Wednesday 18 May 2016


Script: Joshua Spiller.  Artwork: David Broughton. Lettering: Bolt 01.

Read The Real Atlantis here:

Introduction: By Joshua Spiller.

The initial spur for 'The Real Atlantis' came from where it would be published: my new Tumblr blog. As I had my own platform, I figured I might as well use it for material that probably wouldn't fit
neatly into any of the comic anthologies currently out there. With no editorial briefs, this was an opportunity to do whatever story I fancied, to my own specifications.  (By the by, I'd already had two comics uploaded to the blog, both previously printed in FutureQuake. However, this would be the first one where I sourced and commissioned the artist myself.)  As a general rule, I like to the find the artist before I write the script, so that I can tailor the story to their style. But, in this particular case, I had an idea I was itching to do, so I thought I'd write the script for the heck of it and hopefully find a suitable artist soon after.  The formative spark of inspiration for 'The Real Atlantis' (no, I don't think I'm being too highfalutin in my language regarding a barely seen 5-page comic. If anything, I'm not being falutin enough) came from watching the BBC's Blue Planet.  Admittedly, I was about 15 years behind the curve (this documentary about the ocean was broadcast in 2001) but nonetheless, I was stunned. Captured on this series, there were fish who mated with the male biting onto the larger female, and then staying there for the rest of its life, fusing with her in a trade of nutrients - via her blood - for a constant supply of sperm... there were fish which resided in the ocean's pitch-black depths, and which fired out a neon-blue (!!) goop that stuck to any predators pursuing them, thereby essentially placing a flashing target sign on those predators, and turning them into the soon-to-be prey of an even bigger animal... there was a crab whose feet could taste the sand it walked on... and polyps that could extrude their guts to eat their enemies alive...  You get the gist. By the end, I was convinced that, no matter how crazy a creature you imagined, it probably existed somewhere out there in the ocean's mind-staggeringly immense gulfs. So, why not give it a go? At worst, when the species I dreamt up was later discovered to be true, I would at least be fêted as one of those prophetic sci-fi writers who sensed what was to come (see page 3 of 'The Real Atlantis' for this creature).  But even if - horror of horrors - that didn't happen, I also thought that a more realistic depiction of the ocean might surprise and interest readers. This manifested, in the story, with the inclusion of an underwater mountain range, and with the sounds-poetic-but-is-unpleasant marine snow.  I also thought that there were details in Blue Planet that would be good for generating a dark atmosphere in a story (such as the hagfish, which, if you youtube them, are the ugliest little flesheaters you've ever seen).  The above Blue Planet ideas dovetailed with another strand of thought: I wanted to create some weird lineage of monsters, where two recognisable species of monsters had mated in the past, producing something new and fresh. This wasn't an approach that I'd seen done before, and it felt like a) it could act as antidote to the 21st-century culture's besotted regurgitation of the same tired old monsters, such as the zombie and vampire, and b) that if any writers came across the concept and liked it, then they could use it as a springboard to create their own innovative (I'm highfalutin' again) terrors.  Unfortunately, because I wanted the monsters to at first appear to be a long-lost race of Atlanteans, and because - for the reveal of their heritage to be effective - their ancestors had to be monsters that the reader was familiar with, this severely limited my options. I wracked my brain and trawled world mythologies, looking for the right candidates. Gryphon? Kraken? Cyclops? None of  these fit the bill, as the question of how their monstrous forms could - within the context of the story - produce such human-looking offspring, would surely be confusing.  In the end, for one half of the "Atlantean" parentage, I resorted to one of the the well-worn 20th century monster icons that the concept had been designed to undermine (as it's part of the twist, you'll have to read the comic to find out which one). For the other half, I was able to be a bit more imaginative.   (And although the execution of this idea fell somewhat short of my hopes, David's design of the monster significantly helped matters, as he managed to take a hackneyed trope of terror and inject it with fresh life.)  So, showing off the deep sea, and monster lineage - these were the core ideas that formed the basisof the story. The only other ingredient involved at the outset was a kind of dream image, of a centuries-eroded sphinx squatting at the bottom of the ocean, which I just thought would make for a cool visual, maybe for a splash page or something like that. After having the basic elements in place around which the narrative will be built, I always - for a 5page comic - come up with a three-point structure for the plot. You know, just something simple. For instance, for a comedy comic I wrote, this three-point structure was something along the lines of:  1. Wizard falls into our world 2. He sees different parts of our world 3. He heads home, unable to cope with weirdness of our world  Sure, it might not make the story sound like much, but this exercise is useful for a few reasons. Firstly, it ensures your narrative has a solid, clear structure. Secondly, it stops your narrative running away from you, spilling over the intended page count. And finally, I find that, if a 5-page comic only attempts to cover three plot points, then it has the space to let the story breathe, which is crucial. It can be the difference between a cracking, memorable read, and an unintelligible, crammed-together-feeling mess.  With a couple of core ideas that I'm excited about, and the three-point structure in place, the story usually grows fairly organically from thereon in, with me doing what I always do: filling in the remaining gaps with whatever ideas will both work, and sound interesting or enjoyable to me. This wasthe case with 'The Real Atlantis'.  I then did thumbnails of the five pages, jotting down any scraps of dialogue or notes that occurred to me and seemed useful. During this stage of the process, I'm also working out the the narrative in finer detail,breaking it down into its page-by-page and panel-by-panel components. With that done, I had a strong skeleton of 'The Real Atlantis' in place. I knew it would work. Afterwards, it was just a matter of writing out the full script, telling the story as powerfully I could, and imagining all the last bits (the exact dialogue in every panel, the exact scenery in the panels, etc) that hadn't needed to be decided before that final run-through. I only did one draft of the full script but, as ever, I took my time over it to make sure I got it right.  Midway through writing the script, I had the bright idea that I better find an artist. I contacted David, having seen his art in an issue of Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel, and was thrilled when he said he was up for collaborating. Weirdly, it was only when I had a closer look through his portfolio that I realised he'd be a great fit for 'The Real Atlantis', and sent him that script.  He, for his part, finished the art five days ahead of schedule. Not too shabby.  Lastly, the art was lettered by the excellent and seemingly overworked Bolt-01 (a resident at FutureQuake) who also sorted out the digital versions of the pages, so they were ready to be uploaded onto my blog.  And that, by and large, is pretty much how the comic came to be. If you've read it, I hope you enjoyed it. And if you haven't read it, you've basically gone straight to the DVD extra before watching the main movie, you weirdo - correct that heinous error here.   Or, to check out the other comics I've written - and see the superb art that brings them to life - simply click here.  Adios, amigos.

All the best,  Josh Spiller.       

Rough layouts and conceptual art.

Above: First concept sketch of the Atlanteans and the Atlantean hall. Layouts and designs for page five panel one.

Above: Rough page layouts for page one.

Above: Finished pencils for page one.

 Above: Rough page layouts for pages two and three.

Above: Finished pencils for page two.

 Above: Finished pencils for page three.

 Above: Rough page layouts for pages four and five.

 Above: Finished pencils for page four.

Above: Finished pencils for page five.

Links.Paragraph 2 - Futurequake website. 
Paragraph 6 - Real atlantis pg 3  Paragraph 11 - Real Atlantis comic  Paragraph 20 -  
Paragraph 22 - FutureQuake.  
Paragraph 23 - Real Atlantis comic  Paragraph 24 -
my blog.

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