Coming Soon: Thought Bubble 2014!

It’s been a fun convention year for me, hitting my local shows at Glasgow Comic Con in July and MCM Scotland in September, then traveling to New York Comic Con in October.  And as has become tradition, the convention year will come to a grand close with Thought Bubble in Leeds.  Held at Royal Armouries over the weekend of Saturday 15th November to Sunday 16th November, it’s always a great show with a buzzing atmosphere, and this year promises to be the biggest ever, with an array of high profile guests including some of the hottest names in comics.

Oh, and I’ll be there too.

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You’ll find me at Table 77 in the TB Teepee, the brand new exhibitor venue on the Royal Armouries campus.  I have a table of my own this year, partly because the amount of comics I now have available for sale is spiralling madly out of control and can no longer be contained to a half-table.  But though it says “John Lees” on the marquee, this is very much another case of “John Lees and Pals”, as I’ll be joined by some awesome guests.

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And Then Emily Was Gone #1-#4 will all be on sale from my table, as will a selection of exclusive prints based on the series’ eye-catching covers.  This horror-mystery series tells the story of Greg Hellinger, a former detective plagued with monstrous visions, whose search for a missing girl takes him to the Scottish Orkney Islands, where strange and terrifying things are happening.  This has been a breakout hit this past summer and really seems to have built up a bit of momentum, so I’m really excited to bring it to Thought Bubble and hopefully introduce it to some new readers just in time for the final issue coming out a couple of weeks after the con.  To represent the book, I’ll be there, and so will Iain Laurie, the incredible artist of the series.  He’ll have some original art from the comic for sale, and is doing sketch commissions too.  I’ve seen him work on the show floor first hand, and trust me when I say an Iain Laurie convention original is something any serious comic art collector is going to want to add to their repertoire…. a sight to behold!  Iain will be at my table for most of the weekend.  And Then Emily Was Gone letterer Colin Bell will also be on-hand at the show… he’ll be at his own table in New Dock Hall, table 161, selling his own excellent comic, Dungeon Fun, so when you stop by his table to buy that make sure to get him to sign your copies of And Then Emily Was Gone too!

TheStandard06_03I’ll also have, for the first time at Thought Bubble, the entire series of The Standard available to buy.  The Standard #1-#4, and the double-sized finale, The Standard #5The Standard is the award-winning story of a superhero legacy that spans across two generations, and the interconnecting lives of the men who have worn the mantle.  Supplies of issue #1 are VERY limited, so make sure you get to the table quick if you want to pick up a copy.  Also in attendance at the show will be Will Robson, a highly-talented artist who joined the series as co-artist for issue #5.  He’ll be at my table signing and sketching from 12:00-1:30pm each day.  When he’s not at my table, you’ll find him at his own table in New Dock Hall, table 181a.

I’m really looking forward to Thought Bubble, and can’t wait to meet up with friends old and new and spread the word about my comics.  If you’re at the show, please stop by Table 77, TB Teepee, and say hello!

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What’s That Smell?

Uh-oh, it’s a political comic!

I don’t claim to be the most politically engaged person, and others have got into the nuances of the Scottish Independence debate more comprehensively in comics elsewhere.  I mainly just put together this vignette because I thought it was a funny idea.  It came to me when I was watching a televised debate about the referendum shortly after reading the Wee Blue Book, which was filled a lot of interesting documented, verifiable facts quelling a lot of the fears put forward by Better Together.  So watching the advocates for No trailing out these same old points, now armed with the knowledge that most were factually disprovable, I was left wishing that someone could just step up and go, “Ho, that’s a lie, mate!”  Cut through the political protocols and niceties and just call bullshit bullshit.  And that’s when I started riffing on popular TV skits based around that very idea, and imagining what it would be like to mash those up with the political sphere…

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The jokes in this are pretty specific, so apologies to those of you who don’t have a working knowledge of either the magnificent TV escapades of Karl Pilkington or Karen Dunbar’s delightful skit from Scottish sketch comedy show Chewin’ The Fat.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m voting Yes for Scottish independence.  Here’s the Facebook post I wrote at the start of this month explaining my reasons:

Brace yourselves: this is going to be a long post, on the subject of the Scottish Independence referendum.

