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Chris Mole Interview
Last week I caught up with Chris Mole to talk about his comic book writing projects. We covered writing, his past influences and Medieval History.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.
Chris Mole: Thank you! I’m Chris Mole and I’m a comics writer from Sheffield, UK. I’ve been writing and self-publishing comics since about 2011 and have also written stories for a number of anthologies (including Futurequake, Aces Weekly and recently, Tales from the Quarantine.)
Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind your Comic Book Body of Work.
Chris Mole: My inspirations are quite varied for each project I’ve worked on – from the natural world around me (I’m lucky enough to live in one of the greenest cities in the UK, and have a natural park called the Peak District 5 minutes from my door) to music, history and my other interests.
I’ll often be inspired by a very small, specific thing and will extrapolate from there – for example, one of my recent comics (a one-shot called The Black Rubric, about a Satanic black metal band who accidentally open the gates of hell) came from finding a fun-sounding name during my day job which sounded suitable for a black metal vocalist, and building the whole idea from that!
Where did writing start for you and what is your origin story?
Chris Mole: I’ve been writing stories since I was quite young – my ability to write has always been something that I’ve felt quite confident about. I couldn’t say where it started – possibly when I was four years old and wrote/drew (with felt tip pens) a comic book adaptation of the 1978 Superman movie?
I got heavily into manga as a teenager at high school, and started writing a lengthy (and self-indulgent) shōnen manga featuring fictional versions of myself and my classmates which never got properly drawn, but my first real attempt at writing and self-publishing comics was in 2011.
I’d done a couple of short stories for an anthology called The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel, then sent an email to chap-hop rapper Professor Elemental, having learned via Twitter that he was a comic book fan. I asked whether he wanted to make a comic book together – he agreed enthusiastically, and with the help of Owen Watts who put together the Psychedelic Journal I set about writing some short stories featuring his stage persona and hunting for artists to draw them. Issue #1 of Professor Elemental Comics came out at that year’s Thought Bubble convention with a cover by Mike Hawthorne (best known for his work on Deadpool and Spider-Man) and I’m still very proud of it.
Where does the overall comic book genre sit for you? What are your go to’s?
Chris Mole: I definitely lean towards genre stories – science fiction, fantasy, superheroes. I love the unique ability of comics to build vast, fantastic worlds which feel fleshed out and real from the very first panel. That said, I also have a particular love for history comics – both of my degrees were in history (with a focus on Medieval History specifically) so I love to see new interpretations of historical figures and events.
In terms of my crucial comics texts, I could spend hours listing names, but I’ll try and keep it fairly brief! I’m much more of a DC person than a Marvel, so that’s where my superhero loyalties lie. A lot of these are books I read at a formative age and so they’ve shaped my appreciation of the medium – there are more and more great comics coming out all the time, so this list will probably look quite different in a few years!
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Batman: The Court of Owls Saga
Wonder Woman (by George Perez)
Blade of the Immortal
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to your work? How do you overcome them?
Chris Mole: The main thing I struggle with is getting stuck inside my own head while I’m figuring out the plot for a story – it’s very easy for me to start doubting myself and give up because I think the plot is too simple or too boring. I’m probably too critical of my own work in that regard – sometimes it’s okay for a plot to be quite simple, as long as it’s compelling for the reader!
I’ve recently been working with some editors on several projects, having previously always been my own editor – that’s been really helpful, not least because a good editor will ask the right questions and challenge you on your story decisions to make the final product much better. Beyond that, my tactic is usually to just get a first draft down, no matter how bad or simple or derivative my brain thinks it is – from that point, the outline of the story is there and I can move things around until I’m happy with it.
How did you go about finding the right artist to work on this project?
Chris Mole: I’m working with a couple of artists at the moment – finding the right artist is one of those things that seems to be more art than science, especially because it’s very tough to know what collaborating with an artist is like until you’re in the middle of it. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with some fantastic collaborators!
I’m currently working with Harriet Moulton on my pagan/superhero series Brigantia, and we’ll be starting on issue #3 in 2021. Harriet’s work has a lovely warmth and tenderness to it that I thought would be a perfect fit for the kind of story we’re telling – I didn’t want to do something which was too far towards the hard-edged, chiselled abs-look that a lot of superhero stories have.
I also have a project in the pitch stages (a period crime drama/noir story called Hockeytown) where I’ve been lucky enough to bring some excellent collaborators on board – Russell Mark Olson is the perfect artist for that project given his love of noir storytelling and his clean, classic style. I’ve long been a fan of Russell’s work (his work reminds me of the late, great Darwyn Cooke) and when I pictured the characters and settings of Hockeytown, I imagined them in that kind of timeless style which Russell has nailed.
Many of us creators work on projects outside of our 9-5 jobs. Do you have any advice for balancing careers with passion projects/side hustles?
Chris Mole: Prior to 2020, I had a decent balance which involved waking up early and putting in some time on projects before leaving for the day job – this year has thrown that in the blender, however, and given that my studio room (where I do my writing and musical pursuits) has now been repurposed as the room where I work from home, it’s a lot harder to delineate between the day job and my comics work.
My advice would be to try and find space to work on your projects without overwhelming yourself – for me, that means doing a lot more at the weekends and finding little bits of time during the week where I can write on my phone or tablet (rather than at the computer). For those of us who don’t do comics as a full-time job, driving yourself to the point of exhaustion isn’t good – both your work and more importantly your health will suffer.
Set a goal of “I’ll do X hours of writing/drawing/misc comics admin” a week, but make it achievable and don’t push yourself too hard. One thing that makes life easier for me is that my full-time job is very on/off – I’ll work until 5 and then that’s it, my shift is over and I don’t have to do anything else until the next day. I’m not under pressure to work evenings or weekends, and that means I can spend that time either relaxing (very important!) or working on projects.
Do you have any upcoming events/projects/releases you would like to discuss?
Chris Mole: I have a couple! I recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Brigantia #2, and we’ll be launching that at this year’s Thought Bubble Digital Con (from November 9th-15th) after I’ve posted out all the Kickstarter reward packages. As mentioned previously, we’ll be starting work on issue #3 next year and will be running another Kickstarter to fund the printing for that.
I also have a few other projects in the development stage, but the most advanced one is Hockeytown. Hockeytown is an attempt to smash together my love of ice hockey, the classic 1977 movie Slapshot and crime/mystery shows like Poirot and Murder, She Wrote. It centers around a small-town hockey team in western Pennsylvania called the Greensburg Grizzlies – their star player, Frank “Red” Ronson, is found dead in the middle of the 1976 season, and a local detective suspects foul play. As she tries to uncover who killed Frank Ronson, she learns that Greensburg is hiding a lot of secrets.
I’m very excited about Hockeytown – the team is incredible (Russell M Olson on pencils & inks, Dearbhla Kelly on colours, Kerrie Smith on letters and Hugo Boylan editing). We have 10 pages in the works for pitching to publishers, and I’m hopeful that it’ll get picked up and we’ll be able to share it with a wide audience. It’s a comic about old-time hockey and murder, which I personally haven’t seen done before! Russ draws a mean moustache as well…
Thank you for taking the time to do this! Where can readers find you and your work?
Chris Mole: Thank you for having me! My website has details of my comics (and music) at https://www.chrismole.co.uk. I recently set up a BigCartel for buying print comics (https://chrismole.bigcartel.com/) and a Gumroad if digital comics are more your thing (https://gumroad.com/chrismole) I’m also on Comixology: https://m.comixology.co.uk/Chris-Mole/comics-creator/73066