Sunday, 26 April 2009

Insomnia Takes The Stand

"So, if you could please explain what it is you intend to be doing on the day of the 9th of May 2009"

Of course, your honour, we will be taking part in the Small Press Expo, the sister event to the Bristol Comics Expo.

"And what exactly, pray, will you be doing there?"

Well there will be quite a bit going on, actually, including:

  • The launch of our latest original graphic novel, Cancertown.
    Cy Dethan (writer) and Stephen Downey (penciller) will be around the stand most of the day to sign copies, do sketches, and maybe even talk a bit about volume 2.

    Read the first official review by the Geek Syndicate

    They have both just been interviewed by Jazma Online so you can read more about what on earth they thought they were doing in creating this monster:

    Cy Dethan Interview
    Stephen Downey Interview

  • The first opportunity to buy the third volume of our Layer Zero anthology. This one features a cover by Scott "Savage Dragon" James, and includes an incredible selection of new and existing talent.

  • A small number of lucky people will be able to get their hands on copies of a special "convention only" preview of Damaged Goods by Richard McAuliffe (writer) and Mark Chilcott (artist), showcasing the story Tea Party from the book. If you catch them on the stand they will sign it for you. If you ask them to do that then then that is your own responsiblity as an adult.

  • Events to support Draw The World Together, an organisation that has been created to unite artists in providing possibilities for children who live in communities where they do not have the opportunity for basic healthcare and education including:

    • The chance to win a unique "SPEXPO Jam" page - sketched by the Insomnia artists and friends live during the day with all ticket money going to Draw The World Together.

    • Artists selling sketches and original art with the money for the pieces being donated to the cause

    • More info on the DTWT project on the stand so you can find out how to get involved.

      Contributors to the project in the past have included David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons and Bryan Talbot. This year the main DTWT space will be in the Summit Room at the Ramada hotel where artists will sketching to raise money for EveryChild from 2pm-5pm.

      The idea was first suggested by the Unbelievably (see what I did there?) talented Simon Wyatt who just wanted to kindly do some sketching for DTWT during his stint at the table - and it has grown into a monster of epic proportions

  • A special convention edition of the novel Fallen Heroes by Barry Nugent will be available on the stand. Inside there are some of the initial sketches for the front cover. There are also deleted scenes that never made into into the book along with Barry's thoughts on why they were taken out (Including a different opening chapter). There's also a sneak peek at book 2. When Barry is able to take a break from his Geek Syndicate all day podcast duties he will be on the stand to sign them.

  • Preview pages from the upcoming books:

    Burke and Hare by Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering
    MILK by Stref
    Unbelievable: The Man Who Ate Daffodils by Simon Wyatt

    Simon has also been interviewed by Jazma this month where he lets slip a disgraceful secret from his past, and we learn a moral lesson about comics corrupting the young.

  • Anyone around on Sunday at 3pm can come and see me take part in a panel discussion called "Independent Publishing - Change or Die?"
"And you can explain why you will be conversing with a succession of people carrying folders of papers, computer storage devices and large black cases?"

Of course. The conventions are where we meet future creators, artists and writers, to discuss pitch ideas, review portfolios, catch up on progress, that sort of thing.

We like to talk to as many people as possible.

We are looking for writer pitches for original graphic novels of between 80 and 200 pages for the Insomnia line and ideas for the new Vigil historical imprint.

Artists (pencillers, inkers and colourists) are always welcome, and we need a variety of styles for our different books. If you are looking for work as a penciller then we will need to see examples of sequential pages, not just pin-ups or sketches.

While we can look at work/ ideas on paper, it is a good idea to have a copy to leave with us, whether in hardcopy or digital format. We need contact details to be on any submissions left with us so we can get back in touch.

"I suppose you are going to tell me that you can also account for the whereabouts of the creators of your books, cited below, on the afore-mentioned date?"

