Creating Comics: An Interview with the team behind “The77”, a new retro anthology comic

The77's Steve Bull, Dave Heeley and BenKsy

The77’s Steve Bull, Dave Heeley and BenKsy

The77 is a brand new, retro anthology comic currently seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter that aims to be a fantastic quarterly comic showcase for UK’s emerging talent, present day professionals and heroes from your childhood, and downthetubes caught up with its core team – Steve Bull, Dave Heeley and BenKsy – plus, we bring you a guide to what to expect in the first issue…

“Our ambition is to produce a quality publication that will spotlight the amazing talent of our friends, peers and heroes,” explains BenKsy.

The 77 - Promotional Montage

 

The team need about 250 backers to realise their aim to produce this new comic anthology, which they describe as a “love letter to the comics that made us.”, that includes strips by Steve Austin, Conor Boyle, John Charles, Mal Earl, Ian Gibson, Dave Healey, Kek-W, Steve MacManus and many more terrific talents.

downthetubes: Can you tell me a little about yourself, your comics work and what most inspires you when reading a comic?

The77: We’ve worked together on 1977-2000AD for a couple of years and meet up at events and conventions. Just three middle aged comic fans, enjoying the community we’ve built and others who’ve welcomed us with open arms

Comics influence was all the usual – Beano, Monster Fun, Action, 2000AD, Misty, Scream, Valiant, Eagle etc

downthetubes: How did The77 project come about?

The77: To be honest, it was very organic. BenKsy was involved in a thread where the topic was ‘Why don’t you guys put together a comic?’ It was an idea that just grew.

[There’s a June 2019 thread here on the 1977-2000AD group, opened by Ed Doyle, where discussion appears to have begun or continued – John]

We are involved in Inktober/Drokktober and have instigated our awards, ‘The Golden Squirrels‘, that recognises and celebrates 2000AD writers and artists, many of whom are members of the group.

We discussed it, asked around got some initial interest and have spent six months building the infrastructure to enable us to build a following and support a crowdfunding project. That became known as The77.

"The Last Man" by Phil Elliott and Michael Powell

“The Last Man” by Phil Elliott and Michael Powell

downthetubes: Why The77?

The77: On one level, it’s not impossible to fathom but as a team The77 more than the some of its parts. We are a collective which has expanded beyond the three of us and now has seven in the team – Morgan SpiceMan, Dave Bedford and Jo Heeley. We each bring our own interests and know-how into the mix and without whom I’d be swamped and not able to realise the dream of launching a brand new retro comic!

downthetubes: If you had to pitch The77 in one sentence, what would you say?

"The Tinkling Triangles", a wacky five-page strip for The77 written by Steve MacManus, with art by Brendon Wright

“The Tinkling Triangles”, a wacky five-page strip for The77 written by Steve MacManus, with art by Brendon Wright

The77: A LOVE LETTER TO THE COMICS THAT MADE US

downthetubes: There are quite a number of independent comic anthologies now on stream, as well as titles such as 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, published by mainstream publishers. What makes The77 unique?

The77: That it is a brand new, retro comic. It has a very wide and eclectic range of contributors, writers from Steve MacManus to Kek-W, artists from Ian Gibson to an 11-year-old called Drew Marr – and many breakthrough creators that we have watched grown and take their place in the comics industry.

downthetubes: The project is planned as a quarterly title. Can you tell us who you have lined up for later issues?

Art from "The Prodigal" by Mal Earl for The77

Art from “The Prodigal” by Mal Earl for The77

The77: Many of the creators are booked for Issue 2, and we are continuing to accept submissions. I won’t reveal who is on board but we are not looking back as we stride towards all of our futures.

downthetubes: Do you see The77 as a springboard for further collaborations or other spin-offs?

The77: Not currently as we are far too busy to focus on that but The77 Publishing house is now a reality and who knows?

downthetubes: Which strip do you think might most surprise readers?

The77: Definitely Drew Marr. We are thrilled that this amazingly talented young man has chosen us to support his fledgling career. He has already created many characters and his own publishing house, Gold Lion Comics. I became aware of his work via the ComicScene 2019 Big Annual.

Then I saw an interview with Ian Kennedy, then another with the Beano‘s editor, Michael Stirling singing his praises, so I knew we had to have him on board.

downthetubes: If a creator wanted to pitch a strip to The77, how can they do that and what are you looking for in particular? Ongoing or one-offs?

The77: Email us at The77comic@gmail.com or contact through our page “The 77” on Facebook or 77Comic on Twitter. It must be original IP, owned by yourself, as we are a creator owned publication and do not use others established characters or property.

After that, I would say we have a very wide remit and as it’s a team editorial decision I can’t vouch what works as I’m only a small part of a bigger process.

downthetubes: If you had one piece of advice to offer aspiring comic creators, what would it be?

