Tuesday 19 May 2020

Killing Moon Kickstarter Interview

To mark the launch of the Killing Moon Kickstarter Campaign, fearless interrogator Alex Finch caught up with series writer Chris Denton.

Q. Killing Moon's a fantasy comic about an elite band of assassins who were first created in the 1980s, how did you come to be involved with the series?

A few years back, my brother Steve and I contributed to a Ron Smith tribute book. I remember particularly admiring a strip in the same comic by an artist called Bhuna (aka Neil Roche), so I approached him out of the blue to see if he was interested in working on Massacre For Boys. Happily he was, and we collaborated on Emu War. Basically I had the idea that it would be funny to treat an obscure Australian historical event which had been sardonically named “the great emu war” as if it was a genuine military conflict. I’m not sure now if the strip was actually all that hilarious, but Neil did a great job bringing the emus to life. I was really happy how it turned out.

Some months later Neil made it known that he was looking for a writer to work on a long-form comic he was planning to illustrate. He was asking for pitches for a 4-part series. Usually, I’m not interested in that kind of thing at all, I like to do my own stuff. However, I had enjoyed working with Neil and the brief was pretty open. So I brainstormed some ideas (essentially coming up with the plot to issue 1, if I recall correctly). Neil liked them, and we started from there.

Q. What were the challenges of writing for pre-existing characters?

The biggest challenge is to strike the right balance between hero and anti-hero. The core Killing Moon characters are all paid killers, but they are also the series protagonists. So they need to be murderous but in a sympathetic way. The easy way out of this is to make all the victims totally irredeemable scumbags, but I wanted to be a bit more interesting than that. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would ever have written about a band of assassins if left to my own devices. Otherwise, I’ve found I actually enjoy the constraints associated with coming in on an existing fictional universe, without having to create absolutely everything from scratch myself. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Q. And what were the highlights of writing the series?

Going to the pub with Neil.

The longer version of this answer is that he has made it a tradition to launch each issue at Thought Bubble, which as you are likely aware, is a really well-regarded comics festival that runs every year in Yorkshire, generally during the autumn. Now I live in the South-East so Yorkshire isn’t the most convenient for me, but I did make the pilgrimage to see the second issue come out. There I met Neil in person for the first time and caught up with many comics friends new and old, both at the show and at the pub afterwards.

My other main highlight is working with the team that Neil’s put together, and of course Neil himself. It’s always a pleasure to handover a script and see how Neil interprets it. I have to say I love Darren’s colours too. Indeed, I persuaded him to help out with Massacre For Boys. He’s such a big talent, it’s no surprise to see The Phoenix snap Darren up. Of course there’s also Bolt-01 (Dave Evans) on letters and consulting editor Richmond Clements, I’ve known both Dave and Richmond for many years, they are each of them legends!

Another thing I love is the pin-ups. Neil organises all of those, so I basically get to see them when they’re done. The artists involved are phenomenal. Neil McClements, SKD, David Frankum, Alan Byrom, the list just goes on and on. All part of the team, and when I put all the names together like this I see it’s more than just a team, we’ve become a community!

Also, a more prosaic highlight for me is that Neil takes care of the publishing side of things!

Q. It's now being collected together as a complete graphic novel, can you tell us more about that?

Well, we completed the series and are now putting it all together as a trade paperback (do people still use that term?). The book also includes the original Killing Moon, which was created by his brother, and that is a really interesting read. It’s nothing like the new one, but at the same time you can tell they are closely-related.The way I view it is that the classic Killing Moon are the Justice Society and the current Killing Moon are the Justice League. When I saw Neil’s wraparound cover for the book, which has both versions, I was strongly reminded of Earth-1, Earth-2 and generally how great the DC multiverse was before Crisis.

Oh, and it’s important to say that we’re doing this as a Kickstarter. Crowd-funding is so important for independent comics, and for independent creators. This is going to be my first campaign, and I’m really excited to see how it goes. As an aside, if fully funded this will be my first published book, a personal landmark that I am very keen to reach.

Q. The graphic novel will also include brand new material, what do you have planned on that front?

Brand new for this collection will be a story called The Prologue That Comes At The End. We are going to go back in time to Merstburg Castle before the events of the first issue, and see the pivotal moment that everything that comes after/before was set in motion.

