Monday, 31 January 2011

Grub's up

When The DFC was still going, we had a title for every 5-page weekly mini-episode. This fun little scene of grace under pressure would have been the opening of mini-episode 16, "Hyde & Seek".

It was good discipline for me as a writer to have to build in a major revelation and/or cliffhanger every five pages. And I still structure each issue that way. But never having been a fan of weekly comics myself, Mirabilis is conceived in the form of comic book episodes of around 20 to 25 pages to be read once a month.

So now this scene has its rightful place on the iPad comics app towards the start of issue #4 ("Fire and Sleet and Candlelight") - or, if print is your bag, of Chapter Four of the Mirabilis: Winter graphic novel. It's another beautiful example of how Leo's and Nikos's styles complement each other.

You didn't expect to see Jack and arch-enemy McNab sitting down to a meal together? Then just wait till you get an eyeful of who's at the other end of the table.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The green comet is getting hot!

Almost six weeks on from release of the Mirabilis iPad comics app, things are getting exciting. We've had two million impressions webwide and over two thousand hits on the Mirabilis website. Is that in the six weeks since the app was launched? Nope, would you believe in the last three days!

Meanwhile, Mirabilis is still in the Top 30 on "What's Hot" in iTunes books and in BookBuzzr's Top 10 most-read ebooks for December. The mini-episodes "Stung!", "The Door in the Water" and "The Wrong Side of Bedlam" are starting to storm up the charts in the Kindle Store. And we're gearing up for our debut in the iBookstore too.

And all of this is just the start, because in a few weeks you'll see all eight issues of Mirabilis: Winter appearing on a whole range of devices courtesy of leading digital comics platforms and iVerse Media's Comics+. So although iPad is still my personal e-reader of choice, you'll now be able to carry the Year of Wonders around on your phone too. (Shavers and TV remotes may take a little longer.)

Nor is electronic the only option. If the age of digital comics has shown us one thing, it's that all these new ways of reading are breathing a new burst of vigor into print comics and graphic novels as well. In a few weeks I'll get you the on-the-street dates for those big 'n' beautiful hardcover editions of Winter volumes one and two from Print Media Productions, and a pretty firm idea of when the first issues of Mirabilis: Spring will be hitting the App Store.

I'm writing those issues right now and it's a blast. The action leaps on a couple of months from Winter, the green comet is getting dazzlingly bright in the sky now, which means that fantasy is rife and... oh-oh, no spoilers. Let's just say that this new season starts with a bunch of stunning surprises that will put your jaw on the floor. And it all gets bigger, sexier and more wondrous from there on in.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dance on moonbeams, slide on rainbows

While adapting the first 8 issues of the Mirabilis comic book for iPad, iBookstore and Kindle, I'm not neglecting the whimsical correspondence of the Royal Mythological Society that features on the comic's letters pages. These missives show the kind of things that are going on around the world as the ever-nearing Comet Meadowvane strikes a great green line through every rule of science, reason and logic. There's a whole book's worth already - and more coming in all the time - which makes them ripe for packaging up as an ebook.

New readers, of whom we have quite a few lately, may appreciate a bit of explanation at this point. (You old hands can jump straight down to the latest RMS letter.)

It is a little known fact of history – or myth – or both, that around the start of the twentieth century there existed a lost year.

In this year, a green comet appeared in the sky. As it grew larger, things that would previously have been considered utterly fantastical began to seep into everyday life. By the height of summer, imagination and reality were so seamlessly merged that few recalled a time when the world had been otherwise.

Mermaids swam in the Mediterranean. Martians commuted by train from Woking. Greek gods gave lecture tours of the United States. And with this new way of life came a whole set of problems of etiquette and decorum (see reference to mermaids).

Fortunately, the solution was at hand. In the depths of the British Museum, intrepid academics Bampton “Bammy” Bromfield and Cyril Clattercut had long been cataloguing accounts of the uncanny from around the world on behalf of the Royal Mythological Society. The arrival of the green comet was about to give them the busiest year of their lives. As you can see from letters like this:

Dear Doctor Clattercut and Professor Bromfield

If you could see my hand shake as I write this. Well, you can see from the ink blots how my nerves are shot. I am lately escaped from an ordeal of some months, and here is the way of it.

I think it was back in April - my diary says it was April the twentieth, but it seems now to have been in another life - I had occasion to drop in at the Savoy. O unhappy day! By bitter irony I was not even staying there; I had taken rooms at Claridge’s and only called at the Savoy to see if a lady friend of mine was in town.

The hotel had lately appointed a minotaur in a commissionaire’s uniform to stand outside the doors and hold an umbrella for people arriving by carriage. I have had to cross a few fields in my day, and I did not like the look of those little dark eyes and the snorting nostrils, I can tell you, nor the way the cap was pushed up by the fellow’s horns. But I hurried past him, pushed through the revolving doors - and there my ordeal began. An ordeal of four months when I wandered as though in a maze, ever turning as those accursed doors spun round and round and I thought I would drop from dizziness!

Occasionally I saw fleeting figures pass through. I called out but cannot tell if any heard me; certainly no-one stopped to help. At one point, after perhaps a month had passed, I stumbled out of the door and thought I had achieved deliverance. But it was not the lobby of the Savoy at all, but a vast hall of cracked masonry filled with sand drifts, which gave the impression of a great weight above as though far under the ground.

After that I returned to the revolving door - anything rather than bear the stillness and silence of that empty tomb. I survived on the rainwater that intermittently blew in as the weather changed outside, and once I caught a pigeon that had strayed through the hotel doors. Very tough and stringy meat when one has no fire. But for that poor bird, and the deposits of chewing gum left by some of the hotel’s foreign guests as they flitted through, I would surely have starved.

Was it desperation that led me to recall the stories of my youth? I was half mad by then, certainly; the whole world was on a corkscrew and my mind with it. I found myself thinking of the thread that Ariadne gave Theseus to lead him safely through the Labyrinth. It may have been in a delirium that I plucked the end of a thread from my trousers and attached it to the door frame so that even as it whirled around, I could keep my hands on that thread and follow it slowly back until I emerged onto the Strand, in the clear September light, and gulped the sharp and smoky autumnal air. It could have been a breath on the summit of Olympus, gentlemen, so sweet I found it.

The minotaur was still there. I gave him a look and he gave me a look back, and I was at the point of confessing how meanly I had thought of him before, and declaring him a good fellow, and I plucked at his sleeve and was ready to embrace him. But do you know what he did then? He called for the police and they took me away, and now I am up on a charge of public indecency. For, you see, in the escape my trousers had all unravelled.

Yours sincerely,
Theodore Lolley,

Dr Clattercut replies: My heart goes out to you, poor chap. But other than publishing your letter as a caution to others, there is little we can do. My advice is to pay the fine and put the whole thing behind you.

Prof Bromfield: Quite. I got in touch with the manager of the Savoy and he tells me they originally had Cerberus on the door, but that was even worse.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Kindle users - here's your MOBI comic book!

After the app and epub versions, of course the Kindle had to be next on our list. So here is the first issue of Mirabilis in MOBI format. Creating this version meant chopping the pages of issue #1 into two hundred separate images (one panel per page in most cases) and then converting them to grayscale and crunching them down to a size the device can handle. Yet, as the picture above shows, the spark of genius in Leo's, Martin's and Nikos's work still shines through.

If you've got a device with a Kindle emulator and a color screen, you'll probably opt for the three full-color mini-episodes: "Stung!", "The Door in the Water" and "The Wrong Side of Bedlam". Just one thing... don't read those using the iPad's Kindle app, will you? You can get the exact same content in our bespoke Mirabilis free comic book app and there it's presented in zoomable, swipable comic pages the way it's meant to look.

A caveat: I don't own a Kindle, so I only know that this version works in Amazon's online emulator. And I'd still recommend viewing the comic in all its glory, either in its jaw-droppingly amazing App Store incarnation (where you can buy all 8 issues) or at the very least take a look at issue #1 as a full-color ebook. And if you do read at it on the Kindle and spot a problem, please let me know so I can fix it!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

EPUB comics

Do not adjust your monitor, this is the slightly restyled cover to go with the new black & white Mirabilis ebook. There's also a full color e-comic of issue #1 that we'll probably put up in the iBookstore in the near future.

Of course, neither of those EPUB versions will replace the truly scrumptious iPad comics app, which is still the very best way to view all eight issues of Mirabilis so far - not to mention the upcoming issues #9 and #10 that we're working on right now. More on those very shortly.

Incidentally I don't have a single share in Apple, I'm just a genuine born-again iPad nut! And I'm not alone. Over Christmas another 7 million savvy people became iPad owners.

If perchance you're hovering in the doorway of the Apple store wondering whether to buy yourself an iPad - well, you're not going to hear any arguments to the contrary here. My mate Dermot Bolton came round last night and we were both ready to bore for England with our mad enthusiasm for Steve Jobs's little gizmo. You can be sitting around at dinner and somebody mentions a new movie, or a Shakespeare sonnet, or a piece of music, or the latest discovery about mankind's ancestors, and with a swipe of the hand you're in Star Trek territory looking it up. Being light and easy to handle, it's nothing like a laptop (let's face it, laptops are rubbish for handing round to look at photos and videos) and although I cited the sci-fi connection just now, the thing the iPad actually makes me think of is a Victorian family encyclopaedia combined with a brilliantly colored magic lantern show. Just the perfect device for reading Mirabilis on, if you think about it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Top tips by comic book masters

You probably never thought to see the big blue boy at the top of a Mirabilis post. (Though indeed, why not? He's a mythological figure too.) This image by Dan Scott heads up a list of useful tips by comic book artists. My favorites:

"It’s a lot more to do with the storytelling than just pretty art. I see a lot of up and comers that get into comics in the same position I was in, and I see them focusing very heavily on the way they draw and doing covers and pin-ups and things like that. I don’t see a lot of focus on storytelling, which is something I’ve really tried to focus on in the last few years. I think if anyone can learn from my experience, focus on that just as much as focussing on your art."
- Mark Brooks

