Brompton Rhodes Confidential – Behind the Scenes of Dead Letter Day

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a regular series of articles – a behind-the-scenes look at the making and construction of the various issues of Brompton Rhodes. Expect trivia, easter eggs, in-jokes, personal revelations and a slew of no-doubt banal observations. Yes, it’s…

Brompton Rhodes Confidential

Cover

We’ll start with the cover. Keen fans and historians of Marvel UK will be familiar with the very obvious homage* here:

Death's Head Issue 1

Death’s Head was a character created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior for their superlative run on Marvel UK’s Transformers comic. After a stint there he went on to encounter the Doctor (as played by Sylvester McCoy), Dragon’s Claws (another Furman creation) and ultimately the wider Marvel Universe, including the Fantastic Four. Then Dan Abnett came along and killed him, replacing him with the obnoxious Death’s Head 2 and killing any interest in the character.

He’s experienced something of a resurgence recently, thanks mainly to videogames journalist-turned-comic-writer Kieron Gillen, appearing in Iron Man and Spider-Man. If I cared a jot for modern superhero comics I’d be picking those up but alas, I am a drinker and need money to feed my more pressing addictions.

Death’s Head was a bounty hunter, but styled himself as a ‘Freelance Peacekeeping Agent’, loathing the former term. This has had an obvious influence on Brompton Rhodes, the self-styled ‘Freelance Agent’. I myself have also gone under the handle ‘Death’s Head’ on various Transformers message boards over the years.

The issue’s title, and indeed it’s story, are a direct homage to a small-press comic I illustrated way back in my Transmasters UK days – a Death’s Head/Transformers strip written by Mark Stevenson, currently drummer for the band Cathodes. It was intended for publication in the Continued Generation 2 #37 but was ultimately published online. We always intended to repeat the experiment, this time with me on script duties and Mark on illustration, but alas we never got around to it. I got as far as laying out the story but then I lost the notebook in question…

Read the original strip below. Be gentle on the art – I was seventeen! Actually, it’s probably better than what I can manage now…

Furthering the Transformers connection, the font used for the title is that used for the Transformers series Beast Machines.

*Homage, French for “blatant theft”.

Pages 1-2

I freely admit that the main reason I set the opening of the story here on Earl’s Court Road was so I could squeeze in the very real police box that lies outside the station.  Wiki tells me it has been there since 1997. There are also more personal reasons for setting the story here – my second primary school, St Cuthbert’s with St Mathias, lies around the corner on Warwick Road. It was a great school, the highlight of my academic career, and at Christmas time we used to go and sing carols down in Earl’s Court tube station. Wubberly.

There’s a few easter eggs on page 1; Max Headroom makes a reappearance, after also appearing in the first panel of Rude Bwoy issue #1. The tagline of Max Headroom was “twenty minutes into the future”, and thus his appearances here serve as short hand for the setting of Brompton Rhodes itself. Fun fact: when I was a child Max Headroom used to scare the living shit out of me, and I had many nightmares about him. It was only upon becoming a teenager and developing a love of cyberpunk that I was drawn to rediscover him.

The poster in the centre is for a fictional film called “The Chairman of the Board”, starring my dear old cat, the late Hector. I made that image for a university project many years ago and you can see the full version below (click for a larger copy). A second poster, for film called “Slopin’ Off”, appears in Rude Bwoy #1 on the last page of the pre-credits sequence.

The Chairman of the BoardRegarding the list of Brompton’s hobbies on page 2, well, I’ll leave it to your imaginations to guess which ones I share with him. If you’ve never done it, though, go and have a butcher’s at Guardian Soulmates. Classico.

Page 3-4

When I first started Brompton  Rhodes I wanted to do as much ‘on-location’ shooting as possible, but by the time I was doing issue 2 it was clear that this would not be practical. Leaving aside the difficulty of arranging everyone’s schedule and getting them out there, in costume, in front of people, there’s also the small fact that you can’t really go around waving realistic-looking firearms in London these days.

Thus, from Issue 2 onwards almost all panels are assembled from seperate photos of characters and background. This also has the benefit of giving me more control over the layouts. Storyboards ensure that all photos line up and are at the right angle. Storyboards and luck. Some might say that this destroys the magic, but fuck ’em – I’m not getting shot by the Met’s finest for my art!

Neasden, referenced on page 3, is of course the subject of mockery in Private Eye.

Page 5-6

Scott Geldart once again appears, albeit playing someone other than himself this time! Rupert Lovibond, brother of famous film star Ophelia Lovibond, finally makes a proper appearance after his brief role beneath the mask of General Gash in Issue #1 of Rude Bwoy (the parts set on the ‘balcony’). In real life he is much shorter than he is here. I don’t really think that was intentional but fuck it, let’s roll with it!

Page 7

This first panel (“Your Last”) is probably my favourite in the issue. Dunno why. Just is. Cracks me up.

“Vladivostok” is of course what all Russians say when surprised or shocked.

