Those shy and retiring chaps from Madius Comics are back with a new Kickstarter, collecting together the first 7 issues of their 6-part anthology Papercuts and Inkstains. So what can we expect in the collection of their superb anthology? Well, funny you should ask as writer Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook are always up for a chat and once we got them started it was tough to get them to stop as they give us the lowdown on everything we wanted to know about the world of Madius Comics! (And a few things we didn’t!)
You are about to embark on your second Kickstarter to fund a collected edition of Papercuts and Inkstains, tell us what we can look forward to in this volume?
MIKE SAMBROOK: EVERYTHING! This book is really a massive celebration of everything we’ve done up until this point. You could call it a graduation of sorts (hidden spoiler alert). We started with “It’s a celebration of the work we’ve done so far” Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook tell all about the Papercuts and Inkstains Collected Edition on Kickstarterand it’s absolutely still MADIUS’ flagship title now two years on. We feel it is a great representation of what we’re about. And before we get too deep into chatting about the book itself we have to do the promo klaxon and remind everyone that THE KICKSTARTER GOES LIVE ON MARCH 15th AND WILL BE RUNNING FOR 30 DAYS. WE REALLY NEED YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT TO MAKE THIS DREAM A REALITY *promo disengage*
ROB JONES: Well, like Mike said, it’s a celebration of the work we’ve done so far, almost like closing a chapter on the first part of the life of Madius Comics. We’ve done so much more than we could have ever predicted in the time we’ve been going, and it seemed a great idea to collect everything down into one, single hefty tome.
MIKE: Yeah, the heftiest of tomes. We’re talking about a 240 page monolith here! This book will be big enough to use as a coffee table (we don’t advise using the book as a coffee table).
ROB: Yeah, you can look forward to a fully reworked collection of everything from the start of Madius. Moving forward we are changing our book sizes from US to UK standard sizes, and so this will be the first of our UK sized releases. Like Mike said, it’s been the flagship title for Madius, so to remaster it and then deliver it in colour means we aren’t just repackaging an existing product, we are trying to ensure that we offer something new, so then those stories which people weren’t too hot on to start with are going to have a new lease of life, added dimensions and such.
Plus, this is our biggest undertaking, we’re really putting ourselves out there with this Kickstarter, it’s like nothing we’ve ever attempted before, and we have a real possibility of falling flat on our faces, so we wouldn’t attempt it if we didn’t feel the book was tip top quality and sock blowing off worthy, so expect that… And POGS!
Will it include the Profits of Doom or are you saving them for a separate volume of their very own? (If so, I will save my Profits questions for that interview – as I can’t wait for that book!)
MIKE: Oh the Profits Of Doom are absolutely in there. We sat down and had a good chat about whether it was a good idea to put them in or to save them for their own book but ultimately we decided it wouldn’t be Papercuts & Inkstains without them. Plus, as we’re going back, remastering, relettering and colouring everything, we thought it would be criminal to leave everyone’s favourite idiots out of the spit and polish, because lord knows they need a good clean, those mucky buggers. BUT, that’s not to say this is the only way you’ll be able to read the remastered and fancified Profits Of Doom. We might have some more ideas up our sleeves there that we’re not talking about that just yet.
ROB: Yeah, we did think long and hard about whether to include them or not, but they’ve been front and centre since the book’s inception, so to leave them out would be criminal. Fact is, we felt the book would stand up without them in it, but we also worried people may feel short changed if we didn’t include them, so we’re trying to give people their cake and let them eat it too! Plus, this way, we’re going to be testing how well they read sequentially! Hahaha… *nervous glances*
You’re colouring some of the strips, what made you choose to do this and who have you co-opted in to do the colouring jobs?
MIKE: We’re colouring ALLLLL the strips! Every single story is getting the HD treatment. When we started talking about the collection one of our main concerns was making sure we were giving our audience something new. We wanted a book that both worked as a fantastic introduction to all things MADIUS for new readers but also we wanted to reward people who’ve been with us from the start with something they hadn’t seen before. We wanted to give the people who’ve supported us along the way a reason to come back and make the double dip worth their time and money. When we first started the anthology we opted to print in black and white to keep the costs as low as possible and to ensure we could sell the issues affordably priced and maximise the amount we could pay our artists, but as we’ve got a little deeper into this we feel that we’re now in a place now where colour is a much more realistic financial option. We just want this book to look the best it possibly can and we feel like colour is a step in the right direction. It’s something that has been repeatedly mentioned in reviews as something people would like to see, so we’d be crazy not to listen.
