The Obligatory 2014 Review Blog Post!Really not sure how I managed to talk myself into doing these every year, but here we are, wishing 2014 a fond farewell as it totters off into the sunset.
I think I can safely say that this year was a pretty mixed bag, but with a bit more good to outweigh the bad, which was pretty cool. I won't lie: I've had some dark times this year, and it's been a bit of a balancing act trying to keep things together and keep a brave face on - which, I know I shouldn't have done, and I should've gone to talk to someone at least, but most of it stemmed from a crushing lack of self-confidence in my writing, and - probably rightly - most people would just think I wanted my ego stroked. I came closer than I've ever been to just calling it a day this whole writing thing and just walking away for good, but I realised how much stuff I've got in the pipeline and that I can't exactly leave my collaborators in the lurch, because, well, that's just not me. But I also look at the increasingly horrible landscape the current
Yeah, yeah, I know, I've been using that image for the last few year end blog posts, but it's just far too appropriate to ignore. Having experienced a Thatcher (and then Major) government, it's hard not to see that the current people in power as anything but her demon spawn, desperate to line their own pockets and help their mates get richer, regardless of who or what they have to dismantle to do that. Austerity isn't the way forward, but it will help them get richer, which, frankly, is all that matters to them.
But, of course, not being obscenely wealthy or part of the "squeezed middle", my opinions and feelings on...anything don't matter a jot. I am, of course, simply one of the proles trying to eke out something akin to an existence in a world where I'm clearly not wanted.
On The Road...So, I finally got around to writing and publishing another short prose story on the Kindle (and other e-readers) in the shape of 10 Miles.
Well, it's actually meant to be One/Zero Miles because... Well, you'll have to read it to find out.
I also need to send a huge thank you to my regular partner in crimes against comics Bryan Coyle for whipping up that rather tasty cover image for me.
10 Miles actually took me longer than it should have, really. I think I got lost in my enjoyment of the story - not necessarily the writing process, but the central idea of just...packing up and leaving your life behind. There's something romantic about it, I think, and it seems to be a bit of a recurring theme in my work. It probably means something...
Anyway. Because of the EU VAT changes, I'm going to be withdrawing 10 Miles from sale at the beginning of January, so if you want it, you'd best grab it now. It's currently available via Amazon UK, Amazon US, Smashwords or as a direct PDF download from me.
Thanks to the HMRC pretty much not getting the impact these changes will have on people, I'm also going to be removing the ads and banners from the blog, too.
Once the dust settles with the VAT changes, I'll look again at maybe making some prose stuff available via Amazon. I kind of re-discovered my love of writing prose, and I'd love to get back into it properly in the new year. It might be time to saddle up and get back on the submissions trail...
Hey, Kids! Comics!Me and comics had an...interesting relationship in 2014. I picked up a paying gig and, as of typing this, there's something in the pipeline that may be a good, solid step forward, if it works out (and if it doesn't...well, let's not think about that just yet).
Looking back over the year, it seems like fairly light in terms of getting work in print compared to previous years. A long-in-gestation anthology project fell through and a couple of other strips are being held over until 2015, but this year saw stuff written by me appear in Zarjaz #21:
and Something Wicked #10:
Zarjaz #21 featured Judge Dredd: True Believers by myself and Paul Williams, a 10 page story that I'm really proud of - not just in terms of scripting, but also Paul's art. Going in, I was worried about the opening of the story and whether it would work or not, but Paul really stepped up to the plate and knocked it right out of the park (as anyone who's read the strip can attest).
The script, though, felt like watershed in a lot of ways. It was a conscious break from the deliberately old school Dredd stuff I'd done for Zarjaz, and an attempt to, not only stretch myself as a writer, but to try and do a more modern, contemporary Dredd tale that fits closer to the character we see in 2000AD now. Whether I succeeded or not is another matter, but I'm more happy with the fact that I tried, and, going forward, I realise how much it boosted my confidence enough to try different things with other work.
Paul and I should be back together in the pages of Dogbreath, with a Durham Red story. More when I'm allowed to spill.
Something Wicked #10, on the other hand, featured Victoria by myself and Bryan Coyle, a story that was, in a lot of ways the polar opposite of True Believers. Whereas that was an over the top sci-fi action story, Victoria was a small, real world horror that I hope hit the right spot and creeped people the hell out.
It was a story that I've had kicking around for a while, but never really felt confident to actually try it until recently. It wasn't a comfortable piece to write, I'll admit, and it made me re-assess some of my own views, but it's also something I felt strongly enough to want to do. I also got some advice/coaching on the script from a comics pro that was completely invaluable, and helped me get it just right, which is something I will be eternally grateful for.
