July 2022: Hottest on Record

Hey folks – July is over, and with it one of the fastest (and hottest) months I remember in a while. Some nice bits of progress this month, scattered in with everything else – let’s get into it!

The Usual

After last month’s “no pages, only V I B E S” situation, I have managed some more productivity this month. Chief amongst those is managing to secure a (truly fantastic) colourist for the next three issues/second volume of BRIGANTIA, which means that the creative team is set, apart from a letterer:

Line art: Alaire Racicot
Colours: Rebecca Nalty
Editor: Claire Napier

We’ve got less than a handful of pages left to go for issue #3, and Hass has been keeping right on track with the lettering despite a brief bout of COVID, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get it off to CPUK in the first half of August and I’ll have plenty of time to check the proof before we do the full run. And then we can dive headfirst into issues #4-6! I’m very excited to see how this absolutely killer team interprets the script, which has already been polished and primped by the wonderful Claire.


The Record

  • 4 pages written (SPACE COWBOYS)
  • 17 pages outlined (BLACK RUBRIC II: BACK II BLACK)
  • 4 pages lettered
  • 2 pages of secret design work

Definitely a healthier-looking section this month! I finally found the energy and words to finish off the last issue of SPACE COWBOYS; now I just need to put issues #4 and #5 for that in front of Claire and start thinking about who could draw it. I’ve also made solid progress outlining the BLACK RUBRIC sequel – I wanted to make sure I could build on the first one and have something to say as well as continuing to take the piss out of the black metal scene, and I think I’ve come up with a hook that makes it worth writing. Aiming for something around 50-60 pages long, so double the length of the last one, but we’ll see how it goes!


The Tunes

This month’s list follows a bit of a bell curve; we’re starting off with some weird experimental ambient courtesy of SUGAI KEN, a Japanese artist I read a fascinating interview with this month. This isn’t my usual sort of thing but it’s a good soundscape to write to! Next up is JAMBINAI, who make instrumental post-rock with lots of interesting sounds and big crescendoes – definitely check out the rest of their material. They’re followed by the start of our climb into “heavy shit” territory, with a new track from one of my favourite bands, Tribulation – this yet again showcases their brand of “harsh vocals/bouncy as shit riffs” and I love it. They’re followed by Uneven Structure from France, with some huge, atmospheric prog-djent – I got into this album before I knew what djent was or cared about it, so I don’t really consider them under that label. Next up is VLTIMAS, a blackened death supergroup made up of members of Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy and Mayhem – my band played a support slot for them this month which was a fun time! They’re followed by Watain with a classic (and cheesy-named) slice of black metal – I don’t have a specific playlist for writing The Black Rubric, but I like to throw on the most OTT Satanic shit I can find to get myself in the mood. Cellar Darling have a bit of a silly name, but they’re formed of members of Eluveitie (one of few very good folk metal bands) and I found them interesting – there’s a lot going on here but it all works. Gilmore Trail are local to Sheffield and friends of mine – their album launch was this month which featured a live performance of this monolithic track. Most oppressively hot gig I’ve ever been to but a good experience nevertheless! At the bottom end of the bell curve, we’re closing out with a couple of electronica/pop songs – new material from The Midnight who are always a delight, with almost frustratingly catchy vocal hooks, and a new track from Metric which is equally earworm-y and will get stuck in your head.


The Links

Not a particularly long read this month, but I want to use it as a springboard to rant a little: https://www.indiewire.com/2022/07/stranger-things-subtitles-trolling-1234740521/

As somebody who’s half-deaf, I rely heavily on subtitles when I’m watching/playing things at home – to the extent that if a show or movie doesn’t have subtitles as an option, I will struggle to follow what’s going on and will probably just decide not to watch it. This line in the article particularly hit home for me:


“What I’ve noticed quite a lot online are people who don’t really understand the subtitles are for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. I’ve seen a lot of, ‘Why are the subtitles so overly descriptive? We don’t need these.’ And I know you don’t, but you weren’t the main audience for subtitles from the start.”


I honestly love this whole approach – subtitles shouldn’t just be a boring, passionless thing added to a show to ensure that you get the bare minimum of information required to understand it, they should absolutely try to bring you into the world of whatever you’re watching. Obviously there are certain occasions where you’ll just need to indicate what’s being said (quickfire dialogue scenes, etc) but when you have the opportunity to communicate the emotion or feeling that everything audible in the show (like music, foley and other sound effects, tone of voice) is working towards – do that, every damn time. Don’t deprive deaf or hard-of-hearing people of the same overall aesthetic enjoyment that you get from it.

There’s a crossover here with comics lettering, I feel – very basic comics lettering will absolutely communicate the information that you require to understand the comic, in that there will be words and you’ll grasp what the story is as a result of them. But if you can, why not fancy it up a little? Have the lettering work in tandem with the rest of the story to really communicate unease, or joy, or whatever else. If you’re not giving it some zazz, what’s the point?

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Anyway, that’s all from me. Have a great August – I’m finally going on holiday (for the first time in about 4 years) at the very end of next month, so I’ll be giving the monthly update a miss while I cram every slice of pizza and every cannoli that exists in Naples into my gaping maw. Molto bene!

