Thoughts on the Third

So issue 3 of Alien in the Outfield has gone to print and we’re officially on the final straight as we head towards the book’s conclusion. I’ll be honest, this time last year we thought we’d be done by now. I don’t really want to make excuses for that – save to say that making comic books is very much our hobby, not our full time jobs. In the last twelve months Mat and I have variously moved and/or made major home improvements, got married (not, alas, to each other), started bands, engaged in other creative projects (more on that later…), dealt with day jobs and briefly joined boards of committees that protect and restore Victorian era dinosaur sculptures. I’ve also had to deal with a crippling addiction to Adventure Time’s Card Wars. So whilst Alien in the Outfield is very much our baby, it’s fair to say it’s not our only child, as it were.

In the face of all this, getting issue 3 finished has felt like a little bit of a slog at times, another thing to add to the to do list. Having said that, I’m glad with taken the time to do it properly and enjoy the process rather than just grind it out to get it done. We do this because it’s a lot of fun and to treat it in any other way would be stupid – we certainly don’t make any financial gains from it (…yet. Disney, we’re all ears…). Rushing through it would not be fun.

As a result, issue 3 is by far my favourite book so far. I changed my approach in scripting this one. Previously, I’d been pretty dictatorial with what I wanted on each page, being very specific about panels, layout and so on. This time I just wrote the action on the page and trusted in Mat to convey it visually. I think this approach has brought out the best in both of us. I also allowed myself a little more creative freedom. In my mind, the special thing about comic books is that imagination is not limited by budget. It might cost a million pounds to stick a CGI spaceship in a movie or what have you, but it costs nothing to draw that. And whilst I know we’ve got a little alien critter running around our book, apart from that, the first two issues are actually quite conservative in their approach. I’ve loosened up a little in #3. There’s a little more silliness and playfulness in there, as well as a couple of ‘well, why nots?’ too. Once I saw the images that Mat provided for the script, I knew issue 3 was going to be a fairly joyous affair.

Featured image

In terms of the actual writing and plot, all the scene setting leg work has been done and there’s a little more freedom to have some fun. There’s also so many great moments in the story in this issue. Joel and Cindy’s relationship developing, Joel’s mom and Coach Brown dropping some truths, the feds picking up the trail, the gutpunch cliffhanger ending (wait ’til you see what Mat’s done with these pages, they’re fantastic). We’ve also got a great opening montage and one trope I wanted to include in case I never get the chance to write a comic again (hopefully not an issue), which is the comic-within-a-comic device. Okay, it’s not exactly Tales of the Black Freighter, but I feel it’s a nice addition to the world we’ve made and if nothing else, it’s a much less convoluted narrative!

We’ve also got some really quite beautiful cover art by my very dear friend Meryl Trussler who completely nailed the tone of the book and brought our little cast of characters to life in a whole new way. It is sumptuous and at some point I’m getting it made into a nice big poster to hang over the fireplace for decades to come.

I mentioned earlier about making the book as an exercise in fun. Whilst putting it together is very satisfying and often quite a stimulating challenge in problem solving (“wait… how does that character know these guys are going to be there? And why? And what time is it meant to be? And we have to fit this on half a page?!”), the real fun for me is taking it to conventions and getting it, often rather more forcibly than is necessarily wise, into people’s lives. Perhaps that’s why there’s such ebb and flow to the creative process. As I say, we don’t make any money out of this and publishing books, getting merchandise and the practical process of getting to conventions is an expensive business. We’ve only been to two different ones. The London Super Comic Con isn’t so bad as we’re London-based, but getting to Leeds for Thought Bubble, accommodating and feeding ourselves is a logistical challenge. It’s one I welcome though, as we had such a blast last year and I’m as excited as can be for our return visit. All these considerations taken into account though, I think it’s fairly clear why we’re not all over the country every other weekend. As such, the momentum and excitement we have around the book clearly mirrors our biannual con-attending habits.

For the first time though, we’re exhibiting something other than Alien in the Outfield. Mat and I have been dabbling with other creative endeavours as mentioned earlier and we’ll also be debuting a couple of little pieces – Teen Bowie Adventures, born out of fevered, deranged and broken minds on our return trip from TB 2014 and There, a rather more considered teaser for a project Mat and our friend Doug have conjured. These are being released under our new Outfield Press stable, something we’ll be doing for our future projects once Alien is done. If you’re interested in getting your own art published by two northerners who live in London, have a vague sort of idea of what they’re doing with comics and are probably a little too comfortable in each other’s company, then please drop us a line. It could be the start of something stupid and fun, which is the best kind of fun.

I think I’ve rambled on for long enough now. Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the new issue. Most of all, I think issue 3 leaves us in a really exciting place for the final book. Which will come as soon as it can!

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