Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

This is just a quick blog to wish everyone a Happy Christimas and all the best for 2012. Where comics are going I just don't know - probably the way of music. I was in a comic shop in Belfast the other day and I didn't see a comic tht I would actually buy. I used to get 2000 AD regularly but I haven't seen a copy in well over a year anywhere. Is it still being published? I do recall seeing an issue about a year and a half ago and it wasn't all that good so maybe it's stopped. Future doesn't look too bright but we can still hope. And I hope that each and every one of you have a great Christmas and have all your Christmas shopping done. I'm just about finished - I've all the presents bought, the tree decorated and all the Christmas bills paid. And I've just realised that I'm sounding pretty boring. Not like a comic writer should - I should be unruly, drunk and witty I suppose. Just spoken to Adrian and he's busily wrapping presents - I suppose when you get to a certain age. We're to meet up at the end of January and think about 1949 and what we can do with the strip as the comics world out there looks so bleak. I'm wittering on so I'll go and finish off a couple of things. Will talk again in the New Year. Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Northern Irish Comics

Well, it's almost Christmas and I've never been so far behind with things. Christmas has sort of crept up on me this yar - I've usually presents bought and cards sent but I'm just getting round to it now. I was at a carol service this morning watching my daughter do a solo in the local church as part of her school's celebrations. This evening I travel up to another town nearby to see her play in the Northern Area Orchestra at the Mayor's concert. It's all a bit of a rush. So what about comics? I've been talking to some people who tell me that the comics scene everywhere has more or less flatlined. Marvel and D.C. are continually trying to reinvent themselves - witness rebirths of Johnny Storm, Batman etc. - and are keeping to their stock characters. There's no attempt to develop anything new or exciting. I've stopped buying comics - although I'm buying some of the collections of reprints that are coming out. But that's what they are, reprints of former comics - and I know of a lot of other people who've done the same. There's nothing exciting anymore. Anyway Adrian and I had a meeting on the 1st December and we've though about trying 1949 with more digital formats - since that seems to be the way that comics are going. We plan to put up some more of David's stuff on Joachim Darke on the web but it won't be until around Christmas as both of us are busy with other things. I can't see the comics that we grew up with continuing for much longer - they're dead already. Anyway off to take my daughter to her concert. I'll try to get another blog out before Christmas but I seem to keep repeating that the comics scene is really dead. What are we going to do about it? Answers on a postcard please!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Comics in Northern Ireland

Yes, it's been over a month since I last looked at thse blogs - things have just been so hectic. I've been working on a number of new projects which have really nothing to do with either writing or comics. It's part of my other persona in community work and a lot of it seems to be taking over my life. And I'm struggling to get some writing done on two books at once - and do television and radio work as well. So comics I'm afraid has come slightly down the pecking order. We're finding it very difficult to advance with the comics - plenty of ideas but few outlets. There's another tranche of CIIF money coming up here in Northern Ireland - this is the Creative and Innovative Industries Fund which is designed towards setting up creative new businesses - but none of us are really considering applying. It's co-funded by the Arts Council who in my view and the vierw of many others are not all that interested in the arts at all. We applied both to the Arts Council and the CIIF, who said that they didn't really fund comics as it was too risky a venture for them. This does not appear to have been true as they have just funded a comic - which sells at £6 for about 30 or so pages - run by the Greater Shantallow Community Arts. Now I have absolutely no problem with a community group producing a comic - and this looks to be a one-off - and genuinely wish them all the best. But is it something that the Arts Council under the CIIF should be involved in - are they setting up a business? They may very well be and if so I would love them to get in contact through this blog because I can then meet and discuss strips with them. However, I doubt that many other groups will get any money out of the Arts Council - I know of groups in Belfast who ar involved in graphic work have been trying for years without even the remotest chance of success. Under the last CIIF granting the money went to all the usual suspects - local Borough Councils, who are hardly creative businesses, Government agencies, a firm which made greetings cards and a jewellers shop. Of course the Minister in charge at that time was Nelson McCausland who is well known for his rigid views and meddling in various aspects of life, the new Sinn Fein Minister doesn't seem to be making much of her post either. So I think we're in the wrong place at the wrong time - and will remain so for some time. In the meantime we'll have a meeting around the start of December and see where we go from here. Maybe a move to the US is in order and get out of Northern Ireland?Too old for that now. Anyway, still have the blog - that's always something!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Hal McLean

I know! I know! I promised that I'd keep up to date with some of these blogs and do them a bit more fequently but things have just been pressing all month. I have a couple of new books out and I've been truly snowed under with requests for interviews. And the time difference is getting to me - living in Northern Ireland means that you have to be up at all hours of the morning to do interviews in America. There have been a couple of nights that I've been doing so many it's hardly worth my while going to bed so I sat up. And that doesn't make for pleasant going the next day I can tell you! However, I'm still able to write and I think that the new comic Dark Matter in which I have a section is coming out at the end of this month. I have to check with David Lloyd but I've really been so busy that I haven't had time to do it yet. And I've been approached by a comic artist in Poland to do some stuff. Very small time but I seem to be easing back into the world of comics. I had planned to meet with Adrian at the beginning of the month and see where we could take Fool Moon Publications from here but he was sick and the meeting's been deferred to the end of the moth. The 25th. I think that the route that we'll be going down is digital. As I said in my last couple of blogs, I think that comics as we knew them are finished. Particularly as you can now download all sorts of comics onto an iPad for about half the price. Some people have said that the quality isn't as great through and that you can't move back and forth in an iComic with the same freedom. I'm such a dinosaur that it'll take me a while to get used to this. I still like the paper comics where I can scoot about back and forth but digitial looks the way things are going and I'm always willing to learn. It's a pity that all the comics I grew up with are moving on but there it is. I was on a train the other day and spotted somebody reading comics on their iPad - it didn't look right but then who am I to judge? A lot of you have been liking 1949 and Hal McLean and would like to see more. I'd like to give you more believe me - I have lots of ideas - but it's trying to find a way in. They say that there's big plans for Northern Ireland to become the creative centre for the British Isles but I can't see that happening anyway soon. Things move with a glacial slowness here, so we'll see. I was talking to Adrian on the phone today and we're trying to put up more pages of Darke for you - I still think that Savid is excellent in black and white. He hasn't been too well either, a lot of old things going round. But we'll try and get them up. I know I've been promising but we will. Anyway, that's where things stand. off to get a bite to eat before I do another interview. Is this the life of a star? I don't think so!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Joachim Darke