ROB: Yeah, we’re populist comic writers, we like giving people what they want. If it wasn’t for the Comic Nom YouTube channel demanding us to carry on the Profits after reading issue one, then there wouldn’t have been more strips of them! We like listening to our critics, our fans and peers and taking ideas on board. I mean, Dan Butcher suggested us Kickstarting the comic way back at its inception, but we wanted to get going straight away, hence the initial black and white. Being able to colour the lot is almost like a fireworks display, being able to celebrate the last two years and 200+ pages of colour in a HUGE technicolor party!
MIKE: In terms of who we’ve got colouring the stories, well, everyone! We’ve tried where possible to have the original artists to colour their own stories to ensure their babies are thrust out into the world in the way they always intended, but where that hasn’t been possible we’ve brought in some heavy hitters like Alexa Renée and Bob Turner to help us out. Alexa and Bob have been incredible throughout the entire process and we really can’t thank them enough for the work they have done (and continue to do). Alexa took on the massive job of colouring both parts of Vampire Wonderland as well as tackling Eton Mess and Where’d Wendigo. A huge task, and the work she has done will make your eyelashes burst into flames (SO GOOD). Then Bob! BOB! The living legend Bob Turner took on the heroic task of colouring ALL of the Profits of Doom. ALL 6 CHAPTERS. He has knocked it out of the park and those idiots look better than ever. The full specifics are being worked out at the moment on some of the other stories and we don’t want to jump the gun and give you any misinformation so best thing to say is, check the full campaign on Kickstarter on March 15th for the full deets. But we’re currently sat at about 80% completed on all of the colouring and relettering so everything is coming along according to schedule.
Reading through the volumes you can see how much more confident you guys get as writers from issue to issue, as the stories become more sophisticated and more polished, is it weird to revisit them for this collection and did you want to tweak or rewrite some of the stories?
MIKE: Wow, thanks, we really appreciate that! To be honest it’s weird to revisit a story you wrote last week. It’s weird to revisit a story you wrote before lunch. It’s always weird. I think generally creative people tend to be terrible judges of their own output and can only tend to see mistakes and routes not taken rather than appreciating the work for what it is. As Rob can testify I tend to tweak things about 5 times after they are ‘finished’, before they ever see print, so to be completely honest there’s a chance the odd story might get a tiny tweak here or there but we’re very much trying to keep everything true to how it was originally printed. This book represents a journey for us and we don’t want to try and rewrite history too much. We’re very proud of the stories in here and I think too much interference could end up taking us down the George Lucas route, which is the last thing anyone wants. Never go full Lucas.
ROB: *Cancels the Jar Jar cameo in Profits of Doom* I mean, we went all George Lucas with 3a and 3b, messing with everyone numerically! It’s funny to say we are collecting all 7 of the 6 issues! Ha! But to echo Mike, it is weird to look back, as with comics the whole focus is about moving forward, constantly improving and refining. However, I will happily say there isn’t a story in there which we aren’t proud of. We’ve tried different ideas, concepts, panel layouts, voices, narration and design styles and all have shown that, hopefully, we aren’t afraid to take risks with the work we do, and will continue to take risks… such as the Manga plan we have for Papercuts and our plan to introduce fully thematic issues.
Looking back at those first 6 issues, which stories stand out for you as particularly strong (or weak) and are there any which you’d like to expand out into larger stories?
MIKE: YOU’RE ASKING US TO PICK FAVOURITES!? HOW DARE YOU! Haha. There’s no way we could, we’re so incredibly proud of everything we’ve done in the anthology. I mean, there’s always going to be a few stories that hold a special place in our hearts for one reason or another but that is often something personal rather than a commentary on the quality of the finished piece. In regards to any of the stories being revisited, 100% yes. We have plans to return to the world of Meat The Monotaur, Valkyrie, Together Forever, Vampire Wonderland and some others that we’re keeping a little closer to our chests for the moment. Oh and of course, the Profits Of Doom aren’t going anywhere just yet as (spoiler alert) we’re only about half way into their quest right now.
