The Margin – a fantasy comic / work in progress

Well, I’m still trying to figure out what this might look like on the site as it progresses. But I thought rather than leaving everything in script limbo, I might as well throw some art down, even if these things/pages are little more than scrappy or rough thumbnails. It will at least make the task quicker and more fluid as I pull any final version together. But here we’ll be able to watch the early version unfold (even if things change as it turns to print), and that might be fun.

So firstly, what is The Margin? Well if you read the rambling post that was “Making use of this thing”, in the latter portion I talked about wanting to do a fantasy comic, something a little more high fantasy, probably allied to my rekindled love of playing, writing and running fantasy TTRPGs, but also part of something older that I started writing way back (on the BBC Writing site and DeviantArt under the name Hesirion). Regardless, this new effort is definitely allied to the ttrpg art I’ve been making of late.

So this, *gestures broadly with arms*, will be that. Likely as not it will be a little clunky, as it’s an experiment, a little more freeform and meandering than even my usual standard, but it will be a way of working the kinks out of the visual storytelling whilst still, making/finishing something… even if that something I’d less polished and, well… finished. Or that’s what I’m going to tell myself. So, I guess I’ll sett up a page in the side bar dedicated to this one particular storyline, and we’ll see where we go from there. It will be something I’ll be doing between other more pressing (ie paying) projects, but it will hopefully trundle along at its own pace. Oh, and it will be in rough colour too… here the first few pages.

So “Welcome to Azhereon”…and The Margin.

Old tales, new takes…

a thumbnail sketch for a cover of the as yet untitled project…

Some clips from the script in progress, both in my Google docs and where I often start, in Colour Note on my phone.

While working on the thumbnails and script for Theogony (the 3rd book of The Lance) I veered off track and started to develop another script, this one looking at the tale of Medusa. I’d mentioned Perseus in the prologue to Theogony, again relating to the monster-society of the wider Cthulhiad books. The notion was that this new outing would not focus so much on the “heroics” of Perseus, but instead the intrigue around the tale, on Medusa’s origins, and perhaps her (and her sister’s) purpose. Looking at how both Medusa and Perseus might well have been just tools, unwitting pieces in an unseen game. Finally taking a look at the character and motivations of the actual (potential) villains of the tale.

It’s all still in text form for the most part. And not all of that is complete, but it’s getting there. Some thumbnails are starting to happen. It’s fun… and I’m enjoying reading around my subject.

I’m currently not focussing on the length of the project, just on getting all the seemingly relevant story pieces into place. And giving the whole thing it’s own internal logic, plus looking at my overt writing, the tone, dialogue, trying to walk that difficult line between overly archaic language, and contemporary readability. It all still a little purple at the moment. So very much in the former of those two schools, but hopefully I can edit some of that down… in the meantime, back to more imminent deadlines.

Museum & Heritage Comics.

I talked previously about the book I produced for Barnsley Museums some time ago, here. It was an experience I enjoyed, as I’ve always been interested in history/heritage. And through that project I was subsequently commissioned to create two more (albeit short) comics projects, this time actually based here in Hull.

The comics were to tie in to the ongoing Maritime Tales project (which I’d already produced illustrations for), a series of events and commissioned interactions that were designed to keep the idea of the Maritime Museum (as it underwent its huge refurb) alive in the minds of the people of Hull. The first event was The Hull Kraken. A narrative based event that saw the emergence of a mysterious but vast tentacled creature in the city, and its movement through the streets from building to building. Here’s a local article on that side of the event.

The covers to the two books produced, the narratives of which feature a pair of precocious mythology and art buffs, kids who dissect the folklore and history of the city and its art.

My role with the comic was to provide a backstory for the creature, creating a story that moved between the present day were a pair of precocious kids helping out at a Saturday Museum Club discover something odd and decide to investigate. Meanwhile the story they uncover tracks the journey from Hull to the Arctic and back of a 19th Century ship of curious characters, and their subsequent return with something very curious locked in a crate, that gets mislaid upon its arrival back in the city, only to be discovered in the present, with its curious passenger, alive and well (and now huge). The books were designed to be used as handouts, and contained a map designed by a local agency to tie in with a number of other heritage trail events, and so the book was published in the thousands, most of which went in the first two weekends.