Like my other blog I've been neglecting this one a bit. The last few weeks have been extremely busy and I haven't really had time to catch up on things. So thanks to everyone who wrote to me and my apologies for not replying so promptly. Things have been taking off in the community sector and I've been trying to set up a number of project - almost to the detriment of everything else. Some of you have written asking is there any more Joachim Darke and indeed there is. I know David has done a lot more from the scripts that I sent him. He had sent Adrian a lot of material only I haven't been in contact with Adrian at the moment. He himself is extremely busy and when I happen to be free he's not. So contact between us has been difficult over the last couple of weeks. However we do have a meeting scheduled for the beginning of October and hopefully we'll have something up for you to see. Also we're still thinking about 1949 and where we can take it - it's difficult to find time to do it o the standard that we'd like, along with all ou work. I'm slightly more flexible than either Adrian or David and even I'm finding it difficult at the moment. We all have to earn a crust and comics don't really pay. Hopefeull after we've had a meeting things will shape up and we'll see where we go from here. Given the interest that we've generated - and we seem to have generated a lot - it would be a shame to abandon everything. Maybe it's the climate we're living in. But keep watching and some more Darke will be up nd I know that Adrian still has ideas for 1949 so let's see where that goes. Although I've said that comics are dead, there's a part of me that maybe doesn't believe it. Do you? Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

New Comics?

I've been getting copied into a lot of e-mails of late in which my name is mentioned. That's great, keep 'em coming. It seems to centre round a correspondence I had with Paddy Brown in which I was reminiscing about some of the old comics that I used to read - The Valiant; the Lion; Buster etc. and how it would be great to bring something like this out over here in Ireland. This seems to have generated a lot of interest and people are actually talking about the possibility - which is terrific. However be aware that the whole process is fraught with problems. There already seems to have been a bit of a spat about the CIIF, the Creative Industries Innovation Fund, here in Northern Ireland as a possible source of funding for such a project. As one who has been through the process let me add a few thoughts. Firstly, the background - the Fund was set up as a regular tranche of European money designed to promote creative industries in Northern Ireland. Under the Direct Rule nobody knows what happened to it - may have gone into funding Government sponsored projects. However, under the new Assembly it suddenly lit on the desk of the then Northern Ireland Culture Minister, Edwin Poots. He didn't know what to do with it so he sent it to Arlene Foster, the Business and Enterprise Minister. She didn't know what to do with it so she sent it back to a new Culture Minister, Gregory Campbell. He didn't know what to do with it but set up the CIIF to dispense it. By this time Campbell had ceased to be Culture Minister and the brief was taken over by Nelson McCausland. The new body charged with evaluating projects and disseminating the money was composed of representatives from the Arts Council for Northern Ireland and several business-based bodies. Some of those who have contacted me have expressed an interest in approaching the Arts Council. That's fine, only remember one thing. The Arts Council have a rather limited view of what constitutes art. This doesn't mean that it doesn't count comics as art - obviously it is and the Council have funded at least one comics project, the Holy Cross Comics - but it does not attach a high priority to it. Secondly, it is alleged that the Council is incredibly susceptible to political interference. This protects the Council's own main grant from Government which goes to fund things like the Lyric Theatre in Belfast - and why shouldn't it? However, it's alleged that such interference was particularly rife during McCausland's tenure - he is reputedly well known for this and for imposing his own point of view on matters. I applied against this background with buisness plans, strategy documents, long-term plans etc. and having jumped through diverse hoops, some allegedly set up my the Minister himself and sat through a period in which the Committee "re-examined it's terms of reference", the project was eventually turned down. On inspecting the successful applicants I discovered that they were the usual suspects and statutory bodies - Ards Borough Council, the Verbal Arts Centre etc. as well as several established commerical bodies, such as a commercial greetings card company and a jewellers - all of whom I would stress were entitled to apply. However, there were no what I would term "innovative" companies or organisations and certainly no comics. The word "innovative" would therefore tend to be a misnomer. There is of course a new round of applications for the CIIF coming up in December and there was talk in my e-mails of applying for that to start a comics project. Again I would advise against it. The television series Game of Thrones and the film Your Majesty now has certain sections of the Assembly slavering at the prospect of turning Northern Ireland into another Hollywood. I would guess - and it is no more than a guess - that the next round of CIIF money will be channelled towards video and production companies as well as subsidiaries of BBC and UTV, who are entitled to apply. And from what I can gather the scoring system for this new round will be more "rigorous" than the old. There is neither the artistic or political will to promote comics except solely as a by-product of video and film. A bleak picture indeed. Paddy raised the possibility of producing something for the newspapers - a kind of comics supplement such as used to run in the American press. An intriguing idea but, I feel, a non-starter. I can't see papers like the Belfast Telegraph warming to this and even if they did, they would want a massive slice of the profits and total editorial control. In other words if they by any remote fancy decided to run with it, they would own it and all those working on it would have to be National Union of Journalists members. A depressing scenario. However, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to work on a such comic if it could get off the ground. And one step forward is to identify the difficulties. Despite all that I've said above, there is a way - isn't there?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Where to Now?

