This one runs through April 11th. See you on the high skies of Aquila!
Another spring, another campaign for Skies of Fire!
This one runs through April 11th. See you on the high skies of Aquila!
Hey folks, Vince here from Mythopoeia. I'm one of the creators behind the comic series' Skies of Fire and Glow. I'm a history buff, and love to explore and discover more of the past - specifically WW2.
Last week, I got chance to go aboard the HMS Belfast, a British light cruiser that saw action during the war. Maintained in London by the Imperial War Museum, this has quickly become one of my favorite experiences in the city, and a must-see for anyone who is visiting!
I wanted to share some photos and cool stories I took away from my experience, in hopes of getting you to buy a ticket and experience the HMS Belfast for yourself. Though it's not as impressive as the carrier museums you can find in the US, it's still a ship with lots of character, and anyone can easily spend a leisurely afternoon aboard this awesome vessel.
The HMS Belfast finds its roots back in the early 30's when the British Admiralty were becoming increasingly worried of Japan's growing naval force. The Imperial Japanese Navy had just developed the Mogami-class ships, 11,200 ton vessels with 15 x 6-inch guns, which were capable of reaching up to 65km/hr. For Great Britain to maintain their superiority at sea, they needed something to match!
In comes the Town-class ships, the counterpoint that the admiralty hoped could challenge the rising menace. Among the 10 ships constructed in this class, the HMS Belfast would be the 9th and was ordered in 1936. On St. Patrick's Day 1938, Mrs Chamberlain (wife of the current British PM at the time) launches the ship in its hometown - Belfast.
Just a month before Great Britain enters the war in 1939, the HMS Belfast is commissioned into the Home Fleet under Captain G. A. Scott. Her early years in the Royal Navy weren't too eventful. She took part in naval exercises and was tasked with patrolling the northern waters, where the crew boarded numerous vessels for inspection. The most notable of these boardings was that of the disguised German vessel Cap Norte, where the Belfast crew captured hundreds of German reservists returning to the homeland from Brazil. In the later part of the year, the HMS Belfast struck a mine and was summarily decommissioned for repairs in 1940.
It would take two years before the HMS Belfast would return to service, but when she did in 1942, she came with updated armaments and radar systems. For the following two years, the ship and her crew partook in escort and blockade missions in northern Europe. This all culminated to the Battle of North Cape in 1943, where the ship played a significant role in sinking one of Germany's pride and joys - the Scharnhorst.
The following year, 1944, proved to be the most memorable for the HMS Belfast and her crew. In March, the ship participated in the bombing of Germany's other pride and joy - the Tirpitz - called Operation Tungsten. On June 6, the ship anchored off the coast of Normandy, where her crew worked tirelessly to shell German artillery positions during D-Day. A total of 1,996 rounds would be shot during the mission.
Once the allies were successfully pushing the frontlines beyond the reach of HMS Belfast's 6-inch guns, the ship was ordered east, where she would finally get the chance to challenge the Mogami-class ships that the Admiralty so feared. This, however, would not happen as the war ended just as the HMS Belfast entered Asian waters.
After WW2, the ship would watch over Asian waters in the latter half of the 40's, and later fought in the Korean War in support and patrolling roles. By the 60's, the ship was showing its age; and in 1963, the HMS Belfast was decommissioned and sent to the reserves.
Its future was uncertain, with the Navy unsure of how to repurpose the costly vessel. Luckily, in 1971, the HMS Belfast Trust was formed in hopes of maintaining the the ship as a floating museum. In 1978, the Imperial War Museum took over the task, and the ship has become a London landmark ever since.
The overall experience of visiting this venerated ship was truly inspiring. I was lucky enough to go on a day where veterans of the ship were aboard and were happy to tell their stories and experiences aboard the ship. This was a big plus!
To board the ship, there is a long gangway that connects to the stern section of the HMS Belfast. From here, you can see the ship in all its glory. The beautiful camouflage pattern, officially called Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25 (how original -.-), is the same pattern painted on the ship during 1942-1944.
