If you read our review yesterday, then you’ll know that Dave West is the creator of Accent UK’s Blessed/Cursed imprint. The comics are a brilliant mix of the sci-fi and superhero genres, with some great artwork to boot.
“Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man?”, the first of the standalone stories, centres on Bobby Doyle, a man with the ability to stop time. The second book, “Missing – Have You Seen The Invisible Man?” follows researcher James Williams who is forced to become a guinea pig for his experimental invisibility formula after an attack on his lab.
We had a chance to talk with West about the series, how it started and where he thinks it will go. Be sure to check out an exclusive preview of the third book in the series, “Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?” below as well.
What was the original inspiration for the Blessed/Cursed series?
I’ve always been a fan of super-hero comics and wanted to tell a few stories about what it might be like if a few people actually did have these extra-ordinary abilities. People living amongst us, sat next to us on the bus or at the next desk at work. I’m sure that in today’s world it’d take a rare individual indeed to put on a brightly coloured suit and present himself or herself to the media as a super-hero. To me the world is too ‘grey’ for that. I think it more likely that the person would try to live as typical a life as possible, to fit in with what is deemed ‘normal’. I also wanted to bring out the fact that there’s always a balance. The negative that comes with the positive. Maybe it’s a British, “glass half empty” thing but I can’t see there not being a down side to every ability.
Clearly, both stories live in a bit of a genre grey area. How would you relate them to other current attempts to create “realistic” superheroes? Or would you say that they are more akin to classic sci-fi?
Attempts at realistic superheroes tend to still drift into a world where they are all over the press, celebrated or feared. Astro City did, and I think it’s back for another run, a great job of this but the man-on-the-street still gazed on in awe. I wanted to bring this all down to a more human level. People could do great things, at a cost, but would they? What would I do if I could turn invisible or stop time ? I guess the stories do try to lean more towards Sci-Fi than Super-heroics.
Was there a reason behind making the antagonists in both books domestic terrorists?
Not really, and the third book “Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?” is a lot less obvious. I wrote the first two books a little while ago now and against the backdrop of what was going on in the world the terrorist theme just drifted into the story.
“Fastest Man” has a very clear set of rules for Doyle and follows quite a logical progression. How did you decide on exactly how “Doyle time” would function?
I wanted to break as few rules as possible with his ability and set a number of constraints. Working within these constraints would then, hopefully, make the work more acceptable to the reader. The counting down clock set a limit to how long he had, in real time. The fact that his ability was still limited in what it could do meant that he would eat into this time as he went about the task in front of him. I think it’s important to understand and work within your own rules. The problem I always had as a kid growing up reading comics was how the Hulk could knock down houses and punch holes in tanks in one scene and then merely knock Spider-Man out of the way in the next. It was inconsistent. Hulk was trying to knock Spider-Man into the next state, with his strength he would have taken his head off. With Bobby Doyle I wrote down what his limitations were and applied them consistently throughout the story
The problem of seeing while invisible has been around since H.G. Wells’ story. Can you tell us a bit more about how James “sees”? Did the way that he “sees” the world influence the high-contrast style of the artwork or was that a happy accident?
I’ve a degree in zoology and have always been interested in the way other creatures perceive their environment. Creatures that live in pitch black caves still manage to move around, eat and survive. With all the talk of genetic modification it occurred to me that acquiring some of these attributes would perhaps be the most straight forward way of solving the problem that came with having an invisible retina, to rely on the other senses rather than try to solve the problem with vision. The artwork from Joe Campbell was all down to how Joe interpreted the story. Joe came on board following two artists having to drop out for one reason or another. I came across Joe’s work when he sent me a pdf to look at and knew his art style would work on the story. I was right.
“Fastest Man” took several years to complete. How did the story evolve over that time?
It didn’t really evolve at all. I wrote it in one sitting and it pretty much took only a slight revision before Marleen Lowe worked her magic on it. There were a couple of reasons it took a while to come to be completed. Andy Bloor, co-creator and artist on The Wolfmen had wanted to illustrate it initially but after about a year decided that he just wouldn’t be able to fit it in. Luck would have it that Marleen had stepped in to illustrate a story for our Robots anthology and I just knew she’d do a great job. Marleen, like I, has a day job and so had to fit “Fastest Man” around that, but she still turned the pages out pretty quickly and each page was a knockout. A late addition was a page we added following a suggestion from Garen Ewing (Rainbow Orchid) which was to make it clearer as to why Bobby could use a super market trolley to assist him in his task. Getting feedback is really important, you get too close to these stories and an outside view is extremely useful.
What inspired the newspaper style covers?
It was an idea I put to Andy Bloor, who designs most of Accent UK’s books. I wanted to be able to tell part of the tale on the cover, to use the cover as a lead in to the story. Also I loved the idea of being able to do a Sports back cover and the odd internal pages in the style of newspaper articles. We had some fun on the movie pages.
I know that you are planning a third book in the series, “Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?” (preview below). Are there any plans for more beyond that?
Well I have written another one. About a changeling. I’ll be chasing that up once “Kane Mesmer” is complete and see where it’s at. After that I might tell another story featuring the lead characters of the “Kane Mesmer” story, but I’ve got a number of other projects on the go at the moment, WesterNoir is really taking a lot of my creative energy, it’s a multi-layered Western Horror min-series that I’m working on with Gary Crutchley. It’s hard for me to get into more than one book at a time as I don’t want to lose the flow. It’ll be a while then before I revisit the Blessed/Cursed imprint I think.
Both Blessed/Cursed books are available to purchase online at www.accentukcomics.com, with digital copies available on Lush Comics and iBooks. You can find all of the Accent UK Comics news at www.accentukcomics.blogspot.co.uk. Keep an eye out for the third Blessed/Cursed book, “Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?”, coming soon!