Random Writing

Here is a were I keep my untidy writings – article and reviews etc.


For Bleeding Cool:

To say it is has been hard to produce my 136 page graphic novel called 'The Man With No Libido' and get it to the attention of the public would be something of a giant understatement.

Something I naively thought would take me six months to put together and produce, instead took the best part of 3 years, my youth and several frayed friendships strained to breaking point along the way. So let’s start at the beginning. After realizing that I didn’t want to work in film anymore and that no-one was going to give me fifty million to tell my own stories I looked around and wondered if there was another way I could tell the stories that I wanted to when I realized there was and it was sitting on my coffee table in front of me. Comics.

To say I love them would be an understatement. I buy one Trade paperback a week and used to buy a couple of monthlies as well before the economy went south. Here was a medium were I didn’t need a budget and I no longer had to put up with idiot producers telling me that i should put more tits/explosions/monkey’s into my plots. I could write what I wanted for a fraction of the price of a film and wouldn’t have to compromise with my story. Just 100% me for better or worse. If I failed it was due to people not liking my story not one hashed together by a committee of people who couldn’t stand each other. All I needed was an idea and I had one.

Like everyone in life (unless you’re insanely lucky) I’ve been rejected in love. Sometimes nicely sometimes not. And like most people I’ve at some time gone and sworn myself off the opposite sex after a particularly bad relationship. The ‘I’m done with women’ or the infamous ‘All men are b*stards’ are lines that we’ve all trotted out at some stage so I wondered what if? What if you could do something about it if you wanted to swear off relationships? Wouldn’t life be easier? No complications, no messy relationships, no more compromising?

So I began to write the script. It was meant to be a small initial effort to start off in. Dip my toes in the shark infested water of independent comics and see what bit. That was until I finished the script. At the end of my first foray in comic book writing I had a 136 page story about a humble nerd called Mitch Daily who just wants the pain of rejection to stop. So after seeing a new procedure which would remove his libido and all thoughts of love, relationships or sex he decides that if he goes going to be alone he might as well be happy so he has the procedure. To say this doesn’t just change things for Mitch who becomes the new poster boy for this new non-sexual revolution but for the world over as ‘nice guys’ everywhere start to follow him in having the procedure is the trust of the story. It was a romantic comedy but dark in some places and every word was mine and what I wanted to say. Suddenly the idea of dipping my toes in the water went out the window as I planned to take a giant bellyflop off the top diving board.

Now that I’d poured out my blood, sweat and tears onto the page and was finished creatively it was time for me to cast my baby out into the world and hire an artist to shape it into the story that it was to become. This was going to be easy. I had seen lots of artists begging for work in comics and had met more than one grumbling that no one was giving new artists a chance. So here was me with my humble script, a logo I had made up for my company ‘Quiet Hell Comics’ (long story) and my life savings ready to pay someone to turn my script into an actual comic! I thought all I had to do was sit back and wait for the CV’s to role in and they did slowly.

Firstly let me say there is a lot of the artists that auditioned were good it’s just that there particular style didn’t suit what I was looking for. I wanted it to be the style of an OEL Manga (Original English Language) something akin to Scott Pilgrim or what Tokyo Pop was doing at the time. Our styles didn’t click and that’s cool maybe next time. Eventually I was blown away by a guy called Gus (not his real name) whose art made me want to bring it home and make sweet love to it. So Gus got the job and held it for 8 weeks until I fired his ass. Gus’s productivity at this time can be measured in three e-mails and one stoned missed call when he accidentally rang me instead of his dealer. I never heard from him again and as far as I know he might still think he’s the artist of my comic feverishly working away on it between bong hits. The second artist I hired was what I like to call an artiste. What prey tell is the difference between an artist and an artiste you ask? Well it’s simple an artist actually draws things while an artiste will talk about drawing things. If there’s a Turner prize for talking bullsh*t this guy who I’ll call Phil could in fact win it. He lasted three months before I canned him. So at the end of five months my project had two fired people, lots of stress and not one page of art drawn. Eventually I went with a guy I knew and who I actually took the time to audition were he had to produce pages for me before giving him the go ahead was a lad I ironically worked with at the time called Steve Kearney who would be the actual artist on the book. I now had an artist on board and we were finally rolling again. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for Steve to churn out the art work while I sat back and waved merrily at my six month deadline as it flew past.

