Always Write

Peter Rogers – Writer

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The Prompt

I don’t really do spontaneous. I’m one of life’s planners, someone who likes to mull things over, let them percolate for a while before diving in.  So the idea of coming up with a story idea, writing it, getting it drawn, coloured and lettered in just over two weeks doesn’t really sound like my like my cup of tea. At least not on the surface.

The times when I do break my cycle of meticulous preparation the catalyst tends to be either inspiration or the process of collaboration, which is why The Prompt was such a fascinating concept. The idea came from a friend of mine, writer and letterer Nic J Shaw, a fellow member of the Comics Experience workshop. He challenged people to come up with a one-page story and encouraged creators to work together to get it done to a relatively tight deadline. I’ve always felt that limitations and restrictions help fuel creativity and the one-page limitation was one of the key things that whet my writing appetite. That and the thought of getting to work with a new artist for the first time. The other stipulation was that the story had to encompass the theme, the prompt itself “Coming Home”. 

I approached an artist. Someone I’d been wanting to work with for some time,  Alex Moore whose work I knew from her contributions to the Unseen Shadows universe.  Thankfully she said yes and once I knew she was on board I found inspiration by rummaging through her online portfolio to help generate some ideas. It didn’t take long to come up with something that I felt would suit Alex’s art style and that also answered the brief.

I wrestle with my creative decisions when writing fiction, agonise over my choices and beat myself up if things don’t go as well as I hoped. The very notion of The Prompt was completely liberating. This wasn’t the writer who can spend days reworking a single line of dialogue or panel description, this was the writer who used to write radio ad copy against the clock, the writer who’d write and draw multiple stories each day during long Summer school holidays.

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I originally envisaged Frontier being silent and presented as a nine panel grid, but as you can see neither of those things came to pass. This wasn’t me sticking to the plan, this was me bobbing and weaving, going with the flow and allowing the natural ebb of a new creative partnership to take shape. Like all of the artists I’ve worked with before, Alex’s approach to visual storytelling surpasses the images that were in my head when writing the script. The changes she made enhanced the storytelling and made the story better than it would have been otherwise. There were some similar stories from other people who were taking part in The Prompt, so I needed to work out what made our story different. In the end, by adding the President’s speech, it gave the story a bit more depth to go with the humour. It also stopped it being an unintentional homage to Escape from the Planet of the Apes. I’m extremely happy with what we’ve ended up with, it feels self contained without being slight, something I wasn’t sure I could achieve within a solitary page.

You can see the first few Prompt one-page stories on tumblr, where more will be posted in the coming weeks. This wasn’t a one off event and a new Prompt has already been posted for next month. March’s challenge ups the ante further, with a bit of a twist and some extra specifications to consider. At the time of writing this, 187 people are members of the closed group on Facebook. I have a feeling that The Prompt will become a fixture of the creative landscape and will give readers some interesting new stories to read and creators some valuable experience along the way. I’m certainly hoping to be part of it again.

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.

15-Minute Heroes WIP

I’ve been working with artist Cheuk Po on a mini series/graphic novel called 15-Minute Heroes ever since we finished work on the short story Blood Dolls together.

He’s competed pencils and inks on the first issue, and is now working on colours for the pitch pages. Here’s a sneak preview of  work in progress version Page 13. Looking forward to showing you more.

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Lady Mary in the shadows

I picked an interesting day to post about my latest foray into the Unseen Shadows universe, with so much online chatter today about the validity of which medium stories and worlds begin in. Writer Barry Nugent created Unseen Shadows initially as a trilogy of novels, but over the years it has expanded to include comics, audio drama and even a choose your own adventure book.

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Having read and loved the first novel, Fallen Heroes, I was honoured to become part of the wider creative team that Barry assembled. My first contribution to Unseen Shadows was a one shot called Fragments of Fate, centring on occult expert and adventurer Professor Napoleon Stone. When I was asked which other character I’d like to focus on for my next story, I knew it had to be cult leader Sir Oliver Cademus.

A knight of the first crusade and founder of the Book of Cademus, a cult it is said that continues to exert its influence today, long after Oliver’s supposed death. His return has been prophesied for several centuries by his followers.

