Tag Archives: comics

Hopeless, Maine returns to North America with Outland Entertainment

Hello people! (and others)

We can now reveal that Hopeless, Maine is returning to North America with Outland Entertainment! The first two volumes will be printed and released soon, along with illustrated prose novels by Nimue Brown and Keith Errington and the Hopeless, Maine RPG is in development and may well be out at the same time. Here is the press release! 

Cover art – collaboration between Nimue and myself.

Hopeless Optimists – an update

Hopeless Maine volume 4; Optimists, has been delayed. We’ve been affected by the virus and the book will be out later than intended. Sorry about this!

Part of the issue is that Sloth is not a big publishing house, and like much of the independent comics market, depends on events to sell books. With all events cancelled, things have been hard for Sloth. It’s not been a good time to invest money in printing a new book.

As creators we’ve also been hit. We lost work – although thankfully not all of it, but enough that it has impacted on us. Unhelpfully for Hopeless, Tom is the one who has had more paying gigs come in, and it’s made more sense to take those and let Hopeless wait a bit.

We are a fair way into Hopeless Maine Optimists. It should be out early next year when we hope there will be more scope for taking it to events. After that we have one more book to go to complete this narrative arc, and hopefully that will be a bit less affected by the state of the world!

What happens after Hopeless Survivors, is an interesting question. We don’t quite know at this point, but pondering is under way. We had thought Survivors would be the last Hopeless graphic novel – they take Tom about 6 months and they don’t pay for six months of full time work, which is challenging for us as a household. However, there may be entertaining and time efficient ways of keeping on making comics, and we are exploring that at the moment and seeing where it takes us.

Annamarie Nightshade as seen by Dr Abbey and by Tom.

Hello people and others!

If you have been following the blog, you will know that we are working with the altogether amazing Dr Abbey on a (growing) number of projects. Here is an amazing complex and utterly gorgeous design of Annamarie Nightshade in his style. The scan does not do it justice entirely as there are touches of silver and gold that catch the light as you move the piece. Below this is  an earlier drawing of Annamarie by Tom Brown for contrast.

More of this to come, and news of further collaboration. Please stay tuned!

Hoping, (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

 

Annamarie

annamarie_nightshade_colour_by_copperage_ddgutm0-fullview

Hopeless Plotting

We are indeed, plotting, and at the moment, the plotting looks a bit like this –

At the moment, Tom and I are working on Optimists – the penultimate book in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series.  Next year we will be making the final book in the series – Survivors. Our plan from this point had been to stop doing graphic novels – Tom has just had his sixtieth birthday, and comics are labour intensive the way he draws them, and the decision was to move into smaller pieces and more illustration.

Note the use of the past tense.

Right now we’re not sure what the plan is, but experiments are under way and I’ll post updates as we have them. Which is likely to be soon, because one of the implications here is that we might be able to work a lot more quickly on some things, while giving Tom time to really dig in with the more elaborate illustrations as we go.

We might be able to have the best of many worlds, with time for the kind of art Tom does, and more of a manga style for Hopeless some of the time, and enough time to tell more stories.

We’ve known for some time now that Doctor Abbey would be more involved with Hopeless Maine as we move forward. We’re still figuring out how that works, and we’re collectively excited about the possibilities.

 

Hopeless Maine and diversity

One of the things that really bothers me with fiction and comics is the way that bad history and white supremacy get in the mix. The number of times I have seen people suggest that including People of Colour in a situation is woke and historically inaccurate is distressingly high.

The problem is that so many people have got their minimal historical education by watching films that were made by people who were racist and/or had other issues. American films from the first half of the twentieth century would cheerfully have white men playing people from anywhere in the world while failing to include People of Colour in times and places they most assuredly would have been. It’s not improved much since then.

The evidence is widespread, the art, the historical information, the written records, the photographs… Ignorant of actual history and fed only a whitewashed history, some people get really cross when faced with better representation.

