Thought Bubble: A Rundown of Royal Armouries Hall, Table 2

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This coming weekend, I’ll be down in Leeds for Thought Bubble, one of the biggest and best comic conventions in the UK.  There are all kinds of guests and debuts at the show I know I’m excited about as a fan of comics.  But for the rest of you attending the show, here is a handy guide to all the great comics that will be available from my table: Table 2 in Royal Armouries Hall…

ThoughtBubbleFloorPlan2013See us on the right there, just near the entrance?  You can’t miss us!  Anyway, if you stop by Table 2, here’s what you’ll find:

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE

The critically-acclaimed, award-nominated horror mystery series made a big splash back at Glasgow Comic Con with the debut of its first issue.  Since then, it has continued to pick up momentum, with us selling out of our first print run, then taking the comic across the Atlantic where it did very well at New York Comic Con.  Written by me and drawn by Iain Laurie, And Then Emily Was Gone tells the story of Greg Hellinger, a former cop plagued with visions of monsters and horrific apparitions, and stuck in a miserable life of solitude, until one night he’s visited by a teenage girl called Fiona.  Having learned of his reputation for solving the most impossible of missing persons cases, Fiona recruits him to help her find her missing best friend, Emily.  Their search takes them to the Orkneys, and the remote island community of Merksay, where strange and terrifying things are happening.  As well as bringing the first issue to Thought Bubble, we’ll also be debuting the eagerly-anticipated issue #2!  Also, artist Iain Laurie will be in attendance at the show, so if you want to commission a sketch from the master of macabre, stop by the table sharpish to reserve one!

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BAD SUN

Written by me and drawn by Chris Connelly, Bad Sun is a sci-fi thriller set in a future Glasgow, 30 years after an alien race called the Tchairabun has migrated to Earth.  It tells the story of Lenniidasz Cowan, the first Tchairabun police officer to be promoted to Detective Inspector, who is placed in charge of a new department tasked with overseeing human/Tchairabun relations in Glasgow.  But as an extremist Tchairabun terrorist group emerges, Lenniidasz is torn between this external threat and the prejudices of his human colleagues.  With its Glasgow setting and political subtext, Bad Sun has enjoyed quite a bit of press here in Scotland, getting featured in several Glasgow newspaper articles, and enjoying strong reviews.  Thought Bubble marks the first time Bad Sun #1 will be available outside of Scotland, and artist Chris Connelly will also be in attendance, taking sketch requests.

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BLACK LEAF

Long in development as a graphic novel, artist Garry McLaughlin and I decided to release a special preview edition collecting the first 24 pages of the story as a special convention exclusive for MCM Expo Scotland a couple of months back.  It went down a treat, and ended up being my biggest seller of the day.  Now I only have a limited supply left, and am bringing them down to Thought Bubble.  It’s about a boy who travels to the Scottish Highlands to care for his ailing grandfather, only to encounter ancient magical forces lurking within the local woods.  If you’re interested, get your copy from our table… while stocks last!

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THE STANDARD

The comic that started it all for me, my trademark book, available in comic shops worldwide and on ComiXology.  Hailed by critics and winner of a SICBA award in 2012, The Standard is the story of a superhero mantle spanning two generations, and an examination of the way the world – and its view of what makes a hero – has changed across generations.  Can the old, optimistic ideals of The Standard still be relevant today?  Four issues of the 6-issue miniseries – written by me and drawn by Jonathan Rector – are now available, but remaining stocks are extremely limited.  If you want to get caught up on the series, you’ll have to get to Table 2 quick, as the remaining stock will go fast!

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But it’s not just my comics that will be available from Table 2…

EXIT GENERATION

Sam Read is a good friend of mine.  Some of my best memories of my 2012 England cons – Kapow and Thought Bubble – were of hanging out with Sam, and hearing all his incredible story ideas.  One such idea was for this comic, known in its current incarnation as Exit Generation.  The irresistable premise sees the world faced with a crisis of over-population, and so the vast majority of the population – the world’s best and brightest – set out in massive space armadas to discover a bright new future outwith our galaxy.  But then our story doesn’t follow them, but instead sticks with those left behind on a now nearly-empty world.  Having honed his skill in various anthology shorts, Sam brings his considerable writing talent to his first full-length published comic, and this first issue does a great job of setting up this world and introducing us to some well-realised characters.  On art duties is Caio Oliveira, who I became a fan of with his skillful work in Gordon McLean’s award-winning supehero deconstruction No More Heroes.  Here, Oliveira’s work has grown even more refined, resulting in one of the most polished, professional-looking small press titles you’ll find at Thought Bubble this year.  I told Sam a year ago that I looked forward to tabling with him in 2013, and that has come to pass!

