Mark Allard-Will is a British-born writer now living in Canada, who has returned to the UK, at least in a story sense, by bringing one of Britain’s most famed monsters, Black Shuck, to comics with The Burning Black: Legend of Black Shuck, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.
The project is the work of the team behind the successfully crowdfunded Årkade graphic novel (via GoFundMe, published by Renegade Arts), written by Mark, with art by Ryan Howe, best known for the adventure series Daisy Black: Pilot for Hire, published by Soaring Penguin Press, coloured and lettered by Elaine M., (Look Straight Ahead and Dust-Ship Glory, published by Renegade Arts).
“Black Shuck is a jet-black Demon Dog that is said to have terrorised Tudor-era Bungay, a village in my home county of Suffolk,” says Mark, also a film maker and landscape photographer, who you may know for his work on the Canadiana comedy comic series Saskatch-A-Man and SaskatchAvengers, alongside the metafiction graphic novel, Årkade.
His recent credits include a story for the award-winning anthology Bottoms Up! True Tales of Hitting Rock Bottom, and is well known within the Canadian creative community for his support of independent comics.
The Burning Black is set in Tudor-era England, in the deeply rural county of Suffolk during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In the small village of Bungay, life sits in an undisturbed status quo; peasants suffer backbreaking work tilling the fields by hand, while the merchant class preside over looms and textile traders. Bungay Castle lies peacefully dormant, as it has for the centuries past, since Hugh Bigod was pulled from it by Royal Guard to face execution after a failed rebellion against King Henry II…
… but one fateful early August night in 1577, peace is disturbed in this unassuming village, when a Beast tears through the Church doors. Inside, the Beast is said to have feasted upon four unsuspecting worshippers, before vanishing and reappearing in nearby Blythburgh where the Beast’s white hot, scorched-in Claw marks can still be seen on the doors of the Holy Trinity Church to this very day.
Some say the Beast is a big Demon Dog, eight-feet tall when on all-fours with fur as black as tar. Others say its eyes burn with the white hot flames of Hell itself. Rumours abound and before you know it perhaps the most legendary of all British mythical beasts is born: Black Shuck…
“Many people have told the story of Black Shuck before, but it’s usually compounded into a mere retelling of the professed events and the sighting in St. Mary’s Church in 1577,” says Mark, who’s seeking funding for a 50-plus page graphic novel, plus tribute pages from both British and Canadian artists.
“I’m attempting to do the impossible and give Black Shuck a back story, set against the backdrop of England’s long-rooted history of Christian suppression of pagan cultures; turning the story of Black Shuck from simple retelling into a tense, edge-of-your-seat historical fiction – with all the horror trimmings you’d expect!”
Beginning in the long and hard-fought battle for supremacy over Britain’s shores between the pagan Vikings and the devotedly Christian Saxons of the late 800s and ending in the Tudor-era of 1577, Mark’s re-imagining of the story of Black Shuck will take you on a journey from the horrors of war to the echoes of a simpler past, all set to the backdrop of a Beast that has come to define storytelling in rural England and around the English-speaking world.
The story, of course will only get told if it’s successfully funded to the tune of a relatively modest £2584. Hopefully, it should achieve that, after attention from the BBC as well as several comic sites.
“As a career artist, Ryan needs to get paid to continue working,” Mark notes. “With the money generated from the Kickstarter, Ryan will be able to finish the project’s artwork and hand it over to Elaine to colour and letter.”
Without completed funding this project essentially cannot happen, Mark says, even though he already has a publisher lined up to help distribute the book.
“All other funding avenues have been explored and Kickstarter is our final avenue,” he says. “If you want to see this book happen, don’t just back us, share the project around as much as possible on social media.”
Will you help bring the most famed of all British monsters, Black Shuck, to the comic book medium?