Well, indeed I can, in fact the following have a perfect alibi as they will around the Insomnia tables during the day:

  • Cy Dethan, writer: Cancertown, Starship Troopers
  • Stephen Downey, penciller: Cancertown
  • Richard McAuliffe, writer: Damaged Goods
  • Simon Wyatt, writer and penciller: Unbelivable, The Man Who Ate Daffodils
  • Kev Crossley, artist: Sidhe, KiSS4K, Event Horizon
  • Luke Foster, writer: Dream Solver
  • Adam R Grose, writer and artist: Layer Zero
  • Wu Li, artist: Shiver
  • James Johnson, writer: Dead Mans Gold
  • Charlie Bowater, artist: Layer Zero
  • Christopher Barker, writer: Shiver, Layer Zero

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, excuse me, I was under the distinct impression, that there is a currently outstanding homicide investigation into the tortured and protracted death of the comics industry?
You really expect these good people to believe that this kind of success is possible?"

Let me give you a little background into how I came to be here today, if I may?

In 2007 when I first met Crawford and Alasdair, the founding fathers, at Bristol and talked to them about drawing a story in the upcoming Layer Zero: Time, they were a newly created company with a huge vision and a small but perfectly formed selection of books on their table.

In 2008 I was back at the Expo, this time as letterer on one of the two graphic novels, Cancertown. that they had in production. Layer Zero: Time was on the table, as well as a special convention edition compendium "trade" of the first two anthologies, preview art for 2 further books, and a special edition con only preview of Cages.

By this time some of the creators who had seen their work published in Layer Zero had gone on to some impressive things. Cy Dethan and Paul Green had landed work on the Starship Troopers license, and Paul had also completed issue one of the smash hit Flash Gordon, Thomas Mauer was offered work for just about every indie publisher you could name, and then went on to co-run Kingdom comics at Disney.

In fact, speaking of Layer Zero, the springboard to comics stardom, let me just go off on a tangent a bit here.

The next couple of Layer Zeros, Choices for 2009, and Survival for 2010, have attracted not only an incredible range of new talent, but also experienced professionals from the world of comics (with work under their belts for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Calibre, Heavy Metal, 2000AD, to name a few) and some bold individuals experimenting with crossing over from other creative fields such as journalism, animation, screenwriting, sculpture, fine art and graphic design.

Several of the Layer Zero creators have gone on to be signed up for work as writers or artists on full length graphic novels: Cy Dethan, Martin Conaghan, Corey Brotherson, Christopher Barker, Steven Stone, Gary Crutchley, James Johnson, Matt Gibbs, Richard McAuliffe, Mark Chilcott and Kev Crossley.

Not only have there been the successes for the creators featured in "Time", but me, Jim O'Hara, Martin Conaghan and Rich Johnson - the whole of the expanded management team -all first came into contact with Insomnia through the book.

So - back to the story.

Having got to know Crawford and Alasdair a bit more, and finding we shared a vision of what a comics publisher should be, and what we could achieve, they asked me to join the company.

And, wow, what a ride it's been.

From those humble beginnings we now have:

  • 25 books in production with over 120 outstandingly talented creators from all around the world,

  • Smashed our pre-order sales targets and had to both extend the print run of Cancertown by 50% and immediately go to second printing with Layer Zero:Choices, even before it's official launch date to fulfil the orders,

  • the launch of the history focussed Vigil imprint,

  • the first book of the new Focal Point line in development,

  • a recently expanded management team of 6 highly skilled people,

  • have been selected for the Scottish Enterprise Growth Pipeline,

  • are working closely with education and library services,

  • have a dedicated US business development manager

and interest and support from individuals and institutions that are beyond our wildest dreams

It can happen if you are prepared to work hard and stay up late enough!

"Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We will no retire for a two week recess, and when we return we shall be paying an on-site visit to the Crime Scene itself."

