20/4/17: Two conventions back to back in the next two weeks so please come by and say hi if you are lucky enough to be in the neighbourhood. First up is the Birmingham Comic Con at Edgbaston Cricket Ground on April 29th. A great mix of comics and pop culture, there are loads of comic guests as well as some very cool small press including my comic besties Chris Sides and Jay Martin. Following that on May 6th is the very first Oldham Comic Con being hosted at the huge and very cool Oldham Libarary. This one is free to everyone and the main focus is on comics and reading so don't miss out if you live in the North!
The first full year of trying to be a comic book writer and it has been full to the brim with learning and experiences (no such thing as a bad experience!!). Right at the start of the year on a night out with Chris Sides and Jay Martin, we talked about setting targets for the year and what we hoped to achieve in 2016. As a bit of recap blog piece I thought I'd use those targets as some mildly interesting headings to refect on what the year threw at me and all the wonderful people I got to work with!
Getting BB#2 funded and published was right up there as top priority for me personally. Always the difficult second album, I wanted to continue the story of Newton and prove I wasn't the Chesney Hawkes of small press comics. This time round it involved a much larger art team with Luca Cicchitti, Santiago Ramos and Rob Jones on board to help us get the comic out a little quicker and give a more polished look to the book. Along with Phil's awesome pencils, we got it released at London MCM after another successful Kickstarter funded by some amazing people who I can never thank enough. I still owe a few beers and man hugs to quite a few people so make sure you come and see me at the conventiosn in 2017. BB#3 is defintely going to be a target for next year.
The mighty Chris Sides is a veteran of the anthology story. As well as publishing his own anthologies (Dark Matter 1 and 2) he has featured in numerous other anthologies and it was he alone who helped me realise that this was an important goal to achieve. Anthologies give new creators a great platform to show what they can do without the stresses of publishing a book themselves. My goal was to get into one book but I was very lucky to get into three books!
Sliced Quarterly is currently a digital only book and is filled with slice of life stories. After speaking to its creator and editor Ken Reynolds, I penned a short story called Crowdsurfing which amazingly, Ken liked. I teamed up with the brilliant Rory Donald who did 2 pages of beautiful and haunting artwork that gave the story all the meaining I hoped it would. Ken even did the letters for us and its the opening story of Sliced Quarterly #3 and with it being my first published anthology, I am very very proud of this one. Huge thanks to Ken and Rory.
The British Showcase Anthology was looking for creators for the second edition so I wrote a little horror/com story to see if Adam Cheal the editor may consdier it. He actually did (my first horror story so wasn't exepcting the thumbs up) and I managed to get the brilliant Sophie Traves to do the illustrations. It was Sophie's first attempt at sequential art and to be honest...she absolutely nailed it and I can't wait to work with her again (we do have a little something in the slow cooker). Viscount Vincenzo Hunt of the Awesome Comics Podcast and The Red Mask of Mars put some incredible letters in the panels to make it look perfect and you can now pick up a copy from the link above or giving me a message on here. Thank you Sophie and Vince, beers are on me.
Last and by no means least is the Comichaus anthology story Suited and Booted. Being approached to write a story is something I never thought would happen and there's a pretty good chance it'll never happen again, but when Pete Genepool and James Mculloch did, I almost wet myself. The Comichaus anthology is now at issue 3 with artwork done by the fantastic Dangerous Dan Butcher from the Awesome Comics Podcast, Vanguard webcomic and the new Hawk and Cleaver book El Marvo. Its a four part story so not just an anthology story but a serilaised story is something I didn't even dream of at the start of 2016. It is packed with other stories by some amazing creators and I can't thank everyone involved with us enough. Beers AND curry on me.
How pretentious does this sound! Book deal...who the flip do you think you are pal?? It was a pie in the sky target but if you don't aim high you'll never top the ladder. But I had a story which I thought was good enough to warrant such lofty ambitions but I needed an artist. Then a meeting with the huge talent Grant Richards made it all possible and before you could say 'NDA' we had a deal with Markosia Enterprises to make the comic "AWAY'!! A one shot story with art by Gorgeous Grant Richards, colours by Despicable Darren Stephens and letters by Ravishing Rob Jones (Madius Comics). This one is still in production and should be available at some point in 2017 and a huge thanks to Harry Markos for giving us the opportunity to achieve not only a target but a dream as well. More info on this in the New Year.
