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 - - Contents -­cen­tuk­

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?

Above: Fastest

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.

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