Category Archives: Comics

May TV and books

Busy working on the new NEW book. Currently editing it and at the end of that process it will be a second draft. I’ll then send it back to my agent for her feedback. After that, we’ll see. I might need to do another edit (which is likely) or it may be ready to go out on submission. Who knows.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to feed my brain lots of good content. TV, comics, films and books. No spoilers and I’m not going to be discussing Game of Thrones even though I am watching it. Some people are not up to date and I hate spoilers.

Sneaky Pete – Not a genre show at all, but this con-man drama is actually quite heart warming and I found myself really caring about the whole cast of characters, even the annoying ones. Giovanni Ribisi is excellent in the lead as Pete, and to be fair, the whole cast is wonderful. It’s a little bit family drama, a little bit Leverage or Hustle, depending on where you live, as Ribisi sweet talks his way around people using his astute skills and observation. Funny, surprising and always interesting. Currently on Amazon and definitely worth  a watch.

Knightfall – While desperately waiting for the next series of The Last Kingdom I thought I would give this a go as it seemed like my kind of thing. Created by the History channel at first I thought it would be a very dry retelling of events surrounding the Knights Templar. Two minutes into the first episode and that preconception was shattered. This is a saucy, violent, action drama with larger than life characters. It involves Templars living in France after the fall of the Holy Land and their quest to locate the Holy Grail. Yes, that very special cup that was lost. As well as the Knights getting up to no good there is also the interwoven intrigue and drama of the French court where Philip rules with an iron fist. It’s fun, and I’m sure not at all historically accurate but it is always entertaining.

Stumptown Vol. 2 – This comic book series written by Greg Rucka was recently optioned for TV. A pilot was made with Cobie Smulders in the lead role as Dex Parios, a PI operating out of Portland, Oregon and it has now been picked up for a full first series. Each volume of the comic book focuses on a different case and this down on her luck PI is reminiscent of the Rockford Files, which Rucka has said was an influence on this book. Quirky, funny and unpredictable, Stumptown takes the time to build its characters, which means when it comes to the TV adaptation which is probably due to air later this year, they have plenty of source material to draw on.

Joyride – Remember when comics just used to be really light-hearted fun with some drama? I say that as a lifelong comic book fan. Sometimes I just want to watch or read something light, exciting and enjoyable that’s not challenging anything or commenting on anything in today’s society. At least, not in too obvious a way. Joyride tells the story or 3 teenagers who steal a spaceship and go off into space to have adventures. That’s it. Drama and excitement follows.

Mister Miracle – This twelve issue comic book series (now collected into one volume) by Tom King and Mitch Gerads from DC comics is one of the best comics I’ve read in many many years. It’s also very difficult to describe. It is self contained, so even if you’ve never read any DC comics before or are not familiar with the characters you can read it and the story will make sense. What it is actually about beyond the surface story is for you to decide. I’m not going to tell you what I think it is about because there’s a lot going on and if I try to outline what I think it is about I will probably miss a bunch of stuff and then later want to add to it as I think about it. This is also a comic I will be able to reread multiple times in the future and get something different from it. I believe it is Tom and Mitch’s finest work to date, not that either of them have been slouches up to now.

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding – This is the first fantasy novel in a new series by Wooding who is already a very accomplished author who has written YA, fantasy, a SF steampunk series about space pirates, amongst many other books. I’ve written a longer review on Goodreads about it but here is the start – This is a mighty beast of a book, clocking in at over 800 pages. To be fair, Wooding handles the story with his usual balance of cracking action, rich characters that you genuinely care about and wonderful worldbuilding. If Grimdark is a thing in publishing, and maybe it is just a label for the tone of a book, this is the opposite, it is Noble Bright, or whatever you want to call it. Full review is here but in short, read it. You won’t be disappointed.

What have you been watching? Read any good comics?

 

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Recent TV

The joy of Netflix means I can start on a series and just really soak into it, and consume the whole thing in one stretch. No waiting weekly for episodes, and go at my own pace. There are some shows that are released weekly, to keep them in line or just behind the US, but for those I’m just stockpiling episodes until the series is done. It’s not as if there’s nothing else to watch in the meantime.