ROB: That’s like asking you to pick which one of Mike and I is the prettiest?! (me.. obvs) We love them all, we’ve written some exclusively to be a single story, and some do have revisitability, like Mike said. I’m looking at developing the Forebearer further and seeing which obscure 80s soft rock bands I can raid for inspiration at the moment, we’ve got Nick and Brian Burke working on a new Perplexity comic, big plans for Vampire Wonderland and other sequels too. So yeah, expect some more continuing stories in there, because, you know, the Profits of Doom can’t go on forever!
Are there any artists whose work you were particularly pleased with or were pleased to have involved? And any artists you’d like to get involved in future stories?
MIKE: Every single person who’s been involved in the book is a legend to us. We started from absolutely nowhere. We had no industry experience, no insider knowledge, no connections, no bags of cash, essentially we’ve had very little to offer to our collaborators early on other than a large slice of a small pie. Everyone who’s worked on the book took a risk and decided to fearlessly jump into the volcano with us and just see what occurred. So, for them to put their faith, time and effort into this book and us is just incredible and we really can’t thank them enough for it. Which is exactly why a huge chunk of the Kickstarter money is going straight in their pockets. We want to make sure everyone who works with us feels valued and appreciated. In terms of future collaborators, we have some very exciting people lined up for the coming issues that we don’t want to ruin the surprise of just yet. But rest assured, there’s some incredible talent on the way. And of course many of the artists who’ve already been on the book will be back with brand new stories too. We’re so excited about the future of Papercuts & Inkstains and we’re sure you guys will be too when we reveal some of those aces up our sleeves.
ROB: There isn’t much I can really add here, we are incredibly lucky to work with talented, foresighted, inventive artists who add their own layers of madness, fun, depth and comedy to our scripts. Every single artist is as much a part of Madius as Mike, Brad, Nick or I!
You’ve also been producing some stories for the Horrere anthology, how do you choose which story goes in which volume – do you save the darker stories for Horrere?
MIKE: Oh Horrere is absolutely our baby too, Rob and I write all of the stories for the book except for the occasional guest story. Generally stories are always Horrere or Papercuts and we tend to approach the writing of each very differently. Papercuts is more about exploring the surreal and surprising whereas with Horrere we’re more concerned with unraveling the human condition and breaking down the differences and similarities between humans and monsters. At the idea stage of a story we generally know which road we’re going to go down and up until now no story has suddenly changed tracks and ended up in the other book.
ROB: I think the only story you’ll see in Papercuts which can really tread both sets of boards would be “Mary” from issue one with Stephen Weafer. The tone of that is very different to the majority of Papercuts stories. I think now, it definitely would have been something funnelled into the Horrere script pile. Like Mike has said, we approach both books with different styles. Papercuts tends to be something which we experiment in, express our sense of humour in and try to touch on certain messages, points and situations whereas Horrere is more about celebrating our love of the horror genre, crafting stories which chill you and scare you and generally study fear. With issue one of Horrere the lines between both books were a tad blurred, and so we wanted to really give them their own voices and distinction, so what you’ll have seen in Laudanum is our bold move of showing how much we’re breaking one title away from the other.
Both are tremendous fun to write and come up with ideas for, i think with Papercuts though we can generally use far dafter ideas and create a narrative, as can really be seen in “Meat The Monotaur” and “Where’d Wendigo”.
Last year you also released Laudanum which seems to be one of the first books from you guys that hasn’t had some humour in it, was it a challenge writing a straight horror book for once? Did you have to resist putting in some gags?
MIKE: We always like to try and make ourselves uncomfortable and I’m not just talking about Rob’s choice of underwear. But also that too. We like to try and box ourselves into corners and work in styles and genres that are uncomfortable for us. We feel that’s the best way for us to grow and it keeps us nervous, which keeps us focussed. Laudanum was always about trying to capture a very claustrophobic environment and staying true to the Victorian setting. I think if we’d have injected any humour into that story it could have undermined the atmosphere and potentially popped the bubble of immersion for the reader which, with this being such a short story was something we really wanted to try and avoid. But yeah, we do love to inject humour into even some of our darker stories to keep the reader disorientated but this particular piece it just felt right to shoot completely straight.
