It's been just over two years since comic writer Alan Holloway and artist Ed Doyle were chatting about the much-missed Starblazer comics. They've worked together on several projects previously and decided that creating a comic similar to Starblazer would be fun. Sentinel was born.
Ten issues in with more on the horizon, it's one of those unique comic series that we keep an eye on. It's a series that Joe gets excited about reviewing when a new issue is available because they're just pure fun with wonderful storytelling. Whilst my favourite is Doyle Braddock, star of two Sentinel issues, Joe's was Sentinel #8 To Be A Hero where Alan showcases how brilliant he can be with weaving a story.
Basically, we're huge fans! So naturally, we want to know what the future holds for Sentinel, Alan and Ed.
It’s taken little over two years to reach that ten-issue milestone, which is fantastic, particularly with maintaining the level of quality in every issue. Do you have a particular favourite, that if you had to recommend Sentinel to anyone you would choose?
Ed: My favourite would have to be Issue 7, 'Hell on Harry Howson'. Loved the story written by Alan as it incorporates our love of all things Ray Harryhausen and his movies that we grew up with. Plus our characters Doyle and RHLSTP are back and getting up to all kinds of mischief. It was fun to do.
ALAN: I find it hard to pick a favourite, as they're so varied and I love what each artist has brought. I have a soft spot for 'Misty Moore' (Issue 4), as it was a chance to do proper old school horror without a happy ending, and Ian Beadle really gave it an extra emotional punch with some art touches that were all him. Also, I really liked 'Scales Of Justice', as it was a very meaty story with lashings of violence and emotion, aided by Ed showing that he can really nail dragons and action.
You don’t see many digest-sized comics these days other than Commando Comics. What are the challenges with this format compared to a standard comic format?
ED: Firstly it's unique especially in the Indie scene. 64-page comic, to produce, is a lot of work, even if there are a maximum of 3/4 panels a page. So many comic book readers are used to seeing your standard size comic, be it in US format or A4 size with 5 or more panels per page. So when they take a look at Sentinel, it's a whole different ball game, both in terms of writing and art. The challenge is coming up with a story that is spread out over 64 pages but doesn't feel boring or laboured, as you are confined to a few panels for each page.
ALAN: As a writer, I enjoy the format as you can have more splash pages that are used for dramatic impact than you would in a larger format. I love the rhythms that the smaller pages allow me to get into, and I write Sentinel issues at a faster lick than when I'm working on other formats.
Generally, there’s a sci-fi theme, with the odd issue changing genre to superhero and horror. Are there any other genres that you plan to branch out into with Sentinel?
ED: When Sentinel was created, we wanted to include the main genres, that's why you have Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy under the title. It gives a broad stroke to what we can feature in the comic. Who knows what Alan has planned ahead.
ALAN: To be honest, they cover just about all of the bases for what I like writing about. I'm currently writing an issue about the U.S Civil Rights movement ('Uncivil Rights') that throws an ancient African vampire into the mix. This is a historical drama with as much accuracy as I can get, featuring real people, but with this vampire doing his thing in the background. The horror etc aspects allow me to take an idea and give it an added dimension.
Doyle Braddock is the star of two issues, which is a bit of a departure from the rest where they’re contained stories. Are there any more plans for Braddock in the future? What can you tell us about issue 11 that’ll be on Kickstarter in February?
ED: Doyle Braddock and RHLSTP are just great characters to draw. They play off each other so well. Doyle is your roguish, devil may care type of guy while RHLSTP, who looks like a fuzzy Ribena Berry, is just a smart arse, know it all (or tries to know it all). But they work so well together. Alan's writing is so spot-on regarding the two. They will be back, definitely. Whatever Alan has in mind for them, I'll be along for the ride. Regarding Issue 11, 'Dark Matter' is the title of it. Featuring a band of mercenary types who have psychic abilities. Great looking art by Ian Beadle. Really action packed. Very detailed art in each panel.
ALAN: Doyle and RHLSTP just appeared as I started writing the first issue. RHLSTP was named after a podcast, and was never planned as a sidekick but he just turned into one as I wrote the issue, developing a personality to boot. Doyle is a pretty standard loveable rogue, but he is fun to write. Whilst there are no specific plans for their return, it's sort of inevitable as they are a blast to play with and the nature of their situation means they can get slotted into lots of fun scenarios.
