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143: Imagine the Neverending Story for adults, if not grown-ups
I have the basis of the Tracks of the Year done, but don’t quite have enough time today to write it up. In which case, I’ll knock it to next week, and as that’s the day of the Guardian Masterclass I suspect it means I’ll have to kick it to the week after that. Unless I do the newsletter on Thursday? That would work. How come my interior monologue is coming straight out through my fingers? Why can’t I stop it? Someone help me before I start writing my pin number or something.
Ticket to ride into my brain
Ludocrats. April 1st. Not Joking.
(Yes, you can imagine our delight when we realised that we would be soliciting for April in a year where the 1st was a Wednesday.)
Ludocrats was announced back in 2015, but its story starts way earlier than that.
Back in 2002, Jim Rossignol and I were working at Future Publishing, hammering out words on magazines. We’d decided the art which most inspired us existed outside the tedious dichotomy of what is credible and enjoyable (“Good taste”) and what is not-credible and enjoyable (“Cheese”). We wanted to sidestep that. This was a period where we were spending a lot of time feeling Miike Takashi, the KLF and the Metabarons. We loved things which existed beyond mere good and bad. Our highest compliment was to describe something as Ludicrous.
We started a side-project, an exquisite corpse where we wrote letters to one another in the voice of two Ludocrats. Jim used the professionally unprofessional oaf Baron Otto von Subertan. I used the neurotic sentient soundwave of Professor Hades Zero-k. We made a world. We made several. We eventually stopped when we saw its end approaching, and left to do other things, mainly of a ludicrous tone.
Since then Jim has had a successful career as a game developer that’s been a delight to watch – for example, his debut Sir, You Are Being Hunted is the logical meeting point between S.T.A.L.K.E.R and a country fete turned feral. I did what I did. I’ve always felt our works were in conversation with one another. It’s been good to see him put such work into the world while remaining so him.
Still - Ludocrats lingered. We thought it’d be fun to do something with it, and do something together again. We flirted with it over the years , until eventually we found the moment. I wanted to do something with just epic, aggressive, essential fun, something that would tickle the world in the way that NextWave tickled and sustained me back in 2006-2007. My friend, the astounding David Lafuente, joined us.
We announced it in 2015 and it never happened. Erk.
The reason is pretty simple: schedules just never aligned. Eventually we realised they were never going to align and we went on our way. It’s sad, but it’s the nature of the beast.
I presumed that was it for the Ludocrats, as you can’t just replace someone like David.
Then, a couple days after that, Jeff Stokely just tweeted casually that he was going to be looking for work in a couple of months.
You clearly can’t replace David, but you can burn a project to the ground and start again, and have someone who is just as wild in his own, completely different way. Whatever the book was, would be a big burst of human imagination on the page and its design was to be as playful and improvisational as the letters which Ludocrats originally formed. Jeff could do that. Jeff was born to do it. I’ve wanted to work with Jeff for years now, being especially a huge fan of his collaborations with Si Spurrier, Six Gun Gorilla and the Spire. I mailed Jeff the script and crossed my fingers. I actually thought he may turn it down as it was too him and he’d be worried that he’d be stereotyped as drawing bags of sentient wheat or whatever.
But no. He was in. We were away.
Tamra Bonvillain joined us in the endeavour. Yesterday she tweeted a page from Once & Future which she had teased before release with the line “One of my favorite things to do is put every single color on one page.” If this isn’t a Ludocrat, what is? Less is more, but sometimes more is more. Her and Jeff pop.
I checked if Clayton Cowles has had enough of my shit yet. Not yet. A man who’s managed to deal with some of the most impossible font options was brought to bear on the task. Jim and I had plans to fill every spare page in the comic with beautiful ornate comedy, all annotated diagrams, fake letters pages and anything else we could comprehend. Sergio Serrano had designed WicDiv, and agreed to wrestle with the beast. And Chrissy Williams agreed to keep all that lot in good disorder.
We were on.
That’s a lot of text. Here’s some preview pages and if you wanna look at them bigger, go nose over here. The DPS does not fit a newsletter well, does it?
Here’s the press release. Relevant quote.
"I have a reputation of making intense grimoires about crying," Gillen told The Hollywood Reporter, while reclining on his throne of skulls. "This isn't that. This is an explosion of glitter and slugs, arranged artfully, nonsense and lack of sensibility. Its aim is to make you happy. Also, horrified."
Here’s the solicitation. Relevant quote.
