Monday, 14 November 2016

Superpower Christmas

With the help of a wisecracking, steampunk robot, two accidental superheroes discover that they have inherited some amazing, if unusual, abilities. Computer whiz Megan can fly (mostly sleep-flying, but she's working on it) while her best friend Cam can (in theory) transform into any animal, but mostly ends up as a were-hamster. Together they must protect the source of their ancestral powers from a wannabe evil mastermind and his gang of industrial transformer robots who've disguised themselves as modern art installations on their Greenock estate. It isn't easy to balance school and epic super-battles, not to mention finding time to search for other super-talents and train with their Mr Miyagi-esque were-tiger coach. Can Megan and Cam beat the bad guy, defeat his robot transformers and become the superheroes they were born to be?

In early drafts of The Superpower Project, I tried a couple of different ways of having a chapter set around Christmas time. Ultimately, both got chopped during editing because they didn't really fit. As a festive treat, I thought I would share a bit from one of them.

If you haven't read The Superpower Project, this is exactly the sort of action-packed malarkey you can expect to find on every page of this ideal Christmas stocking filler! You can read the first few chapters for free on the Discover Kelpies website. And if you remain unconvinced, why not read these lovely reviews on Toppsta.

In this 'deleted scene', Megan and Cam have been asked to rescue someone called Wilf from the top floor of an abandoned hi-flat which is being demolished during the Christmas holidays...
The hi-flats stood on a steep hill overlooking the river. There were dozens of blacked out windows, randomly smashed, like row upon row of bad, broken teeth. The buildings were fenced off, and due to the demolition, there were police cars stationed at either end of the street.
‘I'm not sure how we are getting in John,’ said Megan. 'Looks pretty busy down there.’
‘I know a way around the back and under the hill,’ said John. 'You two can get inside and quickly fly up the stairs.’
‘Can't we just take the lift?’ asked Cam.
‘All the power's off. Wilf will likely be up on the thirteenth floor,’ said John. ‘It's been quiet up there for years. That’s his favourite place.’
‘All thirteen floors?' said Cam. ‘This is a nightmare.’
‘Suppose he won’t come with us,’ said Megan.
‘He will, he’s not stupid, just tell him I sent you.’
‘You're not coming?’
‘No, TJ and I are going to wait nearby, just in case we need to try and slow down the demolition.’
‘How,’ said Cam, ‘are you guys suddenly bomb disposal experts?’
‘There will be some wires,’ said TJ. ‘We will just pull out the wires.’
Megan and Cam stared at them both, unimpressed.
‘Well it will be a little more scientific than that,’ said John, trying to reassure them.
‘You said we would pull out all the wires,’ said TJ.
‘Yes,’ said John. ‘But obviously we’ll pull out the wires to stop it exploding. Not the wires to start it exploding.’
‘How will we know which is which?’ asked TJ. ‘Will there be labels?’
‘Y’know what? Let’s go,’ said Megan. ‘Before this plan gets any worse.’

