Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Defoe: Spirits of Christmas II

Defoe: Spirits of Christmas is a Christmas love letter to my wife Adrene, who this year was deployed in Afghanistan during the holidays. The comic strip was almost too easy to write, with a melancholy Titus Defoe visited by the spirit of his long-dead wife, Annie. She delivers to him a message, that the two of them 'will be together again', that she'll 'always wait for him'; she urges him to be strong until at last they're in each others arms again. Christmas, it's all about hope, and though Defoe wakes from what may or may not have been a dream with the sting of loss in his heart, he realizes he must be strong for Annie - and for himself.

I miss Adrene.

(she's still in Afghanistan for another month as of this posting).

Originally, I wrote Spirits of Christmas for the very cool 2000AD Advent Calendar Pete Wells organizes every year on the 2000AD forum. Last year I couldn't for the life of me find an available artist and missed out on contributing, but luckily this go-round I found Conor Boyle in between projects and he agreed to take the strip on; frequent collaborator Bolt 01 stepped in and lettered the final strip.

For anyone not in the know, Defoe is a comic strip created by Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher for 2000AD featuring Titus Defoe, a zombie hunter general in an alternate 17th century England. It’s a bloody fantastic comic! Mills and Gallagher mix elements of horror, historical-fiction and steampunk, and blend them into a mad cocktail. The strip is often dark and brooding, and my little A Christmas Carol-inspired story seemed to fit naturally into the storyline that was running in 2000AD at the time.

‘But why’, I hear you ask ‘have you done up another 2000AD-related strip when you constantly remind us, ON THIS VERY BLOG, that you absolutely hate writing fanfiction?’

Plain and simple: my goal is to write for 2000AD. I won’t call these scripts practice, but in a way they are; the finished strips are published in great 2000AD fanzines, read by lifelong fans of the magazine – even Tharg, the mighty alien editor of 2000AD has been known to glance in the direction of ‘zines like Dogbreath and Zarjaz now and then.

Sometimes a fanfiction comic catches the eyes of the strip’s original creators.

Shortly after the strip was posted on the 2000AD forum, Conor received an email from Defoe artist Leigh Gallagher which read:

'Dude...that is just...wow! That was such a great read! My hat's off to you both--I can't believe you put so much work into it!'

As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, Mr. Gallagher forwarded the strip to the Godfather of British Comics and Defoe creator Pat Mills, who had this to say about it in an email to Conor and me:

'Hi, Conor and Matthew, Just had a quick look at your advent Defoe - excellent story and excellent art. I was preparing to cringe and was pleasantly surprised. You've both really thought about the subject matter, the character and remained faithful to the original. That's impressive and appreciated.'


Being a writer of comics is a pretty shit job most of the time. Artists usually – and, as much as it pains me to say (ha ha) so, deservedly – get most of the attention. To receive a bit of praise from a writer whose work I’ve long admired was both humbling and a needed boost to keep me going during times when this whole writing lark feels like a hopeless endeavor. Mr. Mills probably didn’t realize the impact those few kind words had on me as a struggling writer – or maybe he did, and that’s why he took a moment out of his busy day to send that email.

Defoe: Spirits of Christmas can be read in its entirety on the Hibernia Comics (publisher of the great new 2000AD fanzine Tales From the Emerald Isle) blogspot, and hopefully by the end of this year the strip will find it’s way to the printed page!

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