December 11th, 2010

Liberation Frequency Meets... Obscure Reference

Interview conducted by Gavin O'Reilly

Intent on scoping out the up and coming on the UK comics scene, LF takes the chance to speak to young upstarts Gary Chudleigh and Graeme Kennedy- co founders and conspirators of Obscure Reference comics- a new independent publisher based up in Scotland, which has already diversified into several titles including “Villainous”, “X the Vampyr”, “Myth Monster MotherRucker” and “The Collabatory Season 01”. They have also been diversifying the method of output, now offering all of their titles online for free at Here's the lowdown...

LF: When did the venture that is 'Obscure Reference Comics' start out? How long has it taken to get to where you are, and has it been difficult?

GC: I think we discussed the idea on making our comic in 2008, and began establishing it early ’09. We were both creatively charged cousins with different talents who realised we could work on a mutual passion. It took a long time to get us off the ground as an actual production team. I was learning about lettering and writing while Graeme was researching drawing and doing practically everything else. He’s done a lot of good work with designing the website, artwork and contributing his own story ideas. It has all been a quite difficult but fun experience.

GK: We took time to get everything ready and going, but it’s full steam ahead for 2010 and beyond. 

LF: Where are you based, and does this influence your work on OR?

GC: I live in the West End of Glasgow and Graeme, who comes from Glasgow, currently lives in Dundee. My surroundings haven’t been much of an influence yet. I do have plans to include Glasgow in future comics.

GK: I agree that there hasn’t been any sort of direct influence but there are lots of subtle ways Glasgow has inspired in me. For example: the colour palette in Villainous has a certain Glasgow feel, most notably the amount of rain it features. 

LF: How have you found the UK independents scene- are you making friends and meeting heroes?

GC: I had ‘new kid at school’ syndrome when first going to London Expo in May. It was our first time exhibiting and meeting others from the Indy scene. I was instantly floored by how friendly everyone was. The guys clustered together in the comic village were genuinely nice people. We met some guys from Comic Corner at a recent fair in Glasgow, again, lovely helpful people.

I haven’t met any personal heroes yet, only the guys brave enough to put their creative work out there. I really enjoyed meeting Lee Townsend though; we shared floor space with him. His art was fantastic and his inking was amazing.

GK: The comics scene is like one of those things you don’t really see until you go looking for it. When you find it you wonder how you missed it all those years. I’ve really enjoyed and been relieved at the way we have been embraced by the community. It’s great to finally be getting some feedback on the comic. 

LF: How are you managing scheduling? Do you have a planned output schedule in mind?

GC: Scheduling is the most difficult part. For both of us, our time is consumed by our secret identities (day jobs, education) so strict planning doesn’t always go to plan.

GK: It’s very much a find time to get stuff done effort at the moment. One of the hardest things I have to do is slow myself down and not rush the work so I can maintain a consistent quality over the course of a book; it becomes essential when the pages are drawn days and weeks apart. 

LF: Has anybody been giving helpful advice or tips?

GC: Mostly Richard Starkings, his book on lettering is a godsend.

GK: I’d have to mention Scot McCloud and Freddie E. Williams II. They both have excellent books on drawing comics and both have great websites that are full of useful resources and inspiration. 

LF: How have you been finding the indie circuit? Do you have a favourite show, or one you really want to show at?

GC: We’ve been to London Expo and that was brilliant, a complete buzz. The creators, fans and the energy surrounding the place was such a fun experience. We recently did a comic fair at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow, which was much smaller but just as rewarding. We’re also going to Thought Bubble in Leeds. We’re very excited about that!

GK: Nothing beats the spectacle that is Comic Con. We would love to take Villianous to something as huge as San Diego or New York in the future. 

LF: So far you have two titles with some webcomics in production and out there, both "Villainous" and "X the Vampyr" have a similar feel. Do you plan to expand into other titles, and will they be in a similar vein? Are you aiming to create a specific publishing house 'flavour' of sorts? (Since interview all of the titles have become available online)

GC: I have two more concrete ideas that I’ll definitely be developing further and a handful of concepts that I’m still playing around with. A lot of it is bleak, and dark. I love stories that are thrilling and push the boundaries of morality. I think the only house flavour would be no superheroes, I love them, but I couldn’t put a dent on the already established mythologies and characters. There are plenty of them in the medium already.

GK: I think the way forward for us is to keep the bigger projects as print and hopefully expanding a bit more on the web comics and try and introduce some different genres of web comic to the web site. I enjoy the immediacy of the web comics- pretty much as soon as a page is done you can get it “out there.. 

LF: Who has been an inspiration to you?

GC: Mainly the works of Joss Whedon. As a teenager, Buffy and Angel first introduced me to the ideas of metaphors and character development. I initially started watching the shows because it had very attractive ladies combined with violence. Little did I know how his amazing work would affect my choices in the future. I am a certified Whedon fanboy.

In the comic world Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis have influenced me a lot. Mark’s cinematic style favours my own approach and I absolutely love Powers. I love the characters and the storylines. The police dynamics work so well.

GK: I take my inspiration from pretty much everywhere which is why I always carry my handy notebook for those many flashes of inspiration. In terms of comic book artists I am drawn more towards less conventional artists like Ashley Wood, Ben Templesmith, Stuart Immonen and Tim Sale. Having said that, I also love the style of Bruce Timm or Steve Ditko and the like. I think the most important thing in good comic art is that it fits the style and tone of the story or characters. 

And also, how could I forget Mike Oeming? 

 LF: How does your creative process work? Is it a handover of scripts to draw, or is it more collaborative?

GC: There’s a lot of back and forth. I’ll draft a script, Graeme will then go over it and give notes. I then re-draft it. From there we sit down to thumbnails and discuss it again, from panel positions to other various changes. Graeme also passes his artwork to me for feedback. I’ll then letter a page and pass it on for feedback. It’s very collaborative but within our own creative space. We have a good amount of trust and respect to be able to handle each other’s criticism, which is crucial.

GK: I think our back and forth approach has been really good at finding the right moments in the story and with tweaks in the lettering and artwork, it adds a lot of depth to the final product. 

LF: When will we get to see Villainous #2?!

GC: It depends on our work schedule, hopefully quite soon.

GK: Personally, I like to have a rough date where I plan to have everything done by, and then I can breakdown my time and keep track of my schedule. At the moment we are working towards issue 2 being available for Thought Bubble in Leeds at the end of November. 

LF: When will we see "X the Vampyr" in print?

GC: Our main focus is Villainous, unless we could be doing this full time, not for a while I’m afraid.

GK: It’s definitely in the pipeline though.

LF: What next for Obscure Reference Comics?

GC: Well we have the next 5 issues of Villainous coming and we’re very excited to get that into circulation.  We’re also working on some light hearted work for the website, it’s fun and slightly cheerier than our printed work so far. The website will also see updates of some free content as well as the Villainous work. We hope to exhibit at more conventions and hopefully get OR Comics a known name!

GK: Villainous, Villainous, Villainous and I hope lots more on the website don’t forget to keep watching the skies and

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