Over the last few years, British indie publisher Big Punch Studios have shown that they are turning into one of the most interesting and original small press outfits on the scene. They’re a breeding ground for originality both in content and approach to the market and are, without a doubt, some of the most infectiously enthusiastic people we’ve met.
With the release of the newest issue of their anthology title Big Punch Magazine (you can read Issue One for free via their web site and Issue Five has just been released and is available through their website and through Comixology here) – so we thought it was about time that we contacted these brain boxes and asked them what it was all about…
Big Punch Studios are Nich Angell, Lucy Brown, Jon Lock and Alice White: four friends, creators and players-of-games with a passion for dynamic, inspiring storytelling and a life less ordinary.
Their collective skills cover writing, editing, illustration, filmmaking, game design, and all the unique powers and abilities required to deliver earth-shattering entertainment on a regular basis. Between, them they have produced the hit independent comic series Afterlife Inc. and 7STRING and provided work for such diverse clients as Titan and the BBC. They’ve also been known to rock a pretty good Kickstarter campaign (or two).
Big Punch Magazine is their latest creative venture: a quarterly magazine serialising five ongoing stories from the Big Punch multiverse, the kind of stories that fill them with excitement, conviction and a truly life-changing love of world-building in all forms.
I’ve met this crew quite a few times and I got to sit down with them and ask them a few questions about how the company formed and what they have planned. Hope you enjoy.
DownTheTubes: OK, you lot. Stop mucking around! Jon, don’t touch that. You don’t know where it’s from!
So – between you, you’re carving out a great reputation on the British press scene with Big Punch Studios. How did it all get started?
Jon Lock (JL): I guess it all started with The Heavenly Chord, our first creative team-up – although ‘Big Punch Studios’ as a name/brand/cultural revolution didn’t really exist at that point.
Nich Angell (NA): Jon and I had each been making and selling our comics for several years before we started working together. Me with 7STRING…
JL: And me with Afterlife Inc. – although Nich was an old hand at the comics game long before I got started. He was actually a big influence to me, knowing that someone else was doing world building on the level I aspired to.
NA: Down the line, after Jon got Afterlife Inc. made, and after a couple of years of the four of us hanging out at shows (and going on random holidays together), we had a random idea for a crossover between our books.
JL: You know. Because a corporate afterlife and a world where music is magic are such a natural fit…
NA: After the Heavenly Chord we started exhibiting next to each at shows… Then we formed an art collective… It really was the start of a beautiful friendship. I think. Or some weird co-dependency thing.
JL: Eventually, as Big Punch grew, we became a limited company. I don’t think any of us set out to form a company; it just seemed like a natural progression seeing how well things were going on the comics front. Our goal was always to make the best comics we could, and this allows us to keep doing that while hopefully moving onto bigger projects.
NA: Lucy and Ali (Lucy Brown and Alice White) were always massive parts of our comics, so the four of us forming Big Punch Studios together, and operating as a true team, seemed long overdue.
If they made a Steve Jobs style movie drama about you guys who would play you all?
Lucy Brown (LB): Morgan Freeman. All of us.
Alice White (AW): A really creepy barman once told me I looked ‘really like Kate Winslet’. And I mean, really like Kate Winslet. He was quite insistent.
(Editor’s Note – Tony has never worked as a barman!)
NA: I’d have to go with that guy from the Kaiser Chiefs. Because Ali’s mum keeps saying I look like him!
JL: You do love rioting. And the sound of your Voice. That’s a BBC joke.
LB: My problem is that I can’t remember the names of any actors.
NA: I guess I could go with Andrew Garfield.
JL: You just want to be Spider-Man.
AW: I could go with Emma Stone, I suppose.
JL: I take it back. You want to be the Amazing Spider-Man 2.
AW: Maggie Smith. Penelope Cruz. Sheridan Smith.
JL: I’d like four Morgan Freemans in a pantomime horse costume. For each of us.
AW: Sheridan Smith. Final answer.
DownTheTubes: Do you have a set mission statement regarding your books? What do you look for in story and art?
LB: We want our books to appeal to everyone. Not to say that ‘family friendly’ means childish, or that we’re going for lowest common denominator stuff. We just want to entertain people…
NA: …and the last thing we’d want is to exclude anyone. I think inclusivity is very important. Our stories take you to countless different worlds; you see all kinds of weird and wonderful things; we want everyone to be able to enjoy that.
LB: We aim to make mature stories – and that’s not boobs and guns and swearing: it’s challenging, unique stuff that can still be enjoyed by everyone.
JL: Give ’em explosions, give ’em heroic battles between epic heroes… But throw in a joke that catches them by surprise, the kind of joke that makes them laugh, then cry a bit. Find the humanity in everything, however strange or fantastical.
AW: And then, on a professional level, we always try to conduct ourselves to a certain standard. We want to treat people the way we in turn would like to be treated.
LB: I guess, in the world of comics, that means giving credit where credit’s due and treating all our collaborators and customers with respect. We’re always in the debt of the amazing artists who work with us and bring our stories to life. We might not quite be on Marvel or DC’s level, but we always believe in paying the people who work for us.
JL: And we try to be open with our fans. Having someone read, care about, and then come back to grab the next one of our books is the greatest honour we can imagine. We’re nothing without our readers, so believe me: we’ll always have time for them. I mean, seriously, those peeps are great.
DownTheTubes: Big Punch Magazine is now solidly established after hitting Issue Five. If BPM stood for ‘Beats Per Minute’, what music would you listen to with each story?
