Collaberation

(By Tom Brown and Bryn Colvin)

When we write short stories together, we do it like this – with skype on to talk and typing in the chat box, and we end up with just one voice. It’s both different and the same, when we collaborate on the sequential art stories. A very natural process, not unlike a dance. Inspiration flows back and forth between us, leading us both to create things that are not at all what we would have come up with on our own. Better, and richer (frequently stranger and wilder) than what we could arrive at individually. A sort of, third artist is created between us. We call it Copper Age. Sometimes we are enough on the same wavelength that we type the same things, at the same time.

 (Insert note from Tom. Just now for example!)

 We play very well together, in short. This involves large amounts of trust and respect (amongst other things). Out of surreal and wandering late night conversations come all kinds of story ideas, including zombie morris dancers, and the bottling of cat spirits. It’s a good defence against block as well, because usually one of us will have enough ideas to bail the other one out.

 (another note from Tom – Now, for instance)

 The process has brought us down some strange roads (in a creative sense). No doubt there’s more to come in that regard. Not least because, while it’s easy enough to trade words across the Atlantic, we can’t do the same with the art. (Yet). No doubt also that once the annoyance of the (pesky!) Atlantic has been dealt with, the process of collaboration will include the visual art as well. Which will be, to say the very least, very interesting! (in a the-world-is-by-no-means-ready-for-this sort of way). While Tom is very good indeed at drawing things such that they look like things, Bryn isn’t. She favours abstract stuff. How this might work out if combined on the same page remains to be seen.

 (Bryn thinks she could be safely left to paint in the sky maybe.)

 (Tom grins and rubs his hands together)

 It is also very much a learning process. We’re constantly exploring new ways of working, new things to try. There is no end in sight. Which is as well. There’s a strong friendship grown out of the working together, and if we didn’t have such a good excuse to talk most days, we would of course have to make one up.

Witches, Priests and other challenges

I am, without any doubt at my most self conscious when writing religious figures. I’m aware – especially with pagan characters – that what I write could perhaps inform someone else’s perception of pagans. When I write Christian characters, I’m equally aware there may be impressions created.

Taking on writing Hopeless for Tom, I acquired a setting that had both a witch and a Christian priest in it. Tom’s original vision of Annamarie Nightshade was much akin to your classic cunning person – spells, charms and a hint of extracting money with menaces. Reverend Davies on the other hand is your classical puritan priest, with a perpetually disapproving look on his face. The trick, I suppose, lies in fleshing them out such that they become complex characters rather than caricatures.

I’ve tested Annamarie on a few pagan reads now, and they seem to like her. I think as a character, she means well, but she has a short temper, a pronounced selfish streak, and tends to think she knows best. Anyone interested in finding out more about her needs only to sign up for the Copper Age newsletter – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/copperage as we will be sending an ebook Annamarie story to all members next week.

 

As yet I’ve not had any Christian friends feed back about Reverend Davies – but then, he’s not been so visible. He starts out like a character from The Crucible, or something by Nathaniel Hawthorne, but ends up with more than a dash of Van Helsing in the mix!

There is a great deal of the occult in Hopeless, but the paganism is less obvious. It’s there – inevitably given that Tom and I are both on the druid path. The central characters – Owen and Salamandra – have a love for life, and for living things that is born of our own attitudes. There’s a striving after beauty, community and honour that has quietly druidic undertones as well. But we put this in a context where the demons are real, the goblins are dangerous, and there are unliving things to contend with as well as the living. It makes the morality a lot more complicated at times and allows me to keep playing with that all important question… ‘what is natural anyway?’.

Webcomics and Copper Age

(Written by Tom Brown)

tentacles!
tentacles!

 

Sequential art storytelling (most popularly referred to as comics in the west, elsewhere as manga , manhwa etc) is very much in the process of leaving its dependence on the world of print publishing behind. Webcomics and content tailored for mobile and hand held devices are the newest medium for this (frequently and sometimes justifiably, overlooked) art form.

What this means, I think, is both, a great deal, and very little. Very little because, it is really only a change in the way the stories are delivered. A great deal because this is an industry that has, in the west, been dominated by two large companies for the most part. These companies have been gatekeepers of content, deciding which stories reach the largest audience (and, in many cases, which creators are able to continue their work). Webcomics allow nearly anyone with Internet access, to create and publish. The results of this will be a glut of content, and a fair amount of interesting chaos for some time, most likely.

I’d like to take a step back from the question of format and delivery for a moment to talk about my relationship with the art form. I am in love with the potential here, and thrilled when the boundaries are pushed and something exceptional is achieved. It happens, all too rarely (partially, I believe because of the confusion between medium and genre) and heartbroken, when I see the same tired stories told over and over again with only minor surface changes. At its best, sequential art can tell any sort of story, in a way that no other medium can. Even, now and then, create a sort of contemporary mythology, combination of word and image that are “true” if not accurate. Stories which can surprise, inspire, horrify, touch and resonate. Touch, if only briefly, the numinous. This would be the grail or gold ring, certainly, and working together with Bryn (as Copper Age) I feel that this is something we may very well achieve. We hope, at the very least, to entertain.

 You can check out the Copper Age webcomic at www.itisacircle.com and anyone who joins the newsletter http://groups.yahoo.com/group/copperage this weekend gets a free pdf story as well.

The Dawn of the Copper Age

Copper Age bannerI’m not refering to ancient history here! Today the Copper Age webcomic launches at www.itisacircle.com – kicking off with a story called ‘The Blind Fisherman’ – a mix of art and pictures, but not exactly traditional comics stuff (and no men in spandex thumping each other!)

This is a project I’ve been working on with Tom Brown for some years. I interviewed Tom on this blog a bit back, so you might want to hunt that out. I’ll be here today, with assorted posts about what we do, and why, and how.

Below is something to set the mood, giving you a flavour for the landscape in which our characters are trying to survive. (For more insight, have a look at www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com )

 

 

The fog by night is darker, deeper, shrouding everything,

No stars shine through, no moonlight glimmers,

All sounds are muted colours dim, there is no hope here,

No hope at all, only cold and damp malevolence.

 

Dawn comes queasy grey to light another joyless morning,

Cold light without colour lacks the power to warm my heart,

I’d dream of something better but I don’t know how to picture it,

There is no hope here, no hope at all.

 

The world is bleak with apathy, too willing to accept it all,

The empty listless life, the sunless mournful days and night terrors,

Fear becomes your companion, familiar and cruel,

There is no hope here, only poison in this world.

 

The chill within my bones has been with me most of my life,

If I ever knew true warmth I forgot about it long ago,

There is no salvation and no heroic rescue,

When the monsters are inside you, there’s no hope at all.