AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE Nominated for 4 SICBA Awards!

On Friday, the official shortlist of nominees for Glasgow’s SICBA awards was announced, and I’m hugely excited to report that And Then Emily Was Gone – my upcoming project with artist Iain Laurie and letterer Colin Bell that’s set to debut at July’s Glasgow Comic Con – has swept the board, earning a nomination in every category.  Here is the shortlist in full:

Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel
Supported by CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts
(5 Nominees)

And Then Emily Was Gone #1
Anthology Three
Big in Japan
Dark Ascension
The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal

Best Writer
Supported by Mlitt in Comic Studies, University of Dundee
(3 Nominees)

John Lees for And Then Emily Was Gone #1
James Devlin for Dark Ascension
Neil Slorance for The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal

Best Artist
Supported by DJCAD, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
(3 Nominees)

Iain Laurie for And Then Emily Was Gone #1
James Devlin for Dark Ascension
Neil Slorance for The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal

Best Cover
Supported by Commando Comics
(3 Nominees)

Iain Laurie for And Then Emily Was Gone #1
Morag Kewell for Big in Japan
Dave Alexander for Collected McBams

It’s an honour just to be nominated, and I’m in some prestigious company here.  But who I’m really rooting for is the immensely talented Iain Laurie in his categories, as he’s a fantastic artist hugely deserving of every bit of recognition he gets.

You can check out And Then Emily Was Gone and all the other nominated comics at Plan B Books in Parnie Street, Glasgow now, where they have a little SICBA viewing area set up.  But you’ll only be able to vote on Saturday 13th July at Glasgow Comic Con, in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street.  So buy your tickets, come along for a great comic-filled weekend, and VOTE!  You don’t have to vote for me… but you DO have to buy my comics!  BWAHAHAHAHA!

For more information, check out http://www.glasgowcomiccon.com.

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Glasgow Comic Con 2013: A Creator-Owned Comics Preview

So, there’s a comics convention coming up in July that I’ve been looking forward to all year.  “Oh, San Diego?” I hear you ask.  Nope!  I’m talking about Glasgow Comic Con!  Sure, the climate ain’t as sunny as SDCC, but for the past two years my hometown con has put on a hell of a show.  In 2011 and 2012, the event was held in the Mackintosh Church Arts & Heritage Centre, a lovely venue full of character which I personally enjoyed, as it was so unlike your typical convention hall.  However, the downside was that it was way outside the City Centre, so getting there was a bit of a chore.  But for the third annual Glasgow Comic Con, running from Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th, the organisers have switched to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, better known as the CCA: a cracking, upmarket venue with a brilliant location right in the heart of the City Centre.  Things are primed for this year’s convention to be the best yet!

As an independent creator, there’s one thing in particular that makes me really like Glasgow Comic Con.  Yes, the show has had its share of high-profile guests – with the likes of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jim Starlin and Mark Millar all making appearances over the past couple of years – who are game for panels and signings.  Yes, there are bargains on back issues and graphic novels to be found in the exhibitor area.  But last year, something that has stood out to me is that, perhaps more than any other con I’ve attended, the “star attraction” seems to be local creator-owned comics.  Last year, there were many reports of quick sellouts of sizeable amounts of stock from numerous indie creators, with a recurring problem (and a good one to have!) being pros selling out of all their stock by the end of the first day or the start of the second day and have nothing left to offer even as fans kept on coming up to their table looking for stuff to buy.  I personally had my most profitable convention ever at last year’s show, and I’ve exhibited at Thought Bubble and New York Comic Con.  I had some of the easiest pitching experiences in my life: I have a little blurb rehearsed in my head that I cycle out on punters on the convention floor, but often at Glasgow Comic Con I’d only make it as far as “Hi, can I interest you in my comic, The Standard?” before they’d cut me off with a “YES PLEASE!” and put money in my hands.  There were folk who just started at one end of the show floor and went through every small press table, buying something from everyone.  There’s something about the Glasgow comic fanbase that has a strong interest in supporting local talent, it seems.  It’s reflected in the prominent, popular “local” sections in our comic stores.

Given the highly positive experience of last year, there has definitely been a buzz around the thriving Scottish comics community over the past several months, a feeling of just about everyone working away on something in hopes of getting it ready in time for the con.  I for one love it that the debut of the latest comic from this local creator or that is feeling like an event and an attraction that will be drawing people to the convention.  Of course, I’ll be there as a pro and an exhibitor, but as a reader, the thought on getting my hands on the latest work from Neil Slorance or Craig Collins is a major draw.

Bearing all this in mind, we return, in a roundabout way, to the purpose of this feature.  I want you all to be as excited about the wealth of Scottish comics being showcased at Glasgow Comic Con as I am, so I want to do a rundown of the diverse range of creator-owned comics debuting at the show.  I firmly believe there’ll be something for every comics fan available.  Let’s get started!

THE STANDARD

TheStandard04_18pSelfishly, I am opting to begin by promoting myself!  I shall take that as a perk of being the guy to write this thing!  For me, The Standard was the comic that started it all.  My first experience attending a convention in any sort of professional capacity was Glasgow Comic Con 2011, where The Standard #1 was nominated at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (or SICBAs) affiliated with the convention.  Fast forward to 2012 and I had a table at the show, and The Standard went from being an award-nominated comic to an award-winning title, with me earning the Best Writer trophy for issue #3.  As mentioned above, I had a hugely successful con, with my graphic novel collection of the first 3 issues of the series proving to be a big seller.  And now, a year later, after much demand, The Standard #4 will finally be ready to make its debut at the con!

TheStandard04_05pWe’re just putting the finishing touches on it now, and I have to say, I’m so proud of the work everyone has done on this.  From a scripting perspective, I’d say it’s a leap forward from the previous three issues.  Jonathan Rector’s artwork is perhaps the best it’s ever been.  Mike Gagnon is settling very nicely into his role as permanent colourist – the first person to last more than one issue in the role!  And Kel Nuttall continues to deliver consistently ace letters.  I’d definitely say The Standard #4 is the best of the series thus far…. and Glasgow audiences will get to read it before anyone else in the world!  We’re currently pencilled in for a worldwide Diamond release in October, but attendees at the convention will be able to pick up their advance copy in July, a whole 3 months earlier!  Not only that, but this will be a Glasgow-exclusive edition, with a new cover by Scottish artist Iain Laurie drawn specially for the show.  It’s still in development, but here’s a sneaky peek:

IainLaurie4CoverBut that’s not the only comic I’ll be debuting at the con…

BAD SUN

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Chris Connelly has some form at Glasgow Comic Con.  He was one of the aforementioned small press success stories last year, with his debut comic Reality War selling out in record time and marking the young artist out as an emerging creator of note.  It was at Glasgow Comic Con 2012 that the two of us really got to chatting about the possibility of working on a comic together.  And from those discussions came Bad Sun.