I’ve avoided spoilers in the following, so I’ve not given away anything about the stories for anyone who is worried.

The Last Kingdom – I’m not sure why I held off watching this show for so long. I’m a big fan of Bernard Cornwall’s books, I enjoyed the odd Sharpe episode back in the day with Sean Bean, and I’m a massive fan of his Arthurian trilogy. This falls into the same kind of mould, based on his long running book series that has been renamed to The Last Kingdom series I believed. Only instead of King Arthur, we’re focusing on King Alfred of Wessex.

Uhtred Ragnarson, son of Uhred of Bebbanburg is a Dane, but not, an English man of Northumberland but also not and heir to Bebbanburg (Bamburgh to use its modern name). Fantastic stuff. I cannot fault the show. The cast is amazing and some characters are really interesting, both to love and hate, sometimes at the same time. Uhtred himself is not someone you always root for and I have to praise David Dawson who plays King Alfred. You want to hate him so much for some of his decisions and yet a moment later you feel sympathy and can understand his motives. Such a gloriously rich and layered character, it must have been a dream of a role for the actor. The brilliant Ian Hart as Father Beocca and so many of the others in the cast are amazing, especially those who play Hild, Finan, Brida, Steapa and Leofric. Three glorious series to soak into, do it now, and season 4 is in production.

Titans – So, as an old school long time DC comics fan I was torn about this and initially had mixed feelings. I read Teen Titans growing up. I know the characters and the trailer for the TV showed something very different. However, I gave it a shot and if you can get past some of the changes to the main characters, and put that aside then it’s an enjoyable show. The writers had to change some stuff to adapt it to TV, and I don’t have an issue with that, but at times it feel as if some of the violence and language was dialled up to 11 just because they could, not because it was always necessary for the story. Changing characters is fine, as long as they stay true to the heart of them.

Dick Grayson is a lot angrier than normal, however, they explain why this version id Dick is like that. Kori is perhaps the most difficult character to do in a TV series (more so than Beast Boy in fact with modern CGI) because she’s not human. She has orange skin, which the could have created using CGI, however, it would mean wherever she went people would stop and stare, and since it’s supposed to be set in the real world where there aren’t many aliens walking around, I can see why they didn’t go with that. The actress in the role Anna Diop fills the character with warmth, heart and compassion, and I think she did an amazing job, although the wardrobe they gave her initially, and in the trailer, was not a good choice, at all. It really gave out the wrong message.

The first series is also packed with a lot of cameos, and I mean A LOT. There is the potential for at least 3 spin off TV shows from this, and I know that one of them, Doom Patrol, has gone into production. In Titans we get to meet all of those characters for the first time, get a basic introduction to them and their powers, and then the story moves on. Lots of tie-ins to Batman and the city of Gotham, which is to be expected as part of the story explores Dick’s backstory. Overall I was able to put aside my issues about the changes that were made and I enjoyed it. Will definitely be tuning in for season 2.

The Punisher Season 2 – Given all of the faffing around behind the scenes between Marvel and Netflix this could be the last time we’ll see Jon Bernthal playing Frank Castle so I’ve mixed feelings. He’s the best version of Frank I’ve ever seen. The first series was perfect. Gritty, brutal and heart-breaking in equal measure. This season is trying to recapture that formula and although there are moments, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first season.

The acting is all spot on, but some of the storylines are jumbled, the pacing is off, it gets quite mixed up at times, and not in a good way, so Frank is bouncing around between things, juggling too much stuff, but it just doesn’t work. Some of the actors don’t have a lot to do except mope about, a lot. I understand this season is all about broken people and those kind of people don’t always make logical choices and deep-seated mental problems are not resolved overnight but even so, this is a TV show not a documentary and it’s an action show too, so some parts of this season were a bit repetitive which made them dull for me.

When Frank is unleashed the violence is explosive, difficult to watch and Bernthal is terrifying, as he should be in the role of Frank, a brutal force of nature. Some outstanding acting once again from a few people in the show. It’s worth watching but I don’t think this season reached the highs of season 1 by a good way. I hope there is a season 3 but I have massive doubts that will happen. I expect Netflix to announce the cancellation of The Punisher very soon and then Jessica Jones.

