Interview – J W Murray

This time we have an interview with Edinburgh comic writer J W Murray. He currently has a Kickstarter running for a new collection called Short, Dark & Peculiar.

Cover artwork by Jon Aye

What got you into comics in the first place?  Is there a specific book that made you want to make your own?

I got into comics kinda late – I see a lot of creators who were into comics as kids, but I really only got into them in my mid-20s – Auckland library in New Zealand played a pretty major part in that. I read the entirety of The Invisibles, written by Grant Morrison. Can’t say I understood half of what was going on, but I loved that comics could be so mind-bending. It really set the world of comics apart from any other medium I’d ever experienced.

The thing that really prompted me to think of making comics was actually the act of writing a novel. My writing style is succinct – it has its flourishes, but mostly what I’m doing is writing scenarios in the present tense so that it feels like the action is right in front of the reader. I get annoyed with too much unnecessary detail or navel-gazing – as a reader, I mostly just want to “see” what’s happening. So while I was writing this book, it occurred to me that if I was doing my job well, what I’d essentially be doing is conjuring up a comic. The logical next step was to add pictures to my writing.

You dip into a number of different genres in Short, Dark & Peculiar.  Do you have a favourite to work in?

I really love a good conceptual, creepy horror story. If I could have written M. R. James’ Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad I’d consider my contribution to literature totally fulfilled.

I also like a bit of sci-fi because I’m happiest when I have carte blanche to make up places and events without the burden of getting it right historically. For The Blue Men of The Minch, which I worked on with Zhou Fang, that was based on the “real” mythology of a specific place. I got a little obsessive about making sure the ship model was plausible and putting it in a time context when there really were kelp traders going to the Outer Hebrides. It’s much easier when you can just say “it’s the future” and skip the research.

Artwork from Hugh Madden, J W Murray, Steven Ingram,
Jon Aye, Bob Turner, Zhou Fang & Morgan Russell

Are there any genres you feel are more suited to comics than others?

Not really. I think as long as you change your style to adapt to the story, you can do anything with comics. I mean, Tamara Drewe has shedloads of prose – you wouldn’t want to draw it in the same way you’d draw a Hulk comic, but it still makes perfect sense that it’s a comic. I’ve seen philosophy and physics tackled with comics – there really doesn’t seem to be a limit to what you can do with them!

You’ve written a prose novel before.  How do you find the experience of writing a comic vs prose?

A lot of my comics start out as a conversation – I’ll have an idea of what’s going to happen, then I just build up dialogue between characters. Once I’ve got the rough shape of that, I’ll split it up into pages and panels, adding in more detail and action along the way. There’s a really pleasing process to it and a puzzle element when you’re figuring out how to distribute the scenes and where to put the page turn. When I’m writing prose, I guess I just start writing – it’s far less structured! I managed to write myself into all kinds of corners while I was writing my book, Izvalta – the challenge was to find my way out of those corners so that the plot and motivations all made sense. In the end, I was really happy with some of the solutions I came up with – but it was seriously hard work!

Artwork from Morgan Russell

How did you go about choosing the artists to work with?

I basically approached anyone whose work I liked and who I knew I’d enjoy working with. If you’re a local artist, be warned, I’ll probably try to work with you at some point!

Artwork from Zhou Fang

Were any of the stories in Short, Dark & Peculiar written with a specific artist in mind?

Yes yes! The Blue Men of The Minch with Zhou Fang was written for him – he wanted something folklore-y. Walk into the Sea was specifically for Morgan Russell – because she has a fascination with the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep – there’s a page in there which is full of exotic undersea weirdness. Volcano was written specifically for Bob Turner, and that wasn’t typical at all – in that Bob makes wordless comics, which is interesting territory for a writer. Essentially I just came up with a detailed scenario – he picked it up and ran with it and it looks awesome.

Artwork from Bob Turner

As well as working with artists, you’ve illustrated some of the comics in the collection yourself.  Is this something you would like to do more of?