For those of you unfamiliar with my previous conversations about the comic, Bad Sun is a sci-fi comic set in a future where an alien race known as the Tchairabuns have migrated to Earth, and have now been living amongst us for some 30 years.  While most stories may adopt a setting of New York or Los Angeles, or maybe London, to show how the world would react to such an event, Bad Sun is set right here in Glasgow, Scotland.  It’s not a locale used often in sci-fi tales, but I think the local angle will be highly appealing to the comic fans attending the convention.  The story centres around Lennidasz Cowan, a Tchairabun adopted in infancy by human parents who forged a trailblazing career in the police force, and who now finds himself appointed the leader of a new taskforce dealing with human/Tchairabun relations in Glasgow.  In this role, he has to deal with both the machinations of a Tchairabun extremist terrorist group and the anti-alien prejudices felt by some of the city’s human population and even his own team.

The first issue of this new 6-part miniseries will be on sale at Glasgow Comic Con, and contains both a 24-page main story, drawn by Chris Connelly, and a 5-page backup tale drawn by Jason Mathis of School of the Damned fame.  We’re packing in the content here!  Both Chris and I will be at the table selling the book, so come along to meet the co-creators and pick up the first chapter of what could be my most ambitious comics narrative yet!  Chris Connelly will also be selling original art and prints, and doing commissions most likely, so you won’t want to miss that!

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That leaves one more book of mine to promote…

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE

coverIain Laurie has good form at Glasgow Comic Con.  Back in 2011, he was award-nominated for his stellar work on Roachwell, where I first became a fan of his.   In 2012, he didn’t have a table or an official presence at the show, but I did buy off him my copy of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain, which ended up being the best thing I got at Glasgow Comic Con 2012.  Now, at GCC 2012, I’m pleased to report that Iain Laurie will be tabling with me and Chris Connelly, doing commissions (an original Iain Laurie sketch is near the top of my con wishlist) and helping me sell copies of the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone, the 5-issue miniseries we have co-created.

Page3And Then Emily Was Gone begins with Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters.  Formerly a police detective with the Missing Persons Bureau, renowned for his ability to find people thought lost forever, the visions Hellinger is afflicted with have left him a broken man.  But then a 17-year-old girl called Fiona shows up at his door.  Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing, and Fiona has reason to believe only a man of Hellinger’s unique skill set can help her.  So begins a journey to Merksay in the Orkney Islands, a strange place where horrible things are happening…

The benchmark Iain and I often talked about while developing this comic was Twin Peaks.  We wanted to capture that weird, slightly off-key vibe, permeated with a cloud of dread hanging over everything.  I think this simultaneously manages to be both Iain Laurie’s most mainstream work and my most bizarre and out-there.  It’s an unusual comic, to be sure, but one I’m highly proud of.  I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face, but it bears repeating that I am unbelievably excited to be working with Iain Laurie, particularly on such a subtantial project, and I quite simply cannot wait to share it with you.

Page7And thus ends the self-promotion!  This is by no means all about bigging myself up, as I’m just one of several local creators showcasing work at Glasgow Comic Con.  For starters, And Then Emily Was Gone isn’t the only debut featuring artwork from the venerable Iain Laurie.

METRODOME

Metrodome1Iain Laurie reunites with Craig Collins, who paired with Laurie for Roachwell in 2011 before making a splash with his Haunted Bowels at last year’s con, for a new anthology of strange tales.  In the convention’s three-year history, Craig Collins singular creative voice has already made him something of a fixture.  The unique visual stylings of Iain Laurie have proven to be a worthy match for Craig in the past, so I’m keen to see where that collaboration takes them with Metrodome.  The actual plot remains elusive, beyond the vague teaser of “The Fight for Survival, The Battle for Ultimate Victory!”  But considering the talent involved, this is already a guaranteed con purchase for me.

Metrodome2Guaranteed to have a major presence at the con is Black Hearted Press, Glasgow-based comics publisher and also the organisers of the convention.  They have a veritable slate of quality projects primed to unleash on  con attendees this July, both established brands and exciting new titles.  Let’s take a look at what they have in store…

THE SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED

SchooloftheDamned5Arguably the flagship title of Black Hearted Press, The School of the Damned has already proven successful enough to sustain its own spinoff title, The Children of the Damned.  Played like a love letter to the classic Universal horror movies, the series focuses on a school of monstrous misfits derived from the iconic horror archetypes of that cinematic golden age, set against the backdrop of WW2-era Nazi Germany.  I’ve spoken fondly of the series myself in earlier reviews, with its mix of clever plotting by John Farman and lush artwork first from James Devlin in issue #1 and then Jason Mathis in issues #2-#4.

With The School of the Damned #5, launching at the con, we welcome a new art team to the fold in the form of Thomas Crielly and John Howard.  I’ve had a glimpse at some of the stuff these guys are doing, and it is lovely stuff, living up to the high benchmark set for the visuals on this series by their predecessors.  This issue, the penultimate chapter in the series’ first arc, promises a major character death and a beast of a cliffhanger, and also boasts the jawdropping cover by the mighty Alex Ronald seen above.  I presume the rest of the series thus far will also be available, and I heartily recommend that horror fans check this quality series out and catch up on the story so far.

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‘Great concept; good characters; intriguing storyline; art and writing up to the task – terrific!’ – Ian Rankin

LAPTOP GUY

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the Gothic stylings of The School of the Damned, and a testament to the diversity of their lineup, comes Laptop Guy.  Originally a comic by cartoonist Sha Nazir about the adventures of the eponymous laptop-headed protagonist, this series relaunch sees Nazir return on art duties while joined by writer Jack Lothian.  The series has been reinvented as a metatextual, very loosely “biographical” comic about a fictionalised version of Sha Nazir and his struggles to make the previous incarnation of Laptop Guy, here characterised as an utter turd of a comic: “Failure has a new name,” reads the tagline, “And that name…. is Laptop Guy.”.  I’d call that harsh, as I found the original Laptop Guy to be a charming book, and I know people who speak of it fondly, but it does make for a funny conceit to build the narrative around.  This is billed as a “sitcomic”, a term I’ve had in my head for ages and am so pissed that Sha got to capitalise on it before I could, and having got a sneaky peek at the issue, I can confirm it does bring the funny, and shades of the movie Adaptation.  At the very least, Laptop Guy #1 is more successful than its fictionalised counterpart!  The first instalment of this relaunch will be available at the con, so check it out for yourself.

