This has been quite possibly the busiest month of my life, but it has all been worth it. The second issue of Gothic-horror series La Belle Dame Sans Merci, as featured in The Times Literary Supplement online, and BLACKOUT II: YOLO, the UK’s most offensive underground comix anthology, will both launch at Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds on 23rd November. I’ll be exhibiting with BLACKOUT co-creator Jack Fallows, who’s also launching his ode to romantic humiliation, Axolotl, in New Dock Hall, table 109.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci: Chapter Two is illustrated by Karen Yumi Lusted, with pin-ups by Jessica Monster and Anna Fitzpatrick (Kore, Between Worlds), additional design by Mike Stock (Dead Roots, VS Comics) and a bonus short story that I’ve written, giving further insight into the world of LBDSM. Based on the poem of the same name, by John Keats, and illustrated in a monochrome manga-inspired style by Karen Yumi Lusted, who’s currently living and studying in Japan, this is a dark feminist deconstruction of the myth of the femme fatale. Circumstances conspired to stop feminist pop-culture blogger Miranda Brennan from contributing a backup essay to Chapter Two, but she’ll be back next year for Chapter Three.
In his recommendation for La Belle Dame Sans Merci: Chapter One , Storm Dogs creator, David Hine, said: “P M Buchan’s loose interpretation of Keats’s poem is as enigmatic and disturbing as the source material,” and Bleeding Cool reviewer, Brett Schwaner, called it: “Beautiful and brutal, elegant and eerie… one of the best horror comics of 2012.”
BLACKOUT II: YOLO was created by me, Jack Fallows (Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic, The Big Bang), Phillip Marsden (Kerrang!, Off Life), Trystan Mitchell (Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone, Black Star) and Chris Doherty (Video Nasties, The Whale House), with lurid colours by Michael Barnes (Cornelius Blow, Potemkin 2205) and a nasty pin-up by horror-folk-punk band Harley Poe’s Joe Whiteford (Herschell Goes to Heaven).
Containing 32 pages of satirical filth about absent fathers, remorseful werewolves, drunken miscreants, accidental murderers, witchcraft, cannibalism and bestiality, this is the sequel to last year’s BLACKOUT, about which British Comic Awards judge Stacey Whittle said: “This is a really awful, depraved, sick book… It’s that hilarious (where) you feel really guilty that you’re laughing, and you know that you are a bad person,” and 44FLOOD CEO, Kasra Ghanbari, said: “Sick, brutal, odd, precise… disconcerting in much the same way as a staring contest with a pathological liar. Who are these beautifully sinister bastards?!?” In the run up to Thought Bubble I’m selling digital versions of the original BLACKOUT for only 10 pence, but you’d better snap them up quickly because these digital puppies are selling out fast.
Starburst Magazine issue 395 is also now on sale, featuring my column about comics, Adventures On Alternative Earths, in which I recommend Jonathan Cape graphic novels The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, by Isabel Greenberg, The Great War, by Joe Sacco and Lighter Than My Shadow, by Katie Green. Starburst 395 also features my one-page strip with artist James Lawrence, Noah’s Folly, which printed absolutely brilliantly. With a complete lack of respect for religion, we’ve brought Noah kicking and screaming into the BLACKOUT generation, and I think this is the best work James Lawrence has ever done.
I did make time this month to review James Smythe’s dark, modern classic, The Machine, for the Amazon Vine programme. I don’t normally shout about my Amazon Vine stuff, mostly reviewing books and toys for my kids, but this is the best novel I’ve read all year, and I urge you to read it. Themes of science, religion, love and loss collide spectacularly. It’s pretty much the best novel I’ve read since Smythe’s The Explorer, and is unmissable.
I also interviewed Ben Templesmith for Bleeding Cool. He’s promoting his new Kickstarter, with 44FLOOD, The Squidder, and from what I’ve seen this is career-best art from a dark artist whose highlights, like Welcome to Hoxford and Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, rank as some of the best English-language comics ever created. Show him some love.
Finally, on top of all the hellish work dragging LBDSM and BLACKOUT II to print, I’ve been working with Martin Simmonds and letterer Mike Stock on the beginnings of a Folk-Horror series that is the darkest, most harrowing story I’ve ever created, and art to die for. The project is still in the very early stages, but we’ll have some printed pages with us at Thought Bubble, so look for us if you want to find out more.
La Belle Dame is coming. Thought Bubble, in Leeds on Saturday 23rd, November is now the official launch date for La Belle Dame Sans Merci chapter two, which features a stunning cover by Karen Yumi Lusted, the next chapter in La Belle Dame’s quest for vengeance or redemption, a back-up essay by feminist pop-culture blogger Miranda Brennan, pin-ups by Anna Fitzpatrick, Jessica Monster and Miranda Brennan, and additional design by Mike Stock. Oklahoma-based punk-rock band For the Wolf are also recording a new track to tie in to chapter two, A Faery’s Song, which will be available to download free from Winter 2013. Keep checking this site for updates about when the track becomes available, and download a copy of For the Wolf’s Aethry to hear one of the tracks that I listened to on loop while writing chapter two.
