Q&A With Atholl Buchan (Buchan Comics)
Atholl Buchan is mostly just a dad with annuals who loves making comics and telling a story. A comic creator whose work is steadily growing. You might know about Atholl after he gained mainstream media attention for his weird western story, Frontier Tales, which is still available to buy here on artithmeric.com.
Atholl has also previously created some illustrations for the RAF Peterhead Heritage Society. RAF Peterhead was in operation for little more than four years, operating from July 1941 to August 1945. During that time, its pilots and ground crew played a full part in the war effort, and the Heritage Society gathers stories, information, documents, photographs and memories of those that served at RAF Peterhead.
With an upcoming story in The Brewgooders Beer and Comics Podcast Anthology that is currently on Kickstarter, an issue of Sentinel to look forward to and his own physics-defying but also very fun-looking new comic "Spitfires vs Aliens", Atholl is definitely a creator to keep an eye on. So make sure you follow Buchan Comics (@BuchanComics) to keep up to date with his work.
So, let's get into his current projects and what he hopes the future holds for Buchan Comics.
You're working on a new comic called Spitfires vs Aliens. How did that concept come about?
I have an interest in World War Two aviation and started doing drawings for the RAF Peterhead Heritage Society in a comic art style. Working with their researcher and historian Mark Salt, I completed a comic-style page showing a significant event in the life of Spitfire pilot Flying Officer Ben Scaman, who I was lucky enough to correspond with via his daughter. He was such an amazing person who was very humble in playing down his contribution to the defence of the UK. He even sent back a signed print of my drawing that I cherish. Ben flew in a mark V spitfire while he was based at RAF Peterhead and was involved in the capture of a JU88 that had experimental radar technology onboard, and this was a significant contribution to the war effort. This experience got me into drawing mark V spitfire.
I'm also a huge sci-fi fan, I grew up watching cheesy 80s sci-fi cartoons, and tv shows and one of my main influences is also the manga art style. In 2019, SaturdayAM published my first comic short in their issue 110, and that spurred on my interest in drawing comics. One day I just said to myself, I want to combine all of these interests into a really daft comic that is great fun and makes no sense at all, but you still want to read it!
One of my favourite tv shows is knight rider, my favourite anime is Gundam, and then there was this interest in World War Two planes…so I mixed the lot and made a comic about a flabbergasted air show pilot from Peterhead whose spitfire suddenly starts talking, whisks him off into space to fight in a war between two rival kingdoms. His spitfire was modified by an alien AI and turned into a laser-firing super weapon that transforms into a ROBOT (Really Overpowered Battle Orientated Transformation). I'm really having fun with it. So basically, it became a blend of Gundam meets the Battle of Britain with a touch of Knightrider by way of the talking spitfire.
Will Spitfires vs Aliens be a one-shot comic, or is it the start of a series? How are you planning to publish it? After publishing Frontier Tales through Artithmeric, will you use that again or look at crowdfunding?
I'm hoping that it's the start of a series of self-contained stories set in the same universe. I'm still considering options as crowdfunding seems to be appealing, but then there are other self-publishing avenues out there, including Artithmeric. They do offer a great service, but so far, Frontier Tales is only a made-to-order book, but it has been one of their best-selling graphic novels. I'd very much like for Spitfire vs Aliens to appear on SaturdayAM's Pilot Manga page if they will have me. Kind of like a full circle thing for my first short story as I have them to thank for my enthusiasm.
I have more stories to tell surrounding various characters I have created, so my idea is to keep it focused and present Spitfire vs Aliens as a self-contained story. Between 40-60 pages and then have it open to explore more because there is so much scope for the world I have set up and so many fun planes to reference, re-paint and make shoot lasers! I'm really keen on the Sikh character I created called Squadron Leader Amanpreet Singh. Amanpreet, according to Google, means one who loves peace. He is inspired by a real person called Squadron leader Mohinder Singh Puuji, a Sikh Hurricane pilot who fought in WW2. He has proven quite popular among the Sikh community online, which was nice to see.
What has been your favourite part about the comic so far?
I love building up the dynamic of the main character's sheer shock at being blasted off into space and then having to deal with a talking spitfire who is underwhelmed with his pilot. He is a super weapon. He still needs a pilot, but he mistakenly thought that Archie must be a combat pilot. By the time they both realise where they are at, they have to work together to get the job done, so it's really fun developing that dynamic between them. That and it is so much fun to draw lasers and his ROBOT form.
You have a nine-page story called Space Pirates in the upcoming Brewgooders anthology that looks like it ties into Spitfires vs Aliens. How did that come about? Is it a prequel of sorts to Spitfires vs Aliens?
It is a prequel in terms of when it is set, but it is a side story. I had created two characters I really liked called Doug and Princess and a sidekick eyepatch-wearing American Eagle called Pete, but they just didn't fit into this story I was working on, so I set them aside. I like to run ideas past my friend Ben Traves, and he was so enthusiastic about the Space Pirate characters that when I found out the Brewgooders were looking for contributors, we decided to collaborate. I just said to Ben to go and have fun, so he gave these characters a personality and wrote a really fun story, and I only made some minor edits. It's also Ben's first time writing a comic story.
You also have an issue of Sentinel in the works, called They Call Her Trinity. What can you tell us about that?
This is really quite exciting. Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle were kind enough to invite me to join the Sentinel crew. Alan does all the writing, and then we have a heap of artists with different styles. So I was keen to push myself out of my comfort zone and try a different art style in black and white. I usually prefer to work in colour. Alan liked what I came up with for the concept art, and now I've got a challenge to complete a 64-page self-contained Sentinel issue. Alan has read Frontier Tales, so he thought They Call Her Trinity would fit me.
In terms of the story, it's a hard-hitting futuristic western about a tough woman who has a traumatic past. Her own father sold her and her mother into slavery. Eventually, she becomes a tough-as-nails bounty hunter with vengeance on her mind as she tracks down her good-for-nothing father. Oh, AND she has a retractable electric whip! Now that's a challenge to draw! Like I say, it's out of my comfort zone and more adult and grittier than my own stories, but really great fun.
Do you have any other comics planned?
Yes! Drawing comics is what I love to do with my "spare" time. It's great to have plans I just need to stay focused and finish each one in order. So my plan for the foreseeable future is to complete Spitfire vs Aliens and then extend Space Pirates! Into a similar size self-contained story that links at least with the ongoing war between the two kingdoms. I'd like to explore Squadron Leader Singh's story more, too, because he is just as important as the protagonist of Spitfire vs Aliens.
Mark and I have plans to do a true story comic based on events from the life of Flying Officer Ben Scaman. Mark has a good bit of research to work on for that, but it will be a good challenge.
I have to finish They call her Trinity first, but… if that goes well, Alan Holloway and I have been talking about doing an issue of Sentinel involving Spitfires vs… Dragons!
We mustn't also forget that I have the honour of drawing a 2-page short comic written by Stu Perrins in Bolt, the upcoming tribute to Zarjaz editor Dave Evans.
One of these days I'd like to draw an air combat issue for commando, assuming they'd take an interest in my work. It would be really cool to draw one written by Colin Maxwell.