Velicity Jones Returns in... The Silent Forest!

The super spy returns to the pages (screens?) of Aces Weekly, courtesy of me, Bryan Coyle and letterer extraordinaire Bolt-01 in her third adventure, The Silent Forest!

When world renowned scientists begin disappearing, it appears the Scottish laird Jamie Ashpool is making his long held dream of creating a commune dedicated purely to unencumbered scientific research finally come true.

But when experimental sonic weapons are traced back to the commune, the world's greatest secret agent, Velicity Jones, is assigned to investigate - but soon discovers the horrifying true purpose behind Ashpool's dream...

We're three stories into Velicity Jones, so I guess we have a series now...?

Anyway. It's worth pointing out that you don't need to have read the two previous Velicity Jones adventures (The Devil's Breath, available in Aces Weekly issue 29 and The Godcutter Affair, available in issue 37). This is - like its predecessors - a completely stand alone and self-contained story, designed to be read as a whole or in weekly instalments. But, hey, if you want to read the previous two, then you won't get any complaints from us.

Reading all three stories in order will, I think, let you see our "working out," as it were. With each serial, we've refined elements of the storytelling (and the world building), and, with The Silent Forest, it feels like we've finally locked a lot of elements into place going forward. We've also got some internal continuity going, so if you do choose to read all three in order, you'll get a few surprises...

You can read the first episode of The Silent Forest exclusively in Aces Weekly volume 41, which launches on August 26th, and each subsequent episode will arrive on the screen of your choosing every following Monday for the next seven weeks. A subscription to Aces Weekly will cost you £6.99 - or £1 a week, if you prefer! Back issues are available here.

So, what're you waiting for? Go! Subscribe!

If buying/subscribing via Aces Weekly isn't your bag, we are looking at re-releasing the Velicity Jones stories as stand alone digital comics sometime soon. Watch this space...

Joining the Republic Of Newsletters... Or not.

Been going back and forth on whether to actually set up a newsletter for a while now (I even went as far as to set up an account on a couple of different platforms to see which one is best for me), but I keep looking at the stats of this here blog and think: "is it worth it?"

I don't want to come across as "oh, poor me" because there's enough of that...well, everywhere (the last thing the world needs is another white guy whining, let's be honest), but I'm aware that I have no real presence in the world of social media, and it would be a massive blow to my already fragile ego when I see approximately no one has signed up after a month or so of plugging it.

On top of that, I...really don't have anything to say. Which, yes, I know hasn't stopped anybody from starting a newsletter, like, ever, but, hey, I dare to be different.

Well, OK, I guess I could use it to poke holes in a few of the old classic nuggets of advice around hashtag make comics, which would be fun. And probably not win me any new friends.

Actually, maybe I should just set up a Patreon for that... 🤔

Yes, I just used an emoji in a blog post. Go me.

I know I should just use a newsletter to a) talk about myself and what I'm up to, and 2) plug what I'm working on, but there's two major flaws in that approach:

1) I am an intensely private person, and the idea of putting anything more than the absolute bare minimum of information about myself out into the world horrifies me.

b) a lot of what I'm working on may not actually go anywhere, so it's pretty pointless talking about it in any great detail.

Maybe I could offer up some in-depth analysis of what I'm watching or reading? Maybe, but, really, does anyone care that I didn't like Swamp Thing? (I suspect that's an opinion that will not fit with the majority view).

I could maybe do some analysis of some comics I'm reading, but, I have a hunch that would result in people feeling "attacked" and  "trolled" because I dared to say something that wasn't 100% praise for their "genius." Or I would get that if anyone actually signed up for my newsletter. Hey, maybe I could just do it anyway, knowing no one will ever actually sign up... 🤔

Anyway. I think I can safely file the whole newsletter idea under "maybe another time."

For now, it's looking like I'll stick with these lonely isles of blogging.

A Return to the Isle of Blogging

This has been a long time coming, I think, but I think it's time to turn away from social media and head back to the Isle of Blogging.

This post and the video below kind of some up some (most?) of my feelings about social media as a whole:

I can't deny the fact that I've made some great friends and contacts via social media, and I've had more than my fair share of entertainment through the various platforms, but I've found myself engaging less and less with it over the last couple of years for a variety of reasons. I'm still active on a bunch of platforms (check the icons over on the right), but it's mainly just using them as a window to watch the world through.

The torrent of information (both real and not), voices vying for attention and the polarisation of...everything can be a bit much, I feel. I mean, everything has to be presented as a statement of fact, and be done so in a way that's as performative as possible, to prove...something? I dunno. On top of that, you're fighting with the algorithms that, ultimately, decide what you see and don't, and who sees your updates and doesn't. It's really not something I can be arsed with, if I can use the technical term.

