Category Archives: Comics

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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Thought Bubble 2013

Last weekend was the Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds. What started out as a small one day event in the basement of town hall with maybe twenty five tables, has grown into a two day event with a couple of hundred tables spread out across three halls. A few years ago it relocated to a different part of the city with bigger facilities, and more space for guest talks and panels. The first year there were predominantly UK comic book creators, but now every year the organisers bring over several big names from overseas. A couple of years ago one of the biggest names was John Romita Jnr, last year it was Mark Waid and Jason Aaron, this year there were several well known creators including Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue Deconnick. As well as well known writers and artists, there were many inkers, letters and colourists, and several editors from comic book companies including Marvel, Image and Titan, who offered art portfolio reviews. So there’s a real spread of creators, and I’ve not yet mentioned the many independent comic book creators from across the UK and wider afield who were there with their books.

Thought Bubble is a purely comic book focused convention, so there are no games, TV or film people. The two day con is part of a larger week of events in the city, but the weekend is purely comic book focused. I’ve been going since the first year and have seen it grow significantly. Relative to US cons it’s still very small, and it’s smaller than some of the big London conventions that mix together comics, TV, film, video games etc, where you might get 5-10 thousand attendees over the weekend. I believe Thought Bubble is nowhere near that, but that’s fine, as it makes it a more intimate and less pressured convention. The big named creators had constant lines for signings and sketching, so they were working hard all weekend, but I suspect it was not as tense or stressful as the US cons.

Every time I speak to people about the convention they all say it has a very unique vibe to other UK comic cons and many have said it’s their favourite. Overseas visitors have also said how much fun they had and maybe it’s because there isn’t a wall between creators and fans. During the day they’re behind tables and fans are in front, but at night everyone is usually in the same place, fans and creators. Last year I stood behind Jason Aaron as he had a drink and a chat with his friends and I did the same. I could have gone up and introduced myself, said hello and that I liked his work, but I don’t know him, and I could have done that during the day. At night he was relaxing with his friends, so I didn’t bother him. People didn’t swamp any of the big names. They were there, in the crowd, talking with people and having a good time, but people just left them alone. Maybe it’s a British thing and we’re overly polite. For us it’s not uncommon to see Kieron Gillen spinning his disks and being the DJ for the party, or seeing Al Ewing shaking his stuff on the dance floor. This year I was introduced to someone by a mutual friend, I shook his hand, said I enjoyed his work and we chatted for a little bit, and then he and his friends went to the bar. He was one of the big names from this year but I’m not going to claim we’re now best buddies or that I know him. The convention certainly has an interesting dynamic, but this sort of inclusiveness is common at UK comic cons like Bristol and previously the Birmingham comic con.

For me the convention has become more about catching up with people than the comics. I like browsing the halls and seeing what’s out, but it’s at this event I’m able to catch up with a group of people I might only see once a year in person. I talk to lots of them online via social media and email, even Skype with some, but it’s just not the same. So it was great to catch up with old friends, share stories of the year gone by over a pint, speculate about the future and discuss our plans and ambitions. The convention is almost at year end, so it’s a good point for me to become a little reflective and look back over the last ten months or so. As a slight aside, although my co-host Scott and I have not hung up our podcasting microphones, and we now put out episodes as and when we want to, it was nice that several people mentioned to us that they still listen and enjoy the show. As various comic book projects creep forward, I am hopeful that by Thought Bubble next year I might be behind a table, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. As ever and when I can, I’ll post updates on various writing projects.

One year I’d like to visit one of the big US comic conventions, to experience the chaos and madness, to swim through the seemingly endless crowds and see how much they differ from UK conventions. But for now, I’m happy to spend time at UK cons like Thought Bubble which are inclusive, familiar and a great deal of fun.

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November update

I’ve not posted in a bit as ever since I came back from WFC I’ve been pretty busy with various projects. So just a quick round up of what’s going on at the moment.

The game is still in the testing phase, I just received a message to download another version for me to play with. So it’s still moving forward which is great, and I’m 99% it will be out next year. More info when I have it.