My comments yesterday and a few days before seem to have stirred up a few responses. Some people are telling me that there might still be a future for comics outside of 40 year old men. I even had an e-mail from a young girl who collects comics, when she can afford them. But I do stand over my comments. However, I'm going to reply to Paddy who says that his nephew loves comics but the problem is that they're too expensive. I think it's slightly more than that. I think there has been a change in the culture. I grew up in the late 40s/early 50s when comics were part text, part cartoon strip - I'm thinking here of Wizard, Victor and so forth. Comics from the States were practically unheard of in my part of the world, although when I went on holidays to Newcastle I was able to buy the Lone Ranger and an early Green Lama drawn by Mac Raboy as well as repints of Mars, God of War and Space Ranger which I think might have been in Planet Comics. I would take some of them into school and swap for comics with some of my friends who got different sorts of comics too. But there was a real interest there and we talked about comics and took an interest in the stories. I don't get the same sense now. Children may like comics but they need some sort of incentivasation to buy them. I stopped in a petrol station the other night and saw the Beano on sale and it was nothing like what I remembered - or worked for . It was slick and glossy with a free gift attached to it. It was seeling for far more than I remember. So I take Paddy's point about cost. My 15 year old son likes comics too and any time I'm in Belfast I usually buy a couple of comics or him and his sister - for Michael it's the World of Marvel or Iron Man - but I can pay over £5 for two comics. But this is what's on offer and what the children expect now. Paddy is right when he says that production costs have made the production of a comic expensive. I'm sitting here with a copy of Heavy Metal here in front of me and goodness knows how much it took to produce that. But does it sell - even by a subscription outlet. Lately I've taken to buying some of my magazines through Newsstand Online but I notice how limited certain sections - such as SF - are and how high-level some of the magazines are. But Paddy if you want to produce a worthwhile comic which children will want you have to meet the production values of your competitors - and that includes Heavy Metal - and you have to sort out distribution. You have to ask yourself "Why should somebody buy my magazine and not the new Dr. Who comic?" and are you going to cover the costs with sales, even online. As you say Paddy, some comics aren't making it. I'm also sitting here looking at somics such as Jet from 1959 which a friend of mine, Des Shaw, reprints. They're 6d which is only a couple of pence but my son wouldn't buy them because they're not flashy enough and they don't have some sort of free gift. And even if you were to print one issue would you make enough to cover another issue? The only way you're going to fund it is through maybe a grant and you're not going to get that here in Northern Ireland I would think - no way! So where to now? I'm still willing to sit down and talk about production of something. I've agreed to meet with Andy Luke sometime in October and while I would like to go to the Belfast Bar Camp I'm going to be on Rathlin Island. But maybe sometime. I'm off to watch some television. I was right about Arsenal yesterday - especially with Gervinho being sent off. My wife was furious! But get back to me on you ideas about comics. I'm always open to offers!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Any Future - Children's Comics

A couple of further thoughts on what I wrote yesterday. I was wondering if children read anything like the British comics I used to read as a child and as a younger man. All my friends used to read them when I was at school and we used to bring in comics to swap when we'd finished with them, I used to buy two issues of one comic so I could do this in case I didn't get them back. I had thought at one stage of course of doing a black and white comic in the style of the old Lion or Valiant or Buster and then dismissed the idea as it would never sell. This is not the 1970s. However, just to see what was selling I happened to be in town this morning and called into Easons, which is really the only newsagents in our high street and had a look at the children's section. Do you know they didn't even have the Beano and the Dandy - these were the staples of childhood reading. They had a number of franchise comics like the Simpsons all done up in plastic bags and some others with a free gift. The only thing that actually "looked" like a comic was a Dr. Who publication and it wasn't even a comic more of a magazine with features. I think there was one strip in it. And no other comic publications. Plenty of Tattoo magazines though. Where have they all gone? Are the only ones now interested in British comics solely 60 year-old men? I rest my case and it's a frightening thought. Where's all the creativiely gone when all we have is formulaeic Dr. Who magazines? I'll go and watch the football. Arsenal are drawing with Newcastle which'll not please my wife who is a huge Arsenal fan. Still as I point out her, it could be worse. She could support West Ham!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Is There Any Future?

A number of people have approached me about starting some sort of comic here in the United Kingdom - they say I'm too cynical about the comis scene and we should try to get together and bring something out in the style of, say, Heavy Metal or Eppo. I'm really worried that some of the younger creators are starting to look at me as a grand old guru of the comic world or even believe that I know what I'm talking about! Yes, I did work on my own comics in the late 60s and early 70s producing things like Tales from the Shunned House and Mincemeat Pete for Fool Moon and yes Dark Matter is coming out in Italy next month carrying one of my early strips with David Lloyd but the world has changed a lot since those heady days. As I said in my last blog, American comics are dead and I suspect they are in Britain as well. As I hinted in the last blog, the culture which allowed those publications to happen has fundamentally changed. Even in British comics. I was talking to Adrian the other day - who does Space 1949 - and we were speaking about the comics we used to buy when we were growing up. I'm old enough to remember when comics were still part text but even the British black and white comics I used to buy don't exist any more, except in nostalgia sales. Lion, Valiant, Wizard, all have gone. The only ones who are interested in them now are 60 year old men. And the comic shops are full of 40 year-olds on their lunch break - surely that can't be right? I had thought of pulling Fool Moon together again - Adrian and I had seriously talked about that - but there's no way that we could produce something like Heavy Metal. We had thought of producing something less ambitious but where would we get the money for it, how would we distribute it, how would we compete against the likes of Marvel and DC? Because that's who we'd be up against. Another option was to produce something like Lion or Valiant that I used to buy as a young man - a black and white magazine-comic in the style of the old IPC publications. It might be possible to scrape together enough advertising - because no government grant is going to fund it, we've learned that through bitter experience -to print a limited edition but then what would we do with it, how would we sell enough to produce a second issue? It's all very well to say "I did that" but another to do it as a sustainable business option. I'm not giving up my day job. A friend of mine reprints very old comics which used to sell in the 1950s for around 6d - Swift Morgan, Star Rocket, Space Heroes etc. and it might be possible to certainly print something like that, as they could be done in black and white very cheaply but again what to do with it? And who would buy it? You're up against Kindle, iPads etc. all of which Marvel and DC use and have cornered the market. A couple of years ago we talked about something like that and applied to the Creative and Innovative Industries Fund, partly run by the Northern Ireland Arts Council. It didn't take us long to realise that the Council wasn't really interested in anything even vaguely creative or innovative - certainly not a graphic format. Much of the money is handed out to statutory bodies, the rest to people like established businesses, goldsmiths and that sort of thing. We also approarched the educational department to use comics in education but they didn't even bother responding. Children aren't really interested in comics any more is their idea. So I suspect that British comics, like the American comics is dead. So is there any future? Maybe - I've still never given up. There has to be something but maybe now isn't really the right time to go looking. Of course if there's a millionaire reading this with some money to give away - it doesn't have to be all that much - I'm still up for writing a few graphic novels! We live in hope!

