Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sneaky Previews

Hi all! In a continuation of last weeks blog, we have more book previews to take a peek at!
Pencils and Inks: Monty Borror
Letters: Jim Campell
Art: Valia Kapadai
Letters: Jim Campbell
The Empyre
Story: Stephen Aryan
Art: Adam Bolton
Story: Lee Robson
Art: Brian Coyle

We also have another preview of Simon Wyatt's Unbelievable!

Check back next week for more!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Damaged Goods from Damaged Minds

I like to think of myself as the sort of person that doesn't get phased by a lot. I read through all of the Damaged Goods reviews and didn't really see how it could be as bad as they said. Then it came time for editing. Then I read it. Then I understood. Then I gagged.

So I'm sure everyone wants to experience these same feelings of disgust, nausea, and some sort of sick enjoyment that does worry me a little. Well, for all of those with a strong sense of morbid curiosity, the wait is nearly over. Mark the date on your calendar, Saturday the 16th of October, 2010, and remember to bring a change of clothing... just incase.

And in anticipation of its release, here is the first official look at its front cover:

Here's a word from one of the men responsible for this monstrous creation, Richard McAuliffe.

"I'm really looking forward to this coming out and seeing what the comic fandom makes of mine and Mark's sick little comic book world. We've had some very cool advance reviews which have all been very positive if a little on the "please dont ever come near me or my family again" side so it'll be cool to see if we can REALLY offend some people or at least mess them up a little bit. Everyone at Insomnia, especially Nic Wilkinson who gave us the initial kick-start, have been really cool so hopefully we've given them a book which can hold its own with their other twisted titles."

And what about those reviews I mentioned earlier?

Barry Nugent : Geek Syndicate

"Damaged Goods is a fantastic tour de force of sick and twisted horror fantasy."

"Horror is usually my least favorite genre but Damaged Goods is a fantastic tour de force of sick and twisted dark horror fantasy."

Simon Wyatt : Comic Book Creator

"Damaged Goods’ is a carefully wrapped and decorated package of psychotic twists and turns; delivered in a meticulous and sometimes horrifically dystopian artistic style - think `Raymond Briggs-meets-Hieronymus Bosch’ and written with manic aplomb and dark affection for the genre.

Once unwrapped, this Pandora’s box of nightmares will claw its way through your eyes & play happily with your morality and fears. I half-expected a cover made of human flesh.

A genuinely, creepy and emotive parcel of shocks delivered by two creators who have yet to emerge from the shadows.

Pray they’re not hiding under your bed!"

Lee Grice : Small Press Big Mouth

"I don't know what foul childhood traumas were inflicted upon McAuliffe and Chilcott, but from the evidence of the disturbed and twisted nightmares trapped between these covers they are pair of sick sick monkeys and their monstrous talents need to be captured, weaponised and directed against less civilised nations. As for Damaged Goods itself... I say we nuke this book from orbit. Its the only way to be sure."

Damian Smith : Kryptographik

"Richard McAuliffe and Mark Chilcott bring together a great collection of Horror shorts which take a look at the Genre from a different perspective. It had me leaving the family to fend for themselves so I could finish it.

They both are on their way to making some big waves in the industry!"

Alec Worley : 2000AD Writer

"McAuliffe's pitch-dark tales of moral outrage combined with Chilcott's muscular, Lynchian artwork form a battery of short sharp shockers from the 'hit-em-hard' school of horror."

Dan Marshall : Sidekickcast

"Beautifuly bleak and startlingly effective. mcauliffe is a force of nature and i dont mean that in a good way."

PJ Holden : Artist (2000AD, Garth Ennis’ Battlefields)

"Damaged Goods is clearly a cry for help from a damaged mind. Horrifying."

Leigh Gallagher : Artist (2000AD, Vertigo)

"I doubt we will never know what perverse, bizarre acts were once committed upon the creators of this book, but we should be glad it happened if this is the result."

Cy Dethan : Author (Starship Troopers, Cancertown)

"A wide-ranging manifesto of terror from a powerful and profoundly disturbed creative team."

Gavin Jones – Sidekickcast

"It's unclear as to whether the title of the book; Damaged Goods refers to the creator's minds, the stories themselves or the sate you will be left after reading. All are equally true as the blood soaked stroytelling cannot help but leave you unhinged though thoroughly satisfied."

"Each page drips with the kind of primal horror that permeates your very soul and will be sure to stay with you long after you put the book down."