Monday, 20 April 2009

Warning: Insomnia On The Rise

It's going to be a big news post this week, there is so much to say I don't know how I'm going to fit it all in, so I'll just get started:

New Signings:

As word gets around the number of submissions we are receiving is increasing weekly, and the quality is very high. The wealth of talent out there is incredible and we are extremely gratified that people believe in our approach and want to work with us . This makes choosing what to sign ever more difficult, but the latest are:

  • Kronos City by Andrew Croskery

    In Kronos City it's not water running through the canals - it's time. It's possible to submerge your head to see visions of the past and future, although it’s risky. If you know how you can even manipulate future events, not just watch them unfold. Some say you can even change not only time, but fate..Finnegan Vedant, being an enterprising individual, sees here a business opportunity like no other, but when a mysterious client puts him on a case with bizarre consequences, he’s forced to face harsh truths about himself and the world around him. The game he’s playing is for much higher stakes than it at first appeared.

  • Midnight On The Mind's Highway by Craig I. Gilmore

    The, dramatic, hallucinogenic tale of Carl Sark, a man frequently plagued by horrific, vivid nightmares involving disparate parts of a repressed, long forgotten memory. In desperation Carl volunteers to undergo a brand new form of regression therapy - The Mind’s Highway originally created to let people to re-live their fondest memories like they were happening for the very first time. But as Carl delves back into his past, piecing together fractured memories one-by-one, he’s pursued by a horrific, monstrous force apparently seeking to punish him for something he can’t recall.

    Craig adds:
    "Midnight on the Mind’s Highway is a deep, dark, character-driven tale about lost loves, repressed memories, nightmarish dreamscapes and enormous, unthinkable monsters. Oh yes, there will be monsters. It draws on many things – specifically the works of director Guillermo del Toro and Michel Gondry, as well as my absolute love and adoration for Konami’s seminal Silent Hill series of videogames. Comics are also the only medium I could ever imagine doing this kind of tale justice, so I can’t thank the good people Insomnia Publications enough for giving me the opportunity"

    Which is very nice of him to say. But really we are the ones thanking him for submitting such a fantastic idea.

  • Cancertown Volume Two: Blasphemous Tumours

    Yes, the whole gang has been signed up and will be back for this. Stephen is already missing the monsters (I think we may have broken him a little bit...ssshhhh).

    For those wanting more Cancertown news look out for upcoming pieces in ImagineFX and Comics International. There is also some internal art up in the Eye Candy section of Comics Village this week.

Art Updates:

  • We now have it confirmed that Keith Burns will be providing the cover art for Quarantine by Michael Moreci. Keith is currently working with Garth Ennis, and you may also know his name from Blood PSI (currently optioned for a film adaptation) by Andy Winter.

  • Melanie Cook, newly escaped from Cancertown, will be joining the Average Joe team next to provide the colours for Kelvin Chan's gorgeous pencils. Keep an eye out for previews of the first pages very soon.

  • Larry Watts has been signed up for art duties on The Ion Monger's Daughter. If you want to catch a glimpse of Larry's work before that, though he drew Red Wire, Blue Wire by Alexi Conman in Layer Zero: Choices

The Management

We are very pleased to announce that we have two new members of the Insomnia Management team:

  • Richard Johnson, who will be joining us as Art Director,
  • Martin Conaghan who will be taking up the editorial reins for the new Vigil imprint (more on this below)
Richard and Martin both have fantastic experience to bring to the management team, both in comics, and from their work in other media.

About Richard

Richard comes to us from the world of Graphic Design and Illustration, where he was was a recipient of the prestigious D&AD (Design & Art Directors) First Award in the 'Most
Outstanding Mixed Media Advertising Campaign for a Motion Picture' category.

Richard, who also writes under his middle name James, is the creator of Erth Chronicles, an online community of talented artists from around the world who have been inspired by his first novel in the series, The Enemy's Son, from Mam Tor Publishing.

Richard Says:

'The British Independent comic book scene is a close knit family - everyone knows each other, in their many guises and the talents they have to offer. Families support one another and share an important ethos. I'm looking forward in helping to elevate things a little further through the design of these publications and help support all of our own projects in the process.'

About Martin

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.

New Vigil Imprint from Insomnia

As many of you will know last year we signed the historical graphic novel Burke and Hare by Martin and Will Pickering.

The response we have already had on this book has been great, with people and magazines, not to mention libraries, museums and educational establishments, already emailing me to ask when it will be out. I've seen the first finished pages, though, which is a great perk of the job, and I'm not surprised people can't wait - they are outstanding!

