Discover more from IF YOU GO AWAY - News from P M Buchan
Rise of the BLOOD MOON
Webcomic launches for Thought Bubble 2019 + interview with RDR2's Alisdair Wood
It’s finally here! The first part of BLOOD MOON Chapter One is online and free to read at http://bloodmooncomic.com. Read it, share with a friend and let us know what you think! The second part will be released directly to John Pearson’s patrons on Patreon soon and sometime after the weekend will be posted online more widely.
BLOOD MOON page seven, artwork by John Pearson & lettering by Aditya Bidikar
I didn’t conceive of BLOOD MOON in a vacuum and it was a long road to get to this point, filled with false starts, dead ends and crushing rejections that later bloomed into things that were new and unexpected. Way back in 2010, my first child was a couple of years old and we hadn’t yet learned why he couldn’t sleep alone at night without me (and I had no idea I’d yet go a decade without a night of unbroken sleep), I’d relocated to Manchester from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne with my wife and felt increasingly isolated and trapped in a job in a public library that seemed like a great idea when I chose it until finding out that I hated 75% of it, and I’d recently finished writing my first novel, which I couldn’t find a publisher for because it was an insanely personal odyssey revolving around the poems of John Keats, the end of the world, alcoholism and feeling trapped and betrayed by the distance between dreams and reality.
At this point, my adolescent promise had amounted to nothing, I’d called myself a writer for over twenty years and had nothing significant published to my name, and I was struggling to come to terms with fatherhood without any real support network. One of the only things that sustained me was my love of horror and my subscription to Rue Morgue Magazine (which I maintain sets the gold standard for horror analysis), but even then, I didn’t have time to the films that I was reading about, because my son had intense needs I didn’t understand yet and my wife was pregnant with our second child.
With no time to read books, or watch films or play games, I started listening to Tomb Dragomir’s early trendsetting horror podcast, Rue Morgue Radio, and discovered that a whole generation of artists influenced by bands like the Misfits and the Cramps were coming of age, and had created the horror-punk genre. Every week Rue Morgue Radio was packed with bands like Harley Poe, Calabrese and Schoolyard Heroes, bands who sang about ghouls and graveyards and radioactive monsters, filling the lonely hole in my heart.
And so I listened to Rue Morgue Radio with my son strapped to my chest while I took long dog walks by the canals of Stockport, feeling like I’d finally found something to get me through the week. And from the first time that I heard horror-folk-punk band Harley Poe, singing “It’s the end of the world and I don’t give a shit, the earth will be a better place without you and me,” I felt like I’d found somebody that understood.
The day after buying Harley Poe’s ‘Wretched. Filthy. Ugly.’ I emailed the band, and got a reply from Joe Whiteford. I was so excited about their music and Joe’s depraved take on humanity, in addition to the fact that he was an awesome illustrator, that I asked if he would work on a comic strip with me, and he agreed for no reason that I can fathom. This gave me the confidence to come up with a new plan. I was going to edit an anthology of comics created by international horror-punk artists, find a publisher and then we would sell the anthology as merchandise at gigs, tapping into their fanbases and sidestepping the problems with Direct Market comic distribution that mean that most comics in the UK and USA are sold only in specialist comic stores that most people don’t ever visit.
Initially, it went better than I could have hoped. I persuaded the artist D W Frydendall to collaborate with me, based on his illustrations for leading horror-punk band Calabrese. And that led to two of the brothers from Calabrese agreeing to contribute strips. Next I got in touch with my hero Tomb Dragomir, and he was onboard, followed (in practice or in theory!) by members of Zombina & The Skeletones, Schoolyard Heroes, Ghoultown, horror host Dr Gangrene, and even the Editor-In-Chief of Rue Morgue Magazine. It was a dream come true. Until it wasn’t. Because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was a writer with a cool idea, but no understanding of file types, dimensions, lettering, graphic design, printing, distribution… People started submitting pages and they were all different sizes. Everything needed editing and I didn’t know how to tell them. Then comic publishers replied to my pitch emails, telling me what a hard sell horror anthologies were and how they could never again invest in one again.
