November 2021: We Are, All of Us, Here

Hey, folks.

At the start of this month, one of my friends, a stalwart of the local music scene and a thoughtful, erudite and passionate person, committed suicide. He was 27, and the Saturday morning when I found out will be forever etched in my memory. It’s been a long, hard month as a result, and I don’t really have the words to write about it.

Things are overwhelming sometimes. I’m reflecting this onto myself as well, but – talk to someone before it becomes too much.

The Record

  • Finished the last 18 pages of BRIGANTIA #4
  • Scripted the first 7 pages of BRIGANTIA #5 (we’re getting closer to the end of the first arc..!)
  • Two anthology pitches put together, one submitted
  • 4 pages lettered

This month was Thought Bubble, which is always a highlight of my calendar, but it felt quite different this year (what with, you know, the pandemic and everything). Normally I come out of Thought Bubble weekend feeling energised and creatively charged – this year, while I had an absolutely wonderful time seeing friends (and taking drunk photos in the toilets of the Majestic), I’m not getting that same buzz at all. Part of that could be that I’d really hoped we could have the first volume of Brigantia ready for the con, so I’d have something to push – that didn’t happen for a number of good reasons, but it definitely made me feel a little out of sorts all weekend. I feel creatively crushed, basically – there are so many people making amazing comics, pushing ahead and building creative careers. And then there’s me, stuck in a rut, constantly exhausted, with a day job that I despise and no confidence in my own work. It’s not a nice place to be!

I’m wallowing in my own misery here, and I’ll surely snap out of it before long, but until that point things are going to be hard. It’s the paradox of creation – I love making stuff and sharing it with people, but I hate not knowing if it’s going to be any good until it’s done (and even then it’s impossible to tell!) Sometimes I just get into a deep enough pit that all the praise in the world can’t convince me I know what I’m doing, or that I have anything valuable to offer. UGH.

The Tunes

Let’s brighten things up, shall we? It’s a double dose of Dio to start this month’s playlist, because I make the rules here. Rainbow in the Dark is an all-time classic, and Bible Black is probably the biggest banger off an album full of sumptuous Tony Iommi riffs. New Maybeshewill! I thought they’d called it a day, so this fragile but strong gem was a treat to discover. Dordeduh have a silly name, but they make great atmospheric BM in the vein of bands like Negura Bunget – very much up my street. Changing gear rapidly, we have a hardcore punk band who write all their songs about ice hockey, Two Man Advantage – Becky Cloonan recommended them to me at Thought Bubble, and she was right, they’re 100% my jam. A twofer of excellent sludge riff machines up next – Green Druid were a Spotify discovery (love that Swamp Thing artwork) and I was privileged to open a Boss Keloid show on my birthday this month, as part of the live line-up for my friend Paul’s band Le Menhir. Like everyone else in the world (seemingly), I’ve been watching Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary Get Back this month – I wouldn’t consider myself a mega fan, but my dad had this compilation album on his CD shelves and I have a real soft spot for them. Seeing them construct this track together was a delight. The new Emma Ruth Rundle album keeps things morose and moody – very recommended if you enjoy atmospheric music. Lastly, our Metal Gear series playthrough has reached my favourite game, Metal Gear Solid (the OG, on the PS1) – this track, which plays over the outro, is still etched into my heart. And how can you argue with such a hopeful title?

The Links

Just one link for you this month – my good friend Fraser Campbell has launched his latest Kickstarter campaign, and it’s sure to be another monster hit. Go and check out (and back) NIGHTMARE FUEL #1 this instant: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/frasercampbell/nightmare-fuel-1


Look after yourselves – if you’re celebrating Christmas this year I hope it’s a good one and that you all get to enjoy some time off. I’ll be downing tools on December 24th and not going back to work until 2022, but I’ve already mentally lined up a few project things which need doing in that time… hopefully I can fit them in!

All the best,
Chris

October 2021: Spooky Streaky

Happy Halloween, folks!

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The Usual

In ice hockey (and probably other sports as well) there’s a term that sometimes gets applied to players – “streaky”. It means they’re prone to scoring streaks – they might not score any goals or put up any points for a few weeks, then all of a sudden they’ll light up and put together a five-game point streak.

The same thing, I think, applies to writers – some people will sit down every day and make progress, even if it’s a small amount, consistently and reliably. And some won’t write for a while, but then the muse will hit and they’ll bang out an entire issue in a week.

I’ve been finding over the last few months that I’m firmly in the latter camp – life has been so hectic with the day job, practice for three separate bands, a tour with one of them, finding time to cook/clean the house/walk the dog..! It’s been a struggle to consistently make time for writing, but when the muse hit me this month, I got 10 pages deep into my first draft of Brigantia #4 over a few days, wrote a 1000-word essay for Brigantia Vol. 1 in an afternoon and came up with a fairly detailed story synopsis for a horror one-shot during the course of one evening’s dog walk.

My point, insofar as I’m making one, is that it’s okay to be streaky – sure, it’d be nice if I could set aside an hour every day purely to focus on writing and methodically finish pages, but sometimes the words just won’t come out and I’d rather not spend an hour beating my head against a keyboard and feeling like a failure. Write where and when you can, and don’t force yourself into a pattern that doesn’t work for you.

The Record

Following on from that, a bit more life in here this month!

• 10 pages scripted for Brigantia #4
• 1000 word essay for Brigantia Vol. 1 done
• Synopsis for “The Empty House on the Corner” written and page breakdowns started
• 7 pages lettered – I don’t think I can talk about this just yet, but it’s v. exciting because I’m actually getting paid for it! I think that makes me a professional comics creator, right??

I’m quite happy with that total, given that I spent a full week of this month on tour (which was an absolute blast and I wish I was still doing it) and managed to cram in all 25 horror movies from our Shocktober schedule. Here are the five best films we watched this month (in my, extremely subjective, opinion, and discounting ones I’ve seen before and already know I love):

  1. In The Earth – trippy, psychedelic, fantastic.
  2. You’re Next – an interesting take on slasher movies and some very inventive kills!
  3. The Empty Man – this one spooked us the hell out! It’s a bit twisty and complex, but definitely worthwhile.
  4. The Dark and the Wicked – not a classic ‘haunted house’ movie, but extremely effective.
  5. Candyman (2021) – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is excellent (as usual) and this had some really great cinematography.