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MASTER TAPE

Watch out for the name Harry French.  He started frequenting meetings for the Glasgow League of Writers earlier this year, and instantly started making waves amongst our little creator collective with his masterful scripts.  With an impeccable sense of pacing and an ear for slick, natural dialogue, he’s one of the standouts in a group brimming with emerging talent.  Master Tape marks his debut comic, drawn by Amaru Ortiz Martinez, and gives us a glimpse into a future-world where the music industry is dying a death, as the world’s youth heads off-world to enjoy the music of the cosmos rather than deal with humdrum Earth bands.  Desperate and on the brink of extinction – quite literally, as it happens! – fading music producer Leo O’Brien resorts to bold and desperate measures to revive his sinking label.  This is such a skillfully plotted book, and perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that I’ve read the scripts for the projects Harry has lined up for after this, and they’re even better!  Harry will be at our table selling and signing.  Get his autograph: in a couple of years, it’ll be worth something!

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DUNGEON FUN

In my humble opinon, this could be THE must-buy book for the whole of Thought Bubble.  At the very least, it’s a tie with Garry Mac’s Gonzo Cosmic, available over in New Dock Hall.  Written by Colin Bell, writer of Detective SpaceCat and letterer of EVERY COMIC IN SCOTLAND, and seeing him pair up with his Jonbot VS Martha artistic collaborator Neil Slorance, Dungeon Fun is a hilarious, all-ages fantasy adventure laced with a Princess Bride style knowing wit.  It’s about a human girl who has lived in a troll pit her whole life, and who decides she’s sick and tired of dealing with the dregs from the world above getting thrown into her home.  So she’s going off on a mission to complain about it… even if she has to navigate a dungeon labyrinth and do battle with three-headed monsters along the way!  Bell’s script is packed with zingers and epic punnery, setting up a story filled with memorable characters.  And you all know I love the art of Neil Slorance.  He gets better all the time, and this could represent a new high for him.  But he manages to maintain that perfect balance of adorable cutesiness and surprising moments of heart and poignancy.  Colin will be signing at the table, and Neil Slorance has a table of his own over at New Dock Hall.  Really, I can’t recommend this book enough.  I’ve said it so many times now, but it is one of the best issue #1s of the year, from any publisher.  Pick it up!

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And that’s the rundown!  Really, you’re spoiled for choice, with a diverse range of cracking comics to choose from.  Stop by our table and grab them all!  Table 2!  Royal Armouries Hall!  Thought Bubble!  November 22nd-23rd!  BE THERE!

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE and BAD SUN On-Sale in Glasgow!

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After the successful debut of the launch night, and a strong run at Glasgow Comic Con, the respective first issues of my two new comics – And Then Emily Was Gone and Bad Sun – are now available to buy in select comic stores around Glasgow.  Here are the places where the comics are now available to buy:

– Forbidden Planet (168 Buchanan Street, Glasgow)

– A1 Comics (31 Parnie Street, Glasgow)

– Plan B Books (55 Parnie Street, Glasgow)

– Geek Retreat (63 Union Street, Glasgow)

These are limited edition convention-edition print runs, so if you want to get your hands on the comic sooner rather than later, you better move fast!  I hope you enjoy the comics, and as always, let me know what you think once you’ve read them!

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Iain Laurie
Letterer: Colin Bell
Nominated for 4 SICBA awards, this dark mystery tells the story of Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters. A former detective driven to the brink of madness by terrifying apparitions, he is tasked with finding a missing girl called Emily. Hellinger’s search takes him to a remote community in the Orkney Islands, where strange and terrible things are happening…

BAD SUN #1
Writer: John Lees
Artist/Letterer: Chris Connelly
A sci-fi thriller set in a future Glasgow, BAD SUN is the story of Lenniidasz Cowan, a police officer and a member of an alien race that have taken refuge on our planet. In this first chapter, Lennii is placed in charge of a task force formed to oversee human/alien relations in the city, and must contend with both an alien terrorist group and the prejudice of his human colleagues.

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Glasgow Comic Con Review Roundup!

GCC13TableIt was Glasgow Comic Con this past weekend, and I had an absolute blast!  I was there exhibiting, sharing a table with artists Iain Laurie and Chris Connelly.  I was selling the first issues of my two new books – And Then Emily Was Gone and Bad Sun – and debuting issue #4 of The Standard, as well as copies of the earlier issues and the 1-3 graphic novel from last year’s con.  This was the con’s first year in the new venue of the CCA, right in the heart of the city centre, and I have to say it was a big improvement.  It’s a lovely venue, marvelously designed, and though there were a few minor issues it seems the response I’ve been hearing from both attendees and exhibitors was that they loved the locale.  The sun was glorious all weekend, perhaps a little too glorious on the Saturday as the top floor turned into a hotbox.  But it gave the whole event a fantastic summery atmosphere.

