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Comichaus Meets: Cliff Hughes

Today we meet writer and Toy-Z co-creator, Cliff Hughes! 


Please introduce yourself and your team (if you have one).

Myself and Nicci Thompson are the main writing team behind Toy-Z. We both live the north-east of Scotland where the comic scene has been exploding since Granite City Comic Con launched a few years ago.

I have been reading comics since I was about 10 year old, I studied Media, Film and Creative Writing at uni. I love pretty much all comics but I especially enjoy discovering new indie books/series to get into. Nicci is a filmmaker and writer from Aberdeen. After spending a few years working in LA, Nicci has returned to the north-east and is working with his production company to develop the film industry in the area. Alongside lecturing in film in the city. We also work with Daniel Cowie who does the really hard work of keeping Nicci and me on track and organised. The rest of the Toy-Z team were Ammar Al-Chalabi who did all aspects of the art and lettering on the first issue. He’s a Dutch artist who created the online comic Wart. He’s also about to launch the KickStarter for his latest comic, the slasher inspired aXmaniac. Cover art for Toy-Z was provided by illustrator and internationally renowned model Charlotte Herbert.

What are some of the comics that inspired you to start creating your own? Any creators in particular?

I grew up reading 2000AD then later got into the ‘big two’ as well mostly Batman, X-Men and Spiderman. Growing up in Northamptonshire in the 80’s and 90’s Alan Moore was (and still is) the main man for me. From his early work in 2000AD on stories like Rogue Trooper, onto Swamp Thing and pretty much everything after. There’s Alan Moore influence on almost everything I write. But, it was really meeting Bust/Vessels creator Dave Cook and Salvagers writer Bob Salley at Edinburgh Sci-fi Con about three years ago that gave me the push to finally bite the bullet and publish Toy-Z.


How much of your own personality goes into your character(s)?

Consciously I don’t think very of my own personality goes into the characters, if anything they’re an amalgamation of people I know and have met. Subconsciously probably more of myself goes into them than I’d like to admit. Mr Huggles in Toy-Z was a tool for writing about a very personal experience and exploring the emotions attached to that but I don’t think he’s like me as an individual.

Where did you draw your inspiration from?

The inspiration for Toy-Z came mostly from an event in my life and the feelings of loss that surrounded it. It was something I’d wanted to write about for a long time but I could never find a suitable vehicle for the expression of it. One day I was watching Big Bang Theory and they were talking about Toy Story and that got me thinking; how would the characters in Toy Story cope in a world if humans either no longer existed or had no need for them? After that myself and Nicci got excited by the challenge of trying to bring something new and unique to the zombie genre and Toy-Z was born. What struggles have you faced with the creation of ….. and producing the final release? The main challenge for us was running the Kickstarter it was something we hadn’t really looked at outside of pre-ordering comics. (So we’ll try and make Dan do this next time.) In terms of actually producing the comic I found the whole process really enjoyable so even the more difficult parts didn’t seem too bad at the time. We were also lucky enough to receive invaluable support from indie creators who’d already been where we were. We will be eternally grateful to the Dave Cook, Bob Salley and James McCulloch (City of Lost Soul) who took time to give us advice and feedback all along the way. The main lesson I’ve taken away from the production of Toy-Z would have to be EVERYTHING takes longer than you think it will.

What do fans need to know going into their first issue of your comic?

Don’t be fooled by the cartoonish look of Toy-Z it’s an emotional story. People have told us that we’ve made them cry.

What have you got coming up in the future? Are you working on more issues?

Our next project which we are super-excited about is called City 24. Nicci has really indulged his love of noir cinema and steampunk to create an alternate-history world based in London in the 1800’ and a group of characters that have been really fun to mess with. Artist, John Trowell has just started working on the project with and I’m in no doubt that it’s going to look amazing. We will be following this with a story called Yesterday Men (probably the most Alan Moore inspired writing I’ve done). It follows a small group of characters in a world where all the super powered people lost their power in a instant, all at the same time. If you imagine Powers by Bendis meets Watchmen you’re not far away from what this will be like. Then, all thing being right in the world, the next Toy-Z will be out sometime around the end of this year early next year. A longer story that will go deeper into the characters of Kitty-Kat and Robert, exploring and developing the relationship between them.

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