The day after I got back from WFC I received the next round of edits from my agent on the novel. So I’m currently hip deep in them, whittling, chopping, refinishing and polishing for all I’m worth. Lots of massaging stuff, trimming out extra bits that, at the time I thought were cool, but now they’re just extra weight and they slow down the main story. Not sure how long I will need for this, but I’m aiming to get it all done before the Christmas holidays so I can switch off this part of my brain for a few days.

killianApparently not content with the number of existing comic book projects I had on the go, I approached my co-writer on Flux, Pete Rogers, with another idea. We bashed it around, whipped it into shape and then approached an artist we’d both been chatting to for a couple of years via social media. We told him about the idea and what we wanted to do with it, and that was it, he was onboard. He’s currently working on another project, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing character sketches for us in his spare moments. So I’m delighted to say Pete and I are now working with Near Death artist from Image comics, Simone Guglielmini. So, above is a rough character sketch from Simone for a cop called Killian. At this early stage I can’t share too much, but I can say it’s a creator owned action thriller mini series written by Pete and myself. We’ll be submitting it to publishers next year.

Flux, the second project co-written with Pete is still moving forward. Our artist Maysam is busy working on issue 1. I previously posted a part of artwork so dig back through previous posts for that if you want to see it.

Comic project 3 – This is the new project with Adam Bolton. Very early stages. We bashed around various ideas until we settled on something we both liked. It’s wacky, weird, and a lot of fun. Currently waiting for Adam to come back with some preliminary sketches. Thought Bubble, the comic book convention in Leeds takes place in two weeks, so I’m hoping to have a catch up in person with Adam who is attending the event for the first time.

Comic project 4 – This is a supernatural crime mini series, and again, I’ve developed it to the point where the artist attached is now working on the cover for issue 1 and the first 5 pages to create a submission packet. We’ll be submitting this next year to publishers.

So, as ever, there are lots of things ticking along and I poke various projects to keep them all moving. Also a couple of other longshot, long-term projects are ticking along, but right now most of my spare time is focused on the novel, getting my head back into that space, going through it at a micro level but also a macro level. Stepping back and saying, does this make sense? Does this flow? Do I really need this or do I just want it? Lots of angst, chewing my nails and anxiety. Fun!

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Coming About

The comics market is changing. That’s not news, it’s always changing and adapting. However what is perhaps news to some and is becoming more and more obvious to me, is that the Big2 publishers, Marvel and DC, are no longer the Final Destination for creators, probably writers more so than artists.

For years, breaking in (in my mind at least) meant doing some indy work, self publishing, doing enough work of some sort to get noticed so that someone further up the food chain said hey, let’s give this guy a one shot on Spider-Man Team Up, and see how he does on a Batman tie-in book. If it flies and sell well, then they give the writer or artist a bit more work until they develop into a named Talent. People start referring to the book as Johnny NewGuy’s Spider-Man or NewGuy’s Batman. At which point they’ve made it. Roll credits.

In the last, probably ten years or so, there’s been a shift. Talent, to one degree or another, has always done creator owned work alongside their work for hire gigs. Exclusive contracts used to be par for the course, now they’re rare. Working for one of the Big2 doesn’t guarantee X number of books per month anymore and therefore a steady income. Creators write for 3 or 4 or even 5 different publishers each month, to create a steady income which enables them to write comics full time.

A few years ago (before the Walking Dead was THE WALKING DEAD) and long before Robert Kirkman was known well outside the comics industry, he tried to inspire other comic creators to follow in his wake with a video, where his call to arms was mostly mocked or ignored. He tried to explain that the industry was changing, and that if you worked for the Big2 for the rest of your life, at the end of the day you’d be left with nothing. No creator rights to the characters, because it’s work for hire, so no pension of any kind and there’s no union for creators. No payouts if anyone adapts your character for another medium, which was also on the rise at the time.

He suggested that while you are in the spotlight and you do have an enthusiastic fan base and are a known named Talent, create something original that you will own 100%. Some in the industry listened, some said we’re already doing it, some just couldn’t take the risk of stepping away from a regular monthly salary to jump into the abyss and hope that the idea of a bungee cord became a reality before they hit the financial rock bottom. People have to pay the bills, put food on the table so there’s no blame being thrown around.