Everything this past month has been gearing up for my appearance at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) on Saturday October 19th and Sunday October 20th, where I’ll be exhibiting in the Comics Clock Tower and sharing a table with BLACKOUT co-creator Jack Fallows. I’ll have copies of BLACKOUT and La Belle Dame Sans Merci chapter one on sale, plus a small amount of my earliest self-published comics, none of which are available online (mostly for very good reasons!). I’ll also have a very limited number of limited preview editions of La Belle Dame Sans Merci chapter two, containing the full comic strip but none of Miranda Brennan’s backup material. Come early if you want to buy a copy as stocks are extremely limited and this won’t be available online until the official launch at Thought Bubble.
October saw the release of my final column about digital comics, in issue four of INFINITY, the free digital magazine of graphic novels and sequential art published by Russell Willis and Panel Nine, creators of the deluxe iPad graphic novel app SEQUENTIAL. Not only does INFINITY contain my column, I also contributed reviews of Adam Cadwell’s The Everyday and Marc Ellerby’s Ellerbisms. If you have an iPad and like comics but haven’t downloaded SEQUENTIAL yet then you really should, as it’s pretty much the best method of reading digital comics , and you can download all kinds of free cool stuff on it, like the Off Life anthology and a festival guide for LICAF. You can also read INFINITY online, though it lacks a lot of the functionality of the iPad edition.
Mike Garley‘s zombie comic anthology Dead Roots reached its funding goal a couple of days ago, meaning that the fantastic digital anthology will now be released in paperback and hardback. The contributors come from the worlds of TV, animation, film, comic-books and games, including the likes of James Henry, Jason Arnopp and Gordon Rennie, and a number of creators like Martin Simmonds and Mike Stock that I’ve collaborated with on other comics. I’m going to write three one-page zombie strips for Dead Roots in the style of my Starburst strips if £12,000 is pledged towards the anthology, so get pledging if you haven’t already.
Starburst Magazine issue 394 goes on sale this month, containing my column about comic-books, Adventures On Alternative Earths, and my new three-page comic strip, My Heart Is Yours. In my column this month I recommend Anna Fitzpatrick’s dark meditation on depression, Kore, James Lawrence’s hyper-kinetic fruit-themed superhero, Dangerine, Gordon Rennie and P J Holden‘s supernatural adventure, Department of Monsterology, and the collected edition of Howard Hardiman‘s tender meditation on the world of gay prostitutes, The Lengths. My Heart Is Yours is illustrated by the brilliant Anna Fitzapatrick, who is definitely one of my favourite artists in the UK and whose webcomic Between Worlds is definitely worth reading. Next month’s Starburst strip, Noah’s Folly, is blaspheming fun-for-all, illustrated by James Lawrence.
Things show no sign of slowing down here. As soon as LICAF is over I’ll start devoting my attention to satirical horror-comedy anthology BLACKOUT II: YOLO, which will also launch at Thought Bubble. We’ve got some new contributors thrown into the mix with me, Jack Fallows, Kerrang! illustrator Phillip Marsden and Mike Barnes this time, and so far they’re fitting right in. By which I mean that they cry themselves to sleep every night that I send across new pages of script to be illustrated.
Everything is beginning to come together this month. Issue 2 of my gothic-horror series with Karen Yumi Lusted, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, is on schedule to be released at the Lakes International Art Festival in Kendal in October. (Issue 1 is available to buy here, with a free preview available here courtesy of Emanata app for iPad.) BLACKOUT II, with Phillip Marsden, Jack Fallows and some very special guests is on schedule to be released at Thought Bubble in Leeds in November. (You can buy BLACKOUT here, if you have a strong stomach.)
I’ve been acting as one of the jurors for the 2013 British Fantasy Awards, and this month I’ve appeared on the Longlist for the 2012/2013 British Comic Awards, in the categories of Best Comic and Emerging Talent.
I also interviewed writer Rob Sherman this month, along with Random House Digital Publisher, ‘Digital’ Dan Franklin, about their grossly interactive digital fiction, Black Crown. Rob is an innovative, willfully obtuse and seriously talented writer, and Dan is a digital publishing powerhouse with blistering taste in music, so between them you really need to enroll at the Widsith Institute and give Black Crown a try.
