Robbie Morrison And Jim Murray, Stripped


Gary Gray, our Senior Scottish Correspondent, writes;

There may have only been about 50 people who had made the effort to turn out for the Robbie Morrison and Jim Murray talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss the release of their graphic novel Drowntown. There could however be no denying the effort that Jim Murray had put in to get to the talk, having flown in from the other side of the world Seattle USA the day before. It was fair to say he was still suffering from a massive case of jetlag.

Chairing the talk was David Bishop, who for some weird reason I can't figure out seemed to be getting all the 2000ad related creators talks. And that's where the discussions kicked off; did Robbie Morrison and Jim Murray ever work together on a strip for either 2000ad or the Megazine? All they could come up with is a random Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future strip that all denied any knowledge of! They had worked together before though on a different medium from comics, computer games.

As many will know Jim Murray's big break in comics was taking over from Glenn Fabry with Jason Brashill on the ill fated Judge Dredd/Batman: Die Laughing. This was around the time of the massive implosion of the comics industry in the late 90's and artists and writers were scrabbling for work where they could get it, luckily Brashill took Murray off to work for Virgin games. Naturally they needed someone to write the games that they were being designed. Who better then than Robbie Morrison? The creator of the 1500 page epic Nikolai Dante that had hundreds of different storylines that somehow he kept consistent. Well not totally consistently as he revealed a penchant for bringing back Viktor from the dead multiple times!

It was while Morrison and Murray were working on these games nearly 10 years ago that a visit to the pub inspired them to create a story called Drowntown that would be set in a flooded future London. This was a project conceived by Morrison and Murray as something they wanted to own and create entirely and would be done entirely in their own time. And because of this it took them, four years from conception to complete the script and for Murray to start drawing. Even then a couple of years should have seen the project completed but as in all things life gets in the way what with Murray relocating to Montreal and finally ending up in Seattle working for the games behemoth Valve. Valve was generous enough in allowing him one day a week to spend on his own personal project. Even then it took another six years for the project to be completed! That and the small matter of Murray having to sideline the project while he did a 48 page GN for Valve that had to be ready in 4 months.

Six years isn't actually that long for this project to have taken to be completed when Robbie Morrison revealed that he'd write a line as simple as setting the novel in a flooded London would then require Murray to undertake a massive amount of research. Such as working out that the sea level would have to rise by 32 metres to achieve only the first floor being flooded in Soho and how that would affect all the other buildings that would be featured in the book.

Murray then talked us through a video of how he created the art in Drowntown with the huge amount of work it took him to create everything digitally. And the effort taken has paid off in spades, as the finished result is sumptuous, and doesn't look digital, in any way. This suits perfectly Morrison's comic thriller tale of Leo Noiret stumbling on a conspiracy that takes us all over Drowntown.

Bishop then turned the talk back to how both creators broke into comics, with Morrison's coming with the sale of a script to DC Thomson's Starblazer. Morrison revealed that the comic was then promptly cancelled and the comic has never surfaced, which he reckoned was probably for the best! Murray broke in straight out of college, but only after a massive apprenticeship of try out scripts that Bishop kept making him do. Jim Murray seemed ill at ease on stage, not one for the limelight or full of confidence, he said he hates all his own work up to Drowntown.

Now for those reading that Drowntown Book 1 has taken 10 years to be released and hoping that Book 2 won't be as long in gestation Morrison and Murray said they are hoping that it will be ready in less than a year, with Morrison currently writing Book 3. Taking the book to publishers Jonathan Cape it appears to have reinvigorated the project. Morrison and Murray were asked why they took the book to Cape as it seemed an odd choice what with it not being Cape's usual material of biographies and arty projects. They said it was very simple, Cape showed the most interest out of the publishers they showed it to. And fair play to Cape as Drowntown is a fast paced, blast through a flooded future London packed with great characters.

They were asked if they had any ideas to continue the series after Book 3, and they have, but with such a long creation time for Book 1 who knows! Morrison was also asked what he was working on at the moment which included a Judge Dredd tale entitled 50 Shades of Crime. Now I wonder where he got that title from? Sounds very much like we could be getting an old school 2000ad pisstake from the guy whose first Dredd tale centred on a tale of Kinky Boots! For fans of Morrison's masterpiece creation Nikolai Dante he announced that he and Dante's co creator Simon Fraser were working on a new sci fi project that was in its extremely early stages, with no title and no company signed up to publish. And that where we had to leave it with the creators decanting to the signing tent, and Murray to then head off to bed to try and get rid of his massive jetlag.


Robbie Morrison/Jim Murray chaired by David Bishop

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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.
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