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Death of Comics

American comics as we know them are dead! Writers and artists with anything creative do write or draw had better start looking elsewhere. That's the message that I'm getting from a lot of my friends in America especially those who have attended the recent San Diego Convention. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Alarm bells really started ringing for me when Marvel and Disney got together, although by then the rot had already set in. Several of my friends in the US have simply confirmed what I already suspected. Comics as we knew them have gone and the big companies are now moe interested in films, merchandising and franchises more than they are in producing innovative and experimental comics which mightn't sell but which were worth doing anyway, Marvel seems to have thrown all its interests into producing films of which comics are but an afterthought and a way to make more money. And DC likewise. I wouldn't care all that much - well I would if I'm honest - if the films were any good. I looked foward for months to the new Green Lantern movie - I used to read the comic - and was vastly disappointed with it when I went to see it. The best thing I could say about Thor was that it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. X-Men First Class was one of the better ones but only because Michael Fassbender gave an excellent performance as Magneto. And as for Iron Man 2 - well most of it was roughly the same as Iron Man I. Where was the Mandarin? One thing about all of them was that the CGI was great - but terrific imagery does not a terrific film make. Many of the plots have been rather lame and predictable and to my mind anyway have lacked any real creativity. And films really place the power in the hands of the corporation. My son has desperately been waiting for Fantastic Four 3 featuring the Sub-Mariner that was promised but that's not going to happen. And I keep waiting for the Dr. Strange moie which was talked about but I doubt if that will happen either. Because everything is now being channelled into movies the cost is prohibitive and the choice is limited. Back in the 1970s and part of the 80s, Marvel and others tried a lot of new and interesting characters just to see how they did. Some failed but others were terrific. The 60s themselves produced a lot of creative stuff - I know, I worked on some of them - much of it one-shots but some of it went on. I like to think there is still something of that era in me but it's getting tougher and tougher to bring out. There was a feeling that we could achieve anything - that feeling was probably knocked out of us by the Reagan era in America and certainly by the Thatcher era in Britain. And it has culminated now. My friends in San Diego went there to look for what the "next big thing" might be and found nothing worth talking about. There are certainly some of the smaller companies looking for new stuff but their budgets are severely restircted by the recession. The Marvel/Disney axis has more or less killed any creative stuff off; the Manga which swept the world a few years ago also tied comics into the gaming merchandise market through things like Pokemon. At one time my children could tell me more about Japanese culture than they could about Irish. But the link was formed between game merchandising and comics. So where's the future for the ordinary comic? Some of my friends seem to suggest that it might lie in Europe. However Europe is such a closed shop and there are language problems - each country does it's comics in its own language which makes sales in other countries difficult. But there are interesting strips happening in the Netherlands, Italy, France and even Poland which is producing some very good stuff. It'll not happen in either Britain or Ireland I wouldn't think. Another area might be South America - there are some stirrings in Brazil which always produced some intersting artists along with Argentina. But all in all the future looks grim unless you want to storyboard for films. I've stopped buying comics - they're bland and without any real creative spark. There's nothing that you'd really want to sit down and read, nothing which would challange you. Where's that "Wow" moment when you need it? That's what 1949, Darke, Doc Lazarus and Hal McLean are all about but the process is slow and there's little outlet for it. So where's the future of comics? You ask me?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Comics Scene

A number of people have been writing to me regarding my comments on the Quick Questions in the Ireland Comics website and agreeing with me on the need for some sort of co-ordinated mechanism for the comics scene here in Ireland - and possibly in Britain as well. Thanks Andy for your invitation - I've replied to you and I would love to sit down and talk with you and the others about this. Just get in contact with me, you have my address. Basically I think there's a lot of talent out there but it's all very disparate and what is needed is some sort of mechanism, whether it be a general comic, a website or simply a forum in which creators can show their work. Ireland, and in particular Northern Ireland, is something of a cultural backwater as far as comics and a number of other media ventures are concerned. I sense that the climate is changing slightly but it will be glacially slow and it will never achieve the level which occurs in places like the Netherlands, France or Italy. Of course they receive some support from their respective governments - Metal Hurlant used to recieve a grant directly from the French Culture Department. I think Eppo in Holland might get something but I know that Rob van Bavel who edits it had drawn down monies from elsewhere. Here in Northern Ireland the situation is very different. True, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure here is getting slightly excited over recent filming here in the Province - witness Game of Thrones and Your Majesty which was filmed at the Paint Shop in the Titanic Quarter as well as City of Emerald but how far their enthusiasm will take them is open to question. Probably not down the graphics road. About a year and a half ago Adrian Lutton and I applied under the aegis of Fool Moon Graphicks for a grant from the Creative Industries Innovation Fund to see if we could start and educationally based graphics package. The Minister for Culture then was the DUP's Nelson McCausland who was famous for his interference and rigid views on culture. Consequently the process kept getting delayed as the Minister kept getting involved and in the end we were turned down. The money went to all the usual suspects - such as Borough Councils and formal Arts bodies and we realised that the Government here were not interested in any form of creativity at all - at least a form of creativity which they couldn't directly control. Although Minister McCausland has gone to another department, I would assume that his Sinn Fein successor will be more interested in pushing through an Irish language bill than looking at graphic proposals. I did try another project, relating to comics in education but this too was turned down and I was directly told by a public representative that young people would be better served reading their Bibles than comics. So if we are looking for some form of public funding similar to the Continent then we are facing I would think an uphill struggle. That doesn't mean that such a struggle shouldn't take place and maybe other people know of other funding sources. I also think there has to be a change in mindset both here and in England - here comics are simply viewed as material for children, on the Continent they are not. In France and the Netherlands they are viewed as an important artform, hence the government funding. And it's the same in England - why else did the great Don Lawrence have to go to Amsterdam to have his work recognised and why is Sidney Jordan's work more popular in Italy than it is in England? - that sort of thinking has to be changed and it will take both time and effort to do it. But I think it is achievable. I'm willing to talk to anyone about it and see if we can work out a way forward and I would thank everybody for their interest in 1949 and Joachim Darke - I think there is the basis of something solid in Ireland and i these contribute to it, then I'm happy. They seem to be stirring up some debate anyway which is always good. O.K. soapbox over - I just had to get that off my chest. We're thinking of putting more comics up but as I said earlier there have been technical problems which aren't fully resolved. But keep looking. If you want to make any comment about the above then feel free. The ball's in your court!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Going Dutch

