If The Hat Fits… A Post-Pratchett Contemplation On World-Building

Torsobear ASU cover mock up

Torsobear Volume 2: All Stitched Up is a graphic novel anthology on Kickstarter until June 1st 2015, continuing the fluffy yet dark adventures of Ruxby bear and Toyburg Police department.

Editors – Brett Uren & Glenn Møane. Writers – Brett Uren, Glenn Møane, Cy Dethan, Jon Scrivens, Janos Honkonen, Frank Martin, Kieran Squires, Grainne McEntee, Ronald Montgomery, Peter Rogers, Jimmy Furlong, Jake Young, Eddy Norden & Conor Mahoney. Artists – Brett Uren, Giles Crawford, Dave Windett, Mike Motz, Carlos Zamudio, Sage M. Coffey, Ashley Ribblett, Harold Saxon, Andrew Hartmann, Phil Buckenham, Jon Scrivens, Lee Killeen, Emman Padilla, Faye Harmon & Charlie Hogg. Letterers – Brett Uren, Nic WIlkinson, Mick Schubert, Charlie Hogg & Jon Scrivens

By Brett Uren

What is Torsobear: All Stitched Up?

Care Bears via The Killing. Volume 2 of the anthology series follows on from last year's 'Yarns from Toyburg' and the 'torso' case, surrounding dismembered teddies. Detective Ruxby Bear is framed & sent to dark toy prison The Corner, while over many other 'yarns' a wave of Copycat crime causes the sweet city of Toyburg to fall around Lt Hazbrow's wooden head.

Play of the dead poster

Why talk about Pratchett and world-building?

Sir Terry Pratchett and his passing hit me and especially my wife pretty damn hard. You'd think that since he was removed by physical distance and a social status reserved for popular artists (something I'm sure Terry himself balked at), we'd feel a sense of emotional detachment.

But that's the thing, under that wide-brimmed hat he always wore, was a warm and humanist humourist (try saying that ten times fast). You felt that you knew him through a lifetime of reading his words and worldview. I especially felt a sense of kinship, to his love for the world and people reflected in the carnival mirror he held up to it – and that I could hold one up of my own.

So now I've had time to process it, I can now see quite how directly his life's work has shaped mine and that of my colleagues and friends in the creative field.

I wonder, now and then, if he had been born in the 80's/90's, would his sense of creative freedom lead to him Kickstarting a project too?

As a kid I lived in a small town called Winslow, with nothing to do in it really. Well, that's not true, strictly speaking. There was a youth club with pool and video games, sports fields, woods and a cool abandoned train track…

broken-01-colour

But, as I keep discovering, creative people have an inflated sense of boredom. Amusingly, Terry's own version of Death would comment on our propensity for getting bored in an infinitely wonderful cosmos.
I spent hours upon hours drawing cartoon strips, designing video games and making radio plays on a cassette recorder with next door's kid – because it felt like I needed to do something more than Winslow was able to provide.

This leads me to Pratchett's books. When his series for kids 'Truckers' hit huge in the 90's with the TV adaptation and massive book sales, I was on the crest of that. The Discworld point-and-click PC game, based heavily on 'Guards Guards!' came soon after, and then I got heavily into the Discworld novels.

It was obvious even at a young age that reading his works was like a hilarious education in the worlds of philosophy, politics and social anxieties. I'd striven to create alien worlds that were often just that, removed from human experience, because being a bit different I'd felt removed from it.

But I slowly realized that Pratchett's Dungeon Dimensions, Unseen University for Wizards and Death's intrigue in the struggles of man felt real for a reason. It was because the fantasy acted as a way of standing back, far enough to see the broad similarities with our own world all the more clearly.

THAT is how you do world-building. Works for Game of Thrones too.

I've been pretty bad through my 'career' in indie comics so far at adhering to that rough principal, and maybe being reductive about why stories like Pratchett's worked was partly to blame. But in 2013 I hit upon the idea of a city of toys, using a child-like fantasy as a satirical tool.

With Torsobear, I think I figured out a little better that our perspective is such that most good stories must be a human one first. Working with the anxiety we experience feeling like someone or something has wrested control from our lives, that our fate is cruel and unfair, we can reflect humanity onto playthings.

Toys are often discarded, stomped or chewed on, and picked up to play with when some other creature they couldn't possibly fathom feels like it. Toy Story it ain't. The main divergence from the influence of Sir Terry however is the involvement of many other writers, and that while he published via a traditional imprint, I and my colleagues crowdfund.

The only constant is change, right?

It is worth noting that the legacy of Discworld can be evidenced by the number of writers I now work with, that his satirical fantasy comes naturally to us. But knowing this, I feel a strange sense of duty.

Sir Terry was said to have been quite angry, at the cruelty of mankind to its own and everyday injustices. Many of us involved in Torsobear feel that same way, as evidenced by our stories and opinions around shell-shocked soldiers, corrupt officials, societal shunning of difference and other ways that humanity heaps struggle upon itself the more we become armoured against nature.

Hopefully I've avoided a tone that feels like an advert on the back of his life, but I think the creator of Discworld would be pleased to know that his passion and sense of justice helped to inspire more of us to reflect reality back at man, until it cannot help but catch the madness in its own eyes and give pause.

Copycat hush

The promo part

BC readers get a free set of posters! Pledge and message quoting 'BC TB POSTER' to get your free movie poster 4 pack when we're funded (see reward pictures on the page)!

Help us get funded on Kickstarter to pay our creative staff and send new Torsobear books to you and retailers –

Keep up with all the daily giveaways and help us create Torsobear characters by heading to –

Also, I explain in this rather silly video while covered in teddies why we're charging a little more to pay our creators

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drqTNxAo6ao[/youtube]

Are you a comics retailer looking to stock our books or just plain chatty? Get in contact:

Twitter – @brett_uren Facebook – bretturencomics Email – bretturen@hotmai.co.uk

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

twitter   facebook square   instagram   globe