The Tunes

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice only 9 songs on my playlist this month – that’s because the first track should be this one, by our good friends in Gozer (who we toured with this month): https://wearegozer.bandcamp.com/ It’s their only recorded output thus far and not on Spotify, but having seen them smash it out 6 nights in a row, the riffs are lodged in my brain. Into the Spotify tracks, and we start with A Pale Horse Named Death who have an extremely Halloween-appropriate name and a great ear for a riff. They’re followed by another of our tour friends, The Grey, who are a delight to watch live – instrumental sludge collides with prog to create something complex and unique. Next up is a true classic, Judas Priest‘s Painkiller, which every metal fan needs to listen to at least once a year. Septicflesh are up next with this fantastic tune – I just finished watching Midnight Mass, and while I won’t spoil it for anyone, I couldn’t get this song out of my head during the last 4 or 5 episodes! Dr. Colossus write Simpsons-themed sludge/doom, which isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds – they’re followed by Green Lung, whose new album is a banger stuffed with 70s-tinged riffs. AFI are on this list because somebody on Twitter reminded me that I like them, albeit not as much as my partner (a diehard fan) – Dancing Through Sunday might be a short song but it crams a lot in. Crystal Coffin are new to me – melodic, atmospheric black metal, recommended by my friend Gareth of Heel Turn Promotions. And closing things out is a new Zeal & Ardor track – if you’ve never heard of that band before, please do yourself a favour and listen to both their first two albums, which blend gospel music and Satanic black metal to devastating effect.

The Links

Only two links in here this month, but they’re both worth your time. First up, with some suitably Halloween-adjacent subject matter, is a long read by the absolutely excellent Ritesh Babu which delves very effectively into the criticism of colonialism that nestles at the heart of These Savage Shores (by Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar). I won’t say anything further because Ritesh elucidates it much, much more effectively: http://neotextreview.com/culture/civilized-monsters-these-savage-shores-and-the-colonialist-cage/

Second, Claire Napier (editor on numerous comics including the ‘Space Cowboys’ project I’ve been infrequently working on and all-round wonderful human being) has been putting together some big, important pieces about the actions of comics “publisher” Action Lab. This is part 2 – if you’re not familiar with the background, please take some time and read her other pieces over on ComicBookYeti because it’s very important that Action Lab are held to account: https://www.comicbookyeti.com/post/an-accounting-of-action-lab-allegations-part-2


That’s all for this month! I’ve got a homemade pumpkin pie cooling in the kitchen, sweets in a bowl by the door and I’m looking forward to welcoming some wandering souls/trick or treating kids this evening – let’s celebrate Samhain in style and plunge ever onwards to the end of the year! As ever, take care of yourselves.

All the best,

Chris

August 2021

Howdy, folks!

Bit of a digression to start this month’s newsletter off – bear with me…

The Usual

At the start of this month, I finally polished off the last game in the Mass Effect Trilogy – I’ve been re-playing them thanks to the “Legendary Edition” that they released, and in typical perfectionist fashion, wanted to platinum trophy each game before completing them. Anyway, the ending of Mass Effect 3 got me thinking about story and our expectations of it, and I wanted to waffle a bit!

Despite having completed the series when it first came out, I found myself genuinely torn on which of the various endings to go for – without wishing to spoil it for anyone, the very end of Mass Effect 3 presents you with a choice of three endings (assuming you’ve done the legwork/sidequests/etc to gather allies and support throughout the game). Each has pros and cons, and crucially, there isn’t a perfect ending – with previous choices in the series, it’s often clear what the “best” course of action is and it’s usually the “good”/paragon option. However, the ending is far less clear-cut – you can choose the option you’ve been gearing up for the entire game and accept collateral damage (both literally and emotionally, short and long term), or the option that one of the game’s bad guys has been rooting for throughout (which, again, has risks and downsides). Lastly, there’s a “middle” option which seeks to step outside the binary choices presented previously but has it’s own ethical and moral challenges. [sidenote: the game’s original ending got a lot of blowback, and the developers tweaked it in a later DLC so that it factored in more of your choices throughout the series. I delayed finishing it for ages so I never saw the original ending!]

Reading up on the various endings to help me make a decision, I was struck by how many other players insisted on the first ending purely because doing so can ensure the survival of your main character, Commander Shepard. The Mass Effect Trilogy does a fantastic job of getting you invested in your Shepard – you choose from a set of origins/backstories rather than writing your own, but there are so many choices throughout the three games that you really connect with the journey your Shepard has taken. It makes sense that people would want Shepard to survive against all odds, and have a happy ending with his romantic partner (my one and only Liara, of course 💙)

However, every time I’ve played the series, I’ve accepted that Shepard needs to die in the fulfilment of his duty. It’s the only choice that makes sense – much as I might want him to live, I knew that he was going to sacrifice himself because that’s the only thing he could do. The whole series (at least the way I’ve always played it) is about hope and unity, about a diverse group of civilisations rising up as one against an overwhelming foe – burying old hatreds, sacrificing everything for survival. Choosing the path that keeps Shepard alive always felt selfish, and completely out of touch with his character. It’s fascinating to me that so many others didn’t feel the same, and prioritised keeping Shepard alive over the many short and long-term consequences of that choice. If we put so much of ourselves (our time, our morality) into a character it becomes very hard to let them go, even if it’s the right thing to do – for the story and for that character. Sometimes (well, most of the time) there is no such thing as a truly happy ending, and while I agonised over which to go for, I appreciated the agonising for making me really think about my character, his journey and what choice he would make in that moment.

(if anyone’s wondering: I wimped out and chose the third option – the same ending that I chose the first time I played the series 😅)

The Record

Pretty light workload this month – only a couple of pages scripted. That said, it feels busier because I’ve been looking over pencilled/inked pages by Harriet for the next issue of Brigantia and layouts by Rosie Packwood for our anthology story together – I’ve also done some more development work on Steel Knights (as well as started scripting it and reached out to an artist about concept designs, so we’ll see how that goes). Oh, and I’ve been putting together another anthology pitch which I need to tidy up..!

