Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Falling Sheep and Dead Goats

It seemed that every time I went back to the Insomnia stand at the Bristol Con I overheard some variant of "...I love the sheep!".


In fact the reactions were to the beautiful work of Simon Wyatt, creator of Unbelievable, the first pages of which were on show at the table.

The book does indeed have a very beautiful sheep right there on page one, and for those who could not make the show the pages are now available to see as an ebook.

Myebook - Unbelievable by Simon Wyatt - click here to open my ebook

While on the subject of Bovidae (not a sentence I ever really thought I would be called to write on a comics blog) I am delighted to announce our latest signing:

Dead Goats by Oliver Masters

The first casualty of war is truth, it’s said, but next up against the wall is sanity.

The First Earth Battalion, was established in 1979 and entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries. In 2001 Private Tyler Jones wakes screaming from the most vivid dream of his life.

Suffering a nightmarish descent into a world of absurdity and violence, the horrors of which can strip a man of his humanity, Jones is about to discover what happens when warfare is no longer about winning hearts and minds, but weaponising them.

Cool, right? But wait, this isn't just a neat idea for a story. Perhaps more terrifying than the idea of a man who can stop a goat's heart with his mind is the idea that it's based on a real, and on-going reasearch program.

While you're waiting for the book ask yourself this: Have 100 de-bleated goats really been secretly placed inside the Special Forces command centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina?

This one was a case of seeing the submission and knowing the idea was so strong that we had to snap it up as quickly as we could.

Being able to spot the best new talent, and pouncing on it as it emerges blinking into the light is what is making Insomnia "The One to Watch" as they kindly said on the Forbidden Blog.

I had been talking to Ollie about various ideas since accepting his poignant and unusual submission for Layer Zero: Survival earlier in the year. Oh, sorry, was that a teaser? Well, it's called Uberleben and you will be able to see it in the next anthology.

The story of meeting Ollie in person for the first time deserves to be told so it can take it's place in the book of convention legends.

Ollie was just in the middle of politely introducing himself and his girlfriend to me at Bristol when I became suddenly aware of a ripple of creator excitement from behind me. You develop a sense for these things as time goes on. Stephen Downey and Cy Dethan had caught sight of him, and his fanstastic hair, and seen the perfect model for Mr Green, the villain from their next book (Slaughterman's Creed, from our friends at Markosia) standing before them.

So the next step was to find a way to nicely ask him if he would model for some reference shots. As Cy wrote on his blog:

"If you've never watched an artist attempting to get a model to mime urinating into another man's mouth, you've obviously never been to a UK comics convention"):

And that was his initiation into the world of comic creators!

What happens at the initiation of Private Tyler Jones in Dead Goats, and the dark places to which that leads, though, will make that seem like a picnic. Or is that the wrong phrase under the circumstances.

You will also be able to see work from Ollie in the upcoming Victoriana from Accent UK as well.


Two more creator interviews are live this week at Jazma:

You can read the thoughts of Mel Cook and Martin Conaghan about both of their many and varied projects with Insomnia, and what else they have on the go with other publishers and production companies. Marvel over how they find the time!

Small Press Idol

The Small Press Idol competition (ike American Idol but for comic book creators) is currently in full swing and Christopher Barker, writer of Shiver, is through to the third round with his story Hometown Heroes.

You can see more samples over at Chad Cicconi's (the artist) blog.

If you'd like to get involved and even cast a vote then you need to get over there by the 8th of June.

Chris says:

"If we make it through to round four, there is no voting. All three of the final entries are set up to publish a 12 issue sample story, and the winner is the one that sells the most through the contest's online ordering system."

Following Orders

We know that due to the runaway success of Cancertown, and it's sales being greater than predicted (yay!) the book has been showing up as almost permanently out of stock at amazon.

However, you can still order the book, and you will still have your copy in a couple of days.

We are sending them almost daily consignments of stock, which they are using to fulfil orders already taken on the previous days.

