A STORM CLOUDS recap / by Kian West

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IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY HEARD, ONE OF OUR REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS, BEN MITCHELL RELEASED A COMIC RECENTLY.  A CERTAIN INTERVIEWER WOULD DESCRIBE THE WORK AS “...A MODERN TALE TOLD THROUGH THE CONVENTIONS OF A CLASSIC HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE STORY. THE APPEARANCE OF TECHNOLOGY FEELS ANACHRONISTIC AND THE HUMOUR IS BOTH DARK AND SUBTLE. THE DISTURBING ELEMENTS OF THE STORY SUBVERT THE INNOCENT EXPRESSIONS OF MITCHELL’S CHARACTERS - A CLEVER CONTRAST. STORM CLOUDS IS SIMMERING WITH INTRIGUE AND ORIGINALITY.” ONE MAN NAMED KIAN, CAUGHT UP WITH THE ARTIST TO CONVERSE ABOUT THE LAUNCH AND SUCH. 1966069_742323895788059_3804101974005829825_o

So you just launched “Storm Clouds” tell us a little about the night and how it went? I held the comic launch at Churchkey Espresso on Hunter St - which, by the time of publication, will be under a new name/managment - and promoted it very hard leading up to the night. I had some leftover prints of the comic art, so I threw them on the wall, made a 6-hour Spotify playlist, organised some refreshments (including special Storm Clouds iced coffees) and prepared a team of helpers to keep the night running smoothly. My friends Tim, Mitch, Swannie and Big Pog took care of everything all night - I couldn’t go three minutes without someone pouncing on me. The launch party was a ridiculous success and I really was unprepared for how well the comic was received. Things got a little Murphy’s Law in the days leading up to the event and by the time I had everything set up on the night I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I wouldn’t have been phased if only like five people showed up, but there would have easily been close to a hundred passing through on the night. We nearly sold out of copies as well - which is over double what I had expected to sell - which was both shocking and delightful news. I wanted to get more of my friends involved in the night, so I threw together a bit of a mini-exhibition with some friends the week before the party. Three artists from Newcastle, (Keo, Grizz and Dan Arnold from Alien Art) and three artists from Sydney (Carlo, Sindy Sinn and Mike Watt) each submitted their interpretation of one of the comic’s main characters. I only gave them like eight days to get the art to me, so they were all mates about it. I only made 40 packs. They were $3 to make giving people change easier if they bought it with the comic, and they sold out in like a half an hour. Another unexpected surprise! Each card had a QR code on the back which reveals a secret message about the comic if you scan them all in the right order! I could not believe how many people showed up and bought a comic. My old band just did a reunion show at the Cambridge and there were more dudes on the stage than there were on the dance floor, so I had lost all confidence in my pulling power. The fact that there are eighty-odd copies of my comic floating around being read by that many people right now is blowing my mind. God bless Newcastle. How has the comic itself been received? On the whole, pretty well. I put a lot of attention into the production and presentation of the book as well as the story and artwork, and getting them risograph printed on special stock left a lasting impression on people. Most people’s standard reaction to receiving the book was opening it, smelling it, and feeling the ink on the pages to take it all in. I’m yet to hear a response to the story from someone who isn’t friends with me and wouldn’t necessarily get all the Newcastle in-jokes, but I’ve had a lot of people tell me they have read the whole thing with my voice in their head, because I haven’t done a good job at disguising my natural mannerisms, haha. I had the same experience reading Nick Milligan’s book at the beginning of the year. So far everyone I’ve spoked to has enjoyed it and are keen to see what happens next! What do you mean by ‘Newcastle-in jokes’? There are too many to really cover here, but the majority of places/people/things in the comic are loose references to things from this city, to add an extra layer to the story for locals. The main character Chino is named after Chino’s, the Cambridge side-bar that was shut down in 2011. Everywhere in the city there are tags that read ‘R.I.P VOX’, a reference to the old record store in the west end, Vox Cyclops. Conroy’s, the bar in the comic, is named after a closed-down Newcastle cafe and the inside is modelled after The Lass. Jared’s band CHANCES