The Phoenix Presents: James Turner on Star Cat!

Every Friday, Stately Beat Mansion invites round a comic creator or two for a cup of tea, complementary Kit Kat, and a chat about their work in The Phoenix. The Phoenix is a UK series which features a range of the best all-ages comics available, from all kinds of wonderful creators – all compiled into a single issue each week! The Phoenix have very kindly commissioned a feline spaceship just for this feature, which steams across to The Mansion every week with a new creator onboard.

This week sees James Turner sail on over to tell us about Space Cat, a series appearing in today’s newest issue. If you want to find out more, then try an issue of The Phoenix for yourself!

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Steve: What is Star Cat about?

James: It’s a little hard to explain. Actually, no, it’s very easy to explain: It’s about the crew of a spaceship that is also a giant cat. The science officer doesn’t know any science, the robot hates all non-robots and no one can understand anything the pilot says. Their boss is the mayor of space who is a chicken in a robot suit and their worst enemy is a rectangle who wants to destroy the universe. See, that makes perfect sense, right?

Steve: What inspired the series?

James: I have always enjoyed science fiction, and growing up I loved watching Star Trek after school, but I was always frustrated with how obvious it all was – the crew was always so clever and brave and no matter what they did they’d always win in the end. So I thought, what if the crew weren’t clever or brave, what if they were stupid and selfish and messed everything up? That’s a much more interesting story! And that’s how Star Cat was born.

Steve: How is your process with the writing/art of the story? How do you take your ideas and develop them into awesome comics?

James: With Star Cat I usually try to think of old ideas and try to put a new twist on them, like there are a thousand stories about shape changing aliens, but what if the alien was rubbish at changing shapes? Once I have my basic idea I’ll just start drawing very rough little comics panels (I don’t like writing comic scripts with just words – far too boring!) just seeing what happens as I draw.

Each character has their own personality so each of them reacts differently to a situation and I almost don’t have to think about it – the characters just write themselves, which can make it difficult if they don’t want to behave! Once I have a lot of pages of these little comics I’ll start rearranging them and try to put them together into a story (which can be very hard since it’s usually just a lot of silly jokes at this stage!) and then I start drawing the final comic – I lay out the panels very roughly then begin to add detail, add the black lines on top and finally add the colour.

And that’s a finished comic – phew!

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Steve: What’s your favourite part of this week’s story?

James: It can be hard to think of new stories when you’re using the same characters every week, so it’s fun to think of ways to mix things up. Usually the story is about the crew of the Star Cat flying around together, so in this story I thought it would be fun to trap Captain Spaceington with his arch-enemy, Dark Rectangle, and see what happened – we get a chance to see what life is like for the villain of the show!

Steve: Where else can we find you? What else do you have coming up?

James: I can be found on twitter (@eruditebaboon) and tumblr, and at my website. I can also sometimes be found at the zoo trying to climb into the porcupine enclosure.

My book, ‘Super Animal Adventure Squad’, about the adventures of a team of animal secret agents is coming out in paperback on the 1st of August. I have also written three volumes of comics about the Mameshiba (little talking beans with dog faces who are obsessed with trivia) – the final book is coming out on the 3rd of September.

Many thanks to James for his time! Space Cat will be appearing this week in The Phoenix #79. And thanks to Liz Payton, who paid for the spaceship’s crew!

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