Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Death Sentence: Birth

It's a familiar story: revising my ass off at night school, baby to feed, accounts are due in... So I don't get a lot of time to blog :) 

Death Sentence began with a long drive home from the Inverness Hi-Ex comic con (the best comics event I've ever been to). I'd been expounding my so-called theories on what makes a good comic series, dealing with the practical realities, and better men than I had been patiently listening to this literary no-mark waffle on. After I'd finished  making a horse's ass of myself I thought two things a) How kind of those published creators to indulge me, and b) Hadn't I better stop talking and finally put some of these principles to the test. But around what central tenet. What's the big idea?

‘Hmm,’ I mused, as the car swept across the rolling glens toward Dundee, ‘How about a sexually transmitted virus that gives you enhanced abilities but kills you inside six months?’ And so, Death Sentence was born.

The simplicity of the central concept appealed to me: What better lens with which to examine the hopes, loves and fears of every man than being blessed by power and cursed by tragedy in a condensed six month period of frenetic activity?

It was also the perfect petri-dish for developing my so-called theories: To make it look as real as the pub on the corner and feel like the shadows from yesterday's party, to flesh out the story on the internet and beyond, and to design characters that looked like they lived in another century from your Supermans and Batmans. This century.

Add comedy and drugs and you’re laughing - just like half of Britain on a Saturday night. People I know offset the knocks and the heartache with whatever distractions float their boat. So why wouldn't Weasel crack the funnies when facing down his fears? Why wouldn't Monty indulge his appetites with a range of illicit pleasures? And why wouldn't doing good be the last thing on anyone’s self-obsessed mind?

Of course, I didn't DO anything with these ideas beyond scribble down the odd entertaining scene on coffee breaks. I love to write - but everyone knows that comic companies don't look at series proposals from unknown creators. It was only when I posted my three page horror strip on the millarworld forum in November that I noticed a call for longer CLINT material. I saw an opportunity withering, which prompted me to start drawing.

Designing 'Weasel' took forever - but somehow I pulled him around ‘til he hung on the wall like the fucked-up superstar I was hoping for.

'Verity' was easier - less pressure, the style had been nailed, and for other reasons that will become clear as her narrative unfolds.

'Monty' I drew in a climactic final scene - all the while writing and plotting an ambitious six part series of Watchmen-like complexity. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, alarm bells ringing: ‘Keep it simple.’ So out went the multiple universe time hopping - primed to enrich the series as backstory or sequel should the publishing gods decree.

One thing became clear: simultaneously writing and drawing a five part series on my own was incompatible with holding down a job and bringing up a baby. I've a lot of respect for the art of writing at the best of times - plotting, condensing a scene, tuning dialogue ‘til it zings - but nailing a concept like Death Sentence where the characters are simultaneously excited and depressed by their lives took a lot of extra  writing and rewriting to achieve the right tone.

So that's succinctly how it started. And if you don't believe I have no time I can tell you my beautiful daughter's crying again and the receipts are tumbling from the folder at my feet and I just wrote this update on The Porcelain Throne.

Welcome to the glamorous world of 'Death Sentence!'

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