This is just a quirk of how the book inventory system and ordering systems work for amazon in relation to smaller publishing houses. Amazon very sensibly accepts maximum numbers of books in one delivery depending on the size of the publisher. Normally it works very well for the volumes of orders involved from smaller publishers.

We are victims of our own (well, Team Cancertown's) success.

You can also order the book direct from our sponsors at Whatever Comics.

Until next time...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Sneak Peeks and Signings

Today, as a special treat, some unlettered Burke and Hare pages.

I think they speak for themselves:

Burke and Hare by Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering will be the first book in Insomnia's Vigil imprint, for "bio-graphic novels".

Burke and Hare is due out this summer and Will is into the final stretch, with about one-third of the artwork to complete.

Martin commented:

" I feel it's really taking shape and capturing the feel of the era with an almost 'engraved' look to the artwork. "

There is a very good reason for the authentic period feel. Will is going to extraordinary lengths to dig out accurate representations of the real-life people (and places) featured in the story. For the pages 54+55, he found a painting in the national portrait gallery featuring all of the members of parliament in 1833, which unearthed a head shot of Sir George Sinclair - who appears in just four panels in the entire book.

That is dedication to your art.

A few months back we covered Will and Martin's visit to Edinburgh where they were granted access to the private museum that houses Burke's skeleton. When we say this book is based on research we mean it.

Martin was the guest on SciFi Pulse Radio last night where you can hear him talking in more depth about Burke and Hare, Vigil, the Fallen Heroes adaptation, Focal Point and the innovative Historika series he is currently penning for Markosia publications.

Watch this space for more Burke and Hare news as the launch date draws near.

Cancertown On Tour

Latest dates on the Cancertown signing tour:

  • 30th of May will see Stephen Downey signing copies at the Belfast Forbidden Planet between 2-4pm

    It's not only an artist/graphic novel signing, but it also marks the Irish/N.Irish launch of Cancertown.

    See Stephen's Blog for more details and how you can your hands on a unique sketch.

  • 6th of June is the date for Cy Dethan signing copies for our sponsors, Whatever Comics in Canterbury from 11am - 4pm

    Keep track of these and more through the events section of our website.

    Cancertown has had a great review this week by the Sidekick podcast and blog which calls it "an acid-laced trip down the rabbit hole".

Latest Signings

With Bristol only a week behind us we have signed up the first book since the show.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present Frank Sartre by James Peaty

"A mysterious killer is on the loose in the surreal city of
COSMOPOLIS and only one man can stop him!

But as panic spreads, that man -- part-time nightclub singer, sometime private eye and full time philosopher, FRANK SARTRE -- has other things on his mind.

Who is the mysterious stranger known only as 'Mr Memory'?

What is the secret of the library containing only one book?

And why do all paths lead back to a fateful car crash one rain swept
evening in a very ordinary part of New England?

This heady, meta-textual investigation of guilt, passion and obsession will be a treat for fans of David Lynch, Dennis Potter, Grant Morrison and Paul Pope.

But remember...beware the girl in your dreams!"

In the past James has written for DC (Supergirl, Green Arrow, JSA: Classified, The Batman Strikes!) and worked on 'Marvel Heroes', too.

Competition Time

Matthew Sheppard was the lucky winner of the SPEXPO jam and his prize is now on its way to him. Many thanks to all who entered the draw. Over the course of the weekend over £700 was raised for the charity by various events around the convention.

In further Draw The World Together news there's a second chance to grab a limited edition City of Heroes sketchbooks.

This one #4 of 10

All are signed by a whole host of artists including;
Dave Gibbons (cover), Doug Braithwaite, Misako Rocks Mark Buckingham, Andie Tong, Phil Winslade, Jon Haward, Mike Collins, Bryan Talbot, Simon Williams, Andrew Wildman, Neil Edwards, Al (Astral Gypsy) Davidson and Boo Cook.

