Tag Archives: webcomic

Creative Collaboration

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of a few collaborative projects, of which working with Tom has been by far the longest and most rewarding. Usually creating is a solitary process, where you go away, make something up and return when it’s ready for sharing. Working with someone else, even if you do your bit alone, changes things.

Given what happened with today’s webcomic page, I thought it would be interesting to talk about that particular process as an illustration of how collaborating is different. (If you’ve not been following Personal Demons, a brief synopsis – a small girl called Salamandra is found in a gothic, decaying house by a witch (Annamarie Nightshade) and taken to the local orphanage, where she is unhappy. She runs away and meets another girl, and they get along. A demon is destroyed. Sal is taken back to the orphanage and fids she may have caused a death. Her new ‘friend’ becomes increasingly unpleasant. At this point she and Sal have just had a parting of the ways, and Sal has encountered something scary in the graveyard.)

When I wrote it, the point of today’s scene was just to convey that there is a bigger picture. I hadn’t entirely thought through the character implications, just suggested that someone in the graveyard scares Salamandra and she runs away. Now, this is the girl who has recently run off on her own into the night, and tackled a demon. She doesn’t scare easily. That could have created an inconsistency. Fortunately for me, Tom started from the assumption that what I’d written made sense, and went on to contemplate who, or what exactly in the graveyard would have the wherewithal to scare our young heroine. It won’t be obvious yet, I suspect, but as the plot develops, people will be able to look back and ponder. He’s made it work.

It’s not the first time one of us has thrown a random thing into the story mix, and the other has made sense of it. Usually it’s the other way round because Tom has a knack for coming up with strange and lovely things, and then passing them over to me to see if I can explain them and make them fit. When we started out, Tom had by far a wilder imagination than me, but I’ve always been good at filling in the gaps and creating plausible narratives. I’m happiest when I have his ideas to play with. Tom does write, it’s amazingly dense and full of potential, and looking at it takes me off down huge narrative arcs. We’ve argued about this (very gently) because I can see how everything I write for him stems from his original inspiration, but he finds the process more like my description of today’s comic page, with me taking his vision places he’d never thought of.

The work that emerges from collaboration is very different from anything either of us had done on our own. Not only is there the effect of someone else’s inspiration, but we feed back to each other, and that constant support changes the process too. I can see Tom’s influence in my other work now. I’ve become more confident about my writing, more able to lay down a wild thing and go ‘it’s like this folks’ and let the story unravel from there. I think the process has made him more confident, too.

Collaborating isn’t always this easy and doesn’t always work – as I’ve found on other occasions. It takes a lot of trust, but when you have two people on the same wavelength, wonderful things can be achieved. I’ve just finished editing a Jaime Samms / Sarah Masters collaboration – an excellent piece of work that both authors clearly enjoyed, which also got me thinking about this as a topic. That blending of ideas and perspectives can be so exciting, and a huge opportunity to learn. It’ll be interesting to see if it changes what either of them does independently.

If it’s a way of working you get the opportunity to explore, I do recommend it. For me, it’s been a totally life changing experience.


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?’.

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