How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Produce A Comic

ComicScene get many comics and indie comics to review or to consider as the new extra indie comic alongside Shift for our £20 Comic Club / History of Comics Subscribers ( details here SUBSCRIBE TO COMICSCENE ONLINE & THE HISTORY OF COMICS ) but we love to hear the story behind the comic or the creators and Ed Whiting, who sent us Bigger Fish, did exactly that. You can pick this comic up at GetMyComics here Get My Comics – Releases

Comic Scene asked me if I’d be happy to write a personal story around creating a comic.

Six years ago I was lying in a hospital bed dying.

Having undergone several rounds of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was told that my final treatment was to have a Stem Cell transplant. That meant they were going to take my blood, clone it and reboot my immune system. (It also means that there is a possibility that some version of me will be revived in the future and used as slave labour by the cockroach overlords.)

I loved comics when I was I young. Like most British kids I started on THE BEANO and THE DANDY. BATTLE was still around back then as was MARVEL UK’s stuff like DRAGON’S CLAWS and DEATH’S HEAD. Sadly, the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic 2000AD managed to slip by me unawares for many years, something the 10-year-old in me will always regret. I rounded out Phase One of my comic obsession reading DAREDEVIL and THE X MEN before drifting away mostly in my teens like a lot of people do.

Still, I was still a TV, film and Sci Fi nerd reading magazines like EMPIRE and SFX, so I was aware that comics were continuing on without me and knew what the major series were, but without a local comic shop I had no way of accessing them. The local library had copies of WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and some of the Titan 2000 AD reprints of JUDGE DREDD and ROGUE TROOPER. Although it still didn’t occur to me to look for a copy of 2000AD in Smiths.

Eventually, having moved to a town that did have a local comic shop I was able to catch up on all the stuff I heard about over the years PREACHER, THE INVISIBLES, Y THE LAST MAN and a whole bunch of other stuff that I hadn’t.

Like many comic fans, it had occurred to me to have a go at writing my own. Dreams of my mega 5 year/60 issue space opera filled my head. Apparently, everyone dreams of writing of one of those. This idea quickly gave way to another, and to another and so on until years later I found myself with pages of notes on world building, characters, backstory, a few opening acts and some other random scenes, but no actual finished stories.

Then I got sick.

I didn’t feel like doing much of anything at first, although I did finally get round to regularly reading 2000AD as I bought a copy from the hospital newsagents to read during chemo. So one silver lining.

Time is strange. On one hand I suddenly had a lot of it. On the other I was aware that it could be
almost up. I had spent years working on all these stories what I would never realistically finish, which in hindsight was probably the main appeal, because if I did, I would have to send it to someone and if it got rejected, I wouldn’t even have that dream anymore. Now I was in a position that I wasn’t going to have much of anything anymore. I’d better write something short and quick.

2000AD’S submission window was closed at the time, but small press publishers FUTUREQUAKE
were accepting stories for their self-titled anthology and for the 2000AD fanzine ZARJAZ. Having
never completed any story before this, I managed to complete two. My own original idea and a
JUDGE DREDD one and sent them in.

I heard back quickly from the editor BOLT 01 (DAVE EVANS). He thanked me for submitting, but he was rejecting my original story on the grounds that it was deeply unoriginal. But he thought the Dredd story had some promise, if I was prepared to rewrite it. I did and he accepted it. The feeling I had reading that confirmation email was amazing.

The next few years I submitted stories for FUTUREQUAKE, SOMETHING WICKED, ZARJAZ. HALLOWSCREAM and SECTOR 13. I’ve had a few knocked back. The sting of rejection isn’t a great
feeling, but it makes the feeling when something is accepted all the better.

Which brings me to BIGGER FISH. Writing short stories and seeing them published is fantastic, but I wanted to write something longer just to see if I could (and actually finish it), but that would still be a self-contained story. I love crime stories and I thought that genre was well suited to my purpose, especially as it’s about a drug deal in a warehouse. That’s about as self-contained as it gets.

I knew from the start that I was going to have to fund it myself. Kickstarter is great, but a historical crime story by an unknown writer is a tough sell. I worked out what I could afford doing overtime and working my days off. I’m a postie, so they always want people do extra shifts, especially over the last year.

I found HAKAN AYDIN on a Facebook Group. I was inundated with submissions when I put out a
request, but there was a dynamism to his art that immediately jumped out at me. He took the
barebones of my panel descriptions and really bought the story of life.

I met ROBIN JONES at THOUGHT BUBBLE few years ago. He is one of the hardest working people in British comics whether that’s working on his own stuff or for other people. I briefly considered trying to learn lettering myself to save money. I’m glad I didn’t because there is no way I could have done the outstanding he did. I also met J FRANCIS TOTTI there and both times we got quite drunk. I know we had discussed working on a couple of different things as Joe is not only a fantastic colourist, but also a fantastic artist. He also the patience of a saint as he’s had to endure me badgering him with a million different questions, as he not only provided the eye-popping colours. He designed the logo, formatted the pages for printing and basically saved my skin.

All of them have produced work that has far exceeded my expectations.

And that’s the story about how I eventually made a comic. It wasn’t the path I would have chosen if I had my druthers, but it’s the one I took and I’m glad I did.

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