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Influence & Inspiration: The Avengers (no, the proper Avengers)

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at the tender age of… I don’t even know! Perhaps then one of my earliest memories was The Avengers.
Daaaa… Daa Daa Da Daa Da.
Like so much of my early ingestion of pop culture this was my father’s doing. This stuff would be on TV and I’d sit there and ingest it all. not always (read ever) understanding the details or nuances but certainly feeling the style, the dynamic.

And that’s what stuck. A man in a 3 piece suit with an umbrella and a woman in a futuristic (or at least what they imagined the future might be like in the 60s) one piece who had the bad ass moves (or at least as bad ass as moves could be in the days of black and white. a Karate chop and a judo roll. Which is incidentally what I’m having for my lunch).

They were British agents of something cooler than just the government, they had adventures and maybe they were going to kiss (Euuuuhhh!) but they never do, but they might…

For The Lion & The Unicorn as is often the case, the characters came first. I wanted to create two agents, who were British and had adventures. He would wear a suit and she would initially look like Jim Lee’s Jean Grey of the X-Men, but with a big 90s gun. They would both evolve considerably from that point into what you see today, but the influence of the Avengers is undeniable and while I don’t think I had anything as simple (have you seen my work?) as updating them in mind I think I did want that dynamic. Although as the cahracters developed it quickly became apparent to me that there would be no ‘will they won’t they’. They most definitely will not. Spoiler? Come on he’s old enough to be her great grandfather. Not cool. Rather he would be solid and clear cut, while she would be the enigma, the one that keeps you hooked. The real hero.

Here’s to you Emma.



The Source: Rebranding British Pride

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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.

Influence & Inspiration: AKIRA

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Picture it. 1989, East Finchley, The Phoenix cinema, a 12 year old boy… nothing would ever be the same again


Amongst the monoliths of my formative cultural landscape, none stand taller than AKIRA

Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterpiece resonated with my childhood love of cartoons, of which I could spot the Japanese ones, although I had no real knowledge of Manga and Anime as it exists in the cultural consciousness today. In fact I thought Manga was Anime due to the label the videos were released under in the UK, Love that trailer. But it also resonated with my life long love of science fiction, Blade Runner being an obvious touch point, except with the brooding noir replaced with visceral speed and motion, cool, colourful characters, irrepressible, explosive action, devastating telekinetic power and my first glimpse at what I later came to know as ‘body horror’  (Where human forms transform into fluid monstrous states, A particular staple of the medium. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing, but with more demon cock).

But overall it was the shear depth and scale of the storytelling that struck me, spiralling from the city streets to the inner mind / outer cosmos (all good science fiction should end with the deathbirth of the universe – double spoiler?) and back. With an expertly rendered apocalyptic event in between.

All of this and ‘that bike’.

For me AKIRA set the bar for all anime indeed all animation to come. The American adventure cartoons paled in comparison, with even the mighty Disney looking cheap and amateurish. The precision and continuity of line, is so detailed, so tight it creates an entirely convincing visual experience.

And talking of tight… I recently rediscovered the original manga which I had put to one side due to the Dark Horse versions feeling somewhat  cheapened by the sound effects and mirroring the pages for left to right reading. Hey Pure by name… You know I only ever watch the film in the original language don’t you. But seeing beyond the ‘Fips’, ‘taps; and ‘splorks’ isn’t hard as it’s a mighty work of dizzying visual complexity. One which, like the film, manages to hold a firm linear narrative. Not always common for ‘Eastern’ art, which can employ more non linear, mood building techniques, not being overly concerned about getting from a to b and. Regardless, the art is simply breathtaking.

It’s not hard to see the influences of AKIRA on The Lion & The Unicorn; the rival street gangs, a megalithic city beset by warring factions and revolutionaries. Drugs that grant the user psychic and telekinetic powers and it all heading towards a ataclysmic event that leaves the city and it’s inhabitants changed for ever… But I’ve said too much.

And now I must go because it’s no good watching, it, sitting around and talking about it. You actually have to do it to make the stories living in your head, a reality. Otomo had 6 volumes at over 2000 pages of the most detailled art I’ve ever seen. That and one of the greatest films (not just animated films please note) of all time.

I better get on it.