The 2nd person I interviewed a Birmingham Comic Con was Jeremy Biggs of Subversive Comics, who was there with 2 very different books – Bearlands and Metal Made Flesh.
Your here at Comic Con with 2 titles, do you want to tell me about Bearlands first?
Sure, BEARLANDS is a story of zombie bears which is basically a pastiche of zombie films and post-apocalyptic fiction, all thrown into a big mix, as told through the medium of anthropomorphic bears!
Great! I see you have the zombified Winnie the Pooh, and various other bears on the stand. Are you selling those as well?
Yep, they’re made by myself and my 2 friends Helen & Virginia, and we all get together and make zombie teddy bears!
What’s the other book you’ve got here?
That’s METAL MADE FLESH. It’s a cyberpunk story. It’s traditional cyberpunk in that it draws from things like Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer, Blade Runner, all that kinda stuff, but bought a little bit up-to-date.
Who’s the artist for Metal Made Flesh?
It’s an incredible artist called Simeon Aston, who I met at my very first convention when he showed me his portfolio. He’s a very shy guy, but he showed me his folio and I was blown away by. Just incredible pencil work. So I asked “who are you working for now?”, thinking he’d say Marvel or DC, and he said he’d just come back from travelling, and wanted to get into it, but wasn’t very confident. So, we got together and started talking about trying to build a world around these drawing he’d been doing. He already had some story ideas, and had written a story, but he’s not a writer, so we took some of the basic story and made it into 3 short stories – Metal, Made, and Flesh.
And what are the stories about?
The idea is that humanity has been chased to the brink of extinction by this terrible, unyielding force called The Veil. The humans have taken refuge on a hostile world, which is full of alien gangsters, all kinds of creeps and weirdos.
The main protagonist in one of the stories – although she’s not a prostitute herself, she’s surviving by providing protection for prostitutes. She’s a cyborg, an ex-solider wounded in the war, so she’s stopping rowdy clients, and making sure the girls don’t get killed.
In the 2nd story, the main character is a semi-psychopathic assassin, who’s really only out for himself, and lives for drugs, and the hedonistic lifestyle. He’s contracted to take out a hit on a famous celebrity who is very well protected, so in order to get close to him, he has his consciousness transferred from his own body to the body of a synthetic child…
The 3rd story is about a human, who has been chosen as the, sort of, token representative for the human population on the new planet, so has basically become royalty. But as a human prince, human royalty is seen as the lowest of the low, so very poor… They’re spokespeople, but aren’t living the high life. He’s in a relative golden cage, but very dissatisfied by the way he’s living. And then something comes along which… changes that… in the worse way… or possibly the best, depending on how you look at it! If you read the book, you’ll know what I mean!
They are 3 very colourful characters, each with their own kind of trials, from different parts of society, who are all having to survive in the very hostile environment. The stories are separate, but actually connected. So you can read them individually, but if you read all 3, you’ll notice little threads that run thought them all. We are going to pick up on those threads and take them forward into a continuing series.
That sounds awesome! You’re the writer on METAL MADE FLESH & BEARLANDS?
Yes, I write Bearlands with Bakki, who’s the artist, and Metal Made Flesh with Simeon. The work on Metal Made Flesh is much more collaborative, where as with Bearlands I just write the script and send it off to Bakki.
How did you end up working with Bakki on Bearlands?
Bakki is based in the far east, so I actually met her through an online forum (Zwol i think), but we got talking, and I liked her artwork. We weren’t intending to do Bearlands together originally. I was actually working on another scifi story. Bakki’s art wasn’t really suitable for it, but I loved what she did, and her take on things. For someone who’s not a native English speaker, she has a great sense of British humour. Really funny. Anyway, I had a convention coming up to promote a film (my background was in film originally), helping some friends out, and I’d always wanted write a comic, so I suggested it to Bakki, and we pulled together a small, 8 page book of Zombie Bears, really just to see if people were interested. We were on my friends film table, and I had a pile of the issues on the side. And people just kept coming and looking, going “Ooh zombie bears!”… And then coming back and looking again… and again… and I realised we were on to something, so it just grew from that.
So, you mentioned your background was in film originally?
Well, at university I studied music and sound design. So when I first moved to London in 2001 I set up a ‘musician’s meeting group’ for various people that were into music or in the industry. We became friends and hung out. I ended up sharing a house with one of the guys, and we were in a band for a bit. He was working for Channel 4 as a programmer, and was a bit bored. He went on holiday to Thailand one year, and came back saying “I want to become a film composer!”. So gave up his job, and worked really really hard to try and do it, and I kinda got dragged along because of my background. I’ve not worked on anything really big. Biggest was a film called ‘The Dead‘ about zombies in Africa! That was with Andrew Wilkinson, the sound designer on V for Vendetta, Love Actually and 28 Days Later. But then, I’d always been into comics, and written my own stories, so that kind of took over for me!