It's a while since I've written a blog - there are a couple of reasons for this. First I've been really up to my eyes in work, trying to get a number of projects cleared before the summer and I've also been in Amsterdam. My family and I decided to take a bit of a break when the children got school holidays and the Netherlands seemed a good place to go. My daughter has been doing Anne Frank at school and so we took ourselves off to see the house. It was a bit of a nostalgic trip for me as I lived in Amsterdam at one point. On the way back home I picked up a copy of the Dutch magazine EPPO which is sitting right in front of me as I write this. I remember the original - in fact I dropped them a couple of scripts - back in the 1970s. It went bust but then was relaunched in 2009 and it still looks well. I see that they still have Storm which was originally done by the late Don Lawrence but looks just as interesting today. Some of us over here had talked about doing something on the Continent but the Continental markets, as well as the Continental comics scene, is notoriously hard to break into. And of course in Britain, we're in the wrong place entirely. Comics in Britain are always regarded as children's material and in Northern Ireland it's even worse. Indeed I was told not long ago by a Northern Ireland politician that children would be far better reading their Bible than reading comics - so that gives a flavour of the general perception. Having said that however, I should be appearing in an Italian comic called Dark Matter sometime in October/November, although I'll be in Italian. The publisher involved is in Lucca, Tuscany and the strip is an old one which I did many years ago with David Lloyd who did V for Vendetta. I don't know how widely it'll be circulated but I'll let you know when it appears. We had hoped to have some more 1949 and Joachim Darke up - there are pages waiting to be uploaded - but we've been having troubles. I haven't been in touch with Adrian for a while as both his phone and computer are down - he lives in a rural area of County Down - and I haven't been able to talk to him since I came back. However, there are pages waiting to be put up so we'll get that done asap. So the Netherlands was great but back at my desk and I'm sure that it won't be so long until I do the next blog. See you then

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hal McLean

I've been very busy over the last two or three weeks as well as suffering from a nasty cold which my daughter kindly brought home from school and which turned into a kind of flu thing. As well as that I've been working on the publicity for The World's Creepiest Places - which is done and being proofread - as well as a new feature for New Page books which you'll see in their blogs very soon but I can say no more. And a new book on American Vampires which may well be forthcoming next year - we'll see. With all that and a lot more going on I haven't been talking to Adrian or David recently although I've been endeavouring to keep in contact with them by e-mail. Adrian's been in Poland recently so little more 1949 done but David has done another three pages of Joachim Darke for the blogsite, which many of you like, and we'll be posting these very soon. The response to Darke "The Spaniard's Bell" has been exceptional - this is an adventure which we did specially for the blog and it's different for the script we have for the comic which is "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and deals with Darke when he's back in England and is called to a village to root out a witch. But that's coming. Keep watching the blog. On the 1949 front Adrian and I are hoping to meet up at the end of the month and work out something for you. I have done another adventure in the 1949 series based around Hal McLean and we're thinking of turning into a Jeff Hawke-type strip which might be able to be downloaded. In this McLean goes to the Jupiter moons where he encounters something unusual which is not exactly an alien lifeform, or is it - but I'll leave you to decide. We';re also thinking about introducing you to Doc Lazarus. But as I said that's around the end of the month and then I'm off to Amsterdam around the beginning of July to take a break with my family. But there's plenty coming up so keep watching. This of course is the new House of Ideas and we've got plenty of them. See you soon

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Joachim Darke Again

The next taster section of Joachim Darke is already up on this blogsite and it has created a bit of a stir. I've had people contacting me saying how good it is and Adrian is receiving comments around work saying that they want to see more. Some people have been kind enought to compare some of the artwork to a better sort of Adam Eterno who used to appear in Lion and others have compared it to the old black and white Creepy and Eerie which David says is a great compliment. It's good for me too as scripter because a lot of the old Warren magazines were my favourites and as I'm sitting here writing this I have all the Dark Horse archives on the shelf in front of me. Have a look and see what you think. I've talked to David and he has more but we'll not be putting them up for another week as Adrian and I are both away from our machines. However, keep watching as there may be something there. We're also almost certainly going to the Comics Convention in Derry, so if you're there we'll maybe see you. We're talking about puttinga couple more up before we make the conference but we'll see. It would be nice to get Doc Lazarus up and let you see that as well. But time isn't on our side - the convention is only a couple of weeks away. But I hope that you continue to enjoy Joachim Darke - I've even had an e-mail from somebody in Darke County, Ohio asking about it - now isn't that spooky? I'll try to keep you informed as to how things are going in about a week's time. Keep reading!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Spaniard's Bell

