Marketing graphic novels on Facebook

In order to help out with the marketing, The Mice has been on Facebook for about three months. Yesterday I followed the advice of a social media expert and paid for some adverts through that site. Pretty simple to set up, and have seen my likes go from 60 to 155 in 12 hours. So that’s cool.

This link will take you to the page if you are curious:

www.facebook.com/themicecomic

The Mice to go in the December issue of Previews UK

The Mice in The Factory Menace, the first graphic novel in the series, will be in the December issue of Previews UK. This is Diamond Comics Distribution’s catalogue which supplies the comics and specialist bookshops across the United Kingdom.

This is very exciting to me, it means the book will be on the stands in the New Year, and Out There… Hopefully the orders will be high enough and sales will be good, so that said retailers will order the second book—Culture Shock, already in print from Scar Comics—which will follow it.

Yee-ha!

Cameron Johnson Shakespeare, new Mice character

New Mice character, CJ Shakespeare. Art by Roger Mason

Recently been laid up with the flu, or a rather watered-down version of it anyway, so i got on with some design for the new Mice graphic novel, working title Crash and Burn. These are initial sketches for Cameron Johnson Shakespeare, a mixed race SE Asian/caucasian woman.

I was listening to radio 4 news, and just took words out of the air for her name. CJ Shakespeare it is! This kind of sketchbook stuff can be done in an armchair wrapped in a blanket, as opposed to drawing the actual pages which I rather do at a desk and drawing board.

New alien characters from The Mice graphic novel

Aliens from book three of The Mice, currently in production.

This is the full-length character study of the aliens who work in the offices of the factory Order Nine. From left to right: Wade, Lona, Myrl (seated), Q (sort for Quar) and as-yet unnamed. A lot of the action in the next book takes place in the factory’s planning department which gives us a taste of how the humans’ disruptive activities wreck the day-to-day running of the factory. Also there’s going to be some office romance and more than a little bit of back-stabbing.

On The Mice’s facebook page I asked for suggestions as to what to call these aliens, with Myrl a great suggestion. Coming up with alien names is something that can bug me at strange moments, like when I am in the shower. Each name can only be four letters long – a peculiarity of the alien culture and a limitation which I set years ago that bugs me to this day.

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Re-design of The Mice in The Factory Menace

The first Mice graphic novel is going into Previews UK, either in December or January, which means it will be available for comics and specialist shops to order in the UK. For this reason I have souped up the original cover design and added some of the great quotes the book has been getting over the last few months.

I am especially pleased with the addition of a spine as the previous edition did not have one, due to the fact I had no idea how to make one in InDesign. Now I do.

The back cover cover blurb now goes like this:

WELCOME TO ORDER NINE – A GIANT ALIEN FACTORY WHERE HUMANS ARE THE MICE…
A young couple fight impossible odds against alien invaders – aliens taller than trees, destroyers of civilisation and builders of soulless factories. But as the aliens work 12-hour shifts, The Mice, under their feet, steal food, cut wires and plan their revenge…
From acclaimed 2000 AD and BD artist Roger Mason, The Mice in The Factory Menace is a sci-fi adventure story in which humanity fights for survival and aliens scheme to knock off early.

Books which made me think

A student of mine on the Film course at SAE Institute London paid me a lovely compliment this week. He asked me if I could recommend any books which would make him think, as he was “bored” with the ones he had. We had already been discussing the use of symbolism in the Halifax Western TV commercial which I storyboarded a few years ago, and 1984 by George Orwell, to give a bit of context.

I thought about it for ten minutes—I love recommending books—and came up with the following, in no particular order:

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (rough guide to science)

10 Billion by Stephen Emmott (environmental science)

Dispatches by Michael Herr (vietnam war journalist)

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert M Pirsig (psychology, autobiography)
Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (military history)
Supergods by Grant Morrison  (autobiography)
A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs  (memoir/autobiography)
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Fiction
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
1984 by George Orwell
anything by Iain M Banks
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Graphic Novels
Promethea by Alan Moore and others
All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
The Mice by Roger Mason (ahem)
Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Fforde Ffiesta 2057 in Swindon last weekend

My mum and I attended the Jasper Fforde fan convention in Swindon, the Fforde Ffiesta, where we had a really fantastic time celebrating the vision and quirkiness of Fforde’s novels, among them The Eyre Affair, The Big Over Easy and The Last Dragonslayer. If you are reading this and are unaware of his work, I advise you to pick one of his books and have a read.