The first book, The Strange Case of the Very Strange Case, was a really fun exercise in layering the comic with dozens of Easter eggs, both visual and in the writing, through the naming of things and by making a bunch of historical connections. Part of the project saw me presenting a workshop at Hull’s Ferens Art Gallery to discuss the making of the comic, were I discussed the writing as well as the art process.

While the second book, Drawing (near the isle of the) Sirens, focussed on the Herbert Draper painting, Ulysses and the Sirens in the Ferens Art Gallery, and saw the same two kids from the first comic, discussing the various mythological descriptions of Sirens, and comparing that to the incarnations we often see in Victorian paintings (ie. appearing as mermaids rather than bird like creatures), and why that might be, whilst also discussing some of the other myth relegated sights around Hull, including the great statue of Oceanus that is hidden away just off a main thoroughfare. This second comic also featured a number of art works from the gallery hidden amongst the siren art in the book, acting as an Easter egg hunt for visitors.

With both books I was given free reign to write and interpret as sequential art, and so felt very connected to the end products produced.

These projects, often filled with a mixture of straight narrative, explanatory asides, surreal visual guesses and and other visual non sequiturs were a real joy to work on, both as a writer and as an artist, to the point which even if not commissioned by others, it’s my goal to create some more. Specifically about aspects of Hull’s heritage and history, now that I’m settled back here for good.

Of the various projects like this that I’m interested in exploring, the one I’m most enthusiastic for is “A history of Hull’s Deaf Community and the Hull & East Riding Deaf Institute (now Hull Deaf Centre). My wife is manager of the centre. She is a CODA (child of deaf adults) and a signer/BSL user (we actually met when I had a profoundly deaf student I my games design degree class). I’ve grown a fascination with the history of the centre, and the organisation of the charity which began in the city in the mid 19th century, and even currently give the tours of the centre (purpose built for the deaf in 1926) on the Heritage Open Days in September of each year. Taking that interest into my chosen storytelling medium seems like a very natural progression.

The finish art/book would be given over to the charity to produce and sell to raise funds as they see fit.

The script is already started, my plan would be to involve the current deaf community in the themes that might be discussed and interwoven into the wider social history and discussion of the evolution of this robust community. As a back up, I’d also be interested in developing a brief history of BSL to accompany the work.

“The Cthulhiad”, Theogony update & “Redux”

“The Cthulhiad stands alone like a bewildering tower of Lovecraftian passion and excess”, one of my favourite reviews of the books to date, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not sure all of that review was meant to be taken as such a complement, but I did anyway… that I guess was the “vibe” I was going for.

The Cthulhiad was always going to be sprawling and unhinged. I’d written scripts set in time frames as disjointed as the post-American Civil War, Viking age Yorkshire, Roman Cyprus, present day Iraq, WW2 Hull, 80’s Paris… All with still more to come.

Up to now we have, in order of publication, The Indian Fighter (48pgs, b/w), The White Ship (48pgs, b/w), Severed Head Cult (48pgs, b/w), Vanitas (54pgs, b/w), Drakon (48pgs, b/w), Some, Rough Beast(s) (70+pgs, b/w), and the 4pg mini-comic, Seventy-two Nights. Well over three hundred pages of art drowning in speech balloons and captions, all supported (for those willing to go find them) with the additional prose outings of The Thief, The Norseman, Kareoke Queen and The Sorceress.u

…and in the works, Theogony, and The Red Corsair. Will I ever have time to finish it all? Considering al, the other work I’m producing? It’s hard to tell, but for now I’m going to keep pushing.

The thumbnails for the first 15pgs (plus the rough cover design) of Theogony (that title might still change, but it’s been the working title for a number of years now so it might also not). This sequence follows on immediately from the last panel of Drakon.