I never really understood until that point what a class-based issue creating comics would be. Not that artists would need to get paid in order to pay the rent (if I could fit writing in on my lunch break, I assumed artists could easily draw around a day job too), not that graphic design was a distinct skill or that people would need to be paid for it, not the high cost of printing and distribution… Maybe if I’d used my university degree to get a graduate job and had any disposable income, making comics might not have been such an ambitious dream, but with no money to spare and debts racking up all around me, the idea of paying a graphic designer to finish off the anthology and prepare it for print was laughable. Until I started making that anthology, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Eventually, the anthology fell apart, and in the process, I seriously pissed off a group of writers and artists that I completely idolised.
Inadvertently, VOICES OF THE DEAD kicked off my writing career as it now stands, with close ties to the music I love as a constant throughout. By the end of 2010 I’d written my first column about horror comics for SCREAM: The Horror Magazine. In 2011 Tomb Dragomir narrated the trailer for the first (and only!) horror film festival that I helped to organise. By the end of 2012 we’d published the first full-colour issue of BLACKOUT, featuring ZINGO’S LAMENT, my comic strip with Joe Whiteford that had set the horror-punk anthology in motion.
In 2014, Kerrang! Magazine featured ‘A Faery’s Song’ by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based band Labadie House (then called For the Wolf), based on my comic-book series LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI. In 2017, Kerrang! interviewed me and Martin Simmonds about our 44FLOOD series HERETICS. And this year I worked with my BLOOD MOON co-creators John Pearson, Aditya Bidikar and Hannah Means-Shannon on a story for the Megadeth: Death by Design anthology. I’ll always regret what a mess I made of VOICES OF THE DEAD, which taught me how generous other artists can be and how much I had to learn about the medium of comic-books. It was an honour to collaborate with my heroes, setting me on the path that led to BLOOD MOON.
Page one of CLINGING ON TO LIFE from Heavy Metal’s Megadeth: Death by Design
John Pearson, Aditya Bidikar and I will all be at Thought Bubble this weekend in Harrogate, UK. Come and find me and John at table 136 in the comiXology Originals Hall on the 9 and 10 of November 2019. We’ll have a VERY LIMITED number of our remaining printed BLOOD MOON preview issues for sale. Only 100 were printed last year and all were hand-numbered. They’ll never be printed again in this format, so come along and find us early if you want to buy one.
I’ll also be selling copies of LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI Chapters one to three (a final issue is still in the works and the script has been written!), BLACKOUT II: YOLO, HERETICS issue zero, THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION and more. If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, let me know before you buy anything!
Alongside BLOOD MOON there’s another project I’ve been working on this year that I’ve been a lot less vocal about but no less passionate. I’ve collaborated with Lyndon White on a YA graphic novel pitch that we’re preparing to send to agents, editors and publishers. More on this in a future newsletter. I want to give publishers a chance to look at this before we share any artwork online, but to say that I’m happy with the way it has turned out would be a massive understatement. Lyndon will also be at Thought Bubble, so come and find us if you want to see a preview of what we’ve created.
Given the theme of this week’s IF YOU GO AWAY, what kind of a playlist could I share but I MISS RUE MORGUE RADIO? The online radio show ended in 2012 and there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t miss it. Tomb Dragomir, Stuart “Feedback” Andrews, Liisa Ladouceur and so many other guest presenters offered a lifeline when I needed it most, so here’s a taste of some of the amazing bands that I discovered thanks to them:
For what it’s worth, I know I’m not the only horror fiend whose direction was influenced for the better by Rue Morgue Radio. In Devon, where I now live, Ashley Thorpe (writer and director of Borley Rectory) is this week running his first horror festival, Hell-Tor, in Exeter this weekend, a two-day celebration of Gothic horror, Dartmoor myth and witchcraft, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November. If you can’t make it to Thought Bubble, go to Hell-Tor!
Finally, this week I’ve interviewed one of the greatest living artists in the UK, Alisdair Wood. Credited as a 2D Designer on RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 (the best game I’ve ever played!), he’s been working with Rockstar since at least the end of the 90s on almost every GRAND THEFT AUTO and all of their major releases and is currently Principal Illustrator at Rockstar North.
He’s a crushingly good artist and illustrator who excels at horror but is equally at ease creating pitch-perfect adaptations of films that defined the 1970s and 1930s! Alisdair recently created illustrations for Swan River Press’ new edition of GREEN TEA by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and previously worked on GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY Volume 1 by SelfMadeHero. If you haven’t seen his work before, you won’t be disappointed.
