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

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!

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__640.gif

The Usual

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

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

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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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

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


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

All the best,

Chris

August 2021

Howdy, folks!

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

The Usual

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

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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

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

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

(this is why representation matters, people!!)

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


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

All the best,
Chris

September 2021: Autumnal

Evening, folks!

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

The Usual

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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


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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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

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

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

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


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

All the best,

Chris

July 2021: What is Time?

Howdy, folks!

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

The Usual

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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


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

All the best,
Chris

June 2021: Refresh, Refresh, Refresh

Howdy, folks!

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

The Usual

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

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


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

The Record

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

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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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

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


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

All the best,
Chris

May 2021: Sun’s Out, Guns Out

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

The Usual

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

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

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

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

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


The Record

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

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


The Tunes

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

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


The Links

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

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

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


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

All the best,

Chris