fiveQuestions II Michael Carroll !!

(Yeah, I know I’m still working on finishing all of One, but here’s Two anyway…)

The wonderful Michael Carroll has been kind enough to answer our five questions.

Michael has become the go-to-guy for Dredd in the last year or so. Obviously Wagner is still the driver to the series, but whereas often the stories in between are normally unable to really move the character/world forward, Michael has been doing this regularly. Interestingly Rob Williams (who just happens to be in fiveQuestions I) noted this in his blog, and Rob is also moving Dredd forward in the current Titan story.

Back to Michael: I’ve just finished his Dredd Year One novel ‘The Cold Light of Day’ – highly recommended. We met Michael at Bristol last year, and we talked about this even though it was some way from publication. Both his novel and Baby Jays happened to share the same problem: how do you write a ‘big’ enough story for a young judge, even Dredd, without a big senior Judge riding in and taking the case off your hands? We went down the simple ‘no one else realises what’s happening’ route, whereas Michael I remember saying wanted to isolate Dredd. Now I naively took that to mean he’d get cut off in the undercity or in a dust zone, but Michael came up with something much better. Go read it…after you read the interview.

It’s also worth highlighting Michael’s website,, as well listing all Michael’s novels (22!), and each comic issue, it also includes his 3D art, cover designs and some nifty software that includes name generators, fake word generators, and a whole host of Dredd-universe badge generators – see below!

Go read the interview, really interesting answers, and boy does this guy work hard!


fiveQuestions: Gillen, Spurrier and Williams Part Two added

Part 2 of the Gillen, Spurrier and Williams interview has been added today.

It can be found tagged on the bottom of the interview here.

Small confession: it seems I didn’t ask Kieron Gillen this question, so only answers from Simon and Rob, but interesting none-the-less.

Rob compares a 100pg story versus a 5pg strip, while Simon discusses the difference between writing a novel and writing comics.

For all of you who’ve read part one, here’s part two to save you trawling through the whole interview:


Rob Williams compares a 5 issue 20pg US comic arc vs a single-issue 5pg 2000AD story:

It does. But I usually try and break the story down to a rough three act structure whether it’s a 5 pager or a 5 issue arc – 100 pages in total. Act One is the inciting incident, our hero wants something and must set the world back to rights. That takes up about 25% of the page count. The Second act is the protagonist trying to get that thing and obstacles increasing in difficulty as we go. That’s about 50% of the page count. There should be a twist at the start of the final act, which is then the culmination of our story – our hero either gets what they wanted or doesn’t, and this resolution will be influenced by the theme. It either confirms the theme or denies it. The final act is about 25%.

So, for a 5 pager in 2000AD, Act One is Page One, Act Two is pages two to four, Act Three is page five, usually with a cliff-hanger on the end.

Simon Spurrier compares novels vs comics:

It’ almost not possible to relate writing comics to writing novels, it’s just such a different art. I have an analogy: they are a different as being an ambulance driver and being a mechanic. Both are vaguely related to engines.

At the moment I’m trying to write a novella. I haven’t touched prose for a year, and it’s really, really hard going back to it. It’s especially hard changing gears. Prose requires momentum. Prose requires that you wake up on a Monday and you know the last thing that you wrote on Friday, and you know where it’s supposed to be going, and you’ve got all day to write 2000 words.

Whereas if you’re writing an episode of something on Wednesday and waking on Thursday to try to get back into the novel you’re not going to do anything valuable until the next bloody week! It takes such a long time to get back into the groove.

I can be a bit of a tyrant when it comes to control of the work. I like collaborating with people I know, and that’s very rare. If you’re working for Marvel unless you’re really big and you get to say ‘I want this guy’, they will assign for you. With prose, not a problem. No one is to blame except you and that is quite seductive for a tyrant like me.

Introducing fifthRifle’s fiveQuestions Part One


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Cast your mind back to the sunny days at the end of August. I was at the Melksham Comic Con and three of the biggest UK comic writers making waves in the US were kind enough to sit down and each answer fiveQuestions about their writing process.

After transposing over an hour of recorded chat, I’ve finally managed to put together the interviews into a single piece… although only question one at this point!

I’m no journalist and I have no experience of this sort of thing, so I’ve attempted to capture everything even if that makes it bit verbose by the standards of most web articles.

I hope you enjoy it: fiveQuestions: Gillen, Spurrier and Williams

I’m also not going to make any sort of promise of when the other parts will go up – let’s hope it’s quicker than the three months (to the day, no less!) that part one took!


