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His and Hers

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So I also decided to do an ad for everyone, featuring both The Lion and The Unicorn, because, well, it’s called The Lion & The Unicorn.
I think the ads will run towards the end of April, so if you’re playing a Gameloft game maybe I’ll see you here.

Now I need to actually get back to making the comic. The digital comics version of The King is Dead Part 4 needs to go live.

Unicorn rising

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And here is the second ad (I’m running a his and hers), it features the classic Unicorn power pose from The lion & The Unicorn Act 1 of the digital comics release.

I want to appeal to the Hunger Games / Game of Thrones female audience (Vanessa, that’s The Unicorn to you, would kick Katniss and Khaleesi’s ass). I know that when women pick up the comic at cons and such, they are into the character, but I think the online audience is mainly skewed towards the male and I want to redress the balance by showing the comic has a strong female lead.

And as with the other image I’m having trouble with finding a good CTA to go with the illustration.

Advertisement Break

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The good people at Gameloft Games are going to be running an ad campaign for The Lion & The Unicorn ACTS digital comics’ release.

Here’s how it’s looking so far. Just need something for this character to say, a catchy call to action that’s going to get people clic, click, clicking. I’d rather it was something in the alternate reality of the comic, than a blatant click to win type of thing.

Anyone got any thoughts let me know.

The Great Comic Con Swindle

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 or Not much comic. A whole lotta Con.

Throughout the month of October I’ve taken The Lion & The Unicorn to a con a weekend. The comic festival Hamburg, The German  Comic Con in Berlin, FACTS in Gent and MCM in London. With the exception of Hamburg these were all Cons.

And by this I mean those towering colossi of corporate consumption based on the San Diego original. It’s this con model and the clue is in the name, this model of merch and madness, piled high sold cheap, that has less and less to do with the craft of comics, the art of comics and more and more to do with turning a quick buck.

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It’s this model that puts a lot of stain on the indie comics creator because increasingly the comic con isn’t really about comics at all. It’s this environment that forces the tricky issue of – dare I say it… – fan art.

You’ll find a lot of talk online about the issue of fan art at comic cons. As Matt Dyson of The Comic Village Alliance says “Simply thinking about fanart for a fraction of a second in a sealed room in the middle of a desert 12,000 miles from the nearest person or internet connection is sometimes enough to start off an all out Fanart holy war “discussion” that will last for days and make everyone involved hate everyone else involved.”

A lot of cons declare it illegal, yet few seem to enforce this, while artists and indie creators implore this is the only way they can make money. This is because most of the people who come to these mega cons aren’t looking for comics at all. Especially not new comics they’ve never heard of. Rather it seems what they want is something they recognise, something they know. Ideally  crossed with something else they know.

Exhibit A

 

But here’s a question, instead of the artists and creators, isn’t it the market that causes the problem?

Because a Comic Con now isn’t about comics and to have comics in the title is entirely misleading. Or perhaps this is what ‘comics’, a mis-used and misleading word at the best of times, will become to mean. Pop culture – geek culture if you must (but I don’t like to use the g word) – stuff. Mugs, posters, cuddly toys, overpriced photo opportunities.

And hey, that’s fine, if that’s what people want, let that be that. Let it sail off into the plastic product smog filed sunset.

But let’s also create a place for comics, just for comics. Because the audience is there. I’ve seen them, met them, talked at length with them, they’re seeking out new stuff, they want indie comics.

Thought Bubble in Leeds, Comiket in London, The International Comic Salon in Erlangen and Comic Invasion in Berlin are all great examples of the comic focused festival pitched at various sizes, catering to varied tastes.

And respect must go to the MCM Comic Village for supporting the independent creators, for providing a place that nurtures creativity rather than squashes it amongst merchandise piled ever higher, sold ever cheaper.

We must work together to ensure that the craft of comics is preserved, that the independent creator is subsidised and nurtured…

 Save the comic. Stop the con.

 

The Final Part of The Lion & The Unicorn Volume 0 is here at last!