More and more keep flooding in, so check back each week for updates.

And that's not the only news coming in...

Who remembers 'Bad Rain' by Ferret? Nic Wilkinson first reported on it at about this time last year, which can be seen here. Last weekend it won the Judges Choice Award and the Sandown Quilt show. Congrats!

And finally this week, I just wanted to share with all of you some of the beautiful art work being created here at Insomnia. We're really luck to have so many talented artists here, so why not show of a little of what's in store!

Story and art: Simon Wyatt
Letters: Nic Wilkinson

Kronos City
Pencils and Inks: Alex Willmore
Letters: Jim Campbell

The Ragged Man
Story: Cy Dethan
Pencils and Inks: Neil Van Antwerpen
Colours: Peter David-Douglas
Letters: Nic Wilkinson
Butterflies and Moths

Hope you enjoyed that visual feast! Check back next week for more...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


It's been a busy week at Insomnia, getting quite a few of our Graphic Novels ready to be printed. One of those, on the verge of completion is Michael Moreci's Quarantined. For any one not up to speed on this, here's a catch up:

"Quarantine follows a group of survivors trapped in a small town in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan shortly after a biological plague is released into the water supply. This plague turns a person into a homicidal war machine, which forces the borders to close, leaving our band of survivors to fight for their lives."

The 24 page, First Issue preview is now available online:

Myebook - Quarantined - click here to open my ebook

Pencils: Monty Borror
Letters: Jim Campbell

To coincide with the release of the ebook, Michael, Monty and myself (Lauren) conducted our own interview.

Zombie comics and films have saturated popular culture. Yet with Quarantined, your art has managed to create a very unique look and feel to the genre. What was your thinking going in?

Monty: The work I did for Quarantined is very mulimedia in the fact that on some pannels I have pencils showing through with brushed inks and zerox transfers all of which I scanned in as Linework in photoshop to give it all a solid black feel. I wanted the look to be scratchy and a little chaotic. While Zombie films have sort of hit mainstream media, I look at it the same way as I do music. If I were going to start a band it would most definitely be a punk band, even though punk has made it to the mainstream. I don't believe all possible options have been explored just because I can hear a few bands on the radio. Same holds true with the zombie genre.

Name the page from any book that you feel best represents your work as a colorist and what it is about this page that you think works.

Lauren: When I became a colourist I hadn't had a great deal of experience with graphic novels, so it's hard to say who's work best represents my own. I think that the way I colour came from my previous experience with fine art, specifically with J.M.W. Turner. He was an artist who fascinated me and while I don't claim to be any where near his standard, I tried to convey his themes digitally, with layering of colour and mood. So it's not a page from a book, but if it was, I'd say Turner's Snowstorm.

There is a political subtext in Quarantined particularly influenced by American paranoia of foreign cultures. Do you find horror, or zombies, lends itself to this sort of allegory and if so why?

Michael: For sure. I think that when you're working in a strict dramatic form and are attempting to deliver a political statement, that statement tends to dominate the narrative. In genre work, specifically horror and sci-fi, you can maintain political/cultural allegory through subtext. As a storyteller, that's important to me. And it's not only about how the theme and message is delivered; it's also about creating a compelling story at the same time. With horror, you can have those weighty issues--brain candy, if you will--balanced by action, suspense, and, most importantly, zombie chaos. The best horror tends to not exist in a vacuum; the most frightening works are so potent because they tap into something deep within ourselves, into who we are collectively or as individuals. This is the central focus of Quarantined.

With horror, it's easy to be dark and have that set the tone. Your tones, though, have a lot nuance, as evidenced in the first issue. How have you approached setting the mood of the book?

Lauren: I've tried to work alongside Monty's style in Quarantined. There's an uneasy undertone to Monty's work which I've tried to show in the colour. It is hard to find the right tone, especially with the first chapter mostly taking place in the dark. I had to alter the way I worked a lot to try and find the right balance on Quarantined. In my work on Kronos City a night sky can be many different bright colours, with stars and clouds etc. but with Quarantined it felt more appropriate to have a heavy black sky, with the characters as the only focus, as that's what Quarantined is about, the characters and how they are coping with this separation from the outside world.

You're in a zombie apocalypse - what do you do?

Michael: I'd need two things: crops and landmines. I think I'd pack up my family and hide away in Montana. I don't think I'm cut out for the "double-tap" shoot-em-up lifestyle. That being the case, I'd try my hand at seclusion and living off the land. With landmines--lots of landmines.