So, I'm returning to this here blog to carry on carving out my own little corner of the web, and get away from the flaming garbage fire rough and tumble of soash meeds. I have no idea what I'll do on here, other than point out new projects I'm involved with, of course. Given the heat and the fact I have about four million other things to do before Boris Johnson tears the country apart, this whole endeavour may fall by the wayside very, very quickly.

I'll retain a presence on social media platforms, of course (Twitter to promote posts on here and the odd bit of self-promotion for upcoming projects, Facebook for family and Instagram for the pretty pictures), but this will be the primary place to find me.

For now, anyway.

Short Stories Direct From The Source

OK, so... I do, occasionally (and by that, I mean less than I'd like to) write short prose stories, usually just odd wee things that no one's really interested in, but they're a way to get stuff out of my system in a way that comics and other forms of writing can't.

They're up for sale across Amazon, Gumroad and other places, but now, I'm offering them all as PDFs, directly from me!

At the minute, there's only a small handful, but I'm going to try and increase that library over the rest of the year.

Currently available are:

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 that same past he's trying to avoid...

Buy Nursery Rhyme directly from me, for only 99p:

Alternatively, buy Nursery Rhyme from:

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...
Buy Melody directly from me, for only 99p:

Alternatively, buy Melody from:

Buy From Gumroad

Buy from Payhip

Buy from Sellfy

Rob Jackson has turned his life over to the whims of Fate, using the flip of a coin to make decisions. But, as he heads through the Nevada desert, he's discovering just what a strange and cruel mistress Fate can be...
Buy 10 Miles directly from me, for only 99p:

Alternatively, buy 10 Miles from here:

Buy From Gumroad

Buy from Payhip

Buy from Sellfy

When a "Magic 8-Ball" computer program begins to make increasingly accurate predictions, Paul Johnson finds his life slowly being turned inside out...

Buy 8-Ball as a PDF directly from me, for only 99p:

Alternatively, buy 8-Ball from here:

Buy From Gumroad

Buy from Payhip

Buy from Sellfy

10 Miles is a collection of short stories (including the aforementioned 10 Miles).

Buy 10 Miles as a PDF directly from me for £1.99:

Alternatively, buy 10 Miles from here:

Buy from Gumroad

Buy from Payhip

Buy from Sellfy


Brexit Day

So, "Brexit Day" came and went without anything happening - although, I did end up writing a thing to...commemorate it, I guess? That might not be the right word.

Anyway. On Friday, I wrote a very short prose piece called Brexit Day, which was loosely inspired by a series of stupid text conversations with a friend, after he noted how wildly excited news reporters seem to be over the whole process. Like Brexit itself, the story is a little dark, a little absurd and political. It may not be to everyone's tastes, either (it's already been compared to Clive Barker and Cronenberg, which might give you an idea of where it goes), so, please be warned.

I'm giving it away as a freebie, which you can download, via Dropbox, by clicking the image below.

Normally, I'd say here that if you like the story, please consider buying me a coffee, via Ko-fi, but this time, I'm going to say if you like the story, please consider making a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support or Cancer Research UK.

Out Now: FutureQuake #33 - 2019 Edition

It's March, here in merry old Blighty, and a new issue of FutureQuake has hit the streets - featuring something by, er, me!

This issue sees Brett Burbridge, Bolt-01 and me come together for a weird little sci-fi tale called The Farm...

Two soldiers fighting a war like no other stumble across a terrifying secret...

I realise that's a bit on the short side, but the story's only four pages, and there's not much more I can add without giving the entire thing away.

Anyway. The Farm's had a bit of a journey, I think it's fair to say. I wrote it quite a while ago, while I was having a bit of a "crisis of faith" in my own work; I knew something was wrong with it when I finished the initial draft, but I couldn't see what, until someone pointed out what it was ("Pro" Tip: don't break the flow of the story with an unnecessary and lengthy flashback to smugly explain the history of the world you've created). Does this final version work? Well, you'll have to pick up the latest issue of FutureQuake to find out.

Joining me in creating this weird little world is Brett Burbridge. Brett brings a dynamism and a sense of urgency to the story that gives it additional layers of tension; the mood he evokes on the page really draws you into the story, and his realisation of this world really makes you want to know more about it.

Be sure to check out Brett's work over on his site and be sure and follow him on Twitter.

In the meantime, the mammoth sized FutureQuake 2019 (or issue 33, for those of you keeping score) is available from FutureQuake, priced £6.50 (+ shipping). It will be available digitally via Comixology soon, too. I'll update this post when it's available.

Update: FutureQuake #33 is now available via Comixology.

Several back issues of FutureQuake are also available, both in print and digitally, via Comixology and ComicHaus, if you want some more top tier SF thrills.

The 13th Stone

Well, this has been on the cards for a while, but it's finally happened: The 13th Stone by me, Bryan Coyle and Bolt-01 is now available via Comixology - in a brand new, coloured and expanded edition, complete with a brand new cover!

