Tag Archives: copper age

Copper Age, Bronze Age

When I first met Tom, he was Copperage all by himself. I didn’t ask why, or what it signified, although every so often someone does. The Copper Age is also, historically speaking, the Bronze Age – that pre-historical time when our ancestors were moving from stone tools but had yet to discover the lethal potential of iron.

Today, we stood in the remains of a 5000 year old long barrow – whose top was destroyed a long time ago, but whose core and layout are present and exposed. People have been on this land for a long time. Those ancestors are so remote that it’s easy for us to impose any desire, fantasy or aspiration upon them. We don’t know a great deal about how they lived, the remains they have left are tantalising clues. To what degree were they like us? How different? Looking back at our ancient Pagan ancestors, under-informed and over-romantic as we so often are, they can be whatever we need them to be.

Walking an ancient hill fort and visiting the barrow today, I was conscious both of this incredible geographical closeness to the past, and also the huge distance between myself and the barrow makers. I looked out at the river. It would have been marshy down there 5000 years ago, the river occupied more of the flat land then, but people farmed there from whenever it was people started farming this part of the world. In many ways, not much has changed. I had a moment of thinking that the differences humans have created maybe aren’t as big or impressive as we think they are. If we were wiped out tomorrow, that landscape would revert to wilderness soon enough.

Looking backwards, we can dream and imagine a better time, when the aurochs and wild cranes still roamed the land, before the wolves, boar, bears and beavers were driven from the UK. A wilder time, a more heroic time when people were free. We can glaze over the messy bits. Perhaps it gives us a moment of warmth. But every time we look back, imagining it was better then, we do ourselves a disservice.

Why?

Because we ought to be looking forward. In many ways, what went before is unknowable, but we can shape what is to come. Maybe there was no golden age of peaceful matriarchy. Maybe there was. Maybe our ancestors were just as greedy, short sighted and materially hungry as we are today. Maybe very little has changed. How much does that matter? Things can change. We can go forward. The golden age should always be something that lies ahead, attainable and worth working for, not something lost to the past so that it’s bound to be all decline from now.

What is Copperage? Aside from being a team that makes a webcomic, and other things, it’s an aspiration. An idea that things could be other than they are. Knowing the past is good and worth taking as far as we can, but shaping the future is more important still.

Other People’s Festivals

If you are in need of a respite from other people’s festivals, then please do pay a visit to www.itisiacircle.com – we have a festive special on the 25th, and Monday the 28th ‘At The End Of The Bed’ is a two part story with illustrations, and a bit of a twist on some seasonal myths and traditions.

In a dark, gothic environment, the propsect of something sneaking into your room and leaving stuff, is not a pretty one!

I wish you peace from the mayhem of other people’s festivals. May you have quiet days, without too much of the frequently ugly and careless consumerism that goes with this time of year. As we head into a new calendar year, here’s hoping this is a wiser, more responsible and ethical time for our species.

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.

Interview with Tom Brown

I’ve been working with artist Tom Brown for some years now. I knew he had pagan leanings, but until we sat down to do this interview, I didn’t appreciate just how deeply that runs for him. Tom is a comics artist, he does book covers, tattoo designs and other such comissions. He also writes with much poetry in his style, and strange humour. After much deliberation, I did not include the bit of the interview where he accidentally invented an artist – the great medieaval Norwegian Yikes…. it was a rather rambling digression (although much fun). When I asked about favourite artists, Tom said ‘Yikes’ and I couldn’t resist going ‘haven’t heard of him’ and it all went a bit off the rails for a while.

Annamare Nightshade, by Tom Brown
Annamare Nightshade, by Tom Brown

Bryn: When did you realise art was something you were serious about?

Tom: Oh… gods. Very nearly as far back as I can remember.

 Bryn:  So you’ve always drawn?

 Tom: Also as far back as I can remember. Yes. (Lions a lot at first, as I recall)

 Bryn: Why lions?

 Tom:  No idea! They caught my imagination I suppose. No real reason why I should have been drawing lions at all! Then, some interesting attempts at drawing from dreams.

 Bryn:  What is your favourite thing to draw at the moment?

 Tom: Oh…! Ok difficult one…. figures from shared dreams, and landscape. Preferably at the same time, though I’m having some new ideas as of very recently. Tentacles are a given!

 Bryn: That’s the second mention of dreams. Those are important then?

 Tom: Absolutely. the sleeping and waking sorts.

 Bryn: Now for me, dreams (both sorts) have an inherently spiritual element. Is it the same for you?

 Tom: Yes, it is the same for me. It has been so, as far back as I can remember.

 Bryn: When did you become consciously pagan?

 Tom: Consciously, it would have been around the time Cormac was born. So for around seventeen years I think, it predated him by about a year. Though, have realized since that in all important ways, I have been looking for a name for the way I experienced the world for long before that. Again, probably as far back as I can recall.

 Bryn: Do your beliefs influence your art in any particular ways?

 Tom: Impossible for them not to. I would say, in all ways. My sense of the numinous is the foundation of my art, I think. Or… more particularly, the numinous, in everything.

 Bryn: You just used one of my favourite words. Numinous.

 Tom: Mine too! Wanted to found a school of art around it when I discovered it.

 Bryn: Who are your favourite artists?

 Tom: Bosch was an early favourite. Then discovered engravings, Albrecht Durer. Rackham, Dulac… Then… I discovered the symbolists! *gasp* Odilon Redon, etc. On the other side, Dr Seuss… Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola, Miyazake. If I begin listing those currently working in sequential art this will become a very cumbersome list! Oh and Dave McKean’s work for the Sandman books.

 Bryn: If you weren’t doing art, what might you be doing instead?

 Tom: Don’t know how to answer that, really. Can’t imagine it. I can think of a lot of things I would love to do in addition to visual art. (important distinction. Writing is art, photography, music etc) Music would be one, actually, writing another, teaching, interested in film as well. Ritual. More things I want to study than I can possibly list.

 Bryn: Where can people find your work online?

 Tom: Most comprehensive would be the deviantart site – http://copperage.deviantart.com/

Also Serendipity http://www.serendipityartsales.net/Brown_T_Index.html

 

It’s now possible to buy t-shirts and at least one poster featuring Tom’s work from www.zazzlecom/copperage  Anyone interested in seeing what Tom and I do together, have a look at www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com – its the weekly newspaper for Hopeless – an island off the coast of Maine, USA, which Tom invented some years ago, and I have since been populating with strange characters and entities. In a matter of weeks, we should have a webcomic at www.itisacircle.com – a story based in the same setting as The Hopeless Vendetta. In the meantime, news and interviews with other comics people get posted at www.itisacircle.com/blog