Thursday, 12 July 2012

Brandon Generations (UPDATED)

It’s kind of appropriate that I can’t actually remember how I first heard about Brandon Generator. Whether it was an email from the PR company or reading about it on a website, or by word of mouth.
I say “appropriate” because the story centres on a writer, Brandon, who is “blocked” and, after consuming an inordinate amount of coffee, passes out, only to discover that he’s been left mysterious voice messages, drawings and ideas in his amnesiac stupor. Those messages have been left by the general public, suggesting to the team which direction to take the story. This led to all sorts of bizarre tangents, such as the deadly coffee monster, "Caffeinedo."
The whole project was a fascinating part-movie/part-storyboard/part-animation/part-motion comic/interactive experiment. Written by Edgar (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) Wright and illustrated by Tommy Lee (Turf, Golden Age) Edwards, the exercise could have fallen flat on its bearded, bespectacled face, but it worked brilliantly. I was intrigued by the idea and contributed a few story ideas and got a credit in Issue 3. With The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt providing the narration and superstar DJ/Producer David Holmes on music; Brandon’s story was small, but fascinating, funny, and always left you wanting more.

It was funded by Microsoft to promote their new browser, Explorer 9, and hats off to them for funding this—and hopefully more arts projects. God knows, with the government hacking budgets the arts need to get their funding from somewhere.
Last night I went up to Smithfield's in London for the launch of the fourth and final part of this brilliantly interactive artwork.
Funnily enough the whole event was held in the very same warehouse, where, a few years earlier, I’d played a superhero on Channel 4’s Zero to Hero. Fortunately that episode was only ever aired once, and I’ve never seen it. We spent 3 days filming there, so the venue and event felt a bit like a homecoming.
It was nice spending some time with comics journalists Joel Meadows, of Tripwire, and Alex Fitch, of Resonance FM, over a few glasses of gratis vino. Microsoft screened all four episodes back to back and then Mark Kermode interviewed the collaborators. It was an evening spent with one of my favourite directors, Wright, one of my favourite musician/ producers, Holmes, one of my favourite comedians, Julian Barratt and one of my favourite comic artists, Tommy Lee Edwards. All hosted by my favourite film critic, Kermode. Plus free food and booze. How could it go wrong?
 Above (left to right): Tommy Lee Edwards, Edgar Wright and Mark Kermode

Best of all they’re really lovely, lovely guys! Top blokes all round and very generous with their time. Not an overinflated ego insight, which was so refreshing to see.
Above (left to right): David Holmes, Julian Barrett, Tommy Lee Edwards, Edgar Wright and Mark Kermode

I managed to make a tit of myself, naturally, with a “joke” that fell flat on its face, and got into a verbal tussle in the Q&A with Kermode, who accused my black shirt of being blue, but the hosts were gracious and witty. Wright confessed that the whole project was in fact a cry for help over his coffee addiction and joked that the event was just a big intervention. They all discussed how easy it was to put the project together despite living in different parts of the world, and how incredibly fast they had to work (it was only conceived in January 2012). When asked what he’d learnt from the experience, Holmes amusingly replied “Absolutely nothing.”

Below are some terribly blurry pics of the the evening (I blame the combination of alcohol and a crappy old iPhone):
Above: Brandon's real car, and how it appeared in the story. 

Above: Tommy Lee Edward's storyboards.

 Above: Tommy Lee Edwards' art was scattered throughout the warehouse.

 Above: Oh dear lord, that's a terrible picture of me. Tommy was very gracious though.

Above: Me and the real life Brandon Generator (and mate of Tommy's), Noah Smith. 

So forget Kickstarter for crowd-funded comics, the future is crowd-generated comics!

The fourth and final part is now live, so head over to and see what I've been blathering on about.

UPDATE: New pics, courtesy of James Mulrennany at 3 Monkeys Communications. 

PLUS: In one of those weird meta-textual moments that Grant Morrison is so fond of, I just popped out for lunch and discovered a post-it note from Brandon on the pavement. Spooky!:

Monday, 9 July 2012

Press Round-Up

There's been a few articles in the press with me lately. Firstly a very nice article in The Independent appeared in saturday's Radar arts magazine talking about my appearance at Port Eliot Festival, Erotic Comics 1 & 2, The Little Book of Vintage Romance and Lovelorn: 30 Postcards. The article is below, but is also available online here.
We even made the front page of the digital edition briefly and the article was picked up by The Times of India!

The Spectator also ran a piece, Wanted: A British Comic Book Industry, written by Paul Abbot about the state of the British comics industry, which, while not entirely accurate, was at least a clarion call for book, comics and graphic novel publishers to get off their arses and help us out at the Comic Book Alliance, and get the industry working as professionally as the book industry.

Paul was at the London Film and Comic Convention last weekend, as were the Comic Book Alliance. More on that in my next posting...