Meeting up with other creators is what its all about in my opinion. I have met so many incredible people this past year that I couldn't mention all of them without getting a blister on my typing finger!! Forming a small press collective was acheived though and along with the aforementioned Chris Sides, Jay Martin, Chris Travell and Phil Woodward we put Close 2 Immortality on the map. We hit the circuit hard and made a brand that was starting to be recognised for quality books and a positive attitude backed up with supporting our fellow small press mates. With Phil having to deal with some private issues and taking a step back, Sidesy, Jay and myself worked our socks off on the convention circuit to make it a coollective (not a typo) to be taken seriously. But like a shortlived supernova, late in the year it was clear we had a different view on the direction we wanted the collective to take. Phil has a firm on eye on a multi media direction whereas the rest of us only want to write and create brilliant comic books for the small press and possibly for some of the bigger boys in the future, so we parted ways. But keep an eye out in the future for something special next year as we look to produce a comic focused but perfect team of super powered writers and artists promoting and supporting each other on this tough but hugely enjoybale journey. Thanks Chris and Jay, brothers in comic arms forever...too soppy??
Above are some little teasers from the comics I hope to get out into the big wide world next year. It has been a brilliant year and I will be setting some new targets very soon. With AWAY coming out, Brethren Born #3, issue 4 of the Comichaus Anthology and the awesome Late Knights: A Sense of Story with my main man Matt Strott, the future is looking like what I really hoped for...more chances to make comics with brilliant people. Thanks to each and every one of you who have helped, supported and enjoyed any of the comics I have been involved with. Here's to 2017.
Special thanks to: Phil Knibbs, Rob Jones, Chris Sides, Jay Martin, Ken Reynolds, Dan Butcher, Rory Donald, Grant Richards, Darren Stephens, Sophie Traves, Vince Hunt, Chris Imber, Comic Printing UK, Pete Genepool, James Mculloch, Matt Strott, Awesome Comics Podcast, Harry Markos, Santiago Ramos, John Freeman, Tony Esmond.
18/11/16: Exciting times ahead as I can reveal an all ages comic book in development in collaboration with American artist Matt Strott. Late Knights: A Sense of Steel follows a modern day family descended from the Knights Templar who are now super secret spys keeping the world safe. By day, they try to live a normal life with all the normal adventures a family can have. Matt Strott has a real old school art style which suits the story perfectly and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do with this brilliant set of characters. But that's not all...oh no! As part of my plan of trying to get children to read more, we will be launching a competition for kids to design a character that will be used in the comic itself!! More details to follow soon but if its something you think your kids, nephews, grandkids or friends may like to be involved with, please stay tuned for more information. Follow me on Twitter @level8comics to keep up to date as well. JL
31/10/11 Nottingham Comic Con was a blast! A brilliant 1 day event organised by Kev and Kel Brett and in a perfect venue, some of the best small press creators were on show with some amazing comic guests as well. I was joined by the incredible Sophie Traves and two of my closest mates, Stu and Tony.
I released Brethren Born #1 at this con last year so it will always have a special place in my heart. The return readers of Brethren Born were amazing with some lovely feedback from the locals of Nottingham and spurred on the writing of Brethren Born #3. It was great to see all of my small press buddies as well as make a few new ones so its now a 2 week wait until Birmingham MCM on the 19th/20th November, my last con of the year. Would be great to see you there. JL
Well its been a fairly relaxed summer but that is a thing of the past!! The list of projects right now is getting longer by the week as I try and find the biggest and best artists to work on some of the stories flooding from head!! Above are a few little teasers of some of the talent I'm working with. Rory Donald (who illustrated the short story 'Crowdsurfing' in Sliced Quarterly) has succumbed to my charms and agreed to do the art for a six page pitch project and the first two pages look amazing already at the pencils stage. A brutal opening will lay the path for a story with a rich vein of dark humour throughout. Sophie Traves has sent me over some ridiculously good character development sketches for another idea with the working title of 'The Basics'...a clash of science, history and religion bringing you a tale of war and inner demons. Grant Richards continues to smash the illustration world apart with amazing work coming for our biggie....AWAY being published through Markosia. The above inks with the deer in are an absolute joy to behold. I'm also working with Matt Strott (Mesycomics) on an all ages story I have a concept page or two for and this guy gets better with every page he does. So with the Comichaus anthology series doing well, the British Showcase Anthology Vol 2 coming out at Thought Bubble and Brethren Born #3 still being written, all cylinders are firing and I'm loving it. Time for a beer.
