Thursday, 12 January 2017

Behind the Scenes - The Big Comic Con

I thought I'd share some insights about the creation of our latest comic book; a behind the scenes look at how the book has been put together.

Our latest book is The Big Comic Con, a tale of crime, comics and cosplay. It is our first fiction story, and is launching on March 11th at Dunfermline Comic Con.


The idea for the story came to me around the time of the 2016 Dunfermline Comic Con. There had been an exhibition of vintage comic books at the event, some of which were very valuable. A while later I read a story about some rare comics being stolen in America, and the idea for The Big Comic Con was born.

The basic premise is as follows:

A group of youngsters, helping out their friend who has gotten into financial problems, decide to pull off a heist at their local comic con. Going after some valuable vintage comics, the group soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law and also at the mercy of some local gangsters.

From that initial idea I started to flesh out the story, whilst trying to answer many questions.

  • Who are the people planning the heist?
  • What motivates the characters to resort to crime?
  • What difficulties will the characters face?
  • What happens after the heist?
  • How does the story end, and how can all the threads of the story be wound up nicely?

From the outset I didn't want to make this an entirely serious story. I wanted to inject a little humour and keep it more of a 'crime caper' than a serious crime story. I took the initial idea and started to write an outline of the story, starting with the motivation for the characters. I then moved onto the events of the story, and this is when I ran into a problem faced by many writers - how to end the story.

I really had no idea how the story was going to end, but I knew that I wanted it to work out neatly and in a satisfying way. It took me a while to come up with the eventual ending, and it was one of those 'two o'clock in the morning inspirations' that came from nowhere. Of course, I'm not going to reveal the entire plot or the ending here, but what I will show you is the process I went through with the artist to make the comic a reality.

Having the story, I wrote it out in script form and started to think about the dialogue and interactions between the characters. As an artist myself, I see the script visually in my head, and I find it useful to sketch out panels and page layouts as I go. Most writers don't work this way. They usually write a script and let the artist do the visuals. Fortunately, the artist on The Big Comic Con, Michael Philp, was happy to work this way. During this part of the process I was very conscious of not revealing too much information on facing pages. If there was a 'reveal' occurring in the story, I tried to make it after a page turn, so that it came as a surprise to the reader. This wasn't always possible, without a major re-write, but it was certainly something I had in mind during the whole writing process.

So, my process was to write the script and sketch some roughs of the page layouts.

Script and rough layout

These were sent to Michael, who would then produce a rough layout based on my sketch. Sometimes Michael would have a much better sense of how a panel should be laid out, so I was happy for him to make alterations to my initial ideas. Michael also added a lot more movement and dynamism to the panels, which I was very pleased with. Compare my initial sketch with Michel's rough, below.

Sketch and Rough

From the rough Michael would develop it into a clean line drawing, which would be sent back to me for lettering and colouring.

Line drawing
I added the lettering first, sometimes adapting the script a little if I thought it looked wrong on the page, or if the dialogue was too stilted and hampered the reading flow. I ended up doing this quite a lot - adapting the script at this late stage. Perhaps that's just a sign of an inexperienced script writer!

The above image is a partially completed page. Colouring and shading has still to be completed, but it serves to demonstrate the stages of production.

So, that's a brief insight into the making of The Big Comic Con. If you're an aspiring writer, perhaps you'll find it useful, or at least mildly interesting!

Tickets for Dunfermline Comic Con 2017 are currently on sale, so if you'd like to get your hands on a  signed, first edition of The Big Comic Con, then please come along and meet us!




Friday, 18 November 2016

Little Girl Black - review

Writer James McCulloch is probably best known for his horror series City of Lost Souls, but his latest book, soon to be published in graphic novel format, dives into a much more realistic and darker corner of the horror genre.

In Little Girl Black we learn about the professional life of businessman Jonathan Watkins and also learn about the dark secrets he harbours in his basement. Here he keeps a group of women and girls imprisoned and under his control; something we learn has been ongoing for many years. When he kills one of the girls for minor accident, he sets out to replace her with a new victim, setting about a chain of events that will challenge both him and his prisoners.

The realistic nature of the story, and it's parallels with real life stories, makes it a much more disturbing tale than James' previous work. This is no fun horror tale with goofy monsters and sparky kids to save the day, this is a grim insight into the most depraved corners of human nature. The dialogue and artwork are no-holds-barred, and artist Pedro Mendes does a great job in illustrating the emotionally charged scenes and graphic violence. The story moves at a pace that compels the reader to keep turning the page, constantly wondering how the story will develop, and whether the ending will be as desolate as the plight of the imprisoned girls.

This will not be a book that everyone will want to read, but if you're comfortable with the likes of American Psycho or the TV drama Thirteen, then this should probably be on your reading list.

The first two issues of the series are available now, with the full 76-page Graphic Novel following soon. http://grandmasterwook.co.uk/

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Batman and Robert the Bruce

September 17th 2016 is Batman Day, a celebration of DC Comics most popular character. Across the world comic shops will be celebrating with cosplayers and special events. The event was first introduced three years ago to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in a comic book.

To celebrate I thought I'd investigate the links between two of my favourite heroes, Batman and Robert the Bruce.



What links could possibly exist between a fictional superhero and a Scottish monarch? Well, Batman co-creator Bill Finger revealed the name of Batman's secret identity, Bruce Wayne, as having been inspired by two historical characters, Robert the Bruce and 'Mad' Anthony Wayne. Indeed, the Wayne family home, Wayne Manor is supposed to have been owned by Bruce Wayne's ancestor Anthony Wayne, who was a real-life hero of the American Revolution.

Similarly Robert the Bruce fought for freedom in Scotland's war of independence in the middle ages.
The similarities between Robert the Bruce and Batman don't stop there. One of the most famous stories of Robert the Bruce has him hiding from his enemies in a cave, and which comic book character has a liking for hanging around in caves?

Beyond the predilection for caves, both Bruces were inspired by animals to take up the fight against their enemies. Bruce Wayne was inspired to dress as a bat when said creature flew into his home (or through the bat cave depending on which origin story you read). Similarly, Robert the Bruce, whilst in hiding and considering giving up the fight for his country, was inspired by a tiny spider building its web.

Batman is also well known for having a faithful sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. The orphaned Dick Grayson would be taken under the wing of Bruce Wayne and trained to become the masked crimefighter, Robin. Incidentally Robin's costume is inspired by Robin Hood, who in turn may have been inspired by Scotland's own William Wallace. Robert the Bruce also had his faithful sidekick, Sir James Douglas. Douglas had been sent to France for schooling and for his own safety, when Scotland's king had been deposed by the English King Edward. Douglas' father, who had fought in the rebellion alongside William Wallace, was eventually captured and died in an English prison. Thus the young James Douglas had been orphaned, and on his return to Scotland he was taken under the protection of King Robert the Bruce. Douglas remained a loyal follower of the King and became a renowned guerrilla fighter, using stealth tactics to attack the enemies of the King.

It seems likely that Bill Finger may have been inspired not only to name his character after historical characters, but also to base some of their personality and background on them too. I'm sure none of this supposition could be proved, but it's certainly a nice story for Batman Day.

The story of King Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn is retold in the comic book King Robert the Bruce and the Wars of Independence, available from Maximized Comics.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Captain Crosshair - Episode 1.

Here's the complete first episode of Captain Crosshair. We're taking a break from him for a few weeks and introducing another character in two weeks time. Let us know what you think of the Captain so far.


Monday, 27 June 2016

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


Next week is the last in this first episode of Captain Crosshair, then we'll have a break for a week and then be back with an introduction to a new character!