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‘A guy with a laptop for a head… Weird and funny. – Bill Bailey

MAXIMUM ALAN

MaxAl_1_reprint_layoutAnother offering from Black Hearted Press, this one is truly bizarre.  It’s a violent, surreal tale, starring legendary comics writer Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore….

You get the idea.  Issue #1, which I picked up at the convention last year, began with the real Alan Moore going about his misanthropic daily life, only to be confronted by an army of murderous parallel dimension Alan Moores out to eliminate him.  And things got weirder from there.  This year, writer Ross Leonard and artist Brian Rankin are back with a second helping, as issue #2 debuts in time for the con.  I have heard whisperings of cameos from other famed comic creators, too!  The solicit describes Maximum Alan as “a comic trip unlike any other”, and no one can argue the uniqueness of this oddity, that’s for sure!  I thought this was a good laugh, and I’m sure the second chapter will be more of the same.  Look out for it at the show!

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ROYAL DESCENT

The final Black Hearted Press book to be featured at Glasgow Comic Con, and perhaps the one I’m most looking forward to.  The high concept behind the series just sounds brilliant.  With the fall of the British Government and society in ruins, a new and powerful political party takes the reigns in this dystopian vision of a future Britain. The Austerity party’s first act is the public execution of the British Royal family… by their own hand.  From there we launch into what seems to be “The King’s Speech meets Battle Royale,” which promises to make for a brutal, controversial, eerily relevant comic experience.  John Farman has some big ideas for this one, and all the artwork I’ve seen from John Howard suggests he’s a real talent of note worth keeping an eye on, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a breakout hit of the convention

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Black Hearted Press are a veritable juggernaught of Glasgow comics, and as you see will have a wealth of material on offer at the con.  But there is a wide selection of other creators also showcasing their comics at the show.

GLoW 2

Glow2The Glasgow League of Writers is a great network of creators based in and around the city, who meet fortnightly for a kind of writer’s circle for comic to read and provide feedback for each other’s scripts.  It’s an invaluable creative resource, one I’m proud to have been a founding member of.  At last year’s Glasgow Comic Con, our debut anthology, creatively titled GLoW 1, was another of the con’s sell-out successes.  That first volume was on a superhero theme.  This second volume, with the similarly creative title of GLoW 2, has switched genres to horror.  With a wider stable of writers and artists contributing, and a higher quality of storytelling all round, I’d say those who picked up the first anthology at last year’s show and enjoyed it definitely won’t be disappointed by this follow-up.

I’ve got two stories in GLoW 2: “Floorboards”, drawn by my old friend James Fairlie, and “Open House”, drawn by my Bad Sun collaborator Chris Connelly.  And there’s also work from a whole range of new and established Glasgow talent.  Be sure to head over to the GLoW table and check it out!

Open_House_Page_4Speaking of GLoW members…

NO MORE HEROES

NoMoreHeroes4A little anecdote I never tire of telling is that, at the very first GLoW meeting back in 2011, the very first script on the agenda was Gordon McLean’s No More Heroes #1.  Back then, it was clear Gordon was writing something special, and since then we’ve seen that first draft script grow into a 4-issue miniseries, we saw the original roughs and sketches of artist Caio Oliviera, and then we saw it all blossom into a complete comic.  And at last year’s SICBA awards, No More Heroes walked away with the coveted award for Best Comic.  Since then, the remaining issues have been released, and now the conquering hero returns to Glasgow Comic Con with the complete series in tow.

The story only got better with each passing issue, so Gordon and his comic must surely be considered front-runners to make lightning strike twice for awards glory.  It really is a fantastic series, a dark twist on the superhero genre that sees a hapless Everyman dragged into a murky world of violence and villainy after his dismissive response to what he believes is a prank call results in the suicide of a famed superhero.  Whether it’s catching up on the whole series or scooping up any issues you missed, this is a highly recommended purchase for your Glasgow Comic Con visit!

NoMoreHeroes3aTHE MIND PALACE

MindPalaceLuke Halsall is another founding member of the Glasgow League of Writers.  Perhaps best known for his journalistic work for Geek Syndicate and his prose work that has found quite the following on the Kindle market, his comic work has mostly been limited to shorts in anthologies.  The Mind Palace marks Luke’s first foray into a substantial solo comics project, an anthology piece filled with various shorts, all written by Luke and drawn by a wide range of artist, covering a variety of genres but unified with an uneasy weirdness of tone.  Luke is notorious for his iron-clad pitching abilities on the convention floor, so whether you plan to or not, expect to leave Glasgow Comic Con having bought a copy of The Mind Palace, along with an odd sock and a bridge.

MindPalace1I’ve also heard reports that Luke Halsall will be debuting another top secret comics project at Glasgow Comic Con, drawn by Villainous artist Graeme Kennedy (who will also be selling Villainous alongside writer Gary Chudleigh).  Keep your eyes open!

VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT

VampireVixens1Two years ago, artistic wunderkind Alex Ronald made everyone’s eyeballs explode with his stunning artwork in Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht, a story being serialised in the Wasted anthology.  He ran away like a bandit with the Best Artist SICBA that year, and has spent the time since even further honing and refining his craft to the point where not just your eyeballs, but your whole cranium is at eruptive risk from exposure to his perverse visual delights… as Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht is back, this time not just as an anthology short, but as a full, self-contained oneshot!

Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht features the wartime adventures of a gorgeous Nazi Vampire defector and a pompous British Army chaplain as together they take on Hitler’s occult horde.  It’s boobs, blood, guns and gore with political correctness thrown out the window.  That’s the setup, and that’s really all you need, isn’t it?  Ridiculous, high-octane exploitation, with Nazis, vampire, Nazi vampires, and more cheesecake than you can poke a stake at.  And it’s all held together by Alex Ronald’s stunning painted artwork, chanelling the likes of Alex Ross and Jon J Muth.  Alex will be tabling at Glasgow Comic Con, where he’ll be offering Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht with two variant covers, in a volume boasting an introduction from none other than Mark Millar.  This is sure to be a hot item at the show.  I know I’ll be buying it!

