Dan Harris: Jim and I met in a Product Design studio way back in 1997. I was a Graphic Design student and he was, somewhat obviously, doing product design, but both of us as part of the same GNVQ course. We first got to meet Kris in ’98 when our GNVQ course did an introductory course to Animation with Kris’ Foundation course. We got on over a love of Star Wars and then, the following year, all started an HND in Animation together. Years later, when Kris found out I had this huge universe built around Lou Scannon, it seemed somewhat inevitable that we would end up doing something together. Who knew then about all the fame and riches that it wouldn’t lead to?
Kris Carter: University slung us into fate’s catapult, then launched us – we’ve been a burden to each other ever since. Since we started making comics together, we just decided to get an umbrella banner to cover our projects, hence Attic Studios! Attic Studios is named that because we used to do our first year animation work in the attic of the campus building. Also, my home studio is an attic, and that’s where we keep most of the stock…
Jim Bampfield: T’was a dark and dreary night…much like this one. The wind was howling, the rain lashing and the chinchillas were restless and howling in the moonlight. Well….squeaking at least. I was in the library eating a first edition of “How Green Was My Valley” when I heard a strange knock at the door. It was Daniel and Kris. They told me their car had broken down and they were stranded. They begged me for shelter from the storm and also asked if I would join them in their venture into the comics industry. The rest as they say is history. The former…..a complete lie.
Lou Scannon seems to come from a distinctly British tradition of bawdy, quirky space hi-jinx. What inspired its creation?
DH: I have a thing for inappropriate humour. I’m somewhat sarcastic and rather cynical. Is that synonymous with being British? Perhaps… I love American humour though. Maybe I’m putting a British twist on that sort of thing too? Generally though, the way we break it down for people at conventions is like this – If it feels like its Red Dwarf-y? That’s Kris. If it feels somewhat Monty Python-esque? That’s Jim. If it feels rather dark and/or twisted? Probably me. Put the three together and we seem to have something that works.
KC: I can’t speak for Dan’s initial creation of the world and characters, but in it’s most recent comic version, I’m massively influenced by Red Dwarf (seriously, I’m a crazed nut for that show), while Jim brings a surreal Monty Python-esque vibe to it. Dan then tops the whole mix off with the darker humour, and the Firefly/Galactica-esque sweeping saga stories.
JB: I might be mistaken but I believe Dan was inspired to create Lou Scannon when he he tripped on the landing whilst after a midnight snack and fell face first on a rather portly hallucinogenic badger.
The Lou Scannon universe feels lively, populated, and buoyant. How much of the backstory and world had you worked out before starting, or is it more spontaneous than that?
DH: I had the entire universe planned out looooong before Issue 1 came out. I had a start, middle and end for the entire thing. The overview was all done. Lou Scannon was originally my third year film as part of my BA in Uni. Kris was living in America at this point so the voices in the film were performed by Jim and me. At that point, Lou’s crew consisted of just himself and Mal Function. After graduating in 2002, I still loved the universe and didn’t want to just let it go, so I started to flesh out the backstory. This logically led to a bigger crew, a military based government, long banned religions and so on and so forth. I explained it all to Kris one day and he fell in love with the idea and this led to the wheels of the comics finally starting. Mostly because I’d given myself a writers block and didn’t know where to actually start the comic in regards to my timeline. Kris, not bound by my worries and constraints just went “Pfft… we”ll start it THERE”. As individual issues go though we have a storyline planned out and then meet to flesh it out and the jokes are somewhat spontaneous based on what we come up with as we flesh stuff out.
KC: The Scannonverse is largely already built in Dan’s head. There are maps of worlds and star charts, vehicles, organisations, characters… loads of stuff is already thought out. The broad story of Lou’s past is locked down, as is the story of most of the crew. We’ve got lots of wiggle room to tweak things, but it’s very thoroughly thought out. As is its ending. There are small bits of foreshadowing peppered throughout the early issues that will hopefully raise an eyebrow upon a re-read of the eventual full story.
JB: As the saying goes a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. But at around supper-time on Wednesday he will have written Lou Scannon.
Can we expect any more Druid Investigations once its initial run is complete?
DH: Absolutely! This comic is a massive labour of love for me! The problem is just finding the time. I’ve recently set up a Patreon with an exclusive web-comic called “The Bunker” (www.Patreon.com/DanHarris) that is drawn in a simpler style of mine, that I hope will get enough support that it will help me choose more of which of the non-comics I take in future, freeing me up to do more Druid! Once the initial storyline is done, I hope to be able to do a lot of one shot issues as well as ongoing story arc ones. The best way I can describe what I want to do with it is… Like Mignola did with Hellboy. A bunch of issues that are one off standalone stories and then others that are 3-5 issue story arcs.
Tell us about Bruce Outback!
DH: It started as a drunken joke after I said something really dumb.
KC: Bruce Outback – Australia’s greatest detective, sent back in time to solve unsolved crimes with the help of his koala! It’s fun, a bit more kiddie-accessible than Lou or Druid. It’s also a heartening example of the kind of nonsense you can forge into an actual comic when four grown men and women get trashed and brainstorm in the back of a taxi. It also keeps Jim and me occupied while Dan’s off doing that Druid thing he does.
Your comics tend to steer towards humour. Why’s that then?
JB: My dear inquisitor comedy is merely resolved tragedy.
DH: We’re all horribly depressed and hide it through humour. What is left of the clown after the laughter has stopped? It’s actually just the natural way we write. Scannon was always going to be a comedy because… I like to laugh and I like making other people laugh. In fact, Druid has been referred to as a comedy quite a few times. That wasn’t necessarily intentional. I always thought of it as a sorta myth/legend/action title but the fact that it has made people chuckle makes me feel good. I generally have a pretty positive outlook for the most part so maybe that’s why I, at least I tend to go down that road. Though with Scannon we have wondered in the past “Well… WE think it’s funny but… Will everyone else think it sucks?”
