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Hello. I'm Antony Johnston, and I write comics, graphic novels, and videogames.
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So. That was 2011, then.

Another busy year, splitting my time almost 50/50 between comics and games. Here’s a thing; every January I make a list of everything I expect to be working on for the next twelve months, and stick it up over my desk.

Normally, it’s a pretty long list. But for 2011, not so much — a whole videogame only takes up one line, after all, and I knew I’d be working on more games than in previous years. Frankly, I also wasn’t sure what comics I’d actually be writing. There’s been a lot of stuff bubbling under over the past year or so.

But now here we are at year’s end, and what with one thing and another, it turns out the list is no shorter than last year. Funny how things turn out.

January was DEAD SPACE central; the digital release of SALVAGE, the bundling of EXTRACTION with DEAD SPACE 2 on the PS3, and of course the release of DEAD SPACE Mobile on iOS, which recently won a bunch of “game of the year” type awards. Behind the scenes, I was writing more material for BINARY DOMAIN, plotting DAREDEVIL SEASON ONE (not yet announced at that point), and zipped over to California for a meeting with the guys at 2K Games…

…Because I spent most of February writing script lines for the XCOM revamp, which I believe is due for release in March 2012. I know many people have bemoaned that this isn’t a turn-based strategy like the old X-COM games, and I understand; I’m a huge fan of the old games myself. But this new one looks good, and I can’t wait to play it for myself. Oh, I also did some lines for the new version of Adidas MiCoach, along with just about everyone else on my agent’s roster. That was fun, and you’ll understand why when I can reveal whose lines I wrote.

In March I had my head down, working on more XCOM, two WASTELAND scripts, more DAREDEVIL, and plotting what would become my Spider-Island tie-in, THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU. I also went down to Black Rock Studio in Brighton to deliver my Comics to Consoles lecture. Little did I realise it wasn’t just a lecture; it was also an audition to write their newest game. And this month I filmed my segments for CAPTURED GHOSTS, the Warren Ellis documentary now doing the premiere rounds at festivals.

No blog posts in April; I was too busy gallivanting all over the place doing stuff I couldn’t talk about, like another visit to Black Rock, a trip to a European games studio to talk about a game (which still hasn’t even been announced), and then working on things that, again, weren’t yet public knowledge, like DAREDEVIL and DEADLY HANDS.

May saw me dig into “The European Game”, as I’ll refer to it for the moment, in earnest. As if that didn’t keep me busy enough, I also started work on the Black Rock game, Champions Alliance; and ploughed through a bunch more comic scripts.

In June, I pretty much locked myself away to write more comic scripts, more Champions Alliance, more of The European Game. Meanwhile, in the world outside, the new MiCoach was announced (but no details given), and WASTELAND finally went digital on Comixology (woo-hoo!).

Then July rolled around, which of course means the usual pilgrimage to Comic-Con San Diego, where I caught up with lots of old friends, met some cool new people, signed a lot of books, and appeared on the CAPTURED GHOSTS panel. I have to say this was one of the most enjoyable SDCCs ever for me, and while much of that was down to seeing the aforementioned old friends, I can’t help but feel my refusal to take meetings with “The Hollywood Bullshit Brigade” also had something to do with it. So there’s a lesson learned.

I attended the inaugural Manchester MCM Expo, which was busier than anyone sane expected, and DAREDEVIL SEASON ONE was announced at last — at this point I’d almost finished writing it.

I also somehow managed to squeeze in time to write more European Game, some WASTELAND, and more Champions Alliance… right before Disney closed Black Rock because they couldn’t wrap their heads around what the team was trying to do. In my opinion Disney made a big mistake, born out of simple cowardice. Black Rock had a hit on their hands, a game style that nobody doubts the industry needs, but that nobody has yet had the balls to fund because it’s more risky than just bashing out another bloody FarmVille clone. Bah.

Aaaaanyway. In August, THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU launched (to, I’m rather proud to say, much critical acclaim), and I did a DJ set at the Travelling Man birthday party, which was awesome (the party, not my set. Well, OK, that was pretty awesome too). Thanks to the Black Rock closure, this was also the first month of the year I found myself with a small amount of free time — so I started writing DEAD OF WINTER, the sequel to THE COLDEST CITY (more on that later). I also worked up a SHANG-CHI pitch at Marvel’s request, hoping to launch off the back of DEADLY HANDS, but if you follow Marvel news at all you can guess what the chances of that are right now. Sad, but there you go.