As you might have guessed the drawing and the inking which I roped him into as well took Steve a lot of time to do. This wasn’t his first job and he was doing this at night and working during the day as bit by bit he made his way through my script. I can’t tell you the thrill of getting new artwork in and seeing a scene that you’ve had in your head for over a year now on the page in front of you. Bit by bit, scene by scene, the story came together and after eighteen months of steady work the pages were finished all we had to do now was get a letterer.

You’d think lettering would be easy right? Well maybe it is for other people, but for someone like me who still has difficultly mastering light-switches and has the steady hand of an alcoholic in remission it wasn’t. Steve was off recovering so I had to find someone else to step in. Enter stage door left my brother Billy. Billy volunteered to do it and more importantly said he’d do it for free. He had me at free.

The thing is Billy is a laid back fellow in fact he’s someone I suspect Gus would warm to instantly. So after some time in which threats, cajoling and to the eternal shame of my late twenties shouting down the phone at one stage ‘I’m telling Mom!’ were uttered we slowly moved forward with the lettering. That wasn’t to say there weren’t still hiccups. Halfway through my brother went for a test at his college and results came back that he was dyslexic. Yes I had the only dyslexic letterer in the history of comics working on my ‘professional looking’ comic book. We were also working on the deadline of my brother emigrating to Australia.  One of my worst memories is us the night before he left for Australia staying up trying to finish the book as our family swirled around us getting passports, clothes and papers ready before they left in the early morning. Luckily just as we were nearly finished his computer broke. I don’t mean crashed now I mean broke so we moved it to my laptop that also broke and then the home computer which also broke. I have no idea what odds you’d get for three computers crashing simultaneously in one house but I can tell you the distance a computer screen can fly across a driveway after being thrown by a man at the end of his tether. Thankfully my uncle’s computer on the other side of town worked and we were able to up-load the pages onto it saving the book and my sanity. I then turned around bade my brother goodbye and waved as he left for Australia. I wouldn’t see him again for two years.

It was at this stage that I began to slightly relax. I mean the book is finished all I need to do now is get it printed. How hard could that be? I was my own publisher so there was no problem with content etc. And printing companies were well companies as in they did this for their living. After checking out a rake of different companies and checking prices I found one in close to me in Ireland that agreed to do the book and was the cheapest by far. This was for several reasons; if you publish a book in Ireland for yourself you don’t have to pay tax, also as I was Irish and lived in Ireland it would be a lot closer to me than one in Canada or China were I had also looked. I also wouldn’t have to pay for shipping or post which again would be a money saver. Yep I had this all figured out and with the company’s promise of the book going to print in three weeks’ time I was practically floating going out the door.

The next part of the story I will summarize. It took the company six months to print the book. The reasoning being they gave us a person who thought photoshop was a place where you bought picture frames. After many strained conversations and pointed e-mails. It was only after a clear the air meeting with the company head in which the work their ‘expert’ had done that I got an apology and more importantly a new person to handle my book. The efficient Eastern European woman they gave me took his mess of six months and after two weeks. Yes that’s right after TWO WEEKS the book was printed.

There were still mistakes of course. The dedication is way too big and I can’t look at the word ‘completely’ in my book without wondering which of the several spellings we have of that word is the right one. Some of you might be wondering why I might have being so frustrated with the time it took to get printed. Was it worth the threats and the sleepless nights? Well there was a good reason for this. I too was heading off to Australia.

Between the time that I had started the book and the time it was printed the entire Irish economy crashed spectacularly causing thousands of people to be unemployed with me among the huddled masses of the now defunct Irish state. Reluctantly I too had to emigrate as jobs became rarer than a 1930′s Superman no. 1 issue. My visa for Australia was expiring so I literally had to be there before a certain date otherwise I couldn’t go. So in the end I had a grand total of three weeks to launch my comic before heading off to the sunny Southern Hemisphere for an entire year. Even today I just want to hold my head in despair the day I walked through that particular printer’s door.