Taking a job in the small English village of Argleton, archaeologist Joy Lambton finds herself intrigued by the ancient stones that stand on the outskirts – particularly why the few sources she can find about them 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 and its inhabitants...

This was a labour of love for me, it has to be said (and one that I'm glad Bryan and Bolt-01 shared with me). It came out of having a pitch rejected by a big publisher, a pitch which I still feel is one of the best things I've ever worked on - so much so, that some strands of its DNA made it into The 13th Stone.

Bryan suggested that we do a complete first issue for the pitch, but I argued - rightly, I feel - that that would be a waste of time for a project that might potentially go nowhere, so I threw out the idea of a self contained 20-something page story. Then, just to make it more difficult for both of us, I came up with the idea of something inspired by the English folk horror films of the 60's and 70's, a genre that no one really does in comics (you could argue that Injection from Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire touches on elements of it, but it's welded to some hard sci-fi, so it doesn't really count).

We ended up putting the black and white version out via Gumroad and watched as it...didn't sell (to be fair, we shifted a few PDFs of it when it was periodically put up for sale on a "pay what you want" basis). We were prepared to leave it as it was and write it off as a failed experiment, until the whole Mallet Productions thing started to get off the ground, and a decision was taken to re-publish The 13th Stone under their banner.

Only, Bryan wanted to colour it before it went out again.

From there, more pages were added, to make it into a proper, full blown comic with new covers, to make it the second official release of the newly reformed Mallet Productions (all credit has to go to Bryan for taking the lead on the art side of things).

I am stupidly proud of this comic. It was born of frustration with the current landscape of comics, I'll admit, but it became something special, I think, something truly different from what is the norm. I've long been an advocate of "make the comics you want to see," and The 13th Stone is - in collaboration with Bryan and Bolt-01, of course - a comic I definitely want to see in the world. Will anyone else want to see it, too? Well, that remains to be seen...

The 13th Stone is available from Comixology under the Mallet Productions banner, priced $2.99.

Mallet Productions

So, new year, new project(s)...

I mentioned this back in October, but Mallet Productions is back from the dead.

"Who?" some of you may well be asking, but those of a certain age will no doubt remember Mallet Studios for their classic movies, or maybe the cult television show Mansion Of Madness.

Mansion of Madness promotional poster restored by Andi Ewington

Founded in 1935 by Jonathan Williams, Mallet Productions (later known as Mallet Studios) was a small British film company based in London that became home to some of the most critically acclaimed films to ever come out of the United Kingdom. Initially concentrating on challenging social dramas, such as The Glass (1937), the story of pub landlord who’s determined to give his daughter a better start in life than he ever had, and The Factory (1936), a gritty tale of class war in a munitions factory in the Midlands, Mallet branched out into war films, detective mysteries and even comedy (1939’s All Aboard! was one of the most successful British films of that year).

However, it was the release of The Girl In The Room (1941) that Mallet finally tapped into a rich vein of unsettling, psychological horror that would come to define their output over the next several years. Building on the critical and financial success of such outstanding movies as 23 Holborn Terrace (1951), Mallet eventually began to turn their attention to more mainstream horror and, before long, science fiction. With classics such as The Horror Of Ward 13 (1953) and The Silent Planet (1955), Mallet’s position in the cinematic landscape of the UK became assured.

In the 1970’s Mallet branched into TV, with their acclaimed anthology series Mansion of Madness. While the series only ran for five of its six episodes (ITV received a record number of complaints following the airing of the still disturbing The Devil’s Run and, as such, decided not to air the final episode of the series), Mallet used its success to branch into publishing with their comic series of the same name.

Mallet's seemingly unstoppable reign finally ground a halt in the 1970's as they turned to more mainstream - and some would say blander - monster fare for the big screen. Although they still produced such classics as 1971's The Nine Brides Of Satan, a series of lukewarm receptions at the box office saw the studio left on precarious financial footing, until the ill-fated production The Mummy Takes Manhattan and its numerous behind the scenes problems forced Mallet to close its doors for good.

Now, however, Mallet has been reborn under it's original name, Mallet Productions, and is looking to the future with new and exciting projects.

First among them is, of course, is the brand new, digital edition of Mansion Of Madness, which was launched in October 2018, with a truly stellar array of creators involved, including Andi Ewington, Maura McHugh, Alfie Gallagher, Clay McLeod Chapman, Alex Paterson, Jasper Bark and Ruth Frances Long:

Mansion Of Madness is available from Comixology, priced $3.99.

And what's next I hear you ask...? Well, the second Mallet release is already being processed and should be available soon. So, be sure and check back soon...

The Last Jedi

I'm a bit late to this party, I know, but I'm contemplating a Star Wars marathon of all the movies over the next few weeks, which would, of course, end with The Last Jedi.