Another shift came, maybe five years ago, whereby the number of well known Talent, doing creator owned work alongside their Big2 was steadily increasing. For many reasons I don’t know, and a few that were discussed  at length in public, several well known creators walked away from the Big2. Some went into other industries, some self published, some produced comics via Kickstarter and creator owned books with other publishers, some worked for smaller publishers and the scales started to tip.

If they don’t already, then in a couple of months Image comics will have 10% of the monthly comics market. A few years ago, that 10% comprised of all of the independent comic book companies. In ten years I wonder what the landscape will look like and right now I suspect the split will be much more even three ways between the Big2 and all of the other publishers combined.

Now, more and more of these known creators, the Talent, with loyal fans are producing some of the most innovative and interesting comics in the industry. There are no IP rights to exploit, no shareholders to pacify, no limits. Now while the monthly sales figures for most of these creator owned titles are nowhere near those of the Big2, that is changing too. Saga was just outside of the top 20 sales figures for August 2013, and The Walking Dead was at number 12. However, the money the creators are receiving is still very healthy, because their slice of the pie is much bigger and there are fewer mouths to feed.

Just to clarify, the Big2 are not evil corporations. They’re not destroying the comics industry. They’re businesses with well known icons and IP, and they want to make money and tell stories. They want to promote their brands to as many people as they can across as many mediums as they can, be it TV, film, animation, merchandise or comics. Working for them is not working for the Dark Side, but now it’s not the end of the story, it’s just another step on the road. Creators who do work for them should be totally aware that anything they create does not belong to them. So if they want something that is completely their own, there are many opportunities and different avenues out there. You can have your cake and eat it. In fact, now is exactly the right time to do that.

New York Comic Con is running as we speak, and while the Big2 are coming out with lots of announcements, I’ve found I’m actually more interested in the creator owned series and independent work from the well known Talent because I have no idea of what they might do and where they might go. The deck is definitely shifting beneath my feet.

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Ongoing Adventures in Digital Comics

Back in June, I posted about Digital Comics and my foray into going digital with a monthly comic. A few months on I thought I’d post a bit of an update.

As mentioned, when digital comics were first taking off, comic book retailers threw a hissy fit thinking it would hurt them and mean their days were numbered. The opposite has happened. The trend seems to be, those who are reading digital comics are actually reading more physical comic books as well. One has not leached numbers from the other. It could be because digital gives them a taste of that wonderful comic book drug, and then they just have to seek out physical comics to get another fix! Or, the digital comics acted as gateway books, gave them an idea of what they like and don’t, and then it enabled fairly new readers to go into a shop and pick up a collection or start a monthly pull list. I’m sure there are many reasons, but there’s one I’ve not seen discussed very much, which I wanted to suggest.

I believe, one of the reasons, not the only one, that digital sales have not cannibalised physical comic sales is that some of the readers live in countries where getting hold of physical copies of monthly comics on a regular basis is not easy. Or, when it does happen, it is months behind, and then there is the problem of missing issues, and having to just guess what happens, or read about it online.

I’m lucky because I’ve always lived near a comic shop since I was about twelve, and also living in the UK, we used to get American monthly comics one day after America. Now, UK retailers get them on the same day as their US brethren. But, if you live in Romania, or Russia, or China, and you want to read Detective comics, if you want to be a part of your tribe’s discussion, when it happens, if you want to feel like a part of that community, relying on physical comics is not easy. In this shrinking world, with it’s 24 hour news culture, the constant buzz of information, people are always switched on, connected, plugged in. So who wants to be left behind and find out 2 years from now what happened at the end of the Court of Owls in Batman?

Mark Millar has a theory which he’s mentioned a few times that most people who read digital comics are casual readers only, and that day and date releases are not a good idea. To be fair to him, he’s said the latter as he was worried about retailers, but I think he’s very wrong for the reason I’ve outlined above. I’m not alone in this as Brigid Alverson outlined in a CBR article back in May.

