Mother Spreads Its Weirdness

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While its New York office led an initiative that brought to life tiny books like Yo! Check The Perm Mother London's turn in the publishing industry is maturing with its latest venture, Four Feet From a Rat, a quarterly graphic novel which debuted today in London's Time Out magazine.

The first issue features four strange tales of varying genre; an alien fantasy, a horror turn, a dystopia and, well, vermin as organized criminals ("Don Pigeone"). The comic comes as an offset insert in the weekly listings magazine, with three more installments planned. If all goes well, the agency hopes to combine the efforts into a graphic novel for purchase. "The opportunity for the whole agency to write them is great," says Mother creative Stuart Outhwaite. "It's an opportunity for all writers at Mother to come in and have a go; relief for the frustrated creatives who want to do things other than advertising."

Mother and Time Out worked out the deal as part of the agency's reducing its fees to work for the magazine, which in turn offered its pages for the agency's creatives to flex their muscles.

"I think it's really benefiting both parties," says Outhwaite. "We're getting an avenue to send our creative ambitions down, they're getting good stuff for it. We hope the readers will love it and demand more." Time Out is promoting the effort with a coverline about the comics, and flyposters were posted around London.

The title of the series, Four Feet From a Rat, refers to a common saying about constant distance in London, the theme that ties the stories together. "Hopefully we'll continue to sponge all that London spews up," Outhwaite says. "It's a great palette, so it begs many stories to be told in its confines."

At the onset, Mother began writing stories and consulted illustrators to see which made the cut.

"We wrote, God knows, 20 odd, 30 different stories, we came to realize that some were best told over 20 pages as opposed to three or four," Outhwaite says. "Others weren't really suited to the genre. Others were maybe a little prosaic, sterile; others were a touch too derivative."

The agency then contacted Mam Tor, a fresh-on-the-scene British comics publisher led by former D.C. and Marvel illustrator Liam Sharp. Sharp, who illustrated "The Crane Gods" for Four Feet From a Rat #1, further advised on story selection and found illustrators to ink them, a collaboration Outhwaite calls "priceless" and describes as akin to the agency-director relationship.

As far as the writing goes, Outhwaite says the Mother Comics team at the agency is beginning to get a handle on the power this new medium provides. "It's like anything, really, like writing a short film or a long length advert or a synopsis for a feature," he says. "The one thing we've come to realize as we're doing it and the one thing we haven't fully embraced is the opportunity sequential art gives you and how it actually provides a completely different way of telling stories."

Artists in the first book include Sharp, Chris Weston, who worked on "The Little Guy," Dave Kendall on "The Routemaster" and Kev Crossley on "Don Pigeone." Download the first issue here.

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