We all hope you enjoy the read!

Finally, well done to Dream Solver who received a mention in a review the Bristol Comic Convention, which can be seen here.

Check back next week, when we will be all about Damaged Goods...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Return of the Red Eye

Hello all at Insomnia. Did you miss the blog? It's back! All of us at Insomnia want to say a very big thank you to Nic Wilkinson for running it for so long and giving us all a very good read. It's been hard to start up again without her, but here we are, alive and well.

There has been a lot happening at Insomnia since the last update, so there are a fair few things we can bring you up to speed on.

There is a new artist joining the creative team, artist Song Ye, who will be beginning work on Celeste Sharp's novel Shock Theory. Here's a reminder of what it's all about:

"After a horrific tsunami, England is abandoned and forgotten; even by history. Rising from dark times, a single city known as Hubris is suspended in the Sky, providing a new life based on technology and social order. The N.O Government has put the clocks back to zero and reinvented London as a completely clean slate for a prosperous society and economy... But Hubris wasn’t just built on the ruins of London; it was built on shock. "

Set in a dystopian England, where the totalitation regime uses the Techframe to control its citizens using shock and sedation, Shock Theory draws on the dystopian heritage of George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, woven with theories of investigative journalist, Naomi Klein, to follow Eva and her companions as they attempt to unravel the sinister nature of Hubris and offer the only resistance to the tyrannical Dr.Shock and the New Order government.

Celeste Sharp:

"I'm so happy to have Song signed on board. I was immediately drawn to his style and talent. I'm looking forward to seeing Shock Theory's dark undertones resonate through his artwork."

And here is the talent Celeste spoke of:

Peter Sly

In other news Andrew ' Kronos City' Croskery and Stephen 'Cancer Town' Downey along with Reggie Chamberlain-King (a writer in the upcoming layer zero) have started up a "blog-style anthology incorporating all types of creative media". Here's the blurb:

Tales Of The… is an online weekly blog-style anthology incorporating all types of creative media [...] its aim is provide a platform for N.Ireland creators to showcase film, artwork, prose, audio and just about any other type of creative endeavor you can think of.

A new piece will be published every Sunday and similar in style to “Tales of the Crypt“, “Tales of the Unexpected”, or “Tales of insert term here” we intend to create exciting fiction, without being tied to any particular genre. We will have the occasional theme, but for the most part creators and collaborators have free reign to create and share whatever they want.

Check it out here:

There is new promotional material online for Unbelievable, due to be out later this year. Creator Simon Wyatt has been busy putting together teaser trailers for the book, which can be seen here.

And finally, the graphic novel Quarantined has been in the press recently. Since Michael Moreci has been working the cons on the other side of the pond, Quarantined has seen a fair few reviews along with Michael being interviewed by Gapers Block and the Graphic Novel Reporter.

Here are the recent reviews:

Comic Related

From the Tomb

Check back next week for more...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Spring Cleaning Completed.

After several months of spring cleaning, I'm very pleased to announce that Insomnia is now a slimmer, lighter, faster and an even more dynamic publishing company.

Yes, we are changing, and as always, we are adapting to ensure the company is in a strong position in the market place and has the ability to enter into new and emerging markets. We're expanding into digital areas more aggressively to give us greater exposure and boost profitability, but we'll still be producing printed books. During the further restructuring of the company over the last few months, Nic Wilkinson, Alasdair Duncan and Martin Conaghan have all decided to resign from their middle-management positions.

Matt Gibbs has chosen to resign from Script Editing formally for the company to focus on his own writing of his books. It's a great shame to see him go as he has a fantastic talent, and especially with all the positive feedback from the half-dozen or so teams he was working with, he was doing a grand job. I'm sure he will continue to provide his knowledge and expertise within the Insomnia community on a more relaxed level in the future and I'm very excited to see what he's producing.

This will not affect any of the books.

My aim is to ensure all of Insomnia's books are published and, as I set out to do, we're continuing to strive for high quality publications. Our Sub-Editors, Lauren and Alex are continuing to provide their expert advice and assist with the production of the books.

I guess some people just don't like change, but Insomnia Publications is here to stay and will continue to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Roll on the summer and the new titles due out in the next few months.

Crawford Coutts

MD & Editor in Chief.