There’s definitely stuff on my to-do list which has taken a backseat to musical endeavours this month (I’ve got an album launch gig then a 6-night UK tour to prepare for with Ba’al, assuming the UK doesn’t collapse into another pit of COVID catastrophe which is entirely too likely right now), and another gig with Powerhouse which is different to our usual scene), but it feels like the plate-spinning is just about holding for now…

The Tunes

It’s pretty much all metal this month, in a variety of different flavours – but first, the wonderful rendition of Blue Fields from the FFXIV Shadowbringers OST which has been stuck in my head all month. Delightful exploring music! Next up is a new track from Wolverine, one of my favourite prog metal bands – I picked up their album Still without knowing anything about it or them years ago (at a HMV in scummy Stockport) and was blown away. This one introduces some new sounds and elements but maintains their penchant for catchy choruses. Next we’re into more experimental territory with Vektor, which I guess I would describe as progressive death/thrash with a sci-fi theme/concept? It slaps, anyway! After that, some more prog metal but this time of the instrumental variety – Mountain Caller are a UK band who I discovered this month and I immediately appreciated – look at the sick cover art! Visual style is v. important for your band! Following that we have Igorrr, who I’ve heard of before but never listened to – this track is one of the most schizophrenic things I’ve ever heard and yet, somehow, it all works. Masterful. Next up, worlds collide with a Chelsea Wolfe song about Wonder Woman – no, that isn’t a joke, she literally wrote it for the Dark Knights: Death Metal soundtrack! This avoids any gimmickry by virtue of Chelsea Wolfe being an absolutely singular musician/songwriter who refuses to compromise. Next, we’re into the anti-fash black metal backend of the playlist – first up is Awenden, who have a kind of Lord of the Rings/Summoning vibe (Sauron, as we all know, is famously fash scum) which is v. enjoyable. Next is Underdark, a local band from the UK scene who craft cavernous atmospheres of black metal chaos and align themselves proudly against the right – I saw them for the first time this month and it was a fantastic show. Svalbard are up next, mixing a hefty dose of hardcore punk in with the BM sound – big choruses, masterfully-controlled vocals and a staunch leftist outlook are their trademark, along with songs that tackle real-life issues like domestic abuse and alt-right online trolls. Finally, we’re closing out this month with a 10-minute plus epic from the latest Wolves in the Throne Room album, Primordial Arcana. This was one of my most anticipated releases this year (so much so that I splashed out for a fancy coloured vinyl of it) and it was worth the wait – it’s the most immediate and heavy they’ve ever sounded, but still evokes the cascading waterfalls and mist-drenched forests of their Pacific Northwest home.

The Links

It’s mostly a Gawain and the Green Knight-centric links section this month, because I’m still absolutely furious about not being able to watch it here on Plague Island, UK and this is how I’m coping:

THE WELSH HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY BEHIND THE GREEN KNIGHT: https://nerdist.com/article/the-green-knight-david-lowery-welsh-mythology/

Finally, A Seat at the Round Table: https://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a37385781/the-green-knight-representation-dev-patel/

(this is why representation matters, people!!)

And lastly, grab a hot (or cold, your choice) beverage and read this. Trust me – it starts off grim but you’ll feel better for it: https://futurecrunch.com/collapse-renewal/


That’s all for this month – thanks for reading, let’s stay safe and keep chugging along!

All the best,
Chris

September 2021: Autumnal

Evening, folks!

It’s been an eventful month, but before I kick into my usual self-aggrandisement I want to talk about one of the best films I’ve ever seen, which just came out a week ago. That’s right, you guessed it – gather round, children, it’s time to talk about The Green Knight!

The Usual

On paper, I was already primed to love this film – it’s a modern retelling of my favourite and most familiar Arthurian myth by a director and studio renowned for their intense and beautiful visual sensibility, with a great and charismatic actor in the lead role. All the marketing and promotion pitched it as an intense (verging on horror at times) fantasy drama, and I was incredibly excited to see how they translated the poem for a modern audience. I took myself out to a v. fancy cinema in town last Friday night, grabbed a cider and settled in for the ride. Just over two hours later, I walked out absolutely gobsmacked (and determined to watch it again as soon as possible, which I did on Sunday evening at home – it’s also been dropped on Amazon Prime Video!)

Firstly: it’s undeniably, achingly beautiful. The costumes are gorgeous, the landscape Gawain traverses on his quest is wild and untamed and full of fantastical elements (whale skeletons in the side of a valley, clusters of stone ruins that suggest a rich and violent history, towering giants) and there are so many beautiful shot choices throughout. The cinematography is utterly phenomenal! I was particularly struck by how the landscape itself feeds into one of the central messages of the film (the pervasive power and lasting strength of nature – the green – and how it symbolises both life and death). Gawain’s realm is presented as overwhelming and hostile, with scattered enclaves of humanity stubbornly trying to carve out a place against nature. Beyond that, it felt like home – specifically, like the remoter areas of the Peak District and the Lake District (both vast natural parks not far from my home). I checked afterwards, and it was filmed in Ireland, which makes sense!

Secondly: it manages to be a fairly faithful retelling of the original story, while simultaneously introducing enough twists and turns that I wasn’t able to predict exactly what was going to happen. Beyond that, it gives Gawain much more complexity and internal conflict than I remember from the story (which, granted, I haven’t read in a little while) – he isn’t a purely noble, pious person, and his struggles along the journey feed into that. Dev Patel is mesmerising in the role (although if you want to see him being happy this may not be the movie for you!) and the supporting cast are fantastic. The Green Knight himself is an absolute triumph of practical filmmaking – he looks incredible, and I particularly loved the sounds of tree branches creaking and leaves rustling that accompanied his every move, to really hammer home his role as an avatar of nature. Oh, and the soundtrack is flawless (there’s one song midway through the film with a haunting vocal line that I haven’t been able to get out of my head).

I’ve been amused by the seemingly all-over-the-place response to it – made the mistake of looking at the comments on a 5-star Guardian review which were full of people calling it “boring” and saying they’d turned it off after 10 minutes, which..?! If you go in expecting a big fantasy action movie (like Excalibur, or that Guy Ritchie King Arthur movie), you’ll probably be disappointed. It was notable to me that none of the famous names (Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Excalibur, etc) are ever used – Gawain is the only Arthurian name that you hear, and that feels like a conscious choice to detach it from our mental image of the chivalric Knights of the Round Table and to rely on the story itself rather than our memory of the characters for dramatic weight. But if you want a slow burn, atmospheric movie that makes you think about the meaning of honour, about courage in times of hardship and about life, death and rebirth, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

The Record

Another light month when it comes to actual pages scripted, but I haven’t exactly been idle:
-Synopsis/pitch document assembled for an anthology pitch
-Started assembling a huge primer document for issues #4-#6 of Brigantia (including details on the characters/world/monsters/etc)
-Rejigged the #4-#6 synopsis in preparation for redrafting the issues
-Design work for Brigantia Vol. 1 – coming up with a pleasing visual style for all the extra content pages/foreword/etc.

I also spent some time this month assembling the booklet for SHOCKTOBER 2021 – if you’re not familiar with this, every year my partner and I put together a schedule of horror movies for October, one every day and sorted into different categories. We didn’t do it last year (because of the horrible living situation we were in) but we’re back with a vengeance this year, and I’m quite pleased with my design work on the booklet! Here it is if you want to check out the schedule and join in: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iHp1GSVBW8hGC_97xE7WX0N006iUFsId/view?usp=sharing


I’ll be tweeting out when we’re starting each film, but life is very hectic so it won’t be a set time each day!