As someone who is not a casual comic book fan, and someone who has taken a bigger plunge into the digital comic book world, I’ve found that something unusual has happened. Or rather, it’s exactly what I’ve described above. I’ve actually found I’m reading a few digital monthly comic books, whereas back in June my initial plan was to read one and see what happened. I’ve discovered new and interesting titles via all of the usual channels (podcasts, comic book websites, word of mouth and recommendations). There are definitely some pros and cons to digital comics, which I’ll come back to in another post, but for now below is a list and a brief description.

Secret 1 Image comicsSecret – Not an easy comic to describe, but to give you an idea of the flavour, it involves espionage, kidnapping, mysteries, revenge, hitmen, and it focuses on the characters in a private security firm. This is written by Jonathan Hickman, who is known for having big, complex ideas and out of all of his independent work, I prefer this over Manhattan Projects, which I enjoy. This is less zany, cartoony, totally grounded in reality, but there are layers and puzzles and intrigue. From Image comics.

LazarusLazarus – Written by one of my favourite writers in the industry and drawn by one of the best. In a near dystopian future, governments no longer exist and the Families rule. Each has certain advantages and are masters of certain technologies or resources that keep them above everyone else who they exploit. Part mystery, part near-SF, part action thriller, it follows one of the Family’s protectors, a woman called Forever Carlyle, who is shrouded in mystery and I won’t say any more as it’s a fascinating and brilliant read. From Image comics.

Suicide RiskSuicide Risk – Mike Carey writes an ongoing superhero comic for Boom! Studios, which means he can write the story he wants without worrying about protecting the IP. People with powers are popping up, the police are fighting a losing battle and most of those who do have powers seem to be dangerous maniacs or villains. An ordinary cop gets dragged into trying to track down some of the most dangerous but it’s not all action. Carey takes time to make you care about the main character, his family and his relationships. Lots of unexpected twists and turns in this story and we’re only 4 or 5 issues in. Very liberating because I genuinely have no idea what is going to happen next.

Archer and ArmstrongArcher and Armstrong – this is from Valiant comics. They publish about 6 monthly titles. That’s it. They’re not connected, they’re all very different, the writers and artists are all excellent and all a lot of fun. Archer and Armstrong is funny, wacky, full of action, mysticism, adventure, weird cults and genuine laugh out loud moments. Archer is the product of a weird religious cult bent on destroying the ultimate evil, Armstrong is an immortal drunk and the ultimate evil Archer was hunting. The odd couple end up on a globe trotting adventure. A really fun rollicking good adventure.

Red SonjaRed Sonja – From Dynamite comics, written by Gail Simone. Not sure if it needs much of a description but if you’ve never read Red Sonja before it is a fantasy comic book focused around the titular hero who is a sword wielding red haired warrior. Also you don’t need to have ever read any previous issues of Red Sonja and can jump on with this series which is only 3 issues in so far. Gorgeous artwork, great storytelling, fantastic fun with swords.

SidekickSidekick – Written by JMS, creator of Babylon 5, who has written mainstream comics for decades. In the last couple of years he’s started doing more creator owned comics, and now has his own sub studio imprint at Image comics calls Joe’s comics. This is a dark superhero comic, with art by one of my favourite artists of all time, Tom Mandrake. The setup is what happens when the great hero, a Superman archetype, is taken out of the picture. The big hero everyone knows and loves is assassinated and his sidekick is left with nothing, in a world where he doesn’t seem to fit without his friend and mentor. It’s pretty bleak at times, but the sidekick searches for answers, for a place to belong and a way to matter. Definitely for adults only and because it’s not tied to any big named characters JMS can go in all sorts of directions you would never see in a mainstream superhero title.

strangersOther honourable mentions that I pick up are Mysterious Strangers from Oni Press, it’s fabulous light hearted pulpy fun. Edison Rex from Monkeybrain Comics which is a digital only comics publisher (with physical collections later on down the line) and I’ve been reading some titles on Thrillbent, Mark Waid’s online digital comics experiment website where there are lots of interesting ideas. My favourite is The Eighth Seal by James Tynon.

I’ll come back to digital comics again in another post with some of my pros and cons. But for now I’m enjoying digital comics, there is a lot of great stuff out there, and I’m reading more comics and looking forward to the almost weekly digital pull list.

