SPACE WARP April 2019 © Pat Mills

SPACE WARP 4 (of 5) – SCHLOCK & AWE! FAQs

 

WILL OTHER WRITERS BE BROUGHT IN?
Possibly, but that has to be some way down the line. First, I need to write all the first episodes and more. Just as I did on 2000AD. It sets the tone. I edited the first 12 Progs of 2000AD before returning to freelance. And, as has been commented on by fans, there is a notable difference between those early Progs and the Progs that followed. But I can’t write all six collected story editions, or all the follow up stories. But I will outline them. Then, as on 2000AD, I will progressively hand them over to other writers.

However… Space Warp’s ethos cannot be varied to suit a new writer. That led to 2000AD’s problems in the 1990s and to its disastrous, pseudo-cool, ‘adult’ change of identity. So, whereas there is potential for different artists’ styles, there is not the same potential for writers, I’m afraid. You have to have a similar voice. So if you’re really a guy who wants to write for ‘adult’ or Vertigo-style comics, and you don’t really like what you see as merely ‘kids action comics’, it will show in your words and I’ll recognize it.

But right now I’m just not geared up to read submissions – so please don’t send me anything because I won’t reply. 

And it would probably be by invitation only – to writers I’m certain are kindred spirits. 

Later, when we get past Space Warp One, I will let everyone know that I’m up for submissions. Bear in mind I would also have to persuade the artist concerned that another writer is taking over their story and they need to be happy about that, too.

The writer would own the copyright on their episodes but not the IP, as it’s already established.  

WHAT ABOUT LETTERING?
My goal is to have the same standard as the original 2000AD, where the letterers added real touches of genius and passion! Who can forget Jack Potter’s lettering ‘Laugh this off, Twinkletoes’ (show panel) in Bill Savage?

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The excitement of that standard of hand lettering is long gone. When have we seen its like in recent times? Since those days, letterers have pointedly ignored my appeals to try to get back to that standard. Maybe because they weren’t being paid enough? That’s why I believe the current low budget lettering approach is simply wrong. It’s settling for fifth best.

Lettering needs to be seen as dynamic art once again and, ideally, that means hand lettering or its digital equivalent. 

Who can also forget the genius lettering of American Flagg by Ken Bruzenak? It’s embarrassing that anything remotely like this quality of lettering is now a distant memory. But we’re meant to be in the 21st century where there should be progress in all media.

I want Schlock Treatment lettering and I’m determined to get it. Artists may also be letterers and there may be new letterers out there who haven’t yet been ground down by the system. 

WHAT’S THE COVER AND THE MASTHEAD?
The cover illustration is likely to be Schlock as Slayer, dealing with a suitable threat. With the Warp behind him.

Schlock may also be represented as a small, possibly silhouette image with the masthead: SPACE WARP One.

More about the Masthead on the next blog, coming soon: Galactic Grunge.

I’m also thinking about a distinctive and different cover look that would come through via the masthead and the chosen story content. 

We certainly don’t want to look like anyone else.

WHEN WOULD I GET PAID?

As we said in Monetisation, there will be a minimum threshold of £50 before we pay out royalties. This is to keep our admin costs down.

But the good thing about indie publishing is that you’re not reliant on the schedule of a traditional publisher. Glenat, for example (my publisher on the French edition of Requiem Vampire Knight), pays every six months, three months in arrears. Rebellion (2000AD publisher) pays once a year, six months in arrears.

By contrast, here are the payment schedules we enjoy as indie publishers:

  • Comixology Submit (standard model) pays quarterly, 45 days in arrears.
  • Comixology Unlimited (subscription model) pays monthly, 45 days in arrears.
  • Amazon (print on demand and Kindle) pays monthly, two months in arrears.
  • Direct sales to bricks & mortar shops: we ask for our invoices to be paid within 14 days. We will pay artists within one week of receiving payment (allowing for the minimum threshold).

As a very rough estimate (don’t hold us to this), we should sell enough in the first month of launching to easily hit the £50 threshold.

I’D LOVE TO DO THIS, BUT I’M SKINT, WHAT CAN I DO?

If you’re taken on as a Space Warp artist, you’re welcome to offer private commissions of your characters. We’ll link to your platform from this site, so you’ll get a lot of traffic. It should help you significantly, given the going rate for commissions. Many artists supplement their strip-art work in this way.

Bear in mind: you will be the co-creator of an intellectual property: you will co-own the story for the rest of your days.

Even if you chose to walk away after six pages (Which I’d rather you didn’t, of course.) and another artist takes over your story, as co-creator, you’ll always receive a percentage of the royalties of their story. Unheard of in the UK, this is how the French publishing model works; by rewarding creators, even if they’ve moved on from their creation.