 

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What happened at MCM

Last weekend was the super busy London MCM Comic Con. For those who’ve never been it’s a massive event at the Excel Centre in London with tens and tens of thousands of people in attendance. I’m always amazed at how many people attend and again it was slightly overwhelming to walk through the vast crowds, many of who were dressed in cosplay. I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognise about 50% of the cosplay because many of them were from anime, computer games I don’t play (you can tell how old I am because I still call them computer games!), comics and other things I’ve probably never even heard of. Even so it was amazing to see the time and effort that people had put into their costumes. I saw several women with fairy-like wings that moved independently with some sort of motor. Very clever and creative.

Both Marvel and DC had a presence at the show this year. Marvel had taken over a whole section and had lots of cool things you could do, as well as see, including some costumes from the Thor Ragnarok film and forthcoming Black Panther film. There were also some cool statues of Captain America, Spider-man, Iron Man and the Hulk.

When not mooching around the show trying not to buy everything I went to a couple of talks and was delighted and charmed by Hayley Atwell. She was funny, warm and spoke about her time on the Marvel films and Agent Carter with great affection. It was wonderful to hear about how her relationship with various actors, such as Chris Evans, had developed over time as they’ve now worked together in the same universe on several films.

I was also on a few writing panels during the weekend alongside other science fiction and fantasy authors. Below are a few photos from our panels ,as well as Ed Cox attempting to get everyone to put on a serious author face. Without a doubt the funniest panel during the weekend was one moderated by RJ Barker. The audience, and everyone  on the panel, had no clue what was about to hit them and it was hilarious. Ben Aaronovitch was in tears several times and Guy Adams had a few funny rants.

The weekend was a lot of fun. I got to spent time with some old friends, met a few faces and came home exhausted but happy. I must thank Travis from MCM for inviting me back again and maybe I’ll see you at the next event, which is the one day Sledge-Lit festival in Derby on Saturday 25th November.

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Nine Worlds 2015

So, we’re still months away from the Nine Worlds Geekfest convention for 2015, which is taking place on 7-9th August in London but I’m writing about it on here for a couple of reasons.

I attended the event last year, and it was a remarkable event which was eye-opening and the most inclusive event I’ve ever attended with a very relaxed atmosphere. It was also kind of terrifying because in addition to co-running the podcast track with Barry Nugent of Geek Syndicate fame, I also read a section from my book Battlemage for the first time in public. The panel was called New Voices and new authors stood up in front of a room full of strangers and read for about 5 minutes. I was nervous, sweaty, gassy and generally not comfortable. I’m very much someone who normally works behind the scenes, pulling strings as it were. I’m not someone who seeks the limelight and I don’t like to be the centre of attention but this time there was nowhere to hide. But I think it went fairly well, I stumbled a couple of times but people seemed to enjoy it so that was good.

All of those nerves will have to be brushed aside or buried soon as September marks the launch of Battlemage, the first book in my trilogy, so I suspect I will be doing more public readings in the near future. I might even be doing something for it at Nine Worlds but it is too early to say just yet.

Nine Worlds also marks the return of the podcasting track. This year I’m taking a bit of a step back as I’m busy writing book 3, editing book 2, and promoting and launching book 1, so my co-host on the Comic Book Outsiders podcast, Dr Scott, is helping Barry and I run the podcast track this year.

So, we have worked out what panels we are doing for the track, now we just need more people to sign up for it. So, if you are a podcaster and you want to get involved, if you want to talk about what you do, how to do it, why you do it, when and where, and all aspects in between, then sign up on the Nine Worlds website here. As I said, still months away but we need to get it sorted ahead of time.

Even if you’re not into podcasting I would recommend the event as it has more than one track for all walks of geekdom and you will find lots of things to keep you busy for a few days. In the meantime it’s back to the writing cave.

 

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Trying Something New – A Writers’ Room

Writing is normally a very solitary thing. You sit alone and create something while staring at a screen. You can go out and write in public (if you can write in a busy and noisy environment) but it doesn’t change that it’s still just you alone in your head.

