Sunday, 3 November 2013

Savage Zenith

I am delighted to announce that Savage Zenith by Chris Denton (yours truly) and David Frankum is out now.

Indeed, Savage Zenith is the cover strip of Drokk, a new publication of "out there" 2000AD fan strips from the house of Zarjaz. And what a cover! David has really excelled himself this time:

Savage Zenith is a follow-up to Zenith Invasion, which David and I did for Zarjaz a couple of years back. The reaction to the earlier strip was pretty good. In particular, one influential critic was very kind about it, but at the time I was pretty firm in my mind that I wouldn't do a sequel. Not only was I profoundly disinterested in writing a direct continuation - for example, with Maximan sinking the Volgan navy - but I was pretty sure the merging of two profoundly different 2000AD strips would collapse under the weight of further expansion.

However, I really, really love Zenith, and I found it a joy to be writing for that universe. In my head a Zenith-only story was beginning to form. I called it "Tribute Act" and was to feature Zenith and his girlfriend (Patsy Kensit, for some reason) going along to see a Zenith tribute singer, only to be faced with the sudden appearance of a nemesis from his past. The twist would have been that the Zenith tribute singer was actually him from an alternative universe, and that he was able to bail his elder duplicate out of trouble.

For various reasons I wasn't quite satisfied with this outline, and had not written it up, let alone submitted it to anyone. It probably would have stayed in the back of my head quite harmlessly, for ever more. Then I saw this:

A truly fantastic pin-up of Zenith and Bill Savage, created by David for the 2000AD forum advent calendar. Despite the title, Zenith Invasion only features cameo appearances from each of them, and they don't meet, but when I saw that picture I could see immediately what a great pairing it would be. My issues with Tribute Act fell away when I replaced alt-Zenith with Bill in the mix. Indeed I became almost insanely excited when I realised just how well the story could work (most of my ideas are not nearly so good, as anyone who has had to deal with them would testify!)

Naturally, I wasn't prepared to go forward without David back on board, but luckily he liked the script and agreed to return. The Zarjaz editors, Richmond and Dave, then gave us the thumbs up and so David proceeded to create the artwork. This is where things got really good. Now, David had done a fantastic job on Zenith Invasion, but he keeps getting better and better and when the pages started coming in on Savage Zenith my jaw practically dislocated, it dropped so far so fast. He was always professional quality anyway, but this stuff... wow!

Once work was completed, there was something of a delay whilst Dave and Richmond were deciding how to use it. David and I moved on to other projects, including another collaboration, this one for Massacre For Boys (it's a Victor-style true war story with a modern twist, you'll love it!) Then we found out about Drokk, and that Savage Zenith was intended as the cover strip. And what a cover! Oh wait, I said that already. Well, it's worth repeating. There's more info about the cover, including a logo-free version, on David's blog.

So now it's out. I really hope people like it. One thing I noticed in the feedback to the original is that very few Zarjaz readers were intimately familiar with both Invasion and Zenith. I guess this is because they're very different strips from different eras of 2000AD history. Also, of course, Zenith had been hard to get hold of for a while (but thankfully this time around due to the new hardback edition it's more likely people will have read it). I've tried to address this by ensuring that a detailed knowledge of both characters' publication histories is not really required, let alone any familiarity with Zenith Invasion (there are links, but I tried to be subtle about them). With Savage Zenith I focused very particularly on Zenith and on that part of 2000AD's long lifetime. This Bill Savage never went through the Invasion, nor any of the events of Savage, so whilst I have tried to stay true to his character, there's a lot more leeway in his case.

I would like to thank Richmond Clements and Dave Evans for publishing these strips, and for doing such an amazing job on their incredible roster of comics, the jewels of the British independent scene. I also want to thank my friend Alex Finch who helped me out no end with his incredible research skills. Most of all, I would like to thank David Frankum, who takes my dodgy scripts and turns them into amazing-looking comics!

A final thought. Last time I ruled out a sequel, and then back-tracked. This time I will say that here are no concrete plans for any further instalments. I do have an ambition to write for Peter St John and Ruby Fox and the germ of an idea of how to do this is currently floating around inside my head. I want to largely drop the Savage/Invasion factor but instead introduce another crossover element that if I told you about it, would make your eyes water. I'm not at all sure this will ever happen, but never say never.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dept. of Monsterology Issue 1

Steve's first major work as a pro colourist debuts in October:

Like the Facebook page for more info or simply give in to your better instincts and pre-order it here.