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TEAM GIRL COMIC

One of Glasgow’s most popular indie comic exports, Team Girl Comic has found fans all across the UK.  I for one saw them make a killing at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds last year.  The central conceit of Team Girl, as the title might suggest, is that it’s a comics anthology created entirely by female cartoonists.  Their open submissions policy has seen a diverse range of content in past issues, with a few schoolkids even contributing from time to time, but quality stalwarts such as Gillian Hatcher and MJ Wallace remain a recurring presence in the series.  Their latest issue – Team Girl #8 – will be available at the con, as will earlier issues, I’m sure.  These books seem to go down really well with the all-ages audience, I’ve noticed, though that shouldn’t be taken to mean kids only: there’s enough charm and smarts on display for readers of all ages to enjoy. 

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However, I’m pleased to report that Team Girl Comic won’t be the only offering from the talented Gill Hatcher…

BUNNY BEHIND THE MOON

BunnyBehindTheMoonPart comic, part children’s storybook, Gill’s latest project looks quite simply delightful.  Wonder is a little schoolbunny with unusually long ears. One day these ears start to receive strange messages – someone appealing for help. Could it really be a bunny astronaut lost in space? Wonder must use her intelligence and bravery to rescue the bunny behind the moon.  Packed full of adorably-drawn bunnies, this book is set to overload your “Aaaaaaw!” sensors, and should prove a great showcase for the skills of Gill Hatcher as she moves from the collaborative Team Girl network into a project where the spotlight is all on her.  I remember reading an early draft of the script for the book way back when at a GLoW meeting, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I’m highly anticipating seeing the finished product.  I expect it to do very well at the con.

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BIG IN JAPAN

BiginJapanAnother talented new creator who’ll be presenting at Glasgow Comic Con is Morag Kewell.  I knew Morag as one of the Hope Street Studios crowd, though I thought of her as more of an artist of models and crafts like hand-made jewellery as opposed to comic illustrations.  But it turns out Morag has multiple strings to her bow, as at the Dundee Expo earlier this year, this comic book travelogue of her trip to Japan proved to be a big hit.  I had thought of Neil Slorance as the undisputed champion of the comic travelogue, but it seems like this sub-genre is a growing niche on the Scottish comics scene.  It’s a nice demonstration of how comics are a medium, not a genre, and any kind of story – including non-fiction stories – can be told in the format.

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FAT-MAN AND RIBBON

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I gave the #0 preview issue of this fun superhero parody a positive review back when I read it, but said that it was really just a teaser, and that the proper issue #1 would be the real test of the book’s quality.  And now, Fat-Man and Ribbon #1 is set to launch at Glasgow Comic Con.  When Matthew Charles Marlowe, C.E.O. of the world renowned clothing empire Fat Men, Inc., is suddenly confronted by the dastardly machinations of sinister and powerful forces of anarchy he has but choice: become the hero his city kinda sorta needs! Set in the fictional, future capital city of Scotland, Metro Scotia, Fat-Man and Ribbon is a semi-autobiographical tale of justice, adventure, intrigue and hetero life partnerships.  Written by Martin Ferguson, and with wonderfully crazed artwork by Andrew Docherty, I am expecting to be entertained!

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COSPLAY KILLERS

CosplayKillers1Written and drawn by Craig Longworth, Cosplay Killers has been cropping up in comic shops all over Glasgow, and now Craig will be bringing the first issue to the city’s native comic convention.  The book’s about a ragtag group of misfits enacting violent retribution on a “hit list” of what they feel to be the worst of society.  It’s Craig’s debut comic, from what I understand.  I remember the excitement and terror of trying to put my first comic out there with The Standard #1 a couple of years back, so kudos to Craig for diving in with Cosplay Killers.  It looks like suitably bonkers small press fun!

CosplayKillers2But I’ve saved perhaps the best for last…

THE AMATEUR ASTRONOMER’S JOURNAL

AmateurAstronomersJournalI’ve been interested in Neil Slorance’s work since his collaboration with writer Colin Bell on Jonbot VS Martha.  It has a quirky, cartoony cuteness to it that contains a surprising amount of expressiveness once you get into it.  But where Neil truly came into his own was with his aforementioned travelogues, Nine Lines of Metro and Seven Days in Berlin.  Making the jump from artist to cartoonist, Neil added another string to his bow, showing his art could be more than just cute and funny, it could be poignant and even heartbreaking, and pack surprising emotional wallop.  I was so impressed by Neil’s 2012 output that I’m now automatically invested in anything with his name attached, meaning this announcement of a move from non-fiction back to fiction for Neil is highly intriguing to me indeed.

Incorporating some of Neil’s real-life passion for science and astronomy, the plot of The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is likely evident in the title.  But Mr. Slorance promises a bit of “sap” (his word) too, so I’m preparing for a tale that’s bittersweet and moving and brings all the feels.  This will probably be my first purchase at the show, and it’s a debut I’m anticipating more than most Marvel/DC stuff on the horizon.  Check it out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about.  And while you’re at Neil Slorance’s table, be sure to pick up his earlier books, and maybe get a sketch from him while you’re at it.  He really is a nice, talented fellow.

AmateurAstronomersJournal1So many great creator-owned comics for you guys to buy.  And that’s not including the other awesome comics from Glasgow creators I know to be in development, but which sadly won’t be ready in time for the show.  Stephen Sutherland and Gary Kelly’s pulse-pounding thriller Neverending, Garry McLaughlin’s mind-boggling sci-fi epic Gonzo Cosmic, and the top secret new collaboration from Colin Bell and Neil Slorance… each one of these not being available for me to get my hands on at Glasgow Comic Con is devastating in itself, but all three of them being absent is quite simply heartbreaking.  I’ll keep my eye out for all three in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

Hopefully this highly lengthy piece has demonstrated just how much talent there is in the Glasgow comics scene.  There is a rich selection of creator-owned comics set to be featured at this year’s Glasgow Comic Con, a lineup so strong I’d willingly match it up against the small press corner of any con in the world this year.  If you’re a comic fan in Glasgow, you have no excuse: get yourself to Glasgow Comic Con, CCA, July 13th-14th.  If you’re a fan of quality independent comics from further afield, on the other side of the UK, hell, the world… you should make the pilgrimage to Glasgow for this show.  Come join us, you can sleep on my couch!