Monday, 19 April 2010

On The Pulse

Our good friend Ian Cullen, webmaster of Sci-Fi Pulse has been interviewing some Insomnia creative teams over the last couple of weeks.

The interviews are available to download from Blog Talk Radio.

First up is the team behind the adaptation of the novel Fallen Heroes

This interview is split into two parts - the first with Barry Nugent who wrote the cult hit novel (and is currently at work on the sequel) and Martin Conaghan who is adapting Barry's book into a trade paperback. The second interview is with artist Steve Penfold who'll bring the visual versions of Barry's characters to the page.

Synospis: A stalker of demons and legends, a pair of master criminals, a teenager on the brink of madness and a man forever cursed with the desire for vengeance. They are all pawns in a plan set in motion over nine centuries before their birth. Pursued across the globe by enemies both human and supernatural they must overcome their mistrust of each other and uncover the truth before it destroys them Fallen Heroes pits an unlikely group of heroes and anti heroes against an evil which has existed since the first crusade. If they can keep from killing each other long enough they might just be able to stop the world from plunging into a new dark age.

Next up we spend time with the creative team from The Ragged Man: writer Cy Dethan, penciller Neil Van Antwerpen and colourist Peter-David Douglas.

Synopsis: The Ragged Man is a fast moving, violent character piece. It’s a psychological dissection of a man whose fear of failure is so great that he levels a world to accommodate it. Insane with grief, his self-hatred grows so all-consuming as to become a physical character in its own right, but the Ragged Man’s single-minded retreat into denial continually thwarts his own redemption. Reality is layered and fractured in the Ragged Man’s world, a world in which he clings frantically to the role of martyr, simply to deny his position as monster.
Creator Roundup

A few notes and links to what our ever busy creators have been up to recently, and where you can find their work:
  • Stephen Downey and Andrew Croskery have been working as part of a multimedia fiction project to showcase the talents of Northern Irish creators called TalesOfThe which has launched with Tales Of The Cthlulu Quarter.

  • Chris Lynch in his guise of one half of Monkeys With Machine guns has been interviewed by the lovely ladies of the The Comic Racks. Chris is also doing a number of signings at the moment to promote his new book The Dark from Markosia publications and details, and links to the ebook preview are over on his site.

  • Corey Brotherson has a a piece called Twilight's Promise in the new Tales from The Plex from Futurius.

  • James Reekie was commissioned by the BBC to produce an image for a short article on "Nature's Assassins", insects and fungus that "take out" destructive pests. That may sound more National Geographic than Comics but check out James's blog to see his concepts of turning the insects and fungus into comic book style super villains in a police line up based on the famous "Usual Suspects" poster. Look out for more of James' work in an upcoming issue of ImagineFX magazine.

  • Richard McAuliffe and Mark Chilcott have recently had a Dredd story accepted for an upcoming issue of Zarjaz featuring Judges Dredd and Death if they were London based in the late 1800s.

  • Will Pickering has been an extra in Burke and Hare, the John Landis movie version.

  • Michael Moreci will be at C2E2 in Chicago with new preview copies of Quarantined - this time with the new cover art by Keith Burns and this is his appearance schedule:

    Nerd City, Friday, from 230-330 (booth 865)
    Third Coast Comics, Saturday, from 1200-100 (booth 1018)
    Chicago Comics, Saturday, from 600-700 (booth 725)

  • Valia Kapadai has produced a self published anthology of dark stories called "Twisted Vision". It's pretty hefty at 100+ full colour pages and includes stories from some familiar Insomnia names. It will available at Bristol.

  • Kev Levell and Rich Clements received a coveted intergalatic shout out from the Mighty Tharg with Zarjaz and Dogbreath being promoted in the Nerve Centre of Prog 1681 with a special mention for Teen Wulf. Find out more about both publications at the The Quaequam Blog
Eagle Awards

The annual Eagle Awards are now open for nominations for comics published in 2009.

The way is works is that the top 5 most nominated in each category go through to the voting stage. You can only nominate once and then vote once.

It's great to see the awards back again this year.

Bristol Comic Expo Update

Comic cons are always fantastic for us in terms of meeting new creators. Next week I'll be posting details of what you need to do if you have a book proposal or art portfolio you would like to discuss with us at the show.

Over the next few weeks we'll have a lot of previews of upcoming books and details of what will be going on at the stand, with a schedule for signings and reviews.

Bye for now...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Red Eye Candy

I am extremely pleased to report this week that we have a new art portfolio book in the works: Outsider Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint.