I have mixed feelings about illustrating. I’ve definitely said in the past that if I had a choice I’d only ever do the writing – and that’s not just down to laziness – I think there’s a magic to collaboration that I miss out on when I’m illustrating my own stuff. For the front cover for SDP, I suggested a bunch of ideas to Jon Aye and he came back with an incredible array of riffs on those ideas – the final result is definitely not an idea that I pitched to him – it’s far far better! It’s been that way for all of the collaborations – all the artists have come up with amazing ideas and approaches I’d never have dreamed of.

All that said, I’m really looking forward to my next big illustration project – it’s going to be totally grotesque, which should make it lots of fun to draw!

Artwork by J W Murray

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us J W!

You can, and should, check out the Kickstarter for Short, Dark & Peculiar right here!

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 2019

This time next week (Sunday 11th August) its Edinburgh Comic Art Festival! The show is part if the Edinburgh Interational Book Festival which is exciting and is being held at the French Institute in West Parliament Square just off the Royal Mile.

The doors are open from 10am to 5pm.

As usual there will be a decent fistful of League of Comicers there. Here’s where we’ll all be:

Steven Ingram at table 7A
Zhou Fang at table 7B
Zu Dominiak at table 8
Aimee Lockwood at table 9B
Ell J Walker at table 13B
Eve Greenwood at able 15A
& Alex Assan at table 15B

Hope to see you there!

Webcomics Round-up

A number of League of Comicers have webcomics running just now so this seems like a good time to go round them all so you aren’t missing out on the tasty new pages that come out each week!

The most recent addition to the line up is Galdr from Ell J Walker. It is a comic about the inherent power behind words, mental health and the importance of communication.  It updates on Fridays at galdrcomic.com

Isle of Eye from Zu Dominaik finished it’s first chapter not long ago and is now well on the way through its second.  This slow burning horror set on its titular creepy Isle updates on Thursdays at isleofeye.com

Yesterday War is the latest comic from Zhou Fang.  Two girls fight the future do their best to hold on to hope.  This comic updates Sundays on Tapas.

Inhibit is Eve Greenwood’s comic.  This story about superhero teens struggling to control their powers has been on the go for a while now and its first collected volume was nominated for 3 SICBA awards!  I know right? The webcomic updates on Wednesdays at inhibitcomic.com

Hari Conner’s slow burning romance/fantasy comic Finding Home continues to update on Mondays on Tapas.  It was recently collected into its second volume so there is lots to read if you are new to the comic.

Glasgow Comic Con 2019!

Hey it’s that time of year again… Glasgow Comic Con! It’s one of the highlights of the convention year and we’re really looking forward to it. As is usual now it’s at the Royal Concert Hall and runs from 10am to 6:30pm on Saturday 29th June.

Make sure you get your tickets!

As usual there will be a smattering of League of Comicers there! Here’s where we’ll all be:

Zhou Fang at table 85
Steven Ingram at table 13
Ell J Walker at table 151
& Eve Greenwood at table 152

Eve will have their SICBA award nominated graphic novel Inhibit Book 1 there so make sure your hands on a copy!

See you there!

Dunfermline Comic Con 2019!

After the being called off last year due to the blizzarding snow Dunfermline Comic Con is back, Back, BACK! And a wide selection of League of Comicers will be there! Here’s where we will all be…

In the Glen Pavilion Steven Ingram at table 25 with his comics Left, MurMur #1 and the brand new MurMur #2.

Zhou Fang will be at table 26a with his award winning graphic novel Garden.

Aimee Lockwood will be at table 26b with her original art and comics Still Life & Pushinka

Hari Conner will be at table 49 with their award winning comics Nyx in the Overworld and Finding Home, plus lots of D&D related stuff!

In the Marquee you’ll find Nicolas Rossert of Sloth Comics at table M52

Alex Assan will be at table M66 with her illustration work and graphic novel Captain Imani and the Cosmic Chase.

Eve Greenwood will be at table M67 launching the first volume of their webcomic Inhibit.  They’ll also have the comics Orange Plates and Deadinburgh.

Ell J Walker will be at table M68 with her comics The Kelpie, GBBO – The Wrath of Hollywood and the brand new Nettle Wine.

It’s all very exciting. Lots of comics and lots of NEW comics!
See you there 🙂