I went to see the film shortly after it was released, continuing a tradition that a friend and I started with Revenge Of The Sith, of seeing every Star Wars film at the cinema. I was apprehensive, I'll admit, after seeing The Force Awakens. To me, that one felt like a "do-over" of A New Hope (and I've moaned plenty about being able to "see the joins" in the script), but having Han and Chewie back on screen was something special, something I genuinely thought I'd never see in my lifetime. I'll admit, I left the cinema feeling a little emotional after Han's demise, but I also walked out ready to forgive the films flaws, and absolutely dying to know what was going to happen in the next chapter.

When the time came around for The Last Jedi, my feelings were mixed: was it going to be a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back? Was it going to kill another of my favourite characters off? Was it going to be any good? They'd tried something different with Rogue One, and, while I appreciated that, I wanted something more...familiar from The Last Jedi. I'd tried valiantly to avoid spoilers and reviews, sticking to the trailers to get me hyped, and letting the anticipation build, so I could go in cold.

And then I saw it.

And I was completely blown away.

It felt like a Star Wars film, but it did things that the franchise never had before, it moved things around in a way I never expected and created a unique experience that left me gagging for more.

Was it flawed? Of course. The whole Canto Blight sequence doesn't quite work, and they still couldn't find anything interesting to do with Phasma, for starters, but there was so much more to it all. The characters felt more developed, the story felt...right and it did something the previous film didn't: it passed the baton to the next generation of fans.

But, for me, it was Luke's story arc that brought everything home. It felt natural to me, someone who hasn't invested anything in the Expanded Universe stuff (well, OK, I read the original trilogy by Timothy Zahn and decided I'd stick with the films, thank you very much); the way it was brought to the screen by everyone involved just left me with a whole mixture of feelings - sadness, joy, pride, hope. This was a Luke struggling with the expectations placed on him and deciding to just do his own thing - which is hard not to see as something meta about Rian Johnson's involvement, but maybe that's just me.

The icing on the cake, though, was seeing Yoda appear.

I remember feeling a swell of pure joy at seeing the little guy on screen, and I could genuinely feel tears welling when I heard his voice.

As I said to someone afterwards, I was surprised at how emotional the film left me.

But, over the intervening year since it was released, it's become even more emotional to me.

It's the first Star Wars film I never got to watch with my mam.

Back in 2016, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was caught early enough, and, after successful surgery, she was fighting fit again. But a year later, she found that it wasn't completely gone, so she went back for more surgery, worried sick, but never really letting it show and determined to beat it again.

Early this year, she found out the cancer was still there and making her sick. After a couple of false starts thanks to the "Beast From The East," she was admitted to hospital to get it taken care of, so she could start chemo. She was expected to make a full recovery and get started with the treatment shortly there after.

Only, cancer's a sly fucker.

It became clear the cancer was aggressive and after a few weeks, it became clear to the doctors there was nothing more they could do.

In April, she passed away quietly at the age of 64.

During the aftermath, when I was trying to deal with everything, a single, stupid though popped into my head that's stuck with me ever since: "she'll never see Yoda come back."

Yoda was one of her favourite characters in Star Wars, and his death in Return Of The Jedi was always a moment of genuine sadness for her. I kept his return in The Last Jedi secret, because I wanted it to be a surprise for her; I wanted to see her face light up when he appears.

I'm typing this out on Christmas Day, unsure if I'm going to post it or not. The film has become such a personal thing for me, now; it's part of a huge ball of emotions rattling around inside me, and - as much as I'd like to put the film on and watch it again, I'm genuinely reluctant. I really don't know whether I'll be able to make it through the entire thing in one piece.

But one thing I am sure of is that I'm glad it exists in the world, because I know it'll bring the same kind of joy it brought me and my mam when we watched all the previous films, to other families. It'll help forge the same kinds of bonds the previous films forged with us - which to me, is - and always has been - the legacy of Star Wars.

Zarjaz Presents... Anderson, Psi Division: I, Death

Way, way back when, myself, Dunk Nimmo and Bolt-01 produced the first solo Judge Anderson story for Zarjaz, with I, Death.

It was a fun little project to work on, and cemented Dunk as one of my favourite collaborators - so much so, we actually did another Anderson story for Zarjaz, the appropriately festive Clear And Present Danger:

You can read that entire story here - for free!

The finished pages of I, Death languished in my archive for a while until Bryan Coyle got a look at them and thought they'd look great with a splash of colour added.

So, that's exactly what he did.

Bryan did a stellar job of the colouring, and it would be a shame to let the pages remain unseen, so, with the permission of everyone involved, I'm presenting the complete, coloured version of I, Death as a festive freebie!

Click the image below to go read it, and - hopefully - enjoy!