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…

Part1Page2

Part1Page3

Advertisements

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!

BadSunPage1

BadSunPage2

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!

standard_ish4_pg001color standard_ish4_pg002color standard_ish4_pg005color standard_ish4_pg007color