May 2022: Moloch the Terrible

Hey folks,

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


The Usual

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

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


The Record

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

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


The Tunes

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


Movie Talk

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

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

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

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


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

All the best,
Chris

April 2022: Second Winter

Hey folks,

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


The Usual

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

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

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


The Record

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

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

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


The Tunes

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

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


The Links

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

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

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

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

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


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

All the best,
Chris

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:

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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

October 2021: Spooky Streaky

Happy Halloween, folks!

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The Usual

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

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

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

The Tunes

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

The Links

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

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


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

All the best,

Chris

March 2021: One Year On

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

The Usual

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

The Tunes

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

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

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

All the best,
Chris

February 2021: Vitality of Thought

Hey folks,

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

The Usual

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

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

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

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

The Record

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

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

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

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

The Tunes

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

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

All the best,

Chris

January 2021: Vitamin Tree

Hey folks,

I know I fell prey to thinking that at midnight on December 31st, 2020 would turn into a pumpkin and we’d all get our lives back… as unrealistic as that was. Nice of 2021 not to slow down much, eh? Let’s get into it.

The Usual

Since we’re in month 216 (or so it seems) of lockdown and still paying the price of our government tacitly encouraging people to socialise over the Christmas break (before changing their minds at the very last second), there haven’t been many of the usual markers that I rely on to emphasise that one year is changing into the next – usually there’s a tangible feeling of “newness” in the air, a sense of possibility in the year ahead. This year, thanks to the continuing uncertainty of COVID, the only sense of possibility is a hope that maybe this year won’t be as bad as last year was. Still, I’m trying to stay positive and keep inching forwards with project progress.

Part of maintaining that positive mindset has been making the time to venture outdoors (safely and alone) and soak in some greenery – whether it’s pseudo-science or a real thing, there’s something about going for a forest wander that really chases away the brain-weasels. Yesterday I had a nice walk around Wyming Brook on the outskirts of Sheffield, somewhere I’ve never been before, and spent most of it just gawping at the scenery and whipping out my phone to take pictures every 30 seconds:

There’s Uruk-Hai in these hills…

It was truly delightful and I’d strongly recommend soaking up some ‘vitamin tree’ if you have the ability to – absolutely beats staring at the same four walls all week and weekend!

The Record

*8 pages of SENGOKU written
*SPACE COWBOYS issues #2 and #3 sent to my wonderful editor Claire Napier for her input and suggestions – next step is redrafting
*HOCKEYTOWN pitch document mostly finished
*Lettering work – 4 pages of Professor Elemental: NEMESIS lettered

I’ve finally broken ground on SENGOKU and actually started writing – I’m taking a much more detail-oriented approach for this script than I have done before, because it’s important to me that I don’t fall prey to the mistakes that are present in a lot of stories told about Japan/Japanese culture by Westerners. I’m linking in tons of visual reference for each scene, and my intent once the first draft is written is to work with a Japanese sensitivity reader who can tell me whether there’s anything glaringly obvious that I’ve missed. The result (of course) is that it’s going to take me a lot longer to write, but it’s not as though I have a deadline!

SPACE COWBOYS (still a working title, I really need to come up with something better) is still trucking along too – since Claire’s happy with the shape of the story thus far I need to start a) firming up exactly where I want to go with the remaining three issues (since my previous draft outline doesn’t quite match up to the story we’re now telling) and b) thinking about reaching out to some artists and putting together a pitch for it! I have a couple of people in mind, but as with everything, it’ll depend entirely on whether they’re interested in the story. Fingers crossed!

The pitch document for HOCKEYTOWN is basically a chunky Powerpoint which contains bits of artwork from the pages that are done so far, the story synopsis, a detailed breakdown of the story and an explanation of why we think it’s a comic worth publishing. The pages (once they’re coloured and lettered) will be stored in a Dropbox and accessible via a link on the pitch document. I’ve never pitched anything before (I’m using a template that another writer shared online) so I have no idea if it’s any good, but hopefully it presents the story in the best possible light.

The Tunes

This month’s playlist follows a fairly straightforward progression from heavier stuff to lighter, commencing with the mighty Earth – Zé Burnay (@Ze_Burnay on Twitter, a phenomenal artist) mentioned this album a while back and it reminded me that I haven’t heard it in far too long. After that we have one of my personal favourite Children of Bodom songs – their singer/guitarist Alexi Laiho passed away this month at the too-young age of 41. I spent most of my teenage years trying to learn how to play his songs, and almost as much time lusting after his signature guitar on the ESP Japan website – this one hurt, but I know he’d been suffering from ill-health for a while and I hope he’s partying up a storm on the other side. Next up are a couple of tracks fed to me by the Spotify algorithm by Countless Skies and Green Carnation, and after that we’re taking a brief diversion into Tolkien-inspired metal (in the vein of the mighty Summoning) with Moongates Guardian. I have a real soft spot for this kind of super-atmospheric, not particularly heavy metal with tons of keyboards! After that, the final “metal” track on the playlist belongs to Elder, whose album art really caught my eye before their proggy doom metal impressed my ears. The “cool-down” section of the playlist starts with some Eastern-inspired trip-hop courtesy of Xori, then a song which I already recognised despite never having listened to it before – the opening part of ‘Telephone and Rubber Band’ by Penguin Cafe Orchestra was used in a TV ad campaign for a telecoms company for years so it was weird to have it pop up halfway through the album! Finally, the playlist closes out with some wintry acoustic music as a nod to the blizzards we’ve been having semi-regularly over here – TPR with a mournful piano rendition of a track from Final Fantasy 7, and Myrkur with a new haunting folk single that builds on last year’s incredible Folkesange.

That’s all for this month – congrats on making it through January, the days are only going to get longer and warmer from here on out!

All the best,

Chris