Sunday, 27 February 2011

Mirabilis on Android and iPhone

Big shout out today for Kate Lauder and the rest of the awesome team, who have been pulling out all the stops to get Mirabilis season one converted to all their platforms. I've just been taking a look at the online proofs for issues #1-#3 and the work Kate's guys have done is stunning. Even if I wasn't the writer, I'd be one of Mirabilis's biggest fans.

Those first 8 issues will be going live next month, and what that means is that you won't need to buy an iPad to read Mirabilis any more. It'll be on iPhone, Windows Phone 7, Android and Adobe AIR for Mac/PC. And you only need to buy once to have the issues on any of those OS/devices that you own. (I'm still going to say you should have an iPad, though.) aren't just about putting the comic pages out there digitally, oh no. They appreciate that comics are about community as well as content. This was a big part of what made me a Marvel rather than DC fan when I first got hooked on comic books in the (gulp) late '60s. The DC stories were fine and all, but they didn't seem too interested in the stuff that surrounded that. Often you didn't know who'd created a DC story, while Marvel credited inks and letters as well as story and art. DC often dropped the letters page, whereas Marvel usually gave you two and made sure to reply to them. And most importantly, Marvel comics had the Bullpen Bulletin page. When you look at some of the news snippets, it sometimes seems to me like Stan and co had foreseen Twitter :
Our own STAN LEE and his old friend CARMINE INFANTINO shared a lively lunch together recently. They got all misty-eyed talking over old times and speculating about what might have been and what new excitement is still in store for all of comicdom.

Speaking of JACK KIRBY, he and his radiant Roz are now building their own home in sunny California. He should worry how much we haveta spend on postage stamps!

How about RASCALLY ROY THOMAS finally seeing his life-long idol, Elvis Presley, during his recent West Coast vacation?
Maybe you had to be there. Anyway,'s Micah Baldwin totally gets this. What first attracted us to getting Mirabilis on their platform was his comment that, "Digitial comics need to be more. [We need to] grow the comic experience."

So part of what Kate's team has been doing is tagging characters (so that new readers don't confused - something a book like X-Men could do with) and setting up the feedback, comments, creators' cameos and other extras that turn a bunch of words and pictures into a full-blown comic community.

Mirabilis on Android, iOS and Adobe AIR. The whole of season one. Next month. Be sure to have your phones charged 'n' ready.

Friday, 25 February 2011


If you saw the unveiling of the hardback front cover on Facebook this week and you're particularly eagle-eyed, you may be wondering why it only has my and Leo's names over the title. Are we doing a Trotsky on our colleagues Nikos and Martin? Have we become airbrush historians? Did power and money go to our heads? (I wish.)

Fact is, the full credits are prominent enough inside the book but there is only so much room on the cover itself, and the house style of our publishers, Print Media Productions, is to put the writer and artist up there above the marquee. No-one is more aware than I am that a comic like ours is a team effort - no preening auteur, I - so although I'm very proud of that cover, and I can't wait to see it on the counter of my local comic store, it does give me a twinge of guilt too.

Well, to redress the balance and share the credit around where it is due, here is one of the alternate issue covers that will accompany Mirabilis's debut on digital platforms and Comics+. Oh wait, is that news to you? I see another post coming on...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Faiths and empires gleam

Nabokov describes the writing process as the interplay of inspiration and combination. And that was certainly my experience in creating this scene to introduce the character known as Talisin, aka Gus, aka... (Ah, but that's a revelation we should save for another time.)

The idea of Gus first appearing in a mental asylum went right back to a brainstorming week at Bromfield Priory Gatehouse in 2003 with my wife Roz and fellow Mirabilis creators Leo and Martin. We had gone to fill in the details of our story so we could pitch it to David Fickling on Halloween. Out for a drive in search of jam and scones, we passed a poor, lost, shambling old fellow standing beside the road and I remarked that somebody who at the start of the Year of Wonders was locked up for thinking he was Hannibal or Merlin might very soon turn out to have been right all along.

Five years later, as the first episodes of Mirabilis finally cranked into existence ready for the DFC's launch, I was sitting on the lawn of my mother’s house in Surrey on a very summery spring day, possibly with a cold beer in hand but just as likely with a cup of tea. Leaning back in my chair with the sunlight in the branches, I was building the set of Gus’s asylum cell in my mind while the reality around me was of a warm day with bees grazing drowsily and the scent of blossom in the air. And so the scene became the simple reversal of that: Gus in his cold stone cell was the reality, and the idyllic countryside became what his imagination had painted over it.

I guess the main theme of Mirabilis is that reality and the imagination are part of one continuous spectrum – that reality is actually what happens inside the human mind, in fact. So this scene was the perfect way to mark the appearance of Jack’s unreliable mentor and the start of Jack’s acceptance of “the world turned upside down”. I’m always immensely grateful when the Muse does all the work and just drops the finished idea in my lap like that.

Inspiration over, the combination part just meant swiping a few perfect lines from Shelley (if you have to steal, steal from the best) and some fun research into archaic slang. The title of the episode, "The Wrong Side of Bedlam", was yet another ready-made package from the Muse. On a good day, a cold beer or a cuppa is all a writer needs.

The scene, incidentally, is the opening of Chapter Two in the Winter book and was the start of episode six when Mirabilis was being serialized in the DFC. I had planned to mark the beginning of outright fantasy by having the masthead run sideways down the page, as you can see in my original sketch. But David Fickling had decided as a point of editorial style that mastheads would always run across the top of each strip – or, if not across the top, at least consistently in the same position. So when this episode actually appeared (in DFC #34) the masthead was in its regular position.

This page also happened to be the one we picked for Nikos to try out as colorist. As soon as we saw how brilliantly he handled the contrast between the vernal landscape and the grim stone cell, we knew we had found the fourth member of our team.

To read the whole episode you've got a choice. The web comic on the Mirabilis site, the flipbook on BookBuzzr, the Kindle mini-episode or the EPUB version. Don't say we don't spoil you.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Frenchwoman in the Royal Navy - and in trousers!

Myebook - The Iron Moon Sampler - click here to open my ebook
Thanks to Myebook, the flipbook showcase site, here's a tantalizing look inside upcoming graphic novel THE IRON MOON, by Stephen Walsh (writer) and Keith Page (artist). I'll be reviewing this in the next week or so - but you don't have to wait, as Lew Stringer discusses it on his blog. It's the first in a game-changing slate of titles from Print Media Productions, who are also the UK publishers of Mirabilis. If Lew's opinion counts for anything (and it should) you may want to order The Iron Moon on Amazon right now.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The whole world looks so different

There are no prizes (as distinct from No-Prizes) for identifying where this image comes from. It's the very first scene of the whole Mirabilis saga, where Jack is getting ready for his duel in Kew Gardens. The idea of an orchid flowering in the depths of winter came about because I wanted to show something extraordinary but logically explicable before the green comet turned up and logic moved away without leaving a forwarding address. It wasn't just the orchid that filled that role. Those Victorian hothouses are like steampunk starships, lush green alien fronds pressing inquisitively against the cold glass. What better egg from which to hatch the return of the unseelie king?

Inspiration for this scene came from two sources. First a visit to Nymans in West Sussex, where I saw a building that has been left half-derelict as a kind of folly after a fire in 1947. Hot water pipes still ran along the outside of the building, and there an entire ecosystem thrived despite the frost. And that must have stirred memories from when I was about Jack's age of a midwinter trip to Kew Gardens with a girl I'd just met. That's where fiction departs from reality, of course. Jack doesn't get to take the girl to Kew Gardens, he goes to take potshots at his rival instead.

I also wonder now: is that the full story? Because another plausible explanation would be that I was remembering J M Barrie's line that "God gave us memory so that we could have roses in December," and probably thinking that I'd rather that, instead of memory, he'd said imagination. And in another Edwardian fantasy, published just a year after the events of Mirabilis, Peter Pan hung out in Kensington Gardens, from which my mind could easily have flown to Kew. Now I don't think any of that was the way it actually came about, but who knows? They wouldn't call it inspiration if you could be sure of analyzing it.

The reason for digging out the Kew Gardens image this week is that I've been putting the final touches to the proof for Mirabilis: Winter volume one, which British and Irish readers will be able to get their hands on next month, and the very last thing we had to decide was the endpaper design. That drawing of Leo's looks amazing when blown up to several feet across, and it captures the spirit of the first half of the Winter book so perfectly that there was no other contender.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Coming next ish!

As part of the preparations for an update for the Mirabilis comics app in March, we've decided to add full-page teasers at the back of each issue. I'd love to run the full set as they're instant collectible classics, but the blurbs would give too much away to those of you who haven't read the Winter storyline. But here is the first, which will be slotted in at the back of #1 just after our hero muses that "nothing will ever be the same again". You got that right, Jack - especially once you meet the Kind Gentleman. Brrr.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hang onto your hats

Here's a breathtaking picture by the ridiculously talented Mr Martin McKenna showing what a day out on the English south coast looks like once Brighton's carnival folk have got hold of a few (more-or-less) tame dragons. This painting is the alternative cover for issue #3, which you won't see on the Mirabilis iPad app but you will get with our forthcoming release on Comics+ and

Martin is still at work on his hush-hush children's book project, which is shaping up to be something truly wondrous. I've seen the storyboards for this and I know it's destined to be the kind of magical classic kids will love, grow up and then give to their kids. We'll bring you news or a sneak peek as soon as he'll allow. And of course we hope to get some more Mirabilis cover art from him before too long, as we're now gearing up for the third graphic novel (the first half of Spring). Meanwhile, if you pop over to Martin's site you can take a look at some of his awesome character concept drawings of Estelle, Jack and the Kind Gentleman.

In case you thought that fiction was stranger than fact, take a look below at Magnus Volk's Electric Overland and Submarine Railway, which began running up and down the Brighton seafront in 1883. Volk took it all the way out to Rottingdean, by way of the sea, in 1896. And he didn't have a magical green comet to back him, either - it was all pure, unassisted British eccentricity. God save Queen Titania!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Year of Wonders in the Kindle Store today

Two of my favorite fantasy novels are Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell and Jack Vance's The Green Pearl. Both are very weighty tomes that suck you into richly detailed, immersive universes, and one of the techniques the authors use to do that is the liberal sprinkling of footnotes. These serve as little asides, often mini-stories in their own right, that you can dip into to get a sense of the broader world behind the action of the novel.

This is one way that e-publishing and regular publishing will co-exist and feed into each other. Ebooks are ideal for flash fic that you can snack on in between longer episodes of the main narrative. With that in mind, I've corralled all those whimsical letters to the Royal Mythological Society and packaged them up as a Kindle book called The Year of Wonders that goes on sale on Amazon today. It's previewed on the BookBuzzr free flipbook site.

The Year of Wonders comprises more than fifty fantasy and SF tales in vignette form, from the mysterious giant hand found in a wood in Yorkshire to the best way to deal with a dragon that's taken a shine to the gold reserves of Fort Knox. At a price of $1.13 in the US, £0.71 in the UK - yes, that's for the whole book - what are you waiting for?