The77: Work hard for everything, to make it happen. The worst that can happen is that you’ll have a great story to tell the grand kids.

downthetubes: Thanks very much for telling us more about The77 – I’m convinced and I’ve backed it! Good luck with the project!

John Freeman was chatting with BenKsy, Dave Heeley and Steve Bull

•  You can support The77 Kickstarter here

• Join The77 on Facebook and Twitter @77Comic and Instagram @The77 comic  | Email the77comic@gmail.com

Lifeboat by Ian Gibson

Lifeboat by Ian Gibson

INSIDE THE 77…

Primed and ready to go, The77 have been trailing the project’s many creators on social media for some time including creators such as former Tharg and author of the comic-industry-set novel The Sheerglam Conspiracy Steve MacManus, scripting “The Tinkling Triangles“, a wacky five-page strip with humour and visual puns throughout, with art by New Zealand’s Brendon Wright.

"The Screaming Hand!" by Conor Boyle and Kek-W, lettered by Annie Parkhouse

“The Screaming Hand!” by Conor Boyle and Kek-W

I’ve had a sneak Mal Earl‘s “The Prodigal” – a teaser appears above – a mind-bending, eyeball-burning fantasy, and it was one of the strip’s the team have trailed that convinced me, along with their great enthusiasm, to back this anthology almost as soon as the crowdfunded launched.

Also teased is “Temporal Anarchy” by Alan Holloway and Neil ‘Blackbird’ Sims.

"Temporal Anarchy" by Alan Holloway and Neil 'Blackbird' Sims

“Temporal Anarchy” by Alan Holloway and Neil ‘Blackbird’ Sims

Penny Pentagram, Occult Detective“, created by David Thomas and with art by Jonny Roydon, also looks interesting. One of the things that I think we dropped the ball on with Print Media Productions’ STRIP Magazine was not having strong characters from the get go, like classic British comics always did, relying for the most part instead on teams like Black Ops Extreme, which I created with PJ Holden.

I’m still pleased with that strip (if not how we were treated), but it wasn’t until we revived DC Thomson’s King Cobra, for the short-lived new stand edition that we had a good “hook” character, just as 2000AD had Judge Dredd from almost the get go.

Penny Pentagram, created by David Thomas and with art by Jonny Roydon

Penny Pentagram, created by David Thomas and with art by Jonny Roydon

Characters like Penny Pentagram, and “TechnoFreak” by John Charles and Tom Newell – a character already enjoying success elsewhere – are vital to an anthology’s success so hopefully, their inclusion in the launch line-up is a wise choice on the part of The77 team.

Technofreak in "A Stranger Calls' by John Charles and Tom Newell

Technofreak in “A Stranger Calls’ by John Charles and Tom Newell

One definite highlight of The77 has to be the inclusion of a poster to promote “Life Boat” by Ian Gibson, a project the acclaimed co-creator of “The Ballad of Halo Jones” has been working on for some time. (Sadly, Ian has yet to complete this beautiful-looking strip, but even seeing work in progress is a bonus).

As Ian teased during an interview last year, “Lifeboat” revolves around the idea, “What if Romeo and Juliet had had a child?” with a ‘space’ version of the American War of Independence, where asteroid mining colonies are trying to break free from the Empire.

Given that I’ve pretty much backed every crowdfunding project featuring work by veteran independent comics artist Phil Elliott, the inclusion of “The Last Man” by Phil and Michael Powell is icing on the cake…

With planning already in high gear for #2, never mind putting the final touches to #1, the full announced line-up also includes “V” by Ade Hughes and Steve Bull; “The Only One” by Karen Holloway and Dave Heeley; the fantastic-looking “The Screaming Hand!” by Conor Boyle and Kek-W, lettered by Annie Parkhouse; “Angel” by Steve Austin and Baden James Mellonie; “Key Runners” by Drew Marr; “Have Blaster, Will Travel” by Paul McCollum and Ed Doyle; “SGT. SHOUTY of the Moon Force” by Lew Stringer; and “Tempered Curse” by Dave Bedford and Morgan Gleave.

The first Issue also includes exclusive features on ROK! The God by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Dan Cornwell, Joe’s Killer Robot Dad by Mike McMahon and Sam Read, ComicScene magazine and Edge of Extinction by Baden James Mellonie and artwork by Ryan Brown.

•  You can support The77 Kickstarter here

• Join The77 on Facebook and Twitter @77Comic and Instagram @The77 comic  | Email the77comic@gmail.com

This item was updated on 8th February 2020 to note only a back cover poster featuring Ian Gibson’s “Lifeboat” strip will feature in The77 Issue One, confirmed by Ian Gibson in a brief Facebook post

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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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