Well, as we promised the new Joachim Darke pages are now up on the blog. Apologies for the delay in doing so but we had a few techn ical difficulties - however, the pages are up now. This is a strip which I did with David Dale whose artwork this is with Adrian lettering. It has already drawn a number of faourable comments - for which many thanks - but we'd also like your views on it. Some people have been kind enough to say that the Darke strip reminds them of the old Warren Creepy and Eerie comics of the 1960s/early 70s and I think in some respects it does. But what do you think? David and I have been working a bit on Darke's backstory and there's hints of it in the strip. The stroies are set aroun 1660 which was a momentous time in English history as it marked the return of the English Monarchy under King Charles II after ten years of Parliamentary rule. The return of the king was not popular in many quarters and many were opposed to it - one of those is Darke himself. The times are still very unsettled. Darke as you may have guessed is a Puritan who was born in Cornwall but was forced to flee after the murder of a local Anglican Squire and a local witch-hunter who is responsible for the death of Darke's wife as a sorceress. Darke has been the captain of a pirate craft and a slave on an Arab galley. He has travelled in the East and in parts of Africa as well as in Eastern Europe where he has witnessed many strange things. Having become involved in the politics of the time, he is on his way to Scotland to deliver the daughter of a local Presbyterian leader and solicit his help in raising an army against Charles. On the way there the ship is driven onto the Irish coast by a storm and founders. The child is drowned but Darke survives. This disaster brings him to the Abbey of Carrig Dhu on the Irish coast where the story of the Spaniard's Bell begins. His is not the first ship to have perished close by - a ship from the great Spanish Armada of 1588 has also been wrecked. There is of course something horrible in Carrig Dhu which involves the bodies of drowned Spanish sailors. That's the basis of the current tale and we'll try to publish some more very soon when we get them together. In the meantime there's also the time-travelling Doc Lazarus from 1912 - see how good we are to you? - for you to take a look at . We'll be posting some of those as well very soon. For those of you who are going to the 2D Comic Convention in Derry, Northern Ireland, we may see you there on the 3rd June. And there may be more pages of Space 1949 coming up - we're spoiling you I know but you're worth it. Keep an eye out for new ideas arriving very soon. We haven't even begun to think about The Wraith of Team Patriarch. It's all coming!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Joachim Darke pages

As promised pages 7 - 10 of our Joachim Darke story "The Spaniard's Bell" with art by David Dale. Pages 11 - 15 to follow shortly...

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Joachim Darke

Hope everybody had a very Happy Easter. I've been trying to get a few days to myself with the family but I'm still working on the new book for New Page which is due with the publishers next month - it looks like I'll make the deadline. We've also been trying to get together something on Joachim Darke - the 17th century witch finder/devil hunter that David, Adrian and myself have been working on. The pages are ready and lettered but we've had a slight technical hitch in putting them up which will resolve itself and we'll try again at the weekend and hopefully have something up for you to look at soon. I've seen the pages and it's worth waiting on. Once again many thanks to everybody who contacted me on the Space 1949 strip - a few of you have made positive references to Jeff Hawke, which used to be one of my favourite newspaper strips. I used to get the Daily Express every day just for the strip. So I would be surprised if that didn't have some influence on me as I was growing up. Adrian is rather flattered that somebody described him as the new Sidney Jordan! Some of my American contacts described as "being very European" in tone and I suppose that's true - I don't know whether that's a compliment or not - but others have said that's it's different from a lot of the stuff that's circulating in Europe at the moment so I'm hoping that's good. It has even enthused me enough to draw up a preliminary Hal McLean strip - I've always though I might give him his own strip - set in 1953 and on one of the Jupiter moons. I've sent it to Adrian, who's in London at the moment to see what he thinks but it won't be done very soon. But we're thinking about it. But keep your eyes peeled for Joachim Darke - 1660 has never been the same since he appeared!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Jeff Hawke

It would appear that our Space 1949 has ceated a lot of interest. I've been getting a number of e-mails all containing interest and positive feedback and I gather through talking to him today, so has Adrian. We're trying to get the next set of strips up - which will be David Dale's excellent "Joachim Darke", the 17th century witch-finder - but it's a bit difficult finding the time at the moment. We have some lettering and text to put in and as we're all working elsewhere, we're striggling to find the time. So please bear with us - it'll be worth the wait. Some of you have said that the 1949 strip has the "feel" of Jeff Hawke, the strip by Sydney Jordan which appeared in the Daily Express newspaper during the 1960s. Although it was not intentional I can understand why. Jeff Hawke was - and continues to be - one of my favourite strips from that period. I enjoyed the characterisation, which was written by Willie Patterson, the humour and the style, not to mention the great artwork. I have conveyed to Adrian that somebody said that his artwrok looked like Sydney Jordan's which he has taken as a great complement as he enjoys Jeff Hawke too. But if the strip has that sort of feel then I'm well satisfied. Adrian and I were talking about putting further pages up as he, like me, is under pressure to develop the story. And we'll do it - we just need to find a willing publisher which is not easy in these recessionary times. But we'll get there - especially as all the reaction so far has been pisitive. And speaking of comic strips - I believe that an old story of mine may be out in Italian very soon. This was something m yself and David Lloyd did many years ago and which has been sold to NPS in Italy. They're doing a low print run but you may be able to see some more of the work in Portuguese as we're negotiating with a firm in Rio de Janeiro as a possible outlet. However, Adrian and myself want to keep 1949 in English for the present. So we'll keep you informed about how this is going. Hopefully somebody will look at it as a graphic novel very soon and if not we'll look at the possibility of printing a low print-run ourselves. The interest is there and our audience is out there. Let's go for it!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