Anyway after a year in Australia and what I can only describe as a scatter shot approach to marketing my comic I’m back shilling it again. Diamond was good enough to turn me down and I went to an Irish distribution company who managed to lose two of my books I sent for their perusal before they also turned me down. On the plus side the book is now on sale on Amazon and has done well in all the independent comic book shops that have sold it for me in Ireland. I’ve met some cool people and learned a hell of a lot. I am also working on another less ambitious comic book which will definitely not be printed by the same crowd as before. I still have very mixed emotions when I look at my comic book but I still achieved something against some painful odds and my book is out there with my name on it and I am proud of my work though not fond of it yet. So that’s my story. I’m sure other guys and girls who have gone down the same path have a tale to tell also. So maybe next time you’re browsing through Amazon check out my title, it’ll mean more to me than you’ll know and help me and my little book begin to grow fond of each other again.

For Irish Comic News: Irish Comics and Archiving

Looking back over the last year or two as the selection of Irish titles grows in our little corner of the world market I am gladdened and slightly worried about the future and the past of the Irish comic book scene. Will the historians of the future have access to the works of today? While that might sound like a self-aggrandizing statement it’s intended to be. Check out some of these great Irish titles and tell me are they easy to find? Church of Hell by Berserker Comics or Mbleh! by Bob Byrne? While we have a fantastic font of digital knowledge compiled by Paddy Brown and his collaborators at http://irishcomics.wikia.com how many of the persons mentioned are just a footnote whose work has being lost through time? Now how many of the people writing today’s work will have disappeared in the near future only to appear if a person gets lucky at a comic mart or in a long box at a comic book shop?

At this moment in time only books that have an ISBN number are required to donate to the Library of Congress repositories in Ireland and Britain. The Irish repositories being the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, UCC, UCD, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, University of Limerick, Dublin City University, the British Library, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and the Bodlean Library (Oxford, England). In case you’re wondering the ISBN is the barcode number you see on the back of every book that gets printed and the Library of Congress is the database for every book that gets printed in the English language in the entire world. That means when you donate your barcoded book (which you are legally required to do the Republic of Ireland under the Copyright and Related Rights Act) these copies will go to those libraries where they will be kept for the rest of time and your name will be added to the list of known writers in the world on the LoC database (http://catalog.loc.gov/). I for one will find it a kick to see my name there when the database gets up-dated later this year, as will my collaborators Kearney, Stephen, 1982-and Browne, Billy, 1987-  from our book ‘The Man with No Libido’ (the reason why they have they years after them is that there not the first Billy Browne or Stephen Kearney in the database). Also if you’re wondering why Ireland has so many LoC repositories and in different countries please ask the IRA who was good enough to burn down the last one during the Irish War of Independence meaning the Irish people lost thousands of priceless valuable documents, something the Irish government swore would never happen again.

As for comic books and archiving the Library of Congress actually has a good record. In fact the biggest collection of Comic books in the entire world is in the hands of the Library of Congress in the U.S.  so it is not like comic books being archived is a new thing for them. Unfortunately  the repositories in Ireland have being incredibly slow to recognize the historical importance or historical potential if you will of Irish made comic books and comic books with Irish Creators. The only comics by Garth Ennis who is arguably the premier Irish comic book writer at the moment kept by the National Library of Ireland are the Preacher books. None of Ennis’s other works have being kept by the Irish state which is quite shameful. As a person who has worked at the National Library of Ireland before and is a librarian by trade I can tell you that it isn’t snobbery that stops them from buying Irish comic books more like genuine ignorance that there is Irish comics or who in the comic book industry is Irish.

