It’s new comic-book day, so be sure to pick up this annual horror anthology GN from the King and Queen of Halloween: John Carpenter and Sandy King! Still can’t quite believe I got a story in here, with art by Ben Willsher (Durham, Judge Dredd).
It's the tale of a creepy Central Park mime who just won’t leave her audience alone… (Told without any dialogue, of course.)
Really dig Ben’s art style on this one. We wanted to do something with a classic animation feel, like the Disney shorts 'Paperman' and 'Feast', but on a story that takes a really dark turn… Heh! Heh! Heh!
Shout out to fellow HalloweeNighters… Elena Carrillo, Amanda Deibert, Anthony Burch, Tim Bradstreet, Sean Sobczak, Kealan Patrick Burke, Neo Edmund, David J. Schow, Frank Tieri, Duane Swierczynski, Mike Sizemore, Jaime Carrillo, Luis Guaragna, Sian Mandrake, Cat Staggs, Richard P. Clark, Andy Price, Damien Worm, Jan Duursema, Gus Vazquez, Ross Campbell, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov, Dave Kennedy, Pete Kennedy, and (fellow 2000 AD creator-droid) Nick Percival.
James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) shows us how it’s done
There are certain types of scene that are just naturally boring. There’s no immediate conflict, no one trying to manipulate the focal character, fill them full of lead, punch their lights out, or get to the finish line before them. In writer-speak, you might say the focal character’s line of action has no counter-action to challenge them.
Maybe what one character wants is exactly the same thing the opposing character wants. A great example of this kind of stock scene is the ‘mission briefing’. Think Police Commissioner Lee Van Cleef offering Snake Plissken a do-or-die deal in Escape From New York, the Feds visiting Indiana Jones on campus and sending him off on a quest for the Lost Ark, Lt. Gorman explaining the bug hunt to his crew in Aliens.
Let’s take Aliens as an example of how to approach a scene like this…
Gorman’s objective in this scene is to explain the mission while the marines’ objective is pretty much to just sit there and listen. Plotwise, there’s no conflict, no tension. Boooooring. Faced with a scene like this, most writers might glance at their deadline and get with the info-dumping.
Not Jim Cameron.
In this potentially tedious scene, Cameron focuses not so much on conveying the needs of the plot, but on the emotional tensions between his various characters. This allows him to convey his exposition invisibly, concealing all that dull instructional stuff (we need you to go here, do this, etc.) within exchanges of dialogue. It’s the characters and not the writer who are conveying the story. Cameron approaches this stock scene not as a checklist to race through, but an opportunity to give us insights into the characters with whom we’re about to embark on this adventure.
Remember, all the pyrotechnics in the world count for nothing, unless you care about the characters under fire.
We start off with a helpful establishing shot of the deployment bay of the Sulaco as Gorman (William Hope) strides in with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). (I love the way Hope turns away and smooths down his buzzcut before speaking, as if to psyche himself up.) We quickly see that Gorman – for all his spit-shine demeanor - isn’t quite as on the ball as he appears. He can’t even remember the names of his crew! (‘Hudson, sir. He’s Hicks.’) Straight away, we’re aware of a power dynamic here. The grunts don’t have the greatest respect for their Lieutenant, and the Lieutenant knows it.
We move on as Gorman styles it out by starting to explain the mission. (‘Still no word from the colonists… Yadda, yadda.) But Cameron’s marines are not attentive; they’re restless and bored. In other words, the writer has found an interesting counter-action. Gorman wants to explain the mission, but the grunts aren’t really listening. This emotional tension isn’t as spectacular a counter-action as coming under machinegun fire or wrestling Thanos, but it’s every bit as compelling. And compelling is what is needed to get through any scene.
Now Ripley steps in, struggling to relate the horrifying events of what happened to her aboard the Nostromo. She falters and gulps, clearly traumatized, reminding us just how much courage this woman must possess to have agreed to this mission in the first place. (Man, but Sigourney Weaver is brilliant throughout. And Cameron knows when to keep his camera tight on that wonderful face, making sure we see the emotions playing out under the surface of the main character.)
But still the grunts aren’t interested. (‘I just wanna know one thing… wheeeere they aaaare…’) Now we’re really cooking. Ripley’s objective is to get these swaggering jerks to take her seriously and that objective is now directly challenged by the marine’s boredom.
Stung by their dismissal, Ripley recovers for a moment, then unsheathes her inner steel. ‘Just one of those things managed to wipe out my entire crew in less than 24 hours. Do you understand?’
Well, that sure shut them up!
We’ve also gotten the first hint here that Ripley has got way more about her than fragile Lieutenant Gorman, as we’ll find out for sure later on… It’s called ‘foreshadowing’, kids.
But the scene’s not done yet. Ripley’s objective has been achieved, but the tension between Gorman and his crew remains unresolved. Hudson sticks up his hand with an impish grin. ‘What is it, private?’ (I’m pretty sure Gorman still doesn’t know the marine’s name!) Hudson’s sass-mouth receives a sharp interjection from Sergeant Apone (the late Al Matthews, wonderful in this movie). By now, the Lieutenant’s pissed and decides to show everyone who’s boss (‘I want DCS and tactical database assimilation by 08.30!’). Mic dropped, objective achieved, Gorman marches off, leaving the marines grumbling in his wake.
And what a memorable closer this scene gets… (‘Alright, sweethearts. You heard the man and you know the drill. Assholes and elbows. Hudson, c’mere! Come heeeeeere!’)
It’s a brilliant, brilliant scene, gold spun out of genre straw. And the viewer notices none of it, and THAT’s why it’s great writing.
Our sword-and-sorcery one-shot Black Beth and the Devils of Al-Kadesh was released in the U.S. back in July, following terrific reviews from here in the U.K. Featuring awesome art by DaNi, Andrea Bulgarelli and Vincenzo Riccardi, you can still grab a copy from Midtown Comics, Forbidden Planet UK, and the 2000 AD webstore.
Some amazing reviews just in. Thanks to everyone for your kind words and support!
"A tremendously entertaining story with fabulous characters, gleeful performances, and a sharp, twisty plot... a fantastic first audio release for Warhammer Crime." Read the full review at TRACK OF WORDS.
"Dredge Runners is utterly brilliant! A fantastic crime caper." Read the full review at THE ORKNEY NEWS.
"[A] great beginning to the new Warhammer Crime range." Read the full review at BOOKNEST.
"A perfect introduction to the seedier side of the Imperium of Man, and a cracking tale to boot." Read the full review at AT BOUNDARY'S EDGE.
With the 2020 Black Library Open Submission window opening for two weeks in October, Michael at the amazing Warhammer blog Track of Words asked if I had any useful tips for prospective writers.
I gabbled a response, which Mike was kind enough to give a blog all to itself.
I hope there are a few prospective writers out there who might find this useful...
WRITING FOR BLACK LIBRARY: ALEC WORLEY TALKS PITCHING WARHAMMER HORROR
Michael over at the amazing Black Library blog TRACK OF WORDS has just had me on for a rapid-fire interview about the forthcoming WARHAMMER CRIME audio DREDGE RUNNERS, which is available for pre-order as of Saturday 1st August.
Here's the pitch (to be read in the style of a 1940s noir trailer)...
He’s the fast-talking ratling sniper with an eye for the big score!
He’s the ogryn, the muscle, the hooligan with a heart of gold and a head full of dreams!
Abhuman soldiers turned THIEVES, surviving in a city where only GUTS will get you through!
When they land in the pocket of a savage crime lord, BAGGIT AND CLODDE are sent to spy on the cleanest Sanctioner in town.
Together they uncover a scam that threatens to shake the city to the core!
Now there’s innocent lives at stake, as well as a fortune that could finally buy the boys a ticket out of the gutter!
Baggit and Clodde must think fast and hustle hard, before death points a laspistol in their direction!
This month’s Judge Dredd Megazine – monthly sister publication of 2000 AD – features a horrific new tale by myself, artist Leigh Gallagher and letterer Simon Bowland.
Tales From the Black Museum
Mega-City One, 2142 AD. Deep in the heart of the Grand Hall of Justice lies the Black Museum, Justice Department’s permanent exhibition of the relics from bygone crimes. Whether it’s a notorious serial killer’s trophies or the weapons of the Dark Judges, the violent history of the Big Meg is laid bare here. Let undead guide Henry Dubble show you around…
This one-shot focuses upon Abel Funtch, a young man who learns that he is suffering from a terrible supernatural affliction. But is he willing to pay the price to cure it?
Judge Dredd Megazine 422 is out now!
Packed with more action from Dredd, Blunt, and Lawless, plus new Devlin Waugh and Tales from the Black Museum!
That’s three complete stories:
Don’t forget that if you buy this issue in print direct from our webshop within the next month you’ll not pay a penny in postage fees in the UK! And if you subscribe to the Megazine you’ll get a FREE print of each month’s cover with each issue!
Buy print edition >>
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Buy the Megazine in North America >>
Sword-and-sorcery heroine Black Beth returns this September in the Scream & Misty 2020 Special from Rebellion. This chill-packed annual features a host of stories inspired by the vintage British horror comics Scream and Misty...
Just in time for Halloween comes another 48-page anthology unloading scares on a new generation of horror fans. The Prince of Darkness comes face-to-face with an old foe in THE DRACULA FILES from Cavan Scott (Star Wars) and Italian sensation Vincenzo Riccardi, BLACK BETH’s quest for vengeance continues from the fevered minds of Alec Worley and DaNi (Coffin Bound), WW1 ghoul BLACK MAX attempts to return to the world of the living in a story by Kek-W (The Order) and Simon Coleby (The Authority). In the shadows of Victorian England lurks THE THIEF OF SENSES, courtesy of Maura McHugh (Judge Anderson) and Robin Henley (Tharg's Future Shocks). A chilling school re-enactment of Greek myth takes place in THE AEGIS by award-winning illustrator Krystina Baczinski and Mary Safro (Drugs & Wires), and clowns are far from funny in BUMPS IN THE NIGHT by Olivia Hicks (Grand Slam Romance) and John Lucas (Ghost Rider).
On sale in comic shops, UK newsagents and the 2000 AD webstore, September 2020, £4.99