Three top UK studios profiled.
Accent UK, co-run by writers Colin Mathieson and Dave West, have been publishing some of the most vibrant indie titles available for the past 15 years, earning themselves praise, kudos and even a prestigious award. Dave West tells Miles Hamer about awards
COMIC HEROES: Who are you working with on Accent UK and how did you come to do so?
Dave West: Back in the early 2000s there was quite an active small press scene in Manchester and a few of us decided to save costs for the forthcoming Bristol Comics Expo by sharing a table. From this group, Colin Mathieson and I shared a creative vision of our own imprint, which led to Accent UK being formed, and we’ve worked together ever since.
Producing annual anthologies gave me an opportunity to work with a large number of creators, which led to artistic collaborations with: Andy Bloor on Wolfmen, Gary Crutchley on Wester Noir, Marleen Lowe on Fastest Man, Joe Campbell on Invisible Man and INDIO! (Brad Tuttle) on Stephenson’s Robot. I’m still working on projects with most of them, and additionally Ian Ashcroft and Gustavo Vargas Tataje.
CH: What’s your writing process? Do you have the entire story mapped out in your head up-front?
DW: I have an idea of the overall story but tend to let it evolve page by page. There are always exceptions, though, and with my Wester Noir co-creator Gary Crutchley it’s a case of us discussing the story and then Gary writing and drawing the pages. Gary prefers not to work with heavy textual scripts, leaving me to add anything along those lines as a final update on the finished page.
CH: What would you define as the Accent UK house style? Any genres or subjects you’d steer clear of?
DW: We like to tell stories with some depth and hopefully an emotional response. Stories that say something. We avoid spandexwearing superheroes as a rule and lean towards historical fiction and fantasy more than other genres.
CH: You’ve been going for 15 years. How has the independent comic scene changed in that time?
DW: When we started there were never more than three shows a year in the UK and rarely more than ten independent comic self-publishers. So we tended to aim releases to coincide with these events, and consequently never produced more than three new titles a year. Now there are more than three shows a month, each with upwards of 100 self-publishers! Almost everyone today uses professional printers, which in the past was an expensive commodity few could afford. Although we don’t use it ourselves, Kickstarter means that people can produce far more comics than before. This results in healthy competition, but while the quality of books has improved, I think there’s a danger that the market cannot sustain the volume being produced.
CH: Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man won the 2010 Eagle Award for Best Black-and-White comic. How did that feel?
DW: The best thing about the award was that it really answered those people who consider small press as vanity press. Independent comics can be, and often are, at least as good as those produced by the major companies. Winning an Eagle Award justified what I do in so far as it told me that my peers respected my efforts enough to vote for our comic.
CH: It’s a very moving comic. Were you aware of that while creating it?
DW: I wanted to tell a tale about someone with an ability and how they tried to live a normal life despite it, until the day arrived when they were forced to use it at great cost to themselves. It’s a very human story about sacrifice but I think also realistic, in that the central character is very human and makes some decisions that are a little self-centred.
CH: Tell us about Wester Noir!
DW: Wester Noir is our ongoing western horror comic, which twists and turns its way to a resolution in about eight issues. It has been best described as “Deadwood meets
They Live”, and involves a monster hunter, Josiah Black, who travels around the Wild West killing monsters that only he can see, with the law hot on his trail wanting to hang him for murder. As the story progresses Josiah begins to learn more about the organisation he works for and the man who leads it. He learns things that bring into question what he is doing. Are the monsters really monsters after all?
CH: You’re moving away from anthologies. Why is that?
DW: We started with anthologies as a showcase for emerging creators alongside established ones, working with the likes of Steve Bissette, Kieron Gillen, Leah Moore and John Reppion. But while anthologies continue to sell well at conventions, they have become less popular with comic stores, which has hindered their wider distribution.
It may be that people now prefer self-contained stories or ongoing tales rather than the variety contained within anthology books. As anthologies have a large page count, they cost more to print and, due to the number of contributors involved, they are harder to pull together and tend to tie up more time and money.
CH: What’s next for Accent UK?
DW: We plan to continue our approach of focusing on our ongoing stories and characters like Wester Noir and Stephenson’s Robot and Colin’s historical fiction titles, Moments Of Adventure and Zulu, but remain receptive to submissions that move us
“Winning an Eagle Award justified what I do” Dave West
Below: Accent UK’s line includes steampunk sci-fi/ horror anthology Stephenson’s Robot, Moments Of Adventure, collecting some of Accent UK co-founder Colin Mathieson’s historical adventure tales, and the awardwinning one-shot Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man?
Man is almost certainly not the story you’re expecting... but will just as surely move you. Below: Ongoing series WesterNoir mixes the Wild West with a Lovecraft vibe.