Kev Crossley, the very talented Sidhe artist won the recent Insomnia competition to design a patch for a local bike club.

Stephen 'Stref' White, creator of the upcoming graphic novel Milk is offering his fans the chance to own an original piece of signed artwork from the book. Join the Milk fan group on Facebook then follow the links there to answer the ten questions (all the answers can be found within the samples posted on the Milk group page on Facebook).

The competition is open until 1st July 2009, when all the correct entries will be put into a draw, with one lucky winner will be chosen.

Milk is Stephen's first published graphic novel and will be out later this year. Highly praised by comics writer Alan Grant, it's a collection of short stories, but unlike most anthology strip titles they're all the work of one man - 'Stref', each piece is masterfully executed in a completely different style.

The book consists of 14 short stories, 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 contains as many styles of storytelling as it does styles of artwork," Stephen revealed in an interview for online popular culture 'zine RKYV last year (Issue 18 - PDF version). "Some stories are simple and straight forward, while others are more cryptic and metaphorical.

"Sometimes when I work I let the pen do its own thing, almost like free association writing. Often I am left with a picture that I myself do not understand and only after a bit of time can I look back at these pictures and figure them out. I have had something on my mind that needed out, it’s kind of like a process of cleaning out my brain!"

And that's all for this week, back in seven!

Monday, 11 May 2009

In the Red Eye Of The Storm


Well that's the Small Press Expo / Bristol Con 2009 over.

We're all feeling pretty shattered and shell shocked here. Our eyes are red, and our throats are raw, but we have emerged triumphant.

There's so much to tell I'm going to keep to bullet points for now, although I'll write more about all of these things in coming weeks.

There aren't any photos. This is because on the Saturday there was literally no time to take any. Really.

So here we go:

  • Cancertown sales just blew our minds. Around 150 copies were shifted on the day. We actually had queues at the table and poor Alasdair did not have time to bag them before handing them over. People were walking up and saying "I'm here to buy that Cancertown book I've heard about." Huge thanks to everyone who helped promote the book beforehand. Look out in the coming weeks for more news on the motion comic, what we are doing with digital formats, and more Cancertown books on the way.

    The Cancertown signing tour kicks off on June 6th in Canterbury at Whatever Comics. We'll keep you posted with dates here, and on our new website.

    If you want the book now, try our very own sponsor, Whatever Comics, Amazon or Waterstones.

    The storming foreword by comics god Bryan Talbot on an indie book from a new team certainly attracted a lot of attention in itself.

    Bryan's next book is Grandville an anthropomorphic steampunk detective-thriller featuring Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard.

    Thanks to Geek Syndicate for the pre-con push, and to Rich Johnston of Lying In The Gutters who has ensured that we are having to send daily restocks to amazon (if it says out of stock, you can still order it and we will have new books to them the next day), and are waking to up emails from movie producers. Oh yes!

  • Layer Zero and Cages also sold very well. The interest in the anthology from both the reader side and the creator side is getting so big we are considering doing two books a year instead of one. In the next couple of weeks we'll be putting up ebooks of the stories.

  • We brought some limited edition ashcan copies of a preview story from Damaged Goods. These were incredibly popular and all snapped up very quickly. The story attracted a lot of attention, so it looks like we are on to a winner there. I got to have a good catch up with Richard McAuliffe, the evil genius who wrote this piece of nastiness about his first full length graphic novel, Snow, that we have just signed.

    And as if by magic, here is the promo text for it:

    Snow: A Reflection on Desire and Depravity by Richard McAuliffe

    “…a daughter of the coven will be her undoing.” they said.

    Once upon a time there was a land bound by winter, a land where bloodstains of the deepest scarlet and ravens’ feathers, of the blackest ebony, are fallen on snow of the purest white. Oh, you think you’ve heard this story before, somewhere? So how come the mirrors in the castle are refusing reflections? What is that howling noise out there in the darkness? Who has commanded the release of the Seven? And why is the Queen so disturbed?