What is more, it features the personal work of an artist whose published work I have loved for over a decade since I first saw it in Nemesis the Warlock.

A big Insomnia welcome, then, for Mr Henry Flint!

If you are a 2000AD reader you can't fail to have seen Henry's work as it has graced the pages of not only the mighty Nemesis, but Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd, and ABC Warriors among many others.

Henry has also worked with Vertigo (The Haunted Tank mini series of last year with Frank Marraffino), DC (The Omega Man, with Anderson Gabrych), Wildstorm (Deathblow and Gears of War) and Dark Horse (with Andy Diggle and John Wagner)

I asked Henry how these images came about and he said:

"I think it's all due to health really, new family, stress, giving up smoking, losing weight. I happened to relax on a holiday to Butlins about 4 years ago and did the first of these drawings while watching TV (first drawing was the bike giant).

Then it became a thing where I realized how much TV I was watching and decided to draw while watching TV so as not to feel I was wasting so much time. Then it became quite productive if a little compulsive."

Bike Giant by Henry Flint

Cy Dethan will be working closely with Henry to write the text and translate the transdimensional creation process behind these beauties for human readers. When he first got a look at the mindblowing pictures his comment was:

"a hallucinatory mix of the disarming and the disturbing."

And he is right. The use of shape alone is incredible and they truly look like they have sprung from a mind not of this world.

Henry says he is "under the (perhaps delusional) impression that they were happy and optimistic pictures." although other people have thought them "claustrophobic"

Here are a couple of my personal favourites to be going on with. There are so many examples of poignant simplicity, skin crawling horror, psychedelic complexity, gleeful monstrosity, frankensteinian creations and strangely ominous reflections of the world here it was almost impossible to restrict myself to these two, but needs must:

The Shape of Things That Hum
by Henry Flint

Butlins by Henry Flint

You'll soon be able to judge for yourselves as we hope to have some more previews at Bristol.

Blog Talk Radio will be running interviews with the teams from Fallen Heroes and Ragged Man in the near future - times and dates to be posted when I have them.

Until next week...

Friday, 5 March 2010

Their Finest Hour

If you remember, back around Christmas, we mentioned that an artist, Adam Bolton, had been signed on to draw our political thriller, Empyre, by Stephen Aryan, and now it's time you were properly introduced.

Internets, please meet Adam:

Adam is a Maths teacher by day, artist by night and after he graduated in Mathematics several years ago but after finishing his degree he returned to his main passion: comics. Like most people involved and interested in comics he has adored them since childhood, favouring some of the nastier and grittier books on the shelves.

After leaving university he began to concentrate on his skills with a brush and has since been commissioned to paint thousands of square feet of murals at various zoos and aquariums around the country. Whilst happy to dabble in murals, vehicle painting and anything else he can get his grubby hands on, illustration is his main passion and a career in that field is the ultimate goal.

In the Summer of 2009 he was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Comix talent scheme, run by Hi8us in Birmingham, and was tutored by the famous illustrators John McRea and Hunt Emerson. He’s been working full pelt since, his college work helping to keep him supplied in coffee and paints.

His role at Birmingham Metropolitan College is now Maths lecturer and specialist and he uses his artistic tendencies to help people with difficulties overcome their troubles with mathematics. As soon as the last student leaves the room he then crawls off to his studio in the Custard Factory, located in the culture quarter of Birmingham. He burns a good few gallons of midnight oil whilst hammering away at the pages for Empyre and various other publishers, dreaming of a day off and racing against almighty caffeine comedowns.

And he’s loving it.

Adam left his portfolio with us at BICS (Birmingham International Comic Show) last year. I could immediately see that his style would be perfect for an Insomnia book with its intriguing mix of realism and the uncanny, detailed characterisation and emotionally intuitive colour palettes.

With Bristol Expo soon to be upon us it's time to start preparing your portfolio to show us at the event if you would like to be considered as an Insomnia artist.

The first pages of art are flowing in now, and they are beautiful, so this week we have an interview with Stephen where you can find out more about him and the book, and some preview art, pages in progress and sketches from Adam.

Over to you, chaps:

Q: Right then, first things first. Tell the good people about the original concept for Empyre.

A: I always find it difficult to summarise the Empyre, but the elevator pitch is think of the TV show 24 combined with The West Wing, except it’s set in the UK and Downing Street.