As a writer of fantasy novels, I spend a lot of time writing alone and I’ve always envied the writers’ room style I’d often heard about that’s common to TV. A group of people get together in a room for hours and hours, they brainstorm ideas, then break it all down into story arcs, episodes and even character arcs. It’s a group mind meld where the power of many brains outweighs the creative output of one.

It’s good, but it’s not quite right

In recent years I’ve been co-writing comics with a friend of mine, Pete Rogers, and we have both enjoyed the process of writing together. I should say that obviously further down the line of making a comic book it does involve other people (and it’s the same with novels) but at that initial story-burst stage, where you are throwing stuff out there, it’s normally just you.

Every day I drive 2-3 hours to and from work, and as a result I consume a lot of podcasts. Several of those I listen to feature creative people in comics, TV and film talking about their projects, but also their process and how they got started in their industry. Once again I heard several examples about the joy of a writers’ room and the unusual dynamic it creates. That itch was still there and I wanted to find a way to scratch it. But I don’t work in television and have no experience in that business, and no-one was going to invite me onto their staff just because I asked.

A Writers’ Room

So the next logical thing was to try a writers’ room approach to creating a comic book. It’s not completely new and unheard of in the industry, but it is uncommon. At the most recent Thought Bubble convention I pitched the core underlying series to a couple of writers. They were intrigued by the initial idea and where we could go with it, and they said they were interested. Then they looked at me slightly askance and perhaps with some bafflement when I said I wanted to approach it with a writers’ room style.

A couple of weeks after TB we got together online for a group Skype call. As I came up with the idea, I would act as the showrunner, as it were, so although we all had equal ownership and it became our idea, there still needed to be someone guiding the conversation. I was nervous but shouldn’t have been. I was careful in who I had approached because as well as being creative they were people I knew I could work with. My writing partners on this project are Pete Rogers and Cy Dethan.

Setting goals

On the first call we laid out the initial rules of the story and its framework. We established some goals for the short term and scheduled to meet up a month later and carry on from there. In that first call, which was less than two hours long, we accomplished more than Pete and I had done as a partnership in months. When I came off the call I was buzzing with excitement and energy and keen to get to work on the series. From speaking to the others I know that it also energised them.

Since then we’ve had a number of calls and each time we’ve moved the story on quite a bit in a short space of time. We’ve created a story arc, broken down the themes and then more recently we all came in with several ideas and pitched them to each other. We all said which we preferred and now we have several strong ideas to turn into first draft scripts.

As a group we’ve accomplished so much already and it’s proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience. We’ve all forced each other to be better, but also we’ve helped each other improve on our initial ideas and tease out details. I can’t wait to see where we go with this first mini series but I hope it’s just the start of something much bigger.

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That’s a wrap

Quick general update. This month has been flying by. It’s been super busy in the day job, and I’ve been stacked up at night with various things. Probably the most exciting news is that the proof of Battlemage is done! I spotted a few things, had a few more fed back to me from the publisher and I’ve sent back my comments on them. So that’s it. I’m done. That’s a wrap!

There are some tweaks to be made to the cover, but that’s not up to me and I’ve already sent in my comments. So now book 1 is completely finished for me (there’s still the whole printing and binding thing, but it’s probably not a good idea for me to do that!) and the next time I see it, Battlemage the book will be a thing. A physical artefact that I can hold in my hand. The final sum total of years of work by many people. It’s very scary and also the prospect of seeing the book is one of the most exciting things in my life. It is literally a dream come true.

So now I’m trying to get my head back into book 2, then send that off and I will hopefully have a gap of a few months to sink back into book 3 and make some good progress.

Other stuff, episode 169 of the Comic Book Outsiders podcast is out now which I co-host. We talk about some of the latest geek news, and then in terms of comics we revisit The Fuse, Letter 44 and Southern Bastards. Also episode 18 of Bags of Action is out, part 3 of our trilogy to Arnie and we discuss Predator, a classic film of the late eighties.

The newest comic book project I’ve been working on, and actually the one I can say the least about, is proving to be the most exciting and it is racing ahead. It’s proving to be both incredibly challenging and also very rewarding because of it’s unusual nature and the approach. Hopefully I can share some more details about this soon.