Reaching the ship's stern, there are a couple of interesting pieces strewn about deck. First, one's got to give props to whoever thought of converting a sea mine into a donations box. Ingenuity cranked up to 11 for this...
On the walls there are multiple plaques commemorating those who served aboard the ship and those who made preservation of this piece of history possible. A large silver bell, given as a gift at launch, is permanently fixed in place. During the war, the Admiralty were worried the valuable bell might be lost if the ship were sunk, and kept the bell safely in storage back in England for the entire Second World War. One can only imagine how the crew must've felt when they heard this...
From here, the ship can be navigated through the many ladders and hatches that allow entry to the bridge and the lower decks. A total of 9 decks can be accessed, giving visitors and cross-section experience of life on the HMS Belfast. Be warned, there are lots of tight spaces and lots of climbing up and down steep ladders. At times, I nearly knocked myself out on low-hanging beams and narrow hatches.
Also, you might not want to touch most parts of the ship as Asbestos is still present underneath all the coats of paint...
KITCHEN AND HOSPITAL
One of the first places we came across was the kitchen and medical areas. The kitchen itself is massive, having to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for over 800 people! Apparently, some 250 tons of bread would be eaten by the crew in just 1 year! Here, they'd prepare the many appropriately nicknamed dishes like Yellow Peril (smoked haddock), Schooner on the Rocks (roast beef on roasted potatoes), and Nelson's Blood (rum).
In the medical area, there is a surgery and bunk beds for injured personnel. There is also a dentist's room, where patients can go into get their teeth worked on.
STORES AND WORKSHOPS
Another impressive number is that the ship has some 40 stores and multiple workshops in order to maintain the ship (I saw 4 on my visit). These stores would give troops everything from candy, to uniforms, to the allotted 1/2 gill of rum each sailor would receive as their daily allowance.
These stores are strewn all over the ship and are a pleasant surprise when stumbled upon.
BOILER & ENGINE ROOMS
The boiler and engine rooms are probably one of the more impressive parts of the ship. You truly feel like you're in a steampunk universe. Spanning over three decks, they are a mess of gears, dials, engines and levers.
According to one of the veterans, you'd work a 4-hour shift in these rooms just because it would get so hot and stuffy. From down here, you'd still be able to hear the noise of the guns above and feel the ship list back and forth from their recoil.
Of course one cannot pass up the twelve 6-inch guns that sit on the HMS Belfast. These huge cannons could shoot at targets up to 14 miles away. There is much to see here as you can go down into one of the shell rooms and see the stores of ammunition on the carousel belt.
These shells were safely below the waterline and well armored. From here, the shells were hoisted up to the turrets where they can be fired.
The crew would aim using the Admiralty Fire Control Table, or "Clock" as one veteran called it. It's a primitive computer that calculated the necessary trajectory needed to hit a target. To calculate this, it would take into consideration the ship's speed, the enemy vessel's direction, and even the rotation of the earth! Some shells would take up to 90 seconds to reach their target, so such calculations were imperative to get a successful hit.
Two of the turrets are open for you to explore, one has an awesome "turret experience" where you get a chance to experience how it would've been like when one of these guns was fired. I'm pretty sure it isn't exactly accurate, but it did give me a scare nonetheless.
The bridge is strangely spartan. It has windows, where the Captain and Navigator can look out and see the action, and multiple navigational dials and reads. There's also two seats bolted to the floor with "Captain" and "Navigator" written respectively on them. Surprisingly, there isn't a wheel. This is because the ship's direction was dictated by the captain and adjusted below, where it was safer from enemy fire.
There is a cool motorized map table at the back of the bridge, and the navigator's quarters as well. There are also some speaking tubes that connect to other parts of the ship. It's great to see that these were still utilized as a fail-safe way of communication, even when electrical phone systems were readily available at the time.
CREW MESS HALL
In the crew mess area, the museum has designed it to look like what it would've been during the ship's Northern convoy escorting days of WW2. Mannequins, dressed in appropriate attire, sit at tables and play cards; while others lie sleeping in hammocks hanging inches above their heads. It's a window into how cramped and close the crew must've been during missions.