When I previously worked at the National Library of Ireland and brought this to their attention the lack of comic books by Irish creators in their repository I found out to my dismay that the budget for the National Library is so low at the moment that they have over 3,000 titles they were unable to buy last year that were deemed of importance to Irish Heritage going forward. And while I may disagree that they really don’t need that 65th copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners even if it is in Bulgarian that is still quite a shortfall for a National Library in Western Europe.  (At some stage when the economy picks up we will have to organize an open letter to the LoC repositories in Ireland informing them of their lack of diligence when it comes to Irish comics and give them a list of titles that should be purchased on behalf of the Irish state but that’s for the future). At this moment in time these repositories are relying on donations. When I informed them of their lack of Irish comic books and asked could I donate some it was gratefully accepted and I was able to add the following titles to the National Library’s repository.

Finn and Fish 1 by Leeann Hamilton

Spell Maffia by John Lee and Denise O’Moore

Last Bus:  volume 1 by Patrick Lynch

Weekend lost and other comics by Ken Mahon

If only I was a waterproof watch by John Currivan and David Mooney.

So if you want future generations a hundred years from now to see what the Irish comic book scene was like at the start of the 21st century donate your work today. If your work doesn’t have a ISBN you are not under any requirement to donate to all or any of them but it would be nice if you donated to at least one of them with the National Library of Ireland being the best as it is the primary resource for historians and researchers in this country. All you have to do is post it to the following address:

Copyright Department,

The National Library of Ireland,

Kildare   Street,

Dublin 2,

The National Library will accept anything of Irish interest.  That means a comic set in Ireland or a work by an Irish creator, just mention that in the covering letter you send with it. If you’re worried about your work being rejected don’t be; one of the first books I catalogued there was a French pornography comic about a horny little female leprechaun who got out of her troubles by performing some type of sex act on her captors! Together we can hopefully build up a collection that will make our future descendants proud of us.


My Big Read

The advice I received or read from all great writers was the same. If you want to be a great writer you had to be a great reader. A lot of this is for practical reasons, if you don’t stay up with the current trends (even if you ignore them) or are constantly checking yourself against the works of others be it for inspiration or as a barometer of the quality at a particular moment in time then you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. From a personal viewpoint like most introspective people I just enjoy reading and being immersed in worlds that are different from mine, regardless of the genre or story being told.  Also as a person who works as a librarian for a living this advice made perfect sense to me. My goodreads account safely has me over the one thousand books read and I felt quite comfortable in my bookishness. But was I reading the right books?


For a start there is no such thing as the ‘right book’ everyone has there own tastes and interests and just because someone thinks 50 Shades of Grey is the greatest book in the world while some else loves ‘War and Peace’ doesn’t mean that the E.L. James fan is wrong.  By the right books I meant the books that by their nature had defined in some way the story of literature be it through sheer talent like Joyce’s Ulysses or sheer marketing like The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown.  But how to find the right books and how many to read?


I can easily say that these weren’t burning questions of mine when I emigrated to Australia in 2011 but while there a fortuitous event happened. I was staying in a hostel in Australia with nothing to read when I wandered over to the left library that was in my Hostel’s reception. These were books left by intrepid backpackers who decided for one reason or another to leave these books behind while they embarked on the next part of their journey into the unknown. Idly flipping through these looking for something to read of what would have to be called a pretty terrible selection I came across one of the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels Mort. With nothing else vaguely interesting me I wandered off to my room to kill a few hours while waiting to call it a night. It was my first Discworld book and I loved it. Having devoured the book in two days I was ruefully putting it back on its shelf when the sticker on the front caught my eye. It stated that Mort was one of the ‘Big Read books’ the top 100 books as voted by the British public through voting by the BBC. The Big Read had taken over three quarters of a million votes from the British public to find Britain's best-loved novel of all time. The 2003 year-long survey was the biggest single check of public reading taste up to that date. Huh, I thought I wonder how many of them I’d read? The answer when I checked was not many. About 35 out of the 100 best books as voted by the British public was my number. More embarrassingly I hadn’t even heard of some of them. The most democratic list ever put together of books voted by the widest spectrum of society and I hadn’t even heard of a rake of them and I was meant to be a literate person with one book out who wanted to make this my career and 35 was my number!? This would have to change.


