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,

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,

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)..!


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?


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,


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:


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,


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,

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,