So, in the meantime, it’s back to work on the second draft of book 2, enjoying the current mid-season break of TV shows as I have less to distract me. In April it all kicks off with Eastercon, Dyprosium, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and a bucket load of new Marvel Lego to go with it. Lots of awesome stuff to look forward to.

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October Status Update

For my 100th post I was trying to think of something special, but kept coming up blank, but this is kind of special for a number of reasons. So it will have to do.

Books

Battlemage – So, I’ve just finished the latest draft of book 1, Battlemage, and it has now gone off to the copy editor. This is someone who has not read the book before, so it is a fresh pair of eyes who can hopefully spot all the mistakes and errors, major and minor, that I can’t see because I’m still just too close to the story and characters. That will be coming back to me fairly soon.

Book 2
The first draft is done. I hit my deadline with a couple of days to spare, and I’m reasonably happy with it. Kind of. Well, there were a number of things I knew that I had to fix, and managed to get those done before I sent it off, but once I have some distance from it others will jump out at me. Right now I have my face pressed up against the trees, so all I can see is the bark, and not the shape of the forest, but I think I know what it looks like from far away, if you see what I mean. The other thing I’m realising now after writing two books in close succession is, there’s always what you intend the story to be and what it becomes. A theme has emerged that I didn’t realise was there, and perhaps it always was in the dark recesses of my subconscious, but only by writing it all down was I able to see it clearly. Or perhaps it simply developed during the process of writing the book. Either way, I’m happy with that newly revealed core and I like some of the unexpected twists that cropped up, surprising me along the way.

Book 3
So, back to page one and a blank page. Actually, it’s not terrifying me. I’ve started many books before and although this time I have a deadline it doesn’t feel different. I’m still writing on evenings and weekends after the day job and I do as much as I can when I’m not too tired.

Podcasting
A while ago, Scott, my co-host, and I decided to take a step back from podcasting. We’d become too entrenched and were almost producing it just for the sake of doing it. Some of the fun had fallen away, so we stopped podcasting for a while. Also when things started to move on my side with the novels, we didn’t think it would be appropriate for us to continue doing the popular The Book Club podcast, where we reviewed SFF books and sometimes spoke to the authors, like China Miéville and Lauren Beukes.

Then we realised we missed the discussion and debate and just talking to each other at length. So we came back to it with new ideas and a new podcast, Bags of Action, which I now co-host with Pete Rogers. Very recently Scott and I have decided to change things with our main geek genre podcast, Comic Book Outsiders. Despite the name, we don’t just talk about comics. It’s more a platform to discuss all things within the genre, comics, books, TV, film, tech, and any other cool stuff that catches our eye. We’ll be announcing something in about the next month or so about what we’re doing, so watch this space as I’ll put the info on here as well. We’ve definitely rediscovered the fun and the uniqueness of the medium. It’s changed a lot in the seven years since we started in July 2007.

Comics
The Flux train moved ever forward, just very slowly. More great pages are coming in from the artist, Maysam Barza, and my co-writer Pete and I are busy rejigging the script to issue 1 to make it more in keeping with the location and native dialogue. We’ve had some great feedback from members of the Comics Experience forum and are now trying to make things clearer on the page. We’re also speaking to a couple of letterers to see how they would bring the story to life as neither Pete or I are professional letterers. I thought book publishing was slow, but sometimes comics really does take the biscuit.

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Stuck in the middle

I’ve not posted in a couple of weeks because I’ve been busy doing a number of different things. For the last few months I have been chipping away gradually on the first draft of book 2 in my fantasy trilogy. Progress has been steady, sometimes it flows, other times I’m distracted by all of the other stuff going on in my life and the words come out very slowly. But I am gradually getting there, bit by bit.