It’s why French comic books are so exceptional and so are their royalties, as I can personally confirm on my series Requiem Vampire Knight. It started out exactly like Space Warp with payment against royalties. There are now eleven volumes, a spin-off series, a game, and it sells all over the world. My Requiem royalties hugely exceed all my 2000AD royalties combined. They’re just not in the same league.

All creative endeavours involve risk. I’m taking a risk with this project, just as I did on Requiem. I’ve spent a lot of time, put a lot of energy, into creating the new worlds and characters for Space Warp: and that’s what it takes. This stuff doesn’t just happen overnight.

SO WHAT ARE READERS LOOKING FOR?

Based on reader feedback that drummed into me over the years, I would say: clear storytelling, strong science fiction, fantasy and occult themes, original ideas, great modern heroes, lots of action, lots of deaths, not too much chat, an element of mischief, subversion, an anti-authority stance, plus dark humour.

Nothing pretentious or ‘Vertigo’ (e.g. slower paced). Down to earth stories can still be thought-provoking. And brilliant, clear, dynamic, realistic artwork: not Manga and definitely not cartoony, with a strong sense of sequential art.

Not too weird but not too straight either. No confusing layouts where you need a degree in comics to figure out what picture to look at next. Stories that are accessible and instantly grab your attention.

And not traditional Marvel or DC art, so it doesn’t look like a superhero story.

Readers also want ‘The same but different.’ Familiar yet original stories. They don’t want obscure stories.

So stories need to correspond to classic sf genres – secret agents, future cops, future war, robots etc – but they are not facsimiles or satires of anything that has gone before.

To sum up, they want popular culture – sometimes sneered at as Schlock by snooty comic aficionados who prefer ‘graphic novels’.

And they also want Awe.

HOW DOES THE SPACE WARP WORK?
The space warp provides a collective theme and identity for the comic. Past anthology comics that crashed often didn’t have a theme, and that’s why they crashed.

There should be no oddball stories or stories that have a very different tone and subject matter to each other, as this encourages a negative and divisive ‘rival football team’ response in readers. This kind of thing happened all too often on 2000AD in the past.

It was particularly evident on on Crisis, where it was even actively encouraged at one point by editorial. 

It should feel like we’re all on the same team. And that’s the very ethos of indie publishing, which has a very supportive community that makes it a genuine pleasure to be a part of. I can’t speak highly enough about my experiences in the indie publishing community. Very different to conventional publishing, which is all too often old-school ‘them and us.’

If every creator has a stake in Space Warp, it will make it a competitive environment, but still a team effort.

The space warp event affects all the serials in the comic with the possibility of crossovers between characters in the future.

The warp emerges in different ways on each serial, as we shall see.

WHAT’S THE TONE? 
Although it has 70s aspects, it’s not a nostalgia exercise and we need to be aware of modern sensibilities, too. No females contorting their spines to simultaneously show behind and breasts, for example.

I think the violence level needs to be about the same as the original 2000AD. And there’s a subtext to the stories that legitimizes the pictures and stops them being gratuitous. Because real and very relevant issues are at stake.

As an example, the excellent and popular French series Game Over for kids and teenagers, shows cartoony but still lurid and black comedy ways that characters die over and over and over again. That’s all it is. It runs to 17 Volumes!

So I don’t think we should worry about our characters being eaten by dinosaurs, the dead coming back to life etc. Violence – black comedy or otherwise – is simply not an issue as far as I’m concerned.

Our stories should be edgy, exciting and dangerous – without being ‘adult’. That’s very different. 

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS DO YOU ANTICIPATE?
Artist problems. But that’s absolutely normal. 

Artist A might produce two brilliant pages, get an enthusiastic response from me, and then sit on the story, promising to complete it ‘definitely next week’, but they never do. It becomes mañana, or they disappear off the radar and can’t be contacted for weeks or even months. It becomes their ‘rainy day’ story while they do other work that provides a more immediate financial return. I completely understand their situation. But.

Meanwhile, Artist B is really keen to try out for the same story and he can’t, because it’s been ‘squirrelled’. I can’t let that happen. If a reasonable period of time has gone by with Artist A – say 2 months with no further pages – I would let Artist B try out, and if they complete six pages, then the story becomes theirs. 

Because it’s now become an unfortunate and very common practice for comic artists to squirrel stories in this way, once they know they’ve got the job. Editors often let them get away with it because they feel they have no alternative. This is because there aren’t suitable alternative artists available, and it’s a lot of hassle to replace them – and the artist knows this.

