Cavan Scott has a Writer's Commentary on Shadow Service #1 from Vault Comics. He writes;
Hello! Thanks for joining me at the beginning of an adventure. This book has been coming a long time, ever since I was a kid who fell in love with both James Bond and monsters, although not necessarily in that order. (That said, Bond did have his own monster in the form of Jaws who I simply adored from the moment I first saw him, which was probably in grainy black and white pictures in a magazine. Anyway, sorry, I digress. That happens from time to time. Bear with me.)
Fast forward thirty or more years, and I'm pitching a series that combines secret agents and supernatural hijinks to Vault's Adrian Wassel. The issue you've hopefully got in your hands in the result. If you haven't got a copy of issue one, then go grab one and read along.
Warning: there will be spoilers and exposed rib-cages.
Page 1: Welcome to Gina Meyer's London. Originally when I wrote the script, it didn't have Gina's narration. It was a last-minute addition before I sent it into our ace editor Tay Taylor. In fact, in its place, there was a narration from an as-yet-unseen antagonist. The first caption read: 'Sir? We've got her.' It was cool, but it just didn't work, plus, from a character point of view, nothing says Private Investigator like first-person narrative, does it?
Oh, and Harkness Avenue. Those who know me from my Doctor Who work may think that's a tip of the hat to a certain Captain Jack Harkness, but actually, it's named after Agatha Harkness, Franklin Richard's witchy governess in the Fantastic Four. Of course, Captain Jack is named after Agatha, so I guess the link is there after all.
Page 2: It was that first image that let me know how insanely detailed Corin Howell's panels would get, and I love her for it. We'd originally worked together on a story in IDW Tales from Vader's Castle, but it was one of those comics gigs that happen from time-to-time when you never actually get to meet or talk, which was a shame. Since working together on Shadow Service, we've bonded over a deep love for all things horrific.
Page 3: Oh, look, it's the bald chap who was on page one. I wonder if he's important? Looking back at this page, I also see that Gina is bleeding from her lip. That was originally something that linked into something later in the issue, but for reasons of space had to go.
Page 4: Meet Edwin, Gina's only real friend in the world who also happens to be a rat. There was talk at one point of giving Eddie a jaunty little necktie, but that might have been taking things a little too far. After all, people would notice a rat scuttling around wearing a neckerchief, right?
This page also had the first of a couple of Harry Potter references where Gina loses her cool and yells at Edwin, calling him Dumblebore, which was just a little bit too silly, but there is part of me that still likes it. As I write this, I've written nine of the ten issues of this run and still haven't got that gag into the series. Time will tell if it makes it into the finale. (Note: it probably won't.)
Page 5: And we head back to Gina's past, back before she was a wise-cracking, sarcastic mess. The script tells me that originally this had a locator that placed her house in Cardiff, Wales, although that was dropped due to a change to Gina's story we made later in the run. The page also had eight panels, which even became nine in another draft, until Corin very respectfully pointed out that it didn't need all of them. Writers, listen to your co-creators…they are wise.
Page 6: I love everything about this page. Originally all the captions about Gina's magic words were on this page, which would have just distracted from Corin's wonderful art, and so I shunted them back to the previous page. Less is definitely more.
Page 7: Will we see more of Gina's doomed stepdad? Yes, yes, we will…
Also, I love Gina's expression on that last panel. It says so much about the baggage she carries around with her.
Page 8: So, this is a bit of updated folklore. It used to be believed that witches could cause lameness by driving a coffin nail into someone's footprint. Gina's use of a nail gun made me laugh and also got us as near to a 007 pose that we could get without giving Gina an actual handgun. Oh, and that magic word is derived from the old English 'lama' meaning crippled or lame. Most of the magic words used in the series have their origins in old English, one way or another. I'll try to point them out as we go.
Page 9: Here's another. Heordé Bemancian is a combination of words for 'flock' and 'maim.' Oh, and the use of 'fuzzball' is in no way related to Han Solo in any way. Oh no. Not at all. (Ahem.)
Page 10: When I saw this page, I realised how disturbing Corin's art could go, in the best possible way.
Page 11-12: Gideon Quill is a character who has been in a lot of pitches of mine over the years. He was first created for a proposal to Vertigo about four or five years ago that had nothing to do with this story but went nowhere when Vertigo started to wind down. He then appeared in a novel idea I was toying with, but I just couldn't get to work. Writers should never, ever throw anything away. I knew he would appear sooner or later, and here he is.
Corin actually redrew these two pages as originally Quill was looking a bit too "David Tennant like." It wasn't intentional, but it didn't quite fit the character. I also like that here we suggest that Gina isn't exactly whiter-than-white herself. After all, she has just helped dump a missing banker's son into the boot of a car…
Page 13: Sometimes, I add easter eggs that are so obscure that no-one will ever guess them and are only there to make me smile. Here's one: Powell's Gym is named after Eddie Powell, who was Christopher Lee's stuntman in most of the Hammer films as one of the performers to play the Xenomorph in Alien. Told you it was obscure.
Page 14: This spell is another lift from Old English; Betæcan meaning pursuit or hunt. Originally this scene had more flirting between Gina and the guy in the towel, which was nice but just slowed things up considerably.
Page 15: This started life as a very different scene with Quill drowning the kid in a bath of holy water. It worked okay but ended up with all kinds of horrible info-dumping about why it was holy water. Sometimes you just need a big &*$%-off ax.
Page 16: If page 10 told me how gory Corin could get, this page opened the floodgates. Or should that be bloodgates? Hold onto your stomach, dear readers, things get gnarly in upcoming issues.
Page 18: The question marks over our messy little eater's head make me laugh every time I see this page. This is Coyle, another character who started life in a completely different story, which has never seen the light of day and probably never will. Originally he was to be found in a very grimdark fantasy tale that I wrote over 10-years-ago, slipped into my bottom drawer and then vowed never to talk of it again. However, I knew that I needed to use Coyle. I like this version of him far more than the original.
Page 19: Here's another old English word: ahebban – to heave or lift up.
Page 20: I'm obsessed with Witch Bottles. Often found hidden away in walls of old houses, they are traditionally filled with needles, pins, and even the urine of someone who believes that they have been placed under a spell, the idea being that they will trap bad spells. In the world of Shadow Service, they are used to catch witches. In fact, every issue of this series is given a subtitle in the script, this one being: To Catch a Witch.
As for that symbol on the bottle, it's a daisy-wheel hexfoil or witch mark which are often found etched into wood posts or stone across England, a form of ritual protection against evil. It was also the reason that Gina was bleeding on page 3, the idea being that those who were following her used her blood in the spell that would eventually trap her. Originally, we were going to have the explanation on-page, but it just got in the way.
Page 21: For our American readers, 'Eastenders' and 'Corrie' refer to two of our most popular soap operas here, the aforementioned Eastenders and Coronation Street. And here's the lady who was being hassled by Theo on page 3 who now is revealed to be all part of the set-up.
The reference to the 'Old Man' is a tip of the hat to James Bond's M. Just, who is that shady character with his cup of tea? All will be revealed next issue.
Page 22: Having the main players of the next issue running across the page was Tay's idea if I recall. And there we have the first mention of MI666 in the caption, which was the working title of the series as a whole.
And that was issue 1. I hope you enjoyed our little read-along and that you'll be back for issue 2 on 23rd September. The second part of our story sees Gina trapped and unable to use her powers brings more from her troubled past and brings us face-to-face with MI666's spymaster, Hex. Also…there be demons!
Shadow Service #1 is published by Vault Comics.