This year I’ll be exhibiting at Thought Bubble 2016 in the Thought Bubble Marquee with artist Martin Simmonds, who most recently worked on Titan Comics’ Death Sentence: London with Monty Nero. Come find us Saturday 5 November and Sunday 6 November at table 58.
Alongside the main convention we’ve also organized an exhibition that you’re not going to want to miss, with an amazing launch party from 7pm until late at Lady Beck Studios, LS9 7DZ, on Friday 4 November. The exhibition and party have been organized with help from the most excellent John Pearson, and if you attended any of his Thought Bubble fringe parties for the past two years running you’ll know this is an occasion you won’t want to forget.
Lady Beck – Thursday 3 November until Sunday 6 November, open 5pm until 9pm Thursday, 7pm until late on Friday, and 1pm to 4pm Saturday & Sunday.
44FLOOD and Assembly House are partnering with Lady Beck, a new grassroots art space in Mabgate, Leeds, to host an exhibition of folk-horror art by Leeds College of Art and Plymouth College of Art contemporary art students and graduates, alongside original artwork from the upcoming 2017 44FLOOD series HERETICS, created by Martin Simmonds and P M Buchan, with series editor Kasra Ghanbari.
Contributing artists include Martin Simmonds (Titan Comics: Death Sentence), Ben Templesmith (IDW: 30 Days of Night), Caspar Wijngaard (Image Comics: LIMBO) and John Pearson (Beast Wagon), alongside contemporary dark bohemian artist Stevie-Leigh Smith and award-winning metalsmith Luke Axworthy.
HERETICS – NOBODY IS ABOVE TEMPTATION
Assembly House is an artist-led studio space in Leeds. Situated in a historic textiles mill along the Leeds Liverpool canal, the studio plays host to a varied group of creatives, with work ranging from fine art painting and sculpture to illustration, photography and design.
44FLOOD is a collective of individuals drawn together to exercise their common beliefs in art, music and beauty. 44FLOOD has published anthologies, music, comic-books and illustrated novels by award-winning artists and writers including Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Scott Radke, Jason Shawn Alexander, Phil Hale, Fink, Dave McKean and Keaton Henson. http://www.44FLOOD.com
Please note that the Friday opening time has changed to 7pm until late, not 5pm until 9pm as originally advertised in the Thought Bubble programme. Also note that Stevie-Leigh Smith and Luke Axworthy’s work will not be viewable until the Friday launch party onwards, so please keep this in mind when planning to visit the exhibition.
SCREAM horror magazine issue 38 is now on sale, featuring my interview with Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger about the second story arc of their Image series Southern Cross, the first issue of which goes on sale in comic stores today. Becky and Andy were a lot of fun to interview and had some great about the 80s-culture zeitgeist, Event Horizon and ambitions to create creepy erotica! The interview runs to four pages and touches on the influences behind Southern Cross and what’s to come in future issues, so any fans of the series should check it out if you get a chance.
Even more importantly, Captain Spaulding himself, Sid Haig, has given SCREAM the thumbs up. The cinema of Rob Zombie is something that I love passionately and Devil’s Rejects is one of my favourite films of all time, so seeing Sid Haig waving around a magazine that I’ve written for off and on almost since the first issue is a special moment for me. “I’m gonna have to be taking your car today. See I have some top secret clown business that supersedes any plans that you might have for this here vehicle.”
All Roads Lead To Hell, my first comic with Martin Simmonds, is now online in full. Opening with the line “The first time that I died I was 16 years old…”, All Roads Lead To Hell is a tale of death, resurrection and consequences, packed with pentagrams and witchcraft. Martin Simmonds and I have been working together ever since creating this strip and are sharing a table at Thought Bubble this year. We’ll have a big announcement to make soon and I can’t thank Lizzie and Conor Boyle at Disconnected Press enough for introducing us to each other.
Each week this year I’ve been posting my previously published comics online to read for free, and I seem to have amassed something of a backlog since last updating this website…
Doomed Romantics: Christabel is an unfinished adaptation of the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, adapted by me and Anna Fitzpatrick in 2012 for a proposed anthology of graphic adaptations of Dark Romanticism. I couldn’t find a home for the anthology at the time, sadly, but have been working with Anna ever since. She’s one of my favourite artists and I definitely recommend that you seek out more of her work.
Doomed Romantics: Isabella, or the Pot of Basil is an unfinished adaptation of the poem by John Keats, which I adapted with Alwyn Talbot in 2012 for the same anthology. I was particularly disappointed not to be able to complete this story, where I played loose with the original poem and created a basil-elemental that riffed more than a little on Swamp Thing.
Harajuku Poison Heart was a one-page strip created with INDIO! for Starburst Magazine in August 2012, long before INDIO! was shortlisted for a British Comic Award for his co-creation with Owen Johnson, Raygun Roads. The strip doesn’t completely work because INDIO! stepped in at the last minute to illustrate a script I’d written with Andy Bloor in mind, but I still love that we made a neon comic about Japanese competitive poison-eating cannibals for the pages of a mainstream UK magazine.
Sleeping With The Fishes was created with Leonie O’Moore in July 2012 for Starburst Magazine and is a one-page comedy strip about two sailors that face off against the Prawn of the Dead. Leonie and I had plans to pitch another series together at the time called Life of the Dead (unrelated to prawns!), but honestly my ideas weren’t up to scratch and I don’t think played to Leonie’s strengths like they could have done. I was happy to have had the chance to work with Leonie though, who’s work can be seen in this month’s Heavy Metal magazine.
Finally, The Fall was created with Alwyn Talbot in April 2012 for Starburst Magazine. This is the only superhero concept that I’ve ever worked on and I don’t think I really made the idea work as a single-page strip, but I loved working with Alwyn and hope we’ll get the chance to do something together again one day.
SCREAM issue 37 is now on sale, featuring ‘The Beast of Liverpool’, my four-page interview with John Reppion, co-writer of SelfMadeHero’s upcoming M R James graphic novel anthology, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary: Volume 1. I spoke to John about how Liverpool has influenced his work, whether or not it’s still cool to hate Lovercraft and how his peers are all flying around in helicopters drinking champagne by now. Don’t tell anyone, but I submitted the youngest photo of John that I could find to accompany the interview, just to unnerve anybody confronted by his wizened face at a convention.
I’m continuing to post all of my previously published comics online to read for free, and plan to continue uploading a new strip every week until at least the end of the year.
Esben and the Witch, illustrated by Phil Marsden, was our interpretation of the Danish fairy tale, which I discovered purely through love of the band with the same name. I’ve been making comics with Phil off and on since we worked together at Travelling Man Newcastle. Phil went on to illustrate features for NME and Kerrang! and to exhibit at fine art galleries around the world, completely unhindered by the fact that I demanded he draw cannibalism, cross-dressing and sexual deviancy on a semi-regular basis.
Next up was Tourou Nagashi, a two-page colour strip illustrated by my La Belle Dame Sans Merci co-creator, Karen Yumi Lusted. Tourou Nagashi was inspired by my love of Higurashi (still my favourite manga and anime of all time) and was created for SCREAM‘s first colour special, back when the mag was still printed in black-and-white. Karen and I are currently prepping La Belle Dame Sans Merci: Chapter Three for a 2016 release, waaay later than originally planned, but we’re determined to see the story through to the end and then have it collected as originally envisioned, without compromise. Life got in the way for both of us doing it as quickly as we’d have liked, but it’s a very personal project that I feel is worth waiting for.
Not Now Bernie, also illustrated by Phil Marsden, was the first strip that I ever had published in Starburst Magazine (issue 375, March 2012). Working on these one-page monthly strips for Starburst was the best – it taught me so much about economy of storytelling and the nuances of working with different artists, and because I had to find a new artist every month I met SO MANY cool people that I’ve continued to collaborate with. I created one-page (and sometimes longer) comic strips for Starburst for every issue from 375 until 396, March 2012 until January 2014, running alongside my column about comics Adventures On Alternative Earths.
