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!

The Mechanaut

Page from The Mechanaut comic, by Roger Mason and William Exley

Uploaded to this site are the first ten pages from The Mechanaut, a web comic/graphic novel I have been working on with illustrator William Exley.

Click on the tab at the top of this page to read this preview, which was very well received at Kapow! convention, Islington in April this year.

2000 AD Terror Tale

The following five pages I drew for the Steve Moore -scripted Terror Tale Murdermind which was published in 2000 AD prog 1311 and remains my only paid contribution to the comic to date. It was a tough script to draw but I enjoyed bringing some heavy contrast black and white to the task. I am proud of the first panel but it is dark in tone, to say the least.
Briefly it involves two cops on the trail of a mysterious sequence of murders, which turns out to be due an alien body-hopping worm which deranges people and turns them into psychopaths. It jumps ship after each kill. 
I bumped into then-Tharg Andy Diggle a few years later, he said I did a good job but that it was a tough script to draw. He was not wrong. Apparently my artwork was panned on the forum the week after and that was a bit tough to take. I thought it looks ok and I hope to someday once more grace the  pages of the galaxy’s greatest.
Comic page from 2000 AD Terror Tale, script by Steve Moore, art by Roger Mason

Comic page from 2000 AD Terror Tale, script by Steve Moore, art by Roger Mason

Comic page from 2000 AD Terror Tale, script by Steve Moore, art by Roger Mason
Comic page from 2000 AD Terror Tale, script by Steve Moore, art by Roger Mason

Comic page from 2000 AD Terror Tale, script by Steve Moore, art by Roger Mason

Dredd 3D

Dredd has always been one of my favourite comics, growing up as I did on a steady diet of 2000 AD. Curious readers ought to check out stories like The Apocalypse War, Judge Death, The Graveyard Shift, Destiny’s Angels, Necropolis, America and my pick for the best Dredd story ever, The Starborn Thing. All of these can be found in the Complete Case Files series of re-prints, around books numbering four to eight and beyond.

In my opinion the greatest Dredd writer of all is John Wagner (pen-names TB Grover and John Howard) and any of his stories are worth a look, combining action with tongue-in-cheek scifi and some devastating one-liners from Old Stoney Face himself. I have also noticed a recurrent theme of transvesticism too. The best JD is top British comedy that whacks you – and the hapless citizen – over the head with a daystick while you chuckle.

Here’s a page by Brian Bolland. © Rebellion.

At UKCAC 97 I met John Wagner. I asked him if he was a retailer, to which he replied, slightly indignantly, “I’m John Wagner!”  I was like, “Wow! Have a look at my portfolio!”. This was back in the days when comic conventions, for me, were stepping stones on my path to becoming the next Frank Miller, and woe betide anyone in my way (I never did attain Miller-hood of course, but back in the days at conventions, in my mind, it was just a matter of time).

Preview of The Mice book two

Cota handles some specimens. Panel from The Mice in Culture Shock, graphic novel published by Scar Comics, art by Roger Mason

Work has recommenced on the second MICE graphic novel which will be 90 pages long, working title  Culture Shock. The project had been shelved for a few months but it is now nearly finished, barring a few more pages to be drawn and an edit. Once it is completed, look for it at the Scar Comics online shop.

Back cover blurb:

The Mice leave the factory site and journey into the wild and endless fields around it. Something is out there; something that will change the course of human and alien history forever.

Meanwhile, the factory manager is hiding away in the labs performing grisly experiments. The humans aren’t going to like it, to say nothing of Health & Safety…

Here are some images from it, including a cover image from when part of it was released as a mini-comic.

The Black Chargehand deals with an infestation in the offices. Scene from The Mice in Culture Shock, graphic novel published by Scar Comics. Art by Roger Mason

Unused cover artwork from The Mice’s small press, mini-comic days, featuring Cota, Diana and Mulligatawny. Art by Roger Mason

Kapow comic convention sketches

Mulligatawny and Cota from The Mice, art by Roger Mason

Female Judge from 2000 AD comic. Art by Roger Mason

Kapow comic convention went very well, even though sales on the Scar Comics table were a bit slow, due to the gulf of space in front of the table that allowed nervous punters to bypass the wares on sale and avoid the hawkish glares of the stable’s talent, as it tried to lure in susceptible members of the public.

I did some sketches which are attached here and curious fans of both can check out 2000AD for Rebellion’s Judge Dredd or The Mice graphic novel available to buy either from me or Scarcomics.com.

A highlight was putting a copy of The Mice into the hands of Jonathan Ross, who promised he would read it. I felt a bit bad approaching the guy, imagining that he must get that quite a lot but I was overtaken by networking fever and, once I had spotted the bearded one in his bright yellow jacket, ran back to the table, nicked a copy of the book, whacked a quick dedication in the front and handed it over.

The wrestlers were a nice touch and all in all Kapow was once again a quality show.

