Following in the footsteps of their successes with The Standard and And Then Emily Was Gone, publisher ComixTribe have once again dipped into the rich pool of UK talent with FIND, an all-ages one-shot from writer Sam Read (Exit Generation) and artist Alex Cormack (Future Proof, Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare).
We’ve always been a big fan of Sam’s work on Exit Generation here at the Big Comic Page, so when we heard about this brand new project, we simply had to talk to him about it. Sam generously gave up some of his time to tell us a little more about FIND.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sam. First off, for those who might not know, give the ‘quick pitch’ for FIND?
SAM READ: Hello! And, of course! FIND is an all-ages one-shot that follows a young lad named Teddy Chance one night, as his curiosity leads him to a discovery that amazes him, places him in great peril, and ultimately has repercussions well beyond sun-up the next morning. It is very much a homage to the children’s films I grew up watching, such as the FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR and EXPLORERS; a type of movies you don’t often see anymore.
It’s drawn beautifully by the achingly talented Alex Cormack, lettered by most excellent Tyler James, and is all brought to you by the brilliant people at Comixtribe, who folks out there might ‘just’ remember for the awesome AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE; who’s trade drops the same day as FIND, incidentally!
BCP: Tell us a little more about Teddy.
SAM: Well, I like to think very hard about the names I give characters in my comics; most contain some kind of meaning hidden within them, hinting either at their role in the story or telling you something about their personalities.
So, in order to have my cake and eat it too, I’ll not say too much about what Teddy actually gets up to in FIND, but I will reveal that his first name is taken from Theodore Roosevelt, who’s quote “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground” influenced the selection. The meaning of Chance is straight forward, but if you put both of them together I think you get more than a bit of an insight into Teddy.
BCP: Weirdly, I hadn’t really noticed that until you just mentioned it, but it does make perfect sense now. Now, Teddy’s love of comics is without a doubt one of his defining characteristics. Am I right in thinking there may be a slightly autobiographical aspect to that?
SAM: Ha! Yeah; absolutely! Although I had graphic novels such as ASTERIX and TINTIN around when I was very young, I distinctly remember reading my first American monthly comic when I was 8 years old; DETECTIVE COMICS #651 – “A Bullet for Bullock”. The fact that two-decades-and-change later I’m here talking to you should certainly speak to how big an impact that had on me, and to say I love comics would probably be such a huge understatement it should win some kind of award!
I live and breathe comics, and even outside my interest in and now involvement with the medium, I think it is safe to say they’ve influenced my life; both through helping me engage with issue, topics and events that I might not otherwise have done so, or helping me look upon aspects of my own life from different perspectives.
BCP: FIND is very much in the ‘Speilberg’ mode, with that same wide-eyed sense of childhood wonder. Was it important for you to recreate that distinctive feel?
SAM: I’m delighted if that comes across, as it certainly was a key intention. But much of that comes from and is due to Alex’s incredible ability to build such a wonderfully tangible world and engaging set of characters through his visuals.
My script is relatively ‘quiet’, and so it is Alex who is making you feel it; from the raw emotions we see in and experience with Teddy, to the different environments we follow him through across the course of the book. Alex produced such evocative and engaging art, I really think that he’s responsible for much of that wonderfully specific vibe, and I’m very thankful to have been able to collaborate with him on FIND.
BCP: You mentioned Alex Cormack’s artwork. As impressive as the story itself is, Cormack’s visuals are absolutely amazing throughout. I’m assuming you’re happy with what he brought to the table?
SAM: My word, yes; stunning. As I mentioned; Alex MAKES this book. His attention to detail and ability to give such vital energy to the scenarios and characters in FIND blew me away page-after-page.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my short time producing comics to have worked with some wonderfully talented artists, like Caio Oliveria and Ramon Villalobos on EXIT GENERATION, and I find myself learning so much from each new experience. With Alex, it was the deft nature of his storytelling. Much of what we were trying to say in FIND isn’t explicit; we don’t spell it out for the reader. But it is all there, thanks to Alex’s skills. It might be a perfectly placed context cue, or even just the way the characters look at one another, but however it is presented; it’s there.
It has been a joy to work with someone so talented, and everyone out there should be following and keeping an eye on Alex, as if the universe knows what it’s doing, he’s gonna be huge. I’d 100% recommend looking out for his, John Lees and Tyler James’ OXYMORON: THE LOVELIEST NIGHTMARE later this year, as they are all cooking up something really very special.
BCP: I’m always curious about writer/artist relationships. How much free reign did you give Alex when it came to the visual aspect and character design of the book?
SAM: As my answer to the previous question perhaps hints at; I’m a big fan of Alex’s work. With FIND, knowing we’d be working together, I made myself familiar with as much of Alex’s art as I could get my hands on before I went to script, as I really wanted to work to his strengths.
But this focused mainly on the storytelling aspects, as once I’d clocked his keen sense of design, I knew that rather than dictate specifics, Alex would likely produce something far superior out of his own mind if left alone than if I was leaning over his shoulder, point things out.
A big part of why I love to work this way is based on the very reason I write comics over another medium such as prose; collaboration. Books are richer with all those involved being able to have input, and when it comes to the design, beyond a small amount of initial guidance, Alex very much ‘cast’ the characters, built the ‘sets’ and shot the scenes. The man’s a genius.
BCP: FIND also signifies your (well-deserved) direct market debut. How did your working with ComixTribe come about?
SAM: Firstly, thank you; that is really too kind of you. And as for how this opportunity came about; it’s no secret that when I first started my comic writing it was alongside the ace folks of the Glasgow League of Writers. Numbering amongst that bunch was a certain Mr John Lees, who Comixtribe quite rightly identified early doors as a massive talent, via his excellent THE STANDARD.
So, back when Tyler James and the good people at Comixtribe were kick-starting the first volume of their Oxymoron anthology series, an opportunity arose to get involved with them at a creative level. Since then I’ve been very fortunate to have the chance to build a relationship with them, and feed off their excellent guidance and support, culminating in them putting their faith in FIND.
As they’ve shown with John, over in THE STANDARD, and his and Iain Laurie’s AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, as well as their work with artist Will Robson, Comixtribe have displayed both an eye for and placed their support behind UK talent, and I am ever-grateful to find myself alongside such a roll-call of quality up-and-coming creators.
BCP: Speaking of up-and-coming creators, it’s safe to say that the Small Press scene is pretty much exploding all across the UK right now. Do you feel the pressure to ‘up your game’ in order to keep standing out?
SAM: If I was to give the simple answer, it would be a stone-solid “Yes”. Everywhere you look there are new creators doing exciting work across a vast range of genres and styles; it’s impossible not to notice. But I’d say that any pressure I feel really is closer to ‘inspiration’. Maybe it’s because of my background in a community such as Glasgow League of Writers, but I’m a real believer in the idea of “a rising tide lifts all ships”; I cannot look upon the energy present in UK small press and do anything other than smile… and then get swiftly back to working on my next projects!
I mean, when a sensational self-published UK book like RAYGUN ROADS by Owen Johnson is being nominated alongside work like WICKED+DIVINE at the British Comic Book Awards that means something. And for me, what it means is that not only is there a great quantity of work being produced domestically, but that the work is of a very high standard. I’ve spoken earlier about my great fortune in having Comixtribe support me, but I do think that publishers are increasingly cognisant of the wealth of talent operating just below the professional level in the UK, and you increasingly see evidence of this being acted; one of these being Colin Bell and Neil Slorance, the creators of DUNGEON FUN, being tapped for by Titian Comics for backups on their DR WHO: 12TH DOCTOR comic.
My hope is we see more of this type of ‘breakthrough’ soon; both because it is well deserved for many and because it is good for comics, not just here ‘at home’ but everywhere.
BCP: What are you reading right now yourself? Any recommendations?
SAM: I’m a fiend for monthlies; I’ve a pull list as long as your arm! But to narrow those down to a trio of choice favourites, I’d say they’d be Marvel’s X-FORCE, Dark Horse’s BPRD: HELL ON EARTH and SHELTERED from Image.
X-FORCE is a dizzying, both in terms of the pace at which it moves and the depths to which is takes you. X-Force has tended to lean on the side of ‘muscular’ and ‘bloody’, but currently Si Spurrier has managed to both retain those elements, and bolt on a sophistication that it wears very, very well. There’s just the right blend of exploding killer robots and edge-of-the-sword violence alongside mediations on the subjects such as PTSD and mass manipulation; it really is superior superhero comics.
What is there to be said about BPRD that’s not been said? The art is gorgeous, the writing creates pitch perfect human moments under the shadow of an epic saga, and the world building that have taken has no real parallel in terms of cohesion and strength. Recently scribe John Arcudi and artist James Harren also launched RUMBLE over Image, and I’d thoroughly recommend folks take a chance on that too.
For my money; I think that SHELTERED is probably one of the best written comics out there right now. Its premise is so great, and the way ED BRISSON and JOHNNIE CHRISTMAS have rendered such rich characters, and given the reader the space to study them by using the almost blank-slate environment is a real lesson in comic storytelling and structure. I would be devastated it’s ending this year if I didn’t have complete faith that the creative team will nail the landing. Hope to see this considered a modern classic when complete.
I’m also reading through a pile of trades (both old and new; chewing on some classic 80s Claremont X-Men currently), a couple of prose books and a few screenplays currently (heartily recommend Shane Carruth’s A TOPIARY), so pretty much whenever I’m not working; I’m reading!
BCP: And finally, do you have anything else in the pipeline right now?
SAM: Having finished self-publishing my ‘punks-versus-space-aliens’ series EXIT GENERATION at the tail end of 2014, I’m pretty open about the fact I’m aiming to release that to a wider audience than I can reach on my own through the direct market via a publisher in 2015, so watch this space on that front.
And in terms of new projects; yes, I’ve a number of different books I’m working towards with various talented folks just now. Can’t really say more as yet, but I’m very excited about the stories I’m cooking up with some amazing collaborators.
The next convention I’ll be attending will be London Super Con in March, and I’m really looking forward to it, after meeting loads of great people and having a top time there last year, and I hope if anyone reading this is going they’ll find me and say “hi”!
BCP: We’ll be at LSCC too, so will definitely make sure to stop by. Thanks again for your time, Sam, and I hope that FIND does as well as it deserves to when it’s released on the 28th.
FIND goes on sale January 28th. Keep your eyes glued to the Big Comic Page for an advance review of the book before it hits the shelves.