All the best,
Chris

June 2022: Bear Down For Midterms

Hey folks, it’s the end of another month (somehow!) Plus, it’s the midpoint of another goddamn year on this hellsphere – let’s try and stay positive, shall we?

The Usual

Definitely managed to do less writing this month – I don’t really have anything that needs finishing, since all the projects on my docket are either written or still in the planning stage. On top of that, the crushing financial pressures of the current cost-of-living crisis are really very good at dissuading me from finding the cash to kick off any more projects at this point – “sorry love, no money to pay the electricity bill this month because I used it to pay a colourist” is not a conversation I’m particularly keen on having..!

That said, I did manage to pull together an anthology pitch which I’m quite excited about – I’ve convinced a couple of frighteningly talented artists to team up with me on this one. Submissions open tomorrow so fingers crossed the editors like our idea! And I’ve also started work on a fun little something for The Phoenix – got some positive feedback on it already so that’s nice. Small steps..!

Moving away from writing progress, this month also saw my first trip up to Glasgow for Glasgow Comic Con. It was a delightful day full of great, friendly punters and post-con banter with pals – I especially want to shout out Fraser Campbell for his hospitality along with Tony Vanraes and Oliver Gerlach for their humour and company – Dangerous Nights crew represent!

Lastly, here’s me sprinkling some salt on a spicy riff with Ba’al last Friday:

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(photo by Savannah Bagshaw)

It’s been a while since I did two gigs in three days (Friday and Monday) but these were a blast, supporting a band from Seattle called Pound on their UK tour. If you like technical, extremely downtuned instrumental RIFFS made by two very nice blokes, check them out immediately!

The Record

*1 anthology pitch/synopsis
*First draft scripts for a secret Phoenix thing

This section should be a bit fuller next month (he says, optimistically…)

The Tunes

Straight in with the heavy shit this month, brace yourselves! Allegaeon are a band that I first encountered years ago, and they’ve gone from strength to strength since – their latest album of prog-tech-death absolutely slaps. Der Weg Einer Freiheit are a favourite band of Ba’al’s bassist, Richard – the album this is from makes his top-4 all-time list, so I decided to give it a spin. Sprawling atmos black metal is definitely my shit, and this provides it in spades. Anaal Nathrakh are my go-to when I need a short, sharp shock – but despite the unrelenting vitriolic/nihilistic violence of their sound, their recent albums occasionally feel like they’re reaching for a brighter tomorrow. There’s a sense of bloody-minded, stubborn hope mixed in with the despair, as the title of this track (“Create Art, Though The World May Perish“) suggests. Danimal Cannon is a guitarist/chiptune/electronica artist of depressing skill, and I found out this month that he’s friends with friend of mine from Sheffield – it’s a small world! I knew nothing about Celestial City Symphony Orchestra before I heard this song – apparently it’s another one-man project with various other musicians collaborating, and it sounds huge. Next are a couple of perennial faves – this is the best Faith No More album for my money (sorry, Angel Dust fans) and fully shows off Mike Patton’s versatility. It’s followed by some lush acoustic folk from Agalloch – I did a listen through their entire discography this month which was a delight, and this track remains one of my faves. Changing gears dramatically, here are Pound – their song titles are impossible to write or say, but who needs a catchy title when you have riffs this girthy and titanic? New Spiritbox was a delight this month – only one album in and they’ve become a firm favourite band of mine, so I’m excited to hear more of what they have coming. And lastly, I make no apologies for liking Oasis – growing up in the vicinity of Manchester means it was illegal not to like (or at least tolerate) them, and I remain steadfast in my belief that they have some excellent songs. This is one of them (and a choral cover of it was used to devastating effect in the final episode of Lucifer – definitely got a few tears out of me!)

The Links

Just the one link this month; I found this article (about Hong Kong and the continuing shitshow that is China trying to take full control of the city) to be an interesting read: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2022/06/hong-kong-tiananmen-square-china-censorship/661342/

I also want to take this section to shout out another newsletter that you should definitely be subscribed to: Letters From Limbo, written by the excellent Ritesh Babu: https://buttondown.email/riteshwriter

His latest was a deep dive into Indian cinema inspired by the recent release of the movie RRR, which I watched this month – it’s a wild film, and his analysis really helped me to contextualise it given my lack of knowledge around Indian politics/history/mythology. Highly recommended if you like an occasional very interesting read!


And that’s all from me for this month! Thanks for reading and take care of yourselves.

All the best,

Chris

May 2022: Moloch the Terrible

Hey folks,

I’ve spent the last week or so positively vibrating with rage at the wider world, and it’s a curious contrast to things actually going pretty well on a personal level – the joy of low-grade anxiety! Either way, I’ll try to keep myself fairly even-keeled for this month’s newsletter…


The Usual

It’s been a quietly productive month, I think – I finally sat down and powered through the last of the bonus content pages for Brigantia Vol. 1, so the only thing left to do is plug in issue #3 once Harriet’s finished work on it, do some final proofreading and checking and then it should be good to go to print. There are only about 14 pages left and she’s keeping me updated on progress – so we’re definitely getting there, as long and stressful as the road has been. I’d been hoping for a little bit of a break from Brigantia before rolling into the second half of the story (with Alaire) later this year/into 2023 but that’s looking unlikely at this point – so I guess I’ll just stay on the train until we finally finish issue #6 and then have a breather! On that topic, here’s a coloured (but not lettered) teaser page from issue #3 I haven’t shared elsewhere:

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In other project news, we sadly got our first rejection for the HOCKEYTOWN pitch – it was understandable (it’s a fairly niche sport and setting, and while one editor was enthusiastically on board with the hockey theme, others weren’t so keen) but definitely knocked me back for a weekend – coupled as it was with one of my bands losing out at a competitive show we played to try and win a slot at a massive UK festival called Bloodstock. Still, I’m choosing to take the positives from both experiences (we have some good feedback and can shop the pitch around some more, plus I’ve established a good professional contact with the editor; I got to play on the big main stage of my city’s most famous metal club) so I can get up and back at it! I’ve almost finished scripting SPACE COWBOYS, with just a few pages left of issue #5 to get through, so might be time to build that up into a solid pitch for this particular editor…


The Record

  • 3 pages scripted (SPACE COWBOYS)
  • 4 pages lettered (THE PHOENIX)
  • Assorted other stuff (see above!)

While I was lettering the other day, I decided to sit down and listen back to the BLACK RUBRIC tracks I wrote/recorded for that comic. And you know what? I’m still genuinely very happy with them, there are some beefy riffs in there and their overall feel is a great match for the comic. I’d better push the graphic novella-length sequel to that comic up my to-do list…


The Tunes

Not a huge amount of metal on the list this month – I’m branching out! First up is a new track from Karl Sanders (the guitarist of Egyptian-themed tech death metal band Nile, a huge favourite of mine) – his solo stuff is dark ambient/atmospheric which maintains the Egyptian mythology/history theme, and I love it. Following that is another track from the new Florence + The Machine album, which may already be my album of the year – just rammed full of great tracks and I will not shut up about it! Wet Leg are apparently in the zeitgeist at the moment – I don’t know why, but this song popped up on Spotify and I enjoyed it enough to include it. The slightly mumbly vocals aren’t usually my thing, but they work here! I’m always up for new Rotting Christ, and this track is definitely a different feel to their usual stuff – more anthemic and with more of a focus on the clean vocals. I guess this month is a “solo artists” month, because here’s Kirk Hammett of Metallica with his new solo album – and again, it’s pretty different to his day job, with a lovely Ennio Morricone vibe that matches the cowboy movie title. Couple of synthwave/chiptune-type tracks up next – Dita Redrum, which caught my eye because I love the SNES isometric RPG game Shadowrun (and this evokes that!) and then chiptune hip-hop from the superlative Supercommuter, one of my favourite acts. Their first two albums are laden with bangers and the third is also very good! Taking a bit of a turn, we have the metal corner of this month’s playlist: first is Nechochwen, a folk/atmospheric black metal project made by an indigenous American musician and drawing on his cultural heritage. I love this kind of stuff! Next is Desolate Shrine, who are just filthy, heavy death metal with a sludgy, apocalyptic edge. And finally, to close things out: an obligatory Eurovision track, courtesy of France’s Alvan & Ahez. I didn’t manage to watch the event this year (I was playing a ceilidh for a friend’s birthday) but caught this one on the highlights and enjoyed it!


Movie Talk

I’m going to change up the format here, and rather than give you a link, I want to expound a little bit about a movie I watched this month!

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I picked up a blu-ray of Metropolis (1927), the German silent movie which is responsible for a lot of the science fiction we know and love today – the full movie was lost soon after it was shown, and it’s only in recent years that archivists discovered some reels of the full thing and have been able to restore it to (almost) it’s original form. I’ve never actually seen it before, and I’m glad I waited for the “full” version, because I was struck by how well a movie from 95 years ago worked. We’re immediately thrust into a strange world that nevertheless looks very familiar – a huge city, of impossible proportions, maintained by an army of nondescript workers who trudge down long corridors to their cramped, brutalist housing blocks beneath the earth. Above them are the wealthy, living in gorgeous art deco luxury. This movie is very, very clear on it’s politics, at least to begin with, and that message has only continued to be relevant in today’s brutally inequal world. By the point that Freder (the son of the city’s overlord, Joh Fredersen) has fantastic visions of the workers being marched into the gaping maw of the terrible machine demon Moloch, I was enthusiastically on board.

As the movie unfolds, we meet Maria (played incredibly by Brigitte Helm) who is inciting the workers to rebellion – interpreting the story of the Tower of Babel as a conflict between the wealthy intellectuals who conceived the tower and the workers tasked with building it. Maria is truly a fascinating role – Helm is tasked with being a religious symbol of inspiration and purity for the workers, a love interest for Freder and, in stunning fashion, the human face of a Machine Man crafted by the inventor Rotwang. In the last one, she’s an evil creature of wickedness, sin and temptation, inciting the wealthy to bloodshed over her and manipulating the workers into self-destruction. Helm is given the most varied role that I’ve seen in a long time, and she manages it with aplomb.

On top of the stunning (even by modern standards!) set design and staging, there are some huge set pieces in the movie, requiring hundreds of actors – it has the feel of a true cinematic epic. I’d highly recommend it!


