As the next edition of the popular graphic novel 'Saltire' starts to reach production stages we chat to the Glasgow man behind the comic.
John Ferguson can be quietly proud of what his comic book has already achieved since Scotland’s first superhero burst onto the comic book scene in October last year.
The graphic novel has gone on to generate a strong fan base, acquire a whole host of positive reviews, be featured as one of the top five comics of 2013 and in the words of the author (who you can see in the picture below) himself, to be “sold wherever comics are sold.”
Not bad for something that came about as a result of an online article that caused offence.
“I was reading an article discussing superheroes,” explains John.
“One guy was talking about how terrible creating a Scottish superhero would be. He said it would be rubbish and that his special power would have to be drinking. It got me thinking about how it wouldn’t be rubbish at all.
“We’re the oldest country in the Western world, we have a long and great history of having to fight to keep our country and we’ve got as much mythology as anybody else.
“I wanted to change the perception of our wee country.”
As you can see, Saltire is a fearsome warrior. He was created (not born) to defend the Scottish land and people. And he’s ginger, of course.
“He’s aggressive but noble,” explains John.
“He’ll stand up for the wee guy but he’s a bit aggressive. We like to think we gave him some of the best Scottish traits and then made him indestructible. Basically, he’s awesome.”
He is also capable of appearing whenever he wants throughout history. The comics will tell a chronological pseudo-history of Scotland, adding a little artistic license to embellish real happenings.
The first comic, Saltire Invasion, is set 1000 years ago and centres on the story of the famous Ninth Legion of Rome, who were pretty much the equivalent of today’s SAS or Marine Corps.
As the Romans looked to extend their empire they made the ill-fated decision to invade Scotland, which is where Saltire enters the picture.
John revealed to us that the follow-up graphic novel, Saltire Annihilation, will be set closer to modern times, and that future novels could even see the beard-sporting hero in the future.
The writer was, understandably, keen not to give away too much but he did send us a teaser image for the new book, which is due out in the summer of 2014. You can see it below.
Although John himself is based in Glasgow, the illustrators of Saltire (who have come in for praise in most reviews) are both based up north in Dundee.
Looking to write his first comic but unsure of how to approach artists, John set up a competition at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design which Gary Welsh and Tone Julskaaer won.
“Getting the team together was actually the hardest part,” John said.
“We did the competition with £500 and the chance to illustrate the first edition of Saltire as the prize. We got a lot of entries but there was two that really stuck out, for very different reasons.
“One was pretty edgy and we thought the other was really beautiful, we liked them both and thought they could work together.”
It turned out that the artists knew each other and had even worked on projects together in the past. They were happy to team up to draw Saltire and John says the comic has benefitted from their artistic ability.
“We’re really pleased with the results. The art is beautiful. The reviews all really like the art, and the storytelling, so it’s helped us a lot.”
“We’re very chuffed with the reaction to the whole thing. When you put out something that’s brand new you don’t what the public reaction will be like. The world of comics can be quite harsh if they don’t like something.
“We’ve had reviews from Australia, Canada and even South Africa and they were all very positive about it.
“Word got out that it wasn’t just a wee ginger guy running about in a kilt!”
Saltire is available for purchase in Waterstones and The Forbidden Planet comic shop in Glasgow. Elsewhere it is available in most places where comics can be bought.
For more information on the comic and the team behind it, click here.