Thursday, 28 March 2013

At The Mines Of Madness

He awoke, as he always did, in the Central Cavern. As consciousness gradually returned the terrible sense of déjà vu almost overwhelmed his senses. He fumbled in the darkness for his miners helmet and turned on the light. The air already grew thin, making it difficult to draw breath. He didn’t have much time. He knew what he had to do. He ran.

Somewhere above, an obscene approximation of music fluttered. Grieg. In The Hall Of The Mountain King. But he knew it was not music. It was the scream of the creatures who dwelt in this eldritch place. Another sound now, the clanking of the cavern’s guardian. A hideous automaton, eight feet tall, patrolled the tunnels. In its mindless and robotic duty it saw nothing. How many years, how many centuries, had it gone about this business? Unchanged by events, unmoved by the passage of time or the intrusion of visitors. It was a formidable presence in the massive cave system around it. It was not advisable to go near it, for its touch brought instant death.

The only way to escape this unnatural, twisted place was to open the gate at its far side. How many times had he already endured this nightmare? Each step, each climb and jump, were etched into his memory. The memory sickened him. He knew what else he would face beyond the door. Avoiding the dread automaton he collected the keys that would make the gate glow and then open. He understood the correlation but not the technology involved. It was nothing he had ever experienced, so advanced it may as well be supernatural. Or Alien. As he had so many times before he entered the gate.

He found himself, as he always did, in a frozen chamber almost as big as the Central Cavern. The scream of the beasts grew louder. This cavern contained creatures that resembled Penguins, those hardy denizens of the southern ice at the other end of the world. But these Penguins were as big as he was. He knew how to avoid them and find the key to exit through the gate. It glowed as it opened, a hideous, unsettling light that drew him to it. He could hardly breathe now and the first signs of frostbite were showing on his hands. He leapt for the gate.

The caves blurred together. Each more difficult and more terrifying than the last.  Unthinking machines went about their duties, their routine never changing. He wondered if they knew he was there at all. Some of the creatures he knew saw him. The giant ovoid beast that chased him as he ran for the gate would haunt his dreams forevermore. If he lived beyond his ordeal and was capable of dreaming again. The disgusting mockery of a giant ape, that was not truly an ape. It could not be an ape. He thought he had escaped from its clutches once, only for it to reappear in a later cavern, as if its very existence was only in jest. These creatures could not die.

As he progressed through the caverns he once more wondered about the beings who built this maddening place. It was clear that humans were not the first to create civilisation upon this planet. Something had been here before us, building in the deep places of the Earth. The remnants of this civilisation were all around him. It was also clear that at some point they had encountered humans. Many of their automatons resembled the machines and devices of man. Here a telephone, there a lavatory. Like some sickening cargo cult approximation of life above the ground.

The most common sight in these dread caves caused the most uncanny fear in him. Indescribable amorphous blobs, which in a brief moment of levity he allowed himself, he named Amoebatrons. But these beasts were no automatons. He began to wonder if they were the architects of this place. Again and again he encountered them, and their screams. The sound chilled him to the core of his being.

Yet for all his disgust, his terror, he could not help but admire their industry. This subterranean world was a marvel. An experienced miner and cave diver, he had never seen its like. An ancient race of beings once ruled this Earth. If only his brothers could see it. They were once inseparable,  but the economic situation had flung them to the far corners of the country. Harry was a farmer now, primarily in poultry. Monty… Monty had turned to a life of crime following the catastrophe that had destroyed their industry, their community. The last he heard he was on the run somewhere in Europe, living in the shadows and staying one step ahead of Interpol. He himself had become a treasure hunter, scouring the world for places such as this. Be careful what you wish for, he thought wryly. There were enough riches here to fulfil the dreams of Midas himself. He might as well be behind the bars of a solid gold prison.