LB: Well, “Cuckoos” is essentially the Arcade Fire back catalogue – if only for giving us the names of all our random Extraversal spaceships: the Reflektor, the Bad Vibration, the Ocean of Noise…
JL: We’re running out of songs. I don’t want to see someone sailing the No Cars Go.
AW: I always imagine the Steptoe and Son theme tune when writing “Cat & Meringue“.
JL: Isn’t that just always playing in the back of your head?
[Interview pauses as group descends into bawdy, tuneless rendition of Steptoe and Son theme tune.]
NA: “The Wall” is Daft Punk. Discovery, the album.
JL: We did actually write a “Cat & Meringue” theme tune. For the inevitable animated series. We’re just waiting on that call from Disney…
NA: You can’t run with Steptoe and Son for “Cat & Meringue”.
NA: It’s ridiculous.
AW: So’s “Cat & Meringue”!
NA: How about Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds? That’s much better.
LB: I listen to a lot of video game soundtracks when writing “99 Swords“. Braid, in particular, is kinda wonderful, what with all the violins and such. Fits the setting nicely.
JL: I’m torn between Roundtable Rival by Lindsay Stirling and Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim, for “99 Swords”. Weapon of Choice by no means fits the setting, but hot damn, it’s one hell of a song! We’ll have to call the eventual collected edition that.
AW: Wouldn’t “Orb” be the soundtrack to Inception?
JL: It would actually be just the Inception horn, isolated from all tune or tempo, amplified to painful levels, looped for 11 hours.
NA: Find it in all good newsagents!
JL: In all seriousness, wasn’t Woodkid’s Run Boy Run a massive inspiration for “Cuckoos”?
NA: Hell of song.
DownTheTubes: What’s coming next from Big Punch Studios?
AW: The dust is still settling on Sandwich Masters, our first card game, which we Kickstarted towards the end of last year – we’ve just about finished fulfilling all our backer rewards – but we’re already working on a follow-up. We play a lot of games at Big Punch Towers, so we’re never away from the table for long! Plus, we’re in discussion with a some publishers about finding a home for Sandwich Masters.
LB: We’re hitting the convention circuit pretty hard. But then again, that’s pretty much normal life for us now! I’m also amassing ‘pub jokes’ for the next year of “99 Swords”. (SPOILERS: there’s a pub involved.)
JL: It’s actually an ambition of mine to set an issue of every comic I’ve worked on in a bar. That’s not even a joke.
NA: BPM is well on its way to becoming a well-oiled machine, so every three months, without fail, there’s another issue rolling off the presses. It certainly keeps us out of trouble! In addition to BPM, however, Jon and I are working hard on the next volumes of Afterlife Inc. and 7STRING.
JL: I’ve certainly been hitting the writing desk hard lately. After so long away from the world of Afterlife Inc. it feels amazing to be revisiting these characters. It’s not for lack of enthusiasm, of course. It’s simply that making these bigger books, at a level of quality we’re happy with, is a big undertaking! It’s taken me this long to gather the team together, find the funds etc. I’ve had the ‘Producer’ hat on for so long it’s nice to just be a writer again!
NA: BPM and Sandwich Masters have been keeping me pretty busy these last few months, but I agree: it feels great to be working with Zach and the 7STRING cast again. I’m also playing ‘writer’ at present: really scripting out the new book and going over the story in detail. I really think this is going to be the best 7STRING yet.
LB: And now that BPM has hit its stride we’ve got some big things on the horizon – although, to go into too much detail would be getting into serious spoiler territory… BPM touches on all aspects of the Big Punch Multiverse, and the events contained in its pages may even have implications for our other books…
DownTheTubes: Where can readers find your books?
AW: You can find us at most conventions, peddling our wares. They’re really the only time we get out of the house!
JL: We also have a rather snazzy store on our website (www.bigpunchstudios.com) where you can find all our books – and Sandwich Masters.
LB: And, of course, you can get digital editions of all our books on Comixology. [Editor’s Note – at only £2.49] Just search for ‘Big Punch Studios’ or any of our individual titles.
NA: And, and, and – if you’d like to catch up on our back catalogue – the story so far for both 7STRING and Afterlife Inc. is available online to read for free at www.7string.co.uk and www.afterlife-inc.com respectively.
DownTheTubes: Any upcoming releases or conventions?
LB: BPM issue 6 will be out mid June. If you’d like a copy mailed right to you door, you can subscribe via our website.
JL: We’ll be at MCM London in May, with a pretty big floor presence. You can tell I’m getting old! The very thought of that is both exciting and exhausting.
NA: For the rest of the year, we’ll be hitting our usual haunts, like Thought Bubble and Melksham (arguably our favourite show of the year), while attending some new ones like MCM Manchester.
JL: Well, not entirely new – I think we made it there back in 2013 – but we have managed to miss it for the last few years. Weddings keep getting in the way!
AW: All these people getting married. It’s very selfish.
JL: Oh, and of course, keep an eye out for Afterlife Inc. Volume Four: Man Made God – coming this year!
NA: And 7STRING Volume Three – coming soon!
DownTheTubes: Thank you very much for your time and the very best of luck with all your projects.
Big Punch Studios are getting quite the reputation (no not like that) for quality and especially for delivering on their promises. I have thoroughly enjoyed all their output to date and interacting with them at Conventions. They have also started a subscription service that gets their comics delivered straight to your door. (For full details follow this link here.)
Many thanks for reading.
DownTheTubes: OK, you lot you can go now! Angell! Leave your nose alone, nobody wants to see that!