Saturday, 12 August 2017


Welcome to part two of this special three-part interview with some of the creative team behind the brand new 2000AD fanzine from Belfast, Sector 13.  In case you missed it I posted a write-up about this first issue of the new small press comic on Wednesday and the first part of this interview yesterday.  The comic really is a quality read and some of its contents is on a par with the best of the weekly Prog.  I'd go so far as to say a certain strip in it is even better than something similar attempted in spin-off monthly, the Judge Dredd Megazine!  As luck would have it, that strip is the topic of this part of the interview.

Well, I say "interview", more like a casual chat I happened to record with these fine people:

From left to right: Pit Crew Cosplayer (and cover star) Simon McKnight, Script Droid Andy Luke, Art Droid Jawine Westland, Editorial Droid Peter Duncan and Script Droid Laurence McKenna

As I stated last time it was unfortunate the lovely Jawina had to leave early but hopefully I'll catch up with her in the near future when some of her artwork makes it into an issue.  Yesterday we covered the creation of Sector 13 as a whole, how it came about and their thinking behind it while they were putting it together.  One of the strips in the premiere issue was created with a mix of photographs and sublime Ryan Brown artwork and a good chunk of the chat was taken up discussing it's evolution, from a simple by-the-numbers photo strip to the superb end result.

It's important to note first though that Ryan is a 2000AD artist and works incredibly hard for the comic (and other titles).  His work is fantastic and he constantly has a large workload, which speaks volumes about how in demand he is.  He would sometimes come to the monthly meets as a local artist and meet some of the fans, where over time everyone got to know each other, striking up friendships amongst the group.  He wasn't hunted down by the team and asked to contribute, they knew how little time he would have on his hands.  It was from these friendships that Ryan became involved in Sector 13 as the guys explain.  So just to be clear, he's not available for other fanzines and requests, so close that email!  His workload is chock-a-block and the team were very clear how this happy instance came about this time.

Anyway, on with part two!  Enjoy.


The American Reaper strip from the Judge Dredd Megazine in 2015 was a photo strip written by Pat Mills with art by Clint Langley.  At the time I felt it had great art surrounding the photographs but the actors felt too staged, too posed and detached from that art, too superimposed.  It felt like the strips Oink! would take the hand out of.  It didn't help that to show off the photos each and every panel was a simple rectangle and there were fewer per page, to maximise the supposed impact of each one.  However this just meant an interesting story took twice as long to get anywhere and ultimately felt dragged out and lost its impact.  Because of this, when I opened Sector 13 for the first time I was initially disappointed there was a photo strip.  But I soon realised I was wrong about Justice Perverted, written by Laurence McKenna who also took the photos, with additional art by 2000AD artists Ryan Brown.

Laurence McKenna (Script Droid): If I was to do a photo strip it would have all those things that are criticised for being absent.  It would have movement, it'd have definition and colour, it'd have humour and character... and I'd get Ryan Brown to do most of it (everyone laughs).  Clint Langley was criticised because it felt posed.

Simon McKnight (Pit Crew Cosplayer): I always got the impression it was more, "Right this is the photograph, so what's the story?".

A couple of separate pages of American Reaper from
the Judge Dredd Megazine back in 2015

Me: As much as I liked the story behind American Reaper I couldn't take it seriously because it felt a lot like the photo stories Oink! would take the piss out of.

Laurence: A lot of what we did learn with our strip we learned from Ryan, from those Wednesday criticisms.  Like Ryan was going, "You're showing me a series of photographs (Laurence gestures towards a hypothetical series of same-size photos on a page), make it bigger, make it badder, foreshorten it, put movement into in, put blurs... both don't give a f*** about the background and focus on the background.

Peter Duncan (Editorial Input): And he understood where light was coming from and it was all that sort of stuff.

Laurence: All we did... what we basically did was we took on board what he was saying.  You could literally do a photo strip which is going to be three columns down, nine frames, boom, boom, nine photographs.  Which, to be fair, was probably what I had in mind.  But after about f*****g ten minutes of listening to Ryan and realising what we could actually do with modern technology, though I'm not using Photoshop or anything on this s***, I'm using free cut-and-snip stuff off the free app on the iPad.  But we were told (by Ryan) what we could do; you could engender movement, you could run it into a painting program, you could do all of that!  Our biggest difficulty with that photo strip was the framing.  Every frame you see in that photo strip is... well, we took the photos, we did all that, but Ryan Brown framed them.  He moved the thing.  He moved the story through.

Simon: Like this page here was literally like block picture, block picture, block picture, block picture.  Ryan came along and was like, "Naw, you gotta take it out, you gotta move it about, make this person and this explosion come off the page, take this picture and take it away from there and mix it up.  Don't bore the person, you have to have their eyes constantly shifting."  He's their cover artist so he's all about quickly relaying information and making it exciting and if you can engineer that into every single panel...

Sector 13's photos are much better integrated into
the art and thus the story too

Laurence: The Clint Langley thing in the Megazine was just photographs.  There were really very, very good embellished or enhanced photographs, but the whole thing that Ryan got through to us was the thing has to be a story, it has to have that life movement about it, it has to be bigger than life, it has to be smaller than life, it has to be weirder than life.  Just move it through.  And frame it.  Framing is everything.  The one thing that I've learned, and we've learned about storytelling is framing is everything.

Peter: With the Clint Langley thing, I think he was trying to make photographs look like a painting, we're not, we're trying to make photographs look as good as they can look.

Laurence: We're trying to make photographs tell a story.

Me: How many photo shoots did it take to tell this story then?

Simon: We had a bank of photographs which existed from comic con events and stuff, then we had lists of specific shots which we needed so at a couple of events we got guys together and basically posed them amongst the rest of the comic con crowd.

Peter: And were there a couple taken at Joanne's (Joanne Alexander, another Pit Crew Cosplayer) house?

Laurence: Oh of course.

The eye-catching first page of strip in the comic

Simon: So we just did that and then Laurence spent a multitude of hours just cutting out everything else apart from the person.

Laurence: Well no you forget to mention, Simon, when we took a walk from Laganside up to the City Hospital and we photographed all the really interesting... when you're doing a photo strip in Mega-City One the last f*****g thing you want are red bricks (laughter) or anything that isn't hard, sunburned, sun-kissed, poured concrete.  If it's not concrete we don't want to know.  We took photos of the In Shops, we took photos of all those wee underpasses, we took photos of what would've been envisioned as a futuristic creation in 1969.  Take that old building beside that old petrol station down on Great Victoria Street, it's a s***-hole but it's a s***-hole where some guy was actually aspiring towards the future.  So basically, you know, his aspiration in 1969 we took in January 2017 when it was in its rack and ruin, but that was what we wanted, we just wanted poured concrete which was f****d up.  Mega-City One is concrete that's f****d up, full of nut jobs ruled by fascists.  That's why we loved the 2012 Dredd movie, if you look at it, it's a s***-hole.


You may have noticed Laurence doesn't mince his words and I'm glad to say this is a continuing theme for the third and final part of the interview which you can click to below.  I was thrilled to find out Sector 13 aren't simply confining themselves to this fanzine either, they have a mission to fuel the talent of creative individuals in Northern Ireland and the associated small press scene.  Next, we'll round things off by discussing how those monthly free-for-all meets have changed since I last attended, the small press scene here and how the group are positioning Sector 13.

If you've still to get caught up on the comic itself, or wish to buy a copy, you can do so by heading to my write-up from a few days ago by clicking here.

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