Out Now: Journey Planet #39

Well, this came as a pleasant surprise, it must be said...

The online zine Journey Planet hits #39 with a special Judge Dredd themed issue, helmed by Dredd scribe Michael Owen Carroll - and featuring an old Zarjaz strip by me, Kev Levell and Bolt-01!


The story - The Taking Of Mopad 456 - first appeared waaaay back in Zarjaz 15, and was the first Dredd story I ever wrote for the fanzine (but not the first one published). It was also the only time I ever got to work with Kevin Levell, an artist who was destined to draw Dredd for Tharg if there ever was one - I mean, look at this:


The story was a shamelessly old-school Dredd tale that was an attempt to invoke the classic, early era of the series - so much so, I was adamant that it had to have been done before, and it would be knocked back. To my eternal surprise, though, it hadn't been done and Bolt-01 said he could imagine it was something drawn by Ron Smith - which is still one of the nicest compliments I've had about anything I've written.

Anyway. The strip is available - for free - in Journey Planet #39, or it's available in Zarjaz #15, copies of which are still available from FutureQuake. Zarjaz #15 also includes another Dredd tale by me, Big JIMPin' with David Broughton - so that's two lots of Dredd for your buck! And it has this amazing Edmund Bagwell cover:


Journey Planet #39 is packed to the gills with Dredd-related goodness, including interviews with John Wagner and the lads at Zarjaz, character sketches from the collection of James Bacon, a history of Dredd, extracts from Pat Mills' Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!: 2000AD & Judge Dredd: The Secret History and much, much more that should keep any Dredd-head happy.

The zine is a free to download PDF, available directly from the Journey Planet website.

Also, huge, huge thanks to Michael Carroll for featuring The Taking Of Mopad 456 in the issue!

And just because, here's an old Dredd sketch from Kev himself:

Debris

Over on the ol' Kickstarter, mate and - dare I say it? - one of my favourite collaborators in the comics game, Alfie Gallagher is running a campaign for a collection of short stories, all drawn by him, called Debris.



Alfie bullied sweet talked me - and a bunch of others, including Ryan K. Lindsay, Martin Hayes and Fraser Campbell - into writing something for the collection.

Even though I'll pretty much step into the breach any time Alfie asks me to come and work with him, this time, I was a little reluctant. Without getting into too much detail, I was going through a bit of a rough time personally when Alfie approached me, and doing anything creative felt like a slog that I could've done without. I managed to write The Devil's Breath for Aces Weekly, which was a big step in getting back into the writing saddle after what felt like a long time away, but doing the story for Debris was what helped me rediscover the simple joy I take in writing.

Other than a page count, Alfie pretty much gave me free reign to do pitch him whatever I wanted for the collection, and after a couple of false starts, I finally nailed it - and wrote one of my favourite pieces in the process.


The strip, "How Long...?", is only four pages long, and is a kinda/sorta a companion piece to a prose story I wrote ages ago, 10 Miles.

I'm a bit of a fan of 70's road movies, I have to confess. The imagery they use to tell their stories is just endlessly beautiful to me, and the idea of just taking off and driving through the deserts in America has long been a dream of mine - the sheer freedom of being able to just take off, to head along those long highways and see where they'll take you without any kind of plan or inkling of where you might end up is something I've been fascinated with ever since seeing Vanishing Point when I was younger.

10 Miles and "How Long...?" are the only times - so far - I've tried to capture that idea and put it on the page. With the former, it's all about the internal landscape of the narrator, but with "How Long...?" it's all about the visuals.


My gut instinct was to try and come up with a story that would play to Alfie's strengths as an artist. Anyone that's familiar with his work knows he kind of leans toward the psychedelic, for want of a better word - the trippier the imagery the better. So, I pitched him a couple of ideas that would - hopefully - pop visually, but they didn't connect with him.

So, I tried again.

As I said, I was going through a rough time, and I was having thoughts about just...taking off. Going somewhere and starting life over. The idea - the romantic idea of it - kinda stuck and I couldn't shake it, but it collided with the whole thing about trying to put a story together for Alfie and formed a basis for what I eventually pitched.

I realised it wouldn't have the visuals of the other things I'd sent, so I was surprised when Alfie said yes to it.



I only had four pages to play with, and I was never sure if the story would work. On top of that, I had to keep in mind that this was a showcase for Alfie's work, not mine, so I decided to strip everything back and keep it as tight and lean as I could, and let the visuals speak.