Overall, the con was a huge success.  Sadly, team And Then Emily Was Gone didn’t go home with any SICBA awards, despite being the only comic to be nominated in every category.  However, I made more in comic sales than at any other con I’ve attended thus far, with the most rewarding sales at all being people who either bought one comic on the Saturday and came back to buy the rest on the Sunday, or who had bought The Standard at last year’s con and loved it so much they came back to buy my new stuff.  Beyond the financial side of things, though, it was a pleasure getting to chat to friends old and new, be it fellow comics pros or passionate, enthusiastic comics fans.  One particular highlight for me was seeing this guy pop up in a Frying Scotsman costume!

FryingScotsmanCosplayBut the purpose of this blog isn’t to talk about my experiences as an exhibitor.  I want to talk about how I enjoyed the show as a fan of quality creator-owned comics.  Over the weekend I got a few sketches, jumping back and forth between Iain Laurie and Neil Slorance.  Here’s a look at them:

Bonnie Shaw from AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, as drawn by Neil Slorance.
Bonnie Shaw from AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, as drawn by Neil Slorance.
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Gordon from AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, drawn by Iain Laurie.

Neil Slorance's version of Harry Daghlian from THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS.
Neil Slorance’s version of Harry Daghlian from THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS.
Joseph Oppenheimer from THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, by Iain Laurie.
Joseph Oppenheimer from THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, by Iain Laurie.

That Oppenheimer is perhaps my favourite of the bunch.  It makes me wish I had exploited Iain’s good will and got similar onesheets for the whole cast of The Manhattan Projects.  Beyond the sketches, there were of course the comics.  Here are my quick thoughts on the comics I picked up over the weekend:

DARK ASCENSION:  Winner of both Best Writer and Best Artist at the SICBA Awards, Jim Devlin does his most accomplished work yet with this dark thriller.  The main story is 14 pages long, telling a pulpy noir/horror tale of a former grifter lying low as a circus clown who is faced by a sinister figure from his past.  The second half of the book is taken up by a reprint of a tale I read back in 2011, my first exposure to Devlin’s work.  It’s an appealingly nasty little story on its own, but when placed in the context of the main feature it creates this picture of the world of Dark Ascension being like Sin City with a dash of Lovecraftian horror lurking in the background.  It feels like Devlin is crafting the opening salvos of an ambitious, expansive mythology, and I can’t wait to see him progress further into this dark, intriguing narrative.

METRODOME:  The other Glasgow Comic Con debut from my artistic collaborator Iain Laurie, this sees him reuniting with Roachwell partner Craig Collins.  In a testament to Iain’s diversity, this is a very different type of comic from And Then Emily Was Gone, in both tone and execution.  The big supervillain smackdown Craig Collins creates is fun, but the most fascinating aspect of this comic for me is the whole process of how it was put together, as Craig explains in his foreword.  Craig’s fevered imaginings, paired with Iain’s twisted visuals, results in a compellingly weird piece of experimental fiction.

COSPLAY KILLERS:  I didn’t quite know what to make of this.  At first I thought this was supposed to be about a superhero team, which made me feel rather uncomfortable about the extremes of casual violence inflicted on people for seemingly dubious motives.  But if you view the eponymous Cosplay Killers as a gang of psychopaths whose actions we’re not supposed to condone, the whole thing takes on a Grand Guignol black comedy vibe – severed heads in the dishwasher! – that makes for suitably debauched entertainment.

RAYGUN ROADS:  This comic slipped totally under my radar, but over the Saturday buzz for it was building and building.  By the time Sunday came I knew I had to buy it to see it for myself.  And I’m glad I did.  This psychadelic slice of hyper-pop lunacy from creator Owen Michael Johnson is one of the most fiercely original bits of storytelling I’ve encountered all year.  The plot takes the idea of a band of being from a realm of pure imagination colliding with the humdrum regular world as a launching pad, then flies off into the stream-of-consciousness stratosphere, aided by trippy, dynamic artwork.  The whole thing is presented like music in comic form, which seems oddly fitting.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the completed edition later this year.

CACACHUTE COMICS:  A collection of various comics shorts made by Coralie Bouguerra.  The earlier stuff in the book feels a bit rough around the edges, but by the time we get to “Sheol” and the second installment of “Zombies, Love and Rock N’ Roll” the work becomes noticeably more accomplished, culminating in the clever little epilogue “It’s Over”.  “Sheol” in particular is noteworthy, a grimly comic account of a lonely, depressed woman’s spectacular mental breakdown.

VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WERMACHT:  One of the breakout hits of the convention, selling out on the first day, I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Alex Ronald’s magnificent grindhouse romp.  Everyone has been rightly gushing about Ronald’s amazing, superstar artwork – as Mark Millar points out in the foreword, the only reason Ronald isn’t an A-list talent right now is that he decided video games would be a more profitable career path and he has only just recently decided to re-enter the comics field – but the story too is a delight.  It features a sexy Nazi vampire hellspawn teaming up with a priest to fight the wicked occult forces of the Third Reich.  Cue a tale that infuses the spirit of adventure from the “boy’s own” war comics of old with the titillation of the raunchier Hammer Horror films.  If you like your breasts opulent and your penises severed, this is the book for you.  A perverse delight.

iHERO:  My good friend and table neighbour Luke Halsall wrote this, paired up with artist (and fellow table neighbour) Graeme Kennedy.  The result is both doing their most ambitious work to date.  Luke’s story, about the creation of an iPad/iPhone/iPod style gizmo that allows anyone to become a superhero, and the effect that has on the world, is a significant step up from the more small-scale, self-contained effort of his Mind Palace comic debut.  Graeme, meanwhile, leaps genres from the murky crime of Villainous to classic superheroics with a twist.  Once again he triumphs with a great cover design, which I saw customer after customer be drawn to on the con floor.

MAXIMUM ALAN:  As bonkers and nigh-indepicherable as the first installment, this splurge of raging id continues to get mileage out of putting Alan Moore in one ridiculous, humiliating predicament after another.  If you ever wanted a shot of esteemed comics luminary Alan Moore’s bare arse as he gets spanked, this is the comic for you.  But this second issue enjoys a major boost over the first one, as it marks the inclusion of Neil Gaiman as a character, brought to life arguably with even greater aplomb than our title character.

And this was just a selection  of the books available.  I had been meaning to pick up SICBA-winner Big in Japan, Royal Descent, See Far Enough and the new issue of Fatman & Ribbon, but was so caught up in selling  I never got round to it.  But I was once again taken aback by all the creativity in the Glasgow comics scene.  Another successful show…. the road to Glasgow Comic Con 2014 begins now!

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A Prelude To BAD SUN…

If you’ve been following the promotional blitz I’ve been running from my blog and social media, you’ll be aware that I am holding a book launch on Tuesday 9th July at Geek Retreat, and that I’ll be attending the Glasgow Comic Con on 13th-14th July.  You’ll also know that, among other books, I’ll be debuting the first issue of Bad Sun, a new sci-fi miniseries written by me, with art by Chris Connelly.

As a final teaser before the comic’s iminent release, I’m excited to present a prologue, drawn by Jason Mathis of School of the Damned fame.  This will be included in that first issue as a backup to Chris’ 24-page main story, but it was just too good to keep as a surprise.  I think it works so well to set the scene for the main narrative of Bad Sun, and hopefullly whet your appetite for picking the book up next week.  Enjoy… and welcome to the Glasgow of the future!

Mathis1 Mathis2 Mathis3 Mathis4 Mathis5Bad Sun launches on Tuesday 9th July, at Geek Retreat in Glasgow.  More details here.

BAD SUN Press Gains Momentum

Last week I mentioned the SICBA award success of And Then Emily Was Gone, my comic with Iain Laurie, as it picked up 4 nominations.  This week I thought I’d provide an update on my other new in-development comic project: Bad Sun, with artist Chris Connelly.  This weekend, the two of us featured in popular Scottish newspaper the Evening Times:

EveningTimesForgive a few inaccuracies – the famed studio is in Hope Street rather than Union Street, we haven’t begun the process of pitching to anyone yet, and we have no plans on murdering Mark Millar – but it was still a real kick seeing my name and face in the paper.

Publicity for Bad Sun continues tomorrow, with Chris and I set to guest on the Big Comic Page podcast to talk more about our sci-fi thriller, the first issue of which is now off to the printers and in production, and set to be ready in time for Glasgow Comic Con on 13th-14th July.

Also, if you’re in Glasgow or nearby, you’re invited to come along to the launch night being held for both Bad Sun and And Then Emily Was Gone at Geek Retreat, in Union Street, Glasgow, from 7pm on Tuesday 9th July.  More details at the event page here.

Finally, I thought I’d wrap up this little update by sharing with you all the cover for Bad Sun #1, drawn by Chris Connelly and coloured by Ruiz Moreno.

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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: 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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