Anyway, that’s all for this month – we have a long bank holiday coming up in the UK courtesy of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I will (obviously) not be celebrating it, because I have absolutely no interest in flag-waving nationalism, but I intend to make the most of my time off work with a trip up to Scotland for Glasgow Comic Con! If you’re heading along, I’ll be on table H04 – come and say hello!

All the best,
Chris

April 2022: Second Winter

Hey folks,

Apart from a brief burst of sunny weather a couple of weeks ago, we seem to have been stuck in winter’s grip all through April and I’m beginning to get entirely sick of it – give me sunshine and warm temperatures! I want to wear shorts, feel self-conscious about my knees and complain about the heat (because I am British, after all..!)


The Usual

It’s been a quietly productive month on the scriptwriting front – the first draft of the first chapter of CYBERCLIMBERS (which I’m working on with the delightful Rosie Packwood) is written and met with her approval, so hopefully our editors will like it too. We also got a sneaky peek at the anthology our first collaboration is appearing in, and I can say with certainty that we’re in fantastic company – some excellent artwork in there!

The next thing on my list is to finish polishing up the scripts for Brigantia #4-#6 so Alaire can start on those later in the year. Progress is slow but steady on issue #3 – at this point I’m absolutely wracked with guilt about the wait our KS backers have endured on an almost daily basis, even though it’s largely out of my hands… I’m doing my best not to let it sour my feelings towards getting the second half of the story done!

I should also probably take the plunge and try to find an artist for the sci-fi story, but given the low ebb my self-confidence is at for this stuff, it’s difficult to think about. The Kieron Gillen joke about writers being parasites was obviously meant in good humour, but I’ve definitely internalised it – I rarely feel like artists would be excited to work with me, and it makes it very hard to try and pitch stories to people. I need to suck it up and get over myself, basically!! 😤


The Record

-11 pages written (for CYBERCLIMBERS)
-12 pages lettered (for The Phoenix)

Please enjoy this message I sent to Rosie about CYBERCLIMBERS, which encapsulates just how on the nose we intend to be:

What’s the point of a fun cyberpunk manga story about climbing if you can’t also make it about class warfare, huh??


The Tunes

It’s a big ol’ mishmash of new and old this month – some of my perennial classics that have come back into rotation for various reasons along with some new stuff. Let’s crack in:

First up is a band that I struggle to categorise, Wolfhand – essentially “Wild West doom”? This album is fantastic though, definitely worth a listen if you like BIG ATMOSPHERES. Next up is a cut from the new Carpenter Brut album, which oozes a different (more synthetic) kind of atmosphere and has some great collab appearances – like Norwegian post-BM titans Ulver on this track. After that we’re going more lo-fi with Japanese riot grrl punk from Otoboke Beaver – my punk-loving friend Helen recommended this band to me and I’m very glad she did! After that we have band who are impossible to do a Google search for, ΛΔΛΜ – this was a Spotify discovery and it’s great, but I can’t find anything else out about them. Nice, chilled track though! That leads us into a couple of oldies – Lower Norfair by my favourite videogame metal covers band Metroid Metal, which was part of my playlist for a 10K I ran last weekend (and therefore partly responsible for me managing an impressive 50:33 personal best!), followed by Amon Amarth. I came out of the Northman with this song blasting in my head so I had to include it! A trio of new tracks from old faves up next – the new Ghost album isn’t as good as their previous release for me, but it has some catchy ones, and the chorus of this track has been running around my head recently. Nick (my fellow guitarist in Ba’al) was the one who mentioned that the new Korn album is actually surprisingly enjoyable, so I gave it a go, and… he’s right, it’s decent (and nowhere near as embarrassingly painful as that new Limp Bizkit album…) I’m a fairly casual Meshuggah fan, in that I like some of their stuff but don’t think they’re messianic beings like some people seem to, but I enjoyed this track off their newest release. I have no intention of trying to understand how complex the riffs are – I’ll just nod along and enjoy the vibe! Lastly, some atmospheric black metal from Sylvaine to close us out – an easy way to make me like your band is to name a song Mono no Aware, after the Japanese concept of impermanence and transience of life. It helps that they also know how to craft big atmospheres!


The Links

Just the one link for you this month, but I want to talk about it a little bit. Have a read: https://www.inverse.com/entertainment/the-northman-explained-valhalla-valkyries-viking-lore

Some mild spoilers for The Northman abound below (although tbh, if you’ve read Hamlet you’ll know the story already..!)

I really enjoyed The Northman when I went to see it earlier this month – I’m a big fan of Robert Eggers’ previous work (The Witch and The Lighthouse are both fantastic movies) and while this movie is less overtly weird, it’s got plenty of visual stylishness and a muscular, powerful feeling that suits the “roaring rampage of revenge” narrative. The article above was an interesting read for me because of the way that Eggers, Sjón and their collaborators like Neil Price approached the idea of authenticity – there are some things that we can draw from the historical and archaeological record (Viking longships, brooches, etc) and some things that we can really only guess at (the thoughts and feelings of a Viking living in a world suffused with divinity and magic). What’s important is to take what we do know and weave it together with educated guesswork to serve the story you’re trying to tell – like the Tree of Kings in the movie, which is drawn from a real tapestry. The meaning of the tapestry is unknown, but as a symbol of fate it’s a throughline for the whole story.