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Man of Steel

I’ve held off writing a post about this, mostly because I wanted to get some distance from the film, so I could write about it with some perspective. In the end I managed to say everything I wanted to on the latest episode of the Comic Book Outsiders podcast I co-host with Scott Grandison. We’re now putting out episodes as and when we feel the need, although we used to be fortnightly. So if you’ve only just heard about this now for the first time, there are 5 years of podcasts on iTunes to get through. I’ll wait here until you’re finished.

I ended up speaking about the film it a fairly calm and mostly wounded manner, although I did have a good rant about some fans reactions to the recent Doctor Who casting news. So if you’ve not seen Man of Steel or don’t want to know who the new Doctor is, then I’d skip those bits.

Looking ahead to Man of Steel 2, or whatever they end up calling it, I remain nervous and anxious. I’m worried because the same director looks set to sit in the chair, and I sincerely hope all of those involved in making the big decisions about the new film listen to the genuine concerns that have been raised. Not the fanboy moans about the shield being the wrong shape, or Jimmy being Jenny, or a thousand other tiny things that don’t actually matter. I mean the big things. The contradictions. Clark apparently not caring about the wanton destruction he inflicts upon humanity in one breath and then doing something totally against character to save a single family. The big stuff, the character issues that sit at the very heart of the character and the message he stands for. It may not be what Siegel and Shuster intended when they created Superman, but that is what he has come to mean over the last seventy years. Hope, caring for your fellow man, that every life counts, that there is good in every person and that we can be great as a people in time.

Dark and gritty and humourless doesn’t work for Superman. He’s the light, Batman is the shadow. They work so well together, sometimes, because they are so different. He wants to bring Batman into the light, he wants Batman to believe more in humanity and the belief that there is good in every one. Naive, perhaps. Inspiring, absolutely. Batman experienced first hand as a boy the evil and desperation that lurks in the hearts of men. He doesn’t always see the best in them. That’s one of the many differences between them. Right now, in the new Superman film world, they’re both different shades of grey.

Casting wise for Batman, I hope they go for someone older, with an edge. Like John Hamm, or Josh Brolin, not someone who is young dandy with a chiselled jaw. We need acting chops, we need gravitas, not dreamy eyes and great abs. Time will tell if they listen at all and who they cast, but rather than being excited, as I am by the prospect of more Avengers films, I’m just worried and nervous, which isn’t a good thing.

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Projects Update July 2013

Thought I would just do a quick general post on the projects I’m currently working on.

The Novel – The next draft has gone off to my agent for her feedback. I’ve timed it just right so that I can go on holiday in a few days and I won’t spend the entire time pondering, staring off into the distance and making notes. I’m going to chill out for a week, switch off, unplug and just unwind. It will also give me time to ponder (more quietly in the background) what I’ve written, or defrag it and reorder it in my head, to fall back on my old computing terms. Hopefully when I return I can then listen to the next set of comments and be a more detached and hopefully make the next draft even better.

The Game – I’ve been quiet on this for a while, but we’re starting to move forward again. This is a work for hire job I did where I wrote the bulk of the main story. I have to be very vague on details, but I can say it’s currently in testing, so once testing is far enough along, they will plant a flag in the sand and announce a release date. The game is innovative in many ways and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, which is one of the goals we set out with. I’m very excited to see what happens with this, but it is also another string to my bow as writing this was unlike anything I’d done before and if I get a chance I’d like to try it again in the future.

Flux – This is a comic mini series I’ve co-written with Pete Rogers and with art by Maysam Barza. We’ve now sent the submission package off into the wide world to a couple of comic book publishers. Now comes the awful waiting, the nail biting, the gnashing of teeth as we wait for an answer. In the meantime Maysam is cracking on with the next chunk of art.

ComicSeries2 – I’d not co-written something before and when I approached Pete about writing what would eventually become Flux, it was with a lot of trepidation. Writing is normally a solitary affair, except for TV where you have writers rooms (which I’ve not tried, but would love to), so I had no idea if it was a good idea and if it would work. I chose Pete very carefully too as I thought we were well suited and I thought we would get along, but again there was no guarantee. Thankfully my leap of faith paid off, it worked really well and we immediately starting talking about doing something else. There’s a working title for this but I’m keeping it mum as it might become the actual title. With this project we’re doing something completely different to Flux, totally different genre and approach and right now it’s in the early stages. But I’m feeling the same level of excitement and am looking forward to seeing what we can come up with together.

