There’s a new comic out this week. In many respects it is rather unusual. It isn’t American or colour or interrupted by Sea Monkey ads. The protagonists eschew lycra. No female characters are scantily clad. Only one gunshot is discharged and the number of punches can be counted on one fist. WAIT! Come back! It’s a new comic! It’s funny! And also rather mysterious! Based on a popular BBC radio series!
It’s The Scarifyers issue 1 and people have said it’s very good. Being the artist I couldn’t possibly say that myself, it just wouldn’t be British. However, I can tell you I worked very very hard on it, and I had a great script from the series creator Simon Barnard.
Simon created The Scarifyers about 5 years ago, as an audio series which continues to be the main platform for the adventures of Messrs Lionheart, Dunning and Crow. But when we first met at Bristolcon 2011 he revealed a plan to make a Scarifyers comic. I was enthusiastic – having heard The Magic Circle on BBC Radio 4 Extra I could see the stories were robust enough to work in different formats – and before long Simon sent me a script which had me itching to draw. I must admit, I thought a comics script by a radio writer would need a bit of tweaking to work well in a visual medium, but in his adaptation of The Nazad Conspiracy Simon seemed to instinctively understand what would and wouldn’t work.
All the Scarifyers CDs benefit from handsome cover art by Garen Ewing, the very talented writer/artist behind The Rainbow Orchid among other things. I took Garen’s elegant ‘ligne claire’ style as the starting point for the look of the comic strip itself, but I knew the darker moments of the story would need light and shade not normally associated with this kind of illustration. I looked at Blake & Mortimer, Hellboy and The Iron Wagon while I was developing the style of the strip and Simon pointed me towards parts of my own Bristol Story artwork which he thought worked well.
I felt that the 1930s period would be better evoked if the pages themselves looked old. I used halftone screens for the greys to mimic older printing technology and even scanned in dozens of pages of blank paper to provide a range of newsprint rough paper textures! In the end, these background textures were abandoned but a slight texture was retained for the black areas.
Garen’s covers used the likenesses of The Scarifyers lead actors Terry Molloy and Nicholas Courtney as starting points for his portrayal of Professor Dunning and Inspector Lionheart. I began the same way.
This is the first drawing I made in preparation for Scarifyers issue 1, a fairly close likeness of Nicholas Courtney, but the more I drew the more Lionheart the character replaced Nicholas the actor.
Through a very productive email correspondence with Simon, the artwork for Scarifyers issue 1 started to take shape. It was completed just in time to be printed ready for Bristol Comic Expo and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy where we road-tested the comic; Simon at TGSITG, me (in costume as Professor Dunning!) at BCE. [Photo: Mike Molcher]
I was delighted with the reaction at Bristol. I sold a lot of copies and talked to many fans of the radio series who were pleased to see a new format for The Scarifyers. I also had the pleasure of showing the comic to Garen Ewing for the first time.
A week later Simon and I manned the Scarifyers table at Kapow! Comic Convention in London. I have to say this was the most positive convention experience I have ever had.
Our table was very well located and we had a more or less steady flow of visitors; some coming simply to talk, others to buy CDs and comics. We were kept busy on both days, ably assisted by Simon’s wife Anya who provided much-needed biscuits and even managed to get a copy of the comic to Peter Serafinowicz! (Peter’s show on 6 Music was one of the things that kept me going as I neared the end of the deadline!)
I came away from the conventions feeling very grateful and excited by the reaction to the new comic. I hope it does as well as these events suggest it will. I’d certainly love to draw more!