As he discussed with my mum, who is a librarian, they are hard to classify. Are they crime? Sci-fi? Fantasy? I do not know how to get around that, I am just glad I took a punt on a copy of The Eyre Affair a few years ago in HMV. I like to read the first line of a book, it’s one of my tests to see whether I will like it, and this one had me hooked: ‘My father had a face that would stop a clock.’

Roger Mason, Jasper Fforde and Sue Mason at the Fforde Ffiesta, Swindon.

The Making of Next ‘Home’ by Framestore

Mike McGee of Framestore, left, and Roger Mason working on the storyboards for Next ‘Home’ commercial in 2013.

Here’s a short film by Framestore, detailing how they made their TV commercial ‘Home’ for Next and on which project I drew the storyboards. At the very beginning of the film you can see me working with Mike McGee.

Below are a selection of the storyboard frames. This style represents my quickest, sketchiest drawing mode and I like it for its fluidity and economy. Blue pencil, HB pencil and tipp-ex on white paper.

Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason
Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home, commissioned by Framestore, art by Roger Mason

How to market a graphic novel

Well, one way of doing it anyway. For a few years I have been friendly with Matt and Fanos at Big Smoke Media, a south-east-based marketing company who specialise in distributing postcards across the London area. When you are next in a bar, cinema or restaurant, keep an eye out for a postcard rack promoting new films and exhibitions. These are Big Smoke’s.

Postcard promoting the new Mice graphic novel, Culture Shock. Design by Roger Mason.

Across London, and further afield I hope, are postcards like the one above, for all to pick up and take away. I have a box of them to distribute myself so these are placed at my studio in Dalston, which sees quite a footfall thanks in part due to Dalston Roof Park, as well as the sheer number of people who either work at or visit the Bootstrap Building each day. I am also placing them at SAE Institute on Kingsland Road, Hackney where I teach drawing skills to 3D animation and film students. Some have been placed on tube trains and last week I went to central London and placed them in comic shops Gosh! and Orbital, and bookshops Foyles and Waterstones. The latter were unexpectedly open to the idea, which tells you more about my prejudices than theirs.

Copy on the postcard promoting the Mice graphic novel Culture Shock. Design by Roger Mason.

I’d like to have a Mice website but am not prioritising creating one, and anyway I figure that Scar’s presence online will compensate for this. The ‘Welcome to Order Nine…’ strap line has served well, but now I am considering something along the lines of ‘Giant Aliens v World-class Pests.’

The postcard has been well-received. I am wondering whether it matters that both of Diana’s hands are cut off and whether Harry (left) resembles a well-built woman.

A short article about naming the characters in The Mice

Diana attempts to rescue Rowling from the soup vat in The Mice: The Factory Menace

The two lead humans are called Mulligatawny and Diana. Subsequent characters I have tried to name after obvious contemporary celebrities, although with mixed success (problems with readers making the link.) Diana is named after Princess Diana, Harry after Harry Potter (or Prince Harry). I have considered a ‘Becks’—David Beckham, or the beer?—and one of the children is named after Paris Hilton. The most overt reference to date is to Barack Obama as readers of Culture Shock will know. Unfortunately, if someone asks me what ‘Mulligatawny’ has to do with any of this I cannot say, as the name came to me while I was staring at a spreadsheet of soup cans heading to Tesco. He was previously called Fob… The woman called ‘Scooter’ also bucks the trend, but I could not resist it, and ‘Bailey’ is another name for a woman which I like and may use one day.

Cota extracts a badly-burned Barack out of an alien human-carrier. From The Mice: Culture Shock

As for the aliens, I am extremely proud of the simplicity of ‘Cota’ and I like also the ‘Black Chargehand’  although the latter has not been printed in the book so readers are unaware and probably wondering what his name is. A nod to Judge Dredd is that we never see his eyes, although this was making him too expressionless and so they are creeping in.

Roger Mason 2013


The Mice graphic novels available from Scarcomics.com/shop
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An article about The Mice and Scar Comics

The Mice graphic novels available from Scarcomics.com/shop
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The Mice began life when I was spending Summers working in a canning factory in Lincolnshire, while studying illustration at college in 1998. At the time a dead mouse had been found in a can of baked beans so I started thinking about an environment where humans were in a similar position, i.e. vermin in a factory. After this, the job became much more interesting as I imagined tiny people running around, hopping in and out of drains and machinery. Giant aliens provided the context and I wrote and drew an unpublished joke story called The Mice in which two humans venture into a hostile alien factory to ‘bury’ one of their dead in a can; this would then be sealed up, labelled and shipped into space, kind of a Viking boat funeral with a twist.