Baby Jays 02 Destiny’s Plaza OUT NOW!



The second Baby Jays story, Destiny’s Plaza, hit the streets in November.

Destiny's Plaza

Destiny’s Plaza

We’re really pleased with how this turned out. David Broughton did a great job of making our script come alive on the page, and taking up a massive 18 pages of the issue is a real privilege. 

Zarjaz issue 19 is available from their website – along with issue 18 if you still need to get your hands on Baby Jays part 1!

Zarjaz 19

Zarjaz 19

Hello? Hello? Is this Thing On?

Well, it’s been a while, but we’re back and we’re bad! Well, we’re back…

Perhaps I’d normally say that we took our eye off the ball there for a while, but in reality I’ve spent far too much time with my eye on the ball. I’ve spent many happy hours watching the NFL and college football, but the seasons are drawing to a close and we all have to return to the life outside the artificial football universe.

So, what’s coming up on fifthRifle?

There are three important things to talk about: the second Baby Jays strip hitting the street, the launch edition of fiveQuestions and a strip for Zarjaz who’s synopsis has been approved and now needs turning into a script.

I’ll give the first two there own posts shortly – that’s probably today, not ‘within three months’.

Coming Soon: Baby Jays 02 Destiny’s Plaza



Previewed this week on the Jarjaz blog is our next story: DESTINY’S PLAZA.

Destiny's Plaza

This is the big one! We take up a full 18 pages of issue 19, as the two young Judges we introduced in issue 18 are joined by two other Jays also new to the street.

Again we’re teamed up with David Broughton on art duties. David posted some interesting notes on the development process of the previous story here.

Zarjaz 19 goes on sale in November and soon after appears at the THOUGHT BUBBLE convention in Leeds.

Destiny's Plaza

Introducing fifthRifle’s fiveQuestions


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So, if you just read the previous post you know that I have recorded an interview with Si Spurrier and another with Kieron Gillen, plus the promise of an email equivalent from Rob Williams.

These will form the inaugural editions of fifthRifle’s fiveQuestions.

The aim of fiveQuestions is to uncover how different writers approach their work and the manner in which they work.

The questions will be aimed at writers of all types, and will be the same five each time so that comparisons can be made and contrasts discovered.

This will be a sporadic series, but I have an historical texts writer lined up for a later edition, and others I have in mind to ask.

However with the big name inaugural line-up I think this is going to be really interesting. At very least I think it will warrant a permanent page above the banner, and maybe it’s own site eventually, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I have a fair amount of transcribing and editing to do to get the inaugural edition together and to a standard that is befitting of the interviewees, so this may take some time, but I look forward to you all getting to hear from these fantastic writers.

Melksham 2013!!


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Melksham Comic Con 2013 was this past weekend and I thought I’d share my experience.

I can’t comment too much on conventions having only been to the last two Bristols.

Is Melksham like Bristol? Well, yes and no.

Let’s get the ‘no’ out of the way. This is a SMALL event. But, y’know it’s crowd-funded, it’s in it’s second year and in a town which Wikipedia describes as “medium sized”. It’s the fifth largest town in Wiltshire – 4th is the metropolis of Trowbridge!!? There were 47 tables in the hall plus a small panel room.

Okay, so it’s a new event in a small town, with a small venue, but small can be beautiful, and this was.

I drove about 90 mins to get there, and arrived about 30 mins after the door opened. And it was packed. I did my tour of the tables. Picked up titles like Hero 9-5 (pro-level stuff from what I’ve read so far!), and the Journal of Time Travel second issue (5 stars every time!), and then spoke to the three writers I was really there for. So having spoken to Si Spurrier, Kieron Gillen and Rob Williams (that’s just the order I spoke to them – nothing more!), and had some bits signed I was pretty much done.

I swung past the Disconnected stand for a good NFL chat with Conor Boyle – Rob Williams and I like to have a similar chat once we get comics out of the way!

And that was me done… in about an hour.

Now what follows is a lesson, for me as much as anyone, but anyone who goes to cons and have just a great day shopping and nothing more.

I’d had a long week at work (how does a 4 day week become such a loooong week??) working extra hours every day, (shifting) deadlines to meet, and still lifting at the gym three times. So, there was a large part of me that was thinking that really it was all too much effort to even go, and when I was talking to people at stands I really wasn’t interesting or eloquent and conversations would stall as I failed to recall things I wanted to speak about. So I could have bailed after an hour, but the sun was out and there was a writer’s panel at 3.30 to stick around for. So I went for a walk, bought some coffee and sat in the sun and had something to eat…. and tried again.