The Tunes

This month’s list is honestly all over the place, and I won’t apologise! We kick things off with (after about 20 listens) the indisputable best song off the new Wolves in the Throne Room album, Spirit of Lightning. Normalise mouth harp in black metal challenge! Couple of “flashback” songs next – I discovered Secrets of the Moon decades ago and this track still slaps. Next up are Amplifier who play fun psychedelic-sounding rock, and whose guitarist owns the biggest and most ridiculously bloated pedalboard I have ever seen. There’s a new Hail Spirit Noir record which leans more into synthy electronics (and theremin) than their previous releases – great melodies throughout! This Nils Frahm collaboration album is great, but I particularly enjoyed the rhythms of this track. Next is hands-down the best cover of Enter Sandman that has ever been done, by Rina Sawayama – I listened to the Ghost cover shortly before this one, and I’m sorry to all the Ghost fans out there, but this version blows it away! Another new discovery this month is Spiritbox, who I can best describe as “what if Taylor Swift did djent?” Great vocals and solid production. New Carcass! They’ve lost some of the immediacy of the earlier albums like Heartwork and Necroticism, but the refrain on this track is catchy as fuck. Hundred Year Old Man are a band from the UK local scene – their guitarist Owen tragically passed away recently, and leaves behind a phenomenal body of work. This song in particular, from their most recent EP, ebbs and flows beautifully. And lastly, to finish off the list – you’ll recall me mentioning the soundtrack to The Green Knight up above? Get this in your ears and prepare to be lost in the windswept, rain-soaked realm of Arthurian legend.

The Links

Look, if you needed any more proof that the nation of England is fully doomed, the rozzers have got you covered: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/27/rare-white-stag-killed-by-police-after-running-through-merseyside-streets

I just… I’m furious, because what a beautiful animal to suffer death at the hands of our disgustingly fascist police force. But I’m also darkly amused at the number of folklorists who must have shot a deadpan look at the camera when this news came out, ala Jim from the Office…

Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the brilliance of somebody who went far too soon: https://www.kerrang.com/features/jimi-hendrix-a-tribute-to-a-legend-50-years-after-his-death/

I make no secret of my opinion that Jimi Hendrix was an absolutely singular talent, and if we’re dishing out “best ever” awards he’s at the top of that list. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one still in awe of him!


That wraps up this (long edition) for the month! Thanks for reading, and as ever, take care of yourselves.

All the best,

Chris

July 2021: What is Time?

Howdy, folks!

Somehow, 7 months have passed and we’re staring at the back end of 2021 – I don’t quite know how, but here we are, I guess!

The Usual

For once, I actually have something I want to cover in this space before I dive into the usual newsletter shenanigans. As many of you may be aware, this last week has been… somewhat fraught on UK Comics Twitter, but not for the usual artist vs. writer/other recurring discourse reasons. Basically, a storm kicked up around Thought Bubble (unquestionably my favourite convention) due to them inviting Frank Miller along as a guest for this year’s con – here’s a good summary of the chain of events: https://www.comicsbeat.com/thought-bubble-drops-frank-miller-in-wake-of-social-media-backlash/

I was surprised that Miller was announced as a guest in the first place – it’s hard to argue that he isn’t an important figure in comics history, but that’s the key word – history. His work hasn’t been relevant in years, and Holy Terror (released in 2011) scraped the absolute bottom of a horrifically racist barrel. It seemed like an odd choice, one that I suspect was driven by necessity (attempting to bring in a larger number of more mainstream/casual comics fans) after the impact of the pandemic, but it gave the impression that Thought Bubble value the past (Miller) over the future of comics (represented by Zainab Akhtar), an impression that is very much at odds with the brand they’ve built over the years.

I don’t think there was any deliberate malice in the decision to book Miller, but honestly, that doesn’t matter – if they weren’t aware of his retrograde, Islamophobic views then they should have done their research rather than glossing over them and it should have been immediately apparent that inviting him was a mistake when Zainab and others first raised their concerns. The fact that the CG crowd have latched onto this as an example of “cancel culture” and “woke SJWs” (yawn) is entirely predictable but that doesn’t stop it from being very distressing for those targeted by them. I’m disappointed in Thought Bubble, and it’s absolutely going to overshadow this year’s event, so I sincerely hope they can take concrete steps to make up for this over the next few months (but that said, Chuck Palahniuk who has a lot of dodgy right-wing associations is currently still on the guest list, so…)

In less distressing news, the Kickstarter for Brigantia Vol. 1 closed earlier this month and we somehow raised a staggering £5k! It’s the highest number of backers I’ve ever personally had for a Kickstarter campaign, and the second-highest total funding amount, so I was bowled over by the outpouring of support. Now we get to the fun part – actually making the dang thing!

The Record

• Finished off the last few pages of my Big Hype Vol. 2 short (CRYSTAL DESERT BLUES) with Rosie Packwood
• 3 pages of STEEL KNIGHTS scripted, tons of worldbuilding done

Wrote some actual pages this month! It’s a lot easier when you force yourself to think of them as first drafts where the dialogue/etc will be tightened up later – my biggest challenge is that I’m a perfectionist, so I hate the idea of leaving a page half-done and moving onto the next one. The dialogue has to at least feel right – I struggle to just slap in a [placeholder dialogue] and move on.

Anyway, Rosie’s been hard at work on character concepts for our Big Hype story and they’re shaping up nicely – it’s a fun one where I think the influences are pretty visible on it’s sleeve, so it’ll be nice to see that take shape. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned STEEL KNIGHTS here before, but my annoyance at being unable to watch the new Gawain and the Green Knight movie (starring Dev Patel) which I’ve been anticipating for well over a year spurred me into doing some work on my own Arthurian mash-up. The pitch is, very basically, A Knight’s Tale X Gundam – it’s a kind of manga story in which the Arthurian knights pilot huge suits of armour in battle, built around a tournament arc. I’ve been slotting in tons of Arthurian Easter eggs and there are giants, fae magic – it’s a lot of OTT fun, and it’ll be great to try and pull the pitch together for it!