I wrote at length about why I feel Bryan was the right choice for the strip in an old blog post, and I'll re-iterate here for those who don't want to click a link: in an age of over-sexualised female characters, Victoria just wouldn't work if it had been presented as a "T'n'A" comic. Bryan's grounded, realistic style was absolutely perfect for the strip, and I genuinely couldn't be happier with what he brought to the table. It was, I think, a high point for both of us, but him especially.
Both Zarjaz #21 and Something Wicked #10 are available from the FutureQuake Shop.
Although, the actual printed on paper work was thin on the ground this year, 2014 saw the on-line debut of The Thing In The Window, an M.R. James inspired ghost story from myself and Bryan.
It was fun to do, and provided a unique set of challenges (how do you get across that unnerving atmosphere that's prevalent in M.R. James' work in comic form?), but I think we did a good job on it - and it seemed to go down well with the people who read it. The story is available to read at the link above, should you want to.
However, 2014 also saw the first "Daily Dredd" strips appear on the Zarjaz blog.
The whole thing came about during a discussion between myself, Bolt-01, Rich Clements and Stewart K. Moore about a completely different project. I got
The Hunting Game, as it was eventually called, proved to be a whole lot of fun, and I ended up challenging myself to try and do some that were only a couple of episodes long. I didn't plan to send them through to Zarjaz, as they were more about practising the style and format, but I ended up sending them anyway because my fragile ego demanded it. I have to give my eternal gratitude to the artists who stepped in to tackle those little strips (and offer my sincere apologies for giving them some really awkward stuff to draw), so thank you Bryan Coyle, Paul Williams and Jim Lavery - you guys really nailed the strips, and I'm proud of you all. And, of course, a big thanks to Bolt for providing the lettering for all of the dailies so far.
The Hunting Game here, and you can read the Dredd "mini-cases" from myself, Paul, Jim and Bryan here. Just before Christmas, me and Bolt got back together for a Christmas themed strip, Santy Claws Is Comin' Ta Town, which you can read here. Oh, and I should say a very special thank you to 2000AD for including Santy Claws in one of their Thrill Mail's instead of a vintage Dredd Daily. Which, yeah, did actually happen.
If everything goes according to plan (which it might not, let's be honest), 2015 should see four - count 'em! - daily strips gracing the internets. Details as and when. I've also been thinking about doing a blog post/essay about everything I learned doing these strips, and I may actually do that, too, in early 2015. You have been warned...
In the new year, I should be back in the pages of Zarjaz again with Alfie Gallagher, with a brand new Judge Anderson tale (from a story by Bryan, I should add). I'm a huge fan of Anderson, I have to say, and any chance I can get to write her is a pleasure, but this one in particular proved to be something special. Alfie brought so much to the table with this, and it was an absolute pleasure to work with him.
As a special bonus, Alfie's given me the all clear to post this early preliminary sketch of Anderson, to give you some idea of what his take looks like:
Coming to the pages of FutureQuake is not one, but two new strips from me and the soon to be stratospheric talent that is Mr Jim Lavery.
The first of those, Part Of The Process, deserves special mention because it was my first attempt at trying something "Marvel Method". Jim approached me with six pages of artwork from an aborted project and asked if I could do anything with them, so the art wouldn't go to waste. Because I'm such a pushover, I agreed and wrote a new script to match the visuals, which was an interesting experience and one I took a lot away from.
Because the art's already there, I had to try and match the dialogue to what was happening in the panels, and cede a lot of control over the pacing and beats of the story, which was not something I've had to do before. I also had to be careful about the amount of dialogue I added, too, which proved to be the trickiest part of it all.
The results will be in the next issue of FutureQuake, due out next year. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of Part Of The Process:
Also coming from us will be End Of The Road, an odd little tale that... Well, you'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, though, Jim posted a character design from it on Twitter:
Staying on the comics theme for a wee bit longer, I really need to give a huge shout outs to Dan Hill, Mark Dale and Bolt-01 for all their help and support this year with a couple of projects which, unfortunately, still have no home. Fingers crossed, they'll find a place to live in the new year.
Also, the Mighty Colin Smith offered me the opportunity to pop over to his blog before he closed it down and let me talk about some comics that most people would probably overlook simply because of what they are.
Inter-company crossovers are usually overlooked because they're, frankly, cash-ins with no thought or care going into them (Witchblade/Wolverine, anyone?), so I decided to take a look at two of the best out there, namely Batman/Spider-Man and Batman vs Predator. I realised that I wouldn't exactly be setting the critical world on fire with those guest posts, but I ended up coming away from both posts with something: to write them, I dug out my original copies of the comics and re-read them for the first time in years, but in doing so, I found myself doing a critical analysis and breaking each of them down to see how the stories were constructed - something that I'd never actually done with both of the writers concerned - and walked away with a few new tricks to try and apply to my own work.
And, y'know, reading and writing about these old comics was fun.
You can read the original Batman/Spider-Man post here, while the Batman vs Predator guest post can be found here.
