Lancaster-based Steve Gregson and Matthew Simmons are two 1980s kids who grew older, but didn’t grow up. With a shared love of cartoons, comics and action figures the two decided to put their heads together to write a story about their youth, but without it actually being a story about themselves.
Their webcomic, Bastard Galaxia, which we highlighted here on downthetubes recently, is one half space pirate comedy, and another half a secret dramatic recreation of the 1980s toy scene. downthetubes caught up with the pair to talk to them about their work…
downthetubes: What are you currently working on and where can people see it?
Matthew: Together we are working on Bastard Galaxia, a free to read, twice weekly webcomic.
Steve: It’s based loosely on the 1980’s action figure craze, but shown from the perspective of a toylines newest space villain!
downthetubes: How did you come up with Bastard Galaxia and what most inspired it?
Steve: I’d actually come up with the name before anything else, based on the idea that loads of bad-guys from our youth have totally evil names, like Doctor Doom, Skeletor, The Shredder etc. Those guys were never going to be heroes with names like that. I was trying to think what the next evolution of that sort of name would be and kinda stumbled on the name ‘Bastard Galaxia’ which made me laugh, so it just went from there…
Coming up with the name first is obviously the wrong way to do anything, but I instantly just though that this name would suit a ‘Skeletor-esque” character…
Matt: Steve messaged me and said he had this idea that he wanted to make into a comic. I hadn’t realised it was just a name at this stage, he just said he wanted to basically do a comic based on a weird version of Skeletor… It was weird because, and I know this sounds stupid, but I’d actually been watching clips of Skeletor from the live-action Masters of the Universe movie that day (I’m a big fan of Frank Langella in that film! Amazing casting as Skeletor!)… But yeah, I’d bizarrely been watching clips of that and thinking how awkward it must have been to be Skeletor on his throne, surrounded by guards all the time.
Steve: This seemed to set the tone for Galaxia! Basically the day to day life of someone having to deal with these insane secret bases and action figure vehicles. They say you should write what you know, so we wrote about the 1980s, social awkwardness, cartoons and toys.
Matt: Yeah, and how all those cartoons in our youth were simply adverts for toys. I mean we’ve realised this now and we’re still buying toys.
Steve: Our houses are filled with toys, but we can say it’s research at this stage.
downthetubes: How are you finding mainatining the twice-weekly publication schedule you’ve set up for the comic?
Matt: I only do the rough pages, so I have a bit of a more relaxed time than Steve week to week, but I fill the rest of my time coming up with concepts, fake toy ads, and promotional art.
Steve: We meet up to write the story whenever we’re free, and we have almost all of that down. It needs fleshing out, but we know where we’re going. Matt sends me rough pages as they’re complete and I get them drawn up digitally. We try to stay ahead of the comic, but it’s usually a bit of a battle before each upload.
downthetubes: Which of you is most like “Bastard Galaxia”?
Steve: We’re both more like his confused brother, Kevin!
Matt: I releate to Bastard Galaxia’s social awkwardness, but I think pretty everyone can in some way!
Steve: Bastard Galaxia is basically bits of everyone we know. Ourselves included. If we, or anyone we know says something stupid, thats going in, they’re now Galaxia.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Matt: We both work full time jobs, so ‘Galaxia’ is all made in our spare time, so there’s little planning involved. Just whatever we can. Our social lives just end up having to take the hit.
Steve: I guess the social thing isn’t too bad as we enjoy writing it. It’s not like we’re not having fun, as we really are! It’s just like hanging out, but some of the stupid stuff we’re talking about get written down.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Matt: For me, it’s getting to do what I love. Simple as that.
Steve: Yeah, it’s just nice to have people looking at, and hopefully enjoying what we’re making!
downthetubes: And the worst?
Matt: Seeing other people’s work! Always worrying that there are people who are doing things better…
Steve: Yeah, crippling self doubt.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Steve: Did I mention the self doubt? There’s that. To be honest, there’s lots of things I’d like to do, like watch cartoons, play videos games, the stuff most people grow out of, but that all gets swept aside because I genuinely want this comic to happen!
Matt: Well I accidentally had 2 kids at around the exact time I decided I needed to start making comics. I’ve also got a full time job, so basically real life distracts me the most!
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Steve: I’m not sure I’m 100 per cent qualified to hand out advice as we’re just getting started, so just do what we’ve done! Make a comic!
As someone who has previously sat on a huge pile of unfinished concepts and ideas, I’d say to simply get it done! Finish your work and get it out there. Don’t try to get it perfect as you’ll always have room to improve no matter how hard you work, but do get it out there! Welcome feedback and criticism and never let it put you off!
Matt: Try to make the comics you’d want to read (Or as close as you can get!) and you’ll naturally learn and improve from the experience. That way you’ll have complete work to show at conventions etc, where you can meet other creators and potential readers… Networking I guess! Just keep pushing forward.
Steve: Also, Bastard Galaxia wouldn’t have existed at all if I hadn’t talked to Matt about my dumb idea for a name, so talk to like minded people and bounce ideas of them! Work with others!
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Steve: I’m sure it’s well established that we are basically children but with the bodies of grown men, so I guess i’ll just reiterate this point by saying that I love reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I always have done! I love that concept so much. There’s TMNT stuff everywhere these days and the recent IDW stuff is great. I also love “slice of life stuff” stuff like Scott Pilgrim, and I’m pretty sure thanks to an excellent movie adaptation that those books are still everywhere.
Matt: Adding to the man-child theme, I’m going to say Transformers vs G.I. Joe by Tom Scioli. I’m not even a huge fan of either franchise, but he’s brought them together in a wonderfully bizarre story with some of the most striking artwork and design! Every page is its own conceptual masterpiece, making for an insanely fun, imaginative comic. I think the series just ended but it’s fairly easy to get hold of back issues on eBay, or your local comic shop’s back issues section. It’s also been collected as a trade paperback I believe!
downthetubes: How would you sum up your current work on Bastard Galaxia?
Matt: We’d refer you to this quote from the Shredder in the 1991 cinematic gem TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze…
“BABIES!! THEY’RE BABIIIIEEEESSSS!!!”
downthetubes: Matt, Steve, thanks very much for your time and the best of luck with your work.
Matt: Thanks, and I hope you enjoy Bastard Galaxia!
• Follow Steve Gregson on Twitter @RoboticSteve
• Follow Matt Simmons on Twitter @SheriffFreak
Warning: the kind of people who take offence at anything at the drop of a hat may be offended by elements of this web comic
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.