“It’s entirely possible I’ll run out of ideas down the line, but that’s the challenge!” John Allison on perils of the ongoing Giant Days series as well as hellish new webcomic Mordawwa!
One of our favourite encounters at London Super Comic Con 2016 was with Bad Machinery’s creator John Allison, who filled us in on the latest comings and goings of the wonderful Esther, Daisy and Susan from Giant Days, as well as showing us an exclusive look at his epic new webcomic Mordawwa! We share with you some of the best bits…
Congratulations on the first year of Giant Days as a regular series. It changed from being a limited series to a regular series after the first half a dozen issues, how have you found writing a regularly monthly book compared to a webcomic and did you have to make any changes to how you write (apart from coming up with new ideas!) when it got extended to a monthly series?
John Allison: Because I’m writing scripts for someone else to draw from, my process with Giant Days is completely different. When I write my webcomics, I just scrawl into a pad or type straight into what will become the speech bubbles on a page. If I’m working on paper, I’ll often have almost completely roughed a comic as I write it, and if I’m typing it out, I might have a three word description in a panel just to clarify what’s going on, but I only write a week at a time so I can really confuse myself – I remember who’s saying the bubbles when I come to draw them. My scripts for Giant Days are proper typed out scripts with panel descriptions, character notes etc. It’s a completely different discipline, one that is quite new to me. My whole process had to be rethought when I started writing Giant Days; everything since then has been an attempt to refine that process.
You mentioned that you wanted each book to be self contained to welcome in new readers, does that make it dificult to tell ongoing stories, or do you just try and balance the two?
JA: I think you can maintain an ongoing narrative and keep each issue tightly themed as a unit. 22 pages is enough to tell a story, although it’s always tight, but that’s good! It means there’s a lot in the issue! It’s entirely possible that I’ll run out of ideas for single issue stories down the line, but that’s the challenge: not running out of ideas. That’s every creative person’s career.
How have you found working with a different artist from yourself? Was it weird letting go of some of the control of the characters to them? Or did it help you focus on the writing and other projects?
JA: It’s fine because I trust the artists I’ve worked with implicitly not to mess up. Lissa and Max are top-drawer creative people. They’re stellar artists.
Why did the artist change with issue 6 was that down to commitments on other projects when the run got extended? Did you get to choose who your artists were? Or did Boom?
JA: Lissa signed on for the original six-issue limited series; she has a full-time job with Disney Animation and there was no way for her to stay on and stay sane. I had brought her to the project, and I was lucky to know Max Sarin through a friend and bring her on-board too. Obviously I have a dream list of artists but the chances of finding one who is available when you need them is slim. In this case I managed to make lightning strike twice.
You’ve introduced some new characters, like the wonderful McGraw, and Esther’s school buddy Big Lindsay, which have been your favourite to introduce and any future plans for some of the smaller characters to return or characters from your other series to appear?
JA: Big Lindsay is an old, underdeveloped Scary Go Round character – she probably last appeared in 2006! Her having got pregnant was a one-panel joke. All those old characters are still in play, anyone could appear though obviously only when appropriate. I am very fond of McGraw; I also like Susan’s election candidate, Kulvinder Singh. I hope he comes back soon.
You mentioned how you wrote Indie Soc Erin out in issue 7, why did you do that and are you upset that so few people even noticed?! Will she ever return from travelling?
JA: A lot of the Giant Days readers have never read the original three self-published comics I did; Erin’s cameo sign-off in issue seven was a little thank you for the support that pushed us past six issues. Issue 13 features a similar thank you to long-time fans. It’s extremely unlikely that she’ll come back. Who knows what happened between her appearance in Giant Days 7 and the first Bad Machinery book? My guess:a lot of bad behaviour.
Your latest webcomic on Scarygoround is the brilliantly Mordawwa – Queen of Hell, which is quite a departure from your usual stuff. What inspired you to go down the demonic path and what are the plans with her?
JA: MORDAWWA! Mordawwa is a kind of quasi-Marvel/comic Jack Kirby comic, just a five-week fill-in that I have been keen to do for months. It evolved organically – I wrote a bit about that here – from a joke, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have synopses for four more issues like this, though I’m not sure exactly how or where they would emerge. I’m not exactly sure who would be buying these comics. “For Michael Fiffe fans who have had a severe bump on the head!”
You have quite the eclectic bunch of demons in Mordawwa (including our favourite VVVVVVVVVVVVV) but which of them is your favourite to write and or draw?
JA: I love Arch-Duke Horns. He’s a complex fellow. Besides Mordawwa and Manny, her assistant, none of these characters had any life on the page before I started writing the first page, but they all came straight to life. That’s the greatest pleasure there is for me making comics. Week by week I’ve been tweaking their storylines and abilities because they’ve all grown in my affections.
And finally, how is bobbins.horse doing? (And any more plans for this year that you can let us know about?)
JA: Bobbins.horse is low-key, it’s under the radar, it’s still gestating. When I’m busy working on book projects, or in need of a week off, I need a comic I can knock out ten or twelve of in a week to buy myself some time. For the last couple of years, the revived Bobbins did that, but because it shares common characters with Bad Machinery, it interferes with it a little, it moves the clock forward, which can make things difficult. So Bobbins.horse, a kind of postcard from Scary Go Round history, is a safer alternative. I can do whatever I want there without making a mess. I should add that I am well aware that upon scrutiny, my complex continuity is already a mess.