Last week all of that changed when I received my edits for book 1, Battlemage, from Jenni Hill my editor at Orbit. So since then I’ve been reading through those, going through the book, making changes, whittling, reshaping and generally making it better. I’ve also been away from Battlemage long enough and have had my head in another space that I can look back on it a bit more critically. I can see what I was trying to do, if the characters are as rounded as I hoped, if the pacing is right, and where the wrinkles lie. I can also see how much is actually on the page and how much remains in my head. After living with characters and a story for years and then writing it all down, I sometimes miss out certain small pieces that explain the motivation of characters, or how the dots join up in the story. In my head it’s been implied or is clearly there on the page when it isn’t, so it is vitally important to have other people look at the work and point at the voids or lack of explanation.

This editing process is going to continue for the next couple of months, then I will jump back to writing book 2, while still mulling book 3 over in the back of my head. The spine of the story for book 3 is there, the main characters are there, I know some of the major beats I want to hit, but at some point I’ll sit down and make more notes to flesh it all out. All of that will happen once the first draft of book 2 has gone off. It does help that all three books are part of a much larger story, and they all connect to one another and lead in to one another, but it also means there are a lot more balls to keep in the air at the same time.

As well as the novels I’ve also submitted an OGN I co-wrote and am working on a couple of other comic book projects and planning the podcast mini-track for the 9 Worlds convention this August in Heathrow. So once again there is a lot going on, but not all of it is happening at once which is a relief. Juggling balls is definitely an apt description of how things are at present and how they will remain for the foreseeable future.

I’m still trying to keep my brain active with fresh content, which I think is important, so as ever I am always reading one book and at the moment am keeping pace with that, usually it is between three and four books a month. The one Dresden Files a month re-read continues, so I should get to the new book Skin Game some time next year. I’m still reading a stack of comics every month as it’s easier to pick them up, read for 20 minutes and get a good chunk of story. My TV viewing has slowed even more so than usual, so I’m constantly behind on just about everything current, but a few series are now wrapping up, which is kind of a relief. It means I get to catch up with everyone else and join in with the conversations. But, for the time being, I’m writing. Better get back to it.

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Comics are a medium not a genre

I thought this post was apt as Saturday 3rd May is Free Comic Book Day. A date where shops order a quantity of special comics which they then give away free. It generates a lot of business for them and it attracts a lot of people, some of whom will hopefully be new readers. So if you’ve not tried comics before, now is the time to try.  Also if you’re not convinced about comics, keep reading.

Comics are a medium not a genre. I’ve said it many times already and no doubt I will continue to say it many more times in the future. For those who don’t read comics, for those who’ve only become aware of them via other media, in particular films, it can seem like comics are just superheroes. But it’s worth repeating, comics are a medium, not a genre.

During the last fifteen years or so, comic book movies have gone from those that don’t appear to be based on comic books at all, such as Blade, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, The Losers, RED, right up to billion dollar box office smash hits with larger than life characters in bright costumes, like The Avengers, Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the X-Men franchise. It’s a wonderful and amazing time to be a comic book fan as now we can enjoy seeing these characters all over the world, and watch as people discover them for the first time. The films might even attract a few new readers to the comic book medium, but sometimes there’s still that moment of surprise that comics are more than superheroes.

If you walk into a bookshop, a Waterstones in the UK, or Barnes and Noble in the USA, you wouldn’t expect every title on the shelf to just be crime, or history books, or biographies. It’s exactly the same with comics. For every single genre you can think of, and many you’ve probably never considered before as they mash-up different elements, there is a comic book. Superheroes dominate the US and UK comic book market, and I have a theory about why this is which I will come back to, but in other countries superheroes are seen as just one of many genres, not the main focus.

Comics are an important medium. There, I said it. Over the years I’ve heard many stories of how children first learned to read with comics and how it helped create a love of stories and reading in general. That has to be something that is cherished and encouraged. We all start out with picture books as very small children with only a few words, which then progresses to fiction and non-fiction for school work. But comics are not a poor man’s novel, it is a unique medium which I’ll address in a bit.

Comics can and have been used to tell some of the most important stories in modern history. Art Spiegelman chronicled the experiences of his father, a Polish Jew, during the Holocaust and his life at Auschwitz. It is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read and in 1992 it was the first comic book to win a Pulitzer Prize. Yes, THE Pulitzer Prize for an outstanding work of journalism or literature. Only last year Top Shelf Comics published March, a graphic novel memoir about US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis who has been fighting for equality for over 50 years. March includes his memories of the Civil Rights Movement, including the 1963 March on Washington, and it is his first-hand account of the struggles over the years. It is an important piece of literature that just happens to be in comic book form.