ROB: I think, the nature of the beast was evident from the get go with Laudanum. We knew there was no place for jokes in it, no real angles which we could stuff a Woman in Black dig here, or riff on Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker there. Similarly with some of the other stories in Horrere #02, we dropped out gags which we had written because, as I stated earlier, we really wanted a clear departure and divide between the two comics of Horrere and Papercuts. We’ve written some very atmospheric things since (we work roughly six months to a year in front, so things like Laudanum were actually written back in 2015, as was a great deal of Papercuts #6 as well) and will continue to look for ways to take us out of our comfort zone and try new things. If we’re comfortable, and not challenging ourselves to engage writing in different ways, then I think our readers will notice and switch off. We don’t want that, we want to keep people guessing at what comes next!
We heard Matt Garvey recently said you are one of the most recognisable small press brands on the circuit right now (which I happen to agree with!) how important has it been for you to cultivate that brand – or is it just a reflection of your outgoing nature and passion for the subject that has helped create this Madius Comics ‘phenomenon’?
MIKE: Yeah! We saw that and it was really a huge compliment, so thanks to him and to you guys for agreeing with him haha! I think it’s a combination of several things to be honest. We’re incredibly lucky to have Brad Holman on board who is a one man production and branding workhorse. He is responsible for our logos and general look and we owe him several hampers of ham for all of his hard work behind the scenes making us look far more professional than we have any right to.
I think that coupled with our love of what we’re doing combine to create the tsunami of relentless positivity that is Madius Comics. We’re living the dream making these books and we’re so thankful for all of the support we’ve received over the last two years from everyone. It genuinely blows our mind we’re able to work with the people we have and not only that, that we have an audience that are constantly hungry for more. It’s very easy to be passionate about something you love and we’re always willing to shout from the rooftops about how much fun we’re having making these books.
ROB: I’d hardly say we are a Phenomenon, more a mild annoyance to the ear drums, however we are massively appreciative of the compliments! We do our hardest to stand out from the crowd, and that was a prerequisite from the start, and so when Brad was working on logos and branding, he came back with a super strong colour and look, and we’ve been lucky that it’s stuck! I think our passion shines through, and it’s also reflected in the passion of the artists which we are fortunate enough to work with and their differing styles and approaches. Without passion, without a drive, there’s no point attempting things, whereas we want to aim for the stars, shoot past them and end up in some nebula somewhere arguing with the sat nav, you know?
And finally what’s next from Madius – more Griff Gristle, more Papercuts? More horror? Or something completely different? A book about kittens perhaps?
MIKE: You’ve really opened Pandora’s wardrobe with that question. WHERE DO WE START!? Ok, so, we’ve got Griff Gristle – The Siren’s Song, Ramlock Investigates 2, Horrere 3, Papercuts & Inkstains 7 (and onwards), Bun (a solo book I’m working on with Rosie Packwood), two more graphic novel length kickstarters we haven’t revealed just yet that we’re STUPID excited about, there’s our new ongoing serial in Comichaus entitled Homepathos etc etc etc. All this AND MOAR! So yeah, don’t go getting too comfortable, we’ve got plenty more fuel for your rocket boots on the way. 2017 should be a massive year for us and we can’t wait to share it all with you.
ROB: I was really lucky to have a strip featured in the latest Futurequake, which was the first script I ever wrote! We’ve got strips being featured in THE GRIME, and in THE PSYCHEDELIC JOURNAL as well as what Mike’s said, there’s a prequel comic to a book called AMELIA’S SONG by Kneel Downe which is currently being worked on by Darren Smith, I’m elbow deep in a graphic novella set during the battle of Stalingrad which will have some horrific turns, and I’m in talks with an artist for that, there’s more Nick Gonzo coming, he has some incredible stories which he is working on, there’s another children’s comic about a mole secret agent named Doug Underhill which Brad is drawing at the moment as well… There’s lots and lots! We’ve got ideas for pitches for the big boys too, so we shall see what else we can cook up between now and this time next year!
You can pledge your support for the Papercuts and Inkstains Collected Edition Kickstarter here and you can purchase their comics directly from their Big Cartel Store
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.