Sorry that’s a bit vague, but I’m trying desperately to avoid spoilers. One thing I can be definitive on is that the Skeleton Mayor is in it.

Q. And once published, do you have any plans to revisit these characters in the future?

I don’t want to pre-empt any announcements, but yes, I’d love to write some more. The way it’s plotted in my head, I’m about half-way through the story I want to tell. Simple maths would say that means four more issues / one more book, but an important caveat is that it may very well not work out like that.

Separately, Neil and I have been working on a story outline set many years in Killing Moon’s past. Hopefully we’ll get to do that one, as well.

Q. It's been over a decade since I last interviewed you, how has the small press industry changed for you during that time?

Well, I’ve given up exhibiting at comic conventions for a start. Steve and I had some good time doing those, but in the end it just became soul-destroying. Three days behind a table at London Super Comic Con in Islington was the final straw. The few visitors who wandered up to the small press area were, almost without exception, totally disinterested in Massacre For Boys. Since then I’ve had a much better time going to such events purely as a punter.

Q. Massacre For Boys had supposedly come to an end a couple of years ago but we hear rumours you've written new material recently, can you tell us about that?

The high concept of Massacre For Boys is that it’s a single story pretending to be an anthology. We got to the end with The Last Stand, and that remains the end of the story. However, despite that, Steve and I seem to be working on it again, alongside Bolt-01 (did I mention he was a legend?) and others. There are two main reasons we’ve gone back to the well one last time. Firstly, we want to put it together into a collection. It was always meant to be read as a single entity, we want to make it much easier for people to do that. Given we started more than a dozen years ago, and, for example, switched page formats after two issues of Walking Wounded, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do just to get the book into publishable shape.

Furthermore (love that word), although I was very happy with the end, I was less satisfied with the middle. There are quite a few important elements of the story arc that either didn’t work, didn’t appear at all or simply got lost amongst all the other strips. So now we’re fixing all those problems, and when they are fixed we are going to put out a book, The Massacre For Boys Book For Boys, and that will be the final and completed and best version of Massacre For Boys.

Q. And do you have any other comics related plans?

I think Killing Moon and Massacre For Boys are enough for any man!

Having said that, I do have a short ghost story set to appear in this year’s Hallowscream. It’s being illustrated by Ken Best and the work in progress I’ve seen so far is really promising.

Q. Finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

The question would be “My friend Serena Williams thinks you’re a genius and she'd really like to have dinner with you to discuss all the things she loves about your work. Is it okay if I give her your phone number?” and my answer would be “Yes, I am always happy to have dinner with a fan. As long as they have a minimum of 23 grand slam singles titles.” This is why I cannot interview myself.

Alex Finch is a former celebrity text-jockey, and the impresario behind Comedy To Watch.

Additional credits: Artwork by Bhuna, with colouring on Killing Moon by Darren Stephens 

Thursday 3 August 2017

Massacre For Boys: The Last Stand

Cover - The Last Stand by Steven Denton, logo by Nikki Foxrobot

Walking Wounded - Sniper Elite Script by Chris Denton, Art by Steven Denton, Letters by Nikki Foxrobot

Walking Wounded: Emu War - The Last Stand Script by Chris Denton, Art by Owen Watts, Letters by Bolt-01

Scalphunter - Drive's a Hard Bargain Script by Chris Sides, Art by Eddy Lyle, Letters by Bolt-01

Badland Rules - Call the Cops Text Story Written and Illustrated by Steven Denton

The Crusader - Spoonful of Blood Script by Chris Denton, Art and Letters by Bolt-01, Colours by Darren Stephens

The Adventures of Napoleon Script by Chris Denton, Art by Steven Denton, Letters by Bolt-01

Pinup - The Crusader by Bhuna

Back Cover - Dog in a Coat by Steven Denton

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Sunday 21 December 2014

Death on the Rock - Sold Out

I am pleased to report that the print version of Walking Wounded - Death on the Rock is now SOLD OUT!