The story I came up with was entitled The Lament of Lady Mary, and it focusses on Oliver’s relationship with his parents and in particular his Mother, the Mary of the title.  Working on this one-shot meant I was able to read sections of the as yet unpublished second novel Forgotten Warriors, and it also meant I had the chance to work with artist Conor Boyle, who I’d been wanting to collaborate with since I first saw his work.  It also meant I got to write a period piece, with the story being set around the time of the first crusade, which scratched a major writerly itch for me.  I did lots of online research into the period, watched plenty of Game of Thrones episodes, sat in Cardiff Castle grounds making notes and listened to the Kingdom of Heaven and Robin of Sherwood soundtracks as I pulled the story together.

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I worked very closely with Barry, who edited the story, and it was great to be working with the person who created the characters and universe I was playing with, a bit like writing Spider-Man under Stan Lee’s watchful eye. Barry pushed me to ditch my initial quite obvious idea that skirted around some of the plot points raised in Fallen Heroes, giving me the confidence to dig deeper to find a more personal, and far more potent narrative that felt like an integral part of the Cademus legend.  I proof read a PDF of the one-shot earlier this week, and I’m extremely proud of the story, it’s quite possibly the happiest I’ve ever been with my own writing.  I feel I got the balance right here, offering a first time reader an interesting story, while also having  the potential to have a real impact on someone who is already firmly immersed  in the world that Barry and the other associated creators have developed.  I can’t wait for it to be released, so people can see a different side of my writing and feast their eyes on Conor’s truly stellar work.

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Metaverse hits Cardiff

This weekend is the second ever Cardiff Film and Comic Con, held once again in the building I will forever call Cardiff International Arena (sorry corporate sponsors).  Unfortunately, despite the show being on my doorstep, I’m no longer able to attend the event due to other commitments.  If you are heading along you’ll be able to pick up a new anthology  – Metaverse (edited by Terry Cooper and Simon Wilson), which features a story from yours truly.

METAVERSE is an anthology of graphic stories ranging in length from two to 14 pages. The themes are sci-fi and fantasy, and everything in between, with contributors from all over the world.  It’s launching at Cardiff Film and Comic Con on March 1st & 2nd.

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The story I contributed, “The Eve”,  was reverse engineered, working with pre-existing pages created by Jason Copland (Daredevil, Robocop, Kill all Monsters). I changed the order around and shaped them into my own take on the characters and narrative.  It was a real challenge working that way, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d be open to doing it again. It pushed me in creative directions I wasn’t expecting and really tested my mettle as a comic writer, I’m really happy with the end result.   “The Eve” was coloured by Darren Brown (Company of Killers, Ashfall) and letters by HdE (Serusis, Ursa Minor).

Metaverse features a raft of comics talent, including fellow members of Cardiff Comic Creators and some of my old workshop buddies from Comics Experience, so if you’re heading to Cardiff this weekend make sure you pick up, or alternatively look out for it coming soon to comic and book shops everywhere.

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All change in the Metaverse

I haven’t quite gotten to the point of writing a “What I did in 2013” post just yet, nor I have put together a “What I’m aiming to achieve in 2014” post either. It’s possible I won’t do either, forgoing the public navel gazing to get more writing done. The name change and new look to the blog are both part of my push to get more written and more published this year, so I’m trying to start the year being true to my word.

Having said that, I did think that I’d take the opportunity to share a “one door closes and another one opens” story, something that’s all too typical of small press and indie comic creation.  I’ve probably mentioned the Metaverse anthology before, it’s the brainchild of Terry Cooper (Kangazang!) and Simon Wilson.  The book was originally planned for this year’s Cardiff International Comic and Animation Expo, but as that show is no longer going ahead, the book is slated for another convention in April.

The original script I submitted for Metaverse was “Versus”, a story with a somewhat convoluted history of its own. The first draft of that script was originally written for Lee Grice’s aborted Dinosaurs v Robots book, with Lee himself doing all the art. When that book didn’t proceed, I revisited the script as part of a challenge for Comics Experience workshop. The script was picked as the favourite submission that month, which gained me a very insightful critique and some excellent notes from Marvel editor Bill Rosemann.  The revised version, taking Bill’s notes into account, was then approved for Martin Conaghan’s Overload anthology, with artist Dave Stokes (Shepperton’s Waltz) attached on art duties.   Dave ended up being too busy,  Overload was postponed, so I submitted the script to Metaverse and brought in a new artist, Paul Ridgon (Transformers, Starship Troopers)who I was slated to work with previously some years ago. The story got the greenlight, and Paul was making good progress with the art, but unfortunately he ended up having to pull out, due to other commitments, meaning I was a little stuck.

