Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blackshirts of Exmoor

Meanwhile, somewhat west of the western front...

Page 1 by Steve.

Blackshirts of Exmoor tells us something about Brace. It will be lettered, coloured and included in Massacre For Boys: Back In Action.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Doesn't Really Go Anywhere

There have been some interesting reactions to Zenith/Invasion! since it was released last week.

There was a *SPOILER HEAVY* positive review from the perspective of someone who knows Invasion! but hasn't much memory of Zenith. The Maximan stuff was inevitably lost on them but they still seemed to enjoy the strip, which was very pleasing.

However not everybody has been complimentary. This negative review features a phrase now burned into my memory, "doesn't really go anywhere." Although I think that's basically unfair - the strip fairly obviously does go somewhere - there's no point in arguing with someone if they didn't like it. That's their perogative. The reviewer does also praise the initial concept, which ties in with my feeling that maybe I came up with a really big, attention grabbing idea but then didn't make the script accessible enough to live up to the expectations generated.

I still love it, though!

Some people have asked if we're intending to do a follow up and the answer is, as of now: "Nope". If I were to do a sequel it would be somewhat longer and begin in the present day with Zenith and his girlfriend, Patsy Kensit, attending a Zenith tribute act gig in a pub. They would then be attacked by an unspecified superhuman foe. There would be no Volgans. I would refer back to the first story, but only slightly. *CAUTION, OBLIQUE SPOILER* The character I ressurected would definitely feature again. Possibly more than one of them.

However, I agree with the Zarjaz editorial policy of no continuing stories, and I also suspect that reader interest would diminish the further a series divurged from what had appeared in 2000AD. This is why I have to admire Constable Dredd, a really fantastic strip by Rich McAuliffe and Mark Chilcott that also appears in Zarjaz 12. The concept is a winner - Dredd as a Victorian Bobby - and the execution is dazzling. It's so self-contained that you wouldn't necessarily want a sequel, and that's probably the best way to do a Zarjaz strip. There's some great unlettered pages of Constable Dredd on Mark's blog if you want to see more. However, you should just buy Zarjaz 12, obviously.

For me a good fanzine strip (or at least, a fanzine strip I would particularly enjoy) should not be just a pastiche of the original but instead try do something the original would not do. For this reason I also very much admired my brother's collaboration with Chris Askham on the Friday strip from Zarjaz 08 because that came up with a new concept for an unloved character and made it work.

Oh and speaking of Steve, he has a new strip in the current issue of Futurequake. I've not seen it yet but I know he worked long and hard on this one so it should be worth picking up.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


The latest issue of Zarjaz! is out now and features Zenith/Invasion! by David Frankum and I. This is what to look for in all good comic shops:

The strip is my debut in Zarjaz! which is the leading 2000AD fanzine and hails from the formidable Futurequake stable. The idea for Zenith/Invasion! really stemmed from my love of Zenith by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, the first run of which emerged at the height of my love of 2000AD in the late 80s and which was, and remains, my favourite ever 2000AD strip.

I re-read the whole series recently and it was as good as ever. Indeed, it seemed to me that there's quite a lot more potential in the characters and situations that was left untapped over the four "phases" of the original run. My mind turned to speculating on what a Phase V would look like and Zenith/Invasion! basically represents my idea for a prologue to Phase V. Well, sort of. This being intended for publication in a fanzine rather than 2000AD itself I didn't have to introduce the setup from scratch and I could go to town with what I believe in Doctor Who circles is called "fan wank" (eg. references to obscure characters and/or peripheral events). Therefore, for example, when reading Zenith/Invasion! it's probably handy to know that in this universe the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Berlin in 1944 whilst a punch-up between British superhero Maxi-Man and Nazi supervillain Masterman was under way.

So, what of Invasion! then? Well, that strip was from the 70s, which was slightly before my time. Although I was aware of it and loved the concept, it was only relatively recently that I read the whole thing (there's a great Rebellion trade). So when I was developing my Zenith story and I realised I needed an adversary who were like the Invasion-era Volgans and I needed them to be active at more or less the turn of the millenium it didn't take me long to decide I would actually use the Volgans, circa 1999. After that I brought myself up to date with the alternative history that Pat Mills created as backstory to Savage and fortunately this segued really nicely with what we know about Zenith's version of Britain. Also, Zenith is set in a multi-verse (something else I loved) featuring reimagined versions of many classic British comic characters (most notably Robot Archie) so an alternative version of the Volgan invasion of Britain does not seem at all out of place.

Once I had all the ideas in place the script was pretty easy to write and I was delighted when Zarjaz editors Bolt-01 and Richmond Clements accepted it. They then asked David Frankum to take on art duties. I wasn't aware of David's work at the time but when I checked out his online portfolio I could see he was a great choice. I'm a massive fan of Steve Yeowell's clear, crisp style and you could see immediately that David would be able to capture this feeling, whilst at the same time retaining his own unique and supremely engaging style. Sure enough, David has done a wonderful job and I am totally delighted with the way the strip has turned out!

For David's own view of the genesis of Zenith/Invasion! please click here.

To see what the Forbidden Planet blog has to say about it, take a look at this.

Most importantly, to buy Zarjaz #12 you need to visit the Futurequake shop. Do it Now!