Tag Archives: comics

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 

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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.

New England Gothic

Hello people! (and others)

Many years ago, when Nimue and I started this whole Hopeless, Maine thing, Nimue wrote two books that went along with the timeline of The Gathering.  The first of these two books was New England Gothic, which takes place before book one and gives a lot of background on Annamarie and her earlier life (Yes. Those of you who have read Sinners will be having feels at this point) NEG is a bloody wonderful strange tale and we thought we’d bring it and the other prose book out along with the graphic novels, lavishly illustrated, of course. Well, this was before we learned a lot of things about the publishing industry (some of which we would rather not know, but that’s a long story for another time) We do plan to release both of these books in PDF form in the near future on the same Etsy site that the game is on. Then, hopefully, later there will be the fully illustrated print version. In the meantime, you can get New England Gothic in installments by pledging to Nimue’s Patreon!

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

Cover art reveal

Hello, people (and others)!

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet. I’ve been working diligently on the page art for the next graphic novel volume and Nimue is doing roughly twelve thousand* things all at once.

*rough estimate, she is a blur, so it’s tricky to count.

Hopefully, this will make up for it, a bit. Here is the cover art for VICTIMS (Volume three of Hopeless, Maine) I gave a bit of background about the decision process on the subject matter when we posted the cover art at drawing stage, so I won’t get into that here. I *will* say, that this is the best, strangest, most touching, funniest script so far. You know when you are watching an anime series and the first season is all pretty straightforward and largely what you would expect and then the following seasons drops you into the deep end and play with all of your expectations and turn up the emotions and conflict? Yes, that. That’s pretty much what’s going on with the rest of the series.

Here is a thing wot I wrote to go to the distributor for the listing of Victims-

“Welcome back to the fog-shrouded island of Hopeless, Maine- an island cut off from the world and lost in time. It’s been busy here since you’ve been away! We all knew that werewolves would show up on the island eventually. I mean, there are vampires (that cough), ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night (and occasionally around noon, for no particular reason) well, they’re here now. Salamandra and Owen do their best to cope with this new danger to island residents while investigating a new rash of disappearances. Masked, cowled cultists have begun to make themselves known, and the vampires are about as much help as usual. Salamandra struggles with the disembodied presence that surrounds the island and continues to speak to her alone. Owen receives a new position (which he definitely does not want) and Drury the undead dog cavorts across the island. This is the most eventful volume yet, with greater insight into the main characters, and a generous helping of dark humor.”

Pretty good, huh?

So here, without further ado, is the cover art, hand coloured by Nimue. The text is a temporary version, our publisher will make the design all shiny and put the Sloth Logo on and such. Also-look closely and see if you can find the key in the image. That’s a thing that showed up in The Gathering, and we will have more to say about that soon… Hope you like!

In which we make a book cover

Hello, people! (and others)

Rather a lot has been going on behind the scenes here, and this will no doubt lead to rather a lot more things and we shall be busy, and will hopefully keep you entertained. My focus at the moment is the art for the NEXT VOLUME OF HOPELESS MAINE (pardon the shouting. Bit excited.) The next book will be called Victims (this is because originally the series was to be called “Hopeless” rather than “Hopeless, Maine” so the titles were all playing on that. So, the next book would have been called Hopeless Victims, but our old publisher insisted on Hopeless, Maine and now all of our clever plans lie in ruins on the floor. (not really, just going for sympathy there)

Normally. I draw the cover art before we start the page art at all, but we thought we’d try something different this time and get a better sense of the book and then do the cover. All of the covers feature Salamandra doing some sort of magic (the keen-eyed among you will have noticed) So, as Nimue and I were walking and discussing possibilities, Nimue said: “I have an idea, but it’s a bit silly”. I knew we were onto a winner at that point. We have not shown Sal doing fire yet really, so Sal looking epic while heating a kettle for tea was the perfect solution. This means we get to include magic, devices, Sal and perhaps most importantly, tea. Here we are at the pencil stage.

Nimue has just started on the hand colouring and we will be passing the finished thing to our lovely publisher (Sloth!) before long. All being well, Victims will be in your hands, claws or tentacles late spring/early summer. I’m greatly enjoying drawing the page art and being more collaborative with Nimue on the art as well as the story is an absolute pleasure!

Until next time, I hope this finds you all well, inspired and thriving.

