This weekend I had the very great pleasure of chatting with Fraser Campbell.
For those of you that don’t know Fraser, he is part of the ever flourishing Scottish indy comics scene which is still producing some of the best creators and stories in the world, and someone whose work I’ve had the pleasure of reading for a number of years now. Fraser is a comic creator who has produced a multitude of titles over the years, with something for most every taste, be it drama, thriller, action horror, psychological horror, or, in this case, comedy.
The campaign for Fraser’s latest title “Monster Mates” is currently running on Kickstarter with just under two weeks left to go. Written by Fraser, with art from Steve Gregson and lettering from Colin Bell, it’s a title that is well worth throwing your money at.
Set in the fictional Northern English town of Ripmourne, and with the characters all being inspired by the immediately recognisable Universal Monster movie characters, Monster Mates is primarily the story of three friends setting out to save their local nightclub The Lagoon, from being bulldozed in the name of progress and some swanky new flats.
It’s also the story of life in a small town, which can simultaneously be a place of great community spirit and belonging and a soul crushingly boring place full of gossip with no escape from even the most minutely embarrassing thing you have ever done. It’s about lifelong friends and how those relationships can be affirming and evolving, or how they can become petrified in time, solely revolving around a couple of years of the glory days that you repeat, over and over, every time you meet up.
The main characters in this series are, as mentioned above, all of the Universal Monster ilk. Stokes is a Vampire, who feels metaphorically sucked dry by being stuck in Ripmourne. Gil, your typical Lagoon Creature, is the joker of the pack, hiding a therapist’s pension worth of anxiety and insecurity behind a loud and obnoxious façade; and Howell is a werewolf, loyal, faithful, eager to please, and brother to the Big Bad Wolf, who plotting to destroy their favourite hang out.
The artwork from Gregson is bright and bold, and fun (this is a comedy drama after all), and the character designs are excellent, with some wonderful visual puns and in jokes throughout. Bell does a similarly great job on the lettering, although I’ve promised myself not to be too nice to him until we get more Pirate Fun.
This is a story that kind of hits me where I live. I grew up in a declining Northern town, watching all the old pubs and clubs disappear, and the closure of The Spanish City, once immortalised (along with my home town Whitley Bay) by Dire Straits in the 1985 classic “Tunnel of Love”. Somewhere in the late ‘80s, my family moved (I stayed behind) to a tiny Lothian town that in the old days would be called a one horse town except they ate the horse decades ago, and its terrifying that 30 years later when I visit I see the same people running the same shops and sitting on the same bar stools. I have maybe half a dozen life long friends, some of which have grown with me, and some of whom will forever be locked in the nights out and misadventures of our late teens.
My own existential dread and introspection aside, this is a fun, funny romp that has real heart. It is also, for me, a change from the genres I’d usually expect from Fraser Campbell (although Fraser does have a long history of writing comedy), so while you’re pressing the “BACK THIS PROJECT” button on Kickstarter (CLICK HERE), I would highly recommend you checking out the other titles in Fraser’s portfolio. My favourite by far being the Lynchian Nightmare and psychological horror House of Sweets, which I would dearly love to see adapted by someone like Matthew Holness, who I think would utterly get Fraser and produce something that would really do it justice.
Get out there and join the party, and back Monster Mates!!!
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]