It’s about a secret unit that has existed for over 100 years within the government that get involved when others can’t, or when something needs to be sorted quickly and quietly.

Also there’s a supernatural twist to the book that runs through everything. The Prime Minister is one of the main characters and he finds out about this secret unit on his first day in office. So there is a mix of action, but also some walk fast, talk fast political moments.

Q: There is a healthy dose of politics underlying the action. Are there any particular issues you will be exploring in the story?

A: One of the reasons it’s called the Empyre is in reference to the old British Empire, where at one time Britain controlled roughly one quarter of the world’s population.

Nowadays we don’t have that many overseas colonies, as we’ve returned most of them to independence, and Britain is no longer a world leader in any particular industry. Part of this story is about a new secret technology that Britain has developed which is in high demand, so much so that it affects our status on the world stage and the leaders of other nations come knocking on Number 10 for our help.

The Prime Minister must be mindful of how his decisions will not only affect the country during his term in office, but also beyond that for decades to come. It could literally shape the future of the nation.

So, basically a bit of everything, world politics, industry, technology, crime, culture and heritage. There are a lot of layers to the story, but it’s not all splattered on the page, otherwise it just becomes a story bogged down in exposition which is boring. So I’ve tried to find the right balance between politics and action.

Q: Tell us a bit about the main characters that we'll be meeting and following in the story.

A:The two main characters are David Solomon, the Prime Minister, and Alistair Donovan, the leader of this secret group within the government. Both are mature men, loyal patriots and, despite some rather obvious differences, over time they find they have a lot in common.

They both want what is best for the country, first and foremost, which is what helps them get past what divides them.

The Prime Minister has to come to terms with Donovan’s group, what it represents and what it can offer him, and Donovan quickly realises the new PM is a lot sharper than some of his predecessors. So there is an initial period of adjustment and building of trust between them. We see their friendship growing throughout the story, but it’s a bumpy ride as personal issues and politics affect both men.

The rest of the main characters are people out in the field on the action side of the book. They are a revolving cast of specialists who are selected by Donovan for certain jobs. All of them are unique, all highly skilled and each has particular strengths which he puts into play depending on the task. For example, one member of the unit is a former member of the SAS and highly decorated soldier, another is a police officer and expert investigator. We also meet other heads of state and hint at the big picture outside the UK with regards to the secret technology.

A: No doubt, with the political content, readers will look for real life analogues in the story. Will there be any deliberate commentary on real world events?

A: The seeds of all of the main stories are based on real world events, but this is definitely not a political broadcast of any kind.

I’ve been very careful not to mention any particular political party as I don’t want parallels drawn between characters and real world Ministers. Most of whom I wouldn’t trust to look after my toothbrush without getting into trouble.

Every event in the comic that parallels a real world event is fed through a filter, because the two worlds are similar, but also very different in some fundamental ways. So, how an event is handled in the real world might not be possible or even necessary in the Empyre, because of some of the changes that I’ve introduced.

So the story is sort of set in a parallel world, again because of the supernatural element. As you might have guessed there’s something I’m not saying about the story, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

I hate preaching and haven’t intended this to be a deliberate commentary and only hope that the story proves to be interesting and thought provoking.

Q: Adam has been working hard to bring your characters to life. Tell us a little bit about your work together.

A: When Adam came on board the script was already finished but I made it very clear that I was open to his ideas.

I’m also very aware of my limitations, in terms of visual storytelling, and as an artist he has a much better eye than me. He knows what works on a page in terms of visual composition, whether we should take out or add in a panel, how to structure and lay out the pages to make them flow better from scene to scene, how to break up dialogue and captions to create beats and so on.

I have an idea of how it will look in my head, but he is the one that really brings it to life on the page. And because there are just the two of us working on the book, it means Adam has complete control of the layout of the entire page, right down to where the word balloons sit.

Every time I receive a sketch or a page of art I’m really excited and very pleasantly surprised as he has managed to add something extra, something I never thought about or some detail that makes it much more alive.

When we were designing the main characters I gave him a couple of famous names as a starting point and then left him to take it in his own direction. After that we went back and forth discussing and refining their look until we were both happy. It’s been a great experience and I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Q:What is it about comics as a medium that made you decide that this was the best way to tell this story?

I started reading comics like many people as a child, where it was all superheroes in tights and punching people in the face. As I grew up and my tastes changed I began to realise just what was possible within the medium and that the creative team is only limited by their imagination and how patient the artist is.

