It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Having won the 2000 AD writing competition at Thought Bubble in 2015, Irish writer Rory McConville has kept a low profile, but certainly not for want of talent.
McConville is – hands down – one of the best, most inventive writers to emerge from 2000 AD in the last five years!
Since joining the Prog’s regular talent pool, McConville’s genius for crazed concepts – edible education, reality-altering parental controls, wearable tech that ticks off the minutes until the owner’s demise – has found fertile ground in strips including Tharg’s Future Shocks, Judge Dredd, Devlin Waugh and Tales from the Black Museum. Dense, clever and frequently hilarious, McConville’s contributions to the Prog remain criminally undervalued.
Surprisingly, the writer takes a different path with this, his first creator-owned comic, setting aside his brilliance for left-field sci-fi in favour of something quieter but no less assured.
Write It In Blood #1 (of 4) is a simmering neo-noir co-created by artist Joe Palmer. (Another obscure talent who won a Thought Bubble art competition in the same year as McConville; they went on to work together on the 2016 Tharg’s Future Shock entitled Lifosuction.)
Two aimless middle-aged thugs – Arthur and Cosmo Pryce – are finishing up one last job beneath the baking Texas sun. Next stop retirement! Cosmo is already daydreaming about what he’ll do next, while Arthur broods over private troubles. Neither sibling possesses any real idea about where their lives are heading, but you can already feel the spectre of tragedy ready to offer some suggestions.
Sure enough, as they head back to base with a hostage crimelord named Little Harkness stashed in the trunk, the Pryce boys run into an angry reminder of their sordid past. This revelation ends in blood and with the brothers now facing the high road to oblivion.
Set in a similar deadpan crime-verse to the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, Write It In Blood is a great example of how moving away from the five-page instalments of 2000 AD can prove a real test of talent. More pages means more ambitious stories. More panels allows for a wider vocabulary of transitions now you’re no longer focused solely on driving the story. How the writer chooses to spend all that lovely extra space often proves the true measure of a 2000 AD alumni.
A less controlled writer might have gone hog wild, blown all that space on flashy one-panel pages and double-page spreads covered in stacks of declarative captions. But McConville maintains his focus and zeroes in on a host of telling details. He spends a lot of that panel count on subtle moment-to-moment and aspect-to-aspect transitions, deepening the tense relationship between the two brothers, revealing twitches of anger, a sudden darkening of an expression that belies the savagery beneath a smile. It’s close, vivid, novelistic stuff and a testament to McConville’s maturity and skill.
Now about that art. Joe Palmer’s bold, stark cartooning feels somewhere in the region of Colin McNeil and Bruce Timm. Blocks of shadow lurk in every panel, threatening to drown the feckless protagonists the second they step out of the light. Palmer conveys their sense of aimlessness especially well in a later scene set in a benighted gas station, the surrounding darkness merging into a sea of unreachable stars.
Chris O’Halloran’s parched and dusty palette explodes into molten reds and yellows in moments of violence, the whole story abetted by the nimble lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (the Eisner-winning editor of the much-needed PanelXPanel magazine and host of YouTube’s Strip Panel Naked). The creative team gel perfectly, deploying each surprise with patient assurance.
Write It In Blood #1 is as sparse as a Texas plain, yet crunchy as trail grit. It’s a mighty rewarding read that promises even greater surprises down the road. A must-read for lovers of smart crime comics and hopefully a breakout book for a creative team that deserve the widest possible recognition.
Write It In Blood #1 is available on Gumroad with a new issue available every week.
Rory McConville - @RoryMcConville2
Joe Palmer - joepalmerart.com
Chris O’Halleran – chrisohart.com
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou - @HassanOE
The fourth story in my Sister Adamanthea series is an audio drama! Following on from short stories Whispers, Repentia and Martyr's End, this new audio drama collects the three-parter released last December...
Sister Adamanthea, returned from repentance and revered by the faithful as a symbol of the Emperor's will, must cast her doubts aside when disaster strikes during a holy parade.
Hear a thrilling tale of a soul redeemed but riven with doubt, and delve into the murky politics of the Ecclesiarchy, and the many temptations that the Dark Imperium has to offer…
Sister Adamanthea is a Repentia redeemed, restored to her beloved Sororitas and hailed as a ‘living miracle’. But behind closed doors she is haunted by a sin she believes can never be forgiven. Paraded in front of the countless pilgrims of the garden-temple of Concordia, how can she speak of faith when her own is so uncertain? When an aeons-old conspiracy finally triggers, Adamanthea must prove herself the legend she is claimed to be, or risk the forces of Chaos pulling back the shroud of lies, and shattering the faith of an entire world.
Written by Alec Worley. Running time 75 minutes. Performed by Steve Conlin, Sean Connolly, Jonathan Keeble, Penelope Rawlins, Richard Reed, Genevieve Swallow and Claire Wyatt.
Available on Audible, the Black Library webstore and on the Black Library app.
Very happy to have had another crack at vintage British humour strip Kid Kong, this time with legendary Marvel inker Hilary Barta...
Prepare your funny bones for the biggest and brightest humour comic in Britain – the Corr!! Buster Special is back!
A smash hit with kids, the Cor!! Buster Easter Special brings together two of Britain’s most beloved humour comics for 48 pages of belly laughs and silly japes from some of the best creators around!
Out on 8 April from all good newsagents and comic book stores, this bumper issue includes: Buster & Delbert by John Freeman & Lew Stringer; Kid Kong by Alec Worley & Hilary Barta; Faceache by Matt Smith & John Lucas; Gah! by Keith Richardson & Tom Paterson; Deadly Hedley by Paul Goodenough & Rositsa Vangelova; Ivor Lott & Tony Broke with Penny Less and Milly O'Naire by Ned Hartley & Mick Cassidy; Sweeny Toddler by Tom Paterson; Swines of Anarchy by Lee Langford & Pye Parr; Daisy Jones' Locker by Olivia Hicks, Sheli Paroline & Braden Lamb; Birdman & Chicken by Keith Richardson & Edward Whatley; Frankie Stein by Cavan Scott & Steve Mannion; Duck Turpin by Robin Etherington & David Follett; Creature Teacher by Lee Langford & Brett Parson; and Grimly Feendish by Ned Hartley & Tom Paterson.
Available from the Treasury of British Comics webstore.
My very first short story for Black Library - the Space Wolves vs. Drukhari flyers tale Stormseeker - gets another airing in this colossal Space Wolves omnibus...
Born on the icy world of Fenris, few amongst the brotherhoods of the Adeptus Astartes are as fierce or as noble as the Space Wolves. Long are their tales, told around mead halls or the flickering glow of a hungry fire. Heed them well, for they speak of legends like the Young King Ragnar Blackmane, whose thirst for battle is matched only by his heroism, or the Wolf Lord Logan Grimnar, that most venerable and fearsome of warriors, who leads the Chapter itself. So listen hard and listen carefully to the skald as he holds forth around the burning fire, because there is darkness in these sagas as well as light.
This omnibus edition collects together for the very first time the novels Ragnar Blackmane, Curse of the Wulfen, Legacy of Russ and The Hunt for Logan Grimnar, as well as the novellas Blood on the Mountain and Arjac Rockfist.
Ragnar Blackmane by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Curse of the Wulfen by David Annandale
Legacy of Russ by Robbie MacNiven
The Hunt for Logan Grimnar by Ben Counter, Steve Lyons, Rob Sanders and C L Werner
Blood on the Mountain, Arjac Rockfist: Anvil of Fenris, Iceclaw and Twelve Wolves by Ben Counter
Thunder from Fenris and On the Heels of Morkai by Nick Kyme
Reparation by Andy Smilie
Logan Grimnar: Defender of Honour by Cavan Scott
In Hrondir's Tomb and Hollow Beginnings by Mark Clapham
Engage the Enemy by Lee Lightner
Stormseeker by Alec Worley.
Available on both Kindle and in print from Black Library.
Worked once again with the lovely folks at The Folio Society, writing web copy for a very special project Marvel: The Silver Age 1960-1970...
Marvel: The Silver Age 1960–1970 marks the second chapter in The Folio Society’s collaboration with Marvel Comics. Over 30 revolutionary Super Heroes await you, including Spider-Man, the Avengers and Doctor Strange. Curated by Marvel legend Roy Thomas, this collector’s edition comes complete with a scale reproduction of the groundbreaking The Fantastic Four #1.
Over thirty iconic characters! Fifteen groundbreaking tales! One explosive edition! Marvel: The Silver Age 1960–1970 is The Folio Society’s second collaboration with Marvel Comics. This lavish hardback edition collects the defining stories of over thirty revolutionary characters, including Iron Man, the Hulk and the X-Men. These landmark tales are bound within a bold cover designed by celebrated typographer Ian Jepson. Award-winning Daredevil artist Paolo Rivera provides gorgeous artwork for a digitally signed print, as well as the book’s endpapers and luxury presentation box. Inside, you’ll also find a meticulous facsimile of The Fantastic Four #1, the comic that launched Marvel into the modern age.
You find out more at The Folio Society website.
My run of adapting animated TV show Star Wars: Resistance has sadly come to a close.
The fifth and final story, The High Tower - which I adapted with brilliant artist Cosmo White - appears in Star Wars: Fun & Action #1, the monthly magazine for younger readers from Panini Germany, published 18 March...
I've been quietly pottering away on Star Wars comics with Panini Germany for a couple of years now, from novel adaptations to original Star Wars Rebels stories. But I'm happy to see my short run of Rebels tales and all my Resistance adaptations to date currently running in English for the first in Australian kids' monthly K-Zone.
Meanwhile, the adaptation of Greg Rucka's younger readers novel Smuggler's Run, which I adapted with incredible German artist Ingo Romling back in 2018, is now being collected in trade by Panini...