TTA and Australia

Thanks to a number of you who have dropped us a line saying that you enjoyed the comic pages that we've put up. We're still trying to find ways to get the comics out there - we believe they're a little bit different from anything that's around at the moment - and we'll keep you posted. And thanks for the complementary things that you've said. We're also hoping to get more artwork - Joachim Darke - lettered and up soon, so you'll be able to read our take on Restoration England. Now some of you have asked what a couple of references in the Space 1949 strip meant and I suppose we've been working on the ideas for so long that we tend to take them for granted. For a start what's the TTA who own the ship that McLean and the others find. This stands for the Terran Trading Authority which is a regulatory body set up in 1925 to control both business and mining interests principally on the Moon but also on the small scientific colonies on Mars and mines in the asteroid belt. It was initially established by Britain and Germany who remain the principal controlling agents in the organisation - King Henry IX of England and the German Kaiser Willhelm V are still the two major shareholders in the TTA - and it is closely connected to the governments of both countries. This makes it a quasi political organisation and although it is principally concerned with trade it has links to the RSC and the Luftwaffe Aeronautik . However since 1946 the balance of power in the TTA has almost imperceptably shifted with the massive strides made by the Russian Simyorska Programme of near-space exploration and the increase in funding of American lunar bases by the CSA President Barry Goldwater in the mid-1940s. 1949 might be a pivotal point for new and emerging space powers. You have also asked about the Australians who are mentioned in the strip. Since the early 1920s, the main threat to world peace has been posed by the PSRA . In 1922, the Australian army seized the running of the country from a pro-British coalition which had governed it since the early 1900s. They installed General Abel Whitlam as President and although the country is nominally run by the People's Democratic Council it is controlled by a mainly army junta. Finances are provided by the still active goldfields ast Ballarat, and it is thought that the country is largely self-sufficient. In 1932, the Whitlam Government signed a treaty with representatives of the Grand Shogun, supreme ruler of the mysterious country of Japan - the Treaty of the Pacific Rim - much to the alarm of both Europe and America. This gave Australia access to the much rumoured "Ninja technology" which is able to shielf machinery and craft from detection through radar and sonar and can reflect light, rendering the subject invisible. They have therefore been able to launch undetected orbital platforms as part of the Australian Space Programme based at Woomera in the South Australian Desert. In 1947, General Whitlam stood down and was replaced as President by General Thomas Dundee who has pursued a more aggressive policy towards the West. He has also increased spending on the space programme launching shielded weapons platforms and space bases from sites in occupied New Zealand. There are also thought to be genetic experiments being conducted in the penal camps of the McQuarrie River Country used to house aborigines, rebels and criminals under the eye of General Charles Minogue, Head of the Interior Directorate. Subjects are being genetically modified, it is believed, to undertake long-haul space flights to Jupiter and beyond. Similar experiments are also believed to be carried on by the TTA in the German Congo in Africa The main face of Australia known in the West is that of Major Rufus Fox, Australian Foreign Secretary, a slick career diplimat who is also believed to be head of A.I.D. - The Australian Intelligence Directorate, the Secret Service - based at Studley Park in Camden, Sidney. Sir Gilbert Rawlings who appears in the panels we've put up is vastly opposed to what he sees as creeping Australian influence across the world and perhaps sees the development of the American space programme, first under President Goldwater and then under his successor President Oliver North, as a counter to it. Sorry if that sounds like a lecture but you did ask and I wanted to show something of the thought we've given to the political set-up of our alternative universe in 1949. We want to keep the sci-fi element - and there are aliens - but we wanted to keep it believable as well. Please let us know what you think of it and if there's any questions you'd like answered. Keep your eyes peeled as there might be more artwork. Next I think, we're off to England in the 1660s. See you there!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sound Only Selected

Well, the first of the strips is now up on the web and my thanks to Adrian for helping me load them up. This is Space 1949, et in a slightly alternative Universe where man had landed on the moon at the end of the 19th century and lunar bases - and a scientific base on Mars - have been established. The strip is not professionally lettered as yet but we wanted to get something up there and let you see what we're about and get a flavour for the strip. What will McLean find on the drifting ship and what has landed on the island off the Irish coast? What hand does the Government have in all this and what are the contents of the mysterious Saturn Package? Oh and what is the Gorgon Stone? This is a strip about near space exploration, political intrigue, the secret service all set in an alternative . Let us know what you think about it. We're trying to guage the reaction to this. As yet the comic isn't published but we're moving in that direction hopefully and your response will help us. We're also looking at putting up some of David Dale's work on Joachim Darke the 17th century witch finder as he fights the forces of darkness, and his own inner demons, during the English Restoration. So continue to watch the blog - we think it's interesting and a bit different from the usual run of the mill but then we're biassed. Do you? Let us know what you think. Talk some more soon.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Space 1949 pages 4 - 8

Space 1949 pages 1-3

We have lettered up the first seven pages of Space 1949 for your viewing pleasure. These pages aren't lettered professionally, but we wanted to display the work we had done so far. Let us know what you think!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Doc Lazarus

Called into my local bookshop yesterday and had a look at the graphic novels section. I'm afraid it only confirmed what I'm thinking - lots of Thor and plenty of Green Hornet . I've more or less gone off buying comics now as there's nothing that interests me. I genuinely think it's time for something very different.
So Doc Lazarus, the time traveller - a very different sort of Dr. Who I suppose. When I was much younger than I am today the local newsagents in the small market town where I want to school always had copies of Rip Hunter on the counter. Rip was a scientist who travelled through time - why don't Dark Horse bring an anthology of him back, they seem to be doing everything else - and was one of my favourites. So I think he must have influenced how I created Doc Lazarus. He came about through a conversation with the main artist David Dale. David lives in Newcastle upon Tyne although he's originally from my own home town and I got to know him through a comic that he did for an exhibition centre in Belfast - W5. Because of the distance between us and because David's working, progress can be very slow but we're getting there. Doc is English and from 1912, just before the Great War and he has been working on a timecraft using materials which have come back through time with a Traveller escaping a war in the future and which were first used by his father to build the Chronion I. To build the ship Doc has to reluctantly rely on the British Government who see the ship as a weapon in the coming war with Germany and who help him ckabdestinely but who increasingly want a say in its construction. However, somewhere in Germany another time traveller has come back with all sorts of futuristic and the Germans are building their own ship. And of course there is the mysterious Time Dweller who seems to have its own agenda. So with Space 1949 that could be an interesting combination. There is already some artwork up on the blog and there will be more soon.