So then and there I decided on a whim to read the full 100 books on the list. Thinking that it would be a strong foundation for my future literary career even if comics was the area that I wanted to progress in I began with the 100th book Midnights Children by Salman Rusdie (hated it) and over three and a half years later I finished with Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (really enjoyed it). In the last three and a half years I read high-brow literature like The Magus by John Fowles to children’s books like Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson. Not every book was to my taste but all had their own interests and idiosyncrasies.


Some I admired but didn’t like such as ‘A Prayer from Owen Meaney’ while others, which I thought I’d hate, I really enjoyed such as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck. The part that I enjoyed most about my reading experience was the sheer breath of books on the list. If this had being a list put together by a committee of po-faced scholars it would have reflected the taste of their little group no matter how democratic they’d try to be. With every demographic casting their vote in the Big Read it meant that I was easily getting the most eclectic mix of books thrown together by the widest range of people. It was also getting me out of my comfort zone as a reader, which was another reason why I undertook this little adventure of mine.


Ever gone to the same restaurant and ordered the same dish time and time again? Well I’d done that as a reader. A goal of mine was to try and expand my palate from a literary perspective by trying new genres, new writers and new titles.  I might not like everything but I probably wouldn’t hate everything either. There might even be something I loved.


In interviews before, I’d seen various top writers and editors in the comic book industry complain about how new writers weren’t bringing anything new to the scene. To paraphrase one Marvel editor ‘All these kids have read is Spiderman and now they want to write their version of Spiderman by rehashing all the old Spiderman stories.’

Now don’t get me wrong I love Spiderman but I see his point. If I pick up a Spiderman book I don’t want to read the same tale told ten years ago but with a slight take to bring it up to speed with the latest technology. I want to read a Spiderman book that transcends the genre and sparks my imagination. The last thing I want to do is put down a book and go ‘Meh’.


If we look at the very top writers working in our genre today you can see the strong literary foundation they had which has seeped into their DNA and blossomed forth creating new characters that likewise seep into the DNA of the next generation. An example would be Neil Gaiman who wrote The Sandman. You can see the influence Michael Morcock has on his work especially with his Morpheus. Morcock invented Elric an albino with magical powers that was the Champion Supreme fighting for his world. Gaiman invented Morpheus a white skinned lord with magical powers fighting for his world.

Does this mean that Gaiman ripped off Morcock? No of course not, it’s just that this was a particular influence that helped develop Dream into the insufferable busybody that we all loved anyway.


So after my one hundred titles am I a better writer? The answer is intangible. I think it has but I don’t have the empirical evidence to back it up. I have at the time of writing only one published title to my name which I wrote before my odyssey, ‘The Man with No Libido’ and while I think my short stories have improved I am slightly to close to tell. The simple answer is do I regret reading the Big Read? The answer is a resounding no and at the end of the day if that isn’t a good enough reason then why read books at all?


Check out my short fiction at jasonbrowne.com




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The Big Read:


  1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
    2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
    4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
    5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
    6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
    8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
    9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
    10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
    11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
    12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
    13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
    14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
    15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
    16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
    17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
    18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
    19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
    20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
    21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
    22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
    23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
    24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
    25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
    26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
    27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
    28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
    29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
    30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
    31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
    32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
    33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
    34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
    35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
    36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
    37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
    38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
    39. Dune, Frank Herbert
    40. Emma, Jane Austen
    41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
    42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
    43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
    44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
    45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
    46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
    47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
    48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
    49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
    50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

    51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
    52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
    53. The Stand, Stephen King
    54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
    55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
    56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
    57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
    58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
    59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
    60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
    62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
    63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
    64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
    65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
    66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
    67. The Magus, John Fowles
    68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
    69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
    70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
    71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
    72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
    73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
    74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
    75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
    76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
    77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
    78. Ulysses, James Joyce
    79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
    80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
    81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
    82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
    83. Holes, Louis Sachar
    84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
    85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
    86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
    87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
    88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
    89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
    90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
    91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
    92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
    93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
    94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
    95. Katherine, Anya Seton
    96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
    97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
    98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
    99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
    100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie