The first thing that is immediately upon apparent entering the home of Diamondsteel comics creator John Ferguson and his business [and life] partner Clare Ferguson is how a midst all the successful reviews and coverage, they are the epitome of humble. Balancing working together and three wonderful children, John, Clare and the entire Diamondsteel creative team have