I’ve also seen some commentary around how the white supremacists love The Northman (unsurprising, given the number of brainless right-wing morons who latch onto Viking runes and imagery), and criticism of Eggers for not doing more to dissuade them. My starting point for that debate is: neo-Nazis latched onto My Little Pony, seemingly the most innocent cartoon anyone could possibly make. They desperately try to claim any kind of cultural property and poison it for others. Eggers could certainly have tried to cast more diversely (it’s a myth that the Viking world was entirely white, after all) but I’ve no doubt that even if he had, the Nazis would have found a way to lay claim to it regardless – they spent most of the 20th century perverting ancient symbols which had existed for a thousand years before modern fascism cropped up. Maybe we should just… stop letting them do that?

That aside, anyone who watches the movie and thinks “hell yeah, so badass” is drastically missing the point – it’s a tragedy wherein the protagonist loses his entire family to murderous treachery, spends his life miserable and thirsting for revenge, is poised to start a new life then throws that away for the sake of vengeance. It’s not supposed to be aspirational!


That’s all for this month- take care, everyone!

All the best,
Chris

March 2022: Cresting the Wave

Hey folks,

It’s going to be a short one this month – I once again lost track of the days, and there’s been a lot of LIFE happening which has made it hard to find time for anything more involved. Let’s get to it!

The Record

– 9 pages written for CYBERCLIMBERS (with Rosie Packwood)
– 9 pages lettered (4 for Big Hype, 4 for The Phoenix)

Not the most productive month on the comics side, and I need to make some more substantial progress on the to-do list, but there’s a good reason for that – I spent a large chunk of the month filming/editing/preparing video content for BA’AL (the atmospheric post-black metal band I joined last year) in order to get our YouTube channel up and running. I really love doing this kind of video stuff because of the problem-solving aspect of it (how can I make this look the way it does in my head?) Anyway, you can see some of the fruits of that labour here (including my face getting technical about my amp/pedal setup): https://youtube.com/channel/UCcUf3618RTXw_eN92Y5X7yw

There’s plenty more to come, so hit the subscribe button if you’re interested!

Oh, and the CYBERCLIMBERS pitch I mentioned in last month’s update got accepted (whee!) – so I’ve broken ground on scripting the first chapter for that. We’re aiming for a fun sports/tournament manga with a strong anti-capitalist message, let’s hope we can pull that off!

The Tunes

This month’s playlist starts off lighter and transitions to heavier, hopefully in what feels like a natural progression! First up is Kyosuke Himuro – but if you’re a nerd like me you might know it better as the song that plays over the end credits of FFVII: Advent Children. We had some bright and summery weather last week and this kept popping into mind! Next up is the phenomenal CHVRCHES – I got to see them live for the first time this month and it was a truly soul-enriching experience. Very weird being in an audience full of non-metalheads though..! Sleater-Kinney are one of my favourites and have graced this playlist before – this track in particular really captures the tired/wired vibes of life at the moment. Sea Power are new to me, but this new album was a great discovery and this is a stand-out track. Black Hill are another Spotify discovery, and I enjoyed the relaxed atmospheric vibes of this – very foresty. Next we’re starting to move into metal territory with Khemmis – great vocals and tight riffs. After that is another track from Matt Heafy’s atmospheric black metal project Ibaraki, and this might be my favourite so far – featuring Gerard Way of all people on harsh vocals! Never thought I’d hear him on a black metal track, but it absolutely works. Conjurer are making waves in the UK scene – I was introduced to them by the Ba’al guys, and this new track is a banger. Like probably many of you, I absolutely loved The Batman when I saw it this month – it’s a visually stunning and immersive movie, and the soundtrack is perfect. I had to commemorate it here, but with a twist – this version of Something in the Way is covered by the fantastic Litany for the Whale, featuring my boy Michael W Conrad (of Tremor Dose/Double Walker/Wonder Woman fame) on vocals, and it’s an immense, intense, monolithic interpretation of the track. Finally, closing the list out, we have the pagan folk vibes of Wolves in the Throne Room as a nod to the approaching spring.

The Links

Only one link this month – it’s always nice when something you loved when you were younger turns out to hold up well to modern scrutiny, right? Please enjoy this analysis of the movie Wayne’s World (one of the foundational texts of my personality) and in particular it’s treatment of female characters: https://thequietus.com/articles/31255-film-waynes-world-cassandra-tia-carrere-anniversary


And that’s all for this month – stay safe and thanks for reading!

All the best,
Chris

February 2022: Sneak Attack!

Hey folks,

Once again, the last day of February has snuck up on me – on the one hand, I appreciate a shorter month after the never-ending hellscape that is January, but on the other it’s hard to process that we’re already getting into March and the years keep coming (and they don’t stop coming)..!

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The Usual

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or two (and if you have, you’re probably not reading this), you’ll have seen the global news – specifically Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s an atrocious situation and seems to have really taxed the ability of some people to hold multiple thoughts in their head at once – for example, it’s possible to support the Ukrainian people in standing up against a violent, imperalist oppressor whilst also acknowledging that our government has been horrendously complicit in empowering and enabling that oppressor. On top of that, I’ve seen some truly clown-makeup takes from people suggesting that this conflict is worse predominantly because most Ukrainians are white and “look like us”… as though the suffering of black and brown people in the middle East and elsewhere in the world is a tragic but essentially inevitable thing, but white people aren’t supposed to fear for their lives.