Incidentally, there's now a new Massacre For Boys facebook page.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bosh Hard 2: Bosh Harder

Massacre For Boy's contributing editor Steven Denton returns to artwork duties with "Bosher For England":

Steve has contributed something like 100 pages of art to MFB, and many more to most of the big British indy titles. He's now making major inroads as a pro-colourist, most notably on the forthcoming Dept of Monsterology.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Third Crusade

Ah now, you probably expected this one.

Yes, The Crusader is back in "Spoonful of Jam". Once again, the legendary Bolt-01 is on art duties. Bolt is one of the most influential creators currently working on the British indy scene. He famously runs Futurequake Press alongside his compadre, Richmond Clements. We're delighted with Bolt's work on this strip and know that you will be, too.

I can promise returning characters, guns, knives, romance, and lots of action. Also lettering and colour, but that comes later.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Hats Off

We are edging closer towards publication now, and with that in mind here's a panel from... well you can guess:

Yes, it's an animal in a hat, and that can only mean that Jimmy Baker Animal Hatmaker is back! This time the mighty Owen Watts is on art duties, and it's fair to say he is doing a truly amazing job!

Owen, of course, needs no introduction, but for formality's sake I will say that he is the editor of The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel (which regenerated from the equally incredible Doctor WTF), runs the 2000AD Forum art competition, is a noted artist, letterer and colourist and is Crazy Like A Fox.

This will be Owen's second foray into the world of Massacre For Boys, and after doing a great job colouring Blackshirts of Exmoor for the Action Special, anyone who isn't excited to see what he does for us in Picture Library has a pretty severe lack of taste.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Bails of Steel

The point of the Massacre For Boys anthologies is to widen our talent pool, and the fruits of our labours can be seen in The Boys From Bashley by MFB newcomers Tim West & Mark Herstal. The story concerns a proficient village cricket team transferred en masse to North Africa at the commencement of World War I - a sticky wicket if ever there was one!

Tim is the driving force behind Back From The Depths a tribute to Scream, the glorious but criminally short-lived '80s British horror comic. He is also the impresario behind Comicsy and a comics writer of growing repute.

Mark is a very talented young artist who is in the process of exploding onto the scene. We were lucky to get him at the start of his no-doubt meteoric rise and no doubt you will be hearing a lot more from him in the years ahead.

The Boys From Bashley will appear in Massacre For Boys Picture Library.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Introducing.... Thirty Kroner Kincaid

Next up on the Picture Library slate is Thirty Kroner Kincaid by Chris Denton & David Frankum. This is a World War 2 story, but totally unlike anything we've done before. I am very excited to see this in print. Here's a work-in-progress image to give you a taster:

David should need no introduction to UK comics fans, not least because he's also contributed the cover to Picture Library as well as the art to Walking Wounded: Eastern Front which appeared in last year's Action Special. Outside of MFB, I first had the pleasure of working with him on our Zenith Invasion strip for Zarjaz, one of several he's contributed to Futurequake Press. Other notable work includes a fantastic online comic published by TopShelf, you really should check it out in the unlikely event you haven't already.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Emus Are Coming!

I can now confirm that Massacre For Boys Picture Library will feature the debut of Walking Wounded: Emu War by Chris Denton & Bhuna.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Bhuna to the fold. He's been one of the top small press artists for a while now and both Steve and I were over the moon when he agreed to contribute his talents to our publication. You can tell he's the right artist for the job simply from this sketch of the flightless beaked menace:

Emu War is an historically accurate rendition of the deadly fight between the Australian army and a rampaging superherd of emus in 1932 that also details the not quite so historically accurate early years of William "Dog" Tired.

You can see more recent examples of Bhuna's work, including some great Slaine pin-ups and a first look at the young Dog here.

Massacre For Boys Picture Library will be out before Ragnarok, I promise!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bad Company

Steve had a crack at the latest 2000AD forum art competition. The theme was the classic Milligan, Ewins & McCarthy strip, Bad Company.

Here is Steve's entry, depicting Mac vs The Ungrateful Dead:

Steve warmed-up with this equally impressive Bad Company Zombie:

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Psychedelic Time Travel

Steve has contributed the artwork for a 4-page strip to Owen Watts' Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel. Here's page 1:

It's called "Were, Are, Shall Be" and the script was written by Adam Page.

The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel 2013 is out now!

Elsewhere, Steve's Rogue Trooper collaboration with PJ Holden from some time back continues to bear fruit. The "landscape one" is now available as a postcard.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Before Skizz

Incensed by Before Watchmen, I considered penning a parody featuring Alan Moore's 2000AD creation, Skizz. I had two serious goes at writing this, the first an out-and-out comedy, followed by a second version, much more akin to a pastiche, after I started to get interested in what a Skizz prequel might really be like. In the end I set aside the idea, and now it's so profoundly untopical as to be unlikely ever to see the light of day.

However, I don't think I have blogged one of my page breakdowns for a while, so here for your amusement is a panel by panel plan of the earlier, "funnier" Before Skizz...

Page 1


Caption: Skizz was co-created by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame! Yes! So you are actually reading a brand new, Moore-quality comic right now!*

Caption: *Legal note: Alan Moore does not endorse this statement.

Skizz's spaceship approaches a small planet.


Skizz in his cockpit.

Skizz: That planet looks interesting, computer.

Computer: Unfortunately, if we stop here you will be late for the Formalhaut Ore Discussions.


Skizz: Ten clicks won't make any difference. Let's take a quick look around.

Computer: If we must.


Spaceship lands by a huge, ancient, dilapidated Romanesque temple.

Page 2


Skizz exits his ship.


Skizz finds a plaque with indistinguishable alien characters written on it.


Skizz runs his hand across the tablet, translating it as he does so.

Skizz: Temple.... of.... Glycon.

Link: Interesting.


Skizz enters the temple.


It's dark.

Skizz: Hello... hello.... anyone there?

Page 3


A huge serpent bears above Skizz.

Serpent: artisticintegretiyartisticintegrityartisitic integrity.


The serpent's move his face right up to Skizz's mask.

Serpent: artisticintegrityartisticintegrityartisticintegerity

Skizz: I am sorry, but what do you mean by “artistic integrity”?


Serpent: Exactly my point!


The serpent slithers off.


Skizz looks confused.

Skizz: What a strange being.

Page 4


Skizz goes back into to his ship.


Computer: We're late now, Interpreter Zhcchz.

Skizz: Increase speed ten percent over safe limits.


Computer: That's unsafe. Obviously. Denied.

Skizz: Overrule, it will be fine just this once!


Computer: Tsk. If you insist. Brace yourself.


Skizz's ship speeds away from the planet.

Caption: Ha, bad decision, Skizz!

Caption: Now Go and Buy the Skizz trade to see what happens next! The script is by Alan “Watchmen” Moore, who also wrote Watchmen. Did we mention that?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Picture Library Covered

The incomparable David Frankum has contributed this beautiful cover to the forthcoming Massacre For Boys Picture Library:

This amazing artwork was inspired by Zen Fusilier by Greg Meldrum & John Caliber, which I have trailed before and which is going to be one of the best strips we've ever published.

Here is the image again, in ebony and ivory:

Our thanks go to David for doing such a phenomenal job :)

Unfortunately, due to production difficulties not dissimilar to those that recently afflicted Futurequake, the launch date of Picture Library has been delayed. We could be looking at up to 12 months in order to get to a point where we have a comic we feel we can present to the world. I can only apologise to fellow creators and readers negatively impacted by this editorial fail.

However, there is an upside which is that work continues to pack even more classic British comic action into the issue, and that when it does appear it will have been worth the wait!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Lovecraft Anthology 2

Over Christmas I tweeted my thoughts on the second Self Made Hero Lovecraft Anthology. You probably missed it. I think everybody missed it. (Well, I know Pat Mills read one of them, but I did tag him when I reviewed his story, so I am not sure that counts.) In any case, here they are again, collected for your perusement:

Introduction: Here we go then, single tweet reviews of each story in The Lovecraft Anthology volume eleven (or possibly two)...

Pickman's Model by Delano & Pugh. Nice and punchy, if not 100% effective. Reminded me of the Revolver horror special.

The Temple by Lackey & Salmon. Yeah, now this is the stuff. Classic Lovecraft, with shades of Das Boot and The Keep.