1/ Looking at your personal work, from the outside it appears to be cyclical - a set of haunted houses, a set of retro lil’ faces, classic horror films interpreted as posters with recurrent motifs - is this a conscious choice, and if so how do you know when a cycle is coming to an end and you’re ready to begin something new?
It's very true. I think I approach projects as a limited run, due to limited time. It’s only really evenings and weekends (family events permitting) that I have to work on my own projects.
So even though there’s a set of eight images, for example, that most Illustrators could turn over in a fortnight, this takes me a couple of months! After that amount of time on one subject I normally like to change, and try something else. It can become easy reproducing the same styled material, so it’s nice to challenge myself with other approaches and projects.
I’m constantly inspired by looking at the work of other creators, and like to set myself the challenge of working in their styles, or formats. This is what probably pushed me into attempting comics, as well as poster work, printmaking and even recently clay sculpting. Also it’s great to have a basic understanding of a lot of different styles and approaches, which helps producing artwork for the full-time job!
2/ What inspired you to become an artist and has it changed over the years? If so, what inspires you now?
Ken Reid. That’s the simplest answer. And probably Dudley D Watkins. Growing up reading comics, especially British comics, was my first love. I’d copy everything I got my hands on. I always thought it would be the best job, drawing cartoons all day.
Luckily I was quite good, and was encouraged by teachers at school. This was a huge confidence boost and I always aimed to go to Art College, even though I had no idea what they did there at that time! I faced the usual setbacks coming from a low income background in the 1970s. Most adults telling you there are no jobs in ‘art’, and to get a proper job. Even the schools career adviser said that “people from this school don’t go to Art College”. Clearly she was wrong. The Cocteau Twins had just left the same high school I was at a couple of years earlier, so I realized if they can do what they were doing, I could do what I wanted to do.
What inspires me now is pretty much the same. Other people’s work. I’m surrounded by hugely talented designers and artists at work, and a limitless supply of amazing work through social media.
3/ If you could collaborate with anybody at all, living or dead, in any medium, who would it be?
So many to choose from! Film wise (knowing nothing about film) I would have loved to have been around during the Universal Horror days. I woulda done anything on those films. They’re still a benchmark, after all these years. Especially James Whale.
Working in 1970s comics would have been great as well. Not just the Beano and Dandy, but all those other great titles. Whizzer & Chips, Whoopee, Monster Fun etc. So much originality and creativity. I think if my parents had seen what was inside they woulda stopped buying them! Luckily we have The Phoenix these days, keeping up that tradition.
These days, it’s almost impossible to list the writers and designers I would like to work with. I’d happily work with hundreds of great writers and designers that I’ve even met in the last five years.
It’s a wonderful feeling to have very talented people asking me to be part of their comics, or wanting me to illustrate what they’ve written. I wish I had the time to say yes to everything. The hardest part is never having enough time to do a tenth of the projects I’d love to do. I’ve had to turn down work from some of my favourite writers, which is heartbreaking.
4/ If time, budget and even acquiring new skills were no longer limiting factors, what would you make tomorrow?
Sand sculptures in Hawaii. Then, I’d probably go back to portrait painting, which was what I really focused on at Art College. I really miss painting and having the time to paint.
Also, I’d like a nice big cast-iron printing press. It’s okay using a spoon, but nothing like the satisfaction of pulling that big old wooden handle. I only recently got back into lino printing, after it being a big part of my college course about 25 years ago. It can be very relaxing and liberating after doing mostly digital work all day. The sometimes random factor of it as well is very satisfying. Although an undo button would be handy sometimes.
I haven’t really mentioned gaming yet, but given a few years I’d churn out a classic pixel game. Something in the Bitmap Brothers vein. I wouldn’t do the coding though, as that’s hard as nails. And someday I’d love to work on a low budget horror film as well. I’ve never really worked on anything substantial in film, so that would be a huge learning curve. I’d also try to finish off the handful of books I’ve got on the go.
Jaws by Alisdair Wood - From (70)
That’s the end of this bumper-sized Thought Bubble edition of IF YOU GO AWAY. If you’re in a hurry to read the full first chapter of BLOOD MOON, head over to John’s Patreon then get in touch on Twitter @PMBuchan to let me know what you thought of it. Thanks in advance to anybody that comes to see us at Thought Bubble - it’s not an exaggeration to say that hearing from people that have enjoyed my comics makes it all worthwhile.