The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

Untold Tales: Lancaster’s Musicians’ Co-Op the inspiration for a comic adventure

Following up on the good news – locally, at least – that Lancaster City Council has pledged to work with the city’s Musicians’ Co-op to help secure their long-term future, revoking its eviction notice from a building much-loved organisation had occupied for decades, I thought you might like to see what was published of a comic strip based on previous scares that it was feared might impact on the future the much-loved organisation.

Back in the early 2000s, Italian publisher CJL approached me to write some strips that would be used to teach English as a foreign language for their print magazine. Strips featured included “The Grand Tour“, an SF romp also written by me and drawn by Mike Collins, and humour strips by Nick Miller and Antonella Caputo.

The Story of Aten“, drawn by Italian artist Gian Marco Ibba, who now works as a teacher, was to have been a 48-page tale featuring a mysterious traveller with dimension-hopping powers, helping out the downtrodden in battles with the corrupt. In this first story, he was up against a devious property developer intent on demolishing the Co-op to put a supermarket in its place.

Back in the 2000s, there was a possibility that the Co-op would be bulldozed as part of a big development plan, with nowhere else to set up shop. That didn’t happen, but the delays to decision making on the plans were the start of a situation that have blighted plans for improvements to the building for years.

The team at the Musicians’ Co-op at the time very kindly gave me permission to use the building in the tale, and Lancastrians may recognise other locations used in the story.

Part of the concept utilised a companion from another era who didn’t understand Modern Britain or ways of doing things, rather as, perhaps, some Italian visitors to the UK might flounder on holiday. The strip was published with numbered balloons, translating the English dialogue into Italian.

It was a great idea but sadly CJL couldn’t gain a big enough sale of their magazine in Italy to continue, and the title folded after just eight issues, with storylines left hanging.

Yesterday, Lancaster city councillors met to discuss the Co-op and a recent decision to issue the organisation with a notice to quit their premises on Lodge Street, which followed a structural report that raised serious concerns about the safety of the building. The eviction notice provoked a storm of protest, and support for the Co-Op coming from across the North West to save it from closure.

Councillors voted unanimously to rescind the notice once the most urgent safety-critical concerns are completed, at least on a temporary basis, and that valid insurance is in place.

The mystery protagonist of “The Story of Aten” was very much in the mould of steering people to help themselves defeat the bad guys, and it’s great to see Lancaster Co-op survive another battle. Let’s hope this time around, the good news continues….

I hope you enjoy the pages.

Art and story © John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba – and apologies to any letterers reading this for the use of a crossbar “I” throughout!

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

The Story of Aten by John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

Art and story © John Freeman & Gian Marco Ibba

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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