Uproar Comics' Zombies Hi
The creatives behind Derry~Londonderry's Uproar Comics are not interested in resting on their laurels following the success of breakout saga, Zombies Hi
Ask the writers and visual artists behind breakout Derry~Londonderry publishers Uproar Comics what ethos they prescribe to and their answer is simple: creating everything they can.
'The main goal is to make as much stuff as possible,' declares Kevin ‘Gio’ Logue, Uproar Comics founding member and the artist behind critically-acclaimed comic series Zombies Hi, which sees George A Romero's apocalyptic vision, The Walking Dead and everything undead inbetween supplanted to the Maiden City.
'I just like making things,' Logue continues. 'Cartoons, games, music, films…'
'Musicals,' interjects fellow co-founder, and primary Zombies Hi writer, Danny McLaughlin. The duo, as well as Uproar’s latest artistic recruit Ruairi Coleman, guffaw at the idea – but, given that the collective have a hit comic book series on their hands, a video game completed and are currently developing a smartphone and tablet app, the idea of them taking on Broadway doesn't, perhaps, sound so outlandish.
But more on those projects later – first and foremost, some backstory. Uproar Comics is the brainchild of a group of young creatives who overcame an admitted lack of comic book knowledge to develop, according to the Irish Times, a mucker zombie tale which 'has taken the Irish comic scene by storm in little over a year'.
'Technically the Uproar journey probably started about ten odd years ago, when we’d do Star Wars stories in Gio’s kitchen,' recalls McLaughlin.
'I’ve never been the biggest comic book head,' adds Logue. 'But about three years ago, when I was doing art at college, we decided to try our hand at putting the stories into comics. Then, by fate or chance, we went to a conference, featuring David Campbell, a Marvel artist and co-ordinator of the 2D Festival. He taught us the skills behind comics – and from there we were hooked.'
Initially working on smaller projects, Uproar’s big break came in 2011 when the UK City of Culture 2013 team asked Logue and McLaughlin to pitch an idea for a standalone book – and Zombies Hi was born. The only problem was that the guys, after receiving City of Culture backing, didn’t want to hand their idea over.
'When we started developing Zombies Hi, we got protective,' admits Logue. 'Basically our view was that we didn’t want anyone else’s name on it. It was our baby. And we didn’t want to risk anyone telling us how it should be. The main thing was to do a story that was ballsy.'
Having decided to go it alone, the lads – along with fellow founding member, John Campbell – went about creating the most definitive, authentic and downright hilarious Northern Irish zombie story this side of Botanic Avenue on a Friday evening.
Depicting a zombocalypse Siege of Derry, the series focuses on a rotating cast of main characters including Paddy, a Catholic PSNI officer; Johnny, a rocker set on reuniting with his band, Clench; and the creepy Man in the Shadows. Unafraid of straying into political territory, the series also deals with IRA terrorism and Nationalist and Unionist friction in the city.
'The themes really are life and death,' says McLaughlin. 'Society, past horrors rising again, relationships, survival, security, fear, love, difficult decisions – and of course brains and decapitation. We always wanted to set it in Derry, I guess, because people say write what you know. But those who’ve read it even in the UK, relate to it. They give it their own accent and aren’t alienated by the politics.'
Where McLaughlin cites literature as a major influence, and Logue television (he mentions Lost as a crucial visual inspiration for the Uproar aesthetic), new artist Coleman is the one true comic book lover in the Uproar fraternity.
'I was always attracted to comics with great art. When I was younger the big hitters – Marvel and DC, as well as Spawn – were my touchstones,' says the Liverpool-based inker. Having met Logue and McLaughlin at the 2012 2D Comics Festival (which is held every June in Derry's Verbal Arts Centre), Coleman has now replaced Logue as the primary artist on the series.
'My style’s different from Gio’s,' he continues. 'His stuff is darker, black and white drawings that look amazing. But my stuff is more dynamic, kind of in a Spiderman style. It’s been phenomenal coming on board to work with these guys.'
'Ruairi’s bringing a fresh perspective to the title,' adds McLaughlin. 'It’s evolving, and his style suits the direction of the story.'
A key philosophy underpinning the continued success of Zombies Hi is inclusivity and interactivity with their growing legion of fans. The group have open submissions policy, and accept submissions via hosted the Uproar website. Budding writers and artists are invited to contribute short stories or original art to flesh out the mythology.
'We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to contribute to the series,' Logue beams. 'It’s always been important that we could give other people a platform.'
McLaughlin agrees: 'We’ve got around 20 people who are regular contributors. There are a lot of talented writers and artists out there who don’t really have many options when it comes to getting published, so we want to offer that opportunity.'
With Zombies Hi! continuing to spread like a living corpse plague, and another six issues due for publication in 2013, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Uproar Comics crew log off at the end of another long working day, go home and relax with a Father Ted box set or two. But you would be wrong. It seems that Logue, McLaughlin and co have developed workaholic tendencies. Time for those aforementioned digital side projects.
In 2012 the group designed a video game for use on the BBC’s big screens, which was originally intended to play at City Hall, Belfast, and Waterloo Place in Derry pre-Olympics. Entitled Zombie Healer (unfortunately a family-friendly remit meant that killing the undead was ruled out), the game was ultimately held back, but the group are hopeful it will go live this year.
Meanwhile Logue excitedly describes an 'animated comic app with a serious twist' the group are currently developing, with plans to officially launch in spring 2013. 'It’ll have unlockable features, character bios, games, 3D and will innovatively use the functions of an iPad,' Logue explains, believing that it will rival even Marvel’s comic reader app.
With the app, more Zombies Hi instalments, a new title, The Ballad of Half Hanged MacNaghten, to launch, and about a dozen other projects on the go, it's looking like Uproar Comics will to continue to cause a scene in 2013.
Issue 8 of Zombies Hi, Dead on Arrival, is out late March, 2013.