Always Write

Peter Rogers – Writer

Tag: Orang Utan Comics

Life begins apparently….Part Two (radio and comics)

…now where were we? That’s right, we were standing on the brink of the 2000s, and I was about to make a big decision about my career.  My journey to become a radio copywriter wasn’t an intentional one. Having taken an extra year to complete my degree, I was a little bit lost in the late 90s. I couldn’t decide whether admin jobs to pay the bills and writing at night was the right way forward. What if my writing never took off, would I be destined to be in entry level office jobs for the rest of my life? I’d seen an ad for a radio copywriter at a radio station in Swansea, where I was still living and I decided to give it a go. I was thinking I could write ads in the day and screenplays in the evening.  I applied for the job, but they gave to the job to someone with experience but I was given the chance to do some work experience. All the ads I wrote that day went to air, and I got a cheque in the post for my trouble and a good reference. I liked the immediacy of getting a brief, writing something and having it sign off the same day, so started sending off speculative applications to other radio groups and stations.

As well as being the year that would eventually lead me into what would become a 10 year radio career, 1999 was also the year I rediscovered comics. I dipped out when I was about 14 or so, and I’d missed the boom and bust of the 90s and all the things associated with that period. Occasionally I would pop into a comic shop and pick up one or two titles, but that was every 4 or 5 years and was mainly fuelled by nostalgia.  I’d finished all the books and magazines I’d packed on my first ever beach holiday in the first week, and still had another week to go. So I went to a nearby shop looking for a magazine or novel to pass the remaining time. The bottom row of the convenience store’s magazine section was filled to the brim with Marvel and DC titles, so I picked a few up out of interest. I’m pretty sure a Paul Jenkins’ Hulk issue was the first thing I read, and I read a DC title for the first time which I’m thinking was probably Batman (I’d seen a pretty rabid Marvel only comic reader as a child, mainly due to the UK reprints and the impact Secret Wars had on me). The next day I went back to the shop and bought everything they had, I think it was 17 comics in total, and also two issues of Wizard magazine as well. I was back into comics in an instant, and in a big way. By the time we got the flight home I’d decided that it was comics and not screenwriting that I wanted to pursue. Soon I had a collection of ‘writing for comics’ books that was just as big as my ‘writing for film’ section on the bookcase. I read Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, all the Preacher trades and everything else I could get my hands on.

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By the end of the year I had my first radio copywriter’s position, and we were moving down to Exeter. In my mind I’d do that for about a year, because by then I would have started to make inroads into comics. As it turned out the next ten years saw me working in radio and writing comics in tandem, deep down always dreaming that one day I’d be doing comics full-time. There were times when I was writing so many ads each day that the last thing I wanted to do at night was start work on a story.  There were other times where putting an ad campaign together was the perfect creative fuel to an evening spent working on my craft.  I’ll never quite know if this decision to work in advertising helped or hindered my progress in the medium (although I know what Bill Hicks would say). I also tried my hand at something else I’d been keen to do when I was a child, radio presenting, although this time I wasn’t introducing Scritti Politti on a cassette recorder in my bedroom. Under the moniker of Popcorn Pete I became the Gemini FM breakfast show’s resident film reviewer, talking about the latest film and video/dvd releases every Friday morning. I did that throughout my final year working at the station, and in the last 6 months there also took over the Saturday afternoon slot on the station, presenting a show called The Pulse about local live music and events.  The Saturday gig was freelance, so gave me some extra money to spend on comics, books about comics and attending my first convention.

I left Exeter to take up a similar position at a large station, Red Dragon FM in Cardiff. Little did I know that I’d be working for someone who could help me grow my contacts in the comics community, as it was through this job that I met a young 2000AD writer called Si Spurrier (whose sister is now married to my old boss).  Si was the first professional to read any of my scripts, and his words of encouragement and helpful notes were really helpful, I’m still good friends with him today. The next 8 years were a topsy turvy time for me, I veered dramatically between trying to make my name stick in the comics world, sending off submissions and entering countless new talent contests and watching my career in radio go from strength to strength. My reputation as a radio creative was growing much quicker than as a comic writer, and I’d been nominated in prestigious international awards for my work, and also been hailed as the Creative of the Year across the whole radio group in 2003. As someone who is competitive and results driven, the day job was definitely starting to win. Having said that, in 2004 I won the Writer’s Pitching Session at the Bristol Comic Expo, a year after Al Ewing had won the same contest (yes the same Al Ewing who has gone on to write critically acclaimed work for the likes of 2000AD and Marvel, but I try not to compare our trajectory if I can help it). In the same year I took the move to management, and in Jan 2005 headed to Newcastle to take on a role as Regional Creative Director, overseeing the North region.

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Writer Si Spurrier

I was in that role for 4 years, initially in the North and later returning to Cardiff to take on the same role across radio stations in the South West and glamorously titled M4 Corridor region.  I loved moving from station to station, working with bigger clients and getting to help shape how we approached creative. Those 4 years were probably my happiest in both my radio role and also within comics. I had my first work published, started to get more contacts, had help from the likes of Tony Lee and later Rob Williams.  I co-founded Orang Utan Comics, got Eagle Award nominated for our anthology title Eleventh Hour and started to gain recognition and grow in confidence as a writer.

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Writer Rob Williams

My next step in radio was to take on the Managing Director’s role at a radio station in Gloucestershire, stepping away from creative and into the world of overall station management. This decision might have looked like an intentional step away from comics, but in actual fact it was the opposite. My ongoing ambitions within comics were actually at the heart of the decision, I wanted to be a little removed from the creative process to allow me more time to think about my stories and I wanted to earn more money, so I could afford to pay artists to work on them. If I’d given up on my writing dream (it had come close on many occasions) I would never have taken that job, even if the competitive, results driven part of me was interested in taking another step up the ladder.  Two years into the job, I jumped at the chance to take voluntary redundancy, and that gave me the time and money I needed to create what would be my first graphic novel The Interactives.  I came very close to going freelance when I left radio, I was working out if I could juggle freelance copywriting with trying to get a foothold as a freelance comic writer at the same time. I knew the one that was paying the bills would have ended up dominating my time, although I often wonder how things might have gone if I had done that.

So it was 2010, I was leaving behind an industry I had flourished in, and I made a step into the unknown and my first move into motion graphics and visual effects.  What did this mean for my comic writing?

(To be continued….)

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Dapper Chimp reunites with Orang Utans to go Ape in London

One week today I’ll be getting the (very) early train Eastwards, for London Super Comic Convention at the Excel Centre. The show is in its third year, but this is the first time I’ve been able to attend. I’ll be roaming the floor rather than sitting behind a table, but I’ll also be spending some time with my old Orang Utan Comics colleagues and the Markosia crew.

This show sees things go full circle, as one of the first books I ever wrote is being released there. I met Ian Sharman (Hero 9 to 5, Alpha Gods) back in 2006, on both the Markosia and Visionary Comics Studio forums, and he asked me to take on the scripting duties of a space opera that he’d plotted out.  8 years and many artists after I handed in my first draft of the script, The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley is being launched at the show.  With new art by Ewan McLaughlin, and following a rewrite by Ian last year, you can pick up the whole mini series at the show, as a graphic novel from Markosia.

As I did with Kapow! in 2012, I’ll be heading up and back in one day rather than spending the whole weekend.  I’ll be trying to meet up with as many people as I can on the Saturday, including artists Marc Laming and Luca Pizzari who are both taking part in the anthology project I’ll be launching on Kickstarter very soon.   It’ll be my first convention of 2014, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Bubble Burst?

I won’t be at Thought Bubble this weekend, and to say that I’m gutted about that would be putting it mildly.  The Leeds based comics festival has developed into probably the UK’s best convention, it’s well organised, well funded, slick and welcoming.  I went last year and in 2011 (complete with Movember moustache and some killer dance moves) and thoroughly enjoyed myself both times.  The writer’s panel last year was my second favourite I’ve been to, beaten only by Tony Lee interviewing Howard Chaykin in Bristol back in 2006.

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Lots of my friends are going and the guest list is, as always, full of stellar names like Matt Fraction, Fiona Staples, Geoff Darrow, Kelly Sue Deconnick, David Aja, Rafael Alburquerque, Image Comics’ Publisher Eric Stephenson and Director of Business Development Ron Richards. I also usually get to do some in person co-writing at TB too, as my writing partner Steve Aryan is based locally.  We did a lot of work on Flux (our creator owned mini series with Iranian artist Maysam Barza) in Leeds, and we could have spent some time working on our new project (with art by Simone Guglielmini from Image’s Near Death). We also recorded an episode of our podcast Bags of Action from Steve’s house last year, about Enter the Dragon if my memory serves me correctly.

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Sadly, Thought Bubble wasn’t to be for me this year, but you can still pick up books with my name on them at this year’s show. If you head over to the Markosia stand in New Dock Hall and pick up British Showcase Anthology, 144 pages of stories including my own Blood Dolls with Cheuk Po.   Over on the Orang Utan Comics stand, they will have limited copies of sci-fi romp The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley, which I co-wrote with Ian Sharman and features art by Ewan McLaughlin.

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I was originally meant to be sharing table space with my good friend Chris Lewis (my singing partner on Warren G and Nate Dogg’s Regulate at last year’s Mid Show party) at the convention.  So if you see him, please say hello and pick up a copy of his excellent mini series Drones, the trade paperback debuts at the show.  He’s also in New Dock Hall as well.

And if you really want to make me feel better about missing the comic event of the year, feel free to back the Forgotten Planet campaign on Kickstarter 😉

Eleventh Hour memory lane

This week has been a definite trip down memory lane, as Eleventh Hour Volume 1 was released on digital platform Drive Thru Comics (their pick of the week title no less). Memories of the early days of Orang Utan Comics came flooding back, in some ways it seems like only yesterday and in others like a lifetime ago. I’m really proud of what we achieved back then, and of Eleventh Hour in particular. That anthology title paved the way for all the writing I’ve done since and many of the connections I’ve subsequently made.

Prompted by this news, over on the Comic Experience workshop forum, one of the other members Christopher Beckett posted an old interview he did with me. It was released online in 2011, but actually dates back to 2008 when it was due to run on The Pulse around the time we were taking Eleventh Hour to Markosia. I came across rather better than I remember, and far more eloquently than these days. You can read it here. And if you haven’t read my early work, you can get the full 80+ ages on Drive Thru for just .99 cents.

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Hyper start to 2012

It’s the first day of a New Year and Mayans notwithstanding 2012 is already looking good for my friends and collaborators.

Markosia/Orang Utan Comics‘ own Hypergirl, created by Ian Sharman and David Wynne has walked away with the Comixology award for Favourite Debut Comic Series released digitally. Beating Justice League Dark, Takio and Kirby Genesis to tie in first place with The Strange Talents of Luther Strode. Hear it being announced on the Comixology podcast here and make sure you read it to see what all the fuss is about.

And long time OUC alumni Yel Zamor hits 2012 running too with concept art in the new storyworld that is Zombies v Dinosaurs launching officially today. Looking forward to 365 more days of awesome, it is a leap year isn’t it?

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Flashback – Eye of the Storm

Having decided to look back on some of my previous work it made sense to start with the very first story of mine that saw print, Eye of the Storm.  It’s also the story that’s been printed the most, having appeared in three separate anthologies over the years.    Initially the story came out in Dimestore Productions Mysterious Visions Anthology #1 in October 2006, and then later after we launched Orang Utan Comics in Eleventh Hour 2 in 07 and in Eleventh Hour Vol 1 trade paperback from Markosia in 08.  The story was a collaboration with Tanzanian artist Azim Akberali, who I have worked with on a number of projects since.  It was originally created for another anthology which if my memory serves me correctly was called Gorilla Tactics.  This was at the time when I was pitching to small press anthologies left right and centre to get my work out there.

The story is set in the Vietnam war and follows a group of soldiers who are being picked off one by one by an unseen foe.  (Azim and I are both big fans of Predator, which definitely served as an inspiration).  In the grand tradition of 2000AD’s Future Shocks as well as the impending horror that the story built there was also a definite sting in the tail.    Thanks to Azim’s gorgeous greyscale art the atmosphere I was going for is there from the very first panel, and it’s a story I look back on with a real sense of pride.

Here’s what some of the reviewers had to say about it:

One of the better EC-style stories in there is also by their hands. ‘Eye of the Storm’ is drawn by Akberali with pencils and ink and sets a great mood for this Vietnam tale with a mystical twist. It has good character work from writer and artist alike and the short format serves the story well.” (Broken Frontier) 

Azim Akberali’s artwork reminds me all the way through of Alex Ross. Peter Rogers plot is decent and a nice twist ending ties it up nicely.(Cornish Sci-Fi Supplement)

The interactives covered by Comic Bits Online

Good to see The Interactives getting some online coverage courtesy of Comic bits online. http://www.comicbitsonline.com/2011/06/11/orang-utan-comics-co-founder-gets-interactive/

It features the first quote from Rob Williams in advance of his foreword for the book. “For those missing Captain Britain And MI:13, don’t fret, your new favourite British superteam are here.” – Rob Williams (Ghost Rider, Low Life).

Swinging with the Orang Utans (Podcast)

The Orang Utan Comics panel at last month’s Bristol International Comic and Small Press Expo was hosted by Comic Book Outsiders host Scott Grandison.  Although we had a relatively low turn out compared to previous years Scott did a great job of holding the whole thing together.  And you can listen to the whole thing here.

Get to hear me, David “Yoko” Wynne and Ian “Yes” Sharman talk about the future of Orang Utan Comics including an imminent relaunch for anthology FTL.   Apart from talking too fast I don’t come across too bad.

Bristol Retrospective

If memory serves me correctly this year was my 8th Bristol Comic Expo in 9 years, pretty much evenly split between being a punter and being an exhibitor.   I was actually a sponsor in my first year in my own name, having originally paid on behalf of The Philistine Fellowship a short-lived collective of creators which was kind of a precursor to Orang Utan Comics.  Anyway I was there again this weekend and thought I’d give a potted round-up of how it went.

Saturday 

In an ideal world I would have been in Bristol from Friday night, but sadly my finances won’t quite stretch to two nights of Ramada bar prices these days.   So instead I was heading on the train from Cardiff early on Saturday morning, which in itself made a refreshing change from driving the last few years.   It was great to have so many of the Orang Utan team manning our tables this year and we were joined by PJ Holden on ocassion too who was sketching and extoling the virtues of miracle berries .  At different times across the weekend we had myself, Ian Sharman, Simon Wyatt, David Wynne, Yel Zamor, Holly Rose and special guest Luciano Vecchio on the table.   When I look back at the last five years it’s amazing to think how many people have worked under the Orang Utan banner and how big the hardcore central team has become.

As ever with Bristol I got to see lots of people I know pretty well but I also got to meet others for the first time.  One of these was Sugar Glider creator and twitter buddy Daniel Clifford,  who gave me a copy of his band’s album – Squares, very good, and I picked up A4 Comics presents from him too.  I also got to meet Luciano, who has been hard at work on The Interactives for almost two years on and off.  It was great to meet him in person and to get to talk more about the book and for him and Yel (part cosplaying as girl7) to get to meet too.   On a rare trip over to the Ramada I caught up with Harry Markos and talked more about The Interactives’ release, it’s such a great feeling when your publisher is so energized and excited about your book.   Meeting someone I was in school with who was there with 501st Garrison added an extra surreal element to proceedings too.

Our panel went well this time around and was a natural successor to last year’s,  plotting the changes to OUC, the work Ian and I have on for other publishers, David’s role as the new FTL Editor and also looking ahead to more graphic novels as part of our development plan.   Scott Grandison from Comic Book Outsiders did a great job as host and interviewer as ever.    After the show closed and I’d eventually convinced the hotel that I did indeed have a booking, the Orang Utan crew headed to The Colosseum for food with Dexter’s Half Dozen creators Jamie and Dave from Bearded Skull Comics before heading to the Ramada bar.  The Ramada bar was the usual blur of drink and conversation, I got to meet Andi Ewington and Matt Timson properly for the first time and caught up with fellow Cardiff Comic Creators Mike Collins, Jon Rennie, Kat Nicholson and Dylan Teague.  Although I didn’t get to see Rob Williams, Patrick Goddard or Lee Grice sadly.

Sunday 

As tends to be the norm Sunday began with a hangover and ended with a replacement bus service.  Once again we had a very full table and although sales were a lot slower than the day before we still had a good time.  It was great  to catch up with more creators and to spend extended time with the OUC core team too.   I got to meet Dylan Cook for the first time, which meant I could thank him for his pin up contribution to The Interactives as well.

My second panel appearance of the week was on the Small Press Big Ideas panel with Cy Dethan, Nic Wilkinson, Dan Thompson and Rich Clements talking about whether the notion of small press is relevant or outmoded in 2011.  It was an interesting and thought provoking debate and as someone who has always preferred the term indie to small press I found the whole thing fascinating.   It was also a great chance for all of the writers working on the spin off comics to Barry Nugent’s Fallen Heroes to be in the same place.  I’ve read an email from Nic tonight which outlines the masterplan for these books and it’s all very exciting indeed.

Highlights for me this year revolved around The Interactives, having the whole team together in person was great.  Yel has been helping Luciano by giving him some tourist information for the rest of his inagural European trip.  It looks like he’ll be exploring the London of The Interactives and possible Stonehenge, before heading to Paris and Amsterdam.  He let me choose two of the original pages to take home with me before he left and that made my weekend they look phenomenal and will definitely be getting framed to go up on the wall.  And  by far the funniest thing had to be seeing Ian Sharman trapped in the Mecure Hotel glass disabled lift.   When we’d all stopped talking photos and laughing we did actually get someone to help him get out, honestly.  More than anything Bristol has always been the convention where you get to see everyone, catch up and have a few drinks and it certainly delivered on that note.  Next year I have a feeling that a return to The Shed will make it one of the best Bristol’s yet.  Here’s hoping.

Worst escapologist ever

I'm the man in the box

Sharman, Rogers, Vecchio, Zamor

Interactives Assemble.