Monday, 17 March 2014

Doghouse, Video Nasties and Comic Book Coincidences.

Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled 'That was then...', which was a rise and fall story of my comic shop; Apocalypse Comics. At the end of the blog I spoke of my desire to become a comic book writer and asked for you all to watch this space as I attempt to break into the industry that I love once again as a creator this time. Today, I am home after the hugely successful launch weekend for 'VIDEO NASTY', my d├ębut comic book, which has quickly become the hottest independent comic in the UK (soon to be the world) and I wanted to share with you all the story of how this project came to fruition.

January 2011, Apocalypse Comics, the comic shop that Brendon Irons (my best friend since childhood) and myself built from the ground up closed it's doors for the final time. We had been struggling with our finances for months up to that point and had found ourselves in an inescapable hole of debt to the point in which we finally had to wave the white flag and admit defeat. It was a crushing blow for us both, but as neither of us are the kind of blokes to just roll over and die, we remained determined to pursue our dreams in seperate avenues. Brendon now buys and sells retro toys (which was always his primary passion) online under the name PAST TIME TOYS and I couldn't be prouder of him. I on the other hand took the opportunity to do something that I had wanted to do for years, but never had the time to dedicate to; write comics.



I had already begun work on a project that would eventually become 'CIRCLES', the award nominated web comic that I release on a monthly basis through my website - www.MarioCovone.com - which I co-create with artist Frank J. Right, but now that I was out of work I had plenty of time on my hands to turn my ideas into scripts. The week after the shop closed I opened my laptop and begun working on the script for 'IMPERFECT WORLD', (which you can read more about here) an original graphic novel that is due out later this year with art by Grim Rascal, as well as fleshing out 'CIRCLES'. I soon started to see potential stories everywhere, gaining inspiration from the things I would see, hear and read, looking at the lives of those around me and wondering 'what if?'.



A couple of months into the year I was buying a horror movie on Amazon and in the recommendations section was a DVD that instantly piqued my interest. VIDEO NASTIES: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, a documentary film about the video nasty scandal that rocked the UK in the 1980's. So I went straight to the torrent sites and downloaded a copy (yeah, I know it's wrong, but I'm one of those try before you buy guys). The film was a shocking eye opener that explained the media madness and government manipulation that led to 72 films being prosecuted for indecency, 39 of which were banned outright and the remaining 33 cut to ribbons by the censors. Video rental outlets and distributors had their stock seized and incinerated and some even faced prison sentences. It was lunacy as the newspapers and members of parliament involved created lie after lie to enforce their agendas of scaremongering. The film on the other hand was incredible and I was quickly back on Amazon purchasing a copy. Whilst waiting for it to arrive, I watched my dodgy pirate copy over and over and by the time the DVD saw its way through my letterbox I had found myself inspired to write another comic script.

My idea was to create a fictional horror story set in real world Britain during the nasty scandal. A series of brutal murders would rock a small English rural town and whilst a level headed police detective was attempting to solve these horrific crimes, pressure from on high was forcing him to investigate the possible link to horror videos. I had my inspiration, my plot and time to write and a week later a script for a 100 page stand alone graphic novel that I was very proud of. So what next? I needed to begin looking for an artist, but in the meantime I thought it would be a good idea to contact the people involved with the documentary to see if any of them would have a look at my script and endorse it. I may as well start at the top with the director, a man called Jake West. I knew that I had heard the name before but couldn't quite put my finger on where, but a quick search on IMDB made me believe that this project was serendipitous.



Rewind to 2008. I had just started up Apocalypse Comics as a mail order business from my bedroom at my Mum's house, selling comics through our website and on ebay. I received an email from a film production company that was making a horror film staring Danny Dyer called Doghouse, a scene of which was to be set in a comic book shop and I was asked if I had any spare comics that I could donate to dress the set, specifically any Evil Dead comics. We had recently done a deal with Dynamite Entertainment to produce a retailer exclusive variant cover for an issue of their ARMY OF DARKNESS comic, which to those of you that don't know is the third film in the Evil Dead series and so not only did we send over a big box of assorted comics, but also a stack of these exclusives. They credited us in the 'Thank You' section at the end of the film and we could advertise our comic as 'Seen in the film Doghouse' when flogging them at conventions. My girlfriend at the time and I went to the cinema to watch the movie on release and both thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a buzz to be part of a film and gave my shop a bit of bragging rights, which is all I thought it would ever be... But I was wrong.



So I'm looking at Jakes profile on IMDB and low and behold, he was only the bloody director of Doghouse! This guy owes me a favour! I google Jake and find Nucleus Films, the production company that he and Marc Morris run and I send him an email explaining this string of events that led to me to this finished script asking him to give it a read. At this point I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had nothing to lose in sending the email, but this guy is a film director who is probably way too busy to look over my funny book script, right? Within a day I had received a response from Jake, who was not only keen to read the script, but flattered that his work had inspired me to write it in the first place. What a result! What a nice guy! I'm a nobody fanboy with aspirations of becoming a writer and this man who was responsible for the critically acclaimed Video Nasties, the best documentary film I have ever seen, is willing to take time out of his busy schedule to take a look over my work! This is amazing! And being so proud of what I had written at that point, he will no doubt love the script and tell me I'm the next Alan Moore, right?

After reading it, Jake emailed me back with some notes of problems that he saw in the story. There were to be a fair a good few notes. Here I was thinking that I'm going to blow this guy away to the point in which he'd insist on adapting it for his next movie project and I'm being told that the script is less than perfect. My ego was bruised and it took me a few days to actually email him back as I read and re-read his advice over and over again, at first trying to see where I could tell him that he was wrong and the script was fine as it was. But he wasn't wrong and in actuality as I looked closer at the script, taking his advice into account, I could see just how it could be improved. What had just happened was probably the most important lesson I will ever learn about becoming a writer, in that you can become so close to what you are writing that you don't see the flaws in your own work. I know the messages that I want to convey to my audience, but if I don't tell the story properly or to its fullest potential then how can I expect them to be as impressed as I am. Even writing this blog now, knowing that no one else will read it before it is published I worry about mistakes. Once again Jake had inspired me, this time to become a better writer, open to criticism and willing to admit when changes need to be made. So back to the laptop I went, Jakes notes in hand, and began rewriting several more drafts until I was completely happy with the end result.



The 100 page graphic novel soon became a six issue mini series and now the hunt was on for an artist. A couple of artists seemed keen to be a part of the project, but were unreliable and to be fair their work wasn't great. What I really needed was someone who understood the vibe of the story I was trying to tell and could convey my vision into panelled pages. Enter Andreas Pefanis, the manager of COMICWORLD, a consortium of incredibly talented artists that all hail from Greece. Andreas had one artist in particular that was just finishing up on a comic that he assured me would be perfect for my project, a man by the name of Vasilis Logios. I took a look at Vas' portfolio and was inclined to agree with Andreas and so emailed him the scripts. Vas understood straight away what was needed and almost immediately began work on character designs. Shortly after we agreed on a financial arrangement and Vas got to work bringing Video Nasty to life.



I knew I had a great script with an original concept. I now also had a phenomenal artist making the book look incredible, but none of that is worth a damn if you can't entice people to pick the piece up in the first place. I needed a hook, something to make the book pop and force people to take notice. The old adage states that 'you should never judge a book by its cover', which whilst being true is something that is generally ignored in the world of comics. Almost all of the big publishers will boost sales by hiring big name premium artists to produce covers for their comics and as much as I love Vas' work, with the two of us being unknowns in the industry, it would be easier for us to gain recognition if our covers were produced by a big name. In horror art there is no bigger name in the UK than Graham Humphreys, the man responsible for the movie posters and VHS covers for films such as; A Nightmare on Elm St parts 1-5, Evil Dead 1&2, Return of the Living Dead, Kindred, From Dusk Till Dawn and the list goes on and on. I had loved Graham's work for years and even had one of his posters for Nightmare on Elm St 4 framed and hanging on my wall. In my mind there was no one better or more appropriate to produce the cover art. After an email conversation Graham was on board and the next few months was joyous as I received emails from both him and Vas with gloriously gory art. Soon, Sam Palmer joined the team as colourist and Nikki Foxrobot came on for lettering duties. The book came together smoothly and we were set to release the first issue in early 2014.



So I had a complete team and together we had a finished piece and a tentative release date. All I needed was to make some noise and get a potential fan base to be excited about this comic. I had read somewhere that when Joe Quesada, artist and Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Comics, was releasing his work for Event Comics, he would throw big launch parties that got him noticed by Marvel. You have to hustle in this business and so I thought if it worked for Joe, it could work for me. I knew that the Prince Charles Cinema in London's Leicester Square would show sponsored performances of films and with it being the best and coolest cinema in the UK, would also garner the book extra attention. So I booked the cinema for Saturday the 15th of March 2014 to show a special uncut screening of Sam Raimi's classic video nasty; THE EVIL DEAD, where I could address the crowd to promote the comic and send everyone away with a free copy of the first issue.



Everything was booked and in place and the next two months was hardcore promotion for the event and the comic in which I got back in touch with Jake who introduced me to Marc, both of whom have been massive supporters of the project and have done nothing but help get the word out about the book. I was also introduced to the guys that organise Fright Fest, the UK's biggest horror film festival and was invited to Glasgow to introduce the comic to the attendees as well as give them a sample in the form of an ashcan preview comic. After mailing out the press release there has been an overwhelming flow of support from the horror and comics media and the great reviews for the book keep coming. Academics, authors and film critics such as Brad Stevens, Patricia MacCormack and David Flint have all endorsed the book and critically praised it. It has been a roller coaster two months leading up to the launch of Video Nasty #1 that culminated in an incredibly successful launch weekend at both the Prince Charles, where 200+ horror fanatics came to watch the Evil Dead and support the comic, as well as at London Super Comic Convention where Vas, Graham, Sam and I signed copies of the first issues for fans rabid for the next big thing in horror and comics!



It took three years of hard work to get to this point and this is still only the beginning. There are still five more issues of VIDEO NASTY to come and Vas & I are already getting prepped for volume 2 which we will release in March 2015. Plus my webcomics are going from strength to strength and I have at least two other separate projects due for release this year.

I need to say a massive Thank You to all involved in creating the book, to all that have helped to promote it, to all that have bought it and to those that attended the launch party. I am overwhelmed by the positive reaction and promise to continue to create the best quality comics on the market, making sure to remain humble and open to criticism.

Thank You All!

M X

You can buy Video Nasty from UK on Display, Forbidden Planet and all quality comic shops.
Please follow Video Nasty's progress at www.facebook.com/VideoNastyComic
Follow me on Twitter @MarioCovone
And buy yourself a copy of the Video Nasties documentary here.


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