 'Master Sessions' with such comic gods as Mike Mignola, Jeff Smith and Dave Gibbons, the consistently exceptional Colour for Comics panel by Hi-Fi's Brian and Kristy Miller, and waiting in line behind Heroes' Masi Oka to board the Amtrak back to LA (well technically not 'behind' him, as he was in Business Class and I was in Coach – starving artist ahoy).

Oh yes, and most importantly, learning in one panel about the wonderful Window >> Arrange >> New Window workflow in Photoshop. If, like me, it's something you've yet to stumble across, check it out ASAP. It's insanely helpful. You can modify your artwork whilst viewing it simultaneously in two windows at different magnifications and/or rotations. That MADE my day. I can not believe I did not know that. Man, I'm such a geek.

In between comic sessions and hunting down Scott Pilgrim badges, I vaguely recall attending a couple of film and television panels. Premier among those being Peter Jackson's Comic-Con debut at the District 9 panel, and the pilot screening for upcoming TV series V, a reimagining of the 1980's miniseries of the same name. District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp (initially lined up to direct Halo with Peter Jackson) delivered some amazing visuals and visual effects for its exceedingly low $30 million budget, and looks to be an interesting watch given it's largely improvised script played out in the hands of relative unknown and school-mate of Blomkamp, Sharlto Copley.

Master Sessions and badges aside, I'm grateful to have survived the chaos, all limbs in order and loot in tow. The only regret to come out of the weekend was my failure to attend the True Blood panel thanks to a moment of sleep-deprived insanity. Ah well, there's always next year, Mr. Skarsgard."

Sharing the Love

Two loves to share this week as Insomnia creators extend their influence throughout the industry:

...That's all folks!

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