"There were all of these little nuances of line readings, acting, reacting, interpretation, layers of character personality, integrity, etc, people bouncing off each other. That was suddenly very grown-up, as opposed to the slam-bang. It was a whole new ballgame, and it forced me to really pay attention, and look, learn and listen."
- Alex Toth on the lessons he took from romance comics

"In the past I’ve overworked my pencils in order to make them as ‘good’ as possible, whereas I now believe it’s best to adopt a looser approach and perhaps to have more self-belief in your own personal style. I was given the same advice in 1982 by Steve Dillon, who I think believes that being a perfectionist can take the ‘fun’ out of drawing comics."
- Tony O'Donnell on not chasing the "in" style

Fact is, they're all great lessons from comics legends. And not a grain of red kryptonite among 'em. Well worth a look.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Top slot on BookBuzzr for Mirabilis app

After the Herculean effort of finishing Mirabilis: Winter and working with our code maestro, Simon Cook, to get it in the App Store, Leo and I started to think about ways to get the word out. One of the best forums for this is BookBuzzr, which is usually used for print books. BookBuzzr lets you set up a flipbook widget so that people can take a look at the first few pages of your book before they decide to buy.

As chapter one of the Winter book is free on iPad anyway, we also put that on BookBuzzr just before Christmas and promptly forgot all about it. (Two plates of turkey with all the trimmings and a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage 2003 can do that.) So I was astonished this week to take a look on BookBuzzr and find that Mirabilis is the #1 most-viewed title on BookBuzzr's comics and graphic novels section.

Now, I know what you're thinking. BookBuzzr is mostly looked at by proper literary types. You know, the folks who read Dan Brown and James Patterson. So how big a deal is it to be top-ranked in comics? Well, we're also #1 in Young Adult and #1 in Science Fiction & Fantasy. And we're in fourth place most-viewed on all BookBuzzr books last week.

How this will translate into app sales remains to be seen, but if you're a novelist or comic book creator and you're looking to publicize your work, I recommend giving BookBuzzr a try. Don't worry about giving part of your work away for free. If the story is compelling, people will come back for more. As Cory Doctorow says, today the artist's enemy is not piracy but obscurity.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

US trade paperbacks on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

No need to fight, there are plenty of copies to go round. I'm talking about the long-awaited Mirabilis trade paperbacks, two fabulous volumes each with 112 pages of thrills, spills, wonder and chills.

Mirabilis: Winter volume 1: There's a green comet in the sky and things are getting strange. Every day, fantasy and reality are getting harder to tell apart. Witches in bottles, warmongering cabbages from the planet Pluto, and a pterandon roosting on the Eiffel Tower. Or is it a pterodactyl?

Jack Ember is caught between two very unreliable mentors. Talisin is a two-thousand year old wizard or an escaped madman - or possibly both. The Kind Gentleman is the sort of fairy godfather who'll grant you three wishes you can't refuse. Both of them have plans for Jack, who's spent his life dreaming of adventure and now is about to get rather more of it than he bargained for.

On sale on Amazon for only $19.99. Or get it from Barnes & Noble here.

And the action continues in Mirabilis: Winter volume 2: The green comet looms closer and the boundaries of reality are starting to crumble. Plant monsters, chess-playing robots, warrior saints and undersea kingdoms. And still the year has hardly begun.

Jack finds the odds against him piling up. He needs help. But who can he trust? Surrounded by fickle friends and obliging enemies, it's time to make some hard choices.

You can buy it on Amazon here. So that's a total of 224 pages of wild 'n weird green comet goodness. And for UK and Irish fans there's an even bigger treat coming up, as in just a few months you'll be able to buy the album-sized hardback editions.

Meanwhile, Leo and Nikos and I are cracking straight on with the next season, Mirabilis: Spring, the first volume of which we should have ready before the year is out. Year of wonders? Oh yes.

And in other news: we learned late last night that the Mirabilis iPad app has shot in at #7 on "What's Hot!" in App Store books.
So if you've got an iPad you can get all of Mirabilis: Winter and the Royal Mythological Society letters pages as a bonus feature. Enjoy!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Charge of the fright brigade

More of Martin's fabulous concept art for Mirabilis that doesn't get seen nearly enough. When the hardback editions come out in the spring, you'll get to see some of his paintings in all their mouth-wateringly brilliant glory. Meanwhile here's another look at a few of his centaur images. See more Edwardian London fantasy by the talented Mr McKenna here on the Mirabilis website.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

It all starts here

Mirabilis has been in the App Store a little over 2 weeks now, and in that time we hit #12 in the UK books chart, #24 in France, and #74 in the US. Not a bad start to 2011. In a few weeks we'll have news of the iPhone version, and some other digital platforms too, along with more details of when readers in the UK and Eire can get their hands on those gorgeous Print Media hardback editions.

Stateside and Canada, you can get the trade paperback already: Mirabilis: Winter volume one from Amazon and from Barnes & Noble and volume two will be on sale before the end of January. There's never been a better time to make it a Year of Wonders.