is named as a nod to No Second Chances, a now-defunct Newcastle hardcore band, and their hit song bares some similarities to a horrible chauvinistic anthem my old band from Uni had back in the day. Also, a huge part of the plot (which I won’t spoil for you) is a big reference to how Renew Newcastle works. Marni Jackson made an appearance at the opening, and I think she got it, but was a little taken aback by all the violence ahahha Will there be more comics from Ben? I hope so. I was treating Storm Clouds as my debut of taking the cartooning thing seriously, so the general response is going to determine whether or not it’s something I am going to continue with. As I said before, most people who’ve read the ending are keen to follow up the cliffhanger and find out what happens next. Everyone conversation I’ve had about this has been different depending on who I’m talking to and what they’d like to see in a sequel. I’d really like to focus more on Jared on Charlie in a prequel story, but after the events of the first comic there are lot of directions I can take with Detective Rose and Chino. The main idea, at this point, is to tell a bunch of interconnected stories about Bontown and the whole conspiracy that was uncovered in Storm Clouds, and how everyone there seems to be so caught up in their day-to-day that they don’t realise how much sinister stuff is going on behind closed doors. What’s next for Ben? Before I can tell another story, I want to make sure as many people read Storm Clouds as possible. I am currently sold out of all of the first run (which, as I said before, was not how I had planned this to go) so I’m trying to chase up a second edition as we speak. At the moment I am a lecturer at Newcastle Uni which is keeping me afloat pretty well, but I still do regular freelance graphic design/illustration work pretty much full time. I have currently never been more busy, and any time I am away from my phone/emails I am super relaxed. At the moment I’m working on a comic with another dude which will be out next month, and doing a bunch of graphics for a new bar opening on King St which should be out around the same time. I’m beginning to think that if I can survive just on doing comics for myself (that other people want to read and share) I could end up only drawing things that other people tell me to occasionally - which is the dream, currently. For those that haven’t caught a copy yet, where can they get one? This is a question whose answer has changed only very recently. Storm Clouds is currently sold out all over Australia/the world, but I will be able to release a second edition of 100 copies in mid-April. These will have slightly different covers, and won’t be hand-numbered. They’ll be available from Fun Apparel online, Graphic Action on Hunter Street, and I’m also super excited to announce I’ve scored a partnership with indie comics publisher Birdcage Bottom Books for distribution in North America and the rest of the world, alongside some of my favourite artists. As I wasn’t expecting to sell 80 copies in one night, and then sell the remaining copies within 2 days in stores and online, I hadn’t planned a second run for the foreseeable future. Whilst selling out was great news, it took me off guard and I was really uncomfortable telling people they would be unable to read the comic, so I took action almost immediately! By a stroke of luck, my boy Xavier in Melbourne has had a cancellation and will be able to fit my second edition in, and another risograph printers in Sydney is interested in doing another run in case anything goes wrong. Finally, no one will be denied Storm Clouds. Until the second edition drops, I ended up with a few extra copies from the printers that were lacking covers. As I mentioned before, I got the covers done in Newcastle and the insides done in Victoria, but the covers were done first and Xavier ended up running out. As a result, I’m doing a very very limited run of five copies with a limited edition cover illustrated by my friend Carlo Delos Santos, which I’ll be selling myself online. BUT, if you subscribe to Newcastle Mirage this month, you’ll be in the draw to win one of these limited edition Storm Cloudses! Tell em all about it, Kian!

 

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IN CELEBRATION OF STORM CLOUDS RELEASE BEN MITCHELL HAS GENEROUSLY GIVEN US A COUPLE OF LIMITED EDITION COPIES TO GIVE AWAY. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS SUBSCRIBE TO MIRAGE BEFORE THE END OF MAY AND 2 LUCKY SUBSCRIBERS WILL RECEIVE A FREE COPY IN THE MAIL WITH THEIR JUNE EDITION.

(offer only available to 6 or 12 month subscribers)