Invitation

Jay Eales was someone I had known for a while through online Doctor Who fandom: he had already co-edited the well-respected charity anthologies Perfect Timing and Perfect Timing 2, but more importantly he turned out to be a genuinely fun person to while away the evenings arguing with. When he announced another charity anthology – Walking in Eternity – I successfully submitted a story, and he gradually became somebody I could chat with publicly and privately.

Walking in Eternity was published by Jay and Selina Lock's small press Factor Fiction, which was more usually the home of some top quality independent comics. 

Actually, the first official publication from Factor Fiction was Walking in Eternity. Having done the Perfect Timing books with co-editors, when I decided to go solo for the next book, I felt I needed an imprint, and Factor Fiction was it.

When we were done with Walking in Eternity, my partner in crime, Selina and I cast about for a new project. Selina decided that she wanted to produce a comic for all the comics widows, dragged by their boyfriends to comic conventions, with very little in the way of comics they wanted to read. Running in parallel with Girly was Violent! – An homage to the legendary British comic of the 1970s, Action. Edited by Mike Sivier, it was published once or twice a year, and I gradually infiltrated it like a virus – Mike was finding it more difficult to devote time to publishing Violent!, and after some negotiations, it was decided that Factor Fiction should take over that role, to allow Mike to spend what time he had writing strips for it.

Jay Eales

When I found this out, I brought myself a stash of their back issues of the Violent! and The Girly Press anthologies and felt the warm glow of envy: comics are my other medium of choice, and I've long wanted to write for them. When I mentioned to Jay that I'd enjoyed them, he said that they were always on the look out for new stories, and if I had anything suitable to send it over.

We drew heavily on friends and contacts, and those we encountered at comic conventions, who were looking to break in. There's a lot of crossover between Doctor Who fandom and comics fandom, so if I knew a Who writer who was eager to work in comics, I'd extend the invitation, much as what happened with Dale.

Jay Eales

Inspiration

When I used to work at the John Rylands Library, I met a writer and blogger called Rachel Kendal. She set up the webzine Sein und Werden, and used to blog voraciously as kissthewitch. I had the idea of a writing collaboration that she wouldn't even know was happening: me using her words from the blog as the basis of a script for a comic, selecting and re-contextualising them with a story told through images. I had also just written a story called A Woman of Words for the first issue of Sein and Werden, and I think it's protagonist was still on my mind when I was thinking of ideas.

There was also a smidge of the film Secretary in there too.

Getting the Story

The visuals for the story came first, the frame by frame progression of the story without any words. I took all my knowledge of how to write a comic script from the various scripts for Sandman that Neil Gaiman make public over the years, and simply worked back from my ending. Then I went through about a month's worth of Rachel's blogs, looking for words and phrases that would add some kind of meaning to the images. The bulk of the words came in the final panel as an explosion: the words leading up to it came from two or three posts, taken completely out of context.

Editorial

I submitted final scripts for Cut and another, longer, idea for a SF comic: I'd assumed that Cut would be more Girly Comic material, and the SF comic more for Violent! When he read them, Jay said there was a spot in Violent! that Cut would be perfect for, while the SF would have to wait a little longer so he could find it a willing artist. Jay didn't ask for any changes to the script: changing the words might have been problematic given the point was that they were found objects, and I'd already made it clear that I was happy for the artist to make changes to the imagery if they felt it best.

In the end, the images were pretty much what I had suggested, although the layout was greatly improved. Jay asked Jim Mortimore to provide the artwork, who I only knew as a fellow Doctor Who writer but who had a fantastic photo-realistic style that made the whole story much more effective than the D'Israeli The Kindly One's era stylised cartoons I'd originally imagined for it.

I can't now recall how I put Dale together with Jim Mortimore on Cut, though it was probably because I thought they'd work well together, and that Jim's experimental art style would complement the script.

Jay Eales

What Happened Next

The strip was published in Violent! #9, and I was really happy with it. It came out at just the right time for me to give a copy of it to Rachel as a birthday present: she was – thankfully – flattered.

 

I don't think I was aware that Dale's collaborator on Cut was unaware that it was happening. I had it in mind that Kissthewitch was Dale's girlfriend/wife, so this is all new to me. If I had known the background, I'd probably have suggested letting her know first. As it is, no harm done, and a nice birthday surprise preserved.

Jay Eales

Before talking to Jay about this, it hadn't even occurred to me that using Rachel's words without her express permission was a risk. I hope that is because I knew Rachel so well as to be completely sure of her reaction, and not because I'm too stupid to realise the potential pitfalls. It could have been that Rachel wouldn't have wanted her words used in that context, or that she would - quite reasonably - has expected the right to say yes or no to whether her words were used at all. She didn't, but it was a risk - and one I took on Jay's behalf without telling him, which is almost as tricky for an ongoing relationship.

As it was, I was right about how Rachel would react. But with hindsight, I possibly should have thought about it a little harder before I did it.

As for the other script, it – I think – struggled to find an artist, although Jay did get in touch almost a year after I'd submitted it to say he was going to dig it out and try again. Nothing came of it, but in truth it wasn't as strong or as self-contained a story as Cut.

I am still disappointed that I never managed to find the right artist to do it justice. Sometimes that's just how it goes. If Violent! was still being published (I put a stake through its heart in 2014 after limping along for a couple of years having lost artists on ongoing series again and again), with the right artist, I would schedule Dale's script in a heartbeat. While Dale is right that Cut is a more striking piece, I think he undersells the other strip, which would have made a fine addition to our pages. I'd still love to see it finished, if nothing else.

Jay Eales

I didn't try writing any more comics, for Jay or for anybody. I can't really say why: possibly I just got pulled into other things as I chased more Doctor Who work. Possibly the itch was scratched, and I only ever had the one story to tell in that way.