CFG Creator Spotlight: Adam Cheal

This week, I was fortunate to catch up with indie comics creator extraordinaire Adam Cheal. For the uninitiated, Adam was at the helm for the British Showcase Anthology (published by AdamChealMarkosia), he followed this up with his debut on writing duties: Toxic Storm. Hot on the heels came the superb Terminus At Fenton’s Green, after publishing these titles via Markosia, Adam has taken the bold step of launching Ellipsium Entertainment with artist Amrit Birdi. Together, they premiered Borough of Churches #1  – Adam isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet and Slowheart has recently had a digital release.

Adam was good enough to submit to a little Q&A:

John: “You have had a close relationship with Markosia, editing the British Showcase Anthology, creating Toxic Storm and Terminus At Fenton’s Green – where/how did you relationship with Markosia begin?”

Adam: “I guess my relationship started at the first LSCC back in 2012. I was a new comic book creator looking for a publisher for my first venture into comic writing. I met with a few publishers there including IDW and Markosia. I must admit that I was pretty green around the gills at that time and had a head full of pipe dreams and candy floss. I thought I’d just walk into the show and nail a big time publisher and that would be that.
I spoke to Harry Markos at Markosia who had an entirely different perspective about things and an honesty that was brutal but refreshing. He showed an interest in my book but ultimately rejected it. In retrospect, I am not in the least bit surprised. It was badly pitched and also badly written. I went back to basics and rebuilt from scratch. While in the process of doing this, I also started writing for, an entertainment website focused on comics and popular culture. I started my own column called “British Showcase” in which I would feature a new UK based writer, artist or publisher. It was a great success and I made a lot of contacts in the UK comic scene. After seeing the amazing UK talent we have here, I came upon the idea of expanding the column into an anthology of stories from British creators. The idea being to bring exposure to new and existing creators working in the UK comic industry.
I approached Markosia with the idea as I wanted the book in safe publishing hands and from someone who understood the UK comic scene. Harry loved the idea and we set about making it happen. In six months we had the first volume out and I am still really proud of the book and what we accomplished.
While working on the BSA, I re pitched Harry my revamped initial book idea which had now become Toxic Storm and the rest is history.”

John: “Your books have had quite different feels to them – not just because of the various artists that you’ve worked with, but the subject matter. I’ve read pretty much all of your material and I’m still absolutely blown away by your narrative in Terminus at Fenton’s Green – but, given the varied aspects of each story, which, in retrospect, are you most proud of?”

Adam: “Thank you very much, it’s great the hear good feedback as it is so rarely received. People that are satisfied with a book rarely reach out, but people that have negative comments are quick to let them be known.
It’s so hard to pick a book I am most proud of. They are like my children in a way. I am the father and their mother is an icy winged beast picking off helpless villagers in a blood fuelled frenzy … wait, what was the question again? Oh yes, I remember. I guess Toxic Storm will hold a place in my heart always, not because it is the best, but it is the first. I agree that Fenton’s Green may have the best narrative but I am always looking to the future and never behind, I am to make each book better that the last.”

John: “Toxic Storm was where I first became aware of you work, it is like a rock song of a story, you have a rich central story, horror, mysticism, gore and some absolutely crazy art (the cover to issue 3 is amazing) – Toxic Storm is one of those stories where, as you read it, you feel that there is much more in the shadows. If you hadn’t moved on to your other titles, how much more of the Toxic Storm story would there have been? The material is solid enough for, in my humble opinion, at least another 2 books (graphic novels).”

Adam: “Glad you enjoyed the book. Indeed there was a lot more I wanted to do with the story. I had planned it as an ongoing series and already had issue 5 written. Book one was only just scratching the surface of this dark and twisted world and the characters were only just starting to develop. My plans were to have Caleb and Lilly branch out on their own and run a kind of occult detective agency with the help of Simon Fisher when needed. Unfortunately as with many indie books, the sales and exposure were just not there enough for me to justify the outlay cost in making more instalments. Perhaps I will in the future if the book suddenly becomes really popular. Buy it everyone, hint hint.”

John: “You seem to have a happy knack of producing quality material in quite a quick turn around – how have you managed to be so prolific in such a short period of time?”

Adam: “It’s hard to say. I certainly don’t write as frequently as some. I think that I come up with ideas, mash them up, rework them and let them simmer on my melting pot of a brain. Then and only then do I put pen to paper (metaphorically) and start writing. Working this way has meant that I have to do little rewriting and the first draft is pretty close to the one that gets used.
As well as this, I work very closely with my whole creative team down to artwork, colouring and lettering. I like to think I am also a good team motivator and a unified team will always be more productive than a lone wolf.
I have also been lucky to work with some amazing creative people and they have delivered beyond expectations.”

John: “You have made amazing use of the artist Jimbo Salgado on some of your cover art; one of the defining images that abides with me is his work on Toxic Storm. Do you go to an artist like Jimbo to add value to your project or is it just a massive kick to see his interpretation of your creations? I’d say a little from column A and a hell of a lot from column B.”

Adam: “I love great artwork and Jimbo is one of the best cover artists out there. I don’t think that having a big name do a cover on an indie book brings a lot of attention to that book. It just comes down to what kind of cover art you want to portray your story and an excuse to work with the artists that you really want to. I could not afford to work with an artist like Jimbo on an entire comic, so a cover image is the next best thing. As you said, it is also a massive kick to see a pro artists take on your work. There is always ego involved when it comes to creative work and it does no harm to feed it a little. Not a lot, just enough to keep it alive and leave you hungry for more.”

John: “You’ve recently launched Ellipsium Entertainment with Amrit Birdi – how did that come about? Were you guys chatting one day and it was a case of: you’re a fabulous artist and I am the ‘poster boy for indie comics’ let’s start our own company? Joking aside, was it a daunting step to go from being a creator to running your own company, how do the pressures vary say from being the editor of the British Showcase Anthology to being the head of a new comic publishing entity?”

Adam: “Poster boy for indie comics, ha ha. I don’t know about that. I have known Amrit for a while, he did two great strips for volume one of the British Showcase. Right from the start, I was impressed with his artwork but he had a level of professionalism and business acumen rarely seen in the creative field.
We stayed in touch over the last couple of years and wanted to work together for a while. The opportunity came along for us to do so and we seized it. The book “Borough of Churches” was born.
I had been wanting to have a go at publishing my own work for a while. I am a massive control freak and once you hand a book over to a publisher, there is only so much involvement you can have after that.
Amrit felt the same way and we talked at length and had many business meetings before we launched Ellipsium. Like any new venture, it takes time. But we are on track for our projections and adding new titles all the time. We have a huge plan for the London Super Comic con in March and will have new title and some exclusives just for the show.
Please come and see us everyone.”

John: “With going it alone as Ellipsium, is there any part of your motivation that is borne out of the difficulty of taking your creations to the major publishers? I’ve seen many self publishers putting out quality product and not a sniff from the likes of Marvel or DC, how hard is it to put out quality material and not have the phone ringing off the hook?”

Adam: “Mainstream publishing is a closed circuit. Anyone that thinks they can turn in a script, portfolio or even finished work to a publisher and get work is deluded. We all start out that way but reality quickly dawns on us that it is a tough industry to break in to. Perhaps even more so now than it used to be. With email and internet playing such a major roles in our lives now, it has opened the doors to many great artists and writers that would have never had a shot. While this is great, it does make the market very crowded and it’s hard to stand out sometimes. I think if anyone is serious about wanting to make comics, they need to be fully prepared that they may have to self publish. I started Ellipsium not simply to publish my own stories, but to open up the doors to others that want to work in a collective to promote and publish great stories. It’s much easier to promote a brand of great books as a collective than to try and promote a single great book as a one man band.”

John: “Last year you ventured onto the international comic convention scene, heading to Malta. Are there any plans to take Ellipsium stateside?”

Adam: “The huge US comic market and convention scene is where we would love to be. We may be a little way from that dream now, but with our level of commitment and drive, I am sure we will get there. The Malta Comics Expo was a great experience and we’d love to go again.”

John: “I’ve seen some of the art to the forthcoming Slowheart – the feel is again different to what’s gone before. What can you tell us of this new Ellipsium title?”

Adam: “Indeed, this is a new Ellipsium title. It should be launching digitally on all major platforms by the end of January and launch in print at the LSCC 2015. This book is unlike anything I have written before. I am well schooled in horror but this is a crime noir with superhero twist all set to the 1970 NYC disco scene. Expect larger than life characters, violence and adult scenes. Definitely not one for the kids.”


John: ““Not one for the kids” is almost a by-line for your books, Toxic Storm, Terminus at Fenton’s Green and Borough of Churches are all steeped in darkness, with a suitable spattering of GORE. Are there any plans to do a kid friendly Adam Cheal book in the future?”

Adam: “I have been thinking about an all ages book for a while and even come up with some ideas. I am not sure I can let go of the darkness just yet however. The market is much larger for the all ages stuff and it is a great opportunity to reach a larger audience and a new generation of comic readers. We’ll see.”

John: “Going back to Borough of Churches, your central character Charlie Swanson is not your typical female lead. In the first issue you paint two distinct sides to her character, she is steeped in dark and light elements. There are some powerful female characters out there these days but rarely do they have such rich characteristics – is that the point you wanted to make with her, that within such a fantastical story you could still have an organic character while retaining a “kick-ass” edge?”

Adam: “You hit the nail on the head. I wanted to write an organic character but still maintain that “comic book” over the top style. It was not my intention to write a female, she just kind of developed that way. I am lucky to have many strong female influences in my life to draw inspiration from and I use that. I was a little worried about writing a female character at first as I wanted to be respectful and do it justice. I found the process much easier than I thought and I feel that Charlie is probably my most human and likeable character to date. I think I have found the balance of sexy and funny while not being exploitative or disrespectful. I am hoping female and male readers will connect with Charlie on an emotional level and enjoy the world we have created with “Borough of Churches”.”