The Tunes

This month’s playlist starts off a lot mellower before gradually building into the heavy stuff. Chvrches are consistently one of the best synthy pop bands out there, with a great ear for a catchy vocal hook, and this new track has me excited for their new album – I’ve booked tickets to see them for the first time in March next year, so that’ll be great. This month I discovered that Lola Kirke, the actress who played Hayley in the excellent show Mozart in the Jungle (and who I have a MASSIVE crush on) is also apparently a folk/pop singer, and has put out some very good stuff – here’s my favourite of her songs! My partner is our household’s huge Frank Turner fan – I’m less into him, but this track is undeniably excellent (and I appreciate his ideas on how his ashes should be scattered at the end!) Next up is Doris Wilson – those who’ve watched the wild/chaotic/polarising sketch show I Think You Should Leave will recognise it. It’s a very catchy tune that breaks up some of the funniest sketches I’ve ever seen – I’ve watched both seasons through about 4 times now, which is rare for me, and they keep getting funnier. Watch Coffin Flop! Metallica have been doing something pretty wild recently – they’ve recruited dozens of other bands/artists to do their own versions of songs from The Black Album across a variety of genres. A lot of them are… well, bad, but this Biffy Clyro cover is actually genuinely good to my ears. It’s still recognisably Holier than Thou, but different enough to make it stand out as their own. Here’s where we start to get into the heavier stuff with The Algorithm (chiptuney tech-death), Unter Massif (a sludgey, atmospherey, droney band I discovered this month) and The Odious (interesting prog metal, another Spotify discovery). Next up is one of my very favourite bands, Anaal Nathrakh, beloved for their ability to combine absolute hyperspeed blasting and aggression with huge, singable choruses and an overwhelming sense of armageddon. After that mushroom cloud has cleared, we finish things off with the haunting piano and vocals of Lingua Ignota, from her new album.

The Links

I greatly enjoyed this dive into the development of gunslinger Jonah Hex (one of my favourite characters, mostly because I feel like there’s a lot you could say/do with him) by Tom Shapira over at the Comics Journal: http://www.tcj.com/asshole-in-a-hat-the-early-days-of-jonah-hex/


That’s all for this month, I’ve waffled on a lot more than usual! Thanks for reading, and have a great August.

All the best,
Chris

June 2021: Refresh, Refresh, Refresh

Howdy, folks!

Time has once again crept up on me, and I find myself writing this newsletter on the last day of the month. Still, there’s something to be said for spontaneity, right?

The Usual

It’s been a remarkably chilled month, even considering everything that’s been going on. I lost much of last week to some kind of horrible throat infection that completely halted my momentum, but I’m getting back on the horse now (and by “horse”, I mean various bits and pieces of home improvement and constantly refreshing the Kickstarter.)

Speaking of: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismole/brigantia-volume-1


We smashed the funding goal of £3k in around a week, which is wild, and now I can dabble my toes into the “possible stretch goal” waters. I’ve emailed the printer about one idea which might be feasible, so we’ll see – it’s a balancing act between producing something cool and losing a ton of money because you went too far with the stretch goals! I’m mostly extremely relieved that I can relax a bit and don’t have to spend every 10 minutes refreshing the Kickstarter dashboard worrying about whether we’ll reach the target…

The Record

*7 pages written for my Big Hype Vol. 2 story (with Rosie Packwood)

Not done a great deal of writing, since Kickstarter promo/illness/a constant, gnawing sense of anxiety and dread aren’t really conducive to productivity. That said, I’m slowly getting through the first draft of this Big Hype story and looking forward to the point that I can edit it into something that’s actually… y’know, good.

The Tunes

Real mixed bag this month of tunes, but nothing too surprising or left-field for me. We kick things off with Tortoise, a Spotify discovery that I enjoyed grooving along to one slow afternoon working from home; after that it’s into BIG ATMOSPHERE territory with Sojourner and Unreqvited, both favourites of mine. They both have big Summoning vibes, which is a good thing since there are a number of Summoning tracks that play on repeat in my head every time I’m out for a walk in the countryside! Noctule (a Skyrim-themed solo project by the vocalist of the incredible Svalbard) kick off a bit of a “heavy metal inspired by videogames” trilogy; they’re waving the black metal flag, followed by the more thrashy/glitchy sounds of Cara Neir and the bludgeoning Dark Souls-inspired death metal of Firelink. I’ve been on an Iron Maiden kick this month, and trying not think about Bruce Dickinson being an avowed Brexit supporter – he didn’t help by going on the news last week to complain about how Brexit has screwed up the creative industries (I’ll take “things that were obvious to everyone with a brain” for $800, Alex…) That said, Ghost of the Navigator still slaps. Botanist were part of my soundtrack for a very long drive down to see my parents/nephews which was very overdue, while this Leprous track was a pleasing Spotify discovery in the last couple of days. Lastly, how about a lovely jazz band rendition of one of the most relaxing videogame songs there is, Village of Dali from Final Fantasy IX? Sit back and let the sunshine vibes wash over you!

The Links

Look, we’re in the Kickstarter mines this month, okay? Don’t miss these comics Kickstarters, all run by wonderful people and all deserving of your support.
Sidequest #3: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sidequestcomic1/sidequest-3
Candles: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/castironbooks/candles-book
Filth & Grammar by Shelly Bond: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sxbond/filth-and-grammar

And for something a little different, here’s the most recent instalment of a “good news” newsletter I’m subscribed to which always brightens my day. It’s full of stories that highlight wins in the fight against climate change, public health, and otherwise making the world a better and more equitable place – because it’s good to be reminded that a lot of people are fighting hard to improve life on this planet, and it’s not all bad news all the time. Can’t recommend subscribing to these guys enough: https://futurecrunch.com/good-news-18th-june-2021/


That’s all for now – have a great rest-of-week and weekend, check out the links and enjoy the tunes!

All the best,
Chris

May 2021: Sun’s Out, Guns Out

Howdy, folks! It’s finally starting to feel like summer, and I have plenty of reasons for optimism so this month’s update will be a little chirpier than previous months…

The Usual

It’s amazing how much can change in the span of a few weeks. All the complicated legal/house stuff I was dealing with is now (as of last Friday), by and large, resolved – there’s still plenty of work that needs doing in the house but my partner and I will have full control of that by this time next week and can tackle it at our own pace. It’s no exaggeration to say that my mental health is vastly improving, and coinciding with some lockdown restrictions being eased over here in the UK means that brighter times appear to be ahead – even though I still intend to be cautious (no pub drinks for the time being!)

Work/comics-wise – I’m pushing the start date for the Brigantia Vol. 1 Kickstarter back a little bit because I want to be sure that we have all the art we need to run a really strong campaign. Harriet’s completed the preview pages, and I posted a snippet from those on Twitter not too long ago – she’s also working on the cover at the moment, and that’s a must-have (the only campaign I’ve ever run without having a finished cover failed, and I’m too superstitious to see that as anything other than a sign!)