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So here it is the end of the beginning, ok, the end of the bit before the beginning of the beginning.

Yes The Lion & The Unicorn – Volume 0, the prequel if you will, is finally wrapped up in a nice neat, deluxe print, ultra limited edition package.

So why did it take so damn long? The first version of issue 1 being released in 2011 (with the extended re-version released earlier this year). I’ll tell you for why because making The lion & The Unicorn is a massively long, ball achingly slow, laborious process for just a man… With a man’s courage, he’s just a man with a man’s power – Freddy

Then why in god’s name do you do it !? – Eddy

Because I want the world, the characters to look how they look in my head, Bladrunner meets Excalibur directed by Katsuhiro Otomo – and the only way to come anywhere close to this, for me, is by using a combination of photography, graphic design and illustration in a process I like to call, composographicfotorotmancy – Catchy!

The trouble is even once the comic itself is completed, proofed, printed and ready, then you’ve actually got to go and get it out to people, which is. incidentally where we are now.

Hi there.

This is also why the comic debuted at The International Comic Salon in Erlangen, Germany at the end of May and you’re only just hearing about it now.

In this issue the Lion and The Unicorn of the title finally come face to face in a showdown that is nothing less than earth shaking. Yes, you’ve got it, first they fight then they become friends. Although not in this issue. Not for a while. This is the character dynamic will be the driving force of the next 3 volumes.

Talking of future volumes, for volume 1 I know I need to get a more regular release schedule, that means quicker output, that means changing how I work. I’ll keep the photographic backgrounds for sure, but the characters will be hand drawn- check out the centre spread of issue 4 to see how this is going to look.. I’ll keep the occasional photographed and rotoscoped character for ‘special effects’ sequences and the like, also because the shoots are fun and a great way to get people involved. You’d be surprised how much people love playing comic books. PeeOw. PeeOw!

But hand drawn it is. I owe a lot to Martin Eden, creator of The O Men and Darren Wilson of Avengers UK a Facebook fan fiction comic that did a crossover with The Lion & The Unicorn for their Xmas special. It was great to see my characters rendered in pen and ink by another artist. It showed me it work and you don’t have to be Jim Lee to do it.

So I’m spending this summer honing my craft in drawing and writing too – as the artwork aside I’m keen to be able to have some more naturalistic dialogue. While I’m aware this will never be Saga, I’m also conscious that the rigid structure of the massive character arcs and the epic scale of the narrative means that the human, relatable aspect can get lost. And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how cool, or not, the visuals are if the characters don’t speak in a voice that you care about, well you just won’t care.

And by the gods I want you to care.

I admit it. I was scared.

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Okay. Are you happy now?.

Fine I wasn’t just scared, I was terrified, gripped by a constant fear that I’d walk into my friendly neighbourhood comic shop and see something that thematically or stylistically would be the equivalent or, more likely, the better of what I wanted The Lion & The Unicorn to be staring back at me.

So in 2011 I rushed issue one and in my haste, I botched it too.

I didn’t know this at the time. Or at least I didn’t admit it. It took some tough love from one Richard Bruton from The Forbidden Planet International blog to open my eyes. Indeed I now know the best reviews are ‘bad reviews’, from a creative improvement point of view at least

So once I’d got past the anger, the sadness and reached acceptance, I sat down (actually I work standing up but you know what I mean) and pulled the book apart.

The beauty of working digitally is that I could go back into Photoshop files and rework a layer, then add to and adjust the layout in InDesign, improving the text via Illustrator, as I went along.

This lead to the Digital extended edition of issue 1 which went on sale via ComiXology in 2013.

However there were still aspects of the line work that I was unhappy with, not to mention the spelling mistakes (That apostrophe!) that had been haunting me ever since.

So finally, 5 years on from the original print, The Lion & The Unicorn – The King is Dead Part One Extended Edition goes at least someway closer to being the comic I want to see on those shelves.

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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

By | History, Inspiration | No Comments

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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

AKIRA.(Ootomo.Katsuhiro).full.471268

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.