In the bow section, where the anchor is housed, there's more space for sleeping quarters, and two windowless rooms. These were utilized as a brig for any unruly crew. Punishments were long stays in these cramped, bedless quarters, with only bread and water for sustenance.
These were just some of the many things and locations that really impressed me on the trip. There is, however, much more! I didn't mention the Admiral Deck, which was used by the Admiral and his personnel when the ship required it. There's also the Radar Room, CDC Room, and Radio Warfare Room. There's even a torpedo for show, giving some insight on the Belfast's other capabilities.
The adventure must end here, however. No point in spoiling everything! I hope you enjoyed the pictures and, if you're in town, be sure to stop by and see this iconic vessel for yourself!
It's the Monday after San Diego Comic-Con and I'm sitting back at home in 105F degree weather. I miss San Diego already! (editor's note: this post was written over the last two days :P)
2018 was the best show I've had since our debut at NYCC 2014. There were so many parallels between that show and this one. I'm blessed to have experienced both.
This year, the week leading up to the show was especially hectic for me as I rushed to not only prepare for the con, but this Kickstarter as well as the imminent arrival of 5,000 pounds of book at my office doorsteps.
On Monday I finalized touches on my booth for this year. Tuesday, the books came on three massive pallets, and on Wednesday we were off the San Diego for preview night. I did final shipping calculations on Wednesday night and on Thursday we launched
The response to the new booth and books has been overwhelming. Over the past year or so I've been feeling a bit of con-burnout. This show, I was determined to get our numbers back up and update our display for the first time in four years.
Part of our wonderful updated display this year was a brand new customized Zephyr model made by Captain Nate Seekerman.
I first met Captain Seekerman at Long Beach Comic Expo in 2015. He was in full costume and at that time did not have a muffler. He bought a copy of Skies of Fire and introduced himself with much gusto, though it was hard to understand him at the time because his costume didn't yet have a voicebox!
Since then I've seen Nate at various shows, sometimes in costume and sometimes out. This year at WonderCon this year he approached me with an interesting proposition. He wanted to make a to-scale model of the Zephyr.
This wasn't the first time someone has come up to us wanting to do a model. Everyone else who has asked over the years eventually flaked, so when Nathan approached me I was a bit reserved knowing that he had a challenging task ahead of him.
Nate was a consummate professional. He kept us updated every step of the design process, showing us numerous work in progress shots to which we could only say "Awesome!" or give a thumbs up of approval.
Here's Nate's description of the Zephyr in his own words:
This project was based purely on the Steampunk aesthetic from the illustrations in "Skies of Fire" by Ray Chou and Vincenzo Ferriero. The Illustrations were incredibly detailed and they even had hand-drawn schematics of the Zephyr Airship in north/south/east/west. First step was to import those 2D images into Fusion 360, so the 3D blimp could be drawn exactly and scaled to 18 inches long. This process takes a few weeks, then it's onto breaking down all the drawn pieces into parts that can be printed with a 3D printer.
In this case, we went another step and only printed the frame also called formers in PLA plastic, so Battens made of brass could be fit to create an inner frame. It took a week to print over 54 parts, so the skeleton could be assembled before applying Silk Paper, Dope Resin and Paint much like those balsa wood planes of the 1950's. And, before the Silk Tissue Paper is applied, the skeleton has to be wired for electronics which include 6 drone motors and 3 LED lights. Once the paper application and paint is complete, then the propeller engines can be soldered and glued into place.
To finish, the rest of the small parts on the outside are now applied for a process that takes about a month. My favorite part is the electronics, because seeing a working airship is really great for the imagination. Of course assembly is always the most difficult, because you have to be so careful with the Silk Paper, until it's painted when the paint thickens the outer shell. In the future, I could see this printed at a higher resolution for garage kits that fans would like to build themselves!
Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with the way things have gone the last two weeks. It's been a rejuvenating series of events for me. Onwards and upwards!
A lot is going on for Mythopoeia this month. We want to keep you updated so let's get to it!