The vote is just over 2 weeks away, now. I have said before that I was trying my best to stay undecided for as long as possible to be open to arguments on both sides, and at around this stage I was going to write two status updates – “Why I’m voting Yes” and “Why I’m voting No” – to lay out the forces swaying me in each direction. But now, I find myself pretty unable to write any convincing post for the No side, which confirms what has become increasingly clear to me: on 18th September, I’m definitely voting Yes.

People who have known me for a long time will know that, even a year ago, this position would have been unfathomable to me. For as long as I have been aware of the particular political matter of Scottish Independence, I’ve been hardline No. I was someone whose heart sank when the SNP were first elected into power in the Scottish Government, because it made an independence referendum a possibility, if a remote one. My whole life, I’ve been proud to be British as much as I’m proud to be Scottish. I’m proud of much of our shared culture and history, of our NHS. I like England: I’ve often visited, and I have family and friends there. I’ve never been one of those Scots who hate the English, who cheer on whoever’s playing against them in sporting events, and to be honest I’ve always found such attitudes embarrassing. And I always felt that the SNP and any move towards Scottish Independence pandered to such nasty, small-minded, parochial sentiments. I felt like, as a people, it was better to be part of something bigger than to split ourselves up into little factions and seal ourselves off. And I was basically happy with the political situation of the United Kingdom. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but compared to what’s going on elsewhere in the world, all things considered it felt like there wasn’t all that much seriously wrong with it.

So, once the Yes/No campaigning began in earnest, initially I was dead-set against Yes. I didn’t even want to read any of the stuff in support of it, my mind was already made up. But then I stopped myself, and thought, “This referendum could be the most important vote you make in your lifetime. You owe it to yourself to engage fully, and learn all you can about both sides of the argument to make an informed decision.” And so that’s what I did. And very quickly, it became abundantly clear that the campaign of Yes Scotland was leagues ahead of that of Better Together. Yes Scotland has a positive vision for Scotland: there are aspirations, goals for the country with tangible ideas laid out for how to attain them. Better Together has been relentlessly negative. At the earliest stages there was this kind of smug, condescending disdain, the idea that Yes Scotland were beneath their notice, and that us lowly Scots should feel excited and grateful whenever a “real” politician from Westminster made a half-hearted appearance on our shores to give us a pat on the head and tell us we all knew what was good for us. But my friend Ashley Storrie made a great point about the “fuck you” attitude of Scottish people, where if you tell us that we can’t do something, then we want to do it to prove you wrong. And so every time David Cameron came to talk in Scotland, the Yes campaign saw a bump in the polls. And before long the Yes campaign went from a blip no one was taking seriously to something that was still the underdog with a minority, but enough momentum to make this a close-run thing. And at this point I was a frustrated No voter, bemoaning the fact that this blundering Government was playing right into Alex Salmond’s hands by giving the Yes campaign fuel without Yes Scotland even needing to do anything. But then the scare tactics began from Better Together, the doom-and-gloom and the threats of punishment or retribution that would come if we defied them by voting Yes. “We’ll take your pound away.” “We’ll take our business away.” “Scotland can’t manage on its own, this disaster or that crisis will make it fail. This is too difficult for you.” And that “fuck you” attitude started swelling up in me too.

There are ways of summing up the spirit of the respective campaigns. You could say that Yes Scotland has promises, while Better Together has threats. I prefer to look at it this way: Yes Scotland has a primary focus on engaging voters, while Better Together has a primary focus on DISengaging voters: it’s all “this is too difficult,” “this is all a bit scary to think about,” and “best to leave things as they are so you don’t have to concern yourself with it.” And that rankles me. And the more I found myself leaning towards Yes, the more apparent the media bias against Yes became. Heavily slanted newspaper coverage in favour of No from most publications. And even the BBC, an institution I’ve long respected and cherished… I’ve felt totally let down by them during this campaign, more than ever I’ve seen the bias and strategic reporting in a channel I’ve long praised for its relative objectivity. And when I see mobilisation of the powers of the media in the name of deceit and slander, I naturally incline towards the injured party in such a situation. And when you look at the forces assembled in favour of No – the Tories, UKIP, BNP, Britain First, the Orange Order, the Daily Mail – it makes you wonder about whether you’d want to throw in with such an axis of evil.

Even recently, the differences in the campaign have been night and day: look at that wretched “Patronising BT Lady” ad as opposed to the uplifting message behind the Yes ad in last week’s duelling TV spots. And even something as simple as the signs in my local area: the Yes slogan is all stickers plastered around town or signs hanging up in people’s windows, while No Thanks hangs oppressively on lampposts throughout the streets, high up beyond human reach. It feels like The Man, the establishment, while Yes feels grassroots.

But I’d be pretty shallow if my decision was just based on who has the snazzier campaign. While the Yes campaign might have opened my eyes to them, in truth there are deeper reasons behind my decision. I said before that the British Government are basically okay, but more and more lately I’ve realised that’s not the case. I’ve seen an alarming rise in political attacks on immigrants, on the unemployed, on the working poor… the vulnerable in our society we should be protecting. Even that NHS I talked about being so proud of is under attack. After promises the NHS would be untouched, the Conservative Government first brought in cuts, then tried to introduce privatisation to mass public derision. They initially backed off the idea… but then began the sustained media attack on the NHS, it seemed all of a sudden hardly a week could pass without some fresh scandal “leaking”, and calls for Something To Be Done. And now the privatisation has been filtering in a step at a time. I don’t like the direction the UK is going.

It lies deeper still than just policy, it is the whole political attitude. Scotland is under a Conservative Government, despite only having one elected Tory MP. Scotland can vote overwhelmingly in favour of Labour and the SNP at elections, but at the end of the day it won’t make a dent in the Conservatives coming to power if that’s the direction England decide to vote. They’re bigger than us, their votes carry more clout. That in itself is one of the most compelling arguments for independence: surely we should be able to elect a government that reflects who the majority of our population want in power. Isn’t that democracy?

Worse still, these past couple of elections have seen a startling rise to prominence of UKIP. After years of relief that ragtag racists BNP were far too ridiculous to ever get any serious political influence in this country, that Britain were far too civilised for such things, UKIP and Nigel Farage have come along with the same nastiness at their core but with just enough of a veneer of class and credibility to dupe large factions of England, riding the tide of a growing anti-immigrant sentiment brewing in middle England. Scotland isn’t taken in by them to anywhere near the same degree: we’ve largely rejected them in the polls. But again, that doesn’t matter, not if England votes them in. And rather than oppose their anti-Europe sentiment and their hatred of immigrants, the other major parties have played them in a race to the bottom: “Look, we hate immigrants too!” Good on Salmond, the SNP and Yes Scotland for actually having some backbone and standing against that tide, saying, “No, actually we want MORE immigration, migrants are a valued part of Scotland.” I’m not saying England is full of racists or that there is no racism in Scotland – far from it – but these differing stances in terms of who we elect and who is and isn’t buying the shite Farage is selling suggests we really are two different countries. And as much as the prospect of unelected Conservatives having powers over Scotland annoys me, the prospect of unelected UKIP having those powers infuriates me, especially since Farage still nurses a grudge over the humiliation of being driven out of Edinburgh and UKIP have publicly talked about teaching us Scots some humility when they get the chance.

The aforementioned Europe point brings up another key thing to consider: many might think a vote for No is a vote for status quo, but it really isn’t. Once again bowing to that UKIP pressure, it would appear an in/out referendum on the European Union is on the table for some point over the next couple of years. Now, a broadly speaking, Scotland is pro-Europe, but increasingly, England has become anti-Europe. And remember what I said about how much bigger England is. So, if we vote No, we could potentially be facing another referendum with huge implications for our future in a couple of years, only this time we wouldn’t have a say on the outcome. If we vote Yes, there’s a conceivable situation where Scotland is in the EU and the UK isn’t. And though I now lean in favour of independence, I still believe we’re better as part of something bigger: being a part of the European community offers that. Change is coming one way or another folks, so we shouldn’t be voting just in hopes of avoiding it.

I realise this post is gargantuan now, so I’ll try wrapping things up. I hear the expected voter turnout is over 80%. That’s huge, and really heartening. One of the worst enemies of democracy is voter apathy. So, whatever way the vote goes on September 18th, it’ll be the will of the Scottish people. But I’ve gone from being terrified by the prospect of a Yes vote to being dejected thinking on the likelihood of a No vote. It’s just a depressing thought, the notion that we as a country might decide that we’d rather not make our own decisions, that we’d rather someone else take responsibility for us. And so we may go on being the contrarian voice shouting out against majority UK policy from the cheap seats, but we’ll toothless in our protestations, because we’ll have made the decision that we want to be there. And we’ll have forever have lost the right to complain about Westminster decisions not made in our best interests or not reflective of our desires. Yes, there are risks in independence. We may fall on our faces. But at least the decisions that will see us fail or succeed will be ours to make. It can be frightening thinking that we’ll have no one to credit or blame but ourselves, but I find it invigorating. I love Scotland, and this is one of the most exciting, promising times ever to BE Scottish. On 18th September, we all get the chance to take part in perhaps the most important vote in our country’s history. I’m voting Yes.

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This Weekend: MCM Scotland Comic Con!

From Saturday 6th September to Sunday 7th September, MCM Scotland Comic Con will be running at the SECC in Glasgow.  The show returns to the venue after the huge success of last year, which saw an attendance much bigger than anticipated, and massive queues on the day.  So, book your tickets ASAP! This year’s event promises to be bigger and better, and that carries over to this year’s expanded Comics Village.

I’ll be there, and just today I received a shipment of full-colour copies of And Then Emily Was Gone #1 and #2, which I’ll be selling at the show, along with a black-and-white advance preview edition of issue #3.  I also have a fresh supply of the And Then Emily Was Gone prints that proved so popular at Glasgow Comic Con in July.  Both issue #1 and #2 of And Then Emily Was Gone have sold out at a retailer level worldwide, and so these comics weren’t easy to get a hold of!  Supplies are limited, so if you want to pick them up, make sure you get to our booth – table A5 – while stocks last!

I’ll also be bringing my remaining Glasgow exclusives of THE STANDARD #5 and #6, along with my remaining stock of all the other issues.  Again, stocks are limited, so stock by the table quickly to avoid disappointment.

I won’t be at my table alone this year.  I have a tablemate in the form of the incredibly talented Iain McGarry.  He’s an up-and-coming writer who’ll be launching his debut collection of work, Night & Day, at the show.  Trust me when I say this will be an essential purchase of the Comic Village this year!

MCM Scotland was a total blast last year, and I’m looking forward to another fun show this weekend.  So, come along, and make sure to stop by Table A5 and say hello to me and Iain!

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My 2014 Convention Schedule

Glasgow Comic Con has come and gone for another year, but I still have a few convention dates on the calendar.  Here’s an overview of what conventions you’ll be able to find me at over the remainder of 2014, and what I’ll likely have available there.

MCM SCOTLAND EXPO, 6th-7th September

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We’re just a couple of weeks away from the second annual MCM Scotland Expo in Glasgow’s SECC.  Last year’s inaugural event had a few question marks hanging over it.  With Glasgow Comic Con already firmly establishing itself as my hometown’s native con, was there a niche for another con on the calendar?  And with the comics quotient reduced to a Comics Village within a more general geek culture event, did exhibitors risk being ghettoized and overlooked?  And with relatively little publicity for the event beforehand, would people even show up for it?  The answers ended up being yes, no and HELL YES!  The show ended up being massive, with queues round the block and people waiting hours to get in.  The event was so huge that this year it has been expanded to a two-day event to cope with the demand.  It’s a suitably different event from Glasgow Comic Con, based in a large warehouse rather than the more intimate vibe Glasgow Comic Con creates by peppering multiple small dealer’s rooms across the CCA and nearby venues.  And the demographic MCM attracts seems to be a lot younger and more diverse, a lot of teenagers – teenage girls in particular – more into anime and manga than traditional comics.  But last year, this new audience seemed very keen to explore the Comics Village and try new things, so let’s hope that carries over to this year!

For this show, I’ll be sharing a table with Iain McGarry.  Iain is an exciting upcoming writer I’ve been a fan of for some time.  He’s been making a name for himself by having his shorts published in various anthologies, but at MCM he’ll be debuting Night and Day, the first collection of his work.  Trust me when I say this is going to be one of the hottest comics of the show, and one you’ll definitely want to get your hands on.

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As for me, I’ll be selling copies of the full-colour Diamond edition of And Then Emily Was Gone #1, along with black-and-white advance preview editions of issues #2 and #3.  I’ll also have a supply of the highly popular And Then Emily Was Gone prints from Glasgow Comic Con.  I’ll also be selling through my remaining stock of The Standard: be warned, stock for some issues is VERY limited!  I’ll have Glasgow exclusive editions of the final two issues, so anyone who missed out at Glasgow Comic Con will have the chance to find out how the story ends ahead of the worldwide release at the end of September.

 

NEW YORK COMIC CON, 9th-12th October

TheStandard6CoverThe biggest show on my calendar, my annual trip to New York is something I eagerly look forward to each year.  This will be my fourth time attending the big show at the Javitts Center, and I can’t wait to meet up with my American comics friends once again.  But this year is extra special, because not only will I be joined at the ComixTribe table by returning NYCC veterans Tyler James (Epic, The Red Ten), Joe Mulvey (Scam), Cesar Feliciano (The Red Ten) and Alex Cormack (Future Proof, I Play the Bad Guy), but Iain Laurie, artist and co-creator of And Then Emily Was Gone, will also be coming along for the trip and making an appearance at the show!

And what a jampacked table of goodness you’ll find at the ComixTribe booth.  You’ll find all the available issues of Scam, The Red Ten, Epic, as well as the gorgeous hardcover collected editions of Scam: The Ultimate Collection, The Red Ten, Vol. 1, The Oxymoron and C is for Cthhulu.  As for my stuff, for the first time at NYCC I’ll have the entire run of The Standard, all 6 chapters collected into 5 comics (including the double-length final issue set for release in September).  Having the whole series available at New York Comic Con is a major milestone I’ve been wanting to reach for years, I’m so happy to have finally made it happen.

ATEWG4CoverBAs for And Then Emily Was Gone, by the time New York Comic Con rolls around the first three issues will have been released worldwide.  We’ll have all those in stock at the convention, but by that point, we also expect all the artwork on the series to be complete, so we could possibly have an advance preview edition of issues #4 and #5 available for those in attendance: watch this space for more news on that front.  With Iain Laurie in attendance, there’s also a good chance you’ll be able to get a sketch from one of the breakout comic artists of 2014!

And that’s everything.  Oh, wait, one more thing…

OxymoronTeaserAt New York Comic Con last year, ComixTribe announced Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare, a 4-issue miniseries with a story from me and Oxymoron creator Tyler James, and art from the incomparable Alex Cormack.  The series won’t be launching until 2015, but the script and art for the first issue is complete, and word on the grapevine is that, with Alex, Tyler and myself all in attendance, attendees who stop by our table might just get a first look a little bit sooner.  Again… watch this space!

With such a wealth of content, ComixTribe seems poised to stand as the king of the Small Press section on the NYCC floor!

THOUGHT BUBBLE, 15th-16th November

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Thought Bubble is always a cracking way to wrap up the con year.  Really cool venue, and a great, relaxed atmosphere, it gets bigger every year but has still captured that elusive intimate small con vibe.  But this year is poised to be the biggest yet, with some huge names from the world of comics descending on Royal Armouries in Leeds for a weekend of comics festivities.

I’ll be in attendance, with my table at the Thought Bubble Teepee at the center of the convention campus.  I’ll be sharing a table with Nathaniel Walpole, a very talented cartoonist whose distinctive, experimental work is sure to see him get a reputation in the years to come.  I’ll have all the stock I sold at New York, some of it making its first appearance on UK soil at the show.  Also, Will Robson, co-artist on issues #5 and #6 of The Standard, will be in attendance, and will likely be on-hand to do a bit of signing and sketching.

And that’s how my convention calendar is looking.  I hope you’ll be in attendance for at least one of these shows.  If you are, please come find me and say hello!

 

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On Comics Custodianism and the Illusion of Change

avengers-nowThe comic book news cycle has been ablaze over the past few days with news of some big changes coming to Marvel comics in the months ahead.  As part of what the publisher is calling their “Avengers NOW!” initiative, some of their flagship characters are having their titles relaunched with new issue #1 and jarring new status quos.  The biggest of these changes have merited announcements on mainstream media outlets.  The View revealed that Thor will now be a woman.  Then The Colbert Report revealed that the new Captain America will be black.

