Artist and writer Mal Earl returned to producing comics three years ago, after a 15 year hiatus. Along with many other projects, he has a new strip in the latest volume of David Lloyd’s brilliant digital anthology Aces Weekly (Volume 19!) on sale now, an unconventional war story called “The Bridge”.
Born, bred and based in the UK, Mal is the illustrator of Lies And Other Fools, a graphic poem by Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge, and creator of the ongoing, amazing Bulletproof Nylon burlesquenoir pulp project, which Mal tells us will resume in January 2016.
“Across three short years I feel hugely fortunate to have met some of my heroes, and progressed much farther with the development of my art than I imagined possible,” says Mal.”I’m still improving, project by project, and this last one has proved a ‘bridge’ in more ways than one.
“‘The Bridge’ came into being some ten years ago,” he reveals. “Originally, the tale was produced as a ‘voices for radio’ script, complete with music and sound effect cues and placements.
“Inspired by the works of Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd, the intent was to pitch to radio, as a complete change of direction from illustration which, I had decided, held no more interest for me…(!).”
Sadly – or perhaps because it was before its time – the project was shelved, fully complete, and filed away with a number of other projects, for posterity – until now.
“The Bridge” isn’t Mal’s first strip for Aces Weekly. His first, “Bullhawk – The Alleyman”, ran a self contained, 24 page course in Volume 9, introducing a plethora of lead and supporting characters, in an illustrative style inspired by 1920s bronze figurines: an approach which, on the whole, was well received. It was followed by “Scars” which ran in Volumes 12 and 13.
“When I was asked to produce another story for Aces Weekly, I blew the dust from the bundle, and pulled out a number of tales, complete and ready to go,” says Mal.
“Three of my projects – ‘Welkin’, ‘Ratcliffe’ and ‘The Bridge’ were all options which leapt out initially, but ‘The Bridge’ seemed to be the strongest in its construction and intent, and I began thumb nailing the radio script into the semblance of a 21-page self contained strip.
“As I began to visualise the characters and setting, as opposed to simply writing the dialogue, the night time scenario sprang to the fore, and I decided to make a feature of the blue moonlight throughout the telling of the tale.
“The physical bridge itself mutated from a simple stone structure into the skeletal wooden span that it finally became and, as I grew more and more comfortable with the iPad as a drawing tool, I realised that I was finally falling into a style of art that I could truly say was all my own.
“Additionally, a sequence which originally contained much internalised, angst ridden monologue, when presented visually, begged to be told almost silently – a point in the story, coincidentally, when my artwork finally reached a level of competency that I became wholly satisfied with.
“As ever, now that it is complete, I think ‘ The Bridge’ is one of the best things that I have yet produced, but the final product falls short of all that I wished it to be,” feels Mal, “but that is the way of things, and the catalyst that moves us on from our last project to our next.
“Our dissatisfaction in our work is a bridge, that moves us on to span the chasm of our creativity. I only wonder if there is, actually, another side of the chasm to strive toward – an end to our own personal artistic bridge?”
• The seven part Aces Weekly Volume 19 is available now. The”Extras” section of this volume includes Mal’s breakdown of how he created a page from script to final page – detailing the Apps, Stylus and methodology used. Subscribe to Aces Weekly now from www.acesweekly.co.uk/shop
• For more about Mal and his work visit http://malearl.com
• Bulletproof Nylon will begin, properly, with the first novel in January 2016, with another five books to follow, charting the main characters development into areas Mal says he hadn’t even conceived of two years ago. For more information visit http://bulletproofnylon.com
• Lies and Other Fools will begin production in February