When it comes to comics depicting the Great Beyond; Heaven, Hell, Limbo, and Purgatory takes many incarnations in comics but none so imaginative or so entertaining as Jon Lock’s Afterlife Inc. It’s all down to the sheer talent of creator Jon Lock and his talented troupe of artists which include Ash Jackson and Will Tempest. The 26 year old writer is riding on the crest of a wave after being funded by Kickstarter for the third volume of Afterlife Inc, Lifeblood. Lock’s not taking a break in fact, along with artist Nich Angell he’s behind the “crossover event of the century” a unique collaboration involving a team up with Zach Briarpatch and Jack Fortune. And finally he’s writing a superhero story. To find out more about what’s happening in the world of the (un)living I spoke to the man himself.
The Afterlife Gang!
Jon Lock himself jammin'!
What made you go into crowd funding for Afterlife Inc. volume 3?
As proud as I am of what I’ve accomplished with Afterlife Inc. volumes 1 and 2, up until now I’ve been limited in scope by budget. Between paying artists and covering print costs etc, I was only ever able to produce one short story a month. Initially, I was able to turn this to my advantage, using an anthology format to explore a variety of situations and characters, and really flesh out the world of Afterlife Inc. As the story progressed, however, the time came to start telling the larger storylines I’d had planned since day one – something that I would never have been able to afford on my own. At one hundred pages, Afterlife Inc. volume 3: LIFEBLOOD is my biggest story to date. I’m immensely grateful to all my Kickstarter backers for making it possible.
Do you think Kickstarter is a viable option for people wanting to make comics?
If I didn’t know any better, I would say that Kickstarter had been custom made to help out indie comic creators! There are so many talented people out there who just need a little help to get their projects off the ground. It’s hard work, and certainly never a guarantee of success, but if you’re lucky it can go a long way to making your story a reality. To be able to work on my dream story is an incredible honour, and I simply couldn’t have done it without Kickstarter.
How did Afterlife Inc. go onto Comixology?
As any fan with a smart device will most likely agree, Comixology is the best digital comics app on the market. Having catered exclusively up until now to the “Big Two” and other larger comic publishers, with the recent launch of the Comixology Submit platform, the door was finally opened to indie creators such as me. The submission process was remarkably simple and (thankfully!) completely free. Upon uploading a PDF of your book, it’s simply a case of waiting for the Comixology team (and eventually Apple) to approve it for the marketplace. It might have been a lengthy process, due no doubt to the large amount of interest, but everyone from Comixology was remarkably helpful and I’m really pleased with the result. Afterlife Inc. volume 1 is currently available and volume 2 is waiting on approval.
In regards to the next volume of Afterlife Inc., how do vampires fit in?
I’ve never been a massive fan of vampires, so for them to feature in Afterlife Inc. I was always going to have to try a different take on them. At the risk of spoilers, the vampires of LIFEBLOOD are not necessarily vampires in the purest sense. Despite the story being set entirely in the afterlife, Afterlife Inc. has always steered clear of classic supernatural elements. In life, at least. In death, the domain of our heroes, things are more flexible, but they still have to fit with the mythology of the book. For example, in the afterlife people aren’t flesh and blood. Any vampires, if such things did exist, would have to find new ways to feed. LIFEBLOOD is more about the idea of a vampire, and how such a powerful notion can live on past the grave.
How has Jack Fortune changed from the last time readers saw him?
Jack is still the same loveable chancer as ever, but if anything his ambitions have grown. For the first time we really get to see him in his element as a businessman, battling inside and outside the boardroom to bring about real change in the afterlife. Jack has always talked big about his dreams of a better afterlife for all. This is his chance to make good on his propaganda. Sadly, events beyond even his control are conspiring to turn all his good work against him.
Are these the Pesky Vampires you're looking for?
Boy if this is any indication of the start of all the bad. Jack's got his work cut out for him!
You attract really good artists, have you often thought about drawing a story?
Thank you! I’m very lucky to have worked with so many wonderful artists. I’ve been obsessed with making comics from an early age, but while I’ve never been short on ideas, actually bringing them to life on the page has always eluded me. Even back in primary school when I made my first comic, I still ended up on writing duties while my more artistic friends handled the drawing. Little did I know that would come to be the story of my life! While I still design characters and sketch thumbnails for the odd panel, I think drawing an actual story would be beyond me. I’m more than happy to let the real artists do their work. Thanks to them, Afterlife Inc. has never looked anything short of amazing.
One of the best things about Afterlife Inc. is how the artist is suited to the story, how does this work, does the artist ask for the story or do you pick the artist?
Over the last two years as I’ve been touring the UK convention circuit, I’ve befriended a lot of amazing artists, all with their own unique style. When you’re exhibiting together – and frequently drinking together afterwards – talk inevitably turns to possible collaborations. If I meet someone I’d like to work with I keep a mental note of their art style and try to write a story with them in mind. If they like the script then we’re in business! Afterlife Inc. allows me to try all kinds of different stories and settings, and it’s great having different artists to represent this.
