A reflection on what this first decade of the new millennium has given us…
Well with one day left to go before the final day of the year and indeed the New Millennium decade I thought I would take a look at all that has happened to the world and my place in it during that time.
Well way back in 1999 I was still working full time as a comic artist, although I was finally under the realisation that I was not enjoying it any more and felt like a hack, as a result of the creative stifling I saw and experienced first-hand for those I was working for.
It was towards the end of that year following a lack of interest from certain parties, who shall remain nameless, when trying to get a new UK adventure anthology comic off the ground, earlier in October, when I was confronted by two editors, who have to be the most unprofessional guys I have even had the privilege of having to work with.
They were the final straws, which sadly broke the camels back and I found myself in a position whereby I could no longer take their opinions seriously and I no longer wished to do that, which I had wanted to since being a young eight-year old boy, which was to write and draw comic books.
I found another outlet for my creativity within the worlds of the theme park industry, where I began working as a conceptual artist and designer. The first two weeks, as I may have said here before, were the hardest two of my career, as I felt each successive job would be my last.
I soon came to the realisation that all that was required from the job was to create new worlds for a 3D world, rather than the 2D I had been so used to creating. The trouble for me was, as I say, that I had become so constrained by the power-that-be inside the comics industry that I had forgotten what it was like to be creative. Here suddenly I was without the tightly written briefs and scripts, which told me the size and shape of the panels, as well as the content, down to the last nut and bolt.
Whereas in comics I felt I had become merely an extension of a writer or editor’s hand, there to merely serve the will, without any right to do things differently, even if they could be made better, despite the fact that those making such decisions could not draw themselves – suddenly here I was given a new lease of life and the ability to think again creatively for myself. Suddenly my vision, as I saw each project was meaningful, to those employing me and my thoughts on why any given project should be handled in the way I had chosen, was suddenly given value and the skills, which I brought to the table had gained their respect.
It was here that I was headhunted and given the chance to help set up an animation company working on a series of features and TV projects. Had this happened straight out of my time in comics, I figure I could well have floundered and failed in the task, but this transition was made much easier for me with the route I had taken through the theme park industry.
Here I was hired not just as an artist, but also as a writer and story developer and it was here I was to hit my stride running and return to my routes, as both an artist and a storyteller. My experience working in Dubai and similar places in the theme park industry was highly valuable, but my experience, which I gained in the animation world, was even greater. For it was here that I would learn to advance the basic computer skills I had gained prior, by learning a little about 3D packages and Photoshop for real.
The work I produced here though, was to have a profound effect on my beliefs, which were the same as those I had, just before I was about to embark upon entering the comics industry in the mid-eighties, as I realised fully I had never really wanted to work on the characters I had read from being a kid, as my portfolio, shown to Marvel UK attested to them all those many years ago, full of SF and Fantasy comic work – not superheroes. Now that is not to say I do like superheroes, just that I did not really want to tell those kinds of stories. The nearest I would say my leanings are towards is Jack Kirby’s Fourth World – although not for one instant do I sit here claiming my work to be as great as this magnificent opus.
With that realisation and the fact I was given full rein to do as I pleased, I produced some of the best work of my career, both artistically and as a writer, up to that date, during my tenure there.
There was one terrible moment though that anyone born before that time will remember and it is one which would prove to be the undoing of what could have been a fantastic venture and that happened sadly on Tuesday September 11th 2001. I remember the day clearly, it was a sunny morning and we were excited about a new development, which meant our future looked pretty much mapped out and rosy.
One of the first things I remember is thinking of all those I had worked with in NYC, when I worked for Defiant and wondering if they were all okay.
I immediately called Joe James from the studio at Morpheus and was unable to get through, the lines were jammed up with international calls, so I dropped him an email and then tried again. I tried several times, before I got through and heard his voice on the other end of the phone. It was a great relief, but the description he gave of the events only a few blocks away from his apartment made the images being shown to us via CNN on the computers and the TVs at ITM, whose building Morpheus resided within, all the more poignant.
That was to change my direction yet again and I continued to work for TV and some feature work, but as most of it was never seen by the general public I was becoming less inclined to work within those arenas, despite the greater money being earned through those avenues and longed to work as a sequential artist once more in comics, rather than even storyboards.
There has always been a love of comics for me and by 2003, whilst between jobs, an opportunity arose for me to draw some comic book work once more, just following my starting to develop an old idea into a graphic novel format, which was, as you all know by now, Worlds End.
February 2003 saw the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle disintegrate upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.
In the interim period between 2003 and 2005 I was to hook up with a lot of my old buddies working in comics once more, which was great and meant there was a lot of catching up to do. It was during the Christmas period of 2003, Boxing Day to be exact, that I received the dreadful news from my good mate, and fellow comic artist Dave Windett that our mutual mate, Art Wetherell whom I had just got back in touch with just prior to Christmas had died on Christmas Day.
