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Friday, 2 September 2011

The Sixpenny Murder comic: an interview with John A. Short

The Sixpenny Murder is a new British comic written by John A. Short and drawn by David Hitchcock. Originally part of a project named Changing Places+ devised by a psychologist, it's now available from John's own comics company, Kult Kreations and in comic stores nationwide.

David Robertson speaks with John A.Short about the comic and what’s coming up for Kult Kreations...

David Robertson: How did the Sixpenny Murder comic come about?

John A. Short: Just as Emily (and Laurence) describe in their section of the editorial. Emily, who's a psychologist,  had been using a sequence out of Mark Millar's 'Ultimates' when she was working with families involved in domestic abuse and when she came to start a programme for those involved in street crime she looked for something similar. Finding nothing ready made (like the 'Ultimates' scene) she decided to commission a piece to do a similar job.

She had read the story about 'The Tithebarn Street Outrage' [which concerns a couple, Richard and Alice Morgan who were suddenly attacked by street thugs on the 1874 August Bank Holiday] in the book The Gangs of Liverpool and came to me to turn it into a comic version. She asked my advice as to who should draw it and I brought David Hitchcock to her attention (after all there is no one better at drawing Victoriana!)

Emily worked very closely with me on the writing side of things, as she has worked with young offenders while she was with the probation system (both here and in the States) and knows their minds inside out.

David: To what extent have you all been involved with comics before now?

John: I have been working professionally in comics since 2003. I created the strips Rex! and Robin Hoodie for Egmont's TOXIC Magazine, as well as having scripted the Hunt Emerson created on-line comic strip Ardnox High for education websites. I have also had strips printed in America, France, Holland, Spain, Italy and Poland. Before turning professional I produced a number of self-published comics for the direct comics market both here and in the States, such as Armageddon Patrol, Loxley and the award-winning 'Octobriana' mini-series under the Revolution Comics banner.

David Hitchcock has drawn (and often written) a number of critically acclaimed small press titles such as Whitechapel Freak, Springheeled Jack and more recently the [award-winning] Madam Samurai.

Emily and Laurence Alison are psychologists not known for their comic work!

David: What is “Changing Places +”?

John: Now you're really getting in to areas that it's better to ask Emily Alison about, but Changing Places+ is a 16-week programme paid for by local authorities and run by Emily Alison which works with young people from inner cities who are in danger of becoming involved in knife crime, street crime and gang culture. The Sixpenny Murder is read and talked about during the course of the programme, but is only a small part of the overall thing (but, I'm told, a very popular part!)

David: Was it always part of the plan for it to be on sale through Diamond Previews as well as being part of this social program? It exists nicely as a comic in its own right as well as being an “information booklet” for kids.

John: It wasn't part of the original plan to be available to comic shops. After David completed the eight-page strip art it became clear to me that comics fans would want to see the strip too and we started to talk about making it into a little comic too. Professor Laurence Alison also liked this idea and sprung for the extra money to fund David doing a cover too.

A page from Sixpenny Murder
At first I wasn't sure that we'd be able to get it into Previews as I'd heard from friends of mine who still publish a lot of small press comics that it has got a lot harder in the past eight years or so since I published anything myself... And indeed, Diamond didn't want to list it for American shops (but then it is very British looking.)

David: Have you had any word on how sales are going in the UK?

John: Almost all of the first printing has sold out... Nearly 300 copies.

David: That’s quite heartening actually. There is a market for self-published British comics, even it’s a small one. What kind of research did you do for writing the book?

John: Almost all the research was done from the book 'The Gangs of Liverpool' where Emily found the story of 'The Tithebarn Street Outrage'. I think chapters one through six in the book cover the case. Apart from that all the research was done on-line for things like the geography of where the crime took place and the wider impact around it.

David: What other projects are coming up for Kult Kreations?

A recent Ardnox High strip
written by John, drawn by
Alex Paterson. More strips here
John: I set up Kult Creations to publish stuff of mine for the 'comics fan' market last year. I realised that since I had gone fully professional I had lost touch with the audience that used to read my work back in my small press/self-publishing days (1995-2004) and I had become invisible. I thought things like The Sixpenny Murder and Cross (a strip that appeared in the Mammoth Book of Best New Manga Vol 2) would be of interest to editors and fans in the direct comics market, but that they weren't seeing it. So Kult Creations came into being as a way of showing comics fans what I was now up to.

Obviously things like Cross and my Armageddon Patrol title might have more legs to go forward into new areas (bigger publishers, media deals and so forth) and I realised Kult Creations would be a handy way of putting those things back in front of the publics eyes.

So Kult Creations isn't designed to be a big publishing house itself, but a stepping stone to more interest.

Kult Creations (and I) are currently working on a few new projects like The Clock Strikes! - which is a revival of the first masked hero in comic books 'The Clock' who is now in the public domain. The Clock Strikes! will be out late this year (or early next year) written by myself and drawn by Vincent Danks (of Harker comic fame.)

David: Good luck with those ventures, John.

The Sixpenny Murder is also available online through http://kultcreations.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Matt said...

Interesting interview.

Cheers for posting it.

Matt Badham

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