Tickets are available to buy from the CCA or Plan B Books, or online at the official website.  Get yours now!  This show is gonna be the baws, and as both an exhibitor and a fan, I can’t wait.

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2013 Preview: And Then Emily Was Gone

I’ve had quite a bit of fun this week, laying out my various upcoming comics projects and sharing a selection of awesome artwork I’ve received from my talented collaborators.  For today’s final entry in my little 2013 Preview series, I’ve got something special for you.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of artist Iain Laurie.  A hero of the Scottish comics scene, Iain Laurie has blown me away with his unique, visionary artwork on the likes of Roachwell, Mothwicke and Horror Mountain (the latter ranking at number four on my list of the top 10 comics of 2012, up there alongside the best of DC, Marvel and Image), and I’d rank him as one of my favourite artists: not a patronising “one of my favourite indie artists”, but one of my favourite artists in comics, full stop.  Well, in 2013, I shall be ticking one of the items off my comics bucket list and doing a comic with Iain Laurie!

Initially, the two of us were scheduled to collaborate on a different project, something large-scale that still must be kept top secret.  That project is still in the mix with a major publisher, but is in something of a holding pattern at the moment, and could be for some time.  So, rather than just waiting for that to materialise and for us to finally get the greenlight on that, Iain and I decided to come up with something else to work on together in the downtime.  Iain fired three great story ideas my way, one of which was called And Then Emily Was Gone and revolved around the mystery of a missing girl on a remote Highland community.  I loved all three ideas, and due to my vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself, I decided to combine elements of them all into a single intricate narrative, taking the title from the aforementioned story outline.  From this, And Then Emily Was Gone was born.

AndThenEmilyWasGonePromoGreg Hellinger was once a brilliant detective, specialising in finding missing people who had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth.  But five years ago, he started seeing monsters.  Plagued constantly by nightmarish visions he is unable to comprehend, Hellinger left the police and has retreated into a life of squallor and seclusion, slowly being driven mad by the demons that haunt him.  But one night, a teenage girl shows up at his door, asking for help.  The girl is called Fiona, and she has fled from her home on the Scottish island of Merksay, in Orkney.  Her friend Emily has gone missing, but what happened to her?  Is she a runaway, as the authorities believe?  Has she fallen victim to an ancient supernatural evil, as Fiona fears?  Or is it a monster of the human variety that lies at the heart of this mystery?

Mystery.  That’s the key word that is at the core of And Then Emily Was Gone.  I’m a huge fan of Twin Peaks: there’s a strong case to be made for it being the greatest TV show of all time, and I think it’s fascinating to look at the phenomenom created around that shows central mystery of “Who killed Laura Palmer?”  I think the serialised nature of the comic medium makes it a perfect place to present such an ongoing mystery, and I would love to emulate that with And Then Emily Was Gone.  I talked yesterday about how Bad Sun could be my most narratively ambitious project yet in terms of its scale, but And Then Emily Was Gone could in fact be just as ambitious in its scope.  While I do have a 6-issue arc in mind to introduce us to this dark, eerie world, this is a mystery that could easily unfold over 10, 20, maybe even more issues, depending on just how deeply I want to explore its various dark, murky corners.

Not that the homage to Twin Peaks ends with the mystery element.  I remember seeing not just Twin Peaks, but other works of movie maestro David Lynch – the likes of Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway – in relatively quick succession, and they just blew my mind and changed the way I thought about storytelling.  And while my approach to narrative has been mostly straightforward since branching out into comic, I’ve been very curious to experiment with something more off-kilter.  One of my favourite quotes regarding Lynch’s work was how it could exist “in the twilight realm between the crime and horror genres,” and that’s where I see And Then Emily Was Gone existing.  More recent British output such as Kill List and Utopia has also been chucked into the melting pot of influence, hopefully resulting in a comic that’s going to feel deeply strange and unsettling, with even innocuous interactions laced with an impalpable menace and a cloud of dread hanging over the narrative.  Or it’ll just be crap.  Either way, at least it’s going to look stunning!

Iain has been bombarding me with fantastic character sketches and designs, but I simply can’t wait to start seeing his sequentials.  The first issue script is written, and it’s going to me amazing seeing Mr. Laurie bring it to life.  As is the case with Bad Sun, the plan is to compile a submission package and shop And Then Emily Was Gone out to publishers.  But, as is also the case with Bad Sun, there is also a plan in place to get the first issue of this series ready to launch at Glasgow Comic Con in July.

Which brings me to an announcement.  I am now confirmed for Glasgow Comic Con on 13th-14th July, at the CCA in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.  I’ll be in attendance, sharing a table with both Chris Connelly and Iain Laurie.  This is very exciting news for me, as – and I was shocked to discover this – Glasgow Comic Con 2013 will mark Iain Laurie’s first ever official appearance at a comic convention!  So, rush in your droves to our table, get sketches, get copies of his other fantastic comics, and pick up And Then Emily Was Gone!

UPDATE: I’m now able to share with you guys a sneak peek at a couple of mind-blowing interior pages for the first issue, as drawn by Iain Laurie.  Take a glimpse inside the nightmarish world of Greg Hellinger…

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2013 Preview: Bad Sun

Thus far, all the comics projects I’ve previewed in this series have already had some degree of exposure.  The Standard, The Oxymoron and the GLoW anthologies have all been publicly promoted and available for sale in one market or another.  Even Black Leaf had a little preview book that I made up for handing out to editors and publishers at cons that some folk have had a look at.  For the remainder of the week, though, we venture into the unknown, as I get to announce two brand new comics that I’m currently writing, set for release in 2013.

The first of these is Bad Sun, co-created with artist Chris Connelly.  The story behind this is quite interesting, as instead of me coming up with a story idea then seeking out an artist, in this case the artist came first.  I’d gotten to know Chris via having mutual friends on the Glasgow comics scene, and hanging out together at cons and events.  His award-nominated comics debut, Reality War, had been another big success story of Glasgow Comic Con, and currently holds the record as Scotland’s fastest-selling indie comic ever, I believe.  We worked together on the GLoW 2 short featured on yesterday’s blog, and from there thought it would be fun to work on something bigger.  So, Chris asked me to come up with ideas for stories for him to draw.  That was an interesting challenge for me: after my beginnings of working in comics, where trying to find artists for your script was a titanic struggle, now I had talented artists approaching me looking for a partnership!  I came up with a couple of ideas that didn’t grab Chris’ interest, but then one sunny afternoon (a rarity for Glasgow, I know!), while digging up soil in the garden, the idea for Bad Sun came to me, and I knew it would be a great fit for Mr. Connelly.  I refined the idea, pitched it to him, and our collaboration was decided!

