Harley Rides Again

Anyone interested in Revolutionary War: Motormouth#1, might be wondering: who IS Motormouth?

When  I was offered my first super hero writing gig by Marvel UK, it was Motormouth. I remember going into the offices and coming away with a pile of Marvel UK comics the size of a termite mound. After reading everything I realized the problem with Motormouth was she had too many one-off stories that didn’t really amount to anything, it had no real master-plan, no three-issue story arcs to build a sense of conspiracy and intrigue.

When I cleverly plotted out a couple, my editors told me that Motormouth COULDN’T have that kind of planning, the deadlines were too screwed at that point, the delivery of artwork too unpredictable. I had no grasp of the realities, as usual. With which my wife would agree.

So, with my pal Nick Barber, I wrote a one–off story that didn’t really amount to anything. But it felt wonderful – my first proper hero comic.

Motormouth was a fun character, who swore a lot, like this !!%?! . Her name was a joke too: Harley Davis (on the motorbike Harley Davison) and her power of teleporting was a bit of gag too, her Mind OPerated Emergency Dematerialization, sort of spelling MOPED, a kind of transport often the subject of humour (eg: Jasper Carrot’s Funky Moped). In her first issue she fought the fashion police.

She was quickly given a gun-toting male sidekick, as the industry wisdom of the time was that female-led comics didn’t last. Killpower soon shared cover credits with her. His shadow looms across the new comic, as Revolutionary War inventors Alan Cowsill and Andy Lanning had him killed off and sucked into hell a while back. That trauma has had a shattering effect on our once fizzy Harley.

One thing I like about writing Motormouth is her down-to-earth, personality. Some people become heroes because of a life-changing tragedy, a burden of guilt, a cosmic revelation. Harley became a hero because … someone gave her a pair of magic shoes.

Actually, in my view she never really was a hero. Just someone on the run, caught up in a crazy, violent universe she didn’t understand. A bit like my response to the whole Marvel UK universe when I was first given that enormous pile of comics to read.

Writing this new comic for Marvel had a fun evolution. I was on holiday in Corfu when I got the email asking me on board. I was excited to be having a conference call with Spider-Man editor Steven Wacker about it all. I was even more excited a couple of days later to find out I’d missed the call by 24 hours. But I took solace from the fact that my pal Alan Cowsill had missed the call too. He was on holiday in LA I think. It’s good when friends can be reliable. Steven Wacker hadn’t even known there WAS a place called Corfu – so some good came out of it.

In the end the complex plot and the easy ways of avoiding it were discussed in a pub in Soho. We named the issues after UK songs. I named mine after a song that doesn’t exist. Well it does exist but not under the title I thought it had. Don’t think anyone noticed.

I made some changes to my writing style on this. When I wrote Clan Destine #9, a fellow writer pointed out to me that the last time a comic had so many scene changes was the Lee/Kirby Avengers #1. I laughed at the time, but not now. So it’s a simple, linear family tale with evil and jokes and stuff. Most luckily it has great artist, Ronan Cliquet, who brought out the human side I wanted. The sad thing, as ever, about the comic, is the readers don’t get to see how great the pencils were.

Here’s a link to a great article on MM by first editor John Freeman. His site Down The Tubes is well worth following.


Put on your magic shoes and jump into Revolutionary War: Motormouth!

Lo… KIrby Sees It All!

I’ve been meaning to post this picture for a while, I came across it in a collected edition of Kirby’s Fourth World. Drawn back in the 1970s it seems to predict the tablet computer and also the return of the stylus as a means of writing. Someone is also holding what could be an ipod. Well we all know Kirbs was a visionary but its easy to believe this picture was drawn with a clear view into the developments of gadgets of today.

Kirby sees the ipad etc

While I’m on Kirby, the Fourth World books make a stunning, flabbergasting read. Don’t expect any of the many storylines to get picked up again and resolved later – there are barely even any recurring characters, as his wild imagination pops one idea after another. Every page seethes not just with new heroes, but with new worlds to go along with them, new words and new dialogue. Believe me, pal, in the Fourth World people speak in a way no-one ever has, or will – it’s enough to give ya the whim-whams – whatever they are (Kirby knows).

Weirdly, the main heroes of the book, The Forever People are some of the worst characters Kirby ever came up with, a bunch of well-meaning hippies – Beautiful Dreamer, Serifan, Big Bear, Moonrider etc, they sound and look a bit like a lost Saturday morning cartoon from the early seventies, where their ill-fated show would have been sandwiched in between re-runs of Space Ghost and the Hair Bear Bunch.

But not to carp among such wonders. There are so many good ideas here it dazzles. Kirby gave us the Boom Tube for travelling, the anti-life equation – for controlling all thought – and he even gave us the Mother Box, an all-round life saving little gadget that pretty much does everything for us… come to think of it we’re back at the smartphone. Guess Kirby really did see everything!