It’s been a hectic few months following the success of our Kickstarter for The Edge Off. Iain, David, Colin and I have been blown away by the great reviews and amazing backer feedback and response to the comic and Iain and I are planning our next book together as I type. In fact we’re way beyond that. We already know exactly what we’re doing next, I’m almost ready to script and all I can really say to you right now is that if you thought The Edge Off was out there, stick around. And it won’t be for too long either, this should be coming at you before the end of 2018. On top of that, Iain and I have at least 2 more books in the planning stages so it looks like you’ll be seeing plenty from the Laurie/Campbell-verse over the next while!
Right now however I’m in Alex Automatic mode. Issue #3 of AA is coming together and we’ll be launching our funding Kickstarter for this in a couple of weeks or so.
For anyone unfamiliar with the comic, Alex Automatic is about Alex Anderson, a Government agent who has been subjected to experiments to enhance his abilities. However the process has gone horribly wrong, leaving Alex often trapped inside the delusion that he is the indestructible cyborg super-spy hero of 1970’s TV show, ALEX AUTOMATIC. A TV show that exists of course entirely inside Alex’s own head.
The top line influences are pretty clear and if I had to give you a 10 second convention table pitch, I’d maybe say it’s something like Joe 90 meets The Bourne Identity by way of The Prisoner. This can draw blank looks from people born well after most of these influences were created, but if there is an element of nostalgia for the incredible production design, clothes and premises of these (mostly) 70s artefacts, we have tried to use Alex Automatic to make a very modern comic.
Alex’s delusions can take him to any type of retro-classic adventure scenario. He may be having an exotic jungle adventure one week, avoiding a death-ray in a subterranean spy lair the next, all while battling a rogue’s gallery of outlandish and unambiguously villainous foes. But even in the comic, this is not reality. Alex’s true reality is far from the black and white certainty of his delusions. He is damaged, hunted, isolated yet surrounded by people who want something from him, well-meaning or not (and there’s plenty of not). All he wants is to be left alone, to try and find his way back to the person he was before he was changed, a lonely and impossible journey. As such, Alex Automatic is a comic about alienation, disassociation and the overwhelming mania of modern reality. And if nostalgia is a theme, it’s less about an aimless passion for the good old days and more about the corrosive tendency to fret over a lost sense of self, to pine for the better, happier self you may believe you once were, but can never be again. A self you probably never really were to begin with.
But you know, with lava monsters and ray guns etc. so it’s not all just super-serious, stuffy introspection…
Comics wise, the biggest influence on the writing of Alex Automatic is probably Miracleman. In many ways, AA is my attempt to do a modernist(ish) book about alienation and the mechanisms that cause it. Beyond that, there’s lots of “boys” comic fiction I’ve had more or less hard-wired in me since early childhood, like Victor, Warlord, Battle, Action, Bullet and The Hotspur.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of making Alex Automatic has been turning to old techniques and story styles to tell a modern story. A little sleight of hand that dresses up something contemporary in a wide-collared shirt and a safari suit. James contributes his own misdirection to Alex Automatic too. Laying out page structures in the form of the TV Century 21 comic, he seems to bring with him a style hugely reminiscent of 60s and 70s British adventure comics. But many of his influences are from overseas, Giraud, Tardi, Muñoz, Bernet, Hugo Pratt.
If you haven’t read Alex Automatic and it sounds like your thing, catch-up levels will be available on the upcoming Kickstarter, or you can buy copies of the first two issues right now, here.
In the upcoming Issue #3, Alex comes face to face with his old sidekick, the plucky teen “Spy in a Suitcase”, Johnny Jenkins. The problem? Johnny is fictional, a killed-off comic strip character from yesteryear who blames Alex for his untimely banishment to oblivion. How is this possible? You’ll need to back to find out…
From Issue #3, we really begin to expand the story outwards into a full arc that will ultimately tell Alex’s story, so if you’ve been enjoying the comic so far, there’s much more to come. And if you have been on board so far, you have my appreciation. James and I are fully aware that Alex Automatic isn’t an “easy” comic. It’s opaque, introspective, and deliberately old fashioned, driven by influences many readers may be too young to remember. It’s also deeply personal, so all the support we’ve had so far has meant the World to us. I hope you stay with us as we move towards answering the questions that started this whole ball rolling. What is PRISM? Who is Professor Zero? Is this the end for Alex Automatic?