I don’t really have anything useful or insightful to add to the conversation, beyond this: Putin is a complete fucking dickhead who’s been coddled and enabled by a massive string of bedroom fascists across the Western world, and the Ukrainian people deserve to make their own choices. Let’s all hope things cool down before too long!


The Record

  • Pitch document for CYBERCLIMBERS (with Rosie Packwood) assembled
  • 12 pages lettered (8 for The Phoenix, 4 for Big Hype)
  • 1 anthology rejection (wheee)

Took a break from actually scripting pages this month – partly because I’ve spent A LOT of time at band practice (my folk/metal ceilidh band POWERHOUSE had a big show at the “Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival” to prepare for, which we smashed a few days ago) and partly in favour of putting together a detailed pitch/synopsis for something Rosie and I are working on. Our collaboration for Big Hype (now called Jumpstart Comics) has been delightful, so when she put out a call on Twitter for writers to work with on a story idea that she’s had, I was keen to throw my hat in the ring. Fast forward a bit, and we’re pitching a chunky YA climbing tournament manga with a cyberpunk vibe and some very relevant politics! It’s been a lot of fun fleshing out this world with Rosie and I hope that folks enjoy it once it exists for real.

To get real for a moment: I struggle with rejection when it comes to my creative pursuits, because a lot of my self-worth comes from being a person who Makes Things and is creative. Obviously rejection is par for the course in comics because there are a lot of people trying to eat a relatively small pie, but anthology rejections in particular hit me quite hard – especially when I see friends excitedly tweeting about how they got in. Intellectually, I know I should be happy for them and supportive, but it’s very hard for me to slide over to that from the negativity of being turned down. That isn’t a fault of anyone else’s – it’s entirely on me and my fucked up brain – but it’s something I’m doing my best to work on.

(Here’s a quick pro tip, btw: don’t spend a whole day brooding about an anthology rejection then try to help your partner with the Crash Bandicoot remake – because that game is brutally hard, and being bad at videogames, a thing you’re supposed to be good at, is just going to give you a full-on panic attack!)

Anyway, the HOCKEYTOWN pitch went off to one interested editor earlier this month and got a very enthusiastic response back – it’s apparently going in front of the whole editorial team later this week so keep everything crossed for us..!


The Tunes

This month’s playlist is definitely weighted towards the heavier stuff – we kick things off with The Mist From The Mountains, who do big, atmospheric, melodic black metal. No “4-track demo recorded in a cave on a Fisher Price tape recorder” vibes here! Next up is a one-two punch of death metal – The Spirit mine a more cosmic vein (reminding me a little bit of Iotunn and Mithras) for their riffs, while Venom Prison and vocalist Larissa Stupar have gone for Greek myth on their newest album (which is excellent from start to finish). Next up is a little bit of gritty synthwave from Author & Punisher‘s new release, and that’s followed by a cut from the new Cult of Luna which I need to listen to a few more times – Mariner is still the pinnacle of their releases for me but this new record is very well put together. New Zeal & Ardor is up next – the new album is extremely listenable and there’s more snarl and bite to a bunch of the tracks, including this one. Try not to shriek “DEATH TO THE HOLY” at full volume for the chorus, I dare you! Following on from the Satanic vibes of Z&A is Twin Temple, with their Satanic doo-wop – if you haven’t heard this band before, prepare to enjoy, because they are very fun indeed. It’s been a good month for new music – I wasn’t expecting to get a new Florence + The Machine song, but here it is, and it’s amazing as usual! High As Hope from 2018 is one of my all-time favourite albums, so I’m excited for more from Florence. In the penultimate slot is a lush, relaxing piano piece from composer Phamie Gow – I tend to have ClassicFM on in the car (because when I can’t be bothered to pick something to listen to, classical is quite soothing) and spotted her name which led me to hunt down this album. Highly recommended. Lastly, in a nod to current events, the Ukrainian experimental & progressive black metal band White Ward close the playlist out with this track from a 2021 single which runs the gamut of their expansive sound.


The Links

Just two links from me this month – in today’s world, where corporate elites gorge themselves on wealth stolen from their workers, may I interest you in a suitably brutal horror comic that addresses precisely those kind of inequities?

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ianmondrick/tomb-of-the-black-horse-corporate-horror-and-brutal-revenge

Tomb of the Black Horse is the latest in a series by my good friends Ian Mondrick and Ben AE Filby, ably assisted by a host of excellent collaborators. It’s extremely worth your time!

Secondly, here’s a very interesting read about what’s happening right now and what it means: https://eand.co/the-west-was-a-sleeping-giant-and-putin-just-woke-it-up-485ee1adc984


That’s all for now – thanks for reading, and onwards into spring we go!

All the best,

Chris

January 2022: Once More Round The Sun

Howdy, folks!

It’s the start of a Brand New Year, and once again, it feels like we’ve already had enough bullshit to last a full 12 months. The more things change, the more they stay the same..!

