Fraser Campbell follows up his impressive Cabal Comics title Sleeping Dogs by teaming up with artist James Corcoran, colourist David B. Cooper and the Jedi Master of lettering Colin Bell to bring us a double-sized first issue of Alex Automatic through Kickstarter …..and I got to fire a few questions his way.
What can we expect from Alex Automatic?
You can expect a 48 page, full colour comic with 38 pages of story and some fun back-matter. It’s the story of a young agent called Alex Anderson who’s been subjected to a series of experiments to improve his efficiently. However the process has left him so fractured, he has become trapped in the delusion that he is the robot super-spy hero of a 70s TV show called Alex Automatic. If you enjoy TV shows like The Prisoner and Department S and comics like Casanova, Miracleman and The Invisibles, this should be right up your street.
Was this a story/idea you’d been working on for a while?
Since late 2015. Right after I finished work on Sleeping Dogs, James got in touch to discuss working on something so it was really fortuitous timing. I’d always followed James and loved his stuff. James had this idea about doing something about an automaton hero. He has this terrific vintage British illustration style that I knew would lend itself to something that called back to those great old vibrant ITC TV programmes and the idea for Alex Automatic grew from there.
It’s a hefty 48-page issue – was this a different challenge for the plot/pacing in comparison to other projects you’ve done?
Yes! I confess we’d originally planned 32 pages of story and James graciously allowed me to add pages so the story didn’t feel rushed. Great really, as artists do the bulk of the heavy lifting in comics as you’ll know.
How did working on this compare to your previous project Sleeping Dogs?
It’s very different but just as much fun. Before Sleeping Dogs I hadn’t done a print comic for a long time, so it was a great experience. Getting to know Lautaro and working with Colin and David and the level of help and encouragement I got was really great and I’m very proud of the end result. It was pleasing that people liked it. We’re funding Alex Automatic via Kickstarter this time around so that’s been a lot to learn and it’s just been a bigger, more involved project generally. That was always the plan – it’s a good idea to reach further with every project, I think.
The artwork from James Corcoran is stunning – did it end up looking like you expected?
I think it looks great and that was exactly what I was expecting, yeah. James and I hadn’t met before we worked on this as he’s based in London. But I’d been a fan of his for a long time and always checked his Facebook page to see if he’d done anything new, so when he approached me about working on something, I was delighted. I think this is the most ambitious thing James has worked on and I’m excited for other people to get a look at his stuff. David B. Cooper is doing the colouring and I think he’s brought an immense amount to the party. He has a very thoughtful approach and always goes into a project with a lot of exciting ideas. So a lot of the look is down to him and to discussions he’s had with James and I about what we want things to look like. Colin Bell is also a big contributor. You often overlook how important a good letterer is and Colin also contributes with design and technical know-how I’d be lost without.
You’ve got some great variant cover artists involved much like you did for Sleeping Dogs but what’s it been like to see the characters in other styles?
Well, first of all I have to say how grateful I am to everyone who’s contributing. Iain Laurie’s variant cover is stunning, as is the one by Alisdair Wood. We also have one by Nick Pitarra and it’s amazing that these guys have been so supportive. Really just mind-blowing. We’ll also have pin-ups by the likes of Russell MacEwan and Warwick Cadwell –Johnson and Shaky Kane has produced an amazing piece that we’re going to use as a print. That’s been particularly pleasing as Shaky Kane is an absolute comics giant to me, I’ve been a huge fan since the 80s. I don’t think anyone does off-kilter hero comics better. All these guys have produced work faithful to the core of the idea, but all different, all adding their own unique elements. People with that kind of talent blow me away.
What drew you to Kickstarter for this release?
I think a Kickstarter means you can be a lot more ambitious with what you’re planning. When I did Sleeping Dogs, I financed that entirely by myself and that limits you financially obviously and so the knock-on is that it limits what you can offer in terms of extras. I was only able to produce the book, some prints and some badges. Kickstarter forces you to offer a more enticing package and of course it also forces you to think very carefully about promoting your book, as you more or less have to sell the campaign first. Hopefully, people will like what they saw with Sleeping Dogs and the preview images we have on the Kickstarter page and will help us bring it to life.
Will we see more of Alex Automatic beyond this release?
I think so, yes, if people like it! We already have an outline for a follow-up that I’m pretty excited about. Alex Automatic is a one-shot and it’s very much a self-contained, complete story but there’s scope for plenty more. I like the idea of doing one-shots as I think they showcase what a creative team can do and they don’t outstay their welcome. There is just so much amazing stuff out in small press comics that you really have to fight for your audience. Coming in as an unknown with Sleeping Dogs I was conscious of the fact people have a lot of comics and not so much time, so I intentionally created something that was hopefully a satisfying done-in-one read. We’ve done the same here with Alex Automatic but if people want more, we have loads of ideas!
What else are you working on just now?
The next thing coming out will be a comic with my great pal Iain Laurie called “The Forest & The Trees” which is a crime thriller told in a very “Naked Lunch” kind of way full of lots of trademark Iain Laurie unsettling weirdness! I’ve christened it “Bizarre Noir” which hopefully paints a picture. We’ll have that ready to come out in a few months I think and we’ll likely take to Kickstarter with this project as well. It’ll be another one-shot, 24 pages this time. Other than that I’m going to be curating a weird superhero anthology for Madius Comics and I hope to be doing another comic with my Sleeping Dogs running mate Lautaro Capristo soon as well. I’m also co-writing something with my pal John Lees, who’s a terrific writer as anyone who’s read “And Then Emily Was Gone” will know. That’s just at an early stage though. I always like to have a few things on the go!
You can keep up to date with the progress of Alex Automatic over on the Facebook page and jump on-board the Kickstarter here to help make this amazing release a reality. You can also get hold of the Cabal Comics releases over on their online shop.