This is the second of our "proper" Walking Wounded comics to disappear from the shelves, Walking Wounded #2 has long been unavailable. A re-mastered omnibus edition of all our black and white work will probably follow in due course, as indeed will a paperback collection of the whole WW/MFB run, but if you can't wait for that, the digital edition of Death on the Rock remains on sale for the bargain price of £1.00 from our Comicsy page.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Alan Moore Photostrip

At MFB Towers we're in the midst of an artist crisis, and that has led us to consider reviving the great 80s tradition of the photostrip. Admittedly most were terrible, but some of them were quite fun. Doomlord, of course, and the odd tale by a young British comics writer called Alan Moore, who later went on to do a few quite good traditional comics.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Creators Wanted

Work is currently underway on Massacre For Boys Picture Library #2 and opportunities exist for artists, colourists and letterers to contribute to this landmark issue (landmark for top-secret reasons currently only known to confirmed contributors)!

There's no money involved (MFB is produced for the love of it and operates and at a financial loss) but there is considerable creative freedom and creator ownership of all work contributed. So, if you feel like joining a team that includes 2000AD's newest droid (contributing editor Steven Denton who works professionally as a colourist on Voodoo Planet in 2000AD, Dept of Monsterology and Keeper, to name but 3) as well as the cream of comics talent from the UK and further afield, then please get in touch!

Saturday 19 April 2014

Thirty Kroner Who?

I contributed several scripts to Picture Library #1, but the one that took by the far the longest to write was Thirty Kroner Kincaid. This strip started out with a throwaway comment by David Frankum that he wanted to do something in the style of the "based on a true story" tales of wartime heroism that were a regular staple of The Victor.

Always eager to have David on board, I immediately set to work. As may be apparent, the main influences on Massacre For Boys are those old IPC comics from the 70s and 80s (Battle, 2000AD, Eagle, Scream! and so on). However Steve and I have always enjoyed the DC Thompson stuff as well, especially The Victor, but also Warlord, Hotspur and, of course, Commando. Indeed, we pastiched the Commando-style in an early Walking Wounded strip (see MFB In Colour).

David sent me a scan of one example of the genre (which I loved), but finding that I had no Victor material in the house, I bought myself the recent "Best Of" the annuals material. I devoured it avidly, and indeed added the "Best Of" for the regular comic to my collection as well. One approach I could have taken was a straight parody, and just made up a totally unlikely series of events, then presented them as if they had really happened. Sort of like a Quentin Tarantino war film. However, I decided what I really wanted to do was tell an actual true story. As a nice counterpoint to Walking Wounded (which is pretty unrealistic, sadly) I decided to research the real Commandos and see if there was anything I could work with.

My first idea was to use Mad Jack Churchill, one of the most inspiring maniacs whom ever lived. However, I couldn't really find a way in to start telling his story, which in any case probably requires a great deal more than three pages. Then I found out about the Lofoten Islands raid, which seemed so different to any kind of battle accounts I'd come across before, and potentially funny, so I decided I had to do it. I did consider having an extra page, with Jack Churchill leading a beach landing, unopposed much to his annoyance, but decided this would just distract from Kincaid's adventures, and so, regretfully, reduced him to a one-panel cameo.

The character of Kincaid I made up, but there was a real individual who "misplaced" thirty kroner during the raid, and whom was not named in historical records to save embarrassment. The exact manner in which the money was lost I also invented, based on inferences taken from the description of what really happened. I'm quite proud that everything in the script is either fact, or else invention that does not contradict any known facts.

One of the things I like about the finished script is it almost entirely succeeds in hiding how much effort has gone into it. Reading the story through, it's so briskly written, with a what I hope is a light-touch, you might think I knocked up in an afternoon. Ha, I wish. Thankfully, when I finally presented the script to David he was kind enough to accept it, and furthermore, do his usual phenomenal job on the art. I particularly loved the naval battle sequence, and then the expressions on the faces of all the characters. He also came up with the idea of a restricting the colour to red shading only, just like DC Thompson used to do, which was a masterstroke. All three pages are a joy to look at. Nikki Foxrobot then did her usual, incredible job on the lettering, the tasty icing on a delicious cake.

You can read page one on David's blog here, and all three pages if you buy the comic, obviously. UPDATE: Oh, all right, because you're all so lovely the complete strip is now available from our Facebook page and on the main MFB site.