The comic book guy
Neil Gibson (MEng Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering, 2000) is a former management consultant who now runs the successful T Pub comic book empire. Neil tells Old Joe how a comic book led to a new career, a new passion, and the discovery of an untapped talent for writing.
From management consultant to Comic Book Writer – what inspired your change of career?
Mine was an unusual situation, I enjoyed my job and had no strong desire to leave it, but I took the risk to follow a dream and luckily it paid off. Changing career is hard work but it was worth it – I strongly believe that work should be fun and now I get to say that I write comics for a living!
I came to comics late, I had read the Beano as a child and thought that superhero stories were fun, but like many people I had never thought about the genre seriously. Then someone gave me a copy of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and I never looked back.
Years later I was working on a project in Qatar and found that I was developing my own ideas for a comic book in my free time. I wrote some initial stories that I thought could work well, showed them to family and friends and luckily they agreed. After that things happened very quickly, I went from initial idea to launching of my first book Twisted Dark: Volume One in less than a year.
What would you say to those who claim that ‘comics are for kids’?
I think this is because a lot of people read comic books as a child but don’t realise that there are so many other types of comic out there. It’s the same as any medium, our tastes change as we mature – the music we listen to at 14 will be very different to that we enjoy at 40. Similarly you may have loved Blue Peter as a child but move on to Breaking Bad as an adult, the same applies to comics. I am a strong advocate for comics as a medium, and regularly lecture on the subject at universities and conferences. Maus won a Pulitzer Prize and there is even a comic laureate. There is something out there for all ages and tastes; you just have to find what you like.
Tell us more about the comics you produce at T Pub.
Our first book was Twisted Dark which follows a similar structure to Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone and is a collection of standalone stories that interconnect with one another. I have an Excel file detailing how all the characters and plots fit together – perhaps this is my Engineering background coming through! We have produced a wide range of books since then including tales set in 1920s New York, and Chub Chub which is more in the style of Calvin and Hobbes.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A constant highlight for me is when I can introduce someone to a great comic – even if it’s one I haven’t written! For example I recently received a letter from someone who had read a graphic novel I recommended and said it was one of the best novels she had ever read.
What do you remember most about your time at Birmingham? Did UoB influence your career?
I loved my time at the University of Birmingham; I was so busy that I missed the ‘fresher fair’ in my first year but certainly made up for it in my second year. I got involved in lots of activities and societies ranging from physical activities like ballroom dancing and martial arts to debating and boat races (drinking beer not rowing!), I even hitchhiked to Dublin and Amsterdam for charity.
Engineering and Management Consultancy may not seem like they’d lend themselves to a career in comics but I think I’ve taken a similar approach through my degree, early career, and T Pub. I believe that we are always learning and that this methodical and open approach to new challenges has been fostered by my university and working life.
What is next for you and T Pub?
We have a very exciting year ahead. We are working on an animated version of Twisted Dark and I have enough material for at least another 20 volumes of the comic book. We are also working with other writers on a wide range of exciting projects including more traditional horror books, and a mystery set in the Second World War.
Find out more about Neil’s work and T Pub at http://www.tpub.co.uk or to sample some of the comics for free use the links below: