Saturday, October 04, 2008

My talented friends

Ten years ago there was this bunch of lads who all ganged together to try to launch a new independent British comics imprint. That imprint was called Bigger Betty - for reasons I won't bother explaining here - and the gang behind it were myself, James Murphy, Sarwat Chadda, Dan Schaffer, Kelvin Cox and Jez Elford. We were all keen to break free from the shackles of the bigger comic publishing houses and to retain creative control over our own titles and characters.

We emerged into the light with two titles, Krane and August with a third, Bedlam, waiting in the wings and ready to go when the finances came through. Which, sadly, they didn't. It was indicative of the times; confidence in the comics industry was at an all-time low. Bigger Betty - despite guest covers and poster art by such luminaries as Frank Quitely, Michael William Kaluta, Tom Carney and Rik Rawling - folded after just one issue.

I do realise that those of you who have been visitors to this blog for a while will know all of this. But I mention it again because I'm pleased to report that the Bigger Betty contingent have all gone on to become successful in their own fields. Leaving myself aside, I can tell you that Jeremy 'Jez' Elford is now a well-established games designer and conceptual artist and has worked on games like Batman and Robin, Reservoir Dogs, Forsaken and Bratz: Rock Angelz. His website is here. And here's one of his concept pictures. It's great stuff.

Sarwat Chadda, meanwhile, went on to win the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' Undiscovered Voices competition with his book The Devil's Kiss. It's described as 'a dark, supernatural thriller following the life of fifteen-year-old Billi SanGreal who is thrust into the modern-day remnants of the Knights Templar by her father, the Grandmaster. Billi's life, as the first-ever Templar girl, is a disciplined, brutal round of weapon's practice, demon killing and occult lore and she yearns for the freedom of a normal life - frustratingly unattainable for a secret warrior sworn to defeat the Unholy.' The book will be published by Puffin with a major PR and marketing campaign in Spring 2009. I see a huge career for Sarwat with films and franchise goodies a-plenty. And it couldn't happen to a nicer chap. His website is here.

And talk of films brings me to Dan Schaffer who, after parting ways with us, went on to create an award-winning comic series of his own called Dogwitch. He also wrote and illustrated graphic novel The Scribbler and Indigo Vertigo with Katiejane Garside of Queen Adreena. But in recent years, he's turned his hand to film and his screenplay for the Brit horror flick Doghouse has just finished principle shooting with a release date set for 2009. You can see a trailer here. It's not the full trailer - this one got leaked to the internet - but it does provide a gory taster of things to come. Dan's website meanwhile is here.

Sadly, I've lost contact with Kelvin Cox and I suspect that he hasn't changed his hermit-like habits as I can find almost no mention of him anywhere on the internet. He's apparently still involved in comics (I found one clue here) but otherwise, his whereabouts is a mystery. But I shall find him one day. Maybe someone will read this blog and tell him to contact me?

Which just leaves us with James Murphy who, at time of writing, is still waiting for his break. It will come, I'm sure. It must be said that he does currently have a very successful career in IT ... but it's not his first love. He's a staggeringly talented fine artist; a wonderful portraitist, cartoonist and painter. His website is currently undergoing renovation so there's not much to see there but his blog has a few of his sketches and paintings. It's always worth a look.

I've been very fortunate to have had two occasions in my life where I was surrounded by immensely talented people. The first was at school where people like myself, Huw Williams, Phil Gendall, Liam Oliff and Rick Phillips hung around together, fed off each other's ideas and enthusisam and, as the result, produced art, music and drama performances that were innovative, groundbreaking and of a very high standard. All of these people are now successful artists, creative directors, writers etc. The second occasion was Bigger Betty and the pattern seems to be replicating.

It just goes to show that being in an environment that encourages and nurtures your natural talents is hugely advantageous. If I can ever recreate that kind of hothouse environment - create a kind of 'Ideas Factory' - I will.

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