The oceans of the Victorian era were multicultural places. People working on boats worked on whatever boats they could. If you lost a few key crew members to accident or illness, you’d take on people wherever you next landed. Crews were diverse.

And therefore we can confidently say that people with an option of shipwrecking off the coast of Hopeless, Maine would also have been diverse. We’ve populated the island with people whose ancestors came from all over the place and had no intention of getting stuck here! We’ve also kept it deliberately vague because we don’t have the knowledge to depict the specific experiences of people from around the world. It’s a balance to try and strike – inclusion but not trying to speak for people. We’re very aware that the publishing world lacks for diversity, and that representation matters.

We’re not good history, we’re wilfully anachronistic, and we like to play with things. But we’re still more accurate than the whitewashing.

Film Studies with Gregg McNeill

Having spent a lot of time at Steampunks in Space talking about early films with Gregg McNeill, we clearly had homework to do. Film is not a medium I’ve ever worked in and I don’t have a very visual mind. I have written scripts – for the comics, and also for mumming sides, so I knew just enough to know I was out of my depth. We set out on a process to steep me in old films in the hopes that this would enable me to write a viable script.

Some of it was a bit random, as Tom and I wandered about on youtube and online archives. Some of it was very deliberate as Gregg steered us towards things, and alerted us to details we should be considering. How the text boards are done. How the sets are put together. The lighting and mood. I would have to write for period appropriate technology, one camera that can’t move much, a small budget… there was a lot to think about.

Several period films became key to us during this process. One was Nosferatu – the way the lighting and shadows work there. The one that most impacted on me was The Cabinet of Dr Caligari because of the way in which the sets are painted. I realised this was the kind of look I wanted for us, and after consulting with Gregg it became apparent that this might be the most realistically affordable approach for us.

Having started this whole venture from the observation that there are parallels between silent films and comics, it because vital to dig in on those mechanics. A silent film needs a script for the actors to work from, and it also needs text cards to support that and guide the viewer. Gregg directed us to early Buster Keaten films for the most effective and minimal use of text cards. That became a bit of an obsession all by itself and there is a part of me that wants to make that kind of film. This may be a story for another day…

So much would depend on finding a team of people for the human characters who could embody what’s going on and get it across. The acting style in silent films is not the same as modern films. I admit that I love the more overblown acting approaches, and for several of our characters – Durosimi and Melisandra – that would make a lot of sense. The more we looked at films, the more aware I became that I needed to know who I was writing for. It wouldn’t work for us to have a script and try to cast it.

There was only ever one person I wanted to have playing Annamarie Nightshade. There is only one person I could imagine playing Melisandra. But would they be up for it? And who else should be in that team?

Check back next week for the next instalment of how we did all the crazy things…

And do have a look at Gregg McNeill’s patreon page – https://www.patreon.com/DarkboxImages

Chris Mole joins the ranks of the uncertain

Chris ‘The Mole’ Mole shipwrecked on Hopeless Maine five years ago, the sole survivor of a ship that had, as far as anyone could tell, been swept backwards through time. Where most shipwrecks just lie around breaking up while we frantically try and salvage them, The Eldritch Whale simply blinked in and out of focus for a couple of days. There was one, final damp plopping noise, and the strange craft was never seen again.

For the duration of his time with us, Chris Mole perplexed islanders as much as we seem to have perplexed him.  His questions were always challenging, especially his desire to know when people come from, and not where. We know Hopeless Maine has an odd relationship with the state of Maine to which we properly belong. None of us have seen the mainland in a while. We know from what washes in that our attire and speech may be a bit eccentric compared to what goes on inland. But the suggestion that we are temporally out of place has been unsettling.

It makes far more sense to assume that we are perfectly fine here on this island, and that Mr Mole had somehow moved through time towards us.

