What’s the best thing about being a comic book writer?
The magical thing about writing comics is when you see the artwork. You get the chance to be the audience of your own work, something that’s yours and not yours simultaneously – that’s the shiny sugar rush of the job.
You’ve worked on Marvel Comics’ biggest books, from Avengers to X-Men. What’s your favourite character to write for?
My favourite character to write for is always someone I’ve made up. I think my own work is most important to me because that’s what I’ve created from scratch. If we’re talking about Marvel, the characters I think were the most iconically ‘me’ are Loki and Namor.
I made Loki a conflicted and desperately heartbreaking figure who’s also very manipulative. Namor is the Sub-Mariner who’s an absolute ego-based monster, who literally doesn’t care if people are mocking him. Clearly, as both are awful people, my wife understandably gives me a lot of side-eye.
How did you go from studying applied biology to journalist and comic book writer? Is there a parallel universe where you run a lab?
There’s probably an alternate universe where I was sacked from working in a lab, certainly. I chose applied biology because I was good at the sciences, and I feel like you don’t get a chance to really understand science until you’ve done a degree. I come from a working-class background and was one of the few people in my extended family to go to university, so I wanted to do a practical course.
The year I spent in industry made me realise being in a lab was just too repetitive for me, and at the same time I was already writing for Amiga Power magazine to pay my way through university. In the final year I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I worked for the student paper and magazine, and made my own fanzines.
Bath Abbey makes regular appearances in your comics, such as Once & Future #3. What are some of your fondest memories of the city?
I came from Stafford and moving to Bath was startling – the Jane Austen opulence of the city. I remember drinking in Bath during freshers’ week and how wrong it felt. I love that it’s this Rivendell-esque town and we get to be here as human beings. The fantasy I write is about transforming your environment and seeing the magic in the places you live, and I lived around Bath and Bristol until I was 30.
I was really into the music scene, so I’d go to clubs like Moles, Fusion, and Swamp, which is now Po Na Na. It was a gloriously messy hole in the ground where I was first offered work as a journalist because the DJ worked for Future Publishing. That’s my ‘do you want to come to Narnia?’ moment.
You’re a supporter of Bath’s Alumni Fund. What motivates you to donate?
When I went to university [in the nineties], I was given a grant. I’m very aware that there are all sorts of people in situations who need the support, and university was so good to me I think that opportunity should be given to as many people as possible.