'Dark Matter' came out of Ian Beadle saying he was a bit fed up of drawing teenage girls in 'Misty Moore' and wanted something more action orientated. I came up with a mercenary team with a nice variety of characters and plonked them in an action packed story where he's been able to draw all sorts of mad stuff. To be honest, he's knocking it out of the park and it's looking incredibly impressive and reading well.
What can you tell us about your future comic plans beyond issue 11?
ED: A lot of the Sentinel artists are busy working on their strips for forthcoming issues. Paul Spence is working on 'Heartbreak Spotel' (Fawlty Towers in Space) with great looking Massimo Belardinelli inspired art. Mac Art is working on 'The Pack', a Werewolf squaddies strip. Very action orientated. I'm working on my first traditionally drawn strip in years ( I work mostly digital now) called 'Valhallasaur'. Vikings and dinosaurs clash in this story. I hope to have that ready towards the end of the year. I find I'm quicker doing digital art than pen and ink (no ctrl Z for this one). Sinclair Elliot is working on '2112', a future war story. Robomonkey 147 is working on a Sci-fi motor racing story called 'Starblazer' which I'm looking forward to seeing. And there are other stories that Alan has written that are there to be assigned to, so exciting times ahead.
Regarding other comics/series... myself and Alan have a strip called 'Everybody Loves Zarkon', which is featured in a new Anthology called New Year New Stories 2022 which is on Kickstarter at the minute. Loads of talented creators in that 166-page comic. Plus there's plans for 'Crackpot' Issue 2, our All Ages comic. The first one was fun to do, so there definitely will be a second.
-- note from Ben: check out our review of Crackpot Issue 1.
Like everything else, whatever comes our way regarding myself and Alan. We love creating comics and strips. Be they 3 panel newspaper-style ones or 64 pagers. We enjoy doing them and creating something that entertains others out there. That's our goal. Everyone involved in Sentinel has a passion for the comics medium. We all grew up reading comics when we were younger and have brought that enthusiasm to our work. What more can you ask for.
ALAN: Ed's pretty much covered the high points there. The page layouts for 'Starblazer' have me excited, as it's named for the comic that was our original inspiration. It's about race driver Jack 'Starblazer' Starr, who is rescued from certain death by aliens and forced to race for them across the galaxy. It's a bit like 'Blackhawk' from 2000AD in a way. There's also 'DoubleJack', a Victorian horror story that is waiting on Andrew Richmond to find time in a busy schedule. We're also looking forward to going to the Lawless con in Bristol in May. We're just in the dealer's room but hope to have five of so of the Sentinel crew around to shake hands and sign issues. It's a big thing for us because the only ones who have met before are myself and Dave Metcalfe-Carr, the artist on the current issue, 'Newtopia'.
There are a couple more coming along, like 'Something Is Killing The Cats', a serious talking animal tale about a small neighbourhood with a cat killing demon loose in it. Only the local felines can defeat it, but these things are never easy. We also have 'They Call her Trinity', a sci-fi western with a classic Strontium Dog vibe about a woman on a mission of vengeance. Not many laughs in either of these, but both will be a thrilling read with a real emotional core.
The future for Sentinel is simple: We make these comics for people to simply read and enjoy. We are happy being able to give people a full story each time, as the slower production of indie comics means tiresome gaps between issues. There's always gonna be haters, that's just life, but we are a great bunch of truly creative people who take pleasure in what we produce. It's not for money, not for fame, it's for the love of comics, something that some people need to get back to. We're the kid who made his first comic on an A4 piece of paper that his Mum stuck to the fridge. We're not Marvel or Image, and we're not trying to be. We guarantee great stories, great art and a team that gets as much pleasure out of comics as you do. Cheers, Sentineleers...
For more Sentinel, head over to their Twitter (@uk_comic) and Facebook (@thesentinelcomic) pages. Ed Doyle (@EDDREDD) and Alan Holloway (@Emceehamster) also provide more updates along with some general comics fun! So check them out and make sure you follow them to keep up to date with their future comic releases.
Finally, and most importantly, to purchase copies of Sentinel, send them a message via Twitter and they'll sort you out with payment via PayPal. And copies of Sentinel in the wild can be found at Imaginarium, 39 Meadow St, Weston Super Mare, BS23 1QH.