Alongside the next volume you’re doing a team up with Nich Angell, the Heavenly Chord. How did that come about?
I’ve been friends with Nich for quite a while now, and I’m a massive fan of his comic, 7STRING: a world where music is magic and people fight with guitar and keytar swords. It’s absolutely mad – in the best sense of the word! Both of us were trying to create large, in-depth worlds with our books, and something about each other’s work struck a chord. We were joking on Twitter last year about how funny it would be to do a parody of the final scene of Iron Man 2, where Thor’s hammer is found embedded in the desert – only with the eponymous 7STRING in place of Mjolnir. After the laughter died down, however, there was this odd silence where we thought “yeah, we could actually do that…” What started as a joke soon turned into something much bigger than we could have anticipated.
What are your thoughts on team-ups in general and will the Heavenly Chord avoid the standard team-up tropes?
I actually love team-ups. The more ridiculous the better, in fact. With THE HEAVENLY CHORD we’re trying to capture the spirit of classic Silver Age crossovers. A real “Marvel vs. DC” vibe. Neither 7STRING nor Afterlife Inc. contains any superheroes but they share the same sense that anything is possible. Trying to explain how such a crossover could possibly occur shouldn’t be an obstacle to telling a great story. The phrase “tear in the multiverse” has a lot to answer for…
Most crossovers begin life as a “who would win” scenario. A chance to pit our favourite heroes who would otherwise never meet against one another. THE HEAVENLY CHORD contains elements of this (because: awesome) but with a few twists. Also, rather that it all being “just a dream”, THE HEAVENLY CHORD is definitely in canon to both our worlds. Our universes just got a little bit bigger and it’s entirely possible that our heroes will meet again.
Having read the preview, it looks like Zach Briarpatch and Jack Fortune aren’t going to get along, are they?
Initially, no, but as I was writing, it struck me that despite their differences, there might actually be the beginnings of a friendship between them. Zach is a young man who has recently experienced terrible loss and heartbreak. Entrusted with a mysterious and powerful weapon, he now finds himself adrift in a world at war. Jack, the elder of the two, is the epitome of self-confidence. At the same time, however, he’s by no means a hero and lives his life behind a mask of flippancy. Jack may be a charmer but there are situations that even he can’t talk his way out of. I think he admires Zach’s determination. His single-minded resistance to corruption. And Zach maybe learns a thing or two about cracking a smile on occasion.
Zach and Lux about to RRRRUMMMMBLE!!!
Apart from the Heavenly Chord, you’ve embarked on creating the Six, your first superhero story. How does that differ from writing about a supernatural world?
The Six is set firmly in a world much like ours. Through it, I wanted to draw upon such superhero titles as the Ultimates or Marvel Man; worlds where superhumans were living, breathing, flesh and blood creatures who could nevertheless punch through a tank. What kind of impact would such a being make upon the real world, and what would warfare be like when the terrorists could shoot fire from their eyes? With the Six, anything is still possible, but I have to view it through a filter of plausibility. If we are going to have supermen breaking the sound barrier above London, let’s at least have some windows smashing down below. With Afterlife Inc. the sky really was the limit. Anything and everything could happen. The downside, however, with it being set in the afterlife was that we never got to see familiar landmarks from the real world. The Six, by contrast, is a very British superhero tale. The backdrop to the story is the world we see every day.
Staying on a musical note, what music do you listen do when you’re writing?
Bowie, OK Go, Daft Punk… all kinds of things. I try to fit the mood of the story I’m writing when selecting music and I keep a pretty eclectic mix on my iPod. In producing THE HEAVENLY CHORD, Nich has opened my ears to some filthy, filthy Dubstep and Electronica. Perfect music for scripting fight scenes! If only the dial would go up to eleven…
Last year you were about to do your very first convention in London. You now travel up and down the country, what’s it like?
Exhausting but immensely rewarding. I still have a day job alongside my comics, and until I’m able to go it full time with my writing, it’s always going to be a balancing act between the two. I’m lucky in that I have a job that keeps me alive while allowing me to do what I love in my spare time. But sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day. More often than not, I’m finishing work on a Friday and then driving several hours to a show, only to drive straight back to work on the Monday morning. It’s demanding but very rewarding, and I never feel more alive than when I’m at a show spreading my love for Afterlife Inc. Thankfully, my girlfriend, Lucy, has the patience of a saint.
Are you looking to coming over the pond for a con over here?
I would absolutely love to, but until I can afford it, a trans-Atlantic convention appearance is going to have to wait. Several years ago, when I was living in Canada, I made some of my first friends in the industry at a show in Toronto. That was the start of my life in comics and I can’t wait to return and sample the amazing atmosphere of a North American convention again!
A game of Chicken anyone?
More of that potential brewing trouble? Or just a tourist in over his head?!