I went round and round the hall a few more times, had a really nice chat with Lizzie Boyle of Disconnected about possibly writing for them in the future – that sounds like it’s a sure thing, believe me I have a lot to prove to work for such an esteemed pairing! But again an hour later I could have been done. Another walk and we were approaching the writer’s panel. Right, do that and you’re done I thought to myself. The panel was fun, well run but only 30 mins, so here I was a 4pm thinking ‘shall I just go home?’.

Now we get to the lesson (finally!). The panel finished at 4 so that they could do the raffle. The whole hall stopped and some amazing prizes were handed out and the whole community of the con became apparent. There was whooping and cheering from and for the prize winners and 15 mins later we were told to enjoy the last 45 mins.

They also announced that they had already booked the venue for next year, AND they were going for two days! And again you saw the reaction from the room, and you realise what a great community this little con has.

Anyway, inspired by all this I headed back to the trio of writers with a plan.

I started with Rob. A quick word of thanks, enjoy the NFL season and “… any chance you’d do me a favour? Would you do a five question email interview for me for my blog? Y’know process stuff. Nothing hard.”

“Of course,” he says “No trouble. Email it over. There’s a risk I’ll ramble on for ages.”

“I’ve no problem with that” I said, beaming from ear to ear.

So next I go to Kieron and Si’s table. Another set of thanks, a bit more process waffle, and then the same pitch, but now with Rob’s endorsement!

“Could I ask for a favour? Rob’s just agreed to do a five question email interview for my blog. Would you mind doing one for me?”

Instantly both agreed, but admitted that there was a good risk of it going in the inbox and nothing ever happening. “Why don’t we sit down and do it in the pub across the road in about 10 minutes?” they suggested.

So, ten minutes later Si Spurrier buys ME a drink, and we sit for 30 mins in the pub garden talking process and his working day – 25 mins of which we recorded.

Kieron arrives towards the end, sits nearby essentially waiting for his turn and I record 45 mins chatting to him.

And there is the lesson: talk to people. If you are polite and pleasant and have some interesting questions, and listen to the answers, then they’ll talk to you. Don’t be ‘Comic Book Guy’ and tell them what they’re doing ‘wrong’ or should be doing.

So, there endeth the lesson: you get back the square of what you put in, and if you don’t put much in, you get back the square of not much. Make the effort and you get so much out of it!

And Melksham? Small, but thanks to Kieron, Si and Rob at least as big as Bristol!

Whoa, where did June go?

Or May for that matter? I posted straight after the Bristol Comic Con and have then spent all my time since reading rather than writing… whoops!

Where shall I start? At the beginning with Bristol I guess.

I picked up some good stuff at Bristol, and worth particular mention I think was Eponymous. At Bristol they were selling the collected print version, but it originates in a digital anthology: VSComics. There was lots to like about Eponymous: the art was very nice, but the story matched it and the layout and design were equally impressive. It was something that immediately felt like a finished product. I really think it could have come from one of the smaller US publishers. Go have a look.

I’m sorry that I’ve only highlighted Eponymous, there were others worthy of mention, but perhaps I get to them later (August??!).

I think I said before that Rob Williams (Miss Fury, Low Life, Ichabod Izrael, and soon: Ordinary (see his recent post on Ordinary here)) recommended I read Story by Robert McKee. Interestingly this book is also recommended by Brian Michael Bendis (more of that in a minute).

Story is a screenplay guide that preaches form NOT formula. It is not about rules but about “substance, structure, and style”. However its 400+ pages are not for the feint-hearted. This is a University level text book and not an easy-to-read puff piece. I confess I also listened to the audio book version, read by McKee himself. This is abridged, but allowed me to ‘study’ while in the car or out cutting the grass. It was nice to get the feel for the author and I now hear his voice as I read the book. I personally learn better by reading, but the audio has given me an overview and reinforced my motivation to spend time on the book itself.

Interestingly I had a script rejected not long after Bristol, and it was what McKee likes to describe as a daydream. To put it simply it had no point, there was an idea than ran around on the page for a bit and then stopped. It was akin to a sketch in a weak TV show, where the joke was right up front or a minute in and there was nowhere for it to go, but it plodded on for a couple more minutes anyway. However in my defence it was a Future Shock type story, of the (meant to be!) amusing variety, and I’m left wondering how on earth these ever work. Maybe that’s a format that I’ll not get to grips with for a while, or ever!

