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Comichaus Meets: Rees Finlay

Today we meet creator & writer, Rees Finlay!

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

Firstly (and most importantly) there’s me, Rees Finlay, the man himself, the poundland paul hollywood, occasional writer and illustrator of comics. I started in 2015 with next to no skills or knowledge and I’m continuing to grow and improve with my audience by my side. Currently my most notable work is ‘The Blue Flame’, a graphic memoir about how my morally bankrupt job inspired me to turn my back on a ‘normal life’ to make funny books.  

Secondly my dog, he’s a cool guy, we just got him chipped so I’m looking forward to playing some pirate PS1 games on him. 

And throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing and well known artists on my books, most recently Emily Pearson (Black Mask), a whole host of some of the best trading card artists working today, and a personal hero of mine, actor, comedian and podcast king, Ian Boldsworth, did a piece for The High Priestess kickstarter. 

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

The real catalyst for making my own comic was specifically Hellblazer 13, this slightly trippy, uncomfortable and self-contained horror story that was the whole inspiration behind ‘Damnation’, a one-shot based on the strange and self-reflective dreams caused by antidepressants. And my first toe-dip into the world of making comics about myself and mental health.  

But growing up It was the first spiderman movie that got me into a comic shop and buying books, and from there I grew into the works of Alan Moore, who’s always gonna be a total god to me. And I was lucky enough to have him read my work when I started my own underground magazine in 2015, truly surreal to get the nod of approval from someone whose work played such a big role in my life during my first year in comics.

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

Well, in the case of my autobio, ALL of it. But desperate to avoid ever painting myself as someone better than reality, the character of me is often quite downbeat, self-reflective and full of remorse. Autbio comics are very much a case of holding a very honest mirror to yourself, and while it can leave you exposed and vulnerable, it can also be a source of great liberation and growth.

My fictional characters come from a similar place. My High Priestess character is an amalgamation of some of the incredibly strong women I've met over the years, who’ve experienced great loss and pain and found strength in that.

Where did you draw your inspiration from?

Even in a pulpy world of superheroes a lot of the situations are founded in reality. The remake of the high priestess came as a result of a mental health crisis and coming to terms with a life-long disability. And once you know this it's impossible not to see it in the book, the characters are faced with an unwinnable situation, and do what they can regardless, burdened by regret of how it came to that and we explore the impact it has on loved ones. And that's just on the surface level!

As for the autobio stuff, it very much came from a place of wanting to get something off my chest. The blue flame marked the beginning and end of 2 very different chapters of my life. And i'm sure what comes next will have a very similar motivation and impact.

What struggles have you faced with the creation of, and producing, the final release?

With the blue flame it was an issue of time. I was juggling a full time job and a relationship while aiming to finish a page a day but also having it ready for MCM birmingham comic con. Looking back i don't know how I did it, presumably I didn’t sleep much.

The High Priestess as a lot more surreal. It was a remake of the 2 issues i did in 2015, and finishing the 2 I didn’t make as a car crash made comics tricky for a while. So remaking and improving old work was hard, as it still had to be fundamentally the same for it to work, but then I had to write issues 3 and 4 in the mindset of 2015 rees but to the quality of 2019 rees. And thats some quantum leap nonsense going on there. 

And as always, the big issue is finding the audience. I have a lot of issues the hard-sell approach that can cause distress in the artist alleys, so it's a hard balance to be assertive and confident enough to sell the book, but also know you’re selling it in a positive way that’ll make them fans, not customers. But this doesn't happen overnight if you want to grow in a healthy and organic manner, but I think (hope) I’m on a good path.

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

With The Blue Flame, you can go in completely blind, you’ll see a man at rock bottom, his climb to the top, and how you can lose it all in the blink of an eye. 

The High Priestess, Is actually stronger knowing what happened to its creator in the Blue Flame, and the night that inspired her to come to life. In the blue flame, I never finished the High Priestess, so to see it finally finished and collected as a graphic novel, 4 years later, was a surprisingly emotional experience, and hopefully by the end of the book you’ll understand what it meant for me to be here to have that second chance.

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

The final issue (and extended collected edition) of High Priestess has recently landed on Comichaus, with the print copy of the collected edition also available. And I’m researching and writing for a very ambitious project that’s gonna make waves in its respective field.

Late last year I was diagnosed as Autistic, and have had an incredibly hard time coming to terms with it. So I’ve embarked on a journey of self discovery, learning about the condition, the facts, the myths. And writing a very personal book that's a hybrid of novel and comic about my experience. ASD is such a broad condition that no 2 cases are the same, so it won’t be a guide to dealing with an adult diagnosis, (as that’d be pointless on a good day and dangerous on a bad day). But as I reached out for help, 9 out of 10 books are aimed at kids and parents, which is BRILLIANT for them, but it seems adults are just being left to get on with it, so many of us are left to suffer with little to no help. It’s been a long road to get back to where I am now, drawing comics again, I’ve been through a lot and I have to make it stand for something. If me writing about my life with autism can make one other auty feel less alone, then it’ll all be worth it. 


You can read Rees' titles over on the Comichaus App now, or purchase a print copy from the Comichaus Marketplace by clicking on the cover images below.

G-Man

The Blue Flame 2017 Vol.1
The High Priestess 2019 Vol.1

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