The Ludocrats! The ludicrous aristocrats! A collision of the ornate fantasy of Dune and an M-rated Asterix & Obelix! Baron Otto Von Hades and Professor Hades Zero-K are here, and they’re going to save us all have a nice time.
KIERON GILLEN (DIE, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE) and JIM ROSSIGNOL (Sir, You Are Being Hunted) write! JEFF STOKELY (The Spire) draws! TAMRA BONVILLAIN (Once & Future) colors! Clayton Cowles (BITTER ROOT, DIE) letters! The universe screams in pleasure, writhing, finally satisfied, complete, joyous!
You may have noticed we have embraced a certain editorial voice on this one.
It’s a fantasy adventure. The “Dune meets Asterix & Obelix” is the most accurate way of describing it, which is why we lobbed it in the previews. There’s others. Imagine Pratchett if instead of being a kind and brilliant humanist, he was a complete shithead. Imagine the Neverending Story for adults, if not grown-ups. Imagine imagining. We can and will go on.
Speak to your retailer to pre-order. The single issues will be beautiful, chunks of culture. I’ll be willing to bet there’s more content in a given issue of Ludocrats than anything else on the market. It’s a book with two writers on it, and they will not be contained.
Its Diamond code is FEB200052. Speak to your retailer and be sure you specify how many copies you want, as I’m sure retailers will be assuming everyone wants a dozen, and you may want more.
This will be fun. Can’t wait to finally get it in front of everyone.
As the intro said, I’m doing my Guardian Masterclass next Wednesday (5th). I’m still writing it and deciding on the exact material, but any conversation with a peer has ballooned into me trying out bits and pieces. Poor James Tynion IV had to deal with it at the weekend, the unfortunate fella.
Anyway – I’m told there’s a last few tickets if you can make it, and there’s a 10% off code to make it easier.
This week has mainly been tiredness. Planes to another bit of our globe and back when the weekend was over will do that.
The American Librarian Association Winter Thingy was a delight. It’s a completely different beast to a usual con, and getting to see Librarians in their natural habitat was a delight. I’m always a sucker for intense shop talk of a career which I’m not in, and doubly so when it’s a career which is so directly important to what I do. I also got a chance to hang out with a bunch of people, not least separate meals with the ever-lovely Justin Jordan, James Tynion IV and Marieke Nijkamp. Getting a chance for face time with talented people is basically the main reason I sit in a giant metal bird for eight hours.
(I also had a chance to read Marieke’s forthcoming collaboration with Manuel Preitano, the Oracle Code. Its part of DC’s YA line, and is a lovely designed, emotional grounded and driven piece of work. Plus I’ve never seen wheelchair use presented like this in a comic– hell, not even in fiction generally. It's an Oracle story like nothing I've ever seen before, and I can only applaud.)
I did a bunch of reading generally. From before Christmas I’ve been working my way through a novel I said I’d read and consider blurbing. The problem is that it’s 1000 pages long and its format means I have to read it on an Ipad due to the design elements (which means I have to cart my Ipad pro around). And worst of all, it’s really good, so I can’t just nope out.
Anyway – I finished that and clearly am in a running-delighted-free-through-the-forests mode, just hitting whatever book that presents me, and churned through four things over the weekend. THE TRUTH (Pratchett, which I had read before, but forgot that I’d read – clearly as an ex-journo reading another ex-journo’s take on the form, I’m was all in), Comic Wars: Marvel's Battle for Survival By Dan Raviv (Business journal about the 90s bankruptcy, which I finally read after being recommended by Eric Stephenson in a recent interview), A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES by Simon Parkin (which is about the boardgame simulations ran by Wrens which invented the tactics which allowed the Navy to win the Atlantic WW2 shipping war, and hits all my buttons, as if The Night Witches were all playing boardgames while being dismissed by the establishment) and DOWN AMONG THE STICKS by Seanan McGuire (the second of her Wayward Children novella, following the backstory of two of the more compelling cast of the fast. Beautiful fairytale rhythms turned to startling effects, like a scalpel on a snare drum.) As I’m in a period where I don’t have to read something for research for quite a while, I have no idea what’s next, and that is utterly delightful.
Work? Just finished DIE 12’s draft which needs to be polished. Notes for PROJECT COWBOY’s scripts are good. Once & Future 8 handed in. Bits of Ludocrats backmatter written. The next step of the worldbuilding of the DIE campaign. Next up, and biggest, is to dive into PROJECT PRIVATE BUKOWSKI’s biggest thing so far, which is somewhat intimidating. Oh – and preparing that Guardian speech. So, yes, busy.
Back to it.