Tuesday 26 July 2011


WHEN I used to do talks, one question I was always asked was: ‘Who’s Rough Cut Comics’ competition?’
In the business of selling titles, I was being asked who was DC Comics to our Marvel?
My answer hasn’t evolved since I first set up my stall: I didn’t have competition. I have inspirations.
I love comic books. And the fact I’m in the industry, doesn’t cause me to diminish any other book I DIDN’T publish as ‘competition’.
On the contrary, at our early stands in at the Bristol Comic Expo, you may have seen a corner of our table marked by ‘Comics we WISH we’d published’. Here, I’d promote some of the titles I’d just picked up and wanted to share with anyone who passed by our stand.
Rough Cut Comics had launched around the same time as Com X … and I was a huge fan of their titles (Trevor Hairsine’s fantastic artwork in Cla$$ War and John Higgins’ RazorJack were two highlights). They were big and bold; American-style with a real Brit edge and publisher Eddie Deighton had a flawless design strategy.
I was also mesmerized by the Springheel Jack mini-series from David Hitchcock, who perfectly summed up the nightmarish appeal of the old Penny Dreadfuls. Paul Grist’s Jack Staff series about “Britain’s Greatest Superhero” could still be the greatest underground comic of all time, if the creator’s Dancing Elephant title wasn’t picked up by Image Comics a few years back.
Last weekend, I visited Plan B Books in Glasgow’s Saltmarket to hear a talk from one of my favourite creative teams … Metaphrog.
John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs’ beautifully-conceived Louis character is an absolute joy to behold and they have received several prestigious award nominations, including recognition from the Eisner judges. Their work carries that special gift of magic that I’d attribute to every creation of Matt Groening (not specifically The Simpsons, but his Life in Hell strips); and it was a pleasure to hear about their inspirations and working styles.
In Glasgow right now, I have a whole host of “inspirations”
My old friend Jim Stewart has almost made an industry out of his Ganjaman creation … and it is a simple creative/artistic whiff of spliff culture which never fails to split my sides. Jim’s Ganjaman Presents title has brought together Alan Grant, Gelbert Shelton, Bryan Talbot and Doug Moench into one complete volume. What a coup!
Elsewhere, I also took great, retina-blitzing pleasure from horror media-mogul Alan Simpson, whose Sex Gore Mutants website launched the Living Dead; Glasgow title ... featuring hoards of fleshing eating zombies maurading through my Scottish home-town. It was more or less George Romero directing Trainspotting ... and it was terrific fun from creators who I know truly understood the dynamic ethos of King Jack Kirby.
These days, I’m constantly turning an eyeball to the works of Curt Sibling (Total Fear) and James Devlin (a genuine ‘go-to’ artist/colourist currently working on the new School of the Damned title from Black Hearted Press) and not forgotting the Great (and always late) Dave Alexander (currently doing Adam and his Aunts in Viz).
Just this morning, Rob Miller – from the Hope Street Studio – dropped a giddy, little three-frame item on Facebook which further emphasized the wonder of the ‘funnies’. His ‘Sir Freelancealot’ strip captured the ‘gloat and awe’ of social satire, delivered in Rob’s laid-back cartoon style. Laughed My Ass Off … luckily I was wearing my trousers!
If you’re waiting for the plug for the new Rough Cut Comics titles, you’re gonna be disappointed in this blog.
As Publisher of the company, I find it difficult to shake my former hand as a genre writer in Melody Maker, NME, VOX, Starburst and Shivers … constantly trying to plug comics I reckoned would set the shelves on fire. Not just my comics … but everyone taking the time to contribute to the long heritage of writers and artists in the comic-book medium. There are many. And that’s great for all readers and publishers.
These are my inspirations. I hope they can be yours.

Sunday 17 July 2011


A FEW months ago, I received an email from someone called Madeleine Jones from the Bournemouth-based Sci-fi Now magazine. It read:

Hi Eddie,
My name is Madeleine, I work on Sci-fi Now magazine at Imagine Publishing,
I wanted to get in contact as myself and the editor have been looking at your website and it is very relevant to the interests of our readers.
Do you have a phone number I can call you on to discuss further?