September was another month of nose/grindstone interface, as I wrote the script for The European Game — twice! — then finished DAREDEVIL SEASON ONE, made progress on DEAD OF WINTER, and started a short prose piece which is very cool, but (all together now) I can’t talk about yet. I know, I know…

This month also saw the long-awaited (and very-very-late) release of WASTELAND #31. For those keeping score, at this point I was scripting #38 and Justin was already onto drawing #36. So now you know why we’re so confident about keeping the new schedule in 2012, see below…

In October I put in a brief appearance at the London MCM Expo, did a quick panel on games writing at the London Screenwriter’s Festival, and popped over to Europe again for meetings about The Game. Somehow, in the midst of all this, I also wrote more WASTELAND, more DEAD OF WINTER, and more of the Secret Prose Story.

In November we announced the WASTELAND soft relaunch and monthly schedule for 2012. And promptly saw a lot of (completely understandable) scepticism from readers in reaction; but see above for why we remain confident. As I write, Justin is pencilling #38, the final issue of the arc…! Meanwhile, I was already midway into writing the following arc of WL, and also got my head down to scribble away at The European Game and the Secret Prose Story.

So here we are in December, and it’s been a month of ups and downs. The biggest down was without question the sad news of Eduardo Barreto’s death. The ups include finishing draft one of the Secret Prose Story, writing a short WASTELAND script for Chris Mitten to draw for Free Comic Book Day 2012, a trip to London for meetings about writing a new game, composing a new WASTELAND Original Soundtrack song (“March of the Sand-Eaters”, a jolly and tuneful little ditty *cough cough*), and signing graphic novel contracts for something that will hopefully be announced soon YES I SAID SOON MY LIFE IS ONE GIGANTIC NDA NOW LEAVE ME ALONE

Ahem.

Last but not least, I’m within sight of the finish line on DEAD OF WINTER. I haven’t talked much about THE COLDEST CITY since it was announced, some time back, because there hasn’t been much to tell; we suffered some delays, and were just trying to get the book finished before revealing much more. Well, it is finished, and currently going through production. It’ll be on sale in 2012 (May, I think?) and it looks fantastic. More on that very soon, when we start the PR blitz.

…And that’s it for another twelve months. I’m off to see my family and bake cakes, not necessarily in that order. Have a great New Year, everyone, and I’ll see you on the other side.

 

Sad news: Eduardo Barreto, artist extraordinaire and my collaborator on THE LONG HAUL, has passed away. He’d been ill for some time, but it’s still a shock; he was only 57.

I can’t say I knew him very well — we only met once, a year after THE LONG HAUL was published, although it was a very happy meeting that saw us both enthusing about doing a sequel. Alas, that never came to pass.

What I do know well is that Eduardo was an amazing talent, a thorough professional, and a kind, generous artist who possessed a deep love of comics. He will be missed.

 

Yikes. Just noticed that I haven’t posted here in over a month. The fact that I hadn’t even realised says all you need to know, really — I’ve had my head down, busy as hell and loving it.

In the past month I’ve started two new miniseries for Marvel (one is due to be announced at the end of next week, I’ll post again then); written an issue of WASTELAND (new issue coming soon, promise!); delivered a version of my Comics to Consoles talk at Black Rock Studios (went well); started some more work on Binary Domain (Nagoshi-san isn’t kidding about how much dialogue the game has); been out to Slovenia (lovely place); worked on concept and narrative for a couple of new games; and scripted a bunch of lines for a sports/exercise game.

Of course, the problem as it relates to blogging is that 99% of this stuff I can’t talk about yet. But that should change in the months to come. And the Marvel stuff, in particular, should make people who enjoyed my previous work for them pretty happy.

Back to the grindstone…

 

So. That was 2010, then.

And what a year. Between January 1 and June 30, I worked every single day bar four. I would not recommend this regime to anyone. Especially when your schedule for July 1 to Dec 24 isn’t much different…!

As I write it’s noon on Christmas Eve, and I have yet to wrap presents, so this won’t be the usual meandering month-by-month essay. Instead: bullet points! And if there’s one overriding theme to this year, it’s one of firsts

— Thanks mostly to my Marvel work on DAREDEVIL, I had more books ship in 2010 than any other year. Seriously, just check the On Sale tag, it’s insane.