Anyway this got us to thinking and chatting with Martin about the idea of an imprint for more of this kind of book - fact-based stories of a biographical nature with supporting notes and research. As the conversation progressed it was obvious he would be perfect as editor, so we invited him to the party.

Martin Says:

"History is ripe for the plundering - not just classical history or ancient history, but the history of the 18th, 19th and 20th Century - history is being written all around us every day, in the news, on the web - from politics to war, to celebrity life and the ordinary stories of every person on the planet. It's all there, waiting to be plundered - and comics are the ideal format for telling broad, grand stories about people's lives, global events and shocking controversies.

"What we're aiming for here it the comic-book/graphic novel equivalent of a biopic; Nixon, JFK, Apollo 13, Braveheart, Ali, Missisipi Burning, Let Him Have It, Frost/Nixon, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, The Damned United.

What we want to do is tell similar
stories, and back them up with facts and quality research - even if parts of the stories are fictionalised or the creators take an original slant on their approach to the story. What we want is more than just a comic-book or a graphic novel - this is the comic-book equivalent of the director's cut of the biopic movie crammed full with all the DVD extras, the facts, the research and every scrap of paper that creators leave scattered around their office floor when the work is done.

There are thousands of stories out there about real-life events that can be woven into fascinating tales. Stories about murder, political scandal, military cover-ups, controversy, disasters, war.You just need to look.

We really feel a line of books like this can help lift the comics medium beyond the realm of fantasy and science-fiction, offering material that is entertaining first, but also educational at its heart."

Martin and I will be working on specific submission guidelines for the imprint over the next couple of weeks - so if you have any ideas for this kind of book, start to gather them now.

Final Word

So to sum all that up, Crawford Coutts takes a few minutes away from his master plan and says:

"With the rapid growth of Insomnia in recent months, the development of our new imprint, Vigil, and with the ever increasing list of books we're producing for the coming years, there was going to be a time when we needed more people to manage everything.

Richard and Martin started out, like Nic Wilkinson our Creative Director, as creators. I can't think of two better people to be a part of the management team. Their experience and expertise in the industry is extremely valuable and I would like to take this opportunity to give them a warm welcome them to the Insomnia Publications management team.

I cannot emphasize enough that the creators are what makes this venture possible. Not only do they create the products, but they are willing to devote their time to assisting in the promotion of their products and all the others in the Insomnia lines. The feeling of seeing this all come together is incredible."

And now off to plan for Bristol...Oh My God It's only 3 weeks away!..look out for the Big Bristol update here next week with details of everything that will be going on at the stand.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Dark Arts

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a happy Easter and the inevitable chocolate sickness is fading now. Just in time as well, because you wouldn't want to be looking at our latest ebook preview if you are already feeling a bit queasy.

Although having said that it does feature a teaparty, a little girl and her toys, so it can't be all that bad, can it?

Myebook - Damaged Goods: Tea Party - click here to open my ebook

Althought the first people to see the finished pages did say:

"Very creepy and disturbing. Eerie."

"It freaked me the f@ck out!"

"That comic strip is fantastic. I'd comment on it more but Mr. Teddy Bear in the next room is being belligerent."

And to understand that last one you need to take a look for yourself.

Damaged Goods is a collection of horror shorts from the fevered brains of writer Richard MacAuliffe and artist Mark Chilcott.

We first discovered this deranged pair when a grubby, broken nailed, blood spattered hand thrust an idea for a Layer Zero at us last year. This story is Magpie, and you will be able to get your hands on it when Layer Zero:Choices launches at the Bristol Expo. You can also get it direct from Whatever Comics, the sponsor of this year's book, or pre-order it from Amazon.

And yes, for the last time we are sure that the pitch was just written on very old paper and the rumours of the use of human skin are merely wild exaggeration.

A cheerful, smiley, Rich says:

"I've done a fair bit of comic book writing in the past, but this has either been comedy or family friendly so it's been fun to let some of my darker side out without getting any grief for it."