Just as an aside, 2014 marked the seventh consecutive year I've had work in print, which still blows my mind.
Babble On...And the Babble machine continues to roll on...
There were two big bits of news around this in 2014, the first - and most important - being that it (and the Com.X back catalogue) managed to find its way onto Madefire.
For those not in the know, Madefire is a new digital comics app to rival Comixology and ComicsPlus, co-founded by British artist Liam Sharpe. It means Babble is on three of the major digital platforms now, so you've got no excuse not to buy it... Anyway, you can get the Madefire app via iTunes (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android).
And, remember, Babble is also available in print editions from Amazon UK, Amazon US and all good comic stores.
Earlier in the year, we - myself and Bryan - got wind of a new series coming out of Boom! Studios called Memetic which seemed to bare an oddly high number of similarities with our book. Then, when the first issue was released in October... Well, I'm not going to add anything more to what I already said, because there's not much we can do except poke fun.
Still, Boom! Studios didn't have anything like this:
Damned if that still doesn't make me smile...
Anyway, Babble is still available in print from Amazon UK and Amazon US or in digital from Comixology, ComicsPlus and, of course, Madefire (iOS and Android). Oh, and Com.X have their very own Amazon page, too.
Cha-changes...2014's been a year of changing things up, as the kids say, on various levels. For instance, I've dragged this here blog into the 21st Century with a new responsive template, which is not a big thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it kind of reflected my changing outlook on...well, a lot of things. I wrote and published a thing on Medium that tried to consolidate and get across what I was feeling at the time, about letting go of the past and looking to the future. In a nutshell, I don't think there's any real point to looking back any more - except to learn from your mistakes - and I'm trying not to. I know it's got under the skin of a few people out there in the world, and that's fine, because this is not about them, it's about me pushing myself to get where I want to be, both as a person and as a writer.
I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm getting a clearer idea of where I want to go and who I want to be as a writer, which I think, in an odd way, has held me back a little. That and my crippling self doubt.
2014 was also a year of planning and laying things out for the long game ahead, which was a daunting and sometimes almost soul crushing task, but I don't think you can wander through this writing game and not plan things out.
A part of that - an odd, tangential part of that - is me streamlining my "social media presence" considerably. I deactivated my Facebook account back in February, closed down a number of old accounts from other services and pretty much hooked my wagon to Twitter and Tumblr (you can still find me on This Is My Jam, too, if you must, although I don't update all that often). It occurred to me - and probably millions of other people before me - that social media as a whole is nothing more than an extension of the ego; although the entire concept is supposedly built on interaction, it's amazing how few people actually do interact with each other, apart from random threats or just people being pedants - which, in itself, is nothing more than people trying to get their own ego stroked by yelling "look at me!".
On the flip side of that, though, I've found watching the flow of social media has taught me a lot and made me re-think my views and attitudes to various aspects of the world outside your window.
However, I also decided to pull back on talking about stuff that may or may not happen in the future, and generally trying to inflate my own ego. Rather than talk about the eleventy billion words I've written before breakfast to prove that I'm a Real Writer, I decided to just shrug it off and go and, y'know, write. Crazy, I know.
This year's been one of watersheds for me, too - quite a lot of them, it has to be said. But they've all been for the greater good. One such thing was me finally shrugging off those last vestiges of writerly arrogance and seeking some help and advice from a pro who's work I admire (and I was bowled over when they graciously agreed to take a look at a couple of things). The kick in the arse they gave me was something I needed at that point, I think, and everything I learned has proved to be invaluable. I've tried to apply it to as much work as I can through the rest of the year, and I can already feel things becoming stronger and more solid. Hope I can still keep it rolling through the new year.
Those watershed moments, though, have also informed what may be the closest thing I'll have to a new years resolution for 2015: be honest and realistic with myself.
I've been accused of creating "self-fulfilling prophecies" when I say I can see how certain things are going to go, but it's not that at all: it's me being realistic about certain aspects of life, and doing that - although a bit pessimistic - stops me living with my head in the clouds (which I've done a bit too much of this year). So, yeah. Feet firmly on the fucking ground in 2015, I think.
Looking back at this post from the beginning of the year, though, I realised that I've actually ticked off pretty much everything on that list (apart from the more blogging bit - really should try and do more in the new year). That took me by surprise, really, because I couldn't really see past all the crap stuff that's happened over the course of the year and realise what I'd actually achieved.
Still, it's a nice way to wrap up 2014.
And Finally...2014's been pretty damn great for music, it has to be said, but, for me, the largely overlooked Here So Rain by Black Submarine has to be my favourite new song of the year.
Shame the rest of the album wasn't as good...
Over the course of the year, I developed a bit of a taste for Northern Soul. There's far too many great tunes I could post, but The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is probably the one I've listened to the most, so it seems appropriate that I end this blog post with it.
And on that note, it's time to let 2014 finish packing up and make way for 2015...