The River – Adam, Ryan and I put Empyre on the shelf, as despite what we thought was a cracking and interesting idea, with amazing art (that’s me saying that not Adam, as he doesn’t think he’s very good!), the publishers we submitted to weren’t interested. We were told there’s too much like it out there already. A big shame but we did learn a lot from it, so we just have to chalk it up to experience and move on. What Adam and I are cooking up now with The River (working title) is pretty off the wall, but I’m also keeping it pretty focused which is something I seem good at doing. It’s very different to anything I’ve developed before and we came up with the core of this idea together. It’s based on lots of different things we’re both interested in, so we keep brainstorming lots of little touches, which is making the world feel more realistic and lived in. When I get back from my holiday I’m going to press on with this with the goal of having another submission ready before the end of the year. Sounds easy, six months away and all, but experience has taught me lots of stuff gets in the way, so Christmas is reasonable and any earlier is brilliant.

Dapper Chimp web comic – Digital comics are going through a revolution, there is so much innovation in that space at the moment it’s amazing. I’m not a full convert, but I really like some of what is going on, such as what Mark Waid and others are doing at Thrillbent.com and what they’ve done with MonkeyBrain comics. They’ve produced short, punchy comics that are only available digitally, and at some point may be available as physical collections. Several different publishers have expressed an interest in different titles and they are printing the trades. Dapper Chimp was set up by Pete Rogers and the first digital comic will soon be available on ComiXology. I’ve recently developed a superhero satire in the mould of Mystery Men, as a mini series, and the idea is to publish it exclusively via Dapper Chimp and then if it does well, produce a physical printed edition at some point. The story is ready, now all I need is an artist. So if you’re a budding artist, looking for something funny but also with heart, get in touch.

The second novel – I’d actually started working on this before I submitted my first. I’ve got the spine of the story sorted, the characters are ready, most of the main beats are there and I’ve written the first couple of chapters. This has been put on hold of late but I’ve been poking around at it again recently, looking forward to it and also backwards to book 1 to make sure they fit together. They’re not connected like you’d find in a trilogy, as each book in the series is a standalone story, but there is connecting tissue between them as they’re set in the same world and linear in time. I guess I’ll inch this along as and when I can in the next few months and just see how I do.

All of that sounds like a lot, but everything moves at different speeds, so it’s rare for many things to overlap. Occasionally I do start to flap a bit, and what follows are several late nights until the pressure is off a bit, but overall I am able to juggle different things quite well. It also follows the whole ethos of not putting all my eggs into one basket.

 

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Going Digital

Digital comics have been around for a while, but it wasn’t until a couple of years that things started to really get organised. There were various options out there for quite a while, reading comics as PDF documents, reading them in weird web browser versions, all sorts of stuff. Then the rise of tablets started, they became more popular and the price came down a little as many alternatives came out to the leading brand. Then a couple of prominent digital platforms sprang up for comics. Comic companies, keen to explore all new avenues of revenue, developed their own apps for the sale of their comics.

Roughly three years ago a comic rorschach the end is nighcompany tried their first day and date experiment, releasing the digital comic on the same day as the printed copy. The retailers kicked off, announced the physical comic shop was going to die as a result, the industry was doomed and digital comics were to blame. It turned out they were wrong. Digital comics sales didn’t cannibalise physical comics sales, in fact, over time as we saw a proliferation of digital comics, the opposite has happened. Sales of physical comics increased. Digital comics are simply another sales channel, and people are buying more comics as a result, sometimes double dipping (buying digital and then physical trade paperback collections).

Small aside. Mark Millar, isn’t a believer in digital comics. He’s a strong supporter of comic retailers. He thinks digital comics are just for casual fans. I think he’s wrong. He seems to be ignoring the obvious, not everyone has easy access to a comic shop. Not everyone can get physical comics regularly in other countries, and when they can get them, they may be months behind. So they can’t take part in any part of the worldwide comics community without having stories spoilt for them, they can’t read the websites, listen to the podcasts, attend the shows. Digital comics allows fans, anywhere in the world with internet access, the ability to be an active part of the comics community.

