“It’s like a cool diverse festival mixed with a weird old video rental store” Lee Christian talks new anthology Bad Vibes Monthly
Anthologies are the life blood of the small press scene, and the latest to try and inject something new in the UK comics scene’s bloodstream is Bad Vides monthyl from Theodicy Comics. We catch up with founder Lee Christian to find out what makes it unique.
Tell us a bit about the world of Bad Vibes monthly. What are some of the stories inside it, and what inspired you to put together an anthology?
Lee Christian: I put together an anthology through a mix of chance and design… The reasons for it being an anthology are as pragmatic as they are artistic. I had a treatment for a story in three books or arcs that Jo from Vault 29 said he wanted to publish, over a hot chocolate one day, which set the wheels in motion. I quickly realised that 20-something pages is a lot to ask of an artist (or writer even!) on a monthly basis and I knew there was an untapped resource of talent in both my local shop (I live in Bath which is a Uni town) and on the internet too!
So, I decided not to hedge a whole comic’s success on my own untested talent in this field and get some other people involved that i knew were definitely talented. I called up Daniel Whiston, whose work I had read as a result of meeting him in the comic shop and he had a story that seemed like a great fit and thrilling prospect. We then coupled him with the art of Douglas Howard, who I had found by way of a competition entry picture of Wolverine being displayed on a large cinema screen before a showing of Logan Noir! I think Devil In the Detail could do for the modern Marvel/DC reader what The Crow did for me at the time I found it – i.e. open a doorway to a darker, more richly atmospheric world of indie comics.
So with two regular stories planned and another irregular series I had been cooking up for a while about a zombie high school punk rock band (at one point I do believe The Deadbeats were part of the Plastic People Eater story over a decade ago, when i first started thinking about the concepts and the music that would go with the story.) i thought it best to get some one off stories from different writers. While reading through pitches and briefs, I started to really fall in love with the one-pager! The way the good ones can execute a story and a message and entertain in such a short space is so attractive to me and really speaks to the fast fashion nature of content consumption these days. So it would be a stretch to say there even is a world of Bad Vibes Monthly, especially when compared to truly cohesive shared universe comics like Ice Cream Man Or Sink! (Both of which I love enough to break my ‘read no other anthology comics’ rule while putting my first few issues together!)
It’s more a unifying theme of ‘Bad Vibes’, which for me could be anything from a bad day at work or a ‘brown acid’ trip to a dystopian satire or an all-out gorefest horror! The word ‘theodicy’ has it’s origins in theology and ‘the proof of the existence of god through the proof of the existence of evil’ so there’s some of those type of religious and spiritual themes running through a few stories too.
We see lots of indie anthologies out there, so what makes Bad Vibes stand out from the crowd?
LC: That’s a hard question to answer without vanishing up one’s own butt in a blaze of hyperbole! Should I try to blag that I know how to or the heavy hitters to put together a regular anthology like Cinema Purgatorio? Or should I try to convince you that this will one day be hailed as a classic the way 2000ad or the early Marvel or DC ones are? It seems a bit dumb to try so I’m left with the dubious play of being honest and saying it’s down to my taste and idea of what makes for good entertainment!
I come from a music background so I see it as putting on an all dayer/one day festival – people should have their favourites at the end of it and that should vary form person to person. They might also be subjected to something different to their usual tastes. the idea that there is a diverse mix and variation of tones stories plays more into a kind of video store culture – you pick up some great movies, u pick up some awful ones and u pick up some you think are awful but turn out to be your favourites. I also wanted the writers and artists to feel free to express themselves freely without any creative constrictions that they might find when doing other work… other than budgetary ones of course! So i guess if you fancy an anthology comic that’s like a cool diverse festival mixed with a weird old video rental store then maybe Bad Vibes is for you?
How did you pick the various artists and stories which you have featured in this first issue? And will we see different creators in future issues, or is the plan to do regular stories that run from issue to issue?