Would you consider a move towards more traditionally “serious” tone or subjects?
KC: Absolutely. I think all three of us have other ideas percolating away that would suit darker, more sombre stories. Dan’s ‘Bunker’ strips for his Patreon followers are definitely more serious, but even then that’s not totally devoid of humour. That being said, I don’t think we’d ever write something that didn’t have at least a glimmer of humour in it. Has Dan mentioned his Patreon yet?
DH: I mentioned my Patreon webcomic above. It’s full title is “The Bunker: Tales of the Last Frontiersman” and it’s about the explorations of a guy in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, after a nuclear-esque war. I intended for this one to be somewhat lighter and have comedy elements but the intro seems to be more serious because, well, it’s the end of the world, so it needed to be. I have a few other ideas as well that are considerably more serious that I’m sure I will get to eventually.
JB: Well…..I do have this one idea. A small boy witnesses the brutal murder of his parents. He decides he must dedicate his life to the pursuit of justice. But how will this imposing figure of revenge manifest itself? He is without inspiration until one day a large emu bursts through the study window and……well….I’ve given away too much already.
What are the challenges of being a small independent publisher?
KC: Time. Jim and I have full time day jobs, Dan works from home as a freelancer, so time to make the books is limited. Money. It costs to make and print these things, and we’re not clever enough business people to have worked out how to actually make a profit off these things yet. Or break even actually. That’s it really, time and money. The rest is pretty sweet – we make what we want, when we want, how we want. That’s pretty freeing.
DH: Time. It makes fools of us all. We’re limited by how many conventions we can attend. Jim often works weekends which means he’s unable to do a lot of cons. Kris has an office based job that stops him from being able to attend some cons too. I’m a self-employed freelancer and would attend more if I could, but, alas, I am unable to drive and public transport is extortion. Money and time are the main factors, I guess.
JB: There are many challenges that face us small, independent publishers but I’d have to say the most difficult are the bears.
You’ve funded a couple of titles through Kickstarter. How did you find that process?
JB: Getting the money without proper incentives is difficult but we found ransoming hostages and threatening world powers was most effective.
KC: Dan ran a campaign for issue 1 of Druid, I ran one for issue 1 of Bruce. Dan seems quite inately built to run effective Kickstarter campaigns – I on the other hand, found it to be a torturous experience! It’s very stressful, you’re ALWAYS trying to push it and promote, but not so much as to be annoying or turn people away.
DH: I actually got along with it quite well! It’s incredibly stressful and somewhat addictive (Checking your phone every few minutes to see if you have had an email saying you’re closer to your target etc) but manageable. I’ll be running any future ones as Kris finds it somewhat daunting. Plus, I was telling him all the way through his one for Bruce Outback what he SHOULD have been doing but wasn’t or what he HAD done and shouldn’t have!
How essential is a physical presence to Attic Studios? I mean in both the printed sense and being at conventions.
DH: I love doing conventions and think they’re the most important part. People invest in YOU. In how you deliver yourself to them. Don’t get me wrong, some people have walked past, read the name of the comic on our banner, laughed and then bought the comic based on that alone, but mostly, it’s about giving people a good hook. Showing your passion and enthusiasm and giving them something to believe or invest in. You don’t really get that digitally. People will come back to you digitally but they’re less likely to take that initial punt on you that way!
JB: Physical presence is all well and good but my Mum always told me it’s what’s inside that counts. Then I’d be locked in my cage under the stairs so as not to scare visitors with my hideous appearance.
KC: We all prefer the physical feel of a printed book to reading it on screen, and the bulk of our sales come from meeting fans and new readers in person at conventions. Again, it comes down to time and money there – we can’t afford to do every con, and Jim and I can’t always get leave off work to do them either. Digital’s great, but we’re not foregoing print for as long as we can avoid it.
Would you consider opening up Attic to submissions or collaborations, publishing other creators’ work?
JB: Share? But…….that’s what they’ll be EXPECTING us to do!!
KC: It’s something we’re open to – but as I mentioned above, we lack the funds to pay anyone to contribute, and none of us want to ask people to work for us for free. We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve had spectacular guest artwork created for free for us for the variant Lou Scannon covers, but until we can properly pay people to do entire books or properties, we’ll keep things in-house. Well, in-attic.
DH: That’s our endgame I think. We’d love to do that but it’s a finance thing. However, if somebody wanted to self-publish a comic and put it under the Attic banner so that they get the immediate links with our website and stuff? We’d be open to that, i think. If that makes any sense? Sorry, I’m typing this on an empty stomach.
What next for Attic Studios?
KC: We’re hoping to keep pumping out Lou Scannon books, and fit Druids and Bruce’s into the gaps as we can. Hopefully we’ll avoid some of the larger delays that hit us in 2015 and 2016, but real-life problems get in the way sometimes and can’t be helped. We’ve got some fantastic ideas for board-games, and filmed sketches, so hopefully those will materialise under the Attic banner in the next two or three years. Ideally, we’d love to get the studio to a point where it IS the day-job, but that’s easier said than done.
DH: Pretty much everything Kris has said. I’m currently in the process of putting finishing touches to a card game I’ve been working on with two of our friends, one being a regular collaborator: Gavin Mitchell. The other being a proper doctor and everything: Anthony Caravaggi. We’re hoping to get it on Kickstarter for some point in the summer, if all goes according to plan. That will go under the Attic Studios banner!
JB: Total World Domination, the first person on Mars and a spot of tea… oh and a biscuit.