Lennii1This handsome fella is Lenniidasz Cowan, better known as Lennii.  He’s the protagonist of Bad Sun.  He’s a policeman in a future Glasgow not entirely unlike the present-day version.  And, as you might have noticed, he’s also an alien.  In the not-too-distant future, an alien race known as the Tchairabun arrive on Earth.  A portion of their population had escaped from their dying homeworld on a ramshackle armada of ships on a one-way journey, settling on Earth as their final destination.  They landed all over our planet, being treated differently by different countries.  In Glasgow, they were pretty much accepted and integrated into society, but even as our story begins, 35 years after their arrival, they still carry the stigma of being second-class citizens.

Lennii here is something of an exception.  Raised from infancy by a human family (hence the “Cowan” surname), Lennii was granted many of the opportunities denied his Tchairabun brethren, enabling him to enjoy a good education, and an opening in his dream career on the police force.  After excelling in his duty, he has found himself recently promoted to Detective Inspector, placed in charge of a new specialised unit specifically focused on Glasgow’s Tchairabun community and human-Tchairabun relations.  Torn between the outside threat of an enigmatic Tchairabun extremist group known as Red Kroara and the interior challenge of an all-human team under his command that may resent taking orders from an alien, and set against the heated political backdrop of a nation divided over the Tchairabun right to vote, Lennii also has to wrestle with dark secrets and personal demons that threaten to destroy everything he is fighting for.

For me, sci-fi is at its best when it uses the future to say something about the present.  The prejudice the Tchairabuns endure certainly holds some parallels to stuff going on in the world and even in Glasgow specifically today.  Of course, while I wanted to tell a story that’s culturally relevant, I still want it to be a rollicking thriller with badass action sequences and tense set-pieces, so hopefully I’ve captured that balance.  Narratively, this could be the most ambitious comic story I’ve attempted yet.  Like The Standard, it will be a 6-issue miniseries, but the complexity of the plot and the sprawling size of the supporting cast is going to make it a challenging juggling act that I hope I can pull off.  Also, for me, setting the story in Glasgow was a crucial aspect of the story.  We’ve had so many future visions of New York, or Los Angeles, or even London, why not my beloved home city of Glasgow?  This is a city with interesting, unique architecture and character that has not yet been explored to its fullest potential in fiction, certainly not in comics, and I want to do my part to amend that.

The first issue of Bad Sun has been written, and is currently being drawn up by Chris Connelly as we seek out a colourist and assemble together a pitch document for submitting to publishers.  But whether it’s lined up with a publisher by then or we have to self-publish a preview run, one way or the other look for Bad Sun #1 to make its debut at Glasgow Comic Con in July.  With the story’s strong Glasgow connection, how could we not debut it there?  In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek at the pencils and inks of the first two pages.  Some excellent, career-best work by the fantastic Chris Connelly, if I do say so myself!

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2013 Preview: Anthologies

This is a collection of short stories I wrote and were published last year, actually, but they become more widely available this year, so I still thought it would be worthwhile to include them.

GLoW 1 – the first anthology of the Glasgow League of Writers, revolving around a superhero theme – was one of the breakout hits of Glasgow Comic Con 2012, selling out within hours.  Our follow-up anthology – imaginatively titled GLoW 2, and built on a horror theme – had a small debut at Thought Bubble 2012.  But if that was our trial run, the big event where we’re really looking forward to launching it is at Glasgow Comic Con 2013.  Hopefully, those who enjoyed the first anthology will be back for this one.  There’s a bigger roster of talent involved, and I think it reflects our growth as a collective.

As for me?  I have two stories in it.  The first one is Floorboards, a mean little 1-pager drawn up by my good friend James Fairlie.  The second one is a 5-page sting-in-the-tail short titled Open House, drawn by Chris Connelly.  We so enjoyed working together on this little nasty that we embarked on a larger collaboration.  More on that tomorrow.  In the meantime, here’s a wee peek at a page from Open House:

Open_House_Page_4But it’s not only on this side of the Atlantic that I’ve been participating in anthologies.  Over in the US, The Oxymoron from ComixTribe proved to be a massive Kickstarter success story last summer.  Our goal was to raise around $8000 to produce the book.  We ended getting $26,000, and we saw the anthology – a collection of short stories revolving around the monstrous villain of The Red Ten, The Oxymoron – become a better and better package, becoming hardcover, oversized, with a UV-coating on the cover, and a whole range of variant covers added, plus an art gallery added into the back.  The final package is absolutely stunning, and I’m so proud to have my name on a book that looks so professionally crafted.  But there’s more to this book than nice aesthetics: each story in this graphic novel is fantastic, showcasing a range of art styles, and stories that range from blackly comic to soul-shreddingly dark and horrifying.  Currently, The Oxymoron is available to buy in comic shops here in Glasgow: Forbidden Planet and A1 Comics got some editions in for supporting the Kickstarter.  But the book will also be getting a worldwide Diamond release in the summer…. so watch out for it in Previews, and recommend that your retailer pick it up!

ComixTribe did so well with this anthology, that they have other, similar projects in the pipeline, ones I’m also involved in, but can’t really talk about at this stage.  In the meantime, take a look at this page from “Selfless Man”, the story I wrote for The Oxymoron, drawn by Tyler James.

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2013 Preview: Black Leaf

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.BlackLeafPage3ii BlackLeafPage4ii BlackLeafPage5ii

 

2013 Preview: The Standard

Hello everyone!  It seems that, amidst all the reviews I’ve been writing, I haven’t been using this blog much to talk about my own writing projects lately.  Of course, I keep this blog’s sister site, thestandardcomic.com, fairly regularly updated with that project’s latest developments, but I thought it might be good to spend a week on an overview of my various comics projects, and where I’m at with them.  So, check into the blog daily this week, and I’ll be sharing news, and some exclusive debuts of artwork.

The first project I have to discuss is, of course, The Standard.  I’ve been working on this comic for several years now, but 2013 is the year where everything comes to fruition.  The Standard #1 made its worldwide debut, distributed through Diamond and published by ComixTribe, last week, February 13th.  I’d say it has been a success.  I’m hearing frequent accounts, both here in the UK and abroad in the US, of store sell-outs, in some cases day one sell-outs.  It seems retailers significantly underordered the book, and it has performed above expectations, with consumer demand outstripping store supply.  It’s not ideal, but I’d say it’s a good problem to have!

