23red and Network Rail to reveal “Eighteen” rail safety comic at MCM’s Comic Con Birmingham

Behaviour change agency 23red has announced the redesign of its multi-award-winning film Eighteen, created in partnership with Network Rail to highlight the dangers of electrified railways.

The film has been reworked into a 32-page comic book and will launch at MCM’s Comic Con Birmingham 2019 this weekend to communicate the campaign’s lifesaving message to a younger audience.

Eighteen - Rail Safety Comic

Views of the film – entitled Eighteen because events take place around a central character’s 18th birthday – surpassed five million on YouTube this month. Created to highlight danger of high voltage overhead wires, Eighteen is a dramatic film with a storyline developed through school workshops, scripted by Shazia Rashid and with a cast of acclaimed actors including BAFTA-nominee Aimee Kelly (from BBC drama Wolfsblood), Harry Kirton (Peaky Blinders), Shaquille Ali-Yebuah (Netflix’s iBOY) and Steve Oram (from films Sightseers, The World’s End and TV series The End of the F***ing World).

To support safety events held by Network Rail in city centres, train stations and schools next year, 23red took inspiration from the comic book world to create something that would grab the attention of passers-by when placed in their hand.

Working with a creative team assembled by comic creator Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics – perhaps best known for his Flintlock adventure series – the comic book version of ‘18’ follows the same storyline as the film whilst adding a fresh dimension to it by examining some scenes in more detail.

Eighteen - Rail Safety Comic

As well as drawing on his own experience with the comics medium, Steve has worked closely with writer Richmond A Clements, artist Gary Crutchley, colourist Matt Soffe and letterer Bolt-01, to produce a story that not just sits alongside the original movie but can be enjoyed as a comic in itself.

Stuart Humphreys, Senior Communications Manager for Network Rail, said: “Comic books and graphic novels are not only cool, which means people are more likely to accept and read one than a leaflet, but they use visual, spatial and textual cues to formulate one solid understanding of the story. So, as well as being entertaining, these books require more investment from the reader and are therefore more memorable.

Eighteen - Rail Safety Comic

We are delighted with the strategic support provided by 23red throughout this ongoing campaign, which enables it to continue reaching new audiences.”

Sean Kinmont, Creative Director and Co-Founder at 23red, added: “As an agency we are wholly supportive of work that drives behaviour change and is a force for good. This campaign does both and, we are very proud to say, has the potential to save lives. It was a pleasure to work with Network Rail and Steve Tanner on this project and we continue to passionately raise awareness on the issue of rail safety.”

It;’s not the first time the British rail industry has used comics to promote safety. Back in 1985, National Rail came up with a superhero-inspired promotion, no doubt in the hope that Captain Caution would do for rail safety what the Green Cross Man had been doing to encourage kids to be careful crossing roads.

The still nationalised National Rail commissioned 2000AD Ron Smith – then working on the daily “Judge Dredd” strip for the Daily Star – to create the look for a for the flying character, seen here saving two New Engine Desperados from the line of death.

The new comic looks, thankfully, far better put together and certainly more relevant than that effort. Let’s hope it is – and saves some lives.

• The comic ‘18’ launches at Birmingham Comic-Con on 16th – 17th November, with Steve signing copies between 11.00am and 12 noon on Saturday. Print copies will be available free of charge at the show and at public safety events taking place from February 2020 along the electrified route of the Midland Main Line. For anyone unable to attend an event, a digital version will also be available early in the New Year

For more information visit www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/safety-in-the-community/railway-safety-campaigns/always-on

Time Bomb Comics is online at timebombcomics.com

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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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