Sector 13 issue four was, possibly, the most satisfying of all of the issues we’ve put out. One of the reasons being that we had a couple of stories which totally epitomised the aims we had talked about for the magazine when we first set it up.
From the beginning Sector 13 has been about getting as many members of the Belfast 2000AD fan-community involved as possible. Our photo-stories were a way to feature the cosplayers in the group and we have made great efforts to feature local writers and artists in each of our zines.
In issue four we had two stories by writers who had never even attempted to write comics before, this is how one of them came about….
|Judge James McBride|
At one of our Sector House 13 meet ups we were discussing future plans for our fanzine, particularly future scheduling, artists and the ongoing need for writers to submit new stories. A few ideas were thrown around, what would work and what we wanted to avoid. We all agreed we needed more Mega City-1 stories based on our own original characters.
I’d recently began re-reading 2000AD from Prog 1, mostly finding the stories very different to how I had imagined them as a 9-year-old boy. Where I once had read simple action stories set in a sci-fi world, I now read complicated characters whose choices and actions affected not only those around them but sometimes entire worlds. Two stories that stood out were Flesh, where future man, desperate to satisfy his need for meat travels through time to harvest dinosaur flesh. The other was Judge Dredd, in particular the role of the Judges in the madness of Mega City – 1 and the Cursed Earth outside its walls. I wondered what the affects would be if Flesh was set in the Dreddverse and if there was a way to use it in the fanzine.
A few days later a song from one of my favourite albums came on the radio, Ironic by Alanis Morrisette. I’d always found the lyrics poignant and more than a little menacing in parts and I began to think of a twist where dinosaur flesh was killing those who ate it, the thing that people wanted so badly was killing them! I considered a few scenarios but felt them too big, too complicated and the time travel aspect didn’t fit into the reality-based world of the 2012 Dredd movie that the Mega City-1 of our fanzines is set in. Then I realised I didn’t need time travel, or even dinosaurs for that matter, I had the horrors of the Cursed Earth to deliver my twist.
At that point the basic plot came together quite quickly, though it took several rewrites and small changes to details to make sure the ending made sense and had the desired impact. I wrote the story out, just like a school essay, unaware of how to structure a script for a comic book formatted story. Then I closed my jotter and put it in a drawer happy that I had wrote something, but it was a silly story and certainly not something anyone else would be interested in.
With great hesitation about a week later I mentioned it to my wife that I had written a story. She asked to read it, but I refused, feeling embarrassed but I eventually caved and showed her the manuscript. Thankfully she loved it, she checked the spelling and put it into print so we could see how it felt to read it in black and white. We then gave it to our sons to read and a positive reaction from a couple of teenage boys gave me the courage to send it to Peter and Laurence.
Actually pressing the send button on the laptop was still a very difficult thing to do though. I was expecting a polite reply at best, saying they couldn’t use the story.
Getting a story from James was a surprise, he’d written an entry for the Blog about his childhood memories of Starlord and 2000AD, but we’d had no inkling that he was working on anything else.
|Cover of the first issue of Shock Illustrated|
As editor I did a little bit of work on the text, making some minor changes to language and structure but leaving the vast majority of James’ original in place. As I worked at it and discussed it with Laurence and Simon, It became clear that we all felt it was important that we found a way to use it in the zine. To get it into print.
Part of that feeling was because it was James’ story. We knew that he didn’t think of himself as a writer and we understood how difficult it had been for him to show his work to us. Not only was this exactly what we wanted Sector 13 to be about, but this was James, our mate, and one of the key people holding the Sector House 13 group together. Mainly though, it was just a great story.
|A example of the Picto-Fiction style|
I’ve been reading comics for a very long time and stuck somewhere in the back of my mind was a memory of reading about ‘Pictofiction’ magazines*. Pictofiction was an attempt by EC comics to avoid the restrictions of the 1950’s Comics Code by publishing magazines that mixed prose with illustrations. A sort of half-way house between comics and illustrated fiction. They had only lasted a few issues and had been a failure but there was something there.
At an editorial meeting (we go to the Parlour Bar most Wednesdays) Laurence and I agreed that this seemed like exactly the format that would work for ‘Ironic’ and decided to go ahead. We were going to use a format for this story not used widely since those very few issues of Crime Illustrated, Shock Illustrated and Terror Illustrated in 1955.
The next step was to turn the prose into a script. I re-read the story, split it into sections and wrote some very detailed panel descriptions for each illustration. I took out some descriptive sections of the prose, knowing that the pictures would tell the tale better than the words.
We agreed the script with James and went in search of an artist.
We all agreed that Ironic needed the right artist to portray the necessary emotion, especially in the final few panels. Joseph McCafferty had drawn a strip featuring me and the other Sector House 13 cosplayers that was absolutely amazing. He was the artist I wanted to illustrate Ironic
Laurence and I were familiar with Joseph’s strip but I’ll freely admit that I had reservations. It was beautifully done, but it was short and was very ‘modern’ in style, not at all what we had in mind.
He’d also done some work for me which will be part of a second issue of Splank! at some stage. But the styles he had worked in were, if I’m honest, not at all what I had envisaged for this story.
Shortly afterwards we met Joseph at Omagh Comic Festival and more importantly saw his portfolio. There was so much more to his work than we’d seen in that initial strip. His portfolio contained amazing artwork and we knew instantly that he was the perfect artist for this job.
With the script in place and artist agreed we were ready to proceed. I happily left the process in the
capable hands of the fanzine
editorial team as they set about turning issue 4 into a reality.
|One of the panels which had to be cut slightly for publication.|
I had to pinch myself when the first of Joseph’s images arrived, it was surreal seeing my story come to life. Joseph has done a fantastic job of making my characters real, sharing their emotions and capturing the perfect balance between our old-fashioned story and its futuristic location.
He surpassed my highest hopes.
|An example of the attention to detail in Jospeh's work - some of the books on sale in the Bookshop!|
|Joseph's work with the 'aged paper' look.|
With all the work I’d almost forgotten just how brilliant that final image was.
Then we let James see the file, got Debbie to make sure we had not made any more stupid mistakes, and finally sent the files to the printer.
A week later I was handing the paper copy of Sector 13 to James at our launch at the Parlour Bar in Belfast.
I struggle to express my joy and delight with the finished story. Not only for myself but for Joseph, Peter and Laurence in making something that we are all so proud of. Without their help, encouragement, hard work and huge talents, Ironic would still be sitting in drawer unread.
And that just about sums up the purpose of Sector 13. Everyone involved loves 2000 AD, we want to make the best zine we can and we want to encourage as many people as possible to take the bull by the horns and do something creative.
Whether it’s that story you’ve thought of for years or the sketchbook you’ve been doodling in get your script to us, send that artwork in or get photographs taken in your cosplay costume. The worst that can happen is that we say we can’t use it. We’ll try to be as constructive as possible with our comments.
What is the best that can happen? Ask James was it worth taking the risk to bite the bullet and let us see his story, I think you can guess what his answer will be.
Details of our submissions guidelines can be found here, on the web-page we share with editor Peter Duncan's other comics, Splank! and Cthulhu Kids. We really do look forward to hearing from you.
Sector 13 Submission Guidelines
Copies of Issue 4 are available for £5 plus P&P (Total £7 in UK). Payment by Paypal to Sector13@Boxofrainmag.co.uk. Details of international charges and back issues can be found at the web-site. Sector 13 Back Issues
*No, I’m not quite old enough to remember EC comics first time round. I did however have reprints of the Pictofiction mags in my collection.