As one with any familiarity with the internet may have anticipated, this has already been met with much howling and gnashing of teeth from large segments of the comic fan community.  And of course, we all breathlessly anticipate the ultra-Conservative tin-foil hat brigade wading in to declare that this is some politically correct conspiracy by The Liberals to destroy comics and, by extension, America… somehow.  Plenty of people have already astutely pointed out that people seemed to have little problem with Thor being replaced by a frog, or a horse-faced alien, or another white dude in the wake of the recent Fear Itself event, but a woman taking the mantle is seemingly a bridge too far!  I’ve seen people spitting out with venom the idea that this is all a cynical ploy to pander to black people and women.  First, it seems there’s a certain breed of white straight male reader who defines “pandering” as anything that doesn’t pander directly and exclusively to them.  Second, I think such a status quo shift is going to appeal to more than just female and black readers, respectively, for reasons I’ll go into later.  And third, if this does pique the interest of women or black people who previously didn’t feel engaged by Marvel’s output, how is that a bad thing?

However, I don’t think that anyone who hates these relaunches is inherently racist or sexist.  Though some of them certainly are, it would be unfair to paint all with the same brush.  The comic fans I want to focus on more in this particular bit of commentary are the advocates of comics custodianism.  Allow me to clarify.  There’s a bit of a problem with a large chunk of Marvel and DC’s fanbase, something that prevents them from ever truly being happy with the product.  They’ll complain that the comics are stale, that some life and energy and good high-stakes storytelling needs to be injected back into their favourite superheroes.  But the dilemma is that, if you get a great writer and put them on a superhero comic, the tools they’d be most inclined to employ in order to tell the best story – new threats, shocking changes to the protagonist’s life, a genuine sense of peril and uncertainty over how the hero will be able to restore status quo – stand in direct contrast to what this segment of the fanbase actually wants.  They claim they want great storytellers in their comics, but what they actually want is a custodian.  They want their favourite heroes, static and forever unchanging, wearing the old clothes they always used to wear, fighting the old villains they always used to fight, hanging around with the same supporting cast they always used to hang around with, with nothing about their comfortable status quo changing in any notable way.  These readers don’t want the best story… they want comics comfort food.

And when someone does come in and make seemingly drastic changes… they get angry.  It doesn’t need to be a matter of the hero changing race or gender, any change seems to be enough to get them up in arms.  Peter Parker remained, physically at least, the white, male Peter Parker in Superior Spider-Man, yet writer Dan Slott received so many death threats on social media over the storyline that it made national news.  But these people never seem to learn, do they?  Because anyone with an ounce of rationality was able to say, “Of course Otto Octavius isn’t going to be Spider-Man forever, of course Peter Parker is going to be Spider-Man again in time for the movie.  It’s not a permanent change, it’s a storyline.”  These people were angry because the writer has succeeded in making then genuinely stumped about how the good guy was going to possibly triumph over evil, which is what he’s supposed to do!  These people must find watching a season of 24 unbearable: do they have to skip to the last episode where Jack Bauer wins?  I don’t know how long these people have been reading comics for, but they should know by now that a dead hero doesn’t stay dead for long.  Superior Spider-Man was about taking Peter Parker out of the role of Spider-Man for a while to illustrate how integral Peter is to the Spider-Man mythos through the void left by his absence, and by its end it was recognised as one of the best Spider-Man stories in years.  Just like how “The Death of Captain America” in Captain America a few years ago, where Captain America died for a while and was replaced by Bucky Barnes (who’s white, so people didn’t seem to mind as much), it became a story used to illustrate how integral Steve Rogers is to the Captain America mythos through the void left by his absence, and by its end it was recognised as one of the best Captain America stories in years.  Or “Black Mirror” in Batman, where Dick Grayson took over as Batman in Gotham City while a recently-resurrected Bruce Wayne established a global crime-fighting franchise, where the story was used to illustrate how integral Bruce Wayne is to the Batman mythos through the void left by his absence, and by its end it was recognised as one of the best Batman stories in years.  Are we beginning to notice a trend here?

