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History

The Source: Rebranding British Pride

By | History, Inspiration | No Comments

britishpride

Way back in the mid to late 90s when the desire to tell a story was bubbling up inside me. I had the characters of The Lion and The Unicorn (we’ll get to them) but they needed a cause, a fight, a reason to be. Obviously good vs evil, obviously standing against bigotry, abuse and oppression, a voice against corrupt corporations, international crisis and environmental genocide . But for me as a lifelong Londoner, I wanted something a little more personal, a little closer to home.

And so I decided, what I really wanted to do was re-brand British pride. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, these were the years before the Olympics, before Will and Kate, before David Beckham (not that any of these things make me particularly proud. Just for the record). These were the years of Maggie Thatch and Miners strikes. Poll tax riots and police brutality. The hooligan had battered the gentleman into submission and the Union Jack, never mind the St. George’s Cross was out of bounds.

Coming out of this era there wasn’t much to be proud of, rampant consumerism equalled unabated destruction, the high street had been sold off and everyone looked to America for the next, newest shiny toy. But in the 90s things started to change. Rave culture gave us the so called second ‘summer of love’ with British pioneers doing to House music what they’d done to rock and roll 30 years previously; they made it hard and dirty. A fitting soundtrack and escape route to the crumbling urban environment. Ecstasy then escaped from the dance floors sweeping the football terraces putting an end to the hooliganism of the 80s portrayed in films like The Firm and ID. Citation needed? I know this to be true because the old hooligans I know have told me. They are now just cuddly gangsters, Diamond geezers, that love there mum… And would probably still jook you under the right circumstances, but still, they love their mum. Then we had Tony Blair, seemingly a new hope, my first ever vote went to him. Cool Britannia ruled, for a time. Then we had war. I marched for the first time and saw it do no good at all. The Millennium was approaching somehow imbued with an impending sense of doom - Who remembers the Millennium bug. Classic. Keep the fear up chaps.

So I was gripped by the desire to do something, do anything. The nihilism of teenage years replaced with a desire to actually do some good. Being to lazy and selfish to actually go out and get my hands dirty actually helping people I decided comics was the way to for me to ‘do my bit’. I wanted to create a story that would last, and have inherent in it’s construction a new sense of British pride that could sustain and transcend. I wanted to push past politics and pop culture and create a myth, a legend that could inspire and entertain, guide and enlighten, like all good fairy tales should.

That was the point and that’s what I have lost sight of in recent years, ever more concerned with the success of my product and in turn seeing this as a gage of my own personal success. In short my sense of self purpose and self worth has become beholden to the likes on my Facebook page. And that was never the point.

It’s time to return to the heart of what The Lion & The Unicorn is. A cracking yarn that  just might save the world.

The Story So Far

By | Archive, History | No Comments

One question I get asked a lot: “How long have you been doing this for?” Another more specific question: “What ever happened to Thamesis?”

Well today is the day I finally (start to) answer those questions. Yes, face front true believers…
Today you read the shocking true story of the origin of The lion and The Unicorn

The Lion & The Unicorn started life in 1996, filling pages in ever more numerous note and sketch pads. The concept, as it is today, was that there would be male and female, British agents in The Steed and Mrs. Peel, Avengers mould, but infinitely more bad ass…

Throughout my time at art school and a brief stint ‘Travelling’ (working in a bar in Portugal, that counts right?) the concept, characters and story continued to develop with a key element crystallising, in that that psychic and telekinetic powers would be the ‘thing’. The Unicorn lost her gun and ‘Jim Lee, Jean Grey’ look, in favour of a softer more ethereal approach (Judge Anderson x Galadriel). Also the character of The K.i.D first appears but very much as an out and out villain (something like Tetsuo from Akira crossed with Charles Manson…). The supporting cast also started to expand in the form of The 4 and Jack Frost (characters who we will meet in Volume 1).

Back in London and working ‘freelance’ (yes, that is a euphemism for being unemployed) as a graphic designer and illustrator gave me time to really take the project a step further. Both visually with the awesome power of my 32MB RAM Apple Mac, scanner and printer, and conceptually.

fearnot

In this period the influence of friends, colleagues and peers was all important, none more so than the now Doctor Charlie Miller who was, is and hopefully will continue to be a constant source of incredible, unbound, visceral information. Charlie and I worked together a lot on various ‘arty happenings’ in this time and the knowledge that he would feverishly gush always contained, less nuggets, more great big slabs of pure gold. Such fundamentals as TechGnosis – from the title of a book Erik Davis and Britomart – a character in Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queen and at one point in the running for the title of the whole story all came via Charlie. As did privelleged contact with the Illuminated Books of William Blake, which gave the project it’s first unified title.

albion-logo

Underneath this banner the story and world continued to gain cohesion and develop apace, it becoming more and more apparent that the setting needed to be not just a fictionalised present or future but rather an entire alternate history. I took this to it’s logical conclusion with the help of another friend, collaborator and inspirator from the time director Paul Angunawela.

“Is it to wanky to change London to Thamesis?”
“No. Stop being a dick and get on with it!”

Thanks, I needed that.

The story was to start on the millennium and climax on the then futuristic date of 21/12/2012. Which after a chance Sunday roast with another charismatic intellect; self proclaimed esoteric scientist Dan Winter seemed pretty final (And I quote: “December 21st, 2012 as the Christian’s describe it; The Rapture. The end of the world”. Cheers Dan, way to scare the $#!+ out of a bunch of 20 somethings with overactive imaginations, terminal weed habits and a penchant for staying up late and reading scary things on the internet).

This period in the early 00s also saw the first print release, a hand crafted card, poster and fold out mini-comic pack titled ALBION r i s i n g. It was light on narrative and overly styled so didn’t sell well, but it had something, enough for someone to steal a copy from Magma art book shop in Holborn.

Unfortunately I have precious little artwork from this period (it’s probably all on a Zip disk somewhere… Great) and no hard copies remain. If you have one (or if you’re the person who stole it) get in touch

Next time…

Welcome to Thamesis!