REVIEW: OCTAL – A Spotlight on Creators

Every creator has a break in story.  The countless rejections and pseudo advice whilst suffering the gauntlet of excited to bored out of their minds editors and writers, who have see more samples than a collector has copies of Superman #75.  Others, work from the inside, working in different departments or handling different tasks all the while soaking up the ambience.  With space on the comics racks under pressure from the sheer number of big two books, its even harder for a small press book and their creators to get some traction.  OCTAL presents a viable option for those looking to make their mark and get their works out into the big wide world.

OCTAL is a curated catalogue of comic book pitch packets.  Each packet is structured to fit into a contained 8 pages and act as a pilot.  As such, it s functions as an anthology, with the next steps moving into actual comics books rather than the second volume.  This allows for a greater attraction rate for creators  and ensures that the whole project doesn’t fall into the traps it seeks to avoid.  The book contains 8 stories, along with a creators intro and other pieces of information that help present the beats and nuances of the overall story;  things that an editor will no doubt ask for.bill

This volume starts well with Necromancer Bill, a darkly humorous tale featuring a cowardly washed out divorced guy who thanks to a clerical error is given the power of a necromancer.  Along for the ride is Larry, a wisecracking raven, sent by the committee to look after Bill.  Between Bill’s reluctance to confront anyone and Larry’s need to domineer, the pair get themselves into a couple of situations; think the Odd Couple but with the dead!  Robert Menegus provides a sharp and funny script ably assisted by artist David Brame whose scratchy art fits the book well with its cartoon  strip sensibilities.

Sane 6 is created by Rob Cannon, who has had success with a number of graphic novels of varying length.  Here, the 8 pages tell the tale of two criminal contractors who botch a job and risk the ire of their mysterious boss.  Given the choices of continuing in their dangerous job and facing possible death or running from their boss and facing probable death, it’s a death defying story of “better the devil you know”.  Cannon’s art is very stylised which may suit some and alienate others.  I have to say, I am not a massive fan, but the writing keeps the story moving.

nevershamDaversham Rex is a change of pace and shows how flexible the OCLAT format can be.  Daversham is a Sherlock Homes type of detective, working in the city of Darkhaven where men and monsters live side by side.  With a story by writer David Hailwood, who provides the words and artist Brett Burbridge; the pair gives the reader a quick tour of the Darkhaven along with a few of the residents.  The story itself is enjoyable if you like whimsy being used to deflect direct storytelling, however Burbridge’s children’s book past tendencies do show throughout the story.

Sin features the first foray into comics for amateur screenwriter A. J. Fulcher with Joseph Canave providing the Manga style artwork, which will appeal to a lot of fans of that genre.  Canave has had work published by Dark Horse, giving this story some instant recognition.  The story is a journey affair, with Walker Grimm gaining powers after an event called The Chaos and being pursued by a mysterious man called Sin.  There is a cast of sorts, with an explanation given on the “about Sin” page.

Escape Velocity by Curtis W. Lawson (w) and Tony Rodrigues (a) is a mix of magic and technology, coming across like Farscape and Firefly in tone.  Rodrigues art is very reminiscent of Howard Chaykin’s first issue of Star Wars, prior to that book turning into a phot-reference style.  There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this tale, but I found it a tad predictable.  But remember, the creators only have 8 pages to tell a complete story, so they may be nuances or plot threads that can’t be included.

Free Lance is the creation of writer/penciller/inker Diogo Carvalho and to be honest, is the sort of thing I normally try my hardest to avoid.  However, I was pleasantly surprised with the honesty of the writing.  The set up is quite simple, where do you go when you need a job doing, but isn’t the type of “for honour” job that appeals to the Knights of the Realm.  This gives Carvalho the opportunity to play in a fantasy type of world without the usual constraints.  With a Shrek like twist, the book is pretty much what you’d expect, in that’s its pretty easy going with a standard style of art and color.

Astral Crusaders features a battalion of crusader in a war against a new breed of alien, whilst battling their own doubts.  Writer Paul Bradford wears his love for 70’s and 80’s on each page, with a story that would feel at home in 2000A.D.  When it comes to this type of story, its important that each of the gang have their own personality and although Crusader Formidius is well defined, others in his group are less so.  Again, this may be down to the page limit.  William Allan C. Reyes provides the pencils along with colorist Erik Korsgaard, creating a lot of emotion on this alien world.  The story reads well and looks great.

Drust is the story of a cursed immortal who needs to destroy being born from his own demonic blood.  To make matters worse there is the small matter of Lord Prospero, who is attempting to summon the goddess.  Drust is therefore force with the need to make a stand.  Written by Scott Melrose, the action takes place is a pseudo pre-Christian Scotland.  The language used gives an “old world” feel to proceedings as does the fantastic job by letterer Ken Reynolds.  Completing the overall look and feel of the book is the striking artwork of Denise Vermesse.  Whilst not my cup of  tea, I am able to appreciate the quality on show.

OCTAL is a great idea for creators to get there work showcased.  The fact that the stories are so disparate allows for publishers and editors to see how a particular story may well fit within their publishing line.  As with any anthology, the quality of story is variable, but that is as much down to the readers preference as it is to the creators themselves.  By all means, click the link below and see for yourselves the amount of different types of book that may appeal to you.

Author(s): Robert Menegus, Rob Cannon, Dave Hailwood, AJ Fulcher, Curtis M. Lawson, Diogo Carvalho, Paul Bradford, Scott Melrose
Artist(s): David Brame, Rob Cannon, Brett Burbridge, Joseph Canave, Tony Rodrigues, Diogo Carvalho, William Allan C Reyes, Denis Vermesse

Purchase the title via Drive-Thru Comics here

Octal Volume 2 is already underway. To find out how to get your comic pitch packet featured in Octal, review the instruction manual and templates provided at and if you’re on Facebook, join Octal‘s production group ( ).

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