It's safe to say that this year was...well, it was a mixed bag of stuff, really, with the crap pretty much outweighing the cool. I barely made a dent in the list of things I wanted to make happen this year and ended up learning some harsh life lessons in the process. I've been on the verge of packing in the writing game more than a few times over the course of the last twelve months, but then I think that's something every writer comes up against; it's what you choose to do when you hit that point that defines you.
For me personally, I don't think quitting's an option any more. Given the current economic and political climate of the UK, there doesn't look to be a rosy future in a comfy 9-to-5 job until retirement waiting for me, so I may as well fill my spare time with writing and see what happens. But, then again, maybe David Cameron will surprise the world and prove he does actually know what he's doing and really isn't just some rich boy who thought it'd be a lark to finish what Thatcher started in the 80's. And we may also see pigs learning how to pilot jets.
As it may have been all to obvious from the rather unsubtle paragraph above, I've noticed that I've become more aware of the UK political landscape and my place in it. I have no love for our current
Of course, not being obscenely wealthy or part of the "squeezed middle", my opinions and feelings on the political make up of the state of the UK are irrelevant. Probably better to just put my head down and get back to writing, really.
I've tried to rediscover my confidence when it comes to prose over the latter half of the year, but the vast bulk of my "writing year," for want of a better term, has largely been concentrating on comics, sprinkled with some wee bits of copywriting here and there.
I did hit a bit of a personal milestone in early November, though, when I realised that I'd made twenty-one submissions to Zarjaz and Dogbreath and had twenty of the them accepted (the failed one was before the "Pat Mills Embargo" was lifted, but can't be re-submitted as it featured Nemesis The Warlock, who's off limits by special request of Mr Mills himself). Admittedly, that's not really anything of any interest to anyone, but, y'know what? I'm damn proud of that little achievement.
If you're so inclined, there are several issues of Zarjaz and Dogbreath, featuring stories by me, still available from the FutureQuake shop:
All of these comics feature Ghafflebette stories from the finest small press creators in the UK scene right now, and are well worth a look - especially given the rather unique place Zarjaz now holds in the current comics scene. With Disney's decision to put a stop to Panini/Marvel UK generating original material based on the Marvel canon earlier this year, Zarjaz and Dogbreath are now the only comics in the UK producing original content, with licenced characters, "approved" by the licence holders (or, if you prefer, "overlooked" by the licence holders).
Not only have Zarjaz and Dogbreath provided me the opportunity to write Judge Dredd in some capacity (probably the only way I'll get to do it), it's also given me the chance to work with a truly incredible range of artists over the last year. I've been fortunate enough to collaborate with Chris Askham, David Broughton and Jaye Franklin, and I've also got stuff boiling away with Kevin Levell, Stephen Downey, Stuart Giddings and Steven Denton. It's been a pleasure and privilege to have had the chance to do stuff with them.
But my relationship with Zarjaz doesn't end there, because there's some incredibly cool stuff coming from them and me in the new year. I've already blogged about the fact that Zarjaz #14 will feature a cover based on my Devlin Waugh strip, but I now know who is actually providing the art for cover... Unfortunately, my lips have to remain sealed for the moment - as they do about a couple of things that'll hopefully be coming from me and Dunk Nimmo for Zarjaz in the new year...
As I said, you can buy several issues of these fine publications from the FutureQuake shop, all of them priced £3.00 (+ p&p) Earth money.
It'd be remiss of me not to mention that there are other titles in the FutureQuake stable, with strips by me, that are still available to buy - two issues of Something Wicked to be exact. Something Wicked #5 features Key To The Kingdom by me and Caroline Parkinson:
Something Wicked #7 features The Path from me and John Cahill:
And the covers look like this:
Both issues are available from The FutureQuake Shop, priced £3.50 (+ p&p).
This year also saw the release of Accent UK's Predators - and some positive reviews for the strip I did with Bryan Coyle, Just Like You.
For me, the story was a bit of a break from the norm, and I was never sure if it would work, given that having a character break the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader doesn't always work. This time, though, it seems to have paid off... The reaction to the strip has been pretty solid and it's started to get people excited (or more interested, anyway) in Babble, which is pretty cool and all kinds of flattering.
You can order Predators by taking the Diamond code (STK449777) to your local comic shop, or you can buy a copy directly from Accent UK. Their other anthologies, Robots and Western, are also still available (order codes can be found further up your screen, if you're so interested).
I've also taken receipt of the finished artwork for my contribution to Accent UK's next anthology, Zombies 2, the follow up to their best selling Zombies collection. The story is called Dead Harvest, and art is being provided by Valia Kapadai.
The story isn't your typical zombie story - in fact, I actually gave away a big hint as to who the star of the story is and maybe even what's going to set Dead Harvest apart from the hoards of zombie tales out there, but it seems to have passed everyone by... Valia and I will be teaming up again for the 2013 anthology, Victoriana, with a piece called The Eyes Of The Ripper, a little chiller inspired by the works of Robert Bloch. I'll no doubt be posting more about that in the new year. You'll be able to see more Valia's work in White Knuckle, due next year, and the much talked about Womanthology.