The Usual

Barely a January goes by that I don’t fall into a bit of a seasonal depression, largely linked to the tedium and dissatisfaction of my day job. On the one hand, I have a steady, boring job that doesn’t ask much of me (allowing me time outside of work to do the things I love, namely comics and music). On the other hand, we live in a society where you need money to live, and when every single headline is screaming at me about PRICE RISES and ENERGY CRISES and a host of other things that will make life much more difficult… it’s extremely difficult not to conflate my sense of self-worth with my (not especially large) salary. Couple that with the financial challenges of making comics (a thing I love to do!) and it’s a recipe for very stressful times indeed.

I’ll get through it (somehow), and I’m doing my best to focus on things that make me happy, but it gets harder with every passing year. Part of that is because the people in charge of my country seem to be taking every single opportunity to brutalise people in my earnings bracket and below because if you’re not rich, they don’t care whether you live or die – but that’s a political rant for another time!

The Record

Continuing my hot streak from last month, I’ve made a pretty strong start on the ol’ project list and actually done some writing (!!) this month:

  • Outline for Space Cowboys tweaked
  • 22 pages of Space Cowboys issue #4 written
  • 14 pages of Space Cowboys issue #5 written
  • 2 pages of Hadopelagic prologue written
  • 4 pages lettered for The Phoenix
  • 5 pages lettered for Big Hype Comics
  • Hockeytown pitch finalised

Couple of items of note in there – #5 is the last issue of Space Cowboys, so we’re getting to the point where all the emotional chickens come home to roost. It’s definitely something I haven’t tried before, as a sci-fi story built less around spaceships and aliens (although both do feature) and more around gut-wrenching emotional trauma and Big Questions. The back half of issue #5 is basically going to be me throwing everything into the mix and dreaming up chaotic page layouts that the eventual artist will absolutely despise me for…

The Hadopelagic prologue is a nice little wrinkle – Neil McClements and I did it as a three-part story (https://www.chrismole.co.uk/comics/hadopelagic/) for Aces Weekly some years back, and a brief DM conversation with Alfie Gallagher encouraged me to go back to my plans for the series. It’s a story that I’m still proud of, and given the ecological elements of the plot it remains pretty relevant! Neil and I have plans to add on a brief prologue and an epilogue, conjure up some bonus content and do a little “prestige” print edition. Where we’ll raise the money for the printing remains to be seen, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!

The story with Rosie Packwood for Big Hype Comics is close to done – all Rosie’s art is finished and now it’s just on me to slap letters on it. She’s absolutely crushed the pages for this – they look wonderful, and I’m very excited to share it with people. In fact, here’s a very sneaky exclusive peek at one page of the story, hot off the lettering press:

20220131_103026.jpg

On top of that, we’re already hatching plans for our next collaboration which will take things up a few notches, so watch this space..!

Then there’s the Hockeytown pitch, which is now in a fit state (IMO) to start wafting it in front of publishers. I’ve sent the PDF document out to a couple of friends to gauge their reactions (because peer review is always good), so assuming nobody picks up on any massive, glaring issues with it we might be able to get things moving on that! I’m genuinely extremely proud of this story – it’s probably the most mature thing I’ve ever written (not just because of all the swearing) and Russ Olson (art), Dearbhla Kelly (colours) and Kerrie Smith (letters) are an absolute dream team who’ve made the pitch pages look stunning. I appreciate that I’m not an expert, but it looks like something Image would publish to me! (P.S if you’re reading this and would like a look at the pitch, my DMs are open..!)

Lastly, we’re getting ever closer to done with issue #3 of Brigantia – Harriet is soldiering through the pages and getting them inked up and coloured to perfection. We’ve set the end of February as her hard deadline for getting the pages done so we can press on with getting the book printed and out to our extraordinarily patient and wonderful backers. On top of that, the lovely Claire Napier has sent me some notes back on issue #4 and will be casting her eyes over issues #5 and #6 as well – so the next few months are likely to be quite busy on the Brigantia train!

The Tunes

“Comfort listening” is the theme for this month’s playlist; even though it starts right off the bat with the heavy stuff, a lot of these are songs I’ve listened to and loved many times before. First up is a newbie from Show Me A Dinosaur (who might as well be called “We loved the Deafheaven album New Bermuda so we tried to sound just like that”!) which hits my sweet spot of colourful riffs and nasal shrieking. Next up is progressive, atmospheric, antifascist Dutch black metal from Fluisteraars who are v. good, and they’re followed by some classic Chthonic from the excellent album Mirror of Retribution. It’s Taiwanese black/death metal about the Buddhist underworld! What’s not to love?? With The Dead (fronted by the mighty Lee Dorian of Cathedral and Napalm Death) are staggeringly heavy, and I’m amazed that my ears still function at all after seeing them live back in 2016 – this song is on my writing soundtrack for Space Cowboys for reasons known only to me! Ibaraki is a new project from Matt Kiichi Heafy (guitarist/vocalist of Trivium, who I absolutely idolised in my sixth form days) and Ihsahn of black metal titans Emperor – atmospheric BM about Japanese mythology, something that Heafy has an ancestral connection to, is once again firmly in my wheelhouse and this track is a very promising start. Next we’re into cheesy power/folk metal territory, with Sabaton (I’ve been watching some very good/interesting WW2 documentaries recently, and this track always pops into my head whenever I think about D-Day) and Turisas (a recent podcast episode I listened to about the collapse of the Byzantine Empire discussed the Varangian Guard and reminded me of how good this album is!) Hail Spirit Noir are up next because the absurdly catchy hooks of this song kept creeping into my brain this month, and we close things out with a much lighter one-two punch of Japanese Breakfast (from the soundtrack of the game Sable, which I distressingly haven’t been able to play since it’s Xbox/PC only) and Taylor Swift‘s version of Wildest Dreams from the album 1989. When she releases her version of the full album, you will need to prepare for me listening to/talking about nothing else for a solid month – 1989 was the first T-Swift album I heard and it remains an absolute classic.