Page 8-9

You’ll notice this issue is much more led by the narration than any other issue of Brompton Rhodes so far. This was intentional. Dead Letter Day is intended to serve as a kind of reintroduction for the character, a new “first issue” if you like, slightly more palatable a proposition than a sequence in which a man forces another man to suck him off. The narration is a way of getting inside Brompton’s head, giving the reader a little hint of his thoughts, something which doesn’t really happen during the pop madness of Rude Bwoy’s first issue.

Eagle-eyed readers will also notice the use of Courier as the typeface for text. The intent of Brompton Rhodes was always to ape the look of a fanzine, using the amazing technology of current computer technology to recreate the look of using photocopiers, scissors and pritt stick. Using Courier is an experiment in adding to that feel. Not sure how I feel about it yet, tbh.

Incidentally, I realise that goats are generally not “trussed up” at Ramadan. I have no idea what that’s all about, really.

Pages 10-11

The fight in this issue is here mainly because I was rather happy with how Rude Bwoy issue 5’s big fight turned out and, what with this story being a re-introduction to the character, I wanted to revisit aspects of the previous story that had worked. Plus, everyone loves fisticuffs. Great fun!

Page 12-13

The “Grand Upper” is of course the dash attack of Axel in the classic Streets of Rage series. There have been endless debates about which is the best version to play, something which may well be the subject of a blog post here one day, but really all the arguments should be settled now because you can just play Streets of Rage Remake and bask in the best possible version there could ever be, short of one that also grants sexual favours. Get it.

Page 14-15

“The Stockwell Special” of course refers to poor Jean Charles De Menezes, shot seven times by incompetent police who couldn’t tell the difference between brown people. The officer in charge of the operation has of course since been promoted. Wahey!

The shot on page 15 is outside Ashfield House, London Underground’s training facility. It has a model Underground station within known as Hobb’s End, it’s name taken from Quatermass. Whether the building will remain should Hammersmith and Fulham Council succeed in their callous bid to demolish the West Kensington estate (where I grew up) and the Earl’s Court exhibition centres is unknown. Personally I wish that this council would burn in the fires of hell, but short of that you can help support and follow the anti-demolition campaign here.

Page 16-17

If you look closely at the ‘bomb’ Brompton produces you’ll see that he’s upgraded to the ‘Bomb Boy DS’, following on from his original ‘Bomb Boy’ in Rude Bwoy #1’s prologue, and the Badwolf’s ‘Bomb Boy Advance’ in Rude Bwoy #2. The original ‘Bomb Boy’ was a reference to the ‘Taser Boy’, a weapon in Rare’s genre-smashing N64 game GoldenEye.

Note that the MP3 player used as the ‘Bomb Boy’ is the same one I used way back in Rude Bwoy #2 as the Badwolf’s version. Ssh!

Page 18-19

The dialogue on page 18 is a direct parody of some dialogue from the original strip that inspired this one (see the beginning).

Miles Whittaker’s summation of Brompton’s character is nice. In the original outline of the issue more was made of this, but brevity and all that.

Page 20

Actually, I think this might be my favourite page of this issue. Almost hints at a kind of depth and complexity to the character of Brompton that I hadn’t really intended, but which I did want to explore in the eternally-upcoming novel.

Notice a blurred Miles still shaking his fists in the window of the train! Ha!

Page 21-22

Brompton exits West Kensington station. West Ken is where I’m from and have lived all my life. I love it here, despite the council’s best attempts at gentrifying the fuck out of the  place. I was happy to once again give the area a starring role (the previous time being Rude Bwoy #6). The tube journey from Earl’s Court to West Ken, as well as the placement of the train on page 21 and 22 are as accurate as possible – if you’re going to set something in your manor it behoves you to get it right. Right?

Heh. Blowing up train. Fire. Pretty.

Page 23

A deliberate throwback to the final page of Rude Bwoy #1’s prologue, only this time with a fire engine instead of a police van. It’ll be an ambulance next time, but then what? The coast guard?

The last lines here are also a copy of the final lines of the original ‘Dead Letter Day’.

Gash Tidings

I decided to move the letters page to within the issue, rather than have it taking up space on the front page. Besides, it’s not like I actually get any letters.

I changed the name from General Gash’s Bulging Sack since I had unintentionally ripped off Viz and ‘Roger’s Sack’. However the tone of the letters page, once more unintentionally, has taken on the tone of Viz’s Letter Bocks. Oh well!

Instead the name now rips off the Transformers comic, specifically Dreadwind’s stint hosting the letter’s page, entitled ‘Dread Tidings’.

Of course, in British comics we have a long-standing tradition of characters from the comic answering letters – aside from Transformers and their many hosts there’s also 2000AD’s Tharg, perhaps the ur-example. Sonic the Comic had ‘Megadroid’. Marvel’s ‘Bumper’ comic had a Greek chap named Stavros. Most odd. Then there was a non-comic example, Mean Machine’s Mean Yob.

Credits

The crew gets smaller and smaller with each issue. Much more manageable, in my opinion. The kms logo and email addresses/facebook addresses are now links as well, for convenience, and those ‘Home’ logos appear throughout the comic to aid those who struggle with tabbed browsing.

Right, that’s about it for this issue! At some point I will get around to doing articles for each issue of Rude Bwoy, cross my heart, and of course any future issues will also be accompanied by one.

Until then, my little Rudes, take care and goodnight!


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