I first met Andrew Cheverton back in March 2011 at the London Comic and Small Press expo which was held at Goldsmith’s University in New Cross. The Angry Candy table was the first one I visited as I was very curious about a comic book called West. The creators (Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable) and I indulged in a long conversation about creating comic books and it’s fair to say that a friendship between us all quickly developed. Towards the end of our enlightening chat, Andrew told me that he had script on his hard drive which was “doing nothing” and would I be interested in drawing it..?
“Hmm, maybe, what’s it about?”
“Oh, it’s short story with a twist. It’s based on the old 2000AD strip, Flesh!”
“Flesh?! Where do I sign?”
Flesh! is one of my all time favourite stories to appear in The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 2000AD. I remember reading it when it came out in the late 70′s, when my uncle used to pass on his comics to me. What child wouldn’t be both captivated and excited about a story containing cowboys, time travel and dinosaurs (oh, and some gore thrown in for good measure)? Some of the images brilliantly drawn by the artist, Roman Sola, have been etched into my brain since those childhood experiences, and they still remain as an influence to this day.
Andrew sent me the script, which I enjoyed immensely. It had a lovely “old school” feel to it and the chance to draw the two main characters, Earl Reagan and “Claw” Carver, pushed my thrill power levels to overload. In many ways, this opportunity was a dream come true.
Originally, Flesh: Future Shock wasn’t to appear in Zarjaz but in a completely different 2000AD fanzine. This particular publication was to be printed as a “newspaper”, which both myself and Andrew were very excited about. Andrew’s script was originally to be read over five pages and we had the challenge of editing it down to a single A3 page. None of the original story was changed, but on a few occasions, two panels were condensed into one. It was great fun trying to solve this puzzle.
It’s pretty hard to draw dinosaurs (well, it is for me anyway). There are very few about now to draw from life, so I spent a few days in the Natural History Museum, in London, to make studies of the Triceratops’s bone structure so that I could gain a better understanding of their scale and mass. Painstaking research and accuracy play a big part in my artwork; quite often, I draw particular poses, objects and scenes from life. I believe it’s a huge part of telling a believable and convincing story and it helps me to understand how “things work”. It’s a key ingredient of my work and a process I thoroughly enjoy.
Throughout the summer of 2011, I worked tirelessly on Flesh: Future Shock; I divided the strip into two separate A4 sized pages and bounced from one page to the other, trying to bring the whole strip together at the same time. Once completed, the two pages were “pasted” together to create the overall page to fit the publishers requirements.
The overall effect of pasting the two pages together worked very well. Andrew and I were very pleased with the end result. It had been a tricky task editing the entire story onto one page, but we believed that we had created a strong, punchy story and one that the readers would fully enjoy.
But, the unexpected happened. No sooner had I completed all of the artwork… the publication had folded. Flesh: Future Shock would never see the light of day. These things, unfortunately, happen. I was particularly upset and I’m sure Andrew was as well. What were we to do?
Well, I had an idea whereby we publish the story ourselves, either as an A3 print or by redesigning the strip into a stylish story book by dividing the panels onto separate pages. I created a mock up version which I sent to Andrew who was very keen on the idea.
Another alternative was to pitch Flesh: Future Shock to Dave Evans and Richmond Clements at Futurequake Press, who produce a brilliant 2000AD fanzine anthology called Zarjaz. Andrew presented our strip to the both of them at the Thought Bubble comic convention. Both Dave and Richmond were very familiar with both of our previous works and it’s fair to say that they loved what we had produced. They quickly and enthusiastically snatched Flesh: Future Shock out of our hands. Both myself and Andrew were very pleased that our story was finally going to be read, and for it to be featured in such a brilliant and caring publication was a huge bonus.
But, there was yet another problem… Zarjaz is printed at A5 size, Flesh Future Shock was designed to fit onto one A3 page. Reducing the artwork down would pretty much make the story unreadable. Our next task was to solve a new puzzle by “re-mixing” the entire story. Andrew took care of this brilliantly. I’m not sure why I didn’t do it myself, as I’m very precious over my artwork; I think it came down to trust. I had worked closely with Andrew on the project right from the start and I had gained a huge amount of faith in his abilities, especially after seeing what he magnificently produces with his own comic, West. Andrew produced a superb job, editing the artwork to spread over three pages, including a double page spread, which was very much a tradition in the older issues of 2000AD. I can’t praise and thank him enough over his handling of this task. I thought that the final pages looked wonderful and to be honest, the strip looked better for it. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
Flesh: Future Shock was released in Zarjaz #16 in November 2012 at the Thought Bubble Comic Convention (funny how things go round in a cycle) to a well received response. Steven Denton wrote this of it in his review of Zarjaz #16 on the Massacre for Boys blog:
“Short, snappy, and beautifully-illustrated by David Frankum, Flesh could easily appear in the 1982 2000AD annual. Andrew Cheverton has taken this over-the-top gore fest and shaped it into a tale for 2000AD’s signature sci-fi Future Shock style. Frankum’s art work is reminiscent of Bryan Talbot at his best, with dark, solid shadows and form-defining hatching. If the small press had an A-list of artists then David Frankum would be on it.”
Flesh: Future Shock is a strip I’m extremely proud of. It was a journey full of highs and lows, but we made it to our destination. Creating this story was a wonderful experience; from my first meeting with Andrew, to popping into Orbital comics in London and seeing someone looking at our story and taking the comic to the counter to buy and enjoy. A magnificent moment.
Please check out Andrew’s other exciting projects over at the Angry Candy website. Andrew and I are currently working on an ongoing comic series titled ‘A Month of Sundays’.