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

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

April 2021: A Towering Pile

Howdy, folks!

The Usual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Record

*Pitches for two anthologies worked on – one submitted

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

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

The Tunes

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

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

The Links

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

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

All the best,

Chris

2020: Here We Go

It’s been a long time since my last post! 2019 was a… difficult year, to say the least. On a personal level, I went from dizzying heights of happiness to some of the most tumultuous upheaval I’ve had, and I’m still recovering from emotional shocks that the latter half of the year delivered. On a political level… well. I’m not going to spend any more time on that, but suffice it to say that we’re in for an absolutely hellish 2020 on that front.

I’m going to blather on for a little bit about the professional level; 2019 was the year when I decided to just go for it, and set a few projects in motion. At the very end of 2018, after a trip with friends to go and see the excellent Zeal & Ardor (Spotify embed below, absolutely fantastic band) in Leeds, I decided to do something with a project that had been sitting on my hard drive for ages in a half-finished state. That project was THE BLACK RUBRIC, a light-hearted, comedic story about a black metal band who accidentally write a song that’s too Satanic and rip open the gates of hell by mistake.

Art for the cover of THE BLACK RUBRIC, by Benjamin A.E. Filby.

I decided to stop procrastinating and just finish the story and get it made; that created a tiny snowball effect with some other projects, and it’s resulted in probably my most productive year of writing yet. I counted the pages on Twitter a little while ago, and I wrote 120 pages in 2019 – including THE BLACK RUBRIC, my next project HOCKEYTOWN (which was conceived, developed and all-but completed on the writing side within a year- honestly pretty impressive given my tendency to be crap at finishing scripts) and a sci-fi story I’ve been working on with the in-progress title SPACE COWBOYS.

So yes – 2019 was a productive year. It did also see some upheaval, most notably with my fantastic creative collaborator Melissa Trender being unable to continue with BRIGANTIA and us needing to find a new artist to pick up the torch from her. It’s obviously a shame not to get to continue the story that Mel and I created with her on art duties, but I completely respect her decision to step back from the project and she’s currently kicking arse in her new career as an apprenticed tattoo artist. She actually tattooed me in October with a design intended to represent the Fire of Awen, a pagan concept that will come into play in future issues of BRIGANTIA – it was very appropriate to have Mel design and tattoo that piece on me! Her successor Harriet Moulton is a fantastic artist, and we’re both overjoyed with how seamlessly she’s stepped into the role – Harriet’s working on issue #2 at the moment, so that’ll be out this year.

Anyway, onwards and upwards for 2020. The goals this year are to Kickstart and release both THE BLACK RUBRIC and issue #2 of BRIGANTIA, as well as to develop and pitch HOCKEYTOWN to a few places. I’m very proud of the story, and it’s my first time working with an actual editor (Hugo Boylan, most recently the editor on the acclaimed LAD by Umar Ditta); we’re both invested in the project and I think it’s unique enough to hopefully find a home at a publisher.

The world is a cacophonous, horrible place at the moment, so I for one take great solace from retreating into my creative cocoon and only popping my head out when I’m able. Take care of yourselves, everybody – we’re only 11 days in, and already the US has flirted with a large-scale middle-Eastern war and Australia has suffered absolutely catastrophic fire damage and loss of animal life. Donate to Wildlife Victoria if you can and let’s all do our best!