Monday, May 2, 2011

Introducing - Vanguard!

One-Woman War Machines! Gryphons! Invisible-ish Men! Smoke Angels! Angry One-Eyed Donkeys!

This is VANGUARD, a new anthology comic featuring four (would be) on-going serials, written by myself and illustrated by some of the best talent working in the UK small press arena.

The idea for Vanguard came about when, at the start of the year, I was going through my files of old story ideas to see which ones I could resurrect and turn into comic scripts. Having gotten into the comic-scripting game last year and been lucky enough to have a number of scripts accepted by various publications, both online and print, I was keen to revisit these old ideas, which were languishing on my hard-drive gathering cyber-dust. I came across three stories in particular which I've been working on, on and off, for the best part of the last ten years, originally with the idea of developing them as novels. That plan has been going nowhere fast for a long time though, and with three half-completed manuscripts and no end in sight for any of them, it suddenly occurred to me that all three might work a lot better as comic strips. A quick trial at creating 6-7 page "part ones" for each of them made me realise I had three pretty much 'ready to go' comic series on my hands, ones I was sure would make for some entertaining reading. But what was I to do with them?

There aren't many places you can submit series ideas to in the UK small press, as most outlets prefer to publish one-off 'future shock' style shorts or fan-fiction type scripts based on existing characters. One exception to this is the excellent PARAGON, brainchild of Davey Candlish and home to stars Jikan and Battle Ganesh. I was lucky enough to get to write some scripts for Jikan last year, and also had my own series "ICARUS DANGEROUS" picked up by the comic (episode 1 appeared in the most recent edition). I realised that a comic like Paragon would be perfect for what I had in mind...but since I couldn't find another comic like Paragon, I thought to myself...well, why don't I make one?! And so the idea was born. I put out the feelers to see if I could get any artists interested and was quickly able to 'sign up' small-pressers DAVID BLANKLEY, LOUIS CARTER and BRIGONOS MAC GIOLLA CHOMHAILL to the cause. With LIAM"GHOSTPOCKETS" BYRNE agreeing to do a colour cover (and a fourth 'dark horse' strip joining the roster, with art by another great small-press artist OWEN WATTS), all the pieces fell into place and I decided...what the heck! Let's give it a shot. The worst that can happen is I put a few quid into getting it printed and have a nice looking comic on my shelf to show for it. If I actually manage to sell a few, all the better!

So, the first issue of Vanguard is very much an experiment, to test the waters and get some feedback on the stories, see what works and what doesn't. The AIM is to produce a regular - if infrequent! - comic that will develop the stories and characters within and allow them to reach their natural conclusions. The plan is that there will be 2 issues of Vanguard published each year, probably Summer and Winter editions, though how feasible/workable this is all remains to be seen.

Vanguard follows the 2000ad formula of offering a varied menu of tales, and will hopefully feature something for everyone, with sci-fi action and butt-kicking heroines, fantasy adventure featuring Gryphons and Smoke Angels, a modern-day supernatural mystery thriller featuring a cast of cursed, tragic heroes with strange abilities, and a retro-style "animals on the rampage" tale starring one very pissed off donkey!

Synopsis of all the stories can be found in the following entries, along with sample pages. If any of this tickles your fancy, please do take a chance on us and give it a try. We've all put a lot of work into producing the best comic strips we can and I'm confident you'll find plenty in here to enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Dirk van Dom,
April 2011

Atomic Call

Orphan, tomboy, juvenile delinquent, soldier. Colleen 'Call' Malone has been many things in her thirty years of life...and she's about to add 'fugitive' to the list. Detained in a juvenile detention centre during her teenage years, she was forcibly conscripted into the Irish army to serve in war-torn Libya, under a new, innovative rehabilitation scheme for minor offenders. Embracing the chance to turn her life around, Colleen dedicates herself to her training and becomes a top class soldier during the course of her years in military school and later in the field. Her past comes back to haunt her however when, denied time off to attend the funeral of 'Mammy' -- the matriarch of the orphanage she grew up in and the closest thing to a mother she ever had -- she goes AWOL in order to pay her last respects. Reuniting with old pal and fellow orphan Sally Marrett (who has also turned her life around, though in a completely different way) she agrees to repay an old debt by helping Sally with a problem - namely, providing some 'muscle' to help her deal with the goons trying to take over her brothel in Dubai! This task will see Call tempted back to her old ways of thievery and connivery, with the skills she picked up in the army allowing her to operate on a whole new level -- a level that will see her come into possession of some very powerful technology...and set the world's most dangerous bounty hunter on her tail!

Check out a preview of page 1 below. Art by David Blankley.

Halo and the Gryphon

Deep in the Arundack mountains, a young gryphon named Zephyr longs for adventure. Frustrated by his tribe's policy of self-imposed exile, he desires nothing more than to explore the world beyond Sanctuary, and can not understand why the gryphon elders insist they remain hidden from the planet's human inhabitants. After all, gryphon's are bigger, faster and more powerful than humans, what reason should they have to fear them? When he spots what appears to be a shooting star come down in the woods beyond their territory, his curiousity gets the better of him. Ignoring all warnings, he sets out to investigate, planning to retrieve the object. However, when the 'shooting star' turns out to be a high-tech alien Halo, and Zephyr unwittingly becomes its new host, a series of events are set in motion that will change his life forever. The Halo holds many secrets and is being sought by some ruthless, otherworldly foes - foes that will invade Zephyr's life, and the lives of those around him, and bring him more adventure than he could ever have imagined.

Check out a preview of a page from the first episode below. Art by Louis Carter.

The Sluagh

"The Sluagh: spirits of the restless dead, generally evil people who were welcome in neither heaven nor hell, nor in the Otherworld, who had also been rejected by the Celtic deities and by the earth itself."

Shane Easterbrook, a troubled young man with a tragic past and dark secret, finds himself cursed to a strange half-existence when he tries to take his own life. Despite what should have been a fatal suicide attempt he somehow survives...albeit out of sync with the rest of the world. Though not invisible, people look through him as though he isn't there. And whilst he quickly learns he can FORCE others to acknowledge him by physically interacting with them, he finds this is only effective as long as he remains in direct contact with them: as soon as he leaves their company, all memory of any interaction they had is forgotten. Unable to understand how or why this happened to him, Shane gives in to an overwhelming urge to travel to Ireland, his mother's birthplace, in the hope of solving the mystery, taking advantage of his 'curse' to get him by. And that's where his problems begin. The Sluagh are gathering...but is Shane one of them?

Check out a preview from the first episode below. Art by Brigonas Mac Giolla Chomhaill.


Ireland, the late 19th century and animal cruelty is at its peak. Horses and donkeys are being exterminated in huge numbers by the factories supplying cabinet and furniture makers with the all important glues crucial to the production of their wares. Equine animals – whose hides and hooves produce the best mixtures - have become the animal of choice as raw materials in the production of these glues, and the men and women employed by the glue factories act in barbaric fashion in 'converting' them. It's a nasty business...and somebody has to do something about it. Enter young Jamie Swift and her pet mule, Duncan, a Mammoth-Jack donkey she found mutilated and dying having escaped one such factory. Rescuing Duncan and nursing him back to health, the two form a special bond and unite in their goal of liberating as many of Duncan's kind as possible from the glue factories...but this act will unwittingly pit them against the nastiest, cruellest foe imaginable -- Jamie's own father!!! Watch out glue makers! Duncan Mammoth-Jack is on the rampage - and he is one ticked off pony!

Check out page 1 of the first episode below. Art by Owen Watts.