But the launch of issue #1 is just the beginning.  Next up is the worldwide relaunch of The Standard #2 in April, with the book already complete and off to the printers in preparation for this.  The plan is to operate on a bi-monthly schedule, and have the whole 6-issue miniseries released by the end of 2013.  That is a crazy thought to me.  Something that’s been part of my life since 2008, and 2013 is the year it finally comes to an end.  Well, in 2014 we’ll hopefully be seeing a graphic novel collected edition of the series with plenty of juicy backmatter, so I’ll be spending some time compiling that, but as far as the comic itself goes, if all proceeds as planned 2013 will be my last year working on it.  Kinda scary, but exhilerating too!

But it’s not just the worldwide release schedule I have to think about.  The first 3 issues were already released locally here in Glasgow, Scotland, and I always wish to continue paying attention to the comic’s roots as a cult Glasgow indie hit.  And so work continues on The Standard #4, which should hopefully be finished in the next month or so.  I’m hoping to make a small preview run available locally in Glasgow, my thank you to the readers who supported me first.  At the very least the comic is going to have a big presence at Glasgow Comic Con in July.

In the meantime, I’m going to share, for the first time, a few preview pages for the long-awaited fourth issue of The Standard, magnificently drawn by Jonathan Rector and vividly coloured by Mike Gagnon.  You’ll see the aftermath of issue #3’s dramatic conclusion, as well as a glimpse at another fiendish foe from The Standard’s past, TV Man.  Enjoy, bold reader!

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Kapow Con 2012 Report

This past weekend, various fans, exhibitors and professionals of the comics world descended upon the Business Design Centre in London, England for the second annual Kapow Con.  And I was among them, selling copies of the first three issues of The Standard.  I was sharing a table with the Glasgow League of Writers, with Gordon McLean as my core tablemate, selling the first two issues of No More Heroes.  But also assisting at the table were GLoW cohorts Colin Bell (pimping free samples of his webcomic Jonbot VS Martha), Sam Read, John McCusker and Luke Halsall.  Things started off a little slow, but once they picked up, Kapow turned out to be a very successful weekend for GLoW and for The Standard.

As we struggled to make sense of the London tube system, we ended up being a bit late to the venue on the Saturday.  We ended up arriving at the Business Design Centre just as the fans were getting in.  Perhaps being in a rush to set up threw us off our game a bit, but it seemed like at first we were struggling to grab anyone’s attention on the floor.  Thankfully, we started drawing people to our table, and both The Standard and No More Heroes began to sell rather well.

The one panel I attended on Saturday was the Image Superstars panel.  Eric Stephenson was moderating this discussion, which included Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, David Hine, Shaky Kane and the surprise addition of Doug Braithwaite, who will be drawing upcoming sci-fi noir series Storm Dogs for Hine.  The various projects discussed at this panel reminded me just how much quality output Image is getting out there right now. Exciting times for creator-owned work indeed.  I got to ask a question about why, while in the past it seemed like creators made their naes on great Image titles before moving on up to Marvel and DC, now we’re seeing big name Marvel and DC creators coming over to Image, and that prompted some interesting debate and discussion amongst the panel.  Afterwards, I was also able to pounce on Image publisher Eric Stephenson and get some copies of The Standard in his hands!  Eric Stephenson actually really impressed me at Kapow.  As such a senior publisher, I’m sure it would have been easy for him to take a hands-off approach, but he was there at the Image booth selling away like every other exhibitor.  It goes to show the passion he still has for the industry and the product he’s selling.

The other main thing that took me away from my table on Saturday was a couple of signings.  I’m kicking myself at missing the Paul Cornell signing (especially when I hear that Mr. Cornell sat down to have a chat with my Comic Anonymous friends earlier in the day while I was away getting coffee!), but I did get to go see Jock, getting both my hardcover graphic novel of Batman: The Black Mirror and a couple of Scalped issues signed.  Jock was nice, and seemed pleased that someone had some Scalped stuff for him.  Of course, I’m a Scalped super-fan.

Later on in the day, I ended up in a much bigger queue for Scott Snyder.  We were told that Scott would only be signing 1 item per person, as the queues were massive and he wanted to get through everyone before his time was up, which is fair enough.  So, after a moment of Sophie’s Choice style turmoil, I settled to have Batman: The Black Mirror signed instead of Batman #5, my favourite single issue Snyder has written.  As was the case at NYCC, Snyder was a very nice guy to meet, though I got a real kick to discover that he actually knew who I was, and reads my reviews!  I gave Scott copies of The Standard, and went away feeling pretty chuffed, if I do say so myself.

As the day neared its close, some of our number decided to head off early.  But I’m glad I decided to stay on to the bitter end, as in that last stint we made a whole bunch of sales.  Among the people I was happiest to meet on Saturday was Magnus Aspli, writer of The Vessel of Terror.
I was a big fan of this book, and gushed about it in my review last year.  So it was nice to put a face to the name at last.  Anyway, after wringing every last sale out of the day that I could, finally we were chased out of the hall, and Kapow was done for the night.

For dinner, we went to a fantastic Thai restaurant called Thai Square London.  This was the first time I’ve had Thai food, but it won’t be the last.  Disco duck with coconut rice: delicious.  We went to the Hilton Bar afterwards, but honestly we were so tired after our long journey and early rise (5am for me!) that we ended up calling it a night early.

On Sunday, we managed to get to the venue earlier, giving us time to get ourselves set up before the punters arrived.  As the day of selling began proper, I was really pleased that we had a few people who had bought The Standard #1 the day before coming back to get issues #2 and #3, because they loved the first issue so much.  It’s great to have readers come back and let you know they enjoyed the book, it really emphasizes that you’re not just throwing your work out into a void, that people are appreciating it.

My one panel for Sunday was DC’s New 52 panel.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people give Dan Didio a hard time, but his passion for what he does is undeniable.  He showed that again here, in an enthusiastic, often candid panel talking about what lies ahead for DC’s publishing line.  Also on the panel were Scott Snyder, Ian Churchill and Bob Wayne.  It’s funny, the news that DC will be re-introducing an established male character as gay in the coming months has been making headlines as a big announcement in the news-phere, but as someone who actually attended the panel, I can say the “announcement” came somewhat off-hand, as a reply to a tricky question from the audience.  “Much like our President, Dan Didio’s opinion has evolved,” drolly quipped Bob Wayne – probably the line of the panel.