— I wrote my first Marvel solo series, SHADOWLAND: BLOOD ON THE STREETS, and finished my co-writing stint on DAREDEVIL with Andy Diggle.

— I went to Japan for the first time, to visit Sega and meet the team developing BINARY DOMAIN — including Nagoshi-san, which was pretty special. I’m not allowed to say anything about the game right now, but no doubt there’ll be more in the months to come.

— I did a load of new work for the DEAD SPACE franchise, which is most of what kept me burning the midnight oil through the first six months of the year. Exhibits A, B & C: IGNITION, SALVAGE, and the upcoming iPhone game, which will be my first game on iOS.

— I attended GDC Online in Austin for the first time, where I gave a talk that was better received than I could ever have expected, and met lots of very cool people.

— And, as always, I spent plenty of time working on stuff I can’t tell you about. Suffice to say, 2011 is shaping up to be as busy as ever, with some very cool stuff on the horizon.

— But finally, let’s talk about WASTELAND. We didn’t get back to a regular schedule this year, as Remington is still getting up to speed on the book, and for that we apologise.

(There’s been some speculation that I’ve been slacking off WASTELAND in favour of Marvel work, and I want to nip that in the bud right now — it’s categorically not true, and frankly I’m offended by the mere suggestion. WASTELAND, as anyone who reads the book should know, is the work dearest to my heart, and nobody is more frustrated by the delays than me.)

But now for the good news:

— Issue #30 is finished, and going through production, so it will hit shelves some time in the new year. I’m currently writing issue #34.

— We’ve recruited another artist to help with the workload, namely Justin Greenwood. Justin is a big fan of the book, and a great artist to boot. He’s already begun work on #33, which will kick off the next story arc.

— Earlier this year, I plotted out the entirety of the remaining story, right up to the final issue #60. It’s full steam ahead from here.

— And finally, original series artist Chris Mitten will take over the covers from #33 onwards!

So, things are looking up all around. Keep the (Sunner) faith!

…Hmmm, this turned out longer than I intended. Now I really need to go and wrap those presents.

Have a great holiday, everyone, and I’ll see you all on the other side of the New Year.

 

Wow, almost a month since the last entry. I did warn you I’d be keeping my head down at the start of the year.

Periods like this are very frustrating — a lack of updates, and not much currently on sale, tends to make people think you’re not working very hard. The truth is entirely the opposite, because publishing works on lead times — often months, and sometimes years, ahead of a work’s release date. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that much of the time I’m not even allowed to talk about what I’m working on.

(And I don’t mean “Not allowed because I’d get frowned at”; more like “Not allowed because I’d get sued into oblivion”.)

So this is me, checking in, to say that I’m sorry for the radio silence, but I’m working very hard indeed and hope to tell you all about some of the very exciting stuff (hey, allow me some professional pride) I’m writing soon. When is soon? Soon enough, promise.

In the meantime, you should all check out the TRON LEGACY trailer, because hot damn.

 

So. That was 2009, then.

This year has been one of stop-start motion for me, with a fairly relaxed summer sandwiched between two bursts of manic activity.

I spent nearly all of January and February writing the script for DEAD SPACE: EXTRACTION, which of course I wasn’t allowed to talk about. If you think that seems like a long time to spend writing a videogame, you clearly haven’t played it.

Unfortunately, the schedule of work and voice recording (VO) sessions for the game meant I had to pull out of attending NYCC. This was doubly frustrating, because I couldn’t explain why I was unable to attend; then, immediately after the con finished, the organisers announced the next one wouldn’t be until fall 2010. Grrr.

When I could snatch a spare moment, I was also working on the second half of WOLVERINE: PRODIGAL SON, Vol 2.

In March, I was finally allowed to announced my work for EXTRACTION, at the same time as I was actually down in London attending the VO sessions. Also simultaneously, the New York Times finally introduced bestseller lists for graphic novels, and to my pleasant surprise, THE COURTYARD was on the inaugural list. I then finished the second volume of WOLVERINE: PRODIGAL SON, and to top off a generally good month I was interviewed on Kerrang! Radio, which put a big smile on this old metalhead’s face.