LC: There’s no formula and often involves someone dropping out for someone else who probably should have been doing it the whole time stepping in, much like band members. I often think of the pairing up of writers and artists a bit like putting a singer/lyricist with a guitarist/composer. The taster issue is a lot more based on what we had ready vs what we wanted to share and what to keep back for the proper first issue but the first issue is essentially a bit of a mission statement and represents what i want to do with the book for the future.
The idea is that there will be a few sequential and regular things but also a big mix of one offs by different contributors – it would be nice if the book could grow organically and include a nice mix of unknowns and some bigger names stretching out of their more usual territories to take a few risks and help shine a light on new talent at the same time. So the answer is yes to both options!
You’ve teamed up with Michael Powell and Phil Elliot for The Dummy, can you tell us a bit about that?
LC: I can but only a bit as it all happened (much like the rest of the book so far) quite organically and even accidentally. I knew Michael from my local comic shop in Bath and his fantastic facebook group Why I Love Comics (I’d like to stress that I’m not in any way endorsing Facebook – his page is an oasis in a cultural wasteland!) and thought he’d write a good comic story so asked him if he fancied it. He did, so I hooked him up with an artist I knew who drew a great taster page and promptly jumped ship! (this actually happens a lot when you can’t pay artists upfront – often the newer ones don’t understand the workload and strictness of print deadlines, we are lucky to have settled on some really compulsive creative artists).
The story sat in limbo for a while until Phil Elliott expressed an interest in drawing it to Michael and saved our bacon! To have someone who drew comics I bought with pocket money is a total honour and he’s a total gent to deal with too. The story itself is exactly the type of one off creepy tale I had hoped to be printing in the comic (but could probably never quite write myself to be honest) and totally speaks to my long time love of Tales From The Crypt, Creepshow, BodyBags and the like. I can’t wait for people to see/read it in issue 1 and lose at least a night’s sleep!
You’re releasing a taster book for Free Comic Book Day, what can people look forward to and where can they get it from?
LC: Well, it’s just 12 pages so it is literally a taster – it has a breathtaking prologue for Devil In the Detail, a world building prologue for The Plastic People Eater (and a link to the free Theme Music), a couple of first looks at art and text for The Dummy and The Deadbeats and three one-page stories that set the scene for their respective regular monthly series’ but are available exclusively in this issue! All this plus an ad for a future Theodicy production – a director’s cut adaptation of Grace William’s award-winning short film Eazy Meets – and a cool looking contents page featuring a War Of The Worlds-y piece of art that is simultaneously cute and uneasy. A perfect introduction!
And finally, you are also releasing music to accompany the series, how important do you think it is to get the right ambience for reading a comic?
LC: Is it important to have the right ambience? well, it certainly helps! My brothers and I have an established riff about “Prince and Comics” going together perfectly (and that’s nothing to do with his 1989 Batman soundtrack link, so much as a general diet of both his music and Marvel comics in the mid to late eighties!) because we used to read lots while listening to Prince albums as kids! I wouldn’t say every comic needs a soundtrack though!
As I am a musician and music & sound play key parts in the stories I wrote, it followed very naturally, or even ran alongside, that I write songs that seemed to be from the universes my mind was inhabiting. I would say in each case that the story started the ball rolling and then the music/songs actually helped finalise the chapters and their content. So the musical content is intrinsically linked to the stories (in The Plastic People Eater it’s more like a score/soundtrack but with the Deadbeats, it’s the songs the bands play in the comic done by Smilex and some others. If all goes to plan, then London Hardcore band Bun Dem Out and Oxford’s Kings of Uk stoner-rock Desert Storm should both be ‘playing’ other bands in the story which is really exciting both for the story and having such fantastic examples of the underground rock scene involved – both of whom know all about the DIY ethic employed for the book!
I am a huge fan of both scores and soundtrack albums for comic related films though… I paid a pretty penny to see Danny Elfman & orchestra play The Batman theme at The Royal Albert Hall and had tingles all down my spine during and anyone who checks Theodicy’s instagram stories sees my toys dancing to their own soundtrack songs!