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Passing on our knowledge to the next generation

A few weeks ago we ran a poll on our Facebook page asking if our fans would find value in us sharing our experiences of running an independent publishing company for almost a decade. The overwhelming result was that it was something people would like to see… so we’re going to do it!

Facebook Poll asking whether people wanted us to pass on our knowledge
Facebook Poll asking whether people wanted us to pass on our knowledge

We’ve already thought of a number of topics we could cover, from what talents/roles are needed to take a comic from start to finish – to how to budget for expos and more.

As this is something we want to get YOU involved in though, we have a request: let us know in the comments what topics you want us to write about. That way we can be sure we’re giving you the really useful parts of our experience.

The first post will probably go up in December or January as we have other things (like launching 7 Shades: Hell’s Belles and Dolphin Squad: The Colouring Book) to focus on until then.

7 Shades Hell's Belles cover
7 Shades Hell’s Belles cover
Cover for the upcoming Dolphin Squad Colouring Book
Cover for the upcoming Dolphin Squad Colouring Book

 

 

 

By the way… both titles are now available to pre-order!

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More Dolphin Squad on the way!

Cover for the upcoming Dolphin Squad Colouring Book

Vinny, Fabian and Lazer-Eye are some of our fans’ most loved characters and Danny J. Weston’s Dolphin Squad stories have been part of our catalogue ever since we released Rising Stars in 2010. Last year we launched their second full length graphic novel: A Death in the Pod and now we can announce that there’s more Dolphin Squad on the way! Before the end of the year we’ll be releasing Dolphin Squad: The Colouring Book!

Cover for the upcoming Dolphin Squad Colouring Book
Cover for the upcoming Dolphin Squad Colouring Book

What’s in the colouring book?

Earlier this month we were able to meet up with Danny at the Frome Comic Con. He brought us these cool preview pages to show off. We were excited to see how the book has come together and we think you’ll like it too.

Photo of puzzle pages from the new Dolphin Squad colouring book.
Puzzle pages from the new Dolphin Squad colouring book.

We also discussed what comes after the colouring book as the world of Dolphin Squad continues to grow. We’ve now got Dolphin Squad badges, prints, and our A2 80s action movie poster as well as two full-length colour graphic novels and two stand alone shorter stories. Tonnes of stuff! So… what is coming next? Book three of course! Danny has plotted out the story for the book and scripting is under way. If you keep an eye on Danny’s Instagram as well as the Dolphin Squad Facebook page then you can see concept art, previews, and other cool tidbits as they are posted.

As for the colouring book; we’re still finalising the book’s contents. We should finish that in the next week or two. The book contains a mixture of puzzles, colouring pages and even a sneak peek at future Dolphin Squad characters! This will make an excellent Christmas or Birthday present for any dolph-fan. As soon as we’ve set a release date we’ll add the book to our store for pre-order. Check back frequently to find it as soon as it goes up! Finally, keep an eye on our events page to see where we’ll be attending for signing events. You’ll always be able to find our titles online but there’s something fantastic about meeting creators in person too.

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The Comic We Almost Couldn’t Publish – Dexter’s Half Dozen: The Stone Child

In 2008, a full two years before Deadstar Publishing was founded, two creators plucked up the courage to start putting out their own comic that was half-way between the A Team and Hellboy. That comic was Dexter’s Half Dozen – and the first storyline released was that of The Stone Child.

Original covers for the first arc of Dexter's Half Dozen

Fast forward to now, David Clifford and Jamie Lambert have completed ten issues – nine in main continuity and a bumper length one shot tenth-anniversary special. The next issue is underway and we’ll give you more information about that one when it comes closer to release.

Ever since we started publishing Dexter’s Half Dozen we’ve wanted to offer The Stone Child as a combined edition but life has a funny way of interfering with plans. Just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong – we blew up a computer, Jamie and David blew up a computer, somehow all the original art files became corrupted… for a while it looked like things were never going to come together!

Why is this edition of Dexter’s Half Dozen so important to us?

Not long after we began publishing Dexter’s Half Dozen we sat down for a chat with David and Jamie and discussed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the comic. We love the storyline – it’s exceedingly well written and the team behind it have tried to keep it as historically accurate as possible (while accounting for demons, liches, zombies etc!) right down to the reference material of tanks and weapons used. Where it fell down in the first few issues though was David’s lack of practice with the medium so far. By the time they reached issue #5 David had settled into a style that suited the story perfectly… but the first few issues lacked… something.

