One of the coolest things about doing Small Press Big Mouth is when comics creators get in touch to tell you about their current comic. Its brilliant cos I get to mention it on the blog or on the 'cast and look like a genius for discovering some absolute gem. Perfect example: We just received an email from James Peaty & James Reekie about their webcomic The Ballad Of Frank Sartre which is about to launch its second chapter. Second chapter? Where the hell was I for chapter one? This looks exactly my cup of tea! Anyway, I'm going to engage Smug Mode and pretend I've known about it for ages.... ahem...
Eeeew, didn't you already know about The Ballad Of Frank Sartre? Man, you're so unhip its a wonder your bum doesn't fall off! Thank God I'm here for you - now shut your flapping pie hole for 2 minutes and read the following press release. Then go and read the comic. Then tell your friends about it - and be sure to use a superior tone when you do cos you're doing them a favour, capiche?
"To be or not to be... You decide! Frank Sartre is slick, immersive, and relentless. We get swept up with the flying cars, dog-faced reporters, and killer highs--and like the title character, we're not all that certain whether Peaty and Reekie are taking us someplace safe. Essential reading!"
Brandon Montclare - writer, Marvel's 'Fearsome Four'
"James Peaty and James Reekie are crafting a future-noir crime story that will knock your socks off. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll combine with an extremely fallible "hero" and a strange and wonderful supporting cast of theriocephalic beat reporters, drug dealers and cabbies to make this surreal webcomic the new 'must read'! The two James deliver a kick-ass weekly shot in the arm to the comics world. Pay attention, or else!"
Sterling Gates - writer, 'Hawk & Dove', 'Supergirl' and 'Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory'
On Friday 16th September James Peaty and James Reekie will begin serialising the second chapter of their surreal pulp-noir graphic novel "The Ballad of Frank Sartre".
Flashing back to the mysterious events surrounding Frank's first band, The 400 Blows, while continuing to explore the weird and wonderful city of Cosmopolis, this second chapter both raises the stakes and deepens the mystery as The Stain’s murderous reign of terror continues.
"The story came from a desire to do something that was both very different from the kind of work I’d been getting in America, but also something that was completely my own," says writer James Peaty.
"When you’ve been working in the world of superhero comics, which these days tends to be hugely editorially prescriptive, it’s important to stretch your wings beyond the confines of company owned characters and do something that flexes different creative muscles.”
An experienced comics writer, with credits on various American titles including Green Arrow, JSA: Classified, Supergirl and The Batman Strikes!, James thinks that Frank is an enjoyable antidote to the glut of superhero material that currently dominates the medium.
“For me, the attraction of working on something like Frank Sartre was being able to explore a whole raft of ideas that really have no place in superhero material. I think, first and foremost, I just wanted to create a character who was morally ambiguous, even dubious. From there the notion of a world that’s almost an expression of that characters state of mind was simply too good an idea to ignore.”
But was it easy to actually bring that world to life? James says it was easier than you’d think. “Basically, and this possibly a horrific thing to admit, what I did was raid my own tastes and interests. I’ve always been a fan of artists, writers and filmmakers who create a world that deals in relatable human experience, but one filtered through the lens of the abstract. People like William S. Burroughs, Paul Pope, David Lynch and Dennis Potter are, I suppose, the inspiration behind this project, so it seemed appropriate that they should inform the look and feel of the world we were creating. “
James Reekie is a newcomer to the comic scene, and started working on the project around his commercial illustration gigs, working for magazines such as Wired, FHM and BBC Focus. "Like many artists, all my early interest in drawing was based around comics" says James, "and when I became a full time freelance Illustrator, the first thing I did was look to use some of my downtime on a graphic novel project. I was looking for something different, no tights, capes or powers. As soon I read the first pages of the script for "Frank Sartre", so strange, dark, angry and compelling, I was hooked."
The James' found it easy to work together as they share many of the same reference points. "Most of our meetings involving talking about anything but comics. We start at Paul Pope and Frank Millar, and work through mid century art house cinema, Dr Who, 80's politics and end up discussing why Sam Allardyce is the least worst choice to manage West Ham…"
The graphic novel is being released online, in it's entirety, for free. When it came to publishing the book the creative team felt that maximum readership was their goal.
"We discussed at great length how we wanted to put the book out", says artist James Reekie. "What it really boiled down to was simply we simply wanted as many people to read our story as possible. Releasing it online, for free, seemed like the perfect solution".
"We're just two guys trying to tell a story. We both share a punk, DIY ethos and we didn't want the story watered down with the pressure of fitting into a demographic to turn a profit. Producing it 100% ourselves and giving it away gives us enormous creative freedom."
The Ballad of Frank Sartre is being publish online, for free, 4 pages very Friday www.franksartre.com. Chapter two starts on Friday 16th September, Chapter 1 is available to read now. Suggested for mature readers.
If you have a comic to want to tell us about or to review drop us an email or give Lee or Stace a shout on Twitter.