If there’s a criticism to be made here, it’s that Marvel are going back to the well of what has proven to be a tried-and-true formula for success too often, and risk blunting its impact.  But if you’re out there and you’re outraged because you genuinely believe that female Thor or black Captain America are a permanent or even a long-term replacement?  Sorry, I don’t know a polite way of saying that you’re a fucking idiot, so I’ll just come out and say it: you’re a fucking idiot.

Amidst all the cries of fury about black people ruining Captain America and women ruining Thor, it’s amazing how few people seem to have actually read the small print of what’s actually happening in these various comics, story-wise.  Indeed, it seems a large number of the fans outraged by this haven’t even been reading the books, and just seek comfort in traditional, unchanging versions of these heroes as an abstract concept.  This was wonderfully exemplified by one outspoken user on Twitter demanding that Jason Latour be fired for writing Thor so terribly as to make him a women… when of course it’s Jason Aaron who has been writing Thor: God of Thunder (which is brilliant, by the way) and who will be carrying on through the Thor relaunch.  But if all these people bemoaning the loss of their favourite heroes actually took the time to look into the story and the context, they’d see that they actually aren’t losing their favourite heroes at all!  The original Thor and Captain America aren’t dying, which in itself makes this status quo shift less drastic than many.  Let’s take a closer look at each one.

First, female Thor.  Yes, Thor is relaunching, and yes, the new God of Thunder and holder of Mjolnir is a woman.  But while the designs of the new masked female Thor have been widely distributed, this image has been shared less frequently:

thor-unworthyYep, it’s the same male Thor we all know and love.  And if you read Jason Aaron’s interview over on Comic Book Resources, he makes it abundantly clear that Thor remains a main protagonist in the series going forward.  Indeed, the central thrust of the plot is that plot machinations have caused Asgard to turn on Thor and deem him “unworthy”, stripping him of his hammer Mjolnir and removing him from their pantheon.  So now a humbled Thor must fight to regain his mantle and unlock the mystery of the mysterious woman who has replaced him.  Surely any level-headed person could read that and think, “That sounds like an interesting Thor story.”

Now let’s look at All-New Captain America.  After seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a lot of people talked about Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon, deserving his own series.  But it seems some of them didn’t want that coming at the expense of Steve Rogers.  The story seems to go that the Super-Soldier Serum is wearing off on Steve Rogers, and he’s no longer able to continue being Captain America.  And so his close friend Sam Wilson steps into the role in his stead.  But again, let’s look at some Marvel promotional material:

Avengers-Now2Black Captain America is in there, but to the right of the shot we have an elderly blonde man.  Surely this is Steve Rogers, and that suggests that Steve Rogers will remain an active character in this All-New Captain America comic.  I would imagine that a major element of the book will be, after decades of being a man out of time, suddenly he’s placed in a position where time is catching up with him, and how does he deal with that?  Again, as a fan of Captain America, I think that’s an intriguing story to tell.

Meanwhile, Marvel have also announced Superior Iron Man, where Tony Stark moves to San Francisco and starts engaging in some morally dubious activity.  If the “Superior” tag is anything to go by, I imagine the twist in this tale will be that Tony is being controlled by a villain.  And if we’re talking movie synchronicity here, my money is on Ultron.

All this is coming together to paint a bigger picture of what “Avengers NOW!” is shaping up to be.  It’s a time leap narrative of some sort, it seems, where after a gap our main characters find themselves in drastically altered circumstances, and part of the fun is figuring out both how they got into these situations and how they’ll eventually get out of them.  And it all seems to be tying into Jonathan Hickman’s big climactic Avengers storyline “Time Runs Out”, which brings all these status quo shifts together and adds another big one.  It seems like Thanos is now the leader of The Avengers:

ThanosTimeRunsOutAnd this is where we get down to there being two different types of reader.  There are those who want comics custodianism, and they’ll be fuming at all this upheaval, all this shattering of status quo.  And then there are readers who like high stakes and surprises in their storytelling, who are viewing these as stories and are intrigued.  I know I’m interested, and that I’ll be picking all these up.  I already read Thor: God of Thunder, but after grabbing the early issues I’ve fallen behind on the Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers titles.  This will make me jump back on.  And I’m not black, I’m not a woman, I’m just a fan of good stories and good characters.  When you look at these characters as being more than just their specific costumes and power sets, you should be able to recognise that these storylines are actually potentially great fodder for Thor Odinson, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark as characters.  And it’s a real shame people can’t see past the “THOR IS A WOMAN!” and “CAPTAIN AMERICA IS BLACK!” buzzwords.