The only way was forward. Forward to what must be the true exit from this labyrinth. Or forward unto death. With the uncanny hindsight he had developed he knew what to expect, and began to inch further than he had managed before. Could there truly be an escape? He had longed for death many times over. If he could just reach the final cavern, and find the answers he craved. The Amoebatrons watched him, floating above, the pattern of their movement changed not.

At length he reached what must be their power source. An immense generator that seemed to harness the very power of the Sun itself. He must be near the surface! The solar rays burst forth from the machine, cascading in all directions, seemingly at random. The noise was deafening. Somehow he managed to climb to the top of the chamber and reach the key. The gate glowed as it opened. How was this even possible? What terrible force kept this place as it was, unchanged by the aeons? What possible force could resurrect a human being again and again, for no apparent reason other than for sport? He had found the power that drove the caves, but the reason was alien. Unknowable.

The Amoebatrons screamed louder than ever. The sickening sound that was not music no longer sounded like Grieg to his ears. It was then that he knew these creatures were the true architects of this world. Their cry now sounded like a call, the structure of it that of a language. If it could be transcribed into his own tongue, it could only be written as Tequila Me! Tequila Me! 

Scarcely able to move his limbs from sheer exhaustion, he found himself at long last at his destination. The surface world beckoned him from above. Escape! And riches beyond his wildest imaginings! That was when he made his one mistake. Losing sight of the path in front of him, he thought only of the gate.
Too late did he see the beast. It was upon him. He screamed as it touched his skin, his body convulsed with pain. Willy died within a few feet of deliverance.

He awoke, as he always did, in the Central Cavern. As consciousness gradually returned the terrible sense of déjà vu almost overwhelmed his senses. He fumbled in the darkness for his miners helmet and turned on the light. The air already grew thin, making it difficult to draw breath. He didn’t have much time. He knew what he had to do. He ran.

Convenience Shoggoth

Here's a comic strip I did at the recent Drink and Draw event at Newcastle Arts Centre, hope you like it! Sorry for the dodgy photo, I gave the art away and I'm afraid I was ever so slightly inebriated. It was a great night and I'm looking forward to the next one!                                               

Sup Cuz

How do! It’s been a canny busy time at Chateau Beans, I’ve been moving house to a new chateau for a start! The horror… the horror… So thought I’d give youse a quick update on what I’m gonna be doing in the near future.


I’ll be exhibiting at the Bristol Comic Expo in May, sharing a table with the estimable Mr Graham Pearce of Sgt Mike Battle fame! I’ll have plenty of new work to show you I’ve been a busy bee recently! I’m really looking forward to it after missing most of the cons last year.


Mostly I’m working hard on getting my web comic The Spine Chillers up and running again, following the terror of The Wicker Bloke story and Lovecraft’s return. Well the fellas are about to face their most epic adventure of all real soon folks…


I’m also still working on my new project which has stalled a bit recently, the above pic of Slime Mantis VS Avon Barksdale is a sneakety peak for you! And my children’s book The Boo Boat is coming together pretty sharpish now, I’m hoping to have it finished by the autumn. And lots of other stuff too!

Stay tuned for updates chums, and Keep Watching The Pies!

Ben x

Friday, 25 January 2013

Solar Wind

Space Year 2013. So my son Dylan turns 3 pretty soon, and he's almost old enough to start reading comics.
I had the occasion to show him The Bumper Book of Solar Wind the other day, explaining to him that Daddy helped make this one. It made me think of those days when we were making Solar Wind, ten years ago now since we were working on issue 1.

And I've been reading them again, through new eyes. I've never really been able to see it as a comic before now, I'm just too close to it. All I could ever see were the mistakes and the story behind how every page was put together. It seems kind of crazy to think now that we put all of that hard work into making this insane tribute to the comics that we loved as kids. All the work Paul put in, the hours and hours of work he put in and thought he put into it all.