I realised that the material was much more personal than I had originally thought, with experience of a particular relationship (and working in a factory) feeding easily into the narrative. The aliens became more nuanced until nowadays The Mice tells the humans’ life-and-death story alongside the aliens’ one of intrigue, backstabbing and hustling.

The Mice: Culture Shock
The Black Chargehand deals with an infestation in the office. © Roger Mason 2013
Catfood, a 40-page mini-comic, was produced and sold on the small press circuit, followed by a longer story which expanded the narrative to include a startling discovery in the wild fields surrounding the factory: a partially buried Lincoln Cathedral. A prequel was required so I re-drew the first story (a human still winds up in a can of soup although for different reasons, plus he goes in alive.) This story and Catfood make up the first graphic novel, called The Factory Menace and published by Scar Comics in 2011.
The current release – Culture Shock – sees the humans discover a dangerous way of striking at the aliens that gives them a chance of winning, while the aliens find out that humans taste great and a lucrative – if highly controversial – new industry could be theirs for the taking.
Roger Mason, 2013

Shane Chebsey of Scar Comics:
The first time I saw Roger’s work I knew that one day I wanted to publish it. I’ve always been a huge fan of his drawing style and his storytelling. I was so proud when The Mice: The Factory Menace arrived from the printers and it was great launching Culture Shock this year to some really positive critical acclaim.
It’s a real pleasure working with a creator like Roger: he’s extremely professional and his work just stands out from the crowd. He’s one of those rare talents that can create stunning black and white comics – a skill and discipline that is slowly disappearing from comics today, but something we treasure at Scar Comics.

For those of you unfamiliar with publishers Scar Comics, what planet have you been on? Scar is a British independent publisher who specialise in unique graphic novels which stand out from the crowd. Award-winning titles like Madam Samurai and Falling Sky have introduced writers and artists like Ben Dickson and Dave Hitchcock to a wider readership and The Mice is a great fit into the Scar Comics line up.

Sketch of Mulligatawny and Diana, The Mice’s lead human protagonists. © Roger Mason 2013

New MICE graphic novel available from Scar Comics

My new graphic novel, THE MICE: CULTURE SHOCK (£8.99, 100 pages) is now available to buy from Scar Comics online shop

PRAISE FOR THE MICE:
“Genius” – SFX.co.uk   full review
“9 out of 10” – Comics International
“4 out of 5… Particularly recommended for anybody having a rotten time at work” – talkcomix.com   full review
“A real treat” – Red Eye

The book was launched last week at the London Super Comic Con at the Excel Centre in east London, where Scar Comics had a table.

Here I am signing copies and producing sketches for fans. We sold out of all the copies we had brought with us and it met with very favourable reviews.

I am very happy with it. The story focuses on a group of humans leaving the factory and travelling into the wild fields which surround it. What they discover out there propels the story forward and creates tension between them. The aliens meanwhile are up to dirty tricks back at the factory. It’s told in three chapters and can be read if you have not read the first book, The Factory Menace.

Roger Mason on the Scar Comics table with a copy of The Mice: Culture Shock. London Super Comic Con 2013

The back cover blurb:

In Culture Shock THE MICE leave the factory and journey into the endless fields around it. Something is out there; something which will change the course of human and alien history for ever. Meanwhile, the sinister factory manager is performing grisly experiments…
Culture Shock is the latest Mice graphic novel from acclaimed bande dessinée artist and illustrator Roger Mason. The Mice in The Factory Menace is also available from Scar Comics.

Teaching drawing skills at Samsung Design Europe

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by Roger Mason

In October 2012 I was hired by Malin Andersson, creative UX manager of Samsung Design Europe in my capacity as a specialist art teacher to improve the drawing skills of her team of designers.

The workshops ran for three full days and were designed to enable the participants to do a lot of drawing – as well as have fun, doodle (with permission!), design characters, draw short stories and learn professional techniques, such as creative figure drawing, cartooning tips and perspective. Material requirements were simple, consisting largely of black pens and paper.

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by participants at Samsung Design Europe
The creative team at Samsung regularly use drawing as a part of their presentations, frequently sketching ideas out for themselves and for clients. The workshops emphasise productivity and functionality; a drawing may not be pretty, but if, for example, it clearly shows a hand holding a smartphone then it succeeds.

