Hands into the clay

If you happen to enjoy my comics (and thank you so much if you do) you have a lot to look forward to this year. I’m currently working on six different projects covering the likes of sci-fi action, comedy drama, lo-fi dystopia and more existential chills with the brilliant Iain Laurie.

There’s purpose to this. I felt I helped make some good comics last year but also felt I didn’t really progress much either. Ultimately, I just wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t writing enough to show people the range of styles I could tackle and I wasn’t writing enough to improve much technically. You can read all the books, watch all the webinars etc. etc. but there’s no substitute for just getting your hands into the clay.  But that’s a topic for another day really. I wanted to talk about the script I chose to tackle first this year, a 52 page double issue flip-book incorporating issues #4 and #5 of ALEX AUTOMATIC.

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This is easily the most complex and daunting thing James and I have attempted thus far. I’ve talked before about how Alex isn’t for everyone. We’ve spent three issues setting things up and using a lot of flicks, tricks, twists and double bluffs to try to create a sense of jarred confusion in the reader, a bewilderment that matches Alex’s fractured perception of the world around him. But that comes at a cost. I think a few people are wondering when this is all going to start “making sense”. Is Alex Automatic about anything more than existential noodling through a funnel of 60s spy clichés or are we going to learn anything more about these people and get a chance to connect with them emotionally as characters? I can especially understand this sentiment after issue #3, which hinted at past trauma and hitherto unmentioned former relationships and experiences in a particularly unforgiving (but we hope entertaining!) way.

The intention of the upcoming double issue is to pay off on that score in spectacular style. In these issues you will find out about who Alex was before we met him, how he became “Alex Automatic” and who he cares about the most as we explore a chequered past that casts doubt on his idea of himself as a heroic, wronged victim.

axe weilding bestie

We also learn about formative experiences for supporting characters Harry & Wylde and look closely at the ordeals that shaped them. Cards will be turned over. Call-backs to previous issues and incidents will hopefully have you saying, “Ah!” as the wider picture starts to come more into focus. The #4/#5 flip-book will wrap up the first arc (we’ll be doing a trade paperback collection up to these issues at some point in the future) and sets up the next, leading us to an ultimate finale that’ll incorporate about twelve issues worth of material.

Of course, we’ve chosen to do this pivotal book in the most commercial style available he laughs, sarcastically. A good chunk of it harks back to the style used by the great Gil Kane in his own espionage thriller, “His Name Is …Savage!” which fell almost immediately out of print in 1968 and hasn’t been re-published since 1982 (although you can have a look at it here http://stendec8.blogspot.com/2012/01/his-name-is-savage-1-1968-by-gil-kane.html). I don’t know why we do this. Other than we obviously feel compelled to. It seems silly to me to have a book that only exists because of pulpy relics like Savage, Agent 21, Our Man Flint and The Prisoner and then not have some fun with the unfashionable styles and techniques of that era.

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The completed script is now sitting with our editor and it’ll probably be a while before James Corcoran finishes the mammoth task I’ve set him, assuming he ever forgives me. But we’re hoping to have this with you well before the end of 2019. For those of you who have stuck with us on this comic, you are about to be rewarded for your patience.

In the meantime, it’s onto the next project, then the next, then the next. You’ll be able to pick up whatever I have out (including our fairly recent ALEX AUTOMATIC spin-off comic PREFECT 63) at Dunfermline Comic Con on March 30th where I’ll be tabling with the brilliant Alisdair Wood. I’ll be popping up at Glasgow Comic Con (as will James) and hopefully Thought Bubble again and wherever else they’ll have me. See you around?

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