Afterwards, I went back for a second Scott Snyder signing, this time to get Batman #5 signed.  Snyder kindly obliged, and also teased a bit about what’s coming up in Batman.  I can’t share any details, but it’s going to be very exciting!

As we neared the home-stretch for Kapow, I managed to sell out of The Standard #1 .  On one hand, this was great – I’d had a successful sell-out of the first issue!  But on the other hand, it meant that for the last 20 minutes or so of exhibiting I had a hard time getting people to buy just issues #2 and #3.  I did manage to sway a couple of folk, though.

And finally, it was all over.  Another con done, and it was time to pack up and go home.  Already, I’m back in Glasgow and it feels like London never happened.  But all in all, it was a very successful con.  I got to meet some awesome people, make some promising contacts, and most importantly, get The Standard into the hands of a whole new bunch of readers.  See you again next year, Kapow!

The #New52Review Project

We are now less than a week away from DC Comics’ much hyped linewide relaunch.  This radical – and controversial in some circles – plan involves bringing the current ongoing publishing line of the DCU to a close, and launching with 52 new #1s, and in many cases altered or even rebooted continuity, in an effort to make the comics more accessible to newcomers and jaded fans alike.  Whether you’re in favor of this move or not, you can’t deny that it’s got people talking.  In spite of Marvel’s best efforts, DC has dominated the news sites since June, and the retailer order numbers are reportedly very high, with Justice League #1 apparently topping 200,000 buys.  But the big test will be next week and onwards.  You might be able to get people’s attention, but can you keep it?

I have had some reservations, but overall I’m very excited about the DC relaunch.  I’ve been trying to think what I can do to participate, beyond buying the books that take my fancy and recommending books to others.  One thing I can contribute is reviews of the comics I read, which gave me an idea.  Everyone who has a blog, or who writes reviews for a comic site, why not let DC know what you think?

I’m gonna set up a #New52Review hashtag on Twitter, which I’m going to use to link to my reviews of the new titles here.  But I don’t want to be the only one.  Anyone out there who has a blog, or who writes reviews for comic sites, write about the titles you buy.  DC have reached out to us, so we should try reaching out to them in return.  Let them know what books we like and why, or even what books we don’t like so much and how they can improve.  It could be a good way of showing  the creators our appreciation, as well as promoting the comics that are worth reading.

I don’t expect to be picking up this many titles come October, but for this first month  at least, I’ll be trying 18 #1s from the New 52:

  • Justice League #1
  • Action Comics #1
  • Batman #1
  • Batgirl #1
  • Batwoman #1
  • Catwoman #1
  • Wonder Woman #1
  • Green Lantern #1
  • The Flash #1
  • Aquaman #1
  • The Fury of Firestorm #1
  • Stormwatch #1
  • Justice League Dark #1
  • Swamp Thing #1
  • Animal Man #1
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
  • Demon Knights #1
  • I, Vampire #1

I’ll be posting up reviews of as many of these books as I can each week.  The reviews might not be quite as in-depth as my reviews usually are, since I’ll be trying to write so many reviews, but I’ll be offering up something.  And I’ll be linking to the reviews using #New52Review.  I hope you guys will do the same.  Here’s to exciting times ahead in the comics world!

The Standard #2: On Sale Now!

The Standard #2 is now on sale!

Once, Gilbert Graham was The Standard, the world’s first and greatest superhero. Now an old man and long retired from crime-fighting, he lives a quiet life as a high school chemistry teacher. But when Alex Thomas – his former sidekick and successor to the Standard mantle – is murdered, Gilbert is haunted by old memories… and faced with a serious decision.

The Standard is a 6-issue comic book miniseries, each chapter 28 pages long.  This second issue is written by me, John Lees, is pencilled and inked by Jonathan Rector, colored by Gulliver Vianei and Mike Gagnon, lettered by Kel Nuttall, and edited by Steven Forbes.  The comic is debuting digitally, published by ComixTribe, and is now available from these platforms, priced at $1.99:

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In the coming days, The Standard #2 will also be available digitally from Graphicly.  Be sure to check thestandardcomic.com for the latest updates.

If you would rather have a print edition of The Standard #2 you can hold in your hands, we’ve got you covered.  Within the next few weeks, you’ll be able to order a copy from IndyPlanet, priced at $3.99.

And remember, readers in the Glasgow area should also be able to pick up the second issue for £3 at local comic shops from mid August.  You’ll be able to buy the comic in Forbidden Planet, A1 Comics and Plan B Books.  The first issue has sold well from these shops, and the local support has been much appreciated.  I hope that carries forward with the second issue.

Don’t forget, The Standard #1 is also still available from Indyplanet, Graphicly, Wowio, DriveThruComics and MyDigitalComics.  The series debut was nominated in two categories at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards: Best Comic/Graphic Novel and Best Writer.  Here’s what the critics have been saying about it:

A solid debut for Lees and Rector onto the comic book scene as well as for a new superhero story that may offer something a bit different than what Marvel or DC are doing right now… If you are someone who wants to support “indie” comics but isn’t into the supernatural or angst ridden gothic things, this is the title for you.

– Alex Widen, Brooklyn Comic Books Examiner

The art is fantastic bringing crisp, clean, and beautiful work on every panel. Just like the art, the writing is excellent and panel by panel I found myself feeling as if I was familiar with the characters and developing a bond with them.

– Stephen Jondrew, Project Fanboy

The Standard leaps the hurdle that many independent comics cannot. Some indie comics suffer from low-quality art and writing, and clichés both visually and in the narrative. The Standard carries itself quite well, providing an intriguing story and characters that are both engaging and easy on the eyes. I have to say that as far as creator-owned, independently-published superhero comics go, you’d be hard pressed to find something better.

– Dan Cole, Broken Frontier

In the age of reality television and absolute sensationalism, The Standard is deeply relevant.

– James Miller, Comics Bulletin

Comix Tribe is really publishing a slew or interesting titles these days and The Standard easily lives up to what I am quickly coming to expect from their titles.

– Tom Feazell, Omnicomic

This book reeks of professionalism, looking and acting like a Marvel or DC Comic. The Standard creative team have no fear in showing the world that they are just as smart and clever as the big boys.

– Luke Halsall, Geek Syndicate

If you’ve not read The Standard #1 yet, it’s not too late to catch up.  If you have read it, I hope you’ll also pick up The Standard #2, and let me know what you think!