The stairway was covered in rubbish and rubble, here and there, bits of old cable poked out from the walls. Megan dodged and weaved her way ever upwards, round and round, in and out. All the way to the thirteenth floor. She stepped out from the stairwell into the corridor and set frog Cam down on the floor.
‘I'm really dizzy,’ he said as he turned back into himself. ‘That was like the waltzers. Only worse.'
‘Wilf!' shouted Megan. 'Wilf are you here?’
There was nothing but the darkness, and the distant rattle of wind against broken windows.
‘There's an open door over there,’ said Cam, pointing. ‘All the others are boarded up.’
The two of them walked slowly towards the door.
‘Wilf? Is there anyone called Wilf here?’
There was no reply. They stopped outside the door.
‘Okay,' said Cam. ‘Hands up if you think we should go in to the pitch black room on the thirteenth floor of the abandoned building?’
‘Suppose he's hurt,’ whispered Megan.
‘Suppose we get hurt,’ said Cam.
‘Let's just be ready,’ said Megan. ‘We can do stuff like this remember?’
Together, they walked into the tiny hallway inside the front door. Another door stood directly in front of them, hanging off at the hinge. Megan pushed at the broken door and it squealed open. The room was empty, except for an old mattress under the window. On the mattress, was a cat.
The cat miaowed and wandered over to Cam, rubbing itself against his legs.
‘Wilf's a cat?’ said Megan.
‘Makes sense,’ said Cam, ‘I suppose. Let's grab him and go.’
As they made their way back out to the stairwell, there was a massive bang, then a metallic crunch. Both of them thought exactly the same thing at the same time, ‘The building's getting blown up early!’
Megan opened the door to the stairway, and they began to run down the steps. Something was blocking their escape route. Something made of shining black metal, forcing its way up the narrow stairway, bending wires and cracking walls as it came.
‘Resilience!’ said Cam. ‘Why is Resilience here?’
‘Who cares! He’s hardly here to help is he? Back upstairs!’
Scarcely moments ahead of the lumbering robot, Megan and Cam burst back onto the thirteenth floor.
‘Okay...okay....good news? Building isn't exploding yet, it's just Resilience. Bad news? Resilience is here.’
Megan was holding onto Wilf, who seemed to be taking all of this in his stride. ‘What do we do Cam? I could fly us out the window?’
‘You can’t fly down the outside, someone might see,’ said Cam. ‘There’s a webcam filming the demolition.’
‘Well what then?'
The banging and scraping from the stairs suggested Resilience had almost squeezed his way to the top.
‘Got it,' said Cam, ‘we go down the lift shaft!’
‘Down a lift shaft? Won’t it be all jaggy wires?’
‘So be sure not to hit the jaggy bits,’ said Cam. ‘Seriously. You could end up with tetanus or something. My mum made me get an injection. Fly steady.’
Megan glowered at him, ‘Yes. Well that will be much easier now, I’m sure.’
Cam had already kicked the plan into action, and having turned into a gorilla, he was pulling the rusted lift doors apart with his massive arms.
As Resilience smashed through the stair door, Cam once again shrunk down into a frog, and Megan scooped him up and popped him in her pocket. Holding tight to Wilf she jumped down into the dark of the lift shaft, swooping down towards the basement level.
Above she could hear Resilience banging towards the opened lift door. She looked up to see him peering down, perhaps deciding whether or not to jump.
If he jumps down, thought Megan, he will totally squish us, there's no way we could move in time.
The robot began climbing down the lift shaft towards them. They were now at the bottom, and Cam had once again hopped out of Megan's pocket, and turned gorilla to force the other lift door open. This one was much stiffer however, and with so many changes, Cam's strength was weakening. Resilience kept climbing.
‘Cam quick! Please!’ said Megan.
Suddenly, the door was torn open from the other side. TJ stood, holding the broken door and a handful of wires, ‘I do not think these were the right wires,’ said the robot, ‘I think we should hurry.’
Megan, Cam and TJ tumbled out of the concrete shaft and down the thorny hillside as the first of the explosions went off. On the hill above, the hi flat gracefully collapsed in on itself, in a huge mushroom cloud of dust and rubble. The nearby streetlights flickered and popped. In every window, the glow of Christmas lights disappeared. The town was suddenly dark, and totally without power.
‘There really should have been a label on the wires,’ said TJ.
The Superpower Project is available to buy online...

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Skeleton Key

There's a war on. Well, two wars really. There's the one everyone knows about with soldiers and bombers and there's the other one, with spells, magical swords, zombies and giant ravens.

The Rowan Tree Legion are here to help us win both.

The Skeleton Key is a new all ages comic by myself and Mhairi M Robertson, and the easiest way to describe it would be "Dad's Army with witches". We have been working on it for AGES so it's great to finally be able to share it with folk. Skeleton Key is now available from the Magic Torch Comics shop.

There is also a new edition of Mhairi and I's first publication, Wee Nasties, an early years book which introduces younger readers to some of the folk characters of Inverclyde. That's available from the Magic Torch Comics shop too.

In other comic news, I'm delighted to be presenting at the From Heritage To Creativity Workshop : Inspiration For All event, in association with Scotland's Urban Past and the #DareToDream storytelling festival. I'll be talking about some Magic Torch Comics projects, and then Andy and I will be helping folk create their own comics in the afternoon.

And I'll also be along at the awesome Edinburgh Comic Art Festival on Saturday 26th November, presenting on Community Comics and Cultural Identity.