Update

I regret the chaotic nature of the previous post, but the fact is I have been ably working away at storyboards for service design agencies and production companies for the last couple of months, but extras like maintaining a blog have gone out of the window somewhat.

Next weekend I will be at Kapow! the comic convention in Angel on the Scar Comics table, and right now I am typing this when I should be doing something else. So sayonara.

Comic art gallery

Humorous cartoons

Commissions

Several jpegs are supplied of the subject to show what they look like and a suggestion for a theme. I will then produce a pencil sketch for approval and then work it up.

Artwork supplied either printed (canvas or paper) or original, framed if required and delivered to your door. Please telephone for details.

Storyboards for app development

Storyboards for app development artwork © Roger Mason

Storyboards for app development artwork © Roger Mason

Storyboards for app development artwork © Roger Mason

Due to having fallen off the face of a monolith of software, which got taller and taller the older and older my mac got, I have not posted for a while. Now I am back. I want to thank Woody Lidstone of Splicetraining.ca for being a mac wizard. He claims merely that “Hey – it’s what I do” in an endearing Canadian drawl but I believe that while I was making the coffee (strong and black – the choice of mac warriors the world over I presume) he whipped out his wand and a few “Expelliarmus!”-s later my mac mini was like new machine.

Here are some storyboards which I produced for 2CV a little while back, about app development. More soon, more frequently.

Royal wedding illustration

Royal wedding illustration by Roger Mason

Whoops, left it a bit too long since my last post, what with the Christmas period and taking time off. I also wanted to leave the advert for The Mice book at the top of the pile as well.

Moving on into 2012, appropriately enough here’s an image I produced last summer. From time to time I work for Big Smoke Media, who are a London-based promotional company who create and stock the postcards that you find in a rack in restaurants, bars and cinemas in the South East, often while on the way to the loo.

It’s been great to know them and they have been kind enough to pay me with my own distributed postcard when I do an illustration for them. This is one for them, a take on the royal wedding. The postcard I had made subsequently featured the grinning soldier you will have seen at the top of this blog and I hope that if you have been in the city you may have seen either of them and taken one.

Graphic novel now available to buy

The Mice: The Factory Menace is now available to buy from Scar Comics online shop, here . £7.99, 80 pages, black and white, it is a complete story and also the first book in a proposed series of four, with the second book almost completed.

It tells the story of the giant alien factory Order Nine, and the humans who live there, who are treated like vermin and trying to fight off the aliens who, it must be said, don’t much care and hate their jobs. Humorous, action-packed, romantic and deadly, here are some reviews:

“Small press comics at its absolute best… 9 out of 10.”
Comics International

“This is a gem and worth seeking out.”
bugpowder.com

“Roger Mason’s fully-formed future scenario pits tiny terrorists in the Land of the Giants against occupying alien forces. A rollicking SF epic brought to life with splendidly fluid chiaroscuro brushwork by one of the UK’s most exciting young talents.”
Gary Spencer Millidge, creator of Strangehaven

A Preview can be read on my website , click on The Mice link, and here’s a couple of pages…

Leeds Thought Balloon comic con

Monday morning and just taken my brother’s crazy fun dog Barney for a walk in the hills around Sheffield. I went to Thought Bubble(Balloon?) in Leeds yesterday and sat on the Scar Comics table, selling copies of The Mice. A good day, if a bit quiet on the punters with cash front.

Treating myself to a spend at the Top Shelf table, I enjoyed catching up with Chris Staros and buying the big Alec collection by Eddie Campbell as well as Superfuckers by Kochalka. I caught up with Sean Azzopardi and read his diary comics, beginning with 100 Days of Winter which I enjoyed very much.

BBC Three idents

Artwork © Roger Mason
Concept artwork for BBC Three re-banding, commissioned by Red bee Media. Art by Roger Mason

Concept artwork for BBC Three re-banding, commissioned by Red bee Media. Art by Roger Mason

Concept artwork for BBC Three re-banding, commissioned by Red bee Media. Art by Roger Mason

Concept artwork for BBC Three re-banding, commissioned by Red bee Media. Art by Roger Mason

From 2007, when I was working with Red Bee Media at White City on the banding work for the TV channel BBC Three. The idea was to create a planet that the idents would feature different parts of and I was asked to help visualise this world.

Here are colour visuals of various parts of this imaginary world, including a rough layout, useful to let the team know I was on the same wavelength as them before investing more time in the image.

Batman Live commission

Recently I drew this commission for the boyfriend of a dancer who had won a part in the Batman Live Arena Tour, a significant career step and something to be marked. I came up with the concept, which was to feature Harley Quinn — I added Catwoman — and placed Michelle, the dancer, in between the two hellcats. After that, it seemed to create itself with these strong characters demanding me to go their way. Indian ink on A2 bristol board and a lot of fun to do.