This book (Theogony) will probably be produced as a b/w “ashcan affair”, mostly to complete the as yet incomplete Lance trilogy (The White Ship and Drakon), books that look at the legendary founding figure or patron of the formal monster-hunting society portrayed in The Cthulhiad comics. The reason for that print choice is that I’m currently (and very leisurely, I might add) in the process of revisiting the whole set of the books, looking at reading those short sections excised for production time the first time around, and reordering the chapters to make more sense (to me if not the readers). This will hopefully result in two large books. All in full colour, the second of which will be The Cthulhiad, Volume 2, “The Lance”. All three Georgius of Lod books in one, with some small additional material, and some material moved across to the first volume instead.

The first will hopefully be will be, The Cthulhiad, Volume 2, “The Cedar Forest”, collecting all the other books, plus new bridging and extending material, again in full colour. The notional cover sketch for which you can find below…

I’ve started working my way through these updates, trying to get a feel for new page layouts (uncompressing some of the original art, to spread across two or more pages instead of being crammed into one, trying to let some of it breathe a little more. Elsewhere I’m producing new material altogether…

Below are some coloured pages, working over extant inks.

…whilst these next pages are works in progress, bridging sequences, still in flux, but starting life with the notion that they will be in colour, so somewhat different in approach. Some of these images have reference photos and historical imagery laid in waiting to be redrawn/worked from. But they give a sense of some of the scenes.

Here we see pencils and some worked up inks for scenes involving our protagonist Harry, later in life than we’ve seen him so far, set some time after the scenes at the end of Some Rough Beast(s).

Whilst these, outline new characters, a ideologue and bureaucrat, talking over his brow beaten secretary, dealing not so much with the conjuring of monsters to plague our “heroes”, but instead, the whittling away at humanity just enough to let evil, or at least purposeful malice to flourish.

With a quick look at some design sketches and layout/colour plans below that, trying to get my head around how to emphasise links between narratives or themes separated over several pages.

These full colour Redux editions are probably going to be doorstep like tomes, and as such I might have to look at kickstarting or some other method of covering the print costs. I guess I’ll know more when I have a clearer page count. Not all the writing is complete even at this stage, but as you can see, things are moving along.

I’m looking forward to seeing it myself. There an as yet unseen pivotal character who I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing, who will appear in Theogony, and who started “life” in a cemetery on the outskirts in Norwich, many years ago. I just need to clear some space so I can draw the damn thing now, laughs.

Below are some more, older thumbnails, for the book Drakon, you can see here how I tried to define the scenes as simply as possible by drawing really small versions of the panels with no room at this size for extraneous detail. I think this was a great way to work, Drakon turned out to be my fastest produced book to date, which from finishing the script, to handing off to the printers (48pgs) took me just shy of four weeks. I’d like to think I’m a little quicker than that now too.

Those Vikings are still lurking about…

As I mentioned earlier in “Half Of Something…”, I have some unfinished books in the wings, some have been hanging about longer than others. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them. Case in point, the third and final book of the Viking Saga trilogy, instigated by Rob Jones of Madius Comics (now legendary comics letterer in his own right), with art and interjections by me.

The first two books, The King’s Leap and Ake’s Trial seemed to hit their marks, getting some favourable reviews even from non-fantasy comics fans, and we had planned the third book, almost immediately.

Life, however, sometimes gets in the way, and other things needed to be dealt with. I pencilled the book, and started inking it, but it just didn’t get all the way to the finish line.

I’d like to think I can get it (that third book) there this year, but I’m not going to make any promises. We’ve even talked about a full colour collected (and maybe expanded) edition, but that will be further down the line still.

The book/s was/were supposed to be a cycle, both in the mythological definition and in terms of the actual narrative structure itself. So getting the complete trilogy done would really make sense of it all.

In the meantime, here’s some pencils with the text overlaid, a preview of things to come, if you will. Enjoy