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Interview – Stephen Downey – Artist (Cancertown, Torchwood Magazine)

Our first interview features Belfast-based comicbook artist, Stephen Downey!

WS: Tell us a little about yourself: what contribution are you currently making to the horror/ sci-fi genre?

SD: I’m a Belfast-based artist that mostly draws comicbooks. Most of my work as yet tends to focus on the monstrous or gory.

superhero sample

WS: Your first major release was Cancertown (Insomnia Publications). What’s it about? 

SD: Cancertown is a story written by English writer Cy Dethan. It tells the tale of Vincent Morley, who suffers from a massive brain tumour that enables him to travel between London and the monsterous alternate version that he dubs ‘Cancertown’. Morley, with the help of a little burnt girl called Bugfuck, sets out to retrieve the lost people who fall into this horrific place, but the monstrous residents of Cancertown have their own plans… 

Cy wrote a brilliant script that was really fun to draw and my artistic collaborators, Mel Cook on colours and Nic Wilkinson on letters, really brought a lot of atmosphere and style to my black and white artwork.

It was great seeing my first major work (I’d drawn a few pages for the Belfast anthology Small Axe a few years previously) in such a well presented and put together graphic novel available in both comic stores such as Forbidden planet and a lot of the big book stores like Waterstones and

Cancertown spread

WS: Recently, you got involved with the BBC’s Torchwood Magazine. How did that come about?

SD: I met the Torchwood comics editor Martin Eden at BICS, a comic con in Birmingham, last year. I had drawn a few superhero sample pages as well as showing some of my Cancertown and Slaughterman’s Creed pages. Martin really liked my work so we kept in touch and a few months later, when he needed an artist for an 11 page story, he emailed me. I’d been a fan of the show and jumped at the chance to add something to the Torchwood mythos, including a new villain, Mr. Q.

It will be on the magazine racks in the UK inside the Torchwood Magazine on August 19th, then reprinted in the US early next year.

Cancertown spread2


WS: So, what is

SD: acts as a showcase for Northern Irish creative talent. It started because a lot of my friends are creative types and interested in different media. Some of them are studying film, others are musicians, writers and artists and we felt having a place to showcase creative media from Northern Ireland would give us an incentive to produce more collaborations as well as show off work from other local creators. We sometimes have themed months, but usually it is open to anything local creators want to submit. is open to all NI creators, and we try to hook people up with collaborators, for eg find an artist to create illustration for some prose. Everone keeps the rights to their own material so any NI residents can email if they have any pieces to submit.

WS: What are you working on now? 

SD: I’ve just finished my second graphic novel Slaughterman’s Creed, again with writer Cy Dethan and letterer Nic Wilkinson. Joining me on art duties this time is local inker Andy Brown and Scottish colourist Vicky Stonebridge. Its a horror/mob blend and its titular character, Sidney is an uneducated killer that knows only the trade of the slaughterman which he employs to get rid of anybody his boss Big Lenny Addison doesn’t like. Things change when Lenny asks Sidney to go against his code and Sidney turns on Addison’s human trafficking empire, determined to bring it down.

I’ve a few covers to do for the series, which I’m working on at the moment. The book will be released digitally this year and out in graphic novel format early 2011.

Slaughtermans creed panel

WS: What are your hopes for the future?

SD: At the minute comicbook illustration is only a part time job, so I’m hoping to work my way into a successful fulltime career, ideally working with some established properties but still mixing that up with creating and drawing my own characters and stories.
WS: Any advice for others who want to get into comics writing/ drawing? 

SD: The old cliché is to keep drawing/writing constantly, but I’d also recommend doing some research on your trade. For artists books such as ‘How to Draw the Marvel Way’ and Scott McClouds ‘Understanding Comics’ can be really helpful at highlighting storytelling techniques you may not necessarily think of.  The Loomis books on anatomy and figure drawing, which you can find online as PDFs, are a great help for drawing people too.

WS: How important are conventions to you, as someone entering the genre industry? 

SD: I’ve found comic conventions invaluable in getting work and making contacts in the industry. Every comic I’ve drawn can somehow link back to a meeting at a convention, the big ones being in Bristol and Birmingham once a year – which I found out about through the 2D festival in Derry. Even if you don’t get a job immediately at a convention you’ll hear about various companies that you can send samples to, and collaborators to work with.

Slaughtermans creed panels

WS: Where can people find out more about you and your work?

SD: If anyone wants keep up with my forthcoming projects or see some upcoming art, including some work in progress stuff, you can follow my blog at or

WS: Anything else you want to say which hasn’t been covered.

SD: Not too much. Just thanks for the interview and maybe one day if your readers keep an eye out they will see a collaboration between us.

WS: Well, I can only say amen to that! So stay tuned, folks! You never know! Thanks again to Stephen for taking the time to talk to us.

The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon (Chizine Publications)


As the start of my new resolution to *actually use this gaddam blog thingy* I’ve got a review of the wonderful The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon. Tim’s agreed to do an interview some time soon. Until then, grab yourself a copy of this novella. It’s a cracker!

The Thief of Broken Toys is a novella that charts the journey of central character, Ray as he tries to come to terms with the grief of losing a child. The setting is a small, costal village in Wales with its rural backdrop providing a suitably minimalist canvas to paint this heart-breaking yet simple tale upon. Most of the focus remains on Ray and his relationship with his deceased child, Toby, and estranged wife, Elizabeth. Ray still lives alone in the family home, while Elizabeth finds comfort in the arms of his best friend, Jason. Toby’s room remains exactly the same as the boy left it, with his box of broken toys (all of which Ray promised to fix but never did) providing the major plot device for the story.

This is a beautifully written adult fairytale which, for me, echoes a lot of Asian horror cinema which I have enjoyed through the years. It’s a genre tale of sorts yet easily defies pigeonholing. Ultimately, this is a story about heartbreak and the ways people cope with loss – some distract themselves, others try to atone. There’s no heavy message or resolution for such, only a journey, and thus proves both emotionally engaging and satisfying.

Overall, this is a brutally accessible, heart rending story, presented in a quality format by Chizine, who, from what I’ve read thus far, are one of the best emerging publishers of dark fiction. Highly recommended.

Find out more about Tim at his website:

Grab yourself some more Chizine titles at: