Focus on: Sleeping Dogs

Thought Bubble in 2011 was a real eye-opener for me in a lot of ways. I’ve always loved comics but had drifted away from them for a while. TB 2011 was my first trip to a big convention in many years. It’s a great showcase for indie comic talent and I came away hugely impressed with what creators were doing and the quality of comics modern, low-run printing allowed people to do.

A few years later I visited the New York Comic Con on a great trip with some friends and it was seeing the vitality and drive of indie creators there that finally convinced me that I could do this too. And that was a BIG thing. Like a lot of people I suppose, I take a lot of convincing that I can actually do stuff, that I’d be any good. Confidence, certainly back then, was not my strong point. Left to my own devices, I’m sure I’d have persuaded myself that I wasn’t good enough to plunge into an area where I had no idea what I was doing and come away with something worthwhile. So I have my pals to thank for suggesting otherwise, particularly Iain Laurie and John Lees.

Here’s me with Iain Laurie at New York Comic Con in 2014. We would never be this happy again. Notice our good pal, Brian Michael Bendis in the background.

When it came to actually making the comic, I wanted to make a one-shot that people could take away knowing they were getting a full story with no need to track me down online or come back the following year to find out what happens.

SleepingDogs 001-01

I wanted to make something that read like a working class action movie and was about guys I’d grown up around my whole life, broken hard men whose irretrievable failures had left them flailing forever outwards, unable to express their pain through anything but anger. Husbands and fathers who had failed to live up to the billing, heroes whose lustre had inevitably tarnished over the long years. In Sleeping Dogs, our “hero” Mal seeks revenge for the murder of his estranged son having turned over a new leaf after years of living as a petty thug. In the background is Mal’s sense that he is the one truly to blame for the death of his boy, the years of indifference and half-arsed parenting having set his son on a seemingly inevitable path.

SleepingDogs 006-01
I’ve blanked out the swears on this page, no need to thank me. It is quite a sweary comic.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

Mal Gillis is an ageing former bad boy, struggling to make ends meet after turning his back on a life of violence and petty crime. He makes a living handing out flyers for a comic book store dressed as an off-brand superhero. He keeps his spirits up helping vulnerable people living in the high rise tower block that has been his home and patch all his life. He brings shopping to the elderly, makes sure the addicts are eating. Babysits for people on shift-work. He is trying to be good.

But when Mal arrives home one night to find his estranged son has been murdered by a nigh-untouchable local villain, he realises there is no hope of justice. Unless he gets it himself.

SleepingDogs 000 (Capristo)

We released Sleeping Dogs at Thought Bubble 2015, beautifully illustrated by Lautaro Capristo, coloured by David Cooper, lettered by Colin Bell with variant covers by Iain Laurie, Joe Mulvey and Nick Pitarra and lovingly printed by Rich at Comic Printing UK. It sold well and got nice notices but more importantly, it was done. It was out there. And I was happy we’d made a good comic and given our best.

So I suppose the message here is that if I can do it, anyone can. Sleeping Dogs set me off on a path of making comics regularly and working to improve my writing all the time and it’s rarely been anything other than a positive experience. And even as the years pass and Sleeping Dogs disappears more and more into the rear-view, I’m very proud of the book and very grateful to everyone who supported me and worked with me on it.

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