While Babble didn't emerge this year as planned (due to various reasons, including - but not limited to - re-writes, illness and technical problems), things on that front took some, frankly, jaw dropping turns - the biggest being, of course, managing to secure a small presence at San Diego Comic Con.
Com.X partner Ben Shahrabani was kind enough to send me one of those postcards from San Diego:
That little thing also led to us getting a mention on Comic Book Resources:
I don't mind admitting, when I went back to that page to get the URL, I had a big silly grin on my face when I realised that the piece was still there (even though my bio is now a bit out of date).
The reaction to Babble so far has been very strong; people seem quite taken with the central premise of the story, and the bits and pieces of art we've released on the net have got people excited to see more of Bryan's work. I'm truly grateful for the fact that so many people seem to be chomping at the bit to get their hands on the finished product, but I'm also kind of scared by it... It's partly the anxiety of wondering if it's not going to live up to peoples expectations (if they have any), but it's also down to the fact that Babble has been part of my life for so long, in a lot of different forms, and it's difficult to let it go and be judged by the world at large.
Since we moved to Com.X and, essentially, brought Babble out of the small press, we've been forced to re-assess and bring our game up a few notches, and with it has come additional anxiety about the reaction it'll garner when it's finally released. But, seeing Bryan's work on it, my - probably conceited - belief that this is going to be something just a little bit good has been bolstered considerably. The guy knows his onions, it has to be said. And how to draw a damn fine comic strip.
Another cool thing that came out of Babble this year was The Babble Project. While it didn't quite work out as I'd hoped, it still provided the opportunity to reach out to some fantastic comic creators from around the world and bring them together under a single banner, as it were.
You can, if you're so inclined, click on the above images to see the full gallery. Also, I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who agreed to get involved. Guys: you're all stars.
Babble is on schedule for a release next year through Com.X. I will, no doubt, be plugging it at every opportunity.
Another piece I'm looking forward to seeing in print is my contribution to Stacey Whittle's Into The Woods anthology. Not only do I get to rub shoulders with some of the cream of UK small press talent, but I also got the chance to try something I've never done before: adapt an existing story into comic form. In this case it's an old Northumbrian folk tale, The Lang Pack (or The Long Pack, for all you southerners). Simon Wyatt has provided the art (with Philip Roncone on lettering duties), and, it has to be said, it's looking pretty damn good.
You can see more of Simon's art in his debut graphic novel Unbelievable: The Man Who Ate Daffodils which is out now.
Into The Woods will be launched at Cardiff Comic Expo next year. I'll post more about price, page count etc. when I have the details. For now, here's a sneaky peek of the logo, courtesy of Andy Bloor:
2011 also saw my second ever convention with Thought Bubble in Leeds. Although I was only their for a day, it was great to catch up with some people and finally meet some others in the flesh. And I actually signed my first ever book... It was kind of surreal being asked to do it (and, I have to say, it was just a case of me being in the right place at the right time, rather than someone hunting me across the con floor), but I'm just glad I actually remembered how to sign my name...
I was all signed up to make an "appearance" at The Canny Comic Con in Newcastle earlier this month, but had to drop out due to illness - a fact that I'm still utterly gutted about. I've often said that the north east could do with an event like that, if only to promote the burgeoning comic scene in the region but I'm immensely disappointed I couldn't be a part of it this year - and finally get some previews of Babble out into the world.
Hopefully, the event will be back next year - and come hell or high water, I'll be there!
For the last few months, I've found myself making some pretty tough decisions about the writing side of things (not just deciding against the aforementioned quitting), but - as pretentious as this sounds - they've been based on trying to lay stronger foundations of a career, rather than just chasing publication credits. I guess it's the age old question of quality over quantity, and I'm planting myself in the former camp. Or trying to, anyway. Time will tell on whether I succeed or not.
Whatever the result on that front, though, it's become clear my attitude to writing has changed over the last twelve months. I've found myself taking it more seriously - not that I never took it seriously, but I've become more focused about it, more determined to hone whatever writing skills I may or may not possess. Admittedly, that's more of an ongoing thing, but this year, it feels like I've turned a corner. I know I've still got a long way to go, but I feel I've inched a little closer.
One pretty big - and quite personal - thing happened this year, too: The Stone Roses announced they were getting back together. While that may not be the most exciting news to anyone reading this blog, to me it really was a special moment. The Stone Roses hold a special place in my life; they provided the soundtrack to some of my formative years, and I'm genuinely excited to see what they do next. For now, though, here's probably my personal favourite Stone Roses song for reasons that would need an entire blog post of their own:
As for 2012... Well, I don't know, to be honest. I've got some irons in the fire, which could go either way at the minute, but I'm refusing to get excited about them until I know for certain what's going to happen. I've got a few things I'd like to do, or make happen (or at least try and take the right steps to make them happen in the future), but we'll have to see how it all works out. I've got enough comic material stacked up to see me in print through 2012 (and possibly into 2013), but I guess it's all about rolling that into new opportunities - and the right opportunities - and see what happens.
So, I think I'll be entering 2012 with some caution...