April saw the launch of WOLVERINE: PRODIGAL SON Vol 1, a London press event for EXTRACTION, and the purchase of a shiny new Mac. Behind the scenes, I was writing WASTELAND and the DEAD SPACE: EXTRACTION one-shot comic.

May was pretty quiet. I wrote some more WASTELAND and composed a new song, the eight-minute Carpenter-esque epic Inelisia, for the book’s original soundtrack. I suddenly realised that the next few months were going to be pretty quiet, and I was determined to use that time for something I hadn’t had chance to do while beavering away on all the DEAD SPACE stuff…

…So June found me commencing work on THE COLDEST CITY, a book I’d been meaning to write ever since my stint on QUEEN & COUNTRY. I also allowed Oni to use the first few pages of it for their semi-regular talent search, and digital comics solution Longbox was announced to the world. Finally, I produced a scriptbook, to be sold as a con exclusive.

THE COLDEST CITY kept me busy throughout July, apart from the usual pilgrimage to San Diego at the end of the month. I spent most of the con promoting WASTELAND; the full colour issue #25 was released earlier in the month, and the first Apocalyptic Edition hardcover premiered at the show in a limited edition.

August was blazing hot here in Blighty, and I matched the heat with a furious run through the last stretch of THE COLDEST CITY. The 180pp Zero Draft clocked in at twenty-six working days, in between bouts of writing WASTELAND, which is undoubtedly some kind of record for me.

In September, the graphic novel of SKELETON KEY went on sale at last, as did the DEAD SPACE: EXTRACTION one-shot, and then the game itself later in the month. Behind the scenes, it was all a bit quiet as I spent most of the time revising THE COLDEST CITY and catching up on odd bits and bobs that had built up during summer…

…Which was just as well, because suddenly in October it all got rather busy again when my old friend Andy Diggle asked me to co-write an issue of DARK REIGN: HAWKEYE, and an arc of DAREDEVIL. We spent a large chunk of MCM Expo discussing our plans, all the while being careful to stay out of Rich Johnston‘s earshot — sorry, Rich.

So November was dedicated almost exclusively to those two books, although I did find time to pitch for another videogame. Watch this space, and all that. The other big news was the formal announcement of THE COLDEST CITY as an Oni Press book, and I attended Thought Bubble, which was awesome as always.

And now here we are in December, where I’ve been doing yet more work on WASTELAND and DAREDEVIL, and have another couple of Sooper Seekrit gigs on the go. I need to hit the ground running in January, so don’t be too surprised to see more surprise announcements… in between long periods of silence as I get my nose firmly ensconced in the grindstone.

Happy holidays, everyone. Let’s do it all again in 2010.

 

Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell.

Those of us old enough to remember it, especially Europeans, will never forget that historic night. The Cold War had been going on for decades, since long before I was born, and the idea that it would ever end was almost inconceivable.

Even Gorbachev’s initiatives of glasnost and perestroika, while helping thaw East-West relations to a degree, never seemed likely to end the Cold War (much less bring about the end of communist Russia). By 1989, the Cold War had been underway for forty-four years.

Throughout that time, Berlin — and the Berlin Wall itself — grew in significance to become a symbol of the entire East-West geopolitical divide. Unlike the metaphorical Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall was literally a wall, and thus an easy shorthand for political discussion of the times.

When the East Germans finally broke through and celebrated into the night, we all hoped it would usher in a new age of freedom and brotherhood. Sadly, we weren’t so successful at that. Nevertheless, the fall of the Berlin Wall will always be remembered as a testament to the power of public will, and a moment nobody who witnessed it will ever forget.

…All of which is preamble to say that today, I’m officially announcing THE COLDEST CITY, which I’ve so far only mentioned here in passing.

THE COLDEST CITY is a Cold War spy thriller, set in Berlin during the last days before the Wall came down. More John Le Carré than James Bond, it’s a down-to-earth espionage story that revels in the paranoia and mistrust boiling over at the epicentre of the Cold War. Here’s a synopsis:

November 1989. Communism is collapsing, and soon the Berlin Wall will be torn down by both the East and West.

But before that happens there is one last situation for MI6, Britain’s intelligence services, to resolve. Two weeks ago, an undercover MI6 officer was killed in Berlin. He was carrying information from a source in the East — a list that allegedly contains the name of every espionage agent working in Berlin, on all sides.