Remember to sign up at the campaign pre-launch page so you get a notification from Kickstarter! I’ll be breaking my once-monthly rule to fire out an email blast when the launch date is locked in, and another when we actually go live – a strong start is going to be absolutely critical to our chances of success, given that the total for this campaign is a lot higher than the last issue: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismole/brigantia-volume-1

While I’m on the topic of Kickstarter comics, I also wanted to shout out one that will be launching soon (on June 3rd, to be precise) – Sagas of the Shield Maiden Book Two. The writer behind this project, Asa Wheatley, has pulled together a great collection of talented artists for more tales of his red-haired Viking Shield Maiden – I’m going to be backing this one as soon as it hits because it’s 100% my jam (and you’ll see exactly how much praise I have for it on the campaign page!)

One last note for this section, on a more downbeat topic – this month, Dave Evans (a.k.a Bolt-01) of Futurequake and Zarjaz fame, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I was more of a passing acquaintance of Dave’s – he lettered some of my very first forays into comics (in Owen Watts’ Psychedelic Journal anthologies), and also graciously gave me my first taste of published comics by running my story ‘Loan Sharks’ in an issue of Futurequake (with future artistic superstar Joe Palmer, who’s now being published by Image!), but I wouldn’t call myself one of his close and personal friends. However, I am very good friends with Owen, and seeing the impact that Dave’s death has had on Owen (as well as tons of other people in the UK comics scene) has really hammered home just how much of a beloved guy Dave was. His absence will be keenly felt for years to come. If you have the means and want to help his family give him a good send-off, there’s a JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rememberdave


The Record

*This month I have written precisely zero pages, and that’s okay!

Finding the headspace to concentrate on any projects has been extraordinarily difficult of late – I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start wrestling my way out of the creative doldrums now that I’ve cleared some of the life admin, but at the same time, I don’t want to overload myself. I already have the Brigantia Kickstarter launch coming up (which will consume me with stress for a full 30 days) and then the accompanying fulfilment of that campaign, plus some of my musical endeavours are starting to wind back up now that band practices have become a viable option again. I’m waiting to hear back about a couple of anthology pitches, and if those get accepted that’ll give me scripts to work on, but I need to be realistic about what I can actually afford to get made at this point in time.


The Tunes

As usual, it’s quite a mixed bag this month – I think there’s a good mix of new (to me) tracks and old favourites. Let’s dive in!

First up is probably the best song that Judas Priest have ever written (feel free to argue with me, but you’d best come armed!) If you don’t feel the urge to raise your claws to the sky and scream “HELLRIDER!!” along with the chorus then you might be dead… next up is Violet Cold, a predominantly black metal one-man project from Azerbaijan. This is from their new album, which was intentionally designed to piss off any fashy right-wing types who want to claim the band as their own – the cover art makes it very clear where the creator Emin Guliyev stands on issues of LGBT and human rights. After that we have another explicitly anti-fash BM band, Dawn Ray’d – their last album was a triumph and this new song is more of that good stuff! Heretical Sect were a Spotify discovery for me and a very good one – we’re going heavy on anti-fash/progressive/left wing BM this month, apparently. Lustmord w/ Karin Park is a collaboration I found out about via the Roadburn Redux festival – deep atmospheres with soaring, ethereal vocals, very useful for concentration. Next up, you might recognise this Washed Out track as the intro to the wonderful TV show Portlandia, but the full song is excellent in its own right. WagakkiBand are basically designed for me to like them – Japanese folk rock with traditional instruments and band photos like this? Love it. 3 have a very unhelpful name if you’re searching for them online, but this album is very well-crafted prog metal with soaring, pop music-esque vocals. I also remain convinced that this song’s concept is a nod to a series of fantasy books from my youth, the Death Gate saga (which featured a serpentine race of baddies that could shapeshift!) VOLA are a new discovery, and this is from their newest album which is extremely good – the lyric “I could leave this house, but I won’t” stuck with me this month for obvious reasons! And lastly, some classic Bob Dylan – I’m not a massive Dylan fan (never been able to get over a live recording of “Like A Rolling Stone” which highlighted his complete inability to sing) but this is a classic for a reason, and reflects my current mood.


The Links

Let’s start this section off with something that’s heavy, but must-read: a Vox feature on the Tulsa, Oklahoma Massacre https://www.vox.com/22456481/tulsa-race-massacre

I know I mentioned it above, but: don’t miss out on Sagas of the Shield Maiden Book Two: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/asawheatley/sagas-of-the-shield-maiden-book-two

It’s an old article, but I can’t be the only person who saw this photo and went “Abin… Abin Sur??” https://www.wired.com/2017/01/bright-green-meteor-lights-mountains-india/


That’s all for this month – thanks for reading, hit the Brigantia Kickstarter link if you haven’t already and I hope you get to enjoy some good weather where you are!

All the best,

Chris

April 2021: A Towering Pile

Howdy, folks!

The Usual

My pile of “life admin” feels like it’s reached an almost overwhelming level these past few weeks – I won’t bore you with the detail, but I’ve got far too many bits of paperwork to sign, far too many money things to juggle and far too much anxiety over it all. Just need to keep on chugging!

That aside, I also have a rather nice ANNOUNCEMENT to make:

Brigantia Vol. 1 is coming your way in June (exact date TBD!) Collecting issues #1, #2 and the new issue #3 as a chunky 128-page graphic novel stuffed with bonus content!

I’ve been pushing the boat out for this to try and make it into something special – here’s the murderer’s row of talent who’ll be getting involved:
Issue #3 art by Harriet Moulton and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou!
Pin-ups by Chris Wildgoose, Will Kirkby, Rosie Packwood & Elijah Johnson/JP Jordan!
An exclusive limited edition bookplate by co-creator Melissa Trender!
Foreword by Nimue Brown (Hopeless, Maine and tons of books on druidry/paganism)!

Those pin-ups will also be available as reward prints on the campaign, so you can pledge for as many as you like – it’s so exciting seeing other artists’ takes on Brigantia and the rest of the cast, and I’m thrilled to properly share them! We’ll be running some Early Bird tiers as well – ideally, I wanted the option to send you folks (and people who’ve previously bought copies of Brigantia #1 or #2) a discount code so you could get hold of the collected volume at a cheaper price, but Kickstarter doesn’t have that functionality and if I set up a specific tier for previous Brigantia backers I’d have no good way of stopping all and sundry from taking advantage of it.