Starburst Magazine issue 393 is now on sale, featuring my new comic strip with Kerrang! magazine artist (and BLACKOUT co-creator) Phillip Marsden. Monty’s Bank Holiday is adapted from H G Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau, and is a whopping three pages of drunken debauchery, bestiality and Weekend at Bernie’s-esque antics. Not bad for my monthly one-page Starburst strip…
My column in Starburst 393, Adventures On Alternative Earths, contains recommendations of Metrodome and Crawl Hole, by the thoroughly disturbing Craig Collins and Iain Laurie, Christopher Nolan-esque superhero epic Eponymous, by Mike Garley and Martin Simmonds, post-apocalyptic anthology The Waste, by Mark Penman, James Lawrence and Andrew Tunney, and lastly Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic, by more quality writers, artists and scientists than you can shake a Greggs sausage roll at.
For issue 394 of Starburst next month I’ll be joined by a very special artist, Anna Fitzpatrick, creator of Between Worlds and the upcoming Kore, which massively exceeded its goal on Kickstarter recently and will be available directly from the creator shortly. Anna is immensely talented, and we’ve been trying to work together since collaborating on the initial pitch for Doomed Romantics last year, so its gratifying to know that we’ll finally have some work in print together.
Finally, a new BLACKOUT review appeared online courtesy of Stephen L Holland, from Nottingham’s best comic shop Page 45. You can now buy BLACKOUT at Page 45 or through their online store, and frankly my stocks are running low, so by all means give them your money!
Holland, who is one of the judges for the 2013 British Comic Awards, said that BLACKOUT is “sexually explicit; a good old-fashioned throw-back to underground comix.” Reviewing at its best.
Everything else is business as usual at Team Buchan. Children that never sleep, more ongoing commitments than I have hot meals, horror-punk blasting out my speakers while I work, and still forging ahead on the second novel.
Starburst Magazine issue 392 is now on sale, featuring my column about comics, Adventures On Alternative Earths, in which I discuss Neil Gibson and Caspar Wijngaard’s horror series Tabatha, Owen Johnson and Indio!’s Raygun Roads and the Infinity Loop Death-Trap of Ulysses Pomp, Vera Greentea’s Papa and Robert Ball’s Winter’s Knight: Day One. That’s three superb, independent British comics and one dark and unique Kickstarted anthology from America, all waiting to be discovered by new readers.
Starburst 392 featured my comic strip with obscene artist Jon Michael Lennon (Cheeselord Comics – NSFW!) , Idiots Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, which continues the adventures of Frank and Fat Jackie.
My review of The 100 by Kass Morgan is also in the newest issue of Starburst, but you can read it online here. Mostly I found it to tackle complex, adult issues in a completely safe environment, where not even abortions or the end of civilisation are explored as anything more than an impetus to drive teen romance.
This month the jurors for the Best Artist category for the British Fantasy Awards have selected a winner, and I can’t wait until this is publicly announced. It doesn’t feel like very long ago when doing things like representing the British Fantasy Society, writing for publications like The Times Literary Supplement, or working with some of the phenomenal artists that I’m currently collaborating with, seemed like an unrealistic dream, so it’s thrilling to see some of my hard work paying off!
It’s been a quiet month for writing at the Buchan house, and we took a much needed family holiday filled with trips to the zoo, (foam) sword fights in ruined castles and an unfortunate incident when a seagull stole a whole donut from my indignant son. Everything will be picking up again now as I prepare to make appearances at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October and Thought Bubble in November. The second issue of Gothic-horror series La Belle Dame Sans Merci should be ready to launch at one of those two conventions, as should BLACKOUT II. I’m hoping to put together a collection of previously published comic strips at some point in the future too, but there doesn’t seem to be time to think about that right now. Work is coming along nicely on my second novel, which will surely take far longer to finish writing than I expect, and I’m due to deliver a short story about social media suicides in the middle of September that I haven’t thought about writing yet. My next Starburst strip, with Kerrang! artist Phillip Marsden, will give a taste for what to expect from BLACKOUT II, and I recently interviewed Rob Sherman and ‘Digital’ Dan Franklin about their interactive narrative Black Crown, so expect that to surface sometime in the next month also.
This week I have another In Brief review featured in The Times Literary Supplement (No 5756), of the Soaring Penguin Press translation of Regis Loisel’s Peter Pan. In short, I found Loisel’s version to be brilliantly dark, but slightly marred by the creator’s treatment of women. Andy Oliver gives an insightful review of the same graphic novel over on Broken Frontier.
Starburst Magazine issue 391 is now on sale, featuring my column about comics, Adventures On Alternative Earths. This month I’ve focused on the thriving comic-book community in the North West of England, looking at Adam Cadwell’s slacker vampire series Blood Blokes, Chris Doherty and Andrew Cheverton’s Lynchian mystery series The Whale House, Ravi Thornton’s seriously disturbing graphic novel The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone, and Mark Penman and Andrew Tunney’s video game prequel The Strange Tale of Byron Spencer. My two-page Starburst strip this month, The Hanging Tree, is a fantastical tale of love and greed illustrated by Stephanie Scott.
