One of the greatest things about running a comic shop in Cheltenham has been the diverse mix of creative people I've met here. There's my fellow bloggers; the fine folk at Judder; the amazing festivals like the Literature Festival and the upcoming Film Festival and Comedy Festival in November; and the many writers that have made this little Regency town their home.
The internet and ereaders like the Kindle and the iPad are changing the world of fiction - giving a generation of talented writers a chance to bring their work to an appreciative audience in a way that might have been stifled by publishers in the past. For example, our very own D Kai Wilson-Viola is poised to self-publish her next novel, Glass Block, and former contributor Martin Smith edited an anthology called The Redundancy Of Flightless Birds.
Elswehere, local comics writer Jon Lock has been blazing a trail on the internet with his own website jonlock.com. Having previously contributed to other works such as the Dead Roots anthology and Unique Tales, he's spent much of this year working on his own universe - the wonderful Afterlife, Inc.
Elementary, the latest chapter of Dying To Tell - a series set in the world of Afterlife Inc. - went live this week and I had chance to catch up with Jon soon after.
Ben Fardon: Jon, your webcomic Afterlife Inc. is a wonderful mix of fantasy, action, humour, corporate intrigue and mythology. What can new readers expect from the chapters of Dying To Tell?
Jon Lock: When corporate con-artist Jack Fortune’s life comes to an abrupt and brutal end, he finds himself in the Empyrean, a bizarre afterlife that has recently been struck by a mysterious Calamity. Never one to miss a business opportunity, Jack reinvents the afterlife as a modern day corporation, stealing fire from the gods to sell back at a profit. Hence Afterlife Inc. “A Company You Can Believe In.”
Jack’s rise to power, and the subsequent challenges facing his company, is a story for the future. With Dying to Tell, however, I wanted to present snapshots of Jack’s new afterlife as seen through the eyes of the deceased souls arriving on its doorstep. Be it sentient computer programs, stars of the silver screen, world leaders or fictional detectives, if they lived, they can die, and that places them firmly in Afterlife Inc.’s domain.
BF: I can see influences from a broad range of comic creators from stalwarts like Neil Gaiman to newcomers like Jonathan Hickman. There's definitely a vibe akin to Atomic Robo or early Hellboy in the energy within the pages. What has influenced you?
JL: Grant Morrison will always be the dark totem to which I aspire, but Warren Ellis’ work on Planetary has been a massive inspiration in terms of narrative style and sheer inventiveness. Atomic Robo – my latest love – is pure comic book magic. Writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener are, to me, the ultimate success story for an independent, non-superhero comic. If I can match just a fraction of the energy, humour and emotion they bring to their work, I will consider myself a very happy man indeed.
BF: Do you specifically listen to any music when thinking of Afterlife Inc.?
JL: Music also plays a massive part in bringing Afterlife Inc. to life. Ok Go, LCD Soundsystem, David Bowie... I love any music that tries something different and then waits for the rest of the world to catch up. But, if Jack Fortune is anything to go by, I may have a slight bias towards snappy dressers...
BF: What do you feel has been the biggest challenge in getting a webcomic out into the world? What advice would you give other creators considering producing a webcomic?
JL: The hardest part – alongside trying to generate interest in your stories – has been operating in a bubble. As a writer or artist working alone, it can be all too easy to miss out on meeting like-minded people and other aspiring creators. The greatest part of producing Dying to Tell has been the friends I’ve made through the internet, or at UK comics events such as Launch Pad, Kapow and Birmingham Comicon. There’s strength in numbers. Get out there, meet people, and you can’t help but grow in your craft.
Jon is currently putting the finishing touches on his entry to the Observer/Comica Short Comic competition, colloboarating with artist Jade Sarson. There are also more Dying To Tell stories due this year, then in 2012 Afterlife Inc. will return with a new series Near Life, which will be debuting on the site in January. Unlike Dying to Tell, which dealt with a wide range of characters and situations, Near Life focuses on the core team of Afterlife Inc. – Jack’s board of directors – as the company repels an assault on the afterlife by the US Government.
Jon was kind enough to provide us with some exclusive new preview art from Near Life. Check it out!
Don't forget to check out Elementary and the rest of Dying To Tell.
Ben Fardon is loving the idea of the transformative powers of fountain water and is already a Nuriel fanboy!