None of this goes any way towards explaining the digging. My personal hunch is that nominative determinism was at play here. How could a chap called Mole not feel a tug towards the pick and spade? For five years, he dug small holes all over the island, and still, no one knows why. What did he hope to find, or achieve? What did he dig up? No one knows.

As is often the case with island deaths, we can only infer the demise of Chris Mole. No body has been found – he may have fallen from a cliff, been swept out to sea or eaten by something. He may have become undead. He may be with us still but in some non-corporeal form brought on by something he dug up. He may have fallen into one of his own holes and somehow buried himself.

What we do know is that his pick and shovel were found beside a small hole just off the Fish Hill road. There has been no sign of him in any of his usual haunts in the past week. Until or unless a body appears that might be attributed to him, he will join the ranks of the uncertain – and we will shout his name at the sea, the sky and the land on each full moon until we know what happened, or we forget to mention him.

 

Find out about Chris Mole’s comics here – https://www.chrismole.co.uk/comics/

And join the kickstarter that killed him – there’s plenty of room in the mass grave for anyone who regrets not having got in for a personal obituary – just let us know! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

 

Hopeless Maine extras

Let’s start with some technical details. It takes about six months of Tom working full time to draw a Hopeless Maine graphic novel. On top of this, I do about 2 hours of work on each page, plus the writing time, so let’s call that 200 hours on each book at least. Now consider how much you think a person needs to earn in a six month period.

If a comic print run is 2000 books, at £10 a pop, the entire run is worth £20,000. Half of this will disappear into the hands of distributors, and bookshops. In the case of direct sales at events, those also have costs. So let’s say that half the money does indeed make it back to the publisher – that’s 10k. The publisher has to pay for the printing, the warehouse storage and the other costs of being a publisher. What remains, pays the wages of the publisher, the artist and the author. It doesn’t add up to a massive heap of beans. It is not possible, in small scale comics publishing, to earn enough to live on, simply. Not for the creators, and not for the publishers.

Some creators and publishers manage this by making comics alongside doing a job. This means the comics are much slower to create, and you’ve got the added pressure of working 2 jobs, or more.

So, that’s the gloomy bit. However, we do manage and we are committed to getting this series finished. One of the things that really helps is the small stream of income I get from Patreon. A bit of predictability goes a long way. I also work an assortment of day jobs as a freelance sort of person, and Tom also takes other paying work, but there just aren’t enough hours in a day for this to be easy. We are both a long way from being bright young things who can work forty and fifty hour weeks without massive consequences.

Right now on Patreon, there’s a new Mrs Beaten story for supporters. https://www.patreon.com/posts/tale-from-maine-29332415  I’ve also been serialising New England Gothic – a prose prequel to the graphic novels. Supporters get new videos before anyone else, and at the glass heron level, we post things out as well. It gives Hopeless Maine enthusiasts more to chew on, and it gives us more money to buy stuff to chew on, which we like. We’ve tried the hungry creator model, and it really doesn’t work for either of us.

If you are able and willing to get more involved, thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts and the hearts of our bottoms.

https://www.patreon.com/NimueB 

Making comics – making you complicit

Working on the Hopeless Maine graphic novel, things have occurred to me about how the whole comics making process works. One of the things that struck me recently (over the head, with a damp tentacle) was the way in which a comic creates the perspective of the viewer. How a comic is drawn tells you who you are in relation to what you’re seeing.

Many comics favour a filmic approach to the art. Exciting angles, worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, Dutch angles (when you tilt the camera). Distance shots, medium shots, close ups. You see the world of the comic as a camera would see it, as though you are watching a film. It can be a way of creating surprising and dramatic art, and showing off the artist’s grasp of perspective, space and angles. In terms of creating good art, this may be a significant factor.

When you watch a comic as though it was a film, stood on the outside, seeing through an imaginary set of cameras, you are outside the story. You are an observer, and the story is something you see, not something you participate in. Films show us streams of images that make sense, and that we can just look at with little effort on our part. Comics show us static images and we have to provide the motion and sound track in our heads. We have to turn the written words into voices. Comics require us to be much more active participants in bringing the story to life.

We don’t do a lot of fancy angles with Hopeless, Maine. There has been occasional criticism of this. Tom does the odd Dutch angle, but he points out that this is often what happens when you tilt your head to look at something. Most of the time, the perspective the reader gets is the perspective of someone standing, or sitting in the same scene. You might not be on an absolute level with the characters, but the eye view you get suggests that you are a person and in there with them.

It may not be a coincidence that so many people have been able to imagine themselves as just that – on the island. This blog is rich with contributions from people who have no trouble imagining they were there. Of course you were there. You’ve seen it with your own eyes…

A Traveller in Hopeless

Hello people! (and others) The lovely Matt Sanders has played Travels on Hopeless with his group of young humans and has this to report-

 

Hopeless, Maine – Travels in Hopeless – A Role-Playing Game for Adventurous Eccentrics

I’d like to just give you a little idea about the roleplaying game for Hopeless, Maine, and in the near future, I will provide an in-depth review, with all the ups and downs and ins and outs, along with video footage of the game in action.

But for now, let me get the mechanics out of the way, because I feel this game isn’t really about the core mechanics, but more about the nuanced elements of the mechanics and the game world and its atmosphere.

The core mechanics have at their root the Basic Roleplaying game from Chaosium, and any player of BRP and the now-legendary games that use it… Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest… will be instantly comfortable playing this game. Well, maybe not with the magic, but I’ll get back to that later when I get further into the setting. It isn’t pure BRP, and has its own flavour and style, but those familiar with BRP will grasp it all very quickly.

For those not familiar with the BRP system, but who are experienced roleplayer, it uses a simple roll-under percentile system which is very intuitive and becomes second-nature almost instantly.

The world of Hopeless, Maine will most likely feel incredibly familiar to many readers. I found the world and its characters less like things I was being introduced to and more like things I’d almost forgotten that I knew everything about.

The inspirations are clear, and the world has a deep, dark, abiding melancholy to it, and any lover of Poe, Lovecraft, Carroll, and even Dickens, should find things to love about it. Think of as being like Nicholas Nickleby wandering through the narrow streets of Arkham, pining over his lost Lenore, who the Mad Hatter had sacrificed in an attempt to appease Yog-Sothoth.

The artwork fits beautifully amongst the text, and evokes a mix of childhood memories of those dark and lovely television shows for children that those of us who grew up in the UK and in the 60s and 70s know so well, and the drawings of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.

The magic system, which I mentioned before, is incredibly thematic and versatile, and comes in two flavours… Folklore and Dichotomies.

Folkloric magic, also called witchcraft by some, is simple, quick magic, usable by most, which requires totems and talismans for its workings, and its practitioners can heal, curse, and defend.

Dichotomies are complex and lengthy rituals used to summon and bind demons, and are a far riskier proposition than witchcraft, and any error by the would-be demonologist could see them possessed or worse.

Don’t think it’s all about powers best left alone, there are also gadgets to be built, maintained, used… and misused… too. Steam or clockwork devices are the choice for the pragmatic adventurer, whilst if you really, really must make contracts with things from Beyond, yes, you can use demons to power your latest conveyance or weapon.

All in all, it is a lovely game, made even more delightful by the world that the Browns have crafted. Mr Healing has done a great job in adapting the BRP system and creating the versatile magics and gadgetry, and I won’t forget to mention Mr Cumber’s work in the Bestiary section either.

Any lovers of Hopeless, Maine who also enjoy roleplaying games really should indulge in this one, and thank you for tolerating my rambling style, as it’s been many, many years since I’ve written a review, and as I said at the start, expect a full, all-singing, all-dancing review very soon.

 

If this has piqued your curiosity, the core rules and the first scenario can be found here. I hope, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.