On 2000AD, I’ve recently had artists squirrel my stories for six months (then return the story undrawn), two years and, currently, four years and counting! That last one, undoubtedly, is the front-runner for the Artist Golden Squirrel Award.     

But on Space Warp, my nuts come first and I know to deal with this problem: by setting deadlines that I will stick to, no matter how much of a superstar in the making the artist may be.

There’s any number of similar problems, but they can usually be sorted out. 

Full transparency is the answer – so everyone knows where they stand.

WHERE DOES SCHLOCK FIT IN?
The mysterious and very sinister looking Alien robot Schlock has established his HQ in a Black Monolith building that towers over London….

He has a highly polished, metallic, rounded, cruel, pointed face, pointed like the sinister nose cone of an aircraft. Large horn-like wings – shaped like a delta-winged airplane – project out from the sides of his head and he has no facial features. This gives him a cold, disdainful, arrogant, aloof, alien appearance.  

Grégory Makles’ preliminary sketch for Future Schlock characters and spaceship for Gryyym magazine

In close-up there are indications that Schlock has been battered, dented, pockmarked, even a little corroded, suggesting that he has been in existence for thousands, even millions of years.

Very mysterious.Whatever technology made him, it was not human. There are no straight lines or mechanical aspects to Schlock.

He is the comic’s editor and he explains further as he talks to us from the editorial pages of Space Warp One. He describes, and we will see, the strange cosmic event that takes place far beyond the solar system but has its impact on Earth, changing all our lives:

‘The Space Warp is coming and you must prepare yourselves. As best you can. As your reality breaks down, I will be here to help in the dark days that lie ahead of you.’

Schlock continues in this style, with suitable black humour asides.

More details on Schlock/Slayer copyright in T&C, Social Media, Marketing and Copyright.

WHERE DOES READ ‘EM AND WEEP FIT IN?
Space Warp was first featured in Goodnight, John-boy (Book 2 of the Read Em And Weep novel series). The novel described the Black Monolith building and how the editorial team were bringing back the legendary space hero Dan Darwin.

Dan Darwin is unlikely to appear in our one-shot comic for reasons featured in Goodnight, John-boy. Even though he will be in the Read Em and Weep imaginary version of Space Warp.

Other than that, the story line-up will be the same.

The Grim Reader, the third Read Em novel I’m currently writing, will be all about Space Warp.

For instance, Joy wants Jurassic Man to be set in her city – Glasgow, rather than Liverpool. But Dave says no. He doesn’t think that would be fair on the dinosaurs.

The imaginary Space Warp in Read Em and Weep will have the usual free gifts you might expect:

Issue One: Dan Darwin’s Spaceship. A red plastic ‘spacecraft’ – previously given away as the ‘Super-Nuker’ in Aaagh!

Due to a cock-up in the free gifts department, they over-ordered 300,000 Super Nukers, which are lying in a warehouse in Dartford. So to get rid of them, the aircraft has been renamed as Dan’s spaceship!

I did this because I wanted to reflect the realities of comic publishing. This kind of cock-up happened all the time.

Thus, in my imaginary universe the original plan for the first free gift was a Hellbreaker paper mask – featuring an escapee from Hell with his face partly burnt off – but this was turned down by the Fleetpit board as being too scary.

Issue Two: Bullet wound stickers – in various shapes and sizes with flesh torn away – so the reader can look like Agent Impossible.

Issue Three: Space Warp Identity Discs (stickers) with images of key characters and slogans like ‘Are you Warped yet?’ and ‘Do not adjust your Reality.’

I wish we really could have those bullet wound stickers as a free gift in our real Space Warp! I know kids would love them. But it would take too much setting up. Maybe another time.

WHAT’S THE NEXT MOVE?
The Masthead. We’re keeping a video diary of all major developments on the project. So on the next blog you’ll see clips of us talking through ideas for the look.

Artists are very welcome to add similar video clips of their experiences – even if their samples don’t make the final cut.

Coming soon: The Masthead: Galactic Grunge

#spacewarp

MORE QUESTIONS? LEAVE A COMMENT AND WE’LL ANSWER!

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3 Comments

  1. Attila Kiss

    The project sounds very interesting, Pat.
    Looking forward to its development.

    Reply
  2. Dylan

    Hi Pat,

    Odd question but is there any chance you might write a post on how and when to use humour in comics? I don’t mean slapstick or comedy strips but the type of humour that was evident in early 2000ad? I think that’s an element that is missing hugely in most modern day comics!

    Thank you for your storyteller blog and this very transparent and interesting insight into indie publishing – I wish you and your team the best of luck with it,

    Dylan

    Reply
  3. james newell

    Question: Are you looking for artists, is there submission guide lines or try out script page?
    Interesting project, thanks Pat.

    Reply

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