25/4/16: May 7th is a big day in the world of comics as it's Free Comic Book Day! It does exactly what it says on the tin and all the big publishers put a whole range of comics out there for people to get for free and introduce them to the stories inside. I will be making an appearance at the brilliant Hide N Geek in Worcester on the day with Brethren Born and the Close 2 Immortality Free comic book for anyone who wants one!! Should be a great day so please come along and say hi. Don't forget to but a comic or two as well as the comic stores still have to buy the "Free" ones in. Any questions message me on here or on Facebook. JL
20/4/16: This week I had the huge priviledge of being on the amazing Awesome Comics Podcast hosted by the briliant team of Vince Hunt, Tony Esmond and Dan Butcher. We talked about a whole range of small press goodness and had an absolute blast. You can listen to the podcast here and try and not to be offended by our naughty words and off on a tangent conversations.
13/12/15 With the run up to the best time of the year (Star Wars: The Force Awakens being released) we are writing and developing several projects with some amazing people involved. Here is a rundown on what's happening:
Brethren Born #2: Our flagship title's second installment is well underway and the art team (Knibbs, Cicchitti, Ramos) are busy doing their thing! From what I have seen so far Issue#2 is going to be fantastic and a fine edition to the series.
"Away" Book One: This project just keeps getting better and better. Grant Richards is an immense talent and the art he has produced so far will make you sit up and spit out your (insert favourite beverage here). We are hoping to get this one noticed by a publisher or two. Fingers and toes crossed.
Anthology Stories: I have a couple of stories in development that I hope to submit to some exciting anthologies being published next year. These books showcase up and coming talent as well as some established writers and artists and it would be an amazing opportunity to be chosen to be involved. My submission to the recent Millarworld 2106 Annual was given the all clear and myself as well as over a thousand other writers and artists await to see who made the cut.
Strong Arm George (S.A.G): A brand new and exciting change of style and direction with this mature reader comedy comic strip. I have teamed up with Dan Butcher @VanguardComic, an established artist noted for his amazing webcomic Vanguard and being one of the brilliant hosts on the Awesome Comics Podcast . Really excited to try something different with inspiration from people like Vince Hunt (Stalkerville) and the legend Lew Stringer. A tongue in cheek look at the ever-growing Superhero genre with a few anti-bullying messages thrown in. Dan has sent a couple of character sketches over already and it looks brilliant.
As well as a few more ideas slowly brewing, we can't wait for 2016 and see where the next part of the journey takes us all. Have a great Xmas guys and very happy New Year.
5/11/15 October 24th 2015 will be a day to remember for us here at Level 8 Comics. On this very prestigous day we officially launched issue 1 of Brethren Born at the 3rd Nottingham ComicCon and boy did we have a good time. Even the weather (it literally rained all day) couldn't dampen our and everybody else's spirits with all the amazing guests and fans ready for a day of comic fun. The table was set up early on after bumping into some old friends and making a few new ones and we couldn't wait to meet the public. The weather may have put off a few people but the crowds steadily grew and the first few customers stopped by for a chat and to peruse the various items on the Brethren Born table. Aided by my good friend Tony Pritchard, we sold our first few copies of the comic and we found our groove and they started to fly off the shelves/tabletop/table cloth! By the end of the day we had sold over 5 times our projected figures so a wonderful day for so many reasons. I got to meet and chat briefly with the awesome Marvel artist Marc Laming who even signed a couple of Planet Hulk comics I shoved in his face. The guys from the Awesome Comics Podcast were also there (apart from Dan) and I had a good laugh as well as do a mini interview with them that was featured the following week on the show. Along with loads of other small press creators such as Baden Mellonie, Marc Ducrow and the guys from Redshift Press (Chris and Chris) the day was a huge success and I can't wait to attend next year as well. One other bonus of the day, I got to talk to artist Grant Richards who I am working with on a brand new project. He showed me some sketches from the first few pages of script and it looks unbelievable.