I was gutted, having just got back in touch and imagining a return to the good old days of phone bills which read like a shopping list on them due to speaking to Art, John Ridgway and Jon Haward too, finding that was never going to be. I still miss the guy and often wonder what he would have worked on and what we may have worked on together again. I was asked later in 2004 by another of my good mates in comics and the best letterer in the business, Richard Starkings to write a tribute to Art, which you can read here. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to write and even now I find it emotional to re-read the words I chose to write.
The human race had faced the scourge of the potential Millennium Bug and come out the other side unscathed, witnessed a destructive act unprecedented up until it happened and we hadn’t even hit the middle of the decade. 2003 also saw the beginning of the second war in Iraq, which is continuing to this day, with casualties mounting almost on a daily basis.
Since the beginning of the decade we have seen third world countries enter the nuclear arms race, huge weather pattern changes, hurricanes wipe out entire coastal cities, tsunamis devastate coastal regions, floods throughout the world, and all manner of terrible events.
We have seen the rise of Broadband and the ever-increasing speeds to both upload and download files and information. We have seen mobile phones become Jack Kirby’s Mother boxes, with their cameras, personalising, music storage and now Internet access.
We have also seen the rise of Wii games, Ipods, Nanobot technology, Cybernetics and Bionics advancement, GPS first in cars and now on phones, incredible leaps in 3D technologies, which make everything seem real and possible, all alongside an attempt to create the equivalent of the Big Bang in the middle of a European mountain, and thus potentially chancing creating a black hole…madness!
We can do all of this and yet we continue to strip-mine our world of all its valuable assets, irrespective of the harm we do to the planet and the environment and those fellow creatures that cohabit our fragile world with us. We can build buildings that reach to the sky and yet we cannot cure the common cold. We find cures for one terrible ailment and find another ten to replace it. We watch millions starve every year and yet share the wealth of the entire world between a privileged few. We talk about world peace and build bombs with the power to decimate worlds and most of the contents of this paragraph we have bore witness to during this very decade, one which I have barely scratched the surface of by looking at some of the major events that have occurred between.
We now have unbelievable Computer systems, with incredible sized memory and capabilities, with the software to match, along with sub orbital space flights by groups of entrepreneurs, and in 2005 something much more personal for me.
For it was in June of that year that I incorporated Wizards Keep Limited set up the website followed by this Blog and then over 22 other networking websites too, and began to work in earnest on volume one of my first series of graphic novels, Worlds End.
The decade also saw me return to drawing comic books and more recently writing them too, first with Thor Losers and Sergeant Minor and later with Hot Wheels, producing the full art chores on all of them.
It saw me keep my hand in with a number of TV projects, some illustration projects, children’s books projects, numerous graphic design projects and charity projects too.
It also saw a return, two years later, to my attending comics conventions and shows and similar events, the first one with Margaret then later with the full company exhibition stands and assistants to accompany me. My most recent to the very first one ever held in Malta was, for me, an incredibly moving experience and one, which I consider myself very lucky to have been invited to.
These past almost four and a half years have seen me working again with some of the best talent on this planet, artists such as; Joe Rubinstein, John Ridgway, and Frank Zigarelli, sculptors such as; Sean Green, Jeff Meckley and Choi Chow, as well as adding graphic designer Paul Finch to the list for his wonderful work on the alien motifs on the Worlds End project helping me to create some spectacular Logos.
It has also seen me set up an affordable lithographic printing service, which many of the UK comics creatives have jumped at the chance to enjoy the benefits of, develop new products for the company and new stories, which have yet to be shown to the public – Yes you heard it first here and will hear more later on in 2010 about such stories.
Recently the Worlds End project has stepped up a gear and seen me hire the services of the very talented, Yel Zamor producing the flat colouring, James Hill, as co-editor, casting his ever-eagle eye over the script, and the services of Richard Starkings, the best letterer in the business, to letter the book.
So this last decade has seen some highs and lows with tragic natural disasters occurring and man-made ones too like the recent recession, brought about by the greed of the bankers and governments too soft, or corrupt themselves to bring about the demise of this corruptness, but now for the first time in four decades we are looking to the future again with America promising to re-visit the Moon and then land a man on Mars, in the next five to ten years, maybe it isn’t just with Orange that the future looks bright.
I am very excited at what the prospect of this next decade will bring along to the table and wonder if this next ten years will be given over to the dreamers amongst us, the visionaries, and the creatives with a view that makes all things possible and seeks to expand our horizons even further.
Who knows what tomorrow holds…like Jack Kirby once said, in the world to come?
I, for one am excited to find out…now who’s with me on that one?
Until next time have fun!
December 30th 2009
Leo Baxendale 1930 - 2017
2 days ago