Ah, I thought, another astute media outlet looking to highlight the work we’re doing to promote good ideas in the comic-book medium. This publication had so far failed to pick up any of our press releases or published any reviews of our work (one of which was a comic-book spin-off of the cult horror film Society – for which they dedicated three pages in a previous issue).
When I got round to speaking with Madeleine, I got the impression “the editor” HADN’T been looking at our website and thus didn’t find anything relevant to his readers. I did get the impression SALES EXECUTIVE Madeleine reckoned their bank manager would be more interested in Rough Cut Comics’ hard-earned £425 for a small advertisement in their publication.
I put this forward in an email to Madeleine and explained Rough Cut Comics received good exposure in rival publications such as SFX, Fangoria and Rue Morgue and we were more likely to place advertising with those titles, which support us. We actually KNEW the response we got back from their reports and reviews, so I’d be more likely to spend any money with them. Much later, Madeleine emailed back:

Hi Ed,
Apologies, I didn't pick up the first email you sent,
Of course I appreciate that you have news worthy products to feature, however editorial space is priority for paying advertisers and unfortunately I cannot guarantee editorial without you advertising.
Also I am sure you can appreciate that we get many companies contacting us with the promise of advertising if we feature them, and of course, then they just use the free publicity as promotion and don't advertise afterwards.
I can forward this to Aaron*, but with out financial support from you, it is unlikely that we will feature.

Of course, I pointed out I WASN'T promising to advertise. I would merely consider it, based on how good a response we got from their coverage. Believe me, I can tell. I would see a feature on the writers and artist's behind our "official" comic-book sequel to the hugely popular Society feature film to be on a par with a feature on "the complete guide to Lost". No different.
Now, this brings me to the point of this blog. Which is, at what point did these publications choose to put a price tag on news from the small, independent, low-budget product-line.
Flicking through a few editions of Sci-fi Now, I didn’t see many advertisements from the major film, book or DVD distributors beside their reviews. I do see advertisements from indie companies, who DON’T have the backing of major corporations like Harper Collins or Sony Pictures.  
But I did see plenty of editorial coverage for both these companies and many, many more.
It made me wonder how the publication would they deal with a small British company if they got the comic-book rights to the True Blood series and didn’t have an advertising budget once they’ve parted with their cash for rights, artwork and production. By Madeleine’s reckoning, this would NOT appear in Sci-fi Now.
I’d say that a GOOD news story should be the key factor for the inclusion of the item in the publication. It’s been that way since my first day as a journalist and as far as I know, it’s still that way.
Over the last ten years, Rough Cut Comics have been given that opportunity by many understanding journalists from magazines and newspapers such as the Daily Mirror (who reckoned Rose Black was ‘out to get Lara Croft’ in a full page news item).
In her sales pitch, Madeleine told me Rough Cut Comics would get some editorial if I took a £450 advertisement in Sci-fi Now. So does that mean, they’d be giving a glowing ‘write-up’ to something they didn’t find worthy of coverage or review in a previous edition?
If I paid £1000, would I get a “first class” trip for one of our “poorly reviewed” titles?
It somewhat lessens the credibility of a publication.
I think this publication I mention is a unique case. I haven’t experienced anything like this with their rivals … but it could be the way the print media is going.
In the UK right now, there is a veritable slew of independent comic publishers which NEVER get their day in the metropolis sun.
That’s sad … for both the print medium I’ve loved and participated in for years, and the genre journalists who’ve been given the unique opportunity to be part of an industry beloved by millions of fans all over the world.
I vividly recall the day more than 20 years ago when a rag-tag bunch of writers and artists bungee-ed into the newspaper office I worked; touting their new home-grown publication. It wasn’t Watchmen or V for Vendetta … the big news stories of the day. It was a hard sell to my editor, but I lavished pages and pages on this very talented bunch of individuals.
The publication was Electric Soup … the fore-runner of Northern Lights and Wasted. And some of the artists in that posse were Frank Quitely (who was doing The Greens) and Dave Alexander. Somehow, I’m sure if Electric Soup was around today, it wouldn’t be getting any column inches by many of today’s genre journalists.
Rough Cut Comics and my fellow independent comic-book publishers are the Dark Horse Comics and the IDW Publishing of the future.
Right now, that’s acknowledged more by the internet news sites and media blogs
online … which, maybe just maybe, is dire proof of where the future WILL lie for your major news outlets.

In the meantime, I leave you with these thoughts:

*Aaron is Aaron Asadi, the Editor in Chief of Sci-fi Now which is published by Imagine Publishing.