And yes Paddy, I am the same person who used to script the Scavenger with Dessi Hughes. I haven't seen Dessi in about twenty years I'm sure - he called into see me one night when I was living in Portrush and at that time he was working on a television programme with Jimmy Nail. After that, I lost touch and haven't heard from him since. And yes, I'm planning to go up to the comics event in Derry. We'll maybe meet up. Good to hear from you again - you brought back memories of the magazine in Lombard Street in Belfast.

I think that's it for now. More soon

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Space 1949

A number of people seem to have found that material that we put up on the blogsite earlier in the month rather interesting - especially the Space 1949 material. A few of you have been kind enough to e-mail about it and ask when it will be out and what it is about. There will be more posted about it shortly - certainly more comic art which is properly lettered and maybe a page or two of background and script. However, just to when your appetite here's a little bit about the background
Space 1949 is set in another reality - although one not so different that we couldn't recognise it. As the title says it's set in 1949 but it's in a world where Near Space has been conquered in the late 19th century and men have walked on the moon before 1900. Neither World War I or World War II have taken place and this world is largely dominated by Germany and Britain. America, seriously fractured politically, is only starting to emerge as a world power as is Russia which is still ruled by a Tsar as the two superpowers go into decline. The main threat to world peace is the PSRA, the People's Socialist Republic of Australia, which operates a space programme of its own based at Woomera in the Great Australian Desert and from bases in occupied New Zealand. Trade between the Moon and the German scientific colonies on Mars is controlled by the TTA, the Terran Trade Authority, a quasi-political organisation, in which Britain and Germany are the main stakeholders but in 1949 that too is going into decline. The first strip - The Petrified Man - is about this world's first encounter with an alien lifeform although it's not the type of life that you might expect and may have severe consequences for the entire human race. Well, that's the background and I hope it's whetted your appetite. My thanks to all those who have asked about it. Off to watch some football but we'll have a look at Doc Lazarus, Joachim Darke and maybe even the Wraith very soon. Do get in contact with me if you're interested in Space 1949 or any of the other projects. More later.....

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Comix are on Their Way

Well, the first posting of the comics are now up. These are simply "tasters" - to let you know what's available at the moment from Bog Standard Comix and Fool Moon Press. We've printed the cover and some panels from David Dale's "Joachim Darke" which deals with a strange, 17th century English witch-hunter during the reign of Charles II. David is a big H.P. Lovecraft fan - I hope he won't mind me telling you that - so expect some HPL touches in the stories. We've planned and scripted a series - one set in England and an earlier one set in Ireland <"The Spaniard's Bell"> which brings the brooding Darke into contact with something from outside reality - oh and there might be zombies too! This is way beyond Solomon Kane! The other panels asre from "Space 1949 - The Petrified Man" which is done by Adrian Lutton - who worked on a Rogue Trooper story for 2000ad many years ago - and deals with an alternative reality not all that far removed from our own but different enough to make it interesting. One of the differences is that we're already in space. And what life is out there is very different from what we can imagine - and deadly though not in the way that you might imagine. The third strip is from Doc Lazarus - a time-traveller who's a bit different from your standard Dr. Who. Can he protect the past from the terrors of the future? That's all I'm going to say. So things are open for business and we will posting new stuff on the blog in the coming month. Anyone can have their say or ask a question and I'll do my best to answer. There are much more strips and lots more ideas which we think are new and exciting. As I was saying in my last post, a number of us feel that the Marvel, DC dominated market has gone sort of flat at the moment with little of any real interesty - it's all very samey. See what you think anyway and I'll keep you all posted. I'm off to grab a bite to eat now but keep watching as we keep posting. You might see something that you like! Let us know anyway. Bob

Friday, 18 March 2011

Concept cover for Joachim Darke

This is David Dale's cover illustration for my Joachim Darke character, cover design and colours by Adrian. More information and story pages to be posted soon...

Concept cover for Space 1949 project

Adrian Lutton's cover design and illustration for my science fiction story - Space 1949. The Petrified Man is the first in a series of proposed story arcs. More details and story pages to be posted soon...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Coming Soon

Is it just me or have comics got very "samey" of late? I've almost - though not quite - given up buying them because there's very little in modern comics publishing that interests me. A lot of it seems to be licencing - which, incidentally I've nothing against but whenever it dominates the marketplace to the exclusion of all else there's something wrong. The other day I was in a bookshop and the amount of Green Hornet graphics which were on the graphics shelves was unbelievable. There were rows and rows of graphic books, all dealing with the same character, all trying to cash in on the recent film. Again, nothing against the Green Hornet but there appears to be nothing that's fresh or even remotely original. That's why I, together with some friends, am making a bit of an attempt to get back into the comics field. As a child of the 1960s/70s I've always looked at comics as an important cultural and social medium but recently just like so much music, they've become very bland and unispiring/ Maybe this is the wrong time to begin such a venture bacause I know that the graphics industry is being squeezed just as much as the mainstream publishing world if not more so. But I/we really feel that the graphics world needs something different. The problem of course for us is that we're all very busy at doing other things - ne in writing and community work, Adrian is a senior graphics designee at an exhibition centre and David who is working across is medical records in Newcastle. But something is on its way and we're determined to put something up on the web very soon. So watch out for Space 1949, Doc Lazarus and Joachim Darke - look out for alternate universes, time travel, and 17th century demons. Hopefully we'll have something up in the next couple of weeks but if you're interested drop me a line - it's what Bog Standard Comics is all about