Right, I promised Bendis-goodness!

I’ve been reading Powers Bureau (love it!) and at the back in issue two Bendis responded to a question about which text books he references when he lectures at Portland State. The books were:

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

On Writing by Steven King

Story by Robert McKee

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

He is also writing his own book ‘Words for Pictures’ which at the time he suggested would be out for Christmas, but he’s since said Spring!

By the way he is no longer teaching at Portland State, but will be teaching at the University of Oregon starting “in the fall”.

While I was looking up those links I found a bunch of resources at the comics faculty’s website (here), and stumbled across a Script Archive. Worth checking out later I think: There’s also a LOT of process stuff there to digest.

I’ve also been reading the collected trades of Ultimate Spider-man, Fatale, Nao of Brown, and Criminal:Coward. Also slowly reading Scarlet – I don’t like to splurge, I like to take my time.

That’s about it really. I really need to get my next pitch in for Zarjaz. I have an A3 ‘mood board’ with scenes all over it, and replacement scenes glued over the top of some of them. I have character backgrounds and a log line, I just need to stop reading Story and put the pitch together!

Bristol Washup – Initial Thoughts

It’s just gone 5.45am on Sunday morning as I start to write this, and I’ve been awake since 4am. There is SOOOO much going through my head after yesterday. We had such a great day out, and we spoke to, sorry LISTENED to, so many people with interesting things to say.

Where to start? Let’s just write it and see what happens.

Met up with Dave from Zarjaz and David Broughton which was really nice. David has just sent the last pages for our story to Dave though we haven’t seen them ourselves yet. Dave was very encouraging and we’d both like to pitch some more stories to him in the near future, though at this stage that’s not likely to Baby Jays….unless there’s a an avalanche of positive feedback!

We also had a nice chat with the lovely people at the Psychedelic Journal. Having now met both of them I can only say they’ve doubled their standing in my eyes. I submitted a wee strip to them last week. I really have no idea whether it fits their vision for the journal as I only picked up volume 1 yesterday. I’ll be interested to hear what they have to say either way.

We did manage to spend some time with Connor Boyle from Disconnected. Picked up volume 2 plus the one about bears (hey, it’s only just 6am, I’ll remember the name later!). Volume 3 is in the pipeline, but they also have plans afoot to broaden their vision, or perhaps it’s more changing the focus. Well I’m looking forward to seeing it regardless.

I’ll go into other titles I picked up in a later post, but it’s a good pile.

I also need to mention Stacey Whittle from the Small Press Big Mouth podcast. She spoke to someone stood next me and I reconised her voice having spent an hour mowing last weekend while she enthused about various comics. And what a lovely lady. She didn’t know me from Adam, but stopped to talk anyway. I need to get on board her Whittle Waffle blog and the anthology she edits…. Stacey also co-hosted the 2000ad mega panel – always a highlight.

As for the pros, Ian Gibson was sketching all day. Stopped at his table twice. He had some interesting tales of 2000ad back in the day, and some interesting opinions about the state of comics today. I’ll try to capture these in a later post.

Henry Flint was working like a man possessed in the signing room again this year. I saw a whole string of wonderful sketches in the space of a few minutes, and I got a Dredd to pair with one he did last year.

I managed to catch Boo Cook to sign his recent Gunheadz cover, and also got Ben Willsher to do the same for his latest Dredd wraparound cover. He also signed the Dredd ‘Down Time’ story….which brings me nicely to Michael Carroll who wrote (and signed my copy of) ‘Down Time’. I spent, no word of a lie, a whole hour talking to him and his wife. Lovely people. Again, I need to write about this chat later, but I’m an ever bigger fan of his now than I was before.

Rob Williams was the other writer I wanted to talk to and we started with the NFL – a subject that we both could have spoken about for the rest of the day it seems. But we got round to comics in the end. Again really encouraging. We spoke about structure and character, and Rob also recommended a couple of books on the subject, again I’ll share later. Rob signed an Ichabod Izrael cover and a copy of his new Dynamite series Miss Fury.

Was also privileged to be interrupted at one table (can’t say whose as they obviously planning something they can’t talk about) by Vertigo’s Executive Editor Shelly Bond and Mark Buckingham. Again really nice people, and Shelly seems to a fan of the UK and our chocolate. And Bourbon creams!

Right, I’m sure I’ve missed off a load of people, but I’ll address that when I edit this when I’m awake.

I could do it all again today 🙂