This has been another busy month for graphic novel reviews (given that I’m supposed to be focussing on about ten other projects that are coming to fruition!). Click on the links to read my reviews of the Yen Press graphic novels Btooom! volume 2, Higurashi: When They Cry – Festival Accompanying Arc volume 1 and Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut horror novel, The String Diaries.
There are still a plethora of projects on the horizon that I’d be unwise to talk about publicly, but all are progressing nicely. La Belle Dame Sans Merci #2, particularly, is really coming together, so I should be on track to release at least a couple of new full-length comics at conventions towards the end of the year.
My obscene horror anthology comic BLACKOUT was recently reviewed by Dustin LaValley (Spinner, Lowlife Underdogs) in Shadowland Magazine #8. He says that “Comic books have taken a hit in the horror genre. They’ve become what the publishers have found makes money: plain, safe and trendy. Luckily, there are creators out there who recognize what really is thrilling, creepy, terrible and horrible. There is nothing safe about BLACKOUT.”
“This full-colour, 32-page horror comic book is nothing less than a sick, twisted and totally fun read for any depraved soul out there looking for a companion in this sanitary world of ours.”
Over on the Forbidden Planet International blog, Richard Bruton reviewed the first issue of my four-part gothic-horror series La Belle Dame Sans Merci: “This comics adaptation delivers PM Buchan’s take (on the poem by John Keats), a different, inventive relocation, a dark and bloody affair, and most importantly La Belle Dame here is both seductress and victim, her bloodstained hands a defense against all manner of demons following her.”
“La Belle Dame is no innocent here, but neither is she a simple evil predator either, something that plays well into the fascinating essay at the end of this issue on Keats and feminism by Miranda Brennan.”
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci is an intriguing comic, skillful, nuanced horror, starting as a mundane urban tale, switching to a dramatic betrayal and finally ending on a gut-wrenching twist that disturbs.”
The best part about being reviewed by Richard Bruton is that he reads EVERY comic published in the UK, the good and the bad, (or at least gives that appearance!), and his contribution to the UK comic-book community is immeasurable.
Starburst Magazine issue 390 is now on sale, featuring my column about comic-books Adventures On Alternative Earths and my latest Starburst comic strip. In my column this month I recommend The Last Tape in Hell, by Sarah Gordon, Drowntown: Book One, by Robbie Morrison and Jim Murray, and The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, by Stephen Collins. This month’s Starburst Strip, The Frog King, is illustrated by Trystan Mitchell, a Cornwall-based artist with a keen interest in folklore and a clean style that reminds me of classic animation cells. Trystan has been a pleasure to work with and it would be no exaggeration to say that we have big plans for working together again in the future.
Next month’s Starburst strip will be illustrated by Stephanie Scott, a recent graduate of Duncan Of Jordanstone University, who specializes in comics and childrens illustration:
Finally, in Starburst issue 390 I also interviewed Judge Dredd co-creator Alan Grant, Dan Dare illustrator Jon Haward and All Star Superman colourist Jamie Grant about their newly collected Tales of the Buddha (before he got enlightened), published by Renegade Arts Entertainment. I’ve recommended Tales of the Buddha before and will again, because it’s brilliant fun, so make sure that you take a look at this new printed edition if you spot it in your local comic shop.
Today I’ve had my first review published by the TLS, The Times Literary Supplement number 5749. The In Brief review is of Rob Davis’ wonderful second adaptation of Don Quixote, published by SelfMadeHero, and it should go without saying that you should rush out and read these adaptations immediately if you haven’t already.
On a personal note, this is a big moment for me. I’ve written in the past for the Modern Language Review journal, published by the Modern Humanities Research Association, but this feels different, like all of my studies just might amount to something. When you spend your life obsessing over comic-books, horror punk and monster movies, it can be easy to feel like none of your interests will ever amount to anything. This year is the year that they begin to amount to something.
I used my byline in the TLS to advertise the two comics that I’m working on that seemed most relevant to that audience. La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a four-part gothic horror series based on the poem by John Keats, illustrated by Karen Yumi Lusted and enhanced by a number of talented collaborators. If you enjoyed the first issue, I found out today that art is coming along to schedule for the second, and I’m in talks with a new band about providing a free downloadable soundtrack to coincide with its release. I also made a point of naming Doomed Romantics in the TLS, a graphic anthology of dark interpretations of classic Romantic poems. Work has been underway on this one for a while now, and we’ve struggled so far to find a publisher that can give us the support that we need, but given that contributors include a New York Times bestselling author and the whole project features a feminist interpretation of some of the roots of modern horror, I’m confident that we won’t lack a publisher indefinitely.