Of course comics don’t have to be about heavy subjects. They can be light fun, entertaining, humorous, silly and entertaining. From coming of age stories, to romance, to horror, to westerns to crime to science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading superhero comics, but now I read all sorts, such as Saga, an intergalactic space adventure, reminiscent in some ways of Star Wars, or Sixth Gun, a pulpy horror western, or Grandville, an anthropomorphic steampunk crime adventure series. I still read and enjoy superheroes, but like any other medium I don’t just stick to one genre. The possibilities with comics are endless.

Comics are also a unique medium. They’ve existed in one form or another for thousands of years and a creative team on a comic book (writer, penciller, inker, colourist, letterer) can create stories in such a way that it can’t be done in the same way in any other medium. Scott McLeod is a cartoonist and comic book theorist who has written several non-fiction graphic novels about this that detail different aspects of comics, from their ancient history to their rapid evolution. He breaks down and explains some of the elements that make comics unique and a remarkable medium. Understanding Comics is the first of his books and the best place to start if you’re interested, then he moved on to Reinventing Comics which looked at how much comics had changed since he first started writing Understanding Comics. The medium is also constantly evolving and being reimagined by creative people who even now do things on the page that I’ve never seen before.

Going back in time a little, and focusing on the American market, comic books in multiple genres used to be common. During the 1970s, Marvel published among other things horror, western, war, martial arts, and humour comics. These days both Marvel and DC, the two biggest publishers in the US market are synonymous with superhero comics. They do a little in other genres, but superheroes are their bread and butter. They feed into all of the other areas, from film and TV to computer games, merchandise, toys and even clothing. But it all comes back to those iconic heroes. So why are we still obsessed with them?

I have a theory, and it’s not an original one, so I’m not claiming I came up with it first, but of the many ideas I’ve heard it seems the most plausible to me. Superhero comic books are the equivalent of modern myths and legends. I grew up reading the likes of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Greek and Roman myths and legends, folk tales from all around the world in fact, and these parables and mythological stories are being replicated in comics. They are the ongoing adventures of larger than life characters. Some superhero characters are direct figures from mythology in modern day, such as Thor and Hercules, some are obvious analogues such as The Flash as Mercury, Aquaman as Poseidon. Some are not as clear cut and they represent ideals such as Hope, Justice and Equality, but these basic principles, wrapped up in an interesting character never go out of fashion. There are other reasons we love superheroes, but I believe this is a key element.

I realise that getting into comics can be difficult and intimidating. But this weekend is the perfect opportunity to try if you’ve not done so before. If you have a local comic shop go along and talk to the person behind the counter. Tell them the kind of genres that interest you, the type of stories you like, even the type of TV shows and books you read. They’ll be able to point you in the direction of a few different places to start. Getting into superhero comics can be difficult, with over 75 years of character history in some cases, but there again they can give you some good jumping on points. If you don’t have a local shop, then I’m happy to make suggestions myself. So tell me what kind of stories you enjoy, in any medium, and I’ll try to pair you up with some comics to suit your interests. There’s a lot going on in comics and if you’re reading them then you are missing out on some amazing stories.

 

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Comic Book Projects Update

It’s been a while since I posted about my current comic book projects, so I thought a quick update would be appropriate. Maysam Barza is still hard at work on the art on Flux, a 4 issue mini series I am co-writing by Pete Rogers. Below is a page that is currently in progress, and you can see how Maysam builds it up in layers. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Wonderful attention to detail.Flux2

I’m also co-writing a fast paced thriller mini series, again with Pete. We are working with a wonderful artist called Simone Guglielmin​i whose work I first saw on Near Death from Image comics, written by Jay Faerber. Below is a rough sketch for a dramatic moment in issue 1 of our comic. Even rough we were both very impressed by Simone’s ability to capture the mood so well. I’m really excited to see what he comes up with next.The Promise

There are a couple of other comic book projects in the works, but nothing to show yet. More info when I have it.

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