    Snow is a dark and witty exploration of decadence challenged by duty. Building on a subversive deconstruction of classic themes, it’s a sensuous and disturbing story that rips the meat from the bones of what you know, right down to the last bloody scraps.

  • We raised some cash for Draw The World Together and raffled off the live multi-artist sketch jam piece at the end of the day.

  • It was Simon Wyatt who first suggested we could get involved with the Draw The World Together project, and he spent most of the day sketching his beautiful sketches on the stand. Preview pages of his graphic novel Unbelievable were available on the stand and his portraits of quizzical sheep seemed to go down a particular storm. There will be an ebook preview up of the book, due out later this year, hopefully at the end of this week.

  • Burke and Hare will be the next book we have out, and there was lots of pawing and cooing over Will Pickering's beautiful artwork. Although we did not have them at the show I saw potential cover designs on arriving back today, and they are gorgeous. Of course having been created by Rian Hughes (who is also doing the interior book design), creator of the famous Forbidden Planet logo, not to mention logo and graphic design work for DC, Wildstorm, Marvel and 2000Ad among of others, we expected nothing less. More Burke and Hare news in the coming weeks, including some previews, and news of a very special section in the back of the book.

  • Rounding out the previews on the table were pages from MILK by Stref, along with some original art for sale from his DC Thompson days.

  • Copies of the special edition of Fallen Heroes by Barry Nugent are like gold dust, and the copies we had on the table sold out.

  • As always we heard some fantastic pitches and saw some great portfolios. Rich Johnson was on hand to review the art side this time as well, and we were both seriously impressed at the talent on display. One of my favourite moments from this year's con was Stephen Downey asking me if I had been found by a young artist who had run home to get a portfolio together, after speaking to Stephen who told her she should show me her work. She caught me at the very end of the day, and on seeing her incredible use of shape and colour I knew I could use her on books right away. Two more great moments came when explaining to writers how the company works, seeing smiles start to spread over their faces, and being told "...this is exactly how I've always wanted to work with a publisher." So we must be doing something right.

  • We got to meet lots of people face to face we had only spoken to by email, and it was great to catch up. Creators working together on books also got to meet in person for the first time and get to know each other, and it is great to see how well everyone gets along.

  • Kev Crossley brought his breathtakingly beautiful portfolio along and sketched at the table for a while. He had also done the first rough sketches of Emer, the main character from Sidhe, and I always love seeing characters come to life.

  • We signed contracts with Chris Lynch for his staggering metacomics opus The Fictionalists, which goes like this:

    "Welcome to the world of The Fictionalists, seven storytellers trapped in the pages of a graphic novel. The Fictionalists are the only people who know the truth about the world, that nothing has changed here since the dawn of the first word, and that nothing ever is going to change. They have mastered the art of writing their will on to the world but rather than becoming its masters they have discovered no matter what they do, nothing ever lasts for more than a day. The story reasserts itself, forcefully if it has to, and all is as it was. The Editors are always watching"

    Chris first spoke to me about the idea at the Birmingham Con last year, and he has been performing complex alchemical distillation processes on it since then. This is going to be something very special.

  • Speaking of Contracts we also signed Alex Willmore and Lauren Anne Sharp as the artists on Kronos City, so that will be going into full production in a few weeks time. They have already delighted the writer, Andrew Croskery, with their character concept work.
I hope we'll have some announcements to make as a results of things talked about at the show very soon.

It was also great to catch up with GM Jordan of the Comic Book Alliance. He is working tirelessly to protect you and your rights as readers and creators. Get over to his site and support the cause.

Thanks to everyone who came and supported us, and the industry as a whole at the show.

Finally, the Eagle Awards are happening this year, although not at the show. More Information over at Ian Sharman's Cyber Hellfire Club site. You only have til the 22nd of May to get your Nominations in though.

HUGE thanks to Mal Smith of Fallen Angel for organising things - stay tuned for 2010, same bat time, same bat channel.