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Glasgow Comic Con 2014: THIS WEEKEND!

It’s that time of year again!  There’s a little less than a week to go until Scotland’s comic community comes together for Glasgow Comic Con.  The show will be at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street, on Saturday 5th July and Sunday 6th July. I’ll be at the con, promoting my various comic projects. You can find my table up on the Level 2 Club Room.

Like And Then Emily Was Gone? I’ll have the last remaining stock of the black-and-white small press editions of issues #1 and #2 before the colour edition debuts worldwide at the end of July (this may be your last chance to get those, as once this stock is sold out I won’t be getting any more!), and I’ll also have an exclusive black-and-white preview edition of And Then Emily Was Gone #3 – Glasgow readers will get to see it months before the rest of the world! I’ll also be selling a range of limited edition prints, which look stunning. Only available while stocks last.

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Like The Standard? Well, at last, the series is complete. The final two issues, issues #5 and #6, will be available to buy from my table, months before their general release, with convention exclusive covers. We also have limited stock of all the other issues to let readers get caught up on the whole series.

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Like Chris Connelly? Well, he drew the convention exclusive covers for The Standard #5 and #6! He’ll be sharing the table with me at the con to sign any copies of the books you buy. We’ll also be selling the first issue of our Glasgow sci-fi series, Bad Sun, and Chris will be selling some lovely original art, and – I believe – doing commissions.

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You’ll also be able to find me at a panel on the Saturday, at 12pm.  In the CCA cinema, I’ll be part of the “SICBA Best Comic or Graphic Novel: Meet The Shortlist” panel, hosted by Craig Nielson, where I’ll be joined by Colin Bell, Craig Collins, Gil Hatcher and Morag Kewell.  Come along to see us all chat up our various comics, and discuss the process of creating them and getting them out into the world.

All that, and my books are also nominated for a bunch of SICBA awards! The Standard is nominated for Best Comic, I’m nominated for Best Writer, and Iain Laurie is nominated for Best Artist for And Then Emily Was Gone. voting is open throughout Saturday 5th July at the SICBA voting booth in the CCA’s first floor bar. If you’re attending, make sure to vote!

Tickets for the show are still available from www.glasgowcomiccon.com. It’s always a great show, and this year we have top notch comic guests like Gail Simone, Howard Chaykin and Erik Larsen, as well as familiar faces from the Scottish comics scene. Come along, have a great time, and support one of Scotland’s fastest-growing creative industries!

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SICBA 2014 Nominees, Featuring John Lees Comics

A couple of days ago, the shortlist for this year’s Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance awards were announced.  And I’m pleased to report that my comics are nominated in three of the four categories.

The Standard was nominated for Best Comic or Graphic Novel, while I was nominated for Best Writer for my work on that series.  Iain Laurie, meanwhile, was nominated for best artist for his work on And Then Emily Was Gone.  Here’s the full shortlist of nominees:

Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel (supported by CCA: Glasgow)
Beginners Guide to Being Outside (published by Avery Hill Publishing Ltd.)
Crawl Hole (published by Craig Collins)
Crossing Borders (published by Rocket Puppy Press)
Dungeon Fun: Book One (published by Dogooder Comics)
The Standard #5 (published by ComixTribe)

Best Artist (supported by Homecoming Scotland)
Iain Laurie – And Then Emily Was Gone #3
Morag Kewell – Crossing Borders
Neil Slorance – Dungeon Fun: Book One

Best Writer (supported by Black Hearted Press)
Gill Hatcher – Beginners Guide to Being Outside
Colin Bell – Dungeon Fun: Book One
John Lees – The Standard #5

Best Cover (supported by Williams Bros. Brewing Co.)
Craig Collins, Iain Laurie and Derek Dow – Crawl Hole
Neil Slorance – Dungeon Fun: Book One
Jimmy Devlin – Saltire: Invasion

Voting is open throughout the first day of Glasgow Comic Con, on Saturday 5th July, at Glasgow’s CCA on Sauchiehall Street.  You can still buy tickets for the show over at the official website.  Congratulations and good luck to all my fellow nominees!

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