The elation we felt when we won our award the first year we were eligible, when we were so convinced we would come about ninth we weren't even there yet, that we knew people really got it. We always wanted it to be a democratic comic, that anyone that was interested enough or passionate enough could send us material, from a mad little drawing or a letter to a six page comic strip.We loved it when people sent us stuff that really got what we were doing, and why we were doing it, we didn't really care if it was any good or not. Though they usually were good. Practically every strip in them has been mentioned as somebody's favourite.

But the work Paul did to get it made. I know the work I put into my small part in it. The ridiculous things we did for it, like borrowing my Grandma's wheelchair and wrapping me up like a Mummy for one tiny photograph in Traction Man. We went to extraordinary lengths to acquire a VHS copy of Condorman and sat and watched it at mine, just so we could do a four paragraph pisstake of it. The hours we spent trawling car boot sales looking for old Mandy annuals and props for the photo stories, and the insane things we persuaded people to do for them. Skulking round Hardwick Park dressed as Griefbringer and Harshmallow at seven in the morning. Filling as many pages as we could ourselves if we had to, sometimes nearly half the comic because we were only accepting submissions in a certain genre for no reason other than to make that particular themed issue stronger.

Learning and learning about storytelling with every mistake and every success.

They look like they could be a pair of annuals from that time. I currently had mine with a
pile of actual 80s annuals. It's such a fun comic. And it's so funny. More than anything we just wanted it to be funny, an enjoyable read that made people laugh and maybe made them think of the comics they loved as kids. There's just no badness in it, you know? It's got a heart and a soul.

Towards the end we felt like we'd taken the joke as far as we could, and almost everyone had their own comics by then anyway, and were moving off in a million different directions. I felt like my work was moving farther and farther away from what Paul's initial vision of Solar Wind was, and what I tried to help him with as best as I could in any way I could.

But it had come to it's natural end, I think we all knew it really. It's the better comic for that.

I'm telling you this because I think one day people might want to know some of this stuff about Paul's comic, and I've never really spoken about it to anyone but him before. I think it's a special comic, maybe even an important one.

That John Wagner, Alan Grant and Pat Mills approved of them and liked them is what makes me so proud of Solar Wind. That the people who made the comics I loved as a kid that shaped who I am today liked our silly tribute to them. I'm prouder of Solar Wind than anything I've ever done in my life except having my son.
So to my dear friend Paul, and to everyone who contributed to Solar Wind or supported it or believed in it, me and Dylan say thanks.

It's the best comic of the 21st century. It's the best comic of any century.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Spine Chillers Are Back!

After a few months away The Spine Chillers webcomic is back in action and back to it's weekly schedule! Poe and Bierce are searching the Scottish Highlands for their missing homeboy Lovecraft when they encounter the mindbending horror of... The Wicker Bloke! Is this nightmare somehow all Lovecraft's fault? You knows it, girlfriend!
The Spine Chillers continues weekly at

Keep watching the pies,

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Mo' Breaking Bad Comics

Hope you're all well; I am now, after a pretty rubbish time things are going good here at Magic Beans HQ. I'll give youse a proper update on the return of The Spine Chillers, my upcoming convention appearances and my mysterious NEW THING what I'm working on soon, for now though here's a round up of some more Breaking Bad Comics. Enjoy!








Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Breaking Bad Comics

Recently I've been making comic strips for the brilliant Breaking Bad Comics blog, the first one is up now. I became obsessed with Breaking Bad the TV Series when I was ill recently, it's now my favourite show I love it immensely. Likewise the comic strip which gave me many laughs in bad times. These strips are the first work I've done since I got better so hope you like them!

Warning: If you don't watch Breaking Bad just nod politely as you will not get it :)
If you do watch BB then beware of spoilers up to the end of Season 4. Church.


I've now got four strips up on Breaking Bad Comics, they all seem to be quite popular so far which makes me happy :) Here they are:





I'm up to my eyeballs in work on The Spine Chillers at the moment but more Breaking Bad Comics will be coming soon!