AUTUMN OF INDIE: Interview with No More Heroes’ Gordon McLean

Gordon McLean has gone from being jobless to one of the most talked-about indie comic creators in the UK.

His debut comic No More Heroes is the most illegally downloaded indie comic there is, with many of those who downloaded being so impressed that they went and bought it afterwards. That is quite impressive! So far Gordon has 3 of the 4 issues out to buy (all critically acclaimed), he has been apart of GLoW (Glasgow League of Writers) with stories in both their first and second anthologies, a film in the works and even an SICBA (Scottish Independent Comic Book Award) for Best Series.

Yes, it has been a fantastic year for McLean!

Geek Syndicate (GS): Hi Gordon! You have had incredible success with your debut book No More Heroes, a critical hit that you won a SICBA (Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards) for, winning Best series. Where did the idea come from?

Gordon McLean (GM): The unfortunate truth is that the idea first came to me while I was in the toilet! Out of nowhere popped the idea of someone receiving an anonymous text asking “Should I kill myself?” I’m not sure what the connection is between urination and suicide…

Anyway, for a long time that idea was stuck in an ideas notepad with nowhere to go. I just couldn’t think of a story strong enough to follow such a ‘grabber’ of an opening. Cue me going to Kapow Con, listening to professionals talking about how great it was to work on their own comics– BAM! My over-caffeinated brain linked the suicidal text idea to the superhero genre. The rest of the story just flowed from that.

GS: What first inspired you to write comics?

GM: I’ve always loved comics. They’ve followed me from childhood (Dandy, Beano, Our Wullie, The Broons, Acne etc) through my teens (2000AD, Preacher, Lobo, Transmetropolitan) to today. Since childhood I’ve also loved writing stories and ventured into scriptwriting in my late teens. I was destined to bring the two together sooner or later. Just wish it was sooner! I’m playing catch-up now.

GS: What type of storytelling do you like?

GM: I value originality and creativity above everything else. I’m sick and tired of seeing the same old stories told in the same old way. I think any writer who doesn’t at least try to do something different or unusual with their story and characters should be beaten to death with their own clichés.

GS: You are working on your first feature film, Dying Light. Can you tell us more about this?

GM: Dying Light is a closed room horror that plays out in real-time. The main character Eddie hooks up with a beautiful, sexually aggressive lassie called Suze. He thinks his luck’s in! It’s really not. She tells him she knows a quiet place they can go to have some “fun.”  It turns out to be a specially prepared room where she traps and drugs Eddie.  Then things get really weird…

The film’s my reaction to the current state of cinema horror: a creativity-free wasteland of bimbos, cheap jump scares, torture porn, shitty-looking monsters, repetitive animal attacks and f***ing remakes. Dying Light avoids all this.

I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s just say Dying Light is designed to reach into the audiences’ minds and turn their own fears against them. How? You’ll need to watch the film to find out.

Shameless plug for Facebook page: search for Dying Light.

GS: There is a feeling of Japanese horror running through No More Heroes with the text message that kills. Is this an inspiration for both of your ventures?

GM: That’s something I’ve never thought of with regards to No More Heroes but you’re definitely on to something there. I’m a huge fan of Asian horror films – they’re doing it so much better than we are in the West. Ringu is my second favourite horror film of all time (the original Halloween is first). I’ve also seen and enjoyed the likes of One Missed Call and Phone, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of linking something horrific to the humble phone originated there.

J-horror isn’t a direct influence on Dying Light but we do share the minimalist/less is more approach of the likes of Ringu.

GS: No More Heroes is the most illegally downloaded indie book ever. How do you feel that you have built this audience at such a speed yet not necessarily seen the profits?

GM: Double edged sword, definitely. On the one hand it’s flattering that it took off so well with comics fan and the whole point of doing NMH was to get our names out there and try to catch the industry’s attention. On the other I can’t help but wish they’d paid for it. If each downloader had even given us one pound it would’ve completely covered our costs.

GS: Can you tell us how you went by getting issue 1 of No More Heroes made?

GM: NMH exists thanks to me losing my job. I suddenly had a lot more free time to spend on my writing! So I decided to finally fulfill my long time dream of making my own comic and used my redundancy money to fund the whole venture.

I met the artist Caio online. He responded to my ad on the Millarworld forum detailing my search for an artist. The samples he sent were amazing and right away I knew he was perfect for the job. Things went quickly and smoothly after that.

GS: We are more than half way through No More Heroes. Will we see these characters again or is issue 4 the end?

GM: I do have a follow-up planned, yeah. While NMH has a very definite ending, I know what happens next to the characters that survive (no spoilers here!). Whether or not it gets made depends on how this mini-series does. If a publisher picks it up and it does well then the sequel will definitely happen. Otherwise the only way NMH 2 will see the light of day is if someone gives us a chunk of cash or I win the lottery.

GS: To any aspiring creator out there, what would you say is the best piece of advice?

GM: Be a media sponge. Read as many different types of comics, books, magazines and online articles as possible. Even if you only want to write, say, superhero comics don’t you bloody dare just read other superhero comics! If you do you’ll almost certainly just end up repeating what’s gone before. You need to fill up your head with as many different ideas, concepts, themes, issues, story and character types etc as possible. That way your brain will have a greater variety of pieces to choose from when it comes time to create your own story.

To this end also expose yourself (metaphorically!) to as many different films, TV programmes, radio shows, podcasts, documentaries etc as you can. It’s all food for your mind’s ‘story blender’.

Equally important is to go out and do things. Meet up with people, try new things, visit new places and basically have as many real life experiences as possible. Don’t just rely on other people’s stories for inspiration. Use your own and whatever you write will be more personal, more creative and simply better.

GS: Where you would like to be in 10 years time?

GM: On the moon! Failing that I’d like to be making a comfortable living from writing – that’s all I want, really. Oh, and a monkey!

Lets hope we can at least get him a monkey! Check out the No More Heroes website to find out more about the comic and if you want to follow Gordon on Twitter click here.

GS Reporter: Luke Halsall

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