Now that 2013 is winding up it's time for a wee retrospective. Something to look over what I've done and failed to do, something to appreciate some of the unexpected opportunities that have come my way and consolidate some plans for the year ahead.
This year I brought out two new comics, both in collaboration with the mighty Iain Laurie, and rather unusual beasts they were.
First up was Metrodome. Metrodome was a long and involved process at every stage, partly due to the unconventional nature of our collaboration on it and partly due to the extremely detailed task it proved to be to collate and finalise, and it seemed to take forever to bring to completion. So it was a challenge to complete and a relief to finally put it out into the world! I'm pleased to say it's been very well received, broadly speaking the reviews have been great and I've had all sorts of excited feedback from friends and other small press colleagues, so I reckon in the end me we be pretty pleased with this unruly book. There's a little something extra for Metrodome to come, so look out in early 2014.
About a month later I released Crawl Hole, the spiritual cousin to Roachwell and a collection of various experimental surreal horror strips from across the years. These strips in this collected format had been my plan for a few years, and while it's a strip or two slimmer than I'd planned, it's great to have this out there and finally feel that this part of my work is brought to a kind of conclusion. It seems to have gone down very well, and I'm particularly proud of this book. While I expect I'll do work of a similar sort in future, this feels like the Roachwell / Crawl Hole axis of evil brought to a solid close.
This year was also a bit of an achievement in that I finally got into the frenetic world of selling my comics at conventions and events. I had a little warm up in selling Metrodome at the Glasgow Comic Con, where John Lees kindly invited me to perch on his table. But the first major event on my own was the excellent Stripped Fest as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Something unexpected that came alongside Stripped, and I've no idea how this came about, is that I was invited to take part in a special 'comics edition' of the famed Literary Death Match, with none other than Neil Gaiman as a judge. I've written about it in detail here, but needless to say it was a nerve-wracking and extraordinary experience that was hugely enjoyable and just great to be involved in. Certainly the coolest thing that happened to me, comics wise, for the year.
Stripped itself was a really enjoyable show in a truly lovely set of halls. We were all ridiculously well looked after by the Book Festival and its staff, and it was a great first foray into the world of selling at conventions.
Following that - MCM Glasgow. None of us really knew what to expect of it, but we did not expect the astounding attendance that resulted. I had an excellent day, selling comics and chatting with cool folks and admiring the brilliant costumes going on. I have to say that I was hugely impressed by the crowd, despite a three-odd hour wait in intermittent rain the positivity and good humour on show was really something. Plus I met this guy:
Lastly the mighty Thought Bubble. It was quite an experience, as was my Sunday hangover. All in all I had a great time, I sold better than I expected to, and had the opportunity to finally meet in person lots of friends I know from being in anthologies with, Twitter, Facebook and all. And the huge variety and quality of work on offer was simply fantastic. I suppose the scale of the event is, for an exhibitor, both a positive and a negative. In that there's very little time to get away from your table and in that time, there's so many people's work to look into and events and talks on, it's impossible to make much of a dent in what you'd like to see. Similarly I wonder, with the number of exhibitors, can it be possible that enough punters come in the door with enough money to not send many an exhibitor home short of breaking even? But all that's for wider discussion, and it was a great weekend.
Rounding out the year nicely, I was asked to do a reading for the recent inaugural event for a new Scottish outfit the Speculative Bookshop. Myself and four other local writers discussed our work and did readings, for my part I discussed Roachwell, it's conception and some of the ideas therein, and the wider freedoms and limitations of small press comics, then finished with a spoken word version of a Roachwell strip that never was. The highlight of the night was Stephen Goodall's excellent and dread-inducing reading that linked to his Institute for Marine Research Comic. Do check that out! Kudos to Jen and Dale for running a great event with enthusiasm and professionalism, keep an eye on those guys.
So despite not feeling so, it's been a pretty productive year and I've been able to do some pretty cool things. And with those two long-gestating comics out now, the cupboards are bare. So I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and hoping between my young family and compressed working week I can find a little more time a little more regularly. I've got two (or maybe three, if there's an appetite for Haunted Bowels: Volume II) projects at various stages, all of which will be longer and more substantial undertakings. You may even see me flirt with crazy notions such as character and plot...!
Lastly I'd like to thank my collaborators over the years, in particular Iain, and the various reviewers for the time and effort they put into critical assessment of small press work, and the various friends and colleagues who've read and been supportive of my comics. Thanks all!