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by participants at Samsung Design Europe

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by Roger Mason

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by participants at Samsung Design Europe
The participants do a lot of drawing and occasionally I use practical demonstrations, one to one tutorials and slides to enable learning. The most important thing when drawing is confidence and I work hard in my workshops to boost this for participants and demonstrate that everyone can draw and attain a result.
At the end of the three days the participants invited their colleagues in for an impromptu, Friday afternoon art exhibition which was much enjoyed by all, with many expressing their wish that they had taken part.

“The workshops were expertly facilitated and my team and I really enjoyed the experience. The drawing skills have helped us with our creative process, and Roger’s teaching skills and professionalism are excellent.”

Malin Andersson 

creative UX designer, Samsung Design Europe.

Comic book drawing workshop artwork by participants at Samsung Design Europe

Next Christmas commercial

Storyboards commissioned by Framestore for the recently-aired Next Homeware television commercials. HB pencil on cartridge paper.
Storyboards for Next Home Christmas commercial, commissioned by Framestore. Art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home Christmas commercial, commissioned by Framestore. Art by Roger Mason

Storyboards for Next Home Christmas commercial, commissioned by Framestore. Art by Roger Mason

The Mice reviewed in SFX

Here’s a review of my graphic novel The Mice: The Factory Menace, available to buy from Scar Comics online shop, taken from the SFX site and by Alasdair Stuart:

The opening scene of The Mice is one of the most perfectly-designed sucker punches I’ve seen in years. You spend several panels being carefully introduced to the cast of characters, in a setting that’s intensely familiar, only to have what you think you know snatched away from you. That willingness to upend a reader’s expectations lies at the heart of what Roger Mason is trying to do with the book and he succeeds admirably.
At an undetermined point in the future, aliens invade and we lose. We never see the war, we never see the aftermath but we’re shown why we lost so convincingly almost straight away; the aliens are massive, and we’re the size of rodents to them, hence the title. The world has been taken over by giants and we’re reduced to living in the cracks between their floorboards, fighting a war where the enemy views us as little more than a nuisance. It’s a simple, wonderfully pulpy concept and Mason puts the cherry on top with the battleground the characters meet on; a single production line at a soup factory, where the cans are so huge multiple humans can ride in them.

This is the genius of the book, setting the desperate battle for survival around something so mundane because it drives home just how little we matter. Forget the power plants and control centres of traditional SF, Mason’s human freedom fighters’ big idea is to poison cans of soup. This isn’t just a world we lost, this is a world where we don’t even matter anymore. Mason drives this home in the first chapter with a chilling sequence which features two of the leads desperately trying to rescue a third from a huge vat of soup as the aliens go on about their business, content that they’ve eradicated the pests. Life and death and bean soup combine, and the punchline to the scene is both horrific and features some of the best art in the book.

The second chapter presented here neatly shifts perspective a little and introduces us to the aliens. As the events of the first story lead to the factory potentially losing a major contract, we follow hard pressed line chief Cota and his handyman, Goon, as they frantically try and keep the line running whilst setting an alien cat on the humans and keeping the clients from Solar Market happy. Cota is every inch the harried manager, whilst Goon is an amiable, loyal and slightly over enthusiastic sidekick. They’re a perfect comedy duo, and their frantic attempts to keep both the cat and the humans out of sight of their clients are genuinely funny and weirdly endearing. The aliens may have taken the planet, but they’ve inherited our old problems and seem worse at handling them than we are. It’s strangely reassuring…

…Unlike the “cat”, a two-legged ball of black-furred murder that the human characters spend the second chapter frantically trying to deal with. The cat is a real physical threat and the casual way human characters are killed by it only drives this home. It’s also neatly used to, again, drive home the futility of scale that the humans face. It’s something to be avoided rather than faced, and the moment a character confronts it is rife with tension and palpable physical threat.

Mason’s black and white art does an excellent job of not only portraying the book’s complex and unusual scale, but also the fragility of its main characters. He’s got a nice eye for splash pages and pacing too, with the closing, brutal, punchline of chapter one and the cat’s second attack in chapter two both standouts. His design work’s nicely handled too, especially the cat. If there’s a weakness it’s that sometimes the alien characters look too similar but even that, arguably, ties into the book’s parody of mundane factory life, albeit on a Godzilla-sized scale.

This is smart, incredibly bleak science fiction of the sort that seems to have a natural home in the UK thanks to 2000AD and its ilk. Big on ideas and action, but small in stature, The Mice is a highly unusual post-apocalyptic story and one that 2000AD fans in particular shouldn’t be without. Just don’t try the soup…
Alasdair Stuart

BLOG The Mice: The Factory Menace REVIEW | SFX

It’s a great review; thanks a lot Alasdair!