The alternative, then, is that you’ll all find out exactly when the campaign launches well ahead of the wider world, and armed with that knowledge you’ll hopefully be able to snap up the Early Bird rewards for a discounted copy of the book. I’ve really been agonising about this – I know a lot of people are happy to buy single issues of an ongoing comic and then buy the trade as well, but I feel a bit bad trying to get people to buy the same issues again (in a different format!) The reason I’m jumping straight to a trade now is because it feels to me like there’s a diminishing market for indie single issues on Kickstarter (unless you’re a big moneybags publisher who can already afford to make the comic and just want to use KS for a soft launch, but I digress…), and there’s a solid midpoint in the story which feels like a great “end of volume 1” cliffhanger to me. Plus, purely for selfish reasons – I’d love to have a collected trade of one of my stories! If any of you have questions about the decision to go straight to a trade please do fire them my way, I’m happy to try and answer them.

Anyway, to break up all that text, here’s a very sneaky peek at one of Harriet’s costume designs for issue #3, fresh out of the oven:

The Record

*Pitches for two anthologies worked on – one submitted

Very little actual scripting this month, due to the aforementioned towering pile – it’s been a pitches month! I’ve put something together with Rosie Packwood for the second volume of the Big Hype Comics anthology which I’m excited about, and working on another one with Jamie Keys for a different anthology. I’d love to try and improve my “hit rate” for anthologies – I’ve been rejected for a lot of the ones I’ve gone for recently, and it always batters my self-confidence, so it’d be nice to get into either of these.

The other projects on my list are very much on hold until I can wrestle my way back on top of life! Watch this space, I guess?

The Tunes

My tracklisting this month was arranged purely for aesthetic reasons and I’m not sorry – short song titles at the start, long song titles in the middle and short at the end so it’s a nice sharp bell curve!

We start off with a new track by KAUAN, one of my best Spotify finds – gentle, icy and spacious. After that it’s the opener of my favourite band’s newest album – Triassic by The Ocean. They did a pre-recorded performance of this album at the Roadburn Redux festival earlier this month which was absolutely transcendent – I just can’t say enough good things about this band! Age of Aquarius by Villagers of Ioannina City (what a band name!) is another Spotify find – great proggy metal with some neat riffs. Alien Lip Reading by Hail Spirit Noir makes great use of what sounds like a theremin amongst the black metal shrieks. IOTUNN were recommended by a friend and I’m digging them – cosmic-sounding death metal, yes please. Godspeed! You Black Emperor are a band that I’ve never invested time in, despite knowing a lot of people who are into them – I enjoyed their newest album, so looking forward to diving into the rest of their discography. The Picturebooks did a collaboration with Neil Fallon of Clutch recently, which is how I found them – this is just good old-fashioned blues rock. Mindforce play no-frills thrash metal, and sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered! Kvelertak are another band I’ve never really put time into, but this is fun – reminds me a little of Volbeat. And lastly, reversing the upbeat tone completely is Body Void – grimy, heavy doom metal which sounds like dying. Please enjoy 😎

The Links

New section this month – here are some Kickstarter campaigns you should check out and some articles I’ve enjoyed:
Alex Automatic Vol. 1: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/frasercampbell/alex-automatic-volume-one-trade-paperback
Lad (Issue #3): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/umar-ditta/lad-the-homecoming-issue-3
Ancient Egyptian discoveries: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/archaeology-discovery-saqqara-ancient-egypt-b1835760.html?amp
Thoughts on comics criticism by Ritesh Babu: https://comfortfoodcomics.com/2021/04/08/the-trouble-with-easy-criticism-by-ritesh-babu/

That’s all for now – I’ll sign off before this gets any longer. Thanks for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for more on Brigantia Vol. 1!

All the best,

Chris

March 2021: One Year On

Feels like we’ve been here before, huh? Jokes aside, it might just be that we’ve started to get some actual sunshine over here on Hell Island but it’s starting to feel like things are changing for the better. My partner’s had a first dose of the vaccine (I’m still waiting for mine), people are starting to book gigs/cons/events for later in the year… I sincerely hope this isn’t the false ending you get in most JRPGS, where the heroes think they’ve saved the day and then it turns out there’s another evil villain (a COVID mutant strain, perhaps?) who’s been pulling the strings all along.

The Usual

Had a bit of a wobble this month – I spent several days bashing my head against an idea-wall trying to get some juice to leak out (in the form of pitch ideas for an anthology), and was convinced they were all terrible. Thankfully, I sent them to the artist and she loved the one at the top of my list, which went a long way towards quieting the little shit-goblin who sits in the back of my brain telling me I’ll never amount to anything..! It’s also helped reading through a detailed account of the development/filming/release of the Star Wars original trilogy (a.k.a three of my absolute favourite stories) in a book we picked up in a Taschen sale – so much changed between the script drafts and what we see on screen. The earlier drafts had some truly ropy/terrible parts, which I found heartening – even something as iconic and successful as Star Wars had to be wrestled into existence, and it’s not easy for anyone.

As a sign of the aforementioned hopeful return to normality, I’m very pleased to share that I’ll be exhibiting at Thought Bubble this November (assuming it goes ahead)!

I’ll be doing it under my own name (rather than as Prof Elemental Comics or as Brigantia) this time, which is a little nerve-wracking, but hey ho. New business cards/banner are probably a plan..!

The Record

• 22 pages redrafted for SPACE COWBOYS #3, following editorial feedback
• Outline/pitch written for an anthology submission
• 12 pages edited/redrafted for a horror short
• Lettering: 6 pages lettered, design work done for Prof Elemental’s NEMESIS

Not a lot of “new” pages written this month, but I’m feeling fairly good about the progress. With 3 issues out of 6 written, and a loose roadmap for where I want the rest of the story to go, it might be time to approach an artist for SPACE COWBOYS (currently mulling over an actual title – DIADEM is the current front-runner, even if it maintains my streak of one-word titles for things…) That’s a whole different kettle of fish, because finding the right collaborators for a story is so important – everyone brings their own visual sensibility and ideas to the project, and this one will require some fairly involved visuals and design work. Plus, contacting an artist and asking if they want to work with you is truly nerve-wracking (at least for me) – it’s like asking someone vastly cooler/prettier/smarter than you on a (potentially very long and involved) date 😬

The Tunes

Gradual progression from lighter sounds to heavier on this month’s playlist, because I like to lure people in with smooth synths before dropping the screechy vocals 😎 We kick things off with a lovely instrumental version of a track by KAUAN – the original from 2017 is a beautiful album and well worth checking out. Next up is Steve Aoki with a remix of “Making of Cyborg” from the original Ghost in the Shell – the recent live action movie had plenty of problems, but I still enjoyed it as a visual/aural feast. Daft Punk were (goddamnit) a hugely important band for me, since I loved their music even when I was in the grip of my “only heavy metal, 24/7” bullshit elitist phase. They were just that good! I got emotional watching their “breakup” video earlier in the month, and the ending of this track was an utterly transcendent, heartbreaking and beautiful soundtrack for it. Gunship are a band I somehow hadn’t heard before this month, despite my propensity for synthwave – plug me into the cybernet and let’s fuckin go!!