I have to come clean here and admit that I've only seen little snippets of the other stories from Debris, but - and, yeah, I'm biased, obviously - but Alfie really does something special with "How Long...?". The art captures the feel I was trying to convey in the script - cinematic in scope that also gives you a creeping sense of loneliness being out on the road - but also brings a sense of realism to it; you feel as if you can reach into the pages and touch the old, dilapidated buildings.

But, I think, it's the colouring that really sets the story apart.

Alfie - colouring this one himself - utilises a palette that matches that of a road movie, capturing the faded look of a time gone by. The washed out feeling of the environment, the tired and scruffy look of the characters is nailed beautifully.


The Kickstarter is over half-way funded as I type this, and I'd dearly love to see it printed. You can, if you so wish, back the project from as little as £1. I'm really proud of this little story, and I'd love to see it out in the world.

And if that wasn't enough incentive for you, all backers will be receiving a free PDF of Future Tense, a mini collection, featuring two of my previous collaborations with Alfie!

So, get on it, people!

The 13th Stone Redux

While a secret project works itself out, myself and Bryan Coyle have decided to make our folklore inspired horror one-shot The 13th Stone available again on a "pay what you want" basis until the end of February.

Yep, that's right, you can grab all 22 pages of it and pay us whatever you want!

Here's a little more to whet your appetite...


Taking a job in the small English village of Argleton, archaeologist Joy Lambton finds herself wiling away her spare time investigating the ancient stones that stand on the outskirts and trying to solve one particular mystery that surrounds them: why the few sources she can find claim there are only eleven stones, when there are clearly twelve.
But when she learns of a thirteenth stone, Joy begins to uncover the dark and terrifying connection they have to the village...

If that's got you intrigued, you can grab The 13th Stone from Gumroad here:


You can also grab the comic from Sellfy here:

And you can also get it from Payhip here:

We have plans to release this digitally in a new version at a fixed price later this year, so this may well be your final chance to grab it! So, what're you waiting for?

The Obligatory 2017 Round-up Blog Post!

Ugh...

OK, so... I missed this last year, due to an avalanche of shit that swamped me over the course of those twelve months (which I'm not getting into, because no), and, given the extra piles of shit that were thrown my way at the beginning of this year, I wasn't sure about doing this again, but things have - slowly - started to turn around over the last few months, so, I thought: why not tempt fate?

My reluctance to talk publicly about any of this does kind of mean that this is going to be a stupidly short post (and more work focused), compared the previous ones, but, hey.

Anyway, let's get this started.

In the beginning...

This hasn't exactly been a banner year writing wise, it has to be said. Over the last twelve months, I've managed to complete... *counts on fingers* six scripts (and some prose pieces, a load of story outlines and some proposals, too, I should add). At least one of those scripts won't be seen until the end of 2018 and there's a 50/50 chance another two won't see the light of day.

God, I'm just full of optimism.

And I still haven't seen the new Star Wars.

Words without pictures

I know there's the whole "write it and they will come" school of thought, but the next time I hear that, I'm going to point them to this:


And then point them to the sales of said story. Which - as of writing this sentence - total zero.

I'm strangely OK with that, though. Nursery Rhyme is a weird, personal  story that I've been struggling to write for a long time, but it was something I had to do. The more I got into it, the more it made me face up to a lot of things from my own life, and how I really need to move past them and look to the future. Basically, I'm saying it was a pretty cathartic experience writing it, and I'm pleased I did.

Anyway, if you, dear reader of this blog post, are interested in reading the story, it's available for 99p from:




Oh, yeah: I also snuck out a short story collection earlier this year:


It was more of an excuse to release some uber-short prose pieces, really, but there's also a brand new, longer piece in there, too, in the shape of Dead Drop.

You can grab a copy for the paltry sum of £1.99 from these fine online retailers:


I do love writing prose, and it's something I plan to do more of in 2018. I came closer than I've been in a while to actually writing a novel this year, and I kind of wonder if it's time to make a start on The Novel in the next twelve months...

"Comics will break your heart..."

Comics wise, I was pretty happy to land something in Aces Weekly earlier in the year, but I was more happy to be able to do something completely different, and write an unashamedly pulp adventure story.


I'm proud of The Devil's Breath, and I'm proud of the fact we - that is Bryan Coyle and I - came up with such a great character in Velicity Jones. The format of the anthology dictated a lot of story beats, but I think it worked in our favour when it came to the central character. She isn't your atypical female spy either: she isn't weighted down with guilt over her actions or by a murky past; she's young, she's progressive and she loves her job. And, y'know:


Fingers crossed, Agent Jones will return in 2018...

