Shortly after my son, Alex was born in 1995, I made the decision to stop working for comics. Most of the work I had done for British comics was 'hack' work, in the sense that it was work for hire, either inking other people's pencils or drawn in a style that was appropriate for the relevant publications. I don't mean 'hack' in the sense of rushed or slapdash. I always put as much craft as I possibly could into the work, but I was essentially doing a job for pay, and that isn't what I had hoped for, when I chose to pursue a career in comics. I had managed to do a few strips that I considered worthwhile, with my own style and my own voice, notably for Crisis and Deadline. Finally I had produced a graphic novel in four parts, called Strange Embrace, originally published by Dave Elliott's UK office of Tundra Publishing, which was later published as a collection by Richard Starking's Active Images.
1993 was not a great year for independent comics. Strange Embrace was published into the middle of a glut of indie black and white books and disappeared without trace. There was no internet to connect with whatever reader-base I may have had, and it felt as if no one was even looking at the thing. I imagined the few thousand copies we printed, languishing in remainder boxes across the USA. I did get some feedback from fellow professionals and was even offered the chance to publish a 'sequel' as a creator owned book from Marvel UK in 1994. I can hear one or two gasps of disbelief there, but yes indeed, in the early 90's Marvel UK, with Paul Neary as editor-in-chief, was planning a whole line of creator owned books under the title Frontier Line. Evil Eye was planned as a graphic novel in the style of Strange Embrace, though not strictly a sequel. I wrote and drew a short story for the anthology book Marvel Frontier Comics Special. The story combines traditional horror/mystery and what in 1993 was a startlingly innovative new concept - Virtual Reality. Reading it now, it feels like a throwaway piece. If I remember correctly, line editor Michael Bennent asked me to come up with a short piece to showcase the lead character, Michael Hellman. Atomic Avenue has a short review of the Frontier Comic Special:
What most people are unaware of is that Evil Eye was indeed commissioned as a series. The first issue was written and drawn and partially inked when the axe fell. When I have the time, I may scan the script, which was done in the form of pencil layouts with rough hand-letters. I later turned it into an unpublished novel, parts of which became the basis for Daredevil: Redemption, published in 2005 by Marvel US. A long and convoluted journey to publication. When Marvel UK's Frontier Line failed to materialize, that was pretty much the end of it for me. I did a few more strips over the next few years but by 1996, with a young child to look after, it made no sense to be working 60 hours a week or more on work which was less than satisfying. Gradually I moved into commercial illustration. Below is an unpublished illustration I produced under the name Art Gang. It's a Photoshop piece that combines photographs of myself and my son into the eponymous 'Little Monster'. Those are my angry eyes and mouth super-imposed onto Alex's face. The title was constructed with Alex's magnetic fridge alphabet, with some drop shadow added. The line "What makes Little Monster so different, so appealing?" is a nod to Richard Hamilton's Pop Art collage, 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' I suspect there is also a subliminal cry of frustration on my part. I really did miss comics.