From Beyond by Camus & Fructus. Creepy, but errs on the psychedelic side. I like my Lovecraft a bit more subtle.

He by McPherson & Peart-Smith. The script probably doesn't quite work, the ending is too abrupt, but the art is fine.

The Hound by Fifer & Baugh. Another highlight. Conan Doyle take note, this is how to do creepy dogs.

The Nameless City by Mills & Futaki. Mountains of Madness in minature. I liked it well enough.

The Picture in the House by Dickson and McMahon. Totally genius, as you might expect from McMahon. This stupid ending is Lovecraft's fault!

The Festival by Spurrier & Timson. Another throwback to 90s horror comics, and another success. Very Christmassy too. Well, sort of!

Statement of Randolph Carter by Lockwood & Cadwell. A very famous story. Not a bad job, but the punchline is mangled, a massive shame.

Conclusion: every strip is good, a few are great. A fine book, roll on volume one hundred and eleven (or three, if you prefer).

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Zarjaz 16

Zarjaz 16 review by Steven Denton

Cover: Jon Haward & Nigel Dobbyn

It’s a nice cover. Slaine has been largely painted or computer-generated since The Horned God but for me he will always be a warrior of well-rendered inks. For the most part the colouring is eye catching and dramatic but I think in places it fights the linework for defining the shadows. I would like to have seen a more old school look to complement the old school Slaine feel.

Slaine: Night Moves; by Richmond Clements, Jon Haward & BOLT-01

This simple but effective story has some fine artwork by Jon Haward. There is an impressive level of period detail in the locations and costume design, lending an almost subliminal feeling of historical place. I found myself immersed in the world of Slaine a little deeper with each frame. This is the Slaine of old, the Massimo Belardinelli and Mick McMahon Slaine of my childhood. The script is tight and punchy; my only criticism is that I found some of the dialogue slightly jarring. Not because it was badly-written or out of place, simply because of my familiarity with Pat Mills’ work. Slaine’s voice is hard to replicate and whatever you think of Pat Mills’ writing, his authorial fingerprints are deeply embedded in his work. I was impressed with BOLT-01’s lettering; the sound effects in particular are worth mentioning: they fit the artwork well, so well at times that I found myself wondering if some of the SFX had been drawn as part of the art.

Judge Dredd: Sleepers Awake; By Tom Proudfoot, David Broughton & BOLT-01

Sleepers Awake is an action-packed little strip that wastes no time cutting to the chase. The story is basic but makes sense and the bookend plot device adds a much-needed second perspective to the narrative. David Broughton’s layouts can be cluttered and confusing at times, but for an action romp like this, his energetic art work and busy page designs add to the frenetic feel.

Bad Company: Krool Intentions; by Mark Pexton, James Newel & Meanwhile.TV

I remember reading Bad Company as a child and being completely in awe of the number of well-defined characters and the alarming rate at which they were killed. It set a bar in my mind that no story has since managed to match. Nostalgia is a terrible thing; there is no reasoning with it. The lettering was generally good, if slightly too small in the captions. One of the biggest problems I have with comics is reading lettering that is meant to represent hand writing but Meanwhile.TV managed to avoid that issue and remain legible throughout. James Pexton’s artwork is crazy, but in a good way. The heavy black inks and dancing swirls of lines somehow manage to form perfectly clear images. There is a seductiveness to the grotesque imagery and an inescapable classic horror comic feel, ideally placed for depicting the horror of monsters and the horrors of war. The story is largely told though captions, which seem to be split between extracts from Danny Franks’ diary and a third person narrator, or it could just be Franks writing in the 3rd person. I found it confusing, which is a shame as for the most part the captions are well written. I was not overly keen on the plot however as it seemed to re-tread ground already covered by Milligan in Bad Company. One of the most common pitfalls of fan fiction is attempting to be too faithful to the source material and just remixing something that we have already seen.