Last year, I did something I never thought I'd ever get the chance to do and wrote a script for Zarjaz featuring one of my favourite 2000AD characters, and this year I got the completed art (from Steven Denton). I don't want to say too much about it, but I'm stupidly giddy about the chance to do it.

Also on the Zarjaz front, I did some more "daily" strips, this time featuring Johnny Alpha:


And Mean Angel:

Both of them were fun to write, and both of them kinda made me want to do a "deep dive" on the process behind writing them (hopefully with Bolt-01 providing some insight, seeing as me and him kicked the whole thing off way back when).

Oh, and, I got the chance to revisit the ABC Warriors in The Ballad of Tubal Cain, with James Newell. Looking at it again, I wish I had more space to really stretch the story out and play on the characters some more, but, hey.


Zarjaz #28 - which features that very story - is available from the FutureQuake site, priced £3.00 (+ P&P).

In other comic news, there's also a big, secret comics project that kinda got derailed this year, but it's on track for a 2018 release, so watch this space...

"Inspection! Check one!"

On a personal level, this year has been...strange. I've been making a conscious effort to change and grow as a person, and it's led me down some interesting paths: I've reconnected with old friends, tried new things and places and actually managed to get to more gigs this year than I have in...a long time.

One personal highlight were getting to see The Cornshed Sisters play twice (including their album launch). I'm lucky enough to count one of them as a friend, and I was really made up for her that she, and the others, of course, got their second album, Honey & Tar out into the world.

Anyway, just because, here's the video to the first single from said album:


Another personal highlight of the year was getting to see Leftfield play live in Newcastle - after getting given a free ticket. The band were touring Leftism 22, so they stuck with the old stuff, but, man it was so, so good - and, of course, they played their best track last:


Yeah, clearly, Open Up is their best track. Followed by Swords. Fight me.

"I hoped there'd be stars..."

As I said at the top of this post, some things have slowly started to turn around for me over the last few months, and I'm going into 2018 with a tiny wee bit of optimism about the future.

I'm also going into 2018 with some trepidation, as this feels like a "make or break" year for me. I feel like I've come too far and sacrificed too much to give up without a fight, but at the same time, I'm really fucking tired of fighting.

So, I dunno. Maybe this will be it for me, or maybe I'll get through the next twelve months in one piece. What say we reconvene here next December and find out?

Zarjaz Presents... Judge Dredd: Mean Men


And we're back for a brand spanking new Zarjaz Daily!

This time, myself and Bolt-01 reunite for our traditional Christmas story, a twelve-parter called Mean Men!

As always, each episode of Mean Men will debut over at the FutureQuake Blog (and the 2000AD message boards), and the strip will be compiled on its own page, right here.

In the meantime, you can check out all the previous "Zarjaz Dailies" here.

And remember: if you want even more supplementary Thrill Power, several issues of Zarjaz are available to buy from The FutureQuake site now!

Halloween Reads

With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought I'd shamelessly plug a couple of spooky things I've had a hand in, to, hopefully, give you a little scare this October.

First up, we have...

The 13th Stone:




Taking a job in the small English village of Argleton, archaeologist Joy Lambton finds herself wiling away her spare time investigating the ancient stones that stand on the outskirts and trying to solve one particular mystery that surrounds them: why the few sources she can find claim there are only eleven stones, when there are clearly twelve.

But when she learns of a thirteenth stone, Joy begins to uncover the dark and terrifying connection they have to the village...

 
A self-contained 22 page comic, The 13th Stone is a modern take on British folk horror from myself and my regular parter in crimes against comics collaborator Bryan Coyle (and lettered by Bolt-01).

It's available from the links below, priced £1.99:








If you're after something a little more classic, however, there's also...

Melody




When his fiancée puts their engagement on hold, Paul Grant finds himself whisked off to the town of Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands for a short golfing holiday to try and get his mind off everything. But when he meets Melody, the wife of the hotel owner, Grant finds himself embarking on a strange and sinister affair...

A short prose story, Melody is available for your Kindle or as a PDF, priced just 99p.



And finally...

The Thing In The Window



A short - and free! - comic from myself and Bryan Coyle, The Thing In The Window pays homage to the works of M.R. James.

You can read it here - or just click the picture above.

Nursery Rhyme

It's that time again when I decide to dip my toe into the world of Kindle-based short fiction.

