Last night, after arranging some last minute childcare, I went to the Institute of Contemporary Arts just up the road from Buckingham Palace, to chair a discussion on superhero comics – and what happens next, with three of the guys from Transmission X, a collection of original webcomics by comics professionals. Cameron Stewart, Karl Keschl and Ramón Pérez are all accomplished comics creators with superhero work for the main companies, with Cameron's work on Batman And Robin about to hit the headlines.
The guys talked about their superhero work, mostly for DC Comics, coupled with an innate disatisfaction with the superhero form, whatever manner it takes and a fear for the future of the publishing model. And how this led them to Transmission X, an online comics collective publishing their own work.
Cameron, though lauding the chances he's had, stating that he's always chosen his projects, never had them forced upon him, nevertheless giving us a remarkable different webcomic in the form of Sin Titulo, a David Lynch/Velvet Glove Cast In Iron-style online graphic novel that is following a very different path, starting with a dream and wandering into a quest turning curiosity into greed and destroying the people it touches. And hey, it won a Shuster.
Karl recounted his year as an exclusive DC Comics creator, and working on titles such as Teen Titans, Flash and Robin as being basically what he'd have done anyway, but didn't sign up for a second year because he couldn't get an exclusion for his webcomics. His current work The Abominibal Charles Christopher is a slower work, with greater Japanese storytelling influence as well as the likes of Clavin And Hobbes and Bone. But he doesn't heave any problem switching back to the superhero comics. Especially as, for now, they are the ones that pay the bills.
Ramón, known principally for Star Wars with a bit of NYX and JSA on the side specifically talked about how he was asked to sign a fifty-issue contract for a series, discovered he wasn't enamoured with the script, only for the editor to tell him that it would probably be cancelled in six issues anyway. He moved on. Possibly the most prodigous of the Transmission X guys, he's seen as the man responsible for it all and his modern-sensibilities take on Alice On Wonderland combined with action adventure webcomic, Kukuburi was the one updated most and his Butternut Squash already optioned twice in the twoi years its been around.
All the creators hope to see the books published as collected editions, and indeed a Portguese editions have been published very recently. And that's another aspect, they are finding whole new audiences are opening up to them with Transmission X, with audiences at European shows turning up to meet the people behind the webcomics rather than their superhero work. And it's an audience that they are keen to exploit. When the time is right.
And oh yes, they are looking forward to an Apple Tablet…
We also saw some pages from Cameron's upcoming Batman And Robin, with a request not to disseminate them further. Set in central London, we see a Batman action scene along the South Bank of the Thames, from the London Eye all the way up to Tower Bridge. It reminded me (in a very good way) of the Frank Quitely/Alan Grant graphic novella The Scottish Connection (which I own a couple of pages of.) I commented that when most American superhero comics are set in London, you can always see Big Ben clock tower from the window – and where we were sitting in the ICA, you actually could! Stewart said that he had included Big Ben in his pages, but Grant had requested it be removed – purely on stereotypical terms.
The night ended in the ICA bar with loud atonal music pounding us into submission. I had to leave at some point to get home (and get the kids up in the morning) so I have no idea what happened afterwards – we had discussed commandeering a fleet of Segways and storming Buckingham Palace.
I'd like to think that might have still happened in my abscence.
ComICA continues through November.