You can do things in comics that are not possible in any other medium and sometimes, not always, you can feel this absence when comics are adapted to film or TV. It’s like there’s something missing, some intangible quality that niggles at you like a tiny piece of glass in your brain.

Comics are unique, you can literally stop time, you can force the reader to focus on a moment, an expression, a word. Scott McCloud does a much better job of describing it than me, but another aspect I particularly like is that comics are quite undiluted, where you can still hear distinct voices. Of course there are editors, but comics don’t go through the meat grinder nearly as much as content for TV, film or novels.

I like that clarity and that made me want to tell my story as a comic.

Q: Tell us a bit about your writing process and how you approach a script

A: I tend to start with an idea or core concept, let it roll around my head for a few weeks or months, and then when it’s bugging me all the time, splat it all down on the page and create a writers bible.

This contains everything, background on characters, technology, locations, themes I want to explore, any particular scenes I want to include and then from that I create a map of the story with milestones.

Based on that I then write the story and make sure I hit all the milestones. The bible is purely there for me and quite often it contains a lot of background information that will never make it onto the page, but it helps me create the world and then write the story. If I’ve done some research it will be in the bible but I’m careful to put as little of it on the page as possible.

I tend to use this milestone structure with everything I write and my favourite part is the sometimes unpredictable way in which I get from one point to another. I have an idea of how to get there, but sometimes in the process of writing it in full, the story takes a surprising turn that I never saw coming, which hopefully also makes it surprising for the reader.

Q: What were your favourite parts of writing the script (if you can do this without major spoilers)

A: My favourite parts were writing the dialogue between the PM and Donovan. There is often a lot more going on than it first appears as each man is used to being in charge, or the smartest person in the room, and suddenly they’re facing someone who is their equal. It keeps them on their toes, it makes them test each other in a number of ways, sometimes petty, just to see how the other person will react. It’s a very complex relationship and their developing friendship is an important part of the story.

Q: What are your favourite comics of all time and why?

A: That’s really hard to answer as I have really eclectic tastes, but five of my best of the best are:
Alias was the first comic I ever read by Brian Bendis and is still my favourite, although I do like his other work. Alias is a brilliant PI comic set in a superhero world, but on the fringe, down in the gutters where the main character is dealing with the stuff no one else sees or hears about, blackmail, kidnapping, missing girls who are just confused teenagers.

Preacher is what Ennis does best. It’s bloody and disgusting, it’s incredibly violent, it’s offensive, it’s an adventure and road trip across America and also a story with real heart. Ennis never shies away from exploring difficult subjects, and even within the confines of what can be a very funny comic, he will get his hands dirty and look at racism or religion.

I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for Terry Moore, not only because he created such a fantastic story that is full of incredible characters, but because he did it all; he wrote, drew and independently published it himself for ninety issues. It’s a massive accomplishment, and it’s something I will go back and read over and over.

Sleeper is an incredibly complex espionage story with double agents, criminals with powers and organised crime syndicates. It was the first time I read a comic by the Eisner winning creative team of Brubaker, Phillips and Staples, which is one I’ve continued to follow with other comics like Criminal and Incognito. The story appeals to me as a fan of the spy genre and it touches on several other areas that I enjoy, so it was a bit of a perfect fit.

John Ostrander is an amazing and extremely accomplished writer and has written literally hundreds of comics, and Tom Mandrake is just a legend. His art is so horrific, creepy and disturbing, and in the Spectre it really is the stuff of nightmares. His five year arc with Ostrander challenges you in every issue. It’s very dark, upsetting, grisly and it often looks at morally difficult and uncomfortable situations. It’s also about religion, faith, vengeance and there is also a tsunami of blood and an inventive way of killing someone in most issues. For me it’s a landmark series and it was also a turning point as it helped me realise the scope of what you can do in comics.

Q: Which writers (in whatever medium) do you most enjoy and find inspirational - and are these the same people?

A: There are a lot of comic writers today that are producing some amazing work, a few of which I’ve already mentioned. Some writers started on creator owned projects and have since moved onto mainstream comics, but many of them are doing both which is a beneficial arrangement for everyone.

I really enjoy their mainstream work but find their creator owned comics even better and more challenging. Examples would be Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Brian K. Vaughn. Other writers I like are Brian Wood, Mike Carey, Bryan Talbot, Marc Adreyko, Geoff Johns, B. Clay Moore, Peter David, Mark Millar, Rick Remender, Gail Simone, Mark Waid and many many more.

