Channel 4 Education recently launched Alien Ink, an online graphic novel for teens. Written and illustrated by the team at Pulp Theatre, publishers of the hard-hitting cult hit graphic novel Brodie’s Law, Alien Ink aims to reflect a series of teen pressures, including relationship issues, sexual health and drug use.
Published in seven issues, comprising a total of 30 episodes, one-a-week for 30 weeks, Alien Ink combines Pulp Theatre’s trademark innovative illustrations and animations with engaging storylines designed to reflect the experiences of teenagers today. In it, teens Trinity and Ryder arrive in Camden, London, curiously at the same time as UFO sightings on Primrose Hill. They open Alien Ink, a tattoo shop in Camden Town, which quickly becomes a hub for local teens, thanks to its unusually welcoming aura and the beautiful tattoo art. Trinity and Ryder seem to be normal young people – but as word spreads about their extraordinary tattooing talents, questions begin to be asked….
Alien Ink is the first title to be published under the umbrella of Pressure Comics, set up to produce graphic novels to tackle issues in teen life.
downthetubes caught up with Pulp Theatre’s Esther Bircham to pose her one of our occasional “Take Ten” Question and Answer sessions and find out more about this innovative new project…
downthetubes: How did you come up with the story – or was this a project instigated by Channel 4, who then sought out Pulp Theatre?
Esther Bircham: Pulp Theatre came up with the complete story concept and characters. We worked with Channel 4 who provided the brief that they wanted a comic geared around teens. Pulp Theatre and Channel 4 brainstormed together before Channel 4 were happy to proceed.
downthetubes: Is this the first time Alien Ink has been published?
Esther: Yes, this is a completely new concept. We are still fine tuning the artwork, as the comic is being produced.
downthetubes: This is a pretty exciting project and a major platform for comics given Channel 4’s involvement. Are you planning anything else at this stage?
Esther: Yes, we are planning to launch the graphic novel offline – with the popularity of Alien Ink there are many opportunities we can explore – really the sky’s the limit.
downthetubes: Will there be a TV tie-in or is this purely an online play?
Esther: At present there are no TV tie-ins – Alien Ink is purely dedicated to online play.
downthetubes: David Bircham is the artist on this project. Can you bring us up to speed on his many projects?
Esther: David has been drawing comics for over 20 years. His career started with 2000AD, when he drew characters such as Judge Dredd, Slaine and various others. David met Daley Osiyemi a graphic designer for the likes of Saatchi and Saatchi amongst others and together they started Pulp Theatre.
Merging all our talents, we designed a dynamic array of online websites, micro-sites and games using a distinctly different style. Because of our passion for the comic medium, we decided to take the long road to producing our own comic, Brodie’s Law (in 2004). It received a lot of critical acclaim from all fronts and even attracted attention from Hollywood. [Brodie’s Law has sold over 30,000 copies worldwide – downthetubes Ed]
downthetubes: Do you have any favourite creators or influences?
Esther: We are fans of British and US comic book artists such as Simon Bisley, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Jim Lee, Chris Bachalo, Frank Miller and Travis Charest.
downthetubes: What’s the most challenging thing about working on Alien Ink?
Esther: Balancing the needs of Channel 4 as well as providing the edginess to satisfy the audience.
downthetubes: And what’s the best part about working on this project?
Esther: The potential to reach a worldwide audience and to be the first comic book publisher to work with a major UK broadcaster on an online graphic novel project.
downthetubes: What one valuable lesson have you learnt creating comics that you apply to your work now?
Esther: We have learnt success depends on the quality of the product and success always means great sacrifice. It’s an old lesson but definitely one worth remembering.
downthetubes: What’s next for the strip — and Pulp Theatre?
Esther: We have various plans which will unfold naturally – stay tuned to Pulp Theatre and we will make sure you’re the first to know.
Special thanks to Esther for taking time out of a busy schedule to answer our questions.
Readers can interact with the comic via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, quiz apps, YouTube (in a partially animated format) and the Pressure blog, and are encouraged to get involved in the Alien Ink world, discussing the issues raised or by submitting examples of their own creativity, be it artwork, graphic design, writing, poetry, or even their own tattoo design.
Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor, Channel 4 Education says: “We’re thrilled to have found and be working with a dynamic organisation like Pulp Theatre, and to be exploring a new way to engage with teenagers. Alien Ink will raise everyday issues in a relevant and entertaining way, and will further deliver useful data on topics like health, drugs or tattooing alongside the storylines. We think this is a great way to reach teens with stories that matter, and to point them to information that’ll genuinely help.”
• More about Alien Ink on the official website www.alienink.co.uk, which includes links to all the various social network extensions of the project.