Despite being a lifelong comic book fan I know how intimidating comic shops can be to newcomers to the medium, and I’ve spoken about this many times so I won’t labour the point. Digital comics platforms allow an individual to browse as many comics as they want without any pressure to buy, or to be experts on everything straight away. Because there is a bit of that mentality in some comic shops and I hate to see it because it scares away new readers. With digital comics, people can find their own way, dig around, try a few comics and see what they like and don’t, and if they then want to, and feel comfortable enough, will visit their local comic shop. Hopefully. Because there are all sorts of treasures and artefacts in comic shops, like oversized hardback editions, limited edition special prints, rare comic covers by all sorts of artists, absolute editions, signed comics and a tonne of other stuff. Don’t even get me started on the joy of the monthly pull list. There’s also being an active part of your local comic community, attending local meet ups and events and conventions.

DC LogoIn 2011 DC comics rebooted their whole comic book line. Every single monthly comic book was reset and all 52 titles started over with a new number one. To attract new readers, to refresh everything, and to plant a flag in the sand. They also did something else very interesting and bold that no one had ever done before. Every single book was scheduled to be released on a day and date schedule. Again the retailers kicked off, cursed DC, promised not to stock their books, all sorts of stuff. There were discussions and compromises and now digital comics typically cost the same as physical comics for at least the first month, to encourage people to go into their local shop and buy the actual book. After a month or 6 weeks, the price of the digital version drops slightly, because by then, the physical comic is often off the shelves in the shop, so it’s no longer direct competition. A little while later Marvel followed suit and now many, if not all, of their titles are also available in a digital format on release day.

ComiXologyComiXology is now the largest digital comics retailer. They’re the iTunes of digital comics, selling comics from pretty much every large publisher and many smaller publishers. Recently they’ve even opened the doors a little, so really small indy publishers can submit their comics to appear on ComiXology. Other channels for digital comics are still available, but they’re the big dog.

So, that journey has been going on, and I’ve been watching it for the last few years very closely. Now I’m not a gadget guy. I don’t like cars, don’t want the latest phone, don’t care about brands or fashion, it’s just not my thing. I’m definitely not an e-book reader. I love physical books. I understand why ereaders are useful and why some people like ebooks, and again I see them as another channel, but they’re not for me. I had the same attitude to digital comics for a long time too. Then I ended up with a tablet. Essentially I did some work for hire and I received the tablet as payment.

So, I downloaded a few digital comics. There are things I don’t like about digital comics, and I still buy and prefer physical comics, but my initial dislike has now shifted. I sometimes double dip, buy the first couple of issues of a title and if I enjoy it, I will switch to physical trade paperback collections which I buy from my local comic shops. I sometimes buy digital only comics, those crafted for mobile devices. About a year ago I tried an experiment, to read a monthly comic book only in digital format and see what happened. Sadly, through no fault of my own, the experiment ended, as the title I was following ran into trouble and it disappeared after 2 issues.

bat19So now I’m trying the experiment again. Batwing, one of the new 52 monthly comic book titles from DC, recently went through a refresh, with a new pair of writers and a shift in the story. It’s a great jumping on point, I like the writers and artist, so now I’m on board.

I’m going to try and read it on a monthly basis, digitally, and see what the experience is like. Hopefully this title will be around for a while so I will have some time to explore a longer story, but purely from a digital standpoint. I can already see some pros and cons, but I’ll come back to this in a few months and do another post.

As ever, if you’re interested in getting into comics, want to read them but don’t know where to start, then get in touch and I’m always happy to point you to some titles to match your interests and favourite genres.

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Free Comic Book Day – May 4th

The first Saturday in May every year is Free Comic Book Day, and it means exactly what you think. Every participating comic book shop orders a bunch of specially produced comics for this particular weekend and anyone is allowed to come in and pick up some of them for free. Now obviously people have to be sensible, and can’t just grab ten copies of everything, plus the free comics cover every sort of genre and age group, which is done on purpose, as they’re designed to attract new readers from across the spectrum.