This time, it's something called Nursery Rhyme...


Returning home to Newcastle, journalist Andy Porter finds himself thrown headlong into a part of his past he'd rather forget. When he notices a series of mysterious symbols that have appeared all over the city, he soon realises they may be connected to the past he's trying to escape...

This is a story I really don't want to talk about too much for a variety of reasons, but it's also a thing I've struggled to get to grips with for a really long time (I mean, stupidly long), and I'm glad it's finally done and dusted. Was it worth it? Well, I think so, anyway, buy you can judge for yourself - and it'll only cost you a quid!

You can get Nursery Rhyme from Amazon UK:


The story is also available via Amazon US:


And, for all you non-Kindle owners, Nursery Rhyme is also available as a PDF via these fine online portals:

So, y'know, why not give it a try?

And, again, huge thanks to m'colleague Bryan Coyle for providing that lovely cover.

Zarjaz Presents... Strontium Dog: Fight Night


And we're back for yet another Zarjaz Daily...

This time, myself and Bolt-01 are joined by Robo-Monkey147 for a 15 part Strontium Dog story called Fight Night!

As always, each episode of Fight Night will debut over at the FutureQuake Blog (and the 2000AD message boards), and the strip will be compiled on its own page on this here blog, too.

In the meantime, you can check out all the previous "Zarjaz Dailies" here.

And remember: if you want even more supplementary Thrill Power, several issues of Zarjaz are available to buy from The FutureQuake site now!

Aces Weekly Presents... The Devil's Breath!

Time to let the cat out of the bag, then...

Me and my regular parter in crimes against comics Bryan Coyle (accompanied by letterer extraordinaire Bolt-01) are making our debut in Aces Weekly!


For those not in the know, Aces Weekly is the award winning digital anthology published by David Lloyd (of V For Vendetta fame) and features stories from some of the finest creators around the globe. And now, er, us.

Our story, The Devil's Breath, kicks off in Volume #29 - which begins July 31st - and is something of a departure for us: rather than the slow burning horror we've done in the past, this is a high-octane, globe-trotting 1960's set spy adventure...


When the blueprints for the doomsday weapon known as The Devil's Breath are to be sold to the highest bidder, SIU's top agent Velicity Jones has to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands! But with the fate of the world on her shoulders, Velicity soon finds herself caught in a web of lies and deceit as she discovers there's no one she can trust...

Doing something that's unashamedly pure pulp was - I have to say - a ridiculous amount of fun, and I really hope it comes across in the story. I don't really want to say too much more about it, in case I give anything away, but working on this was a challenge - not just in terms of the actual story, but also the format and the narrative structure we had to adopt. It was - for me - a great chance to stretch myself a bit, and dive back into the heady waters of comicking after a wee break.

As for the art... Well, I've worked with Bryan for a long time now and I can honestly say he never ceases to amaze me with what he brings to the table - and The Devil's Breath is no exception. He brings some real emotional weight to the story, while ripping into the action sequences with aplomb - even now, I'm still completely blown away by his work in the first episode. It is, I think, one of the most bad-ass things I've ever had the good fortune to be involved in.


You can read that first episode of The Devil's Breath exclusively in Aces Weekly this coming Monday from July 31st, and each subsequent episode will arrive on the screen of your choosing every following Monday for the next seven weeks.

You can purchase an ongoing subscription here for £6.99 - which racks in at less than £1 an episode! - or you can buy previous volumes from here. Previous volumes are also available from Comixology.

And if that wasn't enough, we've also compiled an exclusive extra for that first episode: a behind the scenes look that takes you from from the original script all the way through each stage to the final, finished page!

Remember, you can find out more about Aces Weekly at their website.

And, hey, if you like The Devil's Breath, be sure and let Aces Weekly know!

Update: Huge thanks to John Freeman at Down The Tubes for his rather lovely little review of the strip! Read it here.

Station Ident


This is Imaginary Stories, the blog of a writer who's dusting off this old chestnut. Hi.

Been off the scene, as it were, for a wee while, but I've been busy beavering away at some new projects, believe it or not. More on those as and when I can. In the meantime, you can grab some short prose stories I've written or maybe even check out some freebies - and if you like them, feel free to buy me a coffee.

In the meantime, let me continually disappoint you on Twitter, or go and look at whatever random nonsense I choose to post on Tumblr. I think I may actually still have a Bebo page, too. Because I am forever on the bleeding edge of social media.

Art by Justin Wood.