They agreed. And they wanted to improve the comic so David went (literally) back to the drawing board to add shading and texture to every page, bringing the first three issues up to the same fantastic standard as the later issues. In some cases he redrew the art from scratch to make use of his greater experience of sequential storytelling at that point. This would all be great… and if things had gone to plan we’d have released this collected edition in 2014 or 2015. As you have already read though, things didn’t go to plan.

What went wrong?

We don’t know when it happened, and we’ll never know why it happened but at some point all of the revamped artwork files became corrupted. This was discovered after David and Jamie blew up their computer and they tried reverting to backups. Every page was affected and it seemed for a long time like the idea of releasing a deluxe edition of Dexter’s Half Dozen: The Stone Child was dead in the water.

That was until Danny stepped in. We had just launched Dolphin Squad II: A Death in the Pod, Danny’s second graphic novel, and David had a bonus story in there. When the two of them were discussing their respective works, Danny offered to take a look at the files to see if there was anything he could do to repair them. And there was!

In Danny’s Words

Hi, this is Danny. I’ve been Deadstar’s Art Director since 2010 and originally I was asked to step in to re-letter the series to make it easier to read. I’ve ended up adding a lot more than that though. We decided to re-letter the series after it was rejected by Comixology due to non-standard lettering.

Original artwork from issue 1 of Dexter's Half Dozen

The original edition artwork. 2008.

The image above shows original black and white artwork from issue #1. At the time the Dexter’s team had limited experience creating comics using computers so the lettering was done the old fashioned way. The script was printed, cut out and glued to the original artwork pages. This lead to some of the lettering looking a little rough in places and hard to make any changes if mistakes were noticed in the future.

Updated but corrupted image from issue 1 of Dexter's Half DozenThe updated artwork (corrupted). 2014.

By issue #5 of the original Dexter’s Half Dozen run it was decided that the artwork in future issues should be fully rendered in greyscale rather than the black and white line work seen in the first four issues. Artist, David Clifford went back to the original inked pages and, using a combination of traditional media and computer, fully rendered the first 4 issues and even redid a few pages from scratch. The characters and foreground elements were painted by hand with background textures and shading done on computer. The process took many months but, just has the project was nearing completion, David’s computer crashed and all the work was lost!

The files were eventually recovered from a back up but unfortunately they were corrupted. Lines appeared across much of the artwork and background textures were missing so much data they appeared entirely wrong if they loaded at all. The plans for the collected editions were put on hold.

Danny's attempt to fix corrupted pages from Dexter's Half Dozen

Updated artwork (slightly less corrupted). 2018.

As I was already looking at the original 2008 files with a view to re-lettering them I asked David for access to the 2014 files to see if there was anything I could do. I was expecting to have to completely recreate David’s work by greyscale rendering each page from scratch – but after some experimenting I found that by saving the images as a PDF document before opening them in Photoshop the corrupted backgrounds could be fixed. The lines still remained but they could be repaired with a relatively simple but time consuming process. The image above is the result of that process.

Fully revamped art for Dexter's Half Dozen: The Stone ChildFinal TPB artwork and lettering. 2018.

Whilst repairing the corrupted artwork I also finished the background rendering on several pages that weren’t completed at the time the files were backed up. I was able to put my knowledge and experience to good use with several techniques to duplicate the same style and make my pages look as close as possible to David’s. Along with the artwork I re-lettered the entire collected edition using an updated script from writer, Jaime Lambert.

The cover

Now that you know the trouble we’ve gone to in getting Dexter’s Half Dozen: The Stone Child ready for release in its deluxe collected edition, it’s time for the cover reveal.

Tada!

And here’s the reverse:

What’s in it?

As well as the complete story of The Stone Child, this edition also contains original sketches and concept art, the first ashcan used to promote the series, a pin up by Alex Ronald and will feature a foreword by Barry Nugent, Editor-in-Chief at Geek Syndicate. In total, Dexter’s Half Dozen: The Stone Child is 100 pages long and will be released at the True Believer’s Comic Festival in Cheltenham on February 2nd 2019. You can pre-order it now by visiting our store or by asking your local comic store to order it for you.