The Hills of Hellfire My Love; by Mick Cassidy, Blackmocco & Drokk

The Hills of Hellfire is the tale of a mutie hell trek running into trouble out in the cursed earth. Harried by a gang of slavers, the muties seem to have accepted their fate of slavery or savage death, only for a critically-injured Mega-City One judge to stagger out of a storm and into their camp. Blackmocco can draw, there is no doubt about that; the general style reminded me of Rufus Dayglo but less angular and less finished. It’s loose and sketchy, at times so much so that it comes across as a loose sketch and not a finished strip. The story is told pretty much entirely through captions which can be an effective way of getting a lot of information across quickly but comes with one major drawback. I tend to think that strips with a caption-only narrative read a lot like illustrated prose. The illustrations sometimes repeat the information in the captions rather than add to it; there are also times when the script and art act as complementary narratives. Although not an unqualified success, this is a good read from a promising writer/artist.

Flesh: Future Shock; by Andrew Cheverton and David Frankum

Short, snappy, and beautifully-illustrated by David Frankum, Flesh could easily appear in the 1982 2000AD annual. Flesh was a strip that, along with Shako, would probably have been more at home in 2000AD’s older cousin Action, with its broad crimson strokes and almost comically-violent set pieces. Andrew Cheverton has taken this over-the-top gore fest and shaped it into a tale for 2000AD’s signature sci-fi Future Shock style. Frankum’s art work is reminiscent of Bryan Talbot at his best, with dark, solid shadows and form-defining hatching. If the small press had an A-list of artists then David Frankum would be on it.

Tales of the Genetic Infantry: In the Zone; by Mike Carroll & BOLT-01

The single biggest problem with Tales of the GI is that, although I have read parts one and two, it’s been more than a year since part two. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the small press that there will be long gaps between issues and multi-issue stories will suffer. The recap helped to jog my memory but it still felt very much like viewing the latest instalment in isolation. Part three itself is a well-written action scene. When faced with insurmountable odds, the battle-scarred GI must use his brains and his enemies’ own strength to give himself a fighting chance. The art, from the ever-dependable BOLT-01 is energetic and easy to follow. BOLT’s art always reminds me of 1980’s Marvel UK and although there are rough edges, it’s hard not to be carried along by its charm. Read all at once, I think this will be a very entertaining strip.

Sinister Dexter: Dr Maybe’s Museum Of Death; by Tony Mcveigh, Chris Askham & BOLT-01

To say I am not a fan of Sinister Dexter would be an understatement, so upfront I think it’s important to say I am not the target audience here. The story contains many of the things I dislike about the strip; the joke is old and wasn’t particularly funny the first time, and the word play is weak. The artwork is nice; I do like Chris Askham’s work; and the script and production are of the same quality as the ones that appeared in 2000AD in the 90’s. The jokes may well be knowingly bad like Christmas cracker jokes or maybe just not the kind of thing I find funny.

Anderson PSI Division: I Death; By Lee Robson, Dunk! Nimmo and BOLT-01

Dunk! Nimmo is like a cross between Brett Ewins and Ryan Hughes with a dash of D’Israeli thrown in for good measure. You remember that small press A-list I was talking about? Nimmo is on it. His work here is clean, uncluttered, lively and full of character. If I were to offer any criticism, it would be that Dunk’s layouts could be more interesting, there could be more variation in scale and a more dynamic choice of angle. Lee Robson has done a good job with the script: Anderson sounds right and the story moves along nicely without ever seeming predictable or rushed. One of the problems with short, self-contained stories is that there is only a limited amount of stories you can tell in a certain way in a certain space. It’s easy to reach for too much or too little; this does neither. Robson has crafted a complete and satisfying single-part tale and that is not an easy thing to do.

Whatever Happened to Sancho Panza?; by The Emperor, David Broughton & BOLT-01

David Broughton captures the look of Sancho Panza very well; the characters and the tank are instantly recognisable and constant without seeming forced. The anarchic, frenetic storytelling style seems to suit Broughton’s artistic sensibilities. The layouts are still jumbled, but for this strip it’s the right choice. The script does something I really like every time I see it in the small press. It takes a story that for some finished too soon and shows us there is still fun to be had with these old toys. Sancho Panza never got a second series, but if it had, it could have done a lot worse and maybe not much better than this.


Zarjaz 16 keeps a high standard: the art is never less than fit for purpose and some times it’s as good, if not better, then the art in 2000AD itself. The standard of writing is impressively high as well, never falling below decent. Zarjaz holds up well, not just in the small press but as a comic; its highs are highs by any standard and its lows just aren’t that low. It’s a must-buy for any 2000AD fan, past or present.

You can buy Zarjaz 16 from here.