At last year’s Black Library Weekender, the team revealed that they were working on a new range of books and audio dramas – Warhammer Crime. Now, we can bring you a look at just what it is, and the first few releases.
Warhammer Crime, like Warhammer Horror before it, is a new range of books that will explore a different side of the Warhammer universes – in this case the grim, dark future of Warhammer 40,000. To introduce you to what it’s all about, here’s the series premise, direct from Black Library’s editors:
Expect hard-bitten investigators chasing dangerous leads, crime lords, femmes fatale and all the other defining features of crime stories that you know and love – but set in the the 41st Millennium.
Warhammer Crime will be launching with the fearsome-looking novel Bloodlines by Chris Wraight and an audio drama by yours truly. It's called Dredge Runners, and here's the cover reveal...
Baggit is a fast-talking ratling sniper with a greedy eye and loose morals. Clodde is an ogryn, a brute with a core of decency and a desire for a better life. Two abhuman deserters turned thieves, at large in the monolithic city of Varangantua where only the tough or the ruthless survive. Having landed in debt to a savage crime lord, Baggit and Clodde end up in the crosshairs of the meanest, most puritanical sanctioner in the city. Caught between two powerful enemies, and with innocent lives at stake, the unlikely companions must think fast and hustle hard before death points a las-pistol in their direction…
These exciting launch titles will be closely followed by another pair of releases. The short story anthology No Good Men will include seven tales of locked-room mysteries, missing persons, serial killers and more, written by some of Black Library’s most devious minds. Alongside that, you’ll be able to get Flesh and Steel by Guy Haley, in which a probator must work alongside the Adeptus Mechanicus to get the bottom of a string of murders that straddle Imperial and Martian territory.
This is just the beginning! There’s plenty of crime in Varangantua, and plenty of writers keen to tell you their tales… To be among the first to find out about forthcoming Warhammer Crime tales, subscribe to the Black Library newsletter.
This was my very first book, published 15 years ago by McFarland and now reprinted in paperback. This thing took me around two years to research. I wrote it in between night shifts splicing together ad reels for movie theatres. My models were the film books that had really expanded my mind in terms of what the genres of the fantastic can do (namely Paul Nicholls's Fantastic Cinema and Kim Newman's Nightmare Movies).
Though Empires never reaches the impossibly high watermark of those books, it was still one of the very first to offer a serious critical survey of fantasy as a genre distinct from horror and science-fiction.
Remember, kids, this was written long before the internet and Stranger Things made Dungeons & Dragons cool. Back then, this sort of thing was the love that dare not speak its name!
A lot of water has passed under the bridge of fantasy cinema since the genre hit the mainstream, but I'm still really proud of this book and stand by pretty much everything it says - not sure I should have been quite so harsh about The Never-ending Story though...
The warlocks and ghosts of fantasy film haunt our popular culture, but the genre has too long been ignored by critics. This comprehensive critical survey of fantasy cinema demonstrates that the fantasy genre amounts to more than escapism. Through a meticulously researched analysis of more than a century of fantasy pictures—from the seminal work of Georges Méliès to Peter Jackson’s recent tours of Middle–earth—the work identifies narrative strategies and their recurring components and studies patterns of challenge and return, setting and character.
First addressing the difficult task of defining the genre, the work examines fantasy as a cultural force in both film and literature and explores its relation to science fiction, horror, and fairy tales. Fantasy’s development is traced from the first days of film, with emphasis on how the evolving genre reflected such events as economic depression and war. Also considered is fantasy’s expression of politics, as either the subject of satire or fuel for the fires of propaganda. Discussion ventures into the subgenres, from stories of invented lands inhabited by fantastic creatures to magical adventures set in the familiar world, and addresses clashes between fantasy and faith, such as the religious opposition to the Harry Potter phenomenon. From the money-making classics to little-known arthouse films, this richly illustrated work covers every aspect of fantasy film.
Available from McFarland Books, Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Blackwells and Waterstones.
If you're a fan of Black Library's Warhammer fiction and audio dramas, then I would urge you to follow the review blog Track of Words.
Run by reading-machine Michael Dodd, this comprehensive site is essential for anyone keen to keep track of Black Library's dizzying level of output.
How Mike manages to read all that he does is pretty unbelievable and his reviews are never less than literate, well-considered, and contextualised with a comprehensive knowledge of Warhammer lore.
Anyway, I was lucky enough for Mike to have me aboard for an interview about my audio drama Broken Saints, which had just been released as a three-parter for Black Library's December Advent event.
I ended up getting a bit carried away and gabbled about all sorts, from how I write to Sisters lore. Click here to read and make sure you sign up for the Track of Words newsletter.
The latest DURHAM RED one-shot has just appeared in the 2000 AD Christmas Special.
Mutant vampire bounty hunter Durham Red corners her latest quarry in the ruins of an ancient castle, but her prey proves far from helpless...
Here's the first two pages from artist Ben Willsher...