28/7/15: Crowdfunding is fast becoming the best way to fund a self published comic not just in the UK but worldwide. There are various platforms with the two most popular, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, having at any one time hundreds of comic and graphic novel campaigns vying for your attention and money. Many are first time projects from unknown but dedicated wrtiters and artists but there are also many on there from established artists who have decided that crowdfunding is the best form of launching new and sometimes well known comics. Instead of going to the bank or larger publishing houses for funding, they turn to the customers...the comic fans and readers to help get them where they need to be to produce their works of art and turn dreams into reality. This was the route I took to launch Brethern Born and start this amazing journey.
But, there are pitfalls to this form of fundraising. If you don't reach your target figure, you get zero money. Zip. Nowt. De Nada. Then it may be a knock on the bank managers door, improve your pitch to the big boy publishers or getting a newspaper round to keep the dream alive. There are loads of websites, videos and articles out there that give advice on how to produce a succesful campaign and get the funding you want. Having been through it and getting over double the amount I had been looking for, I have put together some quick tips in how to give yourself the best chance of success in getting a comic crowdfunded. Here are the first two.
1: Research, research, research: This is my first and maybe most important tip. I'm not going to talk about your comic idea as you will probably have that in your head and ready to rock. Research everything. Firstly the varied crowdfunding platforms available. Look at the success rates for comics, what the platform charges for their services and the terms and conditions they list. Then look at the type of comics that are successful. Will yours fit in?
2: Promotion: Be patient. That comic idea is probably burtsing out of your head or already drawn, inked, coloured and fully scripted. If you just go for it straight away and start your project there is a very very good chance you won't be successful. I promoted my comic for over 4 months before I started the campaign. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media you are hooked up to. Even getting an editorial done in local newspapers can help get the message out there and boost your chances of being successful. All of this is before you even launch. You have got to double your efforts when it's live and keep it up, treading the fine line between keeping it interesting to your target audience and not being the annoying spammer git!!!
3: Make the Kickstarter Campaign Page Awesome: You have got people to your page and now you have to wow them to convince them your comic is worthy! Make use of all the tools available. Make a video. Not too long but explaining what you are doing and how you're going to make it happen with a few little teasers of the comic artwork. Use pictures to help explain the comic story, what is it about and who is involved. Include a little bit about yourself as well so the backers can relate not just to the story but to you as well.
4: Rewards: This is the business end and can make or break your campaign. Be too stingy and you'll have them running. Be too generous and you'll go bust. Us comic folk normally like the same things so signed stuff, variant covers, original artwork and anything else that would turn a collectors head that will compliment your story. The star of the show should always be the comic but if you offer things like being in the comic as a character you can attract people and get them to invest a lot of funding. It's not an exhaustive list and only limited by your imagination. But don't don't offer too many different reward levels...too much choice get the potential backers running for the hills. Ask a few friends to preview your page first for some honest opinions.
5: Regular Updates: Don't be quiet. Regular updates will keep your backers happy and show them that you care. They have been amazing already pledging money to help you and your dream so let them know what you are doing, how the comic is going and if any stretch goals have been reached. This will also show potential backers that you are constantly working and providing even more bang for their buck.
Those are my top five tips on making your project a success. There are loads more out there in the www so getting googling for even more advice. These are what made Brethren Born smash through our target and produce an actual comic that I am so proud of. If you take the plunge, good luck and make it the best you can.
I wrote a short article for Bleedingcool.com which you can read if you follow this link: Bleeding Cool.com article. I felt it was a great website to get involved with and if I could inspire a few others to not just follow their dreams but to grab them by the neck, get em in a headlock and show em who's the boss I will have achieved something special!! Jon.
One of the best ways of finding out about some of the best kept secrets in the comic world is listening to podcasts. Below are some links to podcasts that regularly post. Go check them out and let them know Level 8 Comics sent you to them!!
Hide and Geek Podcast: Simon Cooper runs comic Shop Hide N Geek in Worcester, England. His podcast covers all things geek including comics and role play games.
Awesome Comics Podcast: A great podcast hosted by several small press and indie artists. Vince Hunt, Dan Butcher and Tony Esmond and usually some special guests talk comics and manage to be very funny at the same time!!
Games and Graphics Podcast: These guys are from the USA and are great fun to listen to. Friend of Level 8 Comics Rees Finlay from Damn Dirty Comics is a regular guest reviewer.