Paul Ridgon's work from Versus

Paul Ridgon’s work from Versus

 

There wasn’t time for a new artist to get Versus ready for the deadline, so I needed to find a story which had already been pencilled and inked. I looked back through my old folders and found “The Eve“.  The Eve dates back as far as 2010, and has my words coupled with the exquisite art of Jason Copland (Kill all Monsters, Daredevil).   Jason originally posted the pages on his blog at the end of 2010, inviting writers to take his finished art and work it into a story, so the whole tale was effectively reverse engineered.  Jason liked my interpretation, and had previously given me permission to include The Eve in FTL, the anthology title from Orang Utan Comics.  That didn’t come to be, but now, a couple of years later, this story, which I was very happy with, is finally going to see the light of day. Along with that, Paul is going to return to Versus in the future, so we can either include it in a later edition of Metaverse or put it forward for another anthology (possibly through my own Dapper Chimp imprint), so it all worked out in the end. This is typical of self publishing and small press comics, you might end up going through a number of artist collaborators and also potential publishers, but if the work is good enough and you’re committed enough to keep going, you’ll eventually find an outlet and an audience.

Jason Copland’s work from The Eve

 

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 😉

Blood Dolls hits Comixology

At the end of last year I wrote a short story called Blood Dolls, as part of a monthly writing challenge on the Comics Experience workshop forum. After getting some feedback and critiques from other forum members and workshop staff, I set about re-writing a second draft. Around the same time I met an up and coming artist called Cheuk Po, a fellow member of the Small Press Commandoes Facebook group.  He was looking for scripts to work on, so I sent him Blood Dolls.  Fast forward about 10 months and you can now read our story via Comixology.

I was approached by editor Adam Cheal to submit a story to a new anthology from Markosia called British Showcase, around the same time I was receiving pages from Cheuk. We brought in Matthew John Soffe on colours and Mindy Lopkin on letters and pretty quickly our little rock n’ roll tale was complete. The full 146 page anthology features a host of British talent, and the physical copy debuted last month at the Scardiff convention.  You can pick the book up digitally for just $4.99 or £2.99, which is an absolute steal.  Go get it.

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New project taking shape

The cat is out of the bag about the next project that Stephen Aryan and I are co-writing, alongside Flux with artist Maysam Barza. We’re not quite ready to share the premise or the working title, as it’s very early days.  But we are extremely pleased to have Italian artist Simone Guglielmini (Near Death) on board.  The project is an action thriller mini series set in L.A. and we’ll be taking the pitch to publishers early in 2014.

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In Progress

Having spent most of last month banging the drum for the Kickstarter campaign, it would be easy to think that Forgotten Planet was the only comic book project I’m working on.  That couldn’t be further from the truth and I’m hoping 2014 will see lots of new work on the shelves from me.

FLUX – Time travel thriller Flux is co-written by me and Steve Aryan, with art by Maysam Barza (FUBAR American History Z). It’s been pitched to a few publishers, and we have roughs done for all of Issue 1.

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15-MINUTE HEROES – Superhero book 15-Minute Heroes features Cheuk Po on art, my artist on short story Blood Dolls that comes out later this month in British Showcase Anthology from Markosia. All of Issue 1 has been pencilled, and 7 pages have been inked, we’ll be submitting to publishers very soon.

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THE PROMISE – Something new from me and Steve Aryan, we have much of it plotted out and a very exciting artist on board.

FORGOTTEN PLANET – Sci-fi action adventure book with with artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo (Jonah Hex, Random Acts of Violence), edited by Shane Chebsey and published by Scar Comics. A new Kickstarter will be launching shortly to hopefully get Issue 1 up and running.

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ANTHOLOGY 1– I have a very exciting anthology in the works that I can’t talk about just yet, it’s something a little different and has already attracted a wealth of talent.  Richmond Clements, co-editor of Zarjaz, Dogbreath, FutureQuake and Something Wicked magazines, is editing the book with me. This will be Dapper Chimp Press’ first foray on Kickstarter.

ANTHOLOGY 2 – We are planning a themed anthology from Dapper Chimp, featuring myself, Steve Aryan, Chris Lynch and a handpicked group of other creators by invite only.

As well as these, I have The Lament of Lady Mary with artist Conor Boyle coming from Unseen Shadows, Versus coming out in the Metaverse anthology with artist Paul Ridgon and graphic novel The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley, which I co-wrote with Ian Sharman, Ewan McLaughlin is on art and that comes out from Markosia in March.

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Watch this space, there should be plenty of exciting work on the horizon with my name on it.