What I often notice at my local shop, and has become clear from quickly perusing the list of comics this year (which you can preview here), is that there are a lot of comics for kids. I think that’s a brilliant thing and the industry needs to attract lots and lots of new, young readers. Because in 30 years time, they will be the evangelists keeping the industry alive, writing and drawing the comics, and making as much noise as possible to attract a new generation of readers and creators. Comics are doing well at the moment, the monthly numbers are up compared to a couple of years ago, but they’re not as impressive as I’d hope. I think part of this is because comics have become a transmedia phenomenon, and some young people come across and then follow comic book characters without actually reading the comics. They play the computer games, watch the cartoons and TV shows, and of course a quick look at the top grossing films at the cinema will show you, they also watch the films and buy the DVDs. But how many of them then find their way to their local comic shop, or now, buy a digital comic on their tablet or phone featuring the same character?

From speaking to both of my local comic shops I know that every year they do very well from Free Comic Book Day, because people pop along for the free stuff, and then browse the shelves and pick up other titles that catch their interest. This makes it worth them buying and paying for the free comics which they then give away to new customers. I usually tend to avoid visiting my local shops on Free Comic Book Day because they’ve already got me, they don’t need to convince me to come back, and they’re rammed with people.

Looking down the list of Free Comics, my top picks would be, Atomic Robo and Friends, Grimm, Mouse Guard, and The Tick. There are so many others

As ever, I’m always happy to recommend comics, from any genre, so if you want to start reading comics, but don’t know where to start, get in touch.

 

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Projects update April 2013

Just a quick update on current projects. The day job has been keeping me busy, but I’ve been chipping away on the creative endeavours which fuel me.

Sadly, it looks as if Empyre is dead. For now at least. We submitted it to a few comic publishers, one of which didn’t bother to respond at all, so after several months we sent it to a different one. An editor got back in touch with us, told us it was too similar to lots of other comics out there, and he thought the art was good, but not great. I disagree completely, and despite his modesty, I think Adam’s art is excellent, especially when I’ve looked back at the original pages he did a couple of years ago. He’s progressed significantly since then and he is a really good artist. As to the comic being too similar to others out there, well, I can’t find any, but perhaps they’re in the works now and will come out soon. Anyway, my disagreements don’t really matter as they don’t want it. So, we talked about self publishing, we discussed other options and decided to leave it for now and maybe come back to it. So in the meantime we’re currently thrashing some out some new ideas together, and Adam, Ryan and I will start work on something new very soon.

Flux is pretty much ready to submit to a publisher. We had to make some changes to the first few pages of art, due to external complications, so that required a rewrite and then Maysam rejigging and redrawing parts. However, that’s all done, we’re tweaking the submission document and then it can be sent off.

I also want to move forward with a digital comic idea I’ve been knocking around. The whole script is done, I just need to find an artist now with the right style and then get it moving.

On the novel front, I’ve been delaying the inevitable. I’ve been revising it, and editing it, polishing it and then polishing it again. I’m currently working my way through another polish, this time by printing it all out on paper in a different font to normal, and marking it up with a red pen. It’s slow going and I’m taking my time and trying not to rush it, but I also think I’m now just stalling. Once this latest draft is done, I’m going to submit it to the first agent on my list. This will be some time in May by the time I’m done with the red pen. I’ve very carefully drawn up a list of agents, listened to a lot of the #askagent Q and A sessions on twitter, done my homework on other authors and who they are represented by, and I’ve listened to a few agents at events. Feedback from beta readers has been positive, and I’m looking carefully at their comments, but now it’s really all up to me.

So, it’s almost time to cross my fingers, close my eyes, and hit Send.

Once it goes off, I will move forward on book 2, which I’ve actually started and have gone over the first chapter eight times already. Normally I keep moving forward, then come back and revise, but I’m being a little bit more careful this time. I suspect once in find my rhythm again it will become easier but I’m a bit rusty.

I’m still remembering to take the odd day off, relax, not do any writing and try not to feel guilty about it. I’m also trying to remember a previous promise I made to myself about getting enough sleep, which I seem to fail at regularly. So, it’s a work in progress, like everything else it seems.

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