Art from the graphic novel Klaxon by Si Spencer and DIX, published by SelfMadeHero

Lakes Festival Focus 2015: An Interview with Comics Writer Si Spencer

Art from the graphic novel Klaxon by Si Spencer and DIX, published by SelfMadeHero
Art from the graphic novel Klaxon by Si Spencer and DIX, published by SelfMadeHero

Si Spencer
Si Spencer
Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event. We’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event this coming weekend (16th – 18th October), continuing the series with an interview with comics writer Si Spencer, who will be at the event to promote his new graphic novel from SelfMadeHero, the unsettlingly disturbing Klaxon, drawn by DIX, which goes on sale this week…

Si Spencer is a writer for comics and television. As a TV scriptwriter, he has written for Grange Hill, EastEnders and The Bill. His comic work includes strips for Judge Dredd and Deadline and the longer works Books of Magick (with Neil Gaiman), Hellblazer: City Of Demons, The Vinyl Underground, and the award-winning 2014 cult hit series Bodies, all published by DC/Vertigo.

His latest graphic novel is a mould-breaking horror story, Klaxon, illustrated by DIX and published by SelfMadeHero on 15th October 2015 and copies will be available at the Festival.

He’s also writing the Vertigo title Slash & Burn, featuring covers by Tula Lotay.

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Slash & Burn - Cover by Tula Lotay
Coming Soon: Slash & Burn, written by Si Spencer, art by Tula Lotay
Si Spencer: Having finally put Klaxon to bed for SelfMadeHero a few weeks back, I’ve been pretty much dividing my time between putting new pitch ideas together for 2016 and working on a new monthly book for Vertigo called Slash & Burn. That’s coming out in mid-November as part of their huge ‘new title-a-week’ launch.

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Si: I’d like to think there’s something I’m proud of in everything I write, but Klaxon has a special place in my heart right now because it’s such an individual and personal body of work and completely unlike anything anyone’s ever read before.

It stemmed from something I literally plucked out of the air in what I thought was the Klaxon pitch meeting; it wasn’t intended as a dramatic planting-a-flag-in-the-ground declaration rejecting the past and starting a whole new movement. More of a scrambled-together explanation of the mental-editing processes I went through for the book to make sure it was completely original and how hopefully that would make it something no-one had seen before.

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Si: People who know me well will be pretty surprised to hear I have a pretty well-organised schedule. I’m an early riser and tend to stay in alpha-wave mode for the first couple of hours, so do a lot of creative jotting and splurging. Then I take an hour’s nap and spend the rest of the morning on admin’, polishing, printing and general life-stuff. Then I grab another nap before heading to the pub and putting in between six and ten hours actually writing at the bar.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Si: The adoration, sexual charisma, vast wealth and fame that come with the job. No, not that. It’s that it’s quite simply the most satisfying and complex narrative device there is. The creative team is small and manageable enough to assist the process rather than hindering it, the budgets are only bounded by whatever the artist can draw and you can multilayer voices and images in ways that no other medium allows.

Klaxon - Coverdownthetubes: And the worst?

Si: The relentless tedium of the adoration, sexual charisma, vast wealth and fame. And the fact that very few people actually ‘get’ what you do or that it’s a ‘real’ thing. No, I don’t write the balloons in after the artist is done, yes you can buy my books in real shops, no I don’t ‘do cartoons’.

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Si: Interviews, wasps, people at the bar, crossword clues, toast, the internet, clouds, cheese, giraffes, tea, flying monkeys, trombonists, naps, meat, Psych, adoration, religious visions, emails, stampeding ponies, itching, random semi-erotic thoughts of Lucy Worsley, bells, the wife, recipes, writing quizzes, horseshoe crabs, the window, dirt, chocolate, the corner shop.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Si: I’m very old so young people quite rightly shun me, but it certainly seems that way. I’ve never known the British comic industry to be so healthy and varied and I’m told that these days there’s something called an app that if you just shout at it will produce a finished comic for you.

downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?

Si: Many many times, once sleeping under a hedge in a plastic bag in November in a nonsensical attempt to emulate the Beat Poets. Kendal in winter is not San Francisco.

I’m really looking forward to this visit though (I hear I’ve got a bed this time). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Festival and as a native Northerner, it’ll be great to see some serious landscape again.

Creeped out yet? Art from the graphic novel Klaxon by Si Spencer and DIX, published by SelfMadeHero
Creeped out yet? Art from the graphic novel Klaxon by Si Spencer and DIX, published by SelfMadeHero
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Si: Hmm, that’s a tricky one cos I don’t really do that kind of ‘meeting your heroes’ thing. In all honesty, I’d say Meghan Hetrick and Lee Loughridge because they’re the only members of the art team on my last book, Bodies, who I’ve not actually met in the flesh. It would be nice to weep in gratitude at their feet and I hear Meghan is coming over to the UK in November, so then it’ll just be Lee to embarrass.

Klaxon Clowndownthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Si: More than anything, they get us out of the house. I go to the pub to work because if I didn’t I’d never travel further than the kitchen. Beyond that, the best thing is meeting your audience. I don’t know if they particularly help though I gather a lot of people discuss business at these things. I tend just to walk around baffled; I’m useless at schmoozing.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Si: Work. If you write, write, if you draw, draw. Nobody ever got a job or got any better at what they do by thinking about it. Work.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Si: Recently I’ve been lucky enough to barely have a moment to myself to read anything, let alone other people’s comics but I did manage to take in Rob Davis’s amazing The Motherless Oven. A book so good that I could only read it in small ten page chunks because I was so jealous of the story-telling that I kept hurling it across the room.

I’ve bought seven copies for various people since then – you should be able to get it in any decent comic shop or bookstore.

downthetubes: Si, thanks very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in Kendal.

• Find out more about Si Spencer, stalk him on Twitter  @sispencer

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Events featuring Si Spencerat the Lakes International Comic Art Festival:

Reinventing the Horror Comic: Si Spencer & Dix (interviewed by downthetubes John Freeman)
Saturday 17  1.30-2.30 pm  Comics Clock Tower Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS

In Klaxon – on sale this week from all good book shops – three unemployed wasters find themselves embroiled in an unusual dispute with their new neighbours: Carole and her weeping mother. When the shabby Carlisle intervenes in their lives, he incurs the wrath of their landlord – the silent, grinning embodiment of evil, Mr Stapleton – and his mute minion son, Craig.

As Mr Stapleton’s malign influence spreads to his housemates, Carlisle takes the fight to his enemy and realises he must sacrifice his life to save the world.

Owing more to William Blake than to Stephen King, this brooding, unnerving and absurdist graphic novel deliberately shuns the conventional genre trappings of blood and gore in favour of freak falls of liquorice allsorts, cherubim in cowboy suits and narcotic cavity wall insulation…

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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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