No list was found on his body.

MI6 sent in Lorraine Broughton, an experienced spy with no pre-existing ties to Berlin, to root out the list. But she walked into a powderkeg of social unrest, counter-espionage, defections gone bad and secret assassinations. Then, on the night the Wall came down, her superior — MI6’s chief officer in Berlin — was shot and killed in the street.

Now Lorraine has returned, to tell her story. And nothing is quite what it seems

Illustrated by Sam Hart (JUDGE DREDD, STARSHIP TROOPERS) and Published in 2010 by Oni Press, THE COLDEST CITY will be a digest-sized hardback that sits very comfortably next to your Le Carré and Deighton novels (insert winking smiley here).

There’ll be a full press release soon, but I wanted to get the news out on this momentous anniversary. So, all shilling aside, let’s take a moment to remember that even the most powerful government can’t deny the will of the people… providing that will is strong enough.

[Addendum: The full press release is now online.]

 

  • MCM Expo was great. Thanks to everyone who came out to the Comic Village, and the panels I appeared on, and especially to the many people who picked up WASTELAND for the first time. Getting there and back with my stock of books was somewhat of a pain, but definitely worth it, and I hope to return next year.
  • Next month, however, I’ll be at Thought Bubble in Leeds. The full programme for the festival is now online; I’ll have a table, plus I’m on two Saturday panels, and I’ll list it all here closer to the time.
  • WOLVERINE: PRODIGAL SON has made it onto two prestigious shortlists: The American Library Association/YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the Texas Library Association Maverick Graphic Novels Reading List. Libraries are one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors for graphic novel reading in the USA, so this is awesome.
  • Movie news: THREE DAYS IN EUROPE has a writer attached, and F Gary Gray talks about his take on JULIUS.
  • I’ve been recruited to work on another of those ‘out of left field’ projects I seem to fall into with some regularity. This one’s a bit closer to home than most, but still quite a surprise. More details very soon, I should think.
  • Finally: my good friend Drew Gilbert — animator, traveller, artist of ROSEMARY’S BACKPACK and all round great guy — is attempting this year’s Tough Guy challenge in celebration of impending fatherhood. Drew is doing this in aid of Free Arts NYC, so he needs sponsorship, and is offering cartoon portraits for donations of $35+. Follow his training progress, and please consider helping him out.
  •  

    So you may know that I’ve spoken before about digital comics piracy, and the need for an iTunes-like solution if we’re to avoid the same fate as the music industry.

    What you don’t know is that for the past year or so I’ve been advising the makers of Longbox, a digital comics reader and store that intends to be that solution.

    Rantz Hoseley, comics creator/editor and Quicksilver Software head honcho, unveiled Longbox at Heroes Con this past weekend. Comic Book Resources has a lengthy write-up, and iFanboy has also weighed in with a thoughtful piece.

    For the record, my part in the process was small, I wasn’t paid, and I have no financial or legal involvement whatsoever with Quicksilver Software. But I sincerely believe this is the way of the future, and I’m heartened that someone is finally taking it seriously.

     

    This year’s Oni Press talent search is now underway. If you’re an artist trying to break in to comics, you should know that this is for real; the previous iteration in 2006 led directly to both Joe Infurnari and Mike Holmes getting their start in the industry.

    Once again, I’ve contributed a sample script — this time it’s the first five pages of THE COLDEST CITY, an espionage thriller I’m currently writing [UPDATE: And which is now available]. I make no promises that drawing my script will get you a job on the finished book, of course! On the other hand, it was Joe Infurnari’s excellent rendering of my script last time around that led to him drawing a WASTELAND interlude issue, so you never know.

    Just so there’s no confusion, you should know that I, and the other contributing writers, are not the judges here. That’s entirely the domain of Oni’s editorial staff. We just provide the scripts for you to draw. With that in mind, it’s pointless me trying to give any advice, or tell you how to “succeed” at this. Just do what you do, and do it well.

    That said, there is one way I can guarantee you won’t succeed, and that’s by ignoring the rules. Don’t try to be a smartass and ignore them, thinking that your talent will get you through regardless. It won’t. Talent and the ability to follow submission guidelines, on the other hand, will get you far.

    Good luck!

     

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