Glow #2 Kickstarter
Yesterday marks the launch of our second Kickstarter for Glow. For those who don't know, Glow is a coming of age story set in a world where magic caused the fall of civilization. If that sounds like your cup of tea, please check it out!
Skies of Fire - Trade Paperback
The next thing on our agenda after the Glow #2 Kickstarter wraps is the trade paperback collection for Skies #1-4. This is a huge priority for us because we are just about out of stock of the floppies!
So far we've had quite a few discussions as to what the final trade will look like. We know that we want to do a hardcover, but have oscillated between a clothbound and just a standard cover. We like the quality of a clothbound, but feel that if we went in that direction an abstract or symbolic cover concept would be best. That said, from a commercial consideration, it's important that this trade's immediately convey the concept of Skies of Fire to a potential new reader.
Here's what we came up with:
We thought it was important to prominently feature our three main characters - Helen, William, and the Zephyr. We also wanted to convey a sense of adventure using the bright Skies of Fire color palette.
The interior abstract by Josephe Vandel is also complete. Here's a close look:
The abstract marks key locations found throughout the first four issues separated by a sea of clouds. We're not sure what the final color will be, but whatever we choose will probably compliment the overall color palette of the trade. Here's the backside:
What's left to complete before we're ready to launch a trade? The design, for one. It's been difficult for us to conceptualize this book from the moment we started working on it. Book design is not something any of us have done before, so it's been a slow learning process.
Beyond that, Vandel is also designing a book plate. This is going to be an amazingly detailed piece to commemorate you, our longtime fans, for supporting us. Thank you for being part of the Mythopoeia family!
The Year Ahead
This year Vince and I want to focus our attention on creating more content. If all goes well we'd like to launch four crowdfunding campaigns in 2018: Glow #2, Skies TPB, Skies #5, and Glow #3/4. The first three are definitely achievable and the fourth will require us to push hard.
We also hear you loud and clear regarding a Patreon. We know that platform is an easier way for our most devoted fans to follow and support us. We've actually have had one somewhat built out for months, but like everything we do have erred on the side of "when it's ready" to launch.
When is that? Next week. We wanted to offer something commemorative for its launch (which we have), as well as create a full video (which is almost done editing).
As part of our goals this year, Vince and I are cutting back on our convention schedules. We think that the time we save traveling would be better used pushing production. Here's our planned North American appearances this year:
Emerald City Comic Con - March 1-4, 2018
Wonder Con Anaheim - March 23-25, 2018
San Diego Comic Con - July 19-22nd, 2018
New York Comic Con - October 4th-7th, 2018
Around Kickstarter Comics
The Kickstarter Comics community is alive and kicking in 2018! It's fantastic seeing all of the creators we've gotten to know the past couple of years bring their latest projects to life on the platform. Here's a look around at what's fresh, with some old friends and intriguing new projects:
Madeline Holly-Rosling is back with another installment of her steampunk hit Boston Metaphysical. Madeline is a longtime friend of ours. It's always a pleasure seeing her around the comic scene where she'll always have a cookie in hand to feed other (literally) starving artists who have been on their feet all day. She's an angel who hustles as hard as anyone we know. If supernatural steampunk is your thing, please check out Boston Metaphysical!
Another friend of Mythopoeia, Miles Greb has been rocking the optimistic science fiction After the Gold Rush for a couple of years now. Miles is a huge advocate of rational thinking - he was actually the planner for last year's March for Science Seattle! Each issue of A:TG gets better than the last, and I'm sure the latest is no exception!
This is a new project that looks extremely promising. A cyberpunk dystopia in shades of pink and blue, Killtopia follows "a rookie Wrecker called Shinji" and a "sentient mech called Crash" as they are "hunted like fugitives across the neon-soaked metropolis by Wreckers, android killers and Yakuza gangs in a violent battle royale to end them all!" Seems cool. Looks cool. I'm taking the plunge!
So yeah, lots going on. Hope that gives you a better idea of what we've been working on and what we want to achieve this year. As they say, dare to be ambitious!
- Ray and Vince