At this point a strange, growly voice seemed to take over and added:

"Hey, it wasn't me, it was the character in the story. I wanted him to go and give that other person a hug, it was his idea to puncture one of their eyeballs".

Richard and Mark met through the comics networking site Comicspace where Richard saw some of Mark's work and left a comment. Before you knew it they had hooked up to produce a dark little 3 pager, and this, their first work together, will feature in the "Backmatter" of Damaged Goods, so you can see how it all began.

Richard mentions British horror master Clive Barker, and his Books of Blood, as an inspiration, which he says:

"...were all brilliant slices of horror which got in quick, fucked you up, then got out again before you had the chance to get used to them."

Which is very much the same experience you get on receiving the next set of Damaged Goods pages in your inbox!

Mark says:

"I try to imagine each story as a fucked up episode of the twilight zone with a twist of Se7en".

Talking about working with Mark, Richard continues:

"I build a story knowing in my head how Mark draws things and thinking "This is the one cool as hell panel I want to see him do". Just giving him an excuse to work his magic really."

As if that doesn't sound bad enough Mark says on receiving the scripts the next stage is:

"For me to digest the story and try to find a way to take it to a darker level."

Richard adds, politely:

"Insomnia have been really helpful and supportive so now we just want to prove their faith in us was well placed."

But then his eyes roll back and the growly voice takes over and spoils it all again:

"Although it might just be that they saw what me and Mark produced and thought "We might not want to piss these guys off. We could wake up chained in a basement somewhere if we dont put their book out".

Which could be fun, in its place, but for now we are far too busy getting ready for Bristol, where there will be a limited number of ashcan copies of Tea Party available from the stand. If you are there at the right time you might even be able to get them signed by the team. I can give no assurances as to what they might write or draw for you though.

You can see some of the humourous side of Richard's previous humour work in:
and you can read a recent interview with him about these books, Damaged Goods and porn stars and demonic chickens in Jazma Online while you can keep tabs on Mark via his art blog It's Chilly In Here.

Other News

In other news this week:

  • James Daniels (who provided a pin up for Layer Zero Choices, and will be providing art for the Twilight Cleaner in Layer Zero:Survival) has been signed up as artist on the Urban Legends book by Steven Stone (who also got his start in Layer Zero). This book promises to be a real treat with stories set across places and times, so a visual feast in store there.

  • Our beloved leader Crawford Coutts is interviewed in this month's Jazma Online. You can see what he has to say about how he came to found Insomnia, his views on the industry and his big plans for the future.
And Finally

No mention of Richard McAuliffe is complete without the obligatory nod to both his Tekken skills, and more importantly his hot wife, Iz.

Not only is Iz one of the co-hosts of the brilliantly funny Comic Racks podcast, but is taking part in this year's Race for Life.

Much to Richard's delight she has been dared to run it in a Wonder Woman costume!

The Race for Life is a 5k run to raise funds for Cancer Research UK - so get over there and sponsor her now.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Happy Birthday to Insomnia

Hooray - today is Insomnia's birthday - and oh my, haven't we grown since this time last year?

Cake all round.

And for a present we got...a beautiful looking Layer Zero Choices all done and dusted and a well earned rest!

Layer Zero: Survival

No, this section is not called that because we have just sent Layer Zero:Choices off to the printers at 4.30 on Sunday morning and emerged a little shellshocked from the process - although it could be.

In true "The King is dead, Long live the King" spirit now that Choices is all done it's time to start thinking about the next one with hardly a pause to catch our breath.

So, the topic for next year's collection is Survival.

We are looking for writers and artists - independently or as teams.
Submissions should be:
  • stories on the theme of Survival
  • 2-8 pages long
  • Black and White or Greyscale
  • Scripts should be submitted by 31st of September 2009.
  • Art will need to be complete by 1st of Feb 2010
Artists, please let me know if you are submitting to work on sequential pages, or to provide pin ups.

The pieces that come in before this 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 May 2010, as well as being made available on Drivethru comics.

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

I already have several submissions in from contributors to Choices, and one completed story, so don't wait too long before sending your ideas.

We have a table at the upcoming SPExpo in Birmingham in May so you can come along and talk to us about your pitch or your portfolio there as well.

