Currently seeking backing on Kickstarter is the fantastic-looking X365: A Graphic Novel by Neill Cameron, who downthetubes readers will perhaps best know for his work on The Phoenix, but who’s returned to his independent publishing roots for this new creator owned project.
Here, Neill himself outlines the origins of X365, which you can back here on Kickstarter now…
A cyborg detective in a dark futuristic city. A stressed-out freelancer coping with COVID-19, deadlines and a new baby. A lone swordswoman in a ruined, monster-filled world. Each living parallel lives, yet mysteriously connected.
The year… is 2020.
So I had the bright idea, halfway up a motorway one New Year’s Eve, to make a new comic – an original, experimental graphic novel.
Now, I’m a full-time comics creator already – I write and draw the award-winning all-ages graphic novel series Mega Robo Bros, as well as a bunch of other stuff for weekly children’s comic The Phoenix – but, apparently, that still isn’t enough comics for me, because I suddenly had this idea for a whole new one.
The idea was that, starting the very next day, I’d write and draw one panel a day, every day, for an entire year. No plan going in, no preparation. I’d just make a story up and see where it took me. It would be a chance to play, to experiment. To make something just for fun, for myself and for anyone who felt like reading along on twitter or wherever.
I was conscious of how much work it would be, but felt that one panel a day ought to be manageable, whatever happened.
And so, on January 1st, I began.
The year… was 2020.
So needless to say, some stuff happened in 2020. If I had known going in how crazy that year was going to be, I would probably not have attempted to do this Fun Yet Demanding Creative Project on top of everything else. But, somehow, I managed to stick to it. And what’s more, I ended up being really grateful for it. For the sense of routine and commitment that sticking to my panel-a-day schedule gave me, and for the feedback from readers that it meant something similar to them. To be, in my tiny little way, a thing that people could rely on through it all.
And you know what, I think it ended up being a pretty good comic. I didn’t really have any expectations going in, but I think it’s fair to say that the end result ended up being richer and stranger and wilder than anything I could have expected.
I realise this might seem an odd time to be launching a book set in the year 2020. I got to the finish line and basically collapsed, and putting the book version together was punted onto the ’when I get a minute’ pile. And then… 2021 happened.
2021 may have been slightly less eventful in a sheer global-level shock and awe way for the planet than 2020, but on a personal level it was brutal, and exhausting, and did not leave a lot of time or mental space for Fun Creative Bonus Projects.
But the desire to make this book, and the belief that if I ever got my act together enough to do so that it would be a very cool book, never went away, and just sat there on the ’when I get a minute’ pile.
And here we are, in November 2022. I guess I finally got a minute?
I’ve put all the files together, I’ve drawn all the covers and title pages and bonus art, I’ve put together some cool extra materials to round out the book, and I have a printed proof copy thanks to the fine folks of Comic Printing UK. And seeing it all put together, it just looks great. It’s everything I hoped it would be.
I always wanted this story to exist as a book one day. And now, with your help… it will.
What’s it About?
It’s about the contrast between the future we were promised and the one we ended up living in.
It’s about living through terrible times, and finding the connections that keep you going.
Also, it’s about 100 pages.
The book collects the complete X365 story – 12 chapters, 365 panels, a complete yearlong story. It also has new artwork, covers, title pages for each chapter, and as bonus material at the end, an interview about the project that academic, strategy and foresight practitioner Matt Finch conducted with me back in October 2020. I’ve tried my best to make this a really nice-looking book, and I think it’s turned out great.
Who’s it For?
I’m aware that most of my usual work is for children, and this book… isn’t, exactly? As I say I was really just making a story for myself, and so I felt like I had free reign to get as weird as I liked.
What I would say is: it’s not specifically a comic for children, but there’s nothing in it that would be too alarming to, say, a pretty cool 12-year-old. There’s some violence, maybe a couple of mild swears, some… general unsettlingness, but you know what? When I was a kid, I was reading Nemesis The Warlock. I think the children will be okay.
Basically: parental discretion is advised?
Risks and challenges
I don’t see a lot of risks to be honest. The comic is done. It’s all written and drawn and laid-up for print. I have a proof. It looks fantastic. I just need to pull the trigger on printing it, for which I need an idea of how many to print, for which… I am running this Kickstarter.
Barring any unforeseen disaster, I should be able to send the book to print the second my Kickstarter concludes…
Neill Cameron is a cartoonist and writer, creator of the comic books Mega Robo Bros, Mo-Bot High, The Pirates of Pangaea (with Daniel Hartwell), Tamsin and the Deep (with Kate Brown), and the instructional How To Make Awesome Comics. Since 2011 his work has appeared in the weekly children’s comic The Phoenix. In 2016 Mega Robo Bros and Tamsin and the Deepwere both shortlisted for the British Comics Awards.
In 2017, Mega Robo Bros won the Excelsior Award Jr, a national comic award voted for by school and library reading groups across the UK. In 2018 it was chosen as one of the best children’s comics of the year by both the New York Public Library and the Schools Library Journal.
Neill also works as an artist-in-residence at The Story Museum in Oxford, where he contributed several large-scale comic strip installations and continues to be involved in comics-based education and activities, including running a monthly Comics Club group for young cartoonists.
He also frequently travels the country giving workshops in schools, libraries and at festivals, and is a passionate advocate for the role comics can play in developing literacy skills and encouraging children’s creativity.