Because you haven’t had enough Phil Marsden in your lives yet, Colt 45 was one of our earliest strips together, created around 2010 and based on a true story from my misspent youth, walking home from the nightclub Cuba Cuba in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. I might have taken a *little* artistic licence with the tale, but no more so than I would do if I told you the story in a bar. After some lonely only-child years when I first became a teenager, I led a charmed life from the age of 15 or so when I discovered the wonders of sex, drugs and rock and roll (in reverse order…). Probably more of the stories that I write have autobiographical elements than anybody sane would give me credit for, but there’s a good reason our horror-comedy anthology was named BLACKOUT.
Finally for this month, Embrace the Dark was the first strip that I created with Martin Simmonds, who’s currently illustrating Monty Nero‘s Death Sentence: London (Titan Comics). Embrace the Dark was created for Starburst issue 382, published in October 2012, and was my opportunity to discover that there really are some artists in the world that share my macabre tastes. After working with Martin on Embrace the Dark, I felt like I was ready to start pitching to comic publishers in earnest, the results of which will hopefully be revealed before the end of the year.
Every week for the rest of 2016 I’m going to be posting up my previously published comic strips online to read for free. Eventually I’ll probably do a huge collection of all my standalone strips and magazine work, because for years I was creating one-off comics each month with different artists for magazines in the UK and entering competitions and submitting to anthologies, but that’s not a priority for 2016. This is the year of the new.
In future months look out for strips with D W Frydendall (Dark Horse – Creepy), Martin Simmonds (Titan Comics – Death Sentence: London), INDIO! (Changeling Studios – Raygun Roads) and Joe Whiteford (horror-folk-punk band Harley Poe), but for now you can read the first three professionally published comic strips that I ever worked on, created for SCREAM: The Horror Magazine late 2011 and early 2012.
Everybody has a different route to publication, but for me personally I floundered after studying English Literature at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and spent years in jobs that had nothing to do with writing. At one point I realised that the things I was most knowledgeable about were horror, comic-books, punk-rock and the Romantics, and it felt like I’d NEVER find a way to do anything practical with these things. So I sat down and looked at all the magazines currently being published, particularly new ones that weren’t too established yet, and I found SCREAM, a horror mag that hadn’t yet featured any writing about comics. I emailed the editor, Rich Cooper, and he was the first person to publish my work, a feature about Avatar Press. The next month I emailed him again and suggested that I could write one-page comics for the pages of the mag, and so he also became the first person to publish one of my comics. After seeing my original comics on shelves in newsagents in the UK, I never looked back!
Drag the Lake was my first strip for SCREAM, created with artist Kate Holden. Kate is from Cumbria and mostly focuses on work for games these days, but she’s great.
Don’t Fear The Reaper was my second strip for SCREAM, created with Jack Fallows, who was genuinely the first person to ever send me fanmail for my first self-published comic EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.
I Was A Teenage Werewolf was my third strip for SCREAM, also created for Jack, because we work brilliantly together when we don’t hate each other.
It’s been a while since I reviewed comics with any regularity, but this year I agreed to return to SCREAM: The Horror Magazine to write a bimonthly column about horror comics. The first column in this new run is now on sale in the digital version of SCREAM #36, with the physical version on sale next week.
The first column, which focuses on new and emerging British horror comic creators, features Adam Cadwell’s Blood Blokes, Gem Sheldrake’s The Moving House, Andy Bloor’s Andy-Thology, John Lees and Iain Laurie’s And Then Emily Was Gone…, James McCulloch and Janine Van Moosel’s City of Lost Souls, John-Paul Bove and Conor Boyle’s UnEarth, Owen Johnson and John Pearson’s Beast Wagon, Mike Garley and Josh Sherwell’s The Kill Screen and anthology titles such as The Grime and Horrere. There are some truly outstanding comics in that crop so I hope you’ll take time to check them out.
On Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th November I’ll be at Thought Bubble, Leeds (UK), on table 192 in New Dock Hall, launching the collected UK edition of The Object of my Affection, co-created by Sydney-based Phillip Marsden (Kerrang!, NME). Come along to buy copies of our “progressive filth”, collected from the pages of the now out-of-print BLACKOUT and BLACKOUT II:YOLO, which is not out of print and will also be on sale!