There are also those who write comics but work in other media like J. Michael Straczynski, who is the creator of one of my favourite TV shows of all time, Babylon 5. He has written for Marvel and now writes for DC, but I really enjoyed his creator owned projects like Rising Stars and Midnight Nation. He is incredibly inspirational and has been a huge influence on me.

Joss Whedon is another guy who is incredibly smart and creative and you never know what he is going to do next.

In TV-land, I really like JJ Abrams the creator of shows like Alias, Lost and Fringe.

Closer to home I enjoy Toby Whithouse’s writing, the creator of Being Human. The writers I most enjoy do tend to be the ones that inspire and influence me, although most of the time it isn’t obvious how.

Q: You're plugged into the comics industry as a creator, as a podcaster and as reader. What do you think are the best things about being involved with comics right now?

A: In my opinion some of the comics being produced today are the best the industry has ever seen. There is still dross out there, and sometimes you have to wander off the beaten path to find the good stuff, but the diversity today is remarkable and comics are now available in every genre you can think of.

Just as TV was once looked on as a poor stepchild to film, comics are no longer only available in specialist shops for dedicated fans. Comics have become mainstream and are available online, via high street bookshops and new mobile devices, delivering content to new audiences all around the world.

Recently we’ve seen a number of A-list Hollywood actors taking long-term contracts on TV because the quality of programmes being produced today is much better than 20 years ago. It’s the same with comics. The writing and artwork has evolved significantly. Stories are more complex and emotionally challenging, and the medium as a whole is gaining recognition as an incredibly creative area that is rich with innovative stories.

In the last 20 years we’ve seen dozens of comic related movies, some of which have been very successful at the box office, such as the Dark Knight. We’ve even seen famous actors, directors and writers from other mediums getting involved with producing comics of their own, or signing up to direct comic-based movies.

The fact that Kenneth Branagh is directing the new Thor movie for Marvel shows you how much things have changed. All of this is putting a spotlight on comics, driving the industry forward and challenging creators to do better, which makes it a brilliant time to be a fan of comics. No one knows what is around the corner but it is a very exciting time in the industry.

Thanks Stephen!

Stephen Aryan has been a keen fan of comics since childhood, starting out with mainstream superhero titles before diversifying into other areas and publishers. Since 2007 he has co-hosted Comic Book Outsiders, a podcast dedicated to introducing its listeners to hidden gems from the world of independent comics, movies, books and TV. Through the podcast Stephen has interviewed many comic creators, authors and independent filmmakers. When not writing comics or podcasting, he is busy in pursuit of becoming a full time writer and novelist.

For more from this talented duo you can follow the progress of Empyre on its very own blog, see more of Adam's work on his website and listen to Stephen as co-host of the Comic Book Outsiders podcast.

Essex Book Festival

Last weekend Alasdair Duncan ran one of his now famous library events for the local community as part of the Essex Book Festival.

He says:

"Thanks very much to Alex Willmore and Lauren Sharp for representing Insomnia at the Comic Creators workshop at Harlow library on Saturday. Thanks also to Tony Wicks of C2D4 and Peter McLeod of Turning Cog Creations who completed the lively and informative panel for an event which was part of the Essex Book Festival.

The relaxed discussion between the panel and the 25 teenage and adult comic followers was followed by a hands on workshop where many of those attending sought advice and tips on how to take their interests in comics further or completed worksheets prepared by the Lauren, Alex and Tony.

In particular we wish David Hill well with his first appearance at Bristol in 2010 with his comic Glory Be!

The event organisers were extremely pleased and judging by the feedback forms so were the participants. Thanks again to the panel for making such a successful event."

There will also be a children's comic event run by Alasdair at Dunmow library on March 20th between 2 and 4 pm, again as part of the Book Festival.

Sharing The Love

  • Don't forget that the Hi Ex show in Scotland is just around the corner if you still want to book tickets.

  • The Dark by writer Chris Lynch has now been printed and will have it's launch by Markosia at the Bristol Expo. Chris is doing several signing sessions to promote the book. Details over on his website.

  • Our friend Stacey Whittle of the indie podcast Small Press Big Mouth has many more strings to her bow than you can imagine and is often found writing articles and reviews for various blogs and magazine. Check out this piece on What Makes an Independent Comic that she wrote for Hub Magazine issue 113. Food for thought as the industry continues to grow and change.
Until next time...