Yesterday, I featured The Standard in the first of my series of sneak peeks at my various comics projects. The Standard is my most visible project, I know. It’s the one thing of mine that’s been available to buy, and last week it went on global sale via Diamond distribution. One might be forgiven for thinking it was the only thing I was working on, but that’s not the case. 2012 for me was a year of planning: establishing collaborations, preparing for marketing and new editions for the Diamond relaunch of The Standard, getting my ducks in a row and getting projects ready. 2013, I want to be a year of doing: I want to get scripts written, comics made and copies available for sale in on form or another. Hence the numerous new projects I want to highlight this week, starting with Black Leaf
Co-created with artist Garry McLaughlin and written by me over the course of last year, Black Leaf is a very different beast from The Standard. Even in terms of its format, it’s a radical departure: a standalone 76-page graphic novel whereas The Standard is a 6-issue miniseries. It’s certainly been an interesting experiment, as the shift in format changes your pacing, and the kind of story you’re able to tell.
Black Leaf is a horror story about a 12-year-old boy called Stuart who travels from Glasgow to the Scottish Highlands to care for his ailing grandfather. While exploring the woods near the old home of his “Granda”, Stuart befriends an enigmatic local girl called Alison, who shares with him an ancient supernatural force at the heart of the woods. When tragedy strikes, a desperate Stuart tries to shape this force to his own ends, only for things to go horribly wrong and take a creepingly nightmarish turn…
I love horror. You might even argue it was my first love, perhaps even earlier established than my well-documented love of superheroes. So, I was very excited to explore the genre in my comics writing. But while all too often in comics, “horror” is classified as anything with big gooey monsters and gore, I wanted to try and tell the kind of story that would scare me. And so I’m drawing heavily from all those old British TV ghost stories – The Woman in Black, The Signalman, Whistle and I’ll Come For You, The Stone Tapes – that relied more heavily on this gradual, turn-of-the-screw building of dread than overt shocks. Atmospheric comics of recent years like Echoes and Severed have certainly shown this kind of horror to be possible in the medium. Hopefully I can continue to build on the tradition with the story I tell here.
I would be remiss not to make note of the incredible work the ever-diverse Garry McLaughlin is doing on the art front. Garry McLaughlin is the highly-talented artist of the likes of Taking Flight, Old Folk’s Home and Good Cop, Bad Cop, and if you haven’t checked out his ace webcomic series Suddenly Something Really Interesting, amend your grievous error now! He’s also the writer/artist of the upcoming Gonzo Cosmic, a dazzlingly high-concept sci-fi epic that’s right up there with the previously-discussed NeverEnding as one of my most anticipated comics of the coming year. I first envisioned this graphic novel with Garry drawing it, so I’m pleased he agreed to take part!
We talked at length about the kind of aesthetic we wanted from Black Leaf, and we were both of the same mindset of channelling a kind of “dark fairy tale” vibe throughout. And so Garry has been working with lush watercolours and sweeping inks to craft this ethereal visual style that has shades of Raymond Briggs, which will be fun to see adapted as the narrative becomes increasingly monstrous. We talked a lot about this book as a physical artefact, how we want it to feel substantial: oversized, hardcover, good quality paper stock. With Garry at the helm, I’m convinced Black Leaf will look incredible.
Black Leaf is currently being shopped around to publishers, and hopefully we’ll have definitive news on who will be producing the book before too long. Be sure to follow the blog for updates. The nature of the graphic novel, and any publishing schedules we may have to adhere to, may mean that this is not a book to look out for at Glasgow Comic Con, but my hopes are to get it released into comic shops in 2013. This is, after all, the year of doing! Enjoy this little sneak peek of some of the early pages of Black Leaf, as hauntingly drawn by Garry McLaughlin and skillfully lettered by Colin Bell.