The Object of my Affection is for ADULT READERS ONLY. Laura Sneddon (The Beat, The Independent) said about it: “Underground comics are often unfairly dismissed as misogynistic male fantasy fodder, but it’s fair to say that the particularly disturbing and on point look at misogyny within The Object of my Affection is both incredibly welcome and a resounding success. The objectification of women is deftly turned into a weapon against sexism, and a genuinely terrifying morality tale. Hurrah for progressive filth!”
I’ll also be selling copies of La Belle Dame Sans Merci chapters one and two, co-created by Karen Yumi Lusted (with chapter three sadly delayed due to external circumstances, but almost complete and ready to print) and Love Will Tear Us Apart, co-created with RGB, which features backup illustrations by John Pearson (British Comic Award shortlisted co-creator of Beast Wagon) and INDIO! (British Comic Award shortlisted co-creator of Raygun Roads) and a playlist of zombie songs by Rue Morgue Radio‘s Tomb Dragomir. John Pearson and I will both be selling copies of our triptych of Manson Family-inspired A3 prints, originally created for the CULT exhibition at Orbital Comics last year.
If you’re going to Thought Bubble, come along to say hi at the Orbital Comics Presents… Young Guns Art Jam from 8:30pm on Cross York Street in Leeds. I’ll be there until late, hanging out with talented artists like Martin Simmonds and Caspar Wijngaard, who is celebrating the launch of his first Image book, LIMBO.
Over the summer I relocated from Manchester to Devon, where there are cider festivals and Morris Dancing every weekend and I’m beautifully close to the beach and sea. Get in touch if you’re based in the south west of England and want to stock my comics in your store or arrange in-store signings!
Last month the British Fantasy Society also announced the winners of this year’s British Fantasy Awards. I was a juror for the third year running and helped out judging the Best Artist category this year, which was a brilliant experience.
Over the course of the past year I’ve been contributing to Andy Oliver and Broken Frontier‘s in-depth analysis of small press comics in the UK, State of the Small Press Nation. You can read the final column that I contributed to here: State of the Small Press Nation.
From the pages of The Final BLACKOUT, my upcoming satirical horror-comedy anthology with co-creators Jack Fallows (Axolotl) and Phillip Marsden (Kerrang!), comes BKIP, illustrated by Phillip Marsden, the story about Teddy Bear’s struggle to survive in a world where migrant humans are undercutting good, honest, local bears. You can read the eight page strip in full on my Tumblr. Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.
If you enjoyed BKIP, I’ll soon be publishing in the UK the collected edition of my other major comic with Phillip Marsden, The Object of My Affection, of which Laura Sneddon (The Guardian, The Independent) said: “Underground comics are often unfairly dismissed as misogynistic male fantasy fodder, but it’s fair to say that the particularly disturbing and on point look at misogyny within Object of My Affection is both incredibly welcome and a resounding success. The objectification of women is deftly turned into a weapon against sexism, and a genuinely terrifying morality tale. Hurrah for progressive filth!”
This year I’ve worked with Beast Wagon co-creator John Pearson (Rue Morgue) again on a new strip called Click Bait, about Japanese YouTube schoolgirl celebrities. I have a lot of pent up feelings about the institutional sexism that seems to be prevalent throughout society and the ways that this manifests in the representation of women in comics. Click Bait addresses some of those issues in my characteristic understated and subtle way. I’ll update this site when I can confirm when and where it will be published.
Following a similar theme, by this point readers may have noticed that behind the plot of my Gothic-horror series with Karen Yumi Lusted (Tommi C and the Cat Burglar), La Belle Dame Sans Merci, lies the question of what is a femme fatale? I find the archetypal notion of the femme fatale, going from modern Neo Noir back to the Romantic poets and earlier, to be problematic. This series tackles some of those ideas. La Belle Dame Sans Merci Chapter Three is still on track for release this year, an oversized issue about child abductors, Hell and redemption.
Finally, work continues slowly with artist Caspar Wijngaard (Tortured Life) on a story that we’re developing together, and like so many of my stories, it seems to be really benefiting from the additional time that we’re giving to it. More news on this when it’s ready.