Yes - we are still accepting submissions for full length books, writers and artists, as well.

If you would like to buy copies of Layer Zero: Choices we will be doing some "convention specials" on the stand:

  • Layer Zero Choices RRP = £9.99, Con Special = £7
  • Cancertown + Layer Zero for £15
  • Cancertown + Cages + Layer Zero for £20
If you can't make the con and want to get any of these offers you can email me at before the 9th of May for details on how to buy direct by cheque or paypal.

You can order it from local book or comic shops:

  • ISBN-10: 190580816X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905808168

Or pre-order on Amazon

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

It is with great pleasure that I present to you Manny and Debe Armario: Proprietors of Whatever Comics, sponsors of both Cancertown and Layer Zero:Choices.

Way back in 1992 I was first lured, by Cy Dethan, into the four coloured web that is a specialist comic shop. In fact it was Whatever Comics, in Canterbury in the UK, where I was at university. It was all a bit overwhelming and for several months I was too shy to speak to the people who ran it.

Now, 17 years later we are great friends and even though they are not our "local" shop by about 150 miles we would not even think of buying our comics anywhere else. We are not the only ones, either.

Maybe it's because they go so far above and beyond the call of duty to help all their customers old and new. Manny does more than anyone I know to bring lesser known titles (whether because they are older, from indy publishers, tranlsations from other languages or whatever) onto the radar of his customers, and he has never steered us wrong yet. Whatever the book he always has the tastes (and budgets) of his customers in mind. Oh - and it's not all Indies and esoteric back issues - no one knows American comics like Manny, 20 years in the business and 40 as a fanboy himself have seen to that.

Not only is Manny concerned with the selling and reading of comics though he is a well respected voice in the retail industry and has contributed to many organisations, events and publications over the years.

Being able to have the people who sold me my first comics as sponsors of the first creator owned project I have worked on is just phenomonal.

The shop also runs a great, lively forum alongside their shop site.

Sharing the Love

Some news about other publishers this week as well - yes we are happy to do that as we believe in quality of our creators' work and it deserves to be seen as widely as possible.

  • Westerns, the new anthology from Accent UK shares quite a few creators with Layer Zero:Choices, as well as some people who are working on full length Graphic Novels for us. Westerns will be on sale at the Bristol Expo, can be bought now from the Accent site and will be in shops very soon.

    The Accent books are beautiful, and the guys there are great to work with. Dave West, the co-owner and publisher was also incredibly helpful to us when we were looking for a new printer for our books. Their next book is Predators and I think they might still be looking for artists.

    While you are on the Accent UK site take a look a Wolfmen - for my money one of the best Indy books out last year.
  • Chris Lynch writer and co-founder of Monkeys With Machine Guns, and contributor to Layer Zero, is trying a mad experiment at the Bristol Con this year: Live comic making.

    Chris says: "Any of you who have attended one of my signings will be familiar with this setup - woefully unable to cede the limelight to artists and jealous of the constant requests they receive for sketches and shows and signings, I have gotten into the habit of writing flash fiction & short stories at shows, often based on random words, phrases, objects etc. thrown at me (figuratively) by whoever is around. It’s a sort of “Whose Line is it Anyway”, but with horror fiction. So, this year, visitors to the Small Press Expo will be cordially invited to challenge the creativity of the Monkeys with Machineguns team with some random objects, places, people, and points in time from which to create a short story. Once I’ve written the short, Stu will be providing a sketch illustration or two and, after we’ve scanned the result to go into the new book, you will be able to buy the original artwork.

    By the end of the day we are hoping to have enough content to complete the upload to our POD publisher of all the stories and artwork, resulting in a brand new issue of Monkeys with Machineguns on sale at the end of the show.

    If you have ever wondered exactly how we make Monkeys with Machineguns … this is your chance to find out. Or watch us crash and burn horribly, which will probably be equally entertaining."

    So stop by his stand and reward his ingenuity.
Now some sleep as I as have come to realise over this weekend that "Insomnia" is actually a requirement of the job and not just the company name.

See you all soon.