I thought I'd show you some of the art from my section of the book. I was far outside of my comfort zone with this, and I feel like I've learned a lot about making comics in the 6 months since then- but all the same, I'm pleased with how parts of it came out.
Here's the first page. My chapter is set in 1989, and I wanted to show that this was a time when people held onto their old things more than they do now- the ancient transistor radio, the Gnasher badge. I remember my sister's 20-something friends still had all their old Beano annuals.
Nel also has a badge that says 'A Good Mate Of Ted' - this is a badge that Ted Chippington, a local comedian my eldest sister dated, would give out. Ted is sort of a cult figure. You can see a short BBC documentary on him here.
I wanted my chapter to be a breather from the previous few, so I took Nel out into the countryside and had her meet a whole bunch of new people. I tried to give every new character I added to the book a backstory. Force, Kerry and Robbie all have a history and a reason to be hanging out. I imagined them to be friends who grew up next to each other, and that Robbie, the youngest, never quite caught up to everyone else mentally or emotionally. They take him along on their adventures right now, but there's the sense that they'll inevitably drift apart.
I have no idea how much of that bled onto the page. I'm gonna suspect that like the farmer's white power t-shirt and missing finger, which I think are covered by a speech balloon on the final page, these will be nuances that got lost in the mix.
I truly wonder how much of what I tried in this thing I managed to pull off. The character dynamics were so clear to me- Kerry's motherly instinct to Nel and Robbie, her platonic relationship to Force, Force's tentative sexual attraction to Nel, Robbie's asexual relationship to everyone- but I guess I just wasn't confident enough of my abilities as a writer for it to truly shine through. I think that day by day, I'm getting better at this stuff.
Finally, here's the cover of the 'zine that Nel hands to The Force at the campfire on the last page. It's based on the 'zine I made when I was 19, the age Nel is in the strip. I didn't want to fall into the trap of turning Nel into an autobiographical stand-in, but since a lot had been made about her liking and making comics in the previous chapters I decided it'd be silly not to run with that.
Yeah, the book is making a lot of waves! I can't deny it feels good to be a part of the thing everyone seems to be talking about right now. We were graphic novel of the month in The Observer, and a few other places. I'm hoping it'll help put Blank Slate on the map, and I'm very proud that the logo I designed is on the spine. If you want to buy it, go here. All proceeds go to Shelter.
Zygote's coming on good, by the way. As far as I know, Walk Don't Run is good to go for January. I'm gonna be starting a web-only series on here shortly, too. I'm liking what I've got for it so far. Stay tuned- I'm @harveyjamestm on twitter, as always.