Next track is where things gradually start to get turnt, with Emma Ruth Rundle/Thou bringing some atmospheric heaviness before we plunge into a new piece from Genghis Tron (an excellent grindcore/glitchy electronica band who defy categorisation) – their last album Board Up the House was phenomenal, so I’m hyped to dig into the new release! Frozen Lakes on Mars is one of my favourite Ihsahn tracks and ties neatly into my writing mindset this month (specifically the Space Cowboys redrafts). Onmyo-za are a new discovery and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard them sooner. From Encyclopedia Metallum: “Onmyo-za’s image and concept are based on Japan’s Heian Period (aka Japan’s Renaissance) that dates back to the tenth century CE.” PUMP THIS JAPANESE HISTORY METAL INTO MY VEINS! Feral Light were a fortuitous Spotify discovery for some atmospheric BM, and we close off this month’s list with one metal icon (Chuck Schuldiner of Death) covering another (Rob Halford and Judas Priest). He is half man and half machine!

That’s all for this month – I hope we’re clawing our way to some semblance of normality, and that we can use the lessons of the last year to force our elected officials into truly changing society for the better. Fingers crossed, eh?

All the best,
Chris

February 2021: Vitality of Thought

Hey folks,

Once again, the end of February crept up on me out of nowhere – I thought I had a couple of extra days to write this post! Let’s get into it.

The Usual

I’ve had something rattling around in my brain this month that I wanted to dig into here – inspired partly by some of the discourse on Comics Twitter™, and compounded by having spent a chunk of the month wrestling with writer’s block.

I’ve spent a lot of my “brain-idle” time this month dwelling on the question of why I enjoy writing stories. Not in a particularly negative way, but just out of curiosity – what’s my reason for creating characters, worlds and narratives? What does that energy expenditure mean? It feels very much like there’s a constant tug-of-war between the impetus to write stories which are “meaningful” and “important” and the desire to write what I’m passionate about. In some cases, those two things can co-exist, but often I’m reminded that the stories I most want to tell aren’t “important” or “vital”, and aren’t exactly a new and unique vision.

There’s an easy answer to this, which is that every story someone creates is unique to some degree because it’s informed by who they are as a person – how they grew up, how they staple words together, what life and upbringing they’ve had. But I don’t personally find that answer all that helpful, especially when I routinely see discussion about how stories (and the comics medium in particular) should be used to tell stories that nobody has seen before, in a way that’s never been done before. The implication (at least in my mind) is that since there are a lot of other people like me, I should strive to find experimental or downright weird methods of storytelling in order to stand out.

Don’t get me wrong – experimental storytelling can be great, and I certainly wouldn’t tell anybody not to get weird with their writing. But my personal interest is less in pushing the boundaries of the form and more in clarity – I want to tell stories which will stick with people, move and inspire them, and for me that means focusing more on content and less on the form itself. My main hope is that after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, I’ll leave behind something more concrete than just memories, and I don’t need to push myself into a writing style I’m not comfortable with to achieve that.

The Record

*1 page of SENGOKU written
*SPACE COWBOYS issue #2 redrafted
*Notes/basic story summary for THE BLACK RUBRIC sequel
*Two pitches submitted to an anthology
*Lettering work – 12 pages of Professor Elemental: NEMESIS lettered

I’ve taken a little break from SENGOKU writing this month – the first scene is scripted, but I’ve been reconsidering my approach to the “voice” of the protagonist. Rather than the first-person captions I would normally default to, I’d like to try something which is stylistically a bit closer to the incredible series Lone Wolf and Cub (by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima). It’ll mean letting the artwork do a lot more of the storytelling, but I think it’ll make for a stronger result.

SPACE COWBOYS #2 has been redrafted based on Claire’s feedback, and next up is issue #3. I can’t overstate the positives of working with a good editor – Claire’s great at pushing me not to take the lazy/easy approach and to really find the dialogue/ideas which will make this story stand out. I’ve even drawn some location maps/reference sketches for this one so hopefully it’ll make life easier for the artist!

I really had fun making THE BLACK RUBRIC with Katie Fleming, so I’ve been idly toying with the idea of doing a longer (maybe 50/60 pages or so?) sequel since we wrapped up the Kickstarter and launched it. Earlier this month, I hit on what the central premise of the sequel could be – as well as still being a loving spoof of black metal, I think I can see an angle to make it about creative burnout and the struggles of artist desire vs. fan expectation. If that sounds rather more serious than the last issue, don’t worry – I’m still determined to make it funny!

The Tunes

The playlist is a pretty long one this month! As usual, it’s a fairly even mix of stuff that’s new to me and more familiar tracks; Together to the Stars were recommended by a friend and this is a great slab of atmospheric black metal with plenty of melody to keep things interesting. Tides From Nebula make what I can only describe as… synthy post-metal? They (along with Harakiri for the Sky) have a knack for BIG RIFFS and soaring choruses which I’m particularly into. Wormwitch and Tribulation are both in catchier, head-banging territory – not quite black’n’roll, but they know their way around a groove. Palehorse/Palerider are a new discovery, and I’d highly recommend the full album this track is from – it’s like doomy, gloomy, darkness-soaked cowboy music with a metallic edge. Blood Ceremony are one of my favourites – hints of Jethro Tull but modern, more witchy, and fronted by an incredibly talented flautist/organist/singer Alia O’Brien who I’m a little bit in love with. Of Monsters and Men are a pop recommendation from the same friend who directed me to the first track on this playlist (because only listening to one kind of music is boring) and I really enjoyed this song – any act that sounds similar to Chvrches is a winner in my book. Next up is the most pristine rendition of Aerith’s Theme (technically called ‘Flowers Blooming in The Church’) I’ve heard, from the FFVII Remake Soundtrack – this song always makes me emotional because it’s so delicate and sad and hopeful, all at the same time. Lastly, please enjoy 9 minutes of ancient Egyptian/desert temple atmosphere from Karl Sanders, also known as the guitarist of brutal/technical death metal band Nile – his solo project sounds nothing like his day job and it’s a nice, chilled end to the list!

And that’s all from me – the sun is shining for what seems like the first time in months, vaccinations are happening and I might actually be able to play some live shows towards the end of the year. How’s that for something to look forward to, eh?

All the best,

Chris