 

In which Cliff Cumber is amazing

Hello people! (and others)

It is long past time we dedicated a whole piece to an amazing member of the Hopeless, Maine creative tribe-Cliff Cumber.

We met Cliff on Twitter a while back, and were lucky enough to lure him to the island. He did much of the art for Tales From the Squid and Teapot (some of the very best of it, I would say) He created the art for the Hopeless, Maine tourist bureau (which we still proudly display at events) and then…when we asked him to contribute art to the Hopeless, Maine tabletop RPG- Travels in Hopeless, he bravely stepped forward. Much of the art in the bestiary section is his. (and I got to colour some of it also! ) His Gnii illustration is one of my favourite pieces of HM art at all-ever. Oh! Yes. AND he has a pin up in Sinners! (Two fantastic Sal drawings) Look here, and you will see some selected highlights from his work for Travels in Hopeless.

Mr Cumber was originally from the UK and moved to the US to marry (exact mirror of my own journey) and now does art for comics and several projects for our great friend Professor Elemental!

Go and visit him on twitter and tell him we sent you!

Hopeless Sinners and Other Oddities. 

Hello, again people (and others).

If you have ever had a book launch or attended one and are not Neil Gaiman or JK Rowling you will know that they tend to be sad affairs rife with disappointment and stale snacks.

For this reason (among others) we have decided that we will not ever, ever, do that to ourselves or our friends ever again-ever (at all-ever) Besides which, despite our gloom tinted work, we are generally in favor of fun. (I hope you were sitting down for that) So, we thought, what’s fun then? Pubs. Pubs are fun. Music is fun. Having our friends in a pub with music and stories and poetry would almost certainly be fun. So, basically a party. (well, our sort of party, at any rate) Some of our favorite people have agreed to perform including Martin Pearson (of the Squid and Teapot), Meredith Debonnaire who has written some of our favorite pieces for the Vendetta (and introduced singing snails to the island) and Madeline Harwood, who is one of the best singers in the world. (she *may* be singing about….Dustcats) also Robin Collins! (Who brought us hairy coffee and other wonders) and two Keiths! One who created the Hopeless, Maine RPG, and another you have not met yet who is quite simply one hell of a writer. A Cup of Tentacles will sing songs of the island and songs evoking it. Massively Chuffed to say that local poet- Gary Death will be performing his Vendetta poem cycle also. This…is going to be a great deal of our sort of fun.

If you are in the area, please do come and join us. If you are not, there will be photos!

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving

Hopeless, Maine goes forth.

Hello, again people (and others)!

We are going to indulge in a general catch up sort of Vendetta before we plunge back into the community generated Hopeless, Maine material. (of which there is a lot)

Things have been happening. Several of them. Some of them all at once. The next graphic novel installment of Hopeless, Maine (Sinners) is due out in early June from Sloth Comics, so it is time to get started on the next volume.  The next volume will be titled….something. We have not actually decided yet. We have figured out that the narrative that will be told over the two page spreads will be about Drury going on a bit of a rampage and encountering (By which I mostly mean, “trying to bite”) the local fauna. Spoonwalkers and Night potatoes and Dustcats have been shockingly popular with you all, so we will deliver in this series. (also, we rather love them, and we all need a bit of whimsey at the moment, I think) Here is the pencil stage of the first two page spread. Nimue is in the process of colouring it now, and i’ll share the finished version on the social medias no doubt. (Oh, I’m @GothicalTomB on twitter and Nimue is @Nimue_B)

Right. Art. Here it is.

If you have not met Drury yet, you are going to love him, I confidently predict. The chap chasing him is Donald, who Drury has attached himself to. Donald is a bit of an homage to Edward Gorey (Dresses like a Gorey drawing and has the “G” on his jumper”

 

So, the other things. Well, the Hopeless, Maine RPG written by Keith Healing (with bits by other Vendetta contributors) has a (new) publisher and is nearly complete. You will be hearing more about that in the autumn of this year. I’m just silly amounts of excited imagining people sort of co-creating as they explore the island in an RPG . Inventing personas, populating the island with people and further strangeness… In a week or so there is going to be a test campaign DMed by Keith. We will be on hand to watch, take notes and pictures, and eat free food. There will be content from that here on the Vendetta so stay tuned. Here is one of the pieces of art I have done for the Game. (which will also feature art from Cliff Cumber!)

 

There is also a Hopeless, Maine tarot deck in progress. It is mostly written by the frankly rather amazing Laura Perry. No projected date on this, as I have a few cards left to draw, but it is not far away.

Here is an image done specifically for the deck. It’s Balthazar Lemon as the King of Flames (wands)

There is an illustrated prose book (New England Gothic- written by Nimue) that should be out soon, and…another possible thing that I cannot discuss just yet (Though the mere possibility makes me giddy) OH! Yes. Ald also (hopefully timed with the release of Sinners) a Professor Elemental Hopeless, Maine song. (This is a thing we have wanted for *years* and it is finally coming to pass)

So, that’s probably it for now. Lots of paper to get dirty.

Be splendid to each other, please and as always, I hope this finds you well, inspired, and thriving. (If it does not, cake is always good)

 

 

Of Jason Eckhardt and The Gathering

Hello people! (and others)

I shall tell you a brief story and then we will move on to other things if you are willing. (Your unwillingness would be expressed by not reading any further, I suppose, but you will be rewarded by sticking with me for a bit) I met the esteemed Mr. Eckhardt many years ago when I still lived in Maine. He and I were both (as it turns out) illustrators for the same Lovecraftian publications and I had been an admirer of his work for ages. We met (on a Thanksgiving, as I recall, many years ago) and became fast friends. He is one of the best pen and ink illustrators I have ever encountered, and his work suits the eerie and weird to an uncanny degree. When it came time to have a new masthead for Hopeless, Maine, I knew the chap I wanted to do the job, and, bless him, he said “yes”. Here is Jason’s design for the masthead for Hopeless, Maine in all its glory.

As you can see, it’s perfect and better even than we had hoped.

As Jason had designed this, we thought we had better send him a copy. (the very least we could do) and the following is his response and review of Hopeless, Maine- The Gathering. To my delight, all of the things I was hoping were there to find, he did find. His review follows.

“I’m prejudiced—I admit it.  I have been an admirer of the artwork of Tom Brown for many years now, and I don’t care who knows it.  But even that fore-knowledge didn’t prepare me for the depth and weird beauty of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, the graphic novel/ saga Brown co-created with wife Nimue Brown.  “Hopeless, Maine” is really an omnibus of three volumes following the adventures of the girl Salamandra in the fog-shrouded town of the title.  But this is no town you will find in the Maine Atlas, nossuh.  Rather it is as if some characters escaped from the manga universe took a wrong turn on US Route 1 and ended up in Edward Gorey’s backyard.  There is a perennial fog covering the town of Hopeless (on an island?  Or one of the many scrawny peninsulas of the Maine coast?), and it seems to hold the inhabitants there in a perpetual state of dusk and gloom.  In a word, hopeless.

    But there is a spark in young Salamandra that won’t be extinguished.  She begins as an orphan in a large, empty house littered with dismembered toys, cobwebs, and unfinished magical experiments left by her absent parents.  A kindly local witch, Miss Nightshade, takes Salamandra to the local orphanage.  There she befriends a crow and a boy, Owen, and acquires what is possibly the worst “invisible friend” in literature (who, through the brilliant irony of Tom and Nimue, is made the most doe-eyed and manga-esque waif of them all).  Meanwhile, things—some like bits of seaweed, some like jumbles of bones or brass fittings—float by in the thick, yellow-grey murk, sprouting eyes that regard both the characters and the reader alike with a terrible blandness.  There is also a tree of bottles.  None of these things is explained—they simply are—which is much of their outré charm.

    There is more, much more to this book than this, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.  Reading the Hopeless saga is a continuous revelation of beauty and strangeness.  It is a story that requires constant attention, but rewards that attention a hundred-fold.  Clearly, Tom and Nimue had a clear vision of their story and its heroine, and remained faithful to that vision throughout.  If I have any criticism of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, it is with some of the type.  The text in the “Prelude” is rather small for my old eyes, and title-headings are similarly insignificant.  This makes the jump from chapter to chapter a little disorienting at times.

    But these are quibbles.  “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering” is your ticket to become wonderfully lost in the weird world of this most unusual of Downeast towns, all in one volume.  Don’t pass it by.”

 

There you have it! We mostly use the Vendetta as a source of entertainment, and not to (directly) promote the books, but we thought this was well worth sharing.

I hope this finds you well, inspired, and thriving.