Tuesday, February 05, 2008

End Of An Era...

I've just lettered the last page of Hope Falls #5, and in doing so have finished an important chunk in my life.

Hope Falls was once ...Of Vengeance, and was one of the first ideas I ever discussed with my mother, shortly before she passed away. At the time it was a western, and I just couldn't get it right.

After her death, I shelved it as it was incredibly personal to me - the subplot involving Helen (Then called Jessie)'s mother dying of a terminal illness was just too close, too raw to me at this point. But a year or so later, deciding that dammit, I would honour my mothers memory with this, I re-examined the concept.

And since then it's been a long and winding road, with a lot of people helping on the way. First off is Craig Andrews, housemate and friend extraordinaire who, while I battled with making this bloody western work just looked at me and said 'make it more Twin Peaks than Deadwood.' And with those words, we moved our Angel into the 21st Century. And of course I have to thank Helen Gane herself, one time housemate in the House of Geek who allowed me to write her into a comic where she was a man hating harridan of vengeance. Insert obvious punchline here.

But this would never have even hit scripting stage if it wasn't for two others - Rantz Hoseley and Lee 'Budgie' Barnett. In 2005/06 Rantz was the original artist for ...Of Vengeance, and he was more than just an art monkey, his ideas shaped many of the scenes - the death of Treadwell in issue #3 is very much touched with his fingerprints, and I was crushed when his commitments meant that he had to drop from the project. One day, Rantz. One day. And of course Budgie Barnett was my voice of reason, perched on my shoulder and shaking his head, tutting and reigning me back when my dialogue got a little too, well, out there. Without even realising he was one, he became one of the best editors I have ever worked with, and it's due to Lee and his saintly patience that this story became so compelling, so tight.

But then disaster struck and Rantz was pulled from the project by a prior commitment, and I felt broken. I really felt that this was a great story, but suddenly I was back at square one. Luckily for me, I have some of the greatest and coolest friends in the industry, and pretty much a week after I thought 'sod it, I'm going to write it as a novel', I found myself having a conversation with one time The Gloom conspirator, Two Drunk Guys In A Bar Productions partner and good friend Dan Boultwood, who offered to draw the book for me.

Now people don't realise what a massive sacrifice this was for Dan - it almost cost him his relationship, because he'd effectively agreed to do another 110 odd pages for free. A back end comic like this only makes money on the Trades, on the Movie options, and there was a chance that this could totally collapse. And after all, we'd only ever done one five parter before, The Gloom - and that had been cancelled on issue #2. It was a massive sacrifice and a gamble to even consider this. But Dan had faith and enthusiasm for the project, and if I speak honestly, he had even more than I did at this point. I'll owe Dan forever for standing back to back with me when the armies attacked. But even with Dan standing beside me, it was two publishers that brought me back to the project. Firstly, Larry Young, he of AiT/PlanetLar discussed ...Of Vengeance with me while we were discussing Dodge & Twist, and he made the one suggestion that kicked life back into the tale.

'Why don't you call it Hope Falls?' He asked. And in a second the story changed, and the story lived. The second publisher was Harry Markos, who, while I was discussing this asked 'why haven't you sent this to me?'

I'll be honest, after Midnight Kiss was cancelled on #4, I felt that Markosia probably would shun any new idea from me, especially one that was a tad 'controversial'. After all, we had rape, Angels killing people, terminal illness - it's not exactly a fun time Disney show here. But Harry was adamant and we sent him the concepts and the scripts. And within a day Harry not only greenlit the series, but gave us a personal guarantee that no matter what happened, all five issues would run. And run they have, each one on time, and each one better than the previous one.

Of course there is one more person to thank, without whom the covers would be blank and dull - and that's Szymon Kudranski. Szymon is one of the most underrated and incredible artists out there, and every single issue has been better than the last one. I can't wait to see what he does for the collected edition!

And so. The final issue is done. All that's left is to pre press it with the wonderful and talented Thomas Mauer who has had to deal with my half assed attempts at sorting the pages every month without complaining. Thomas really is the unknown hero of the book, and probably deserves more praise that he gets.

Of course, this is done, and immediately I'm on to new things. Dan and I are already hard at work on a weekly serial called The Prince Of Baghdad which we'll hopefully be able to announce properly soon - and I've got several other balls in the air.

But I'll miss Hope Falls, more than I did The Gloom, or Midnight Kiss. This was one of the most personal things I ever wrote, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Reviewers, Podcasters - keep an eye on this blog - because later in the week I'll be giving you an option to read all five issues in PDF format, before issue #4 even comes out...


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