This has already gotten somewhat longer than I anticipated, so we’ll close it off there! Thanks for reading, and I hope 2022 treats us all better than 2021 did…

All the best,

Chris

December 2021: What Is A Holiday, Anyway?

Hey folks!

As you might expect, this post will feature a little bit of introspection – last entry of the year and all that!

The Usual

I summed up my year in review over on Twitter:

To expand on those tweets slightly – it’s been a hard year. I write comics because I love telling stories and comics is my favourite medium for doing that – I don’t do it for the acclaim or money (there’s no money in comics, good grief!) But at the same time, it’s brutal to spend so much time (and money) on a creative pursuit and feel like you’re just shouting into a void. It’s human nature to fixate on negativity (a bad review will stay with you much longer than a good review, for example), and I know I need to work on ignoring the negatives, but I won’t sugarcoat how tough it can be.

The Record

*Scripted the remaining 21 pages of Brigantia #5 and all 32 pages of Brigantia #6 – 53 pages written in total

Totals for 2021:
113 pages written
34 pages rewritten/redrafted
33 pages lettered

After I wrote about being streaky a few months ago, this month saw me go on an absolute tear with writing – I’ve had the synopsis for the second half of the first Brigantia story arc written for ages, and decided to just get on with scripting first drafts for those three issues (because it’s better to have a first draft written which you can then refine than not have anything at all!) Fast-forward to December 24th and I was finishing up issue #6 – I’m a little surprised myself, but I guess sometimes the muse just grabs you.

I’m feeling pretty good about the first drafts – I’ll do a little more refining at the start of 2022, and then I’ve made the decision to get an editor involved to do a pass on them. I didn’t bring an editor in for the first three issues, partly because when I wrote issue #1 I didn’t even realise that freelance comics editors were a thing and partly because I’ve been very protective of the story – it’s so personal to me that I dread an editor telling me I have to change big swathes of it! That said, I want to be sure that this half of the story really lands, so I’m choosing to let go a little.

Looking at my totals for the year, I actually wrote a chunk more new pages than last year, and lettered a bunch more as well – plus, the tail end of the year saw me land my first professional lettering job which will see my work in a proper published comic. My comp copy for that actually landed on my doorstep this morning:

https://twitter.com/ChrisManji/status/1476920412265136132

Very excited to have some lettering work published (in an actual comic that you can buy in WHSmiths, for god’s sake)! It’s funny, I wasn’t planning to try and surpass my written output from 2020 but still managed to do it by forcing my nose to the grindstone the last few months. Now to actually get some of this stuff drawn/released..!

The Tunes

A shorter playlist as we close out this year with mostly new music (to me)! First up is a lovely little piece from the soundtrack of the game Eastward, which I’ve been really enjoying this month – beautiful art style and an interesting narrative. Next up is some bouncy J-rock from one of Japan’s first all-girl bands, ZELDA – I was actually looking for Legend of Zelda soundtracks on Spotify when I found this, and I’m glad I did! Next two tracks are quite chilled – acoustic folk from Thurnin and a bit of relaxed alt-rock from Manchester Orchestra. Demoniac brought a saxophone to a black metal song, and it works surprisingly well, and they’re followed by Bewitcher who are just solid modern thrash. Asthenia are a Chinese one-man post-black metal project and a real find – really enjoyed this release! I love this Myrkur song and it’s HUGE atmosphere, and was reminded recently of covering it live on stage with some friends a few years back. This Have A Nice Life track was chosen purely for the strength of the name, which sums up some of my recent vinyl-buying habits – and lastly, we’re into YouTube comedy territory with this absolute banger from Tom “Very Australian” Cardy. Do yourself a favour and watch the video for his sterling facial expressions!

The Links

George Pérez is one of the greatest comics artists ever to work in the medium, his vibrant and exciting artwork responsible for so many iconic moments (not least DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and his phenomenal run on Wonder Woman (Gods and Mortals) which have both been hugely influential on me). His recent announcement of a terminal cancer diagnosis was an absolute punch in the heart, but he’s been handling it with the courage of a lion, as this wonderful interview makes clear:

https://www.gamesradar.com/george-perez-cancer-diagnosis/


That’s all from me for this month (and year) – my only plan for this evening is to watch the new Star Wars show with my partner, eat takeaway pizza and mentally hammer a few nails into 2021’s coffin. I hope you all have similarly positive evenings, whatever you’re doing, and let’s tackle 2022 with verve and determination, shall we?

All the best,

Chris

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