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A Double Dose of Dows
Nathan Davies

"I'm not really that interested in comics!"
Maybe not, but for the better part of the last ten years Chris Dows has been awful busy writing them. You will, however, be forgiven for not instantly recognising his name. Since a false start at the American industry staple DC, Dows and his co-writer Colin Clayton have been mostly writing for cartoon tie-ins and other licensed products in the UK. Nice work (actually according to Dows, "it's very hard work and crap pay") if you can get it, but as the man says "working for Star Trek, Rugrats, Action Man, Loony Tunes, etc. aren't high profile for the creative teams because... the readership buys for the characters, not who wrote or illustrated them." Other than contributions to Caliber Comics line of titles, and a few painful memories of 2000AD, the two have been rather eclipsed by their subject matter; but things are about to change.

In April The Disciples #1 will hit the newstands. A new bi-monthly, on-going series from the boarder line indie/mainsteam publisher Image, Dows describes it as the opportunity he and his partner have been waiting for. "The Disciples is our chance to develop our very best ideas, employ our diverse influences and channel our creative feelings into a high powered good looking book, and we're tackling that chance head on." With trade magazines like Comics International and Previews taking an interest well in advance of its release, as well as a comrehensive advertising campaign (including 10000 posters printed for comic shops and conventions throughout the US) and a semi-promotional web site already up and running, it looks like that chance could well pay off.

However, despite the great effort that has gone into pushing the book, and his own enthusiasm for the project, Dows is determined to be realistic in regards to its potential success, "We're very much hoping that after the initial four [issue] story arch we go to monthly but it depends on sales. We're hoping it is long running - at least a couple of years but it's all down to how many orders we get." In the end, advertising will only take you so far. The rest is down to the appeal of the book itself.

"We're hoping that there's something for everyone in it - action, intrigue, conflict, sexy ladies..." Dows says, but admits that it "will probably find a core readership with 20 to 35 year olds because of the content." By this he probably means its dark style and rather adult orientated characters, themes and situations. For example, one of the Disciples, Psiren, comes across as a manipulative man eater, who almost always gets what she wants, and has trouble dealing with things when she doesn't. And she's one of the 'good guys', as is Dexter Hobbs, a voodoo practicing mob boss. Suffice to say that Disciples isn't a super-hero comic. Instead, it's a sort of horror/drama that requires a certain degree of thought. "[It] isn't the typical vacuous mutant glossy stuff." It deals with a group of magic users who have the responsibility of defending the earthly realm from a supernatural holocaust, as well as dealing with their own problems, both as a group and as individuals. Dows thinks that this, combined with "dynamism of the artwork" (being provided by Laurence Campbell and Larry Shuput), should be enough to maintain reader interest. Should. Fingers crossed.

So, with Disciples bringing some quiet exposure at the very least, and a major coup for the two writers from Grimsby at the most, is there anything that Dows really wants to do? "I'd be happy to take Disciples as far as it could go, but would obviously love to work on Marvel/DC characters - I like the Green Lantern, The Flash, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. ... all sorts of stuff." This coming from the man who isn't all that interested in comics. He also has aspirations outside of comic book writing and has done plenty of other things along the way. No stranger to writing for film (a script for a Channel Four movie actually played a part in his joining Clayton's comics crusade) he'd like to see his first comic, Autumn, adapted for the screen. "It's already been seen in an altered form by a few Hollywood companies and we're waiting for it to be snapped up."

As for what he has actually got planned, Disciples shares the top of his 'to do' list with the other love of his life: Star Trek. "Right now I'm doing my first contracted work for Star over at Paramount Studios and fairly regular work for the Star Trek Fact Files in London. I'd very much like to get more work with them, carry on with Disciples and develop a couple of ideas that we've got - one a hard edged SF concept called Bison and a children's idea called Backpack Beasts which is being considered for development in Germany at the moment."

Amazingly, on top of all this, he still has to go to work. In true comic book fashion, Chris Dows throughout his partnership with Clayton, has led a double life; by night co-writer of comics published on both sides of the Atlantic; by day, well, that has apparently changed quite a bit. He’s worked in factories to keep the money coming in, been employed by the National Health Service as a hospital manager, and trained and worked as a cinema projectionist. In the last six years he has since gone on to lecturer in Media Studies and digital production at the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside campus in Grimsby. He seems happy enough, but secretly, I think he’s in it for the money; like Clark Kent, he has other things on his mind.

His greatest wish, so he says, is to teach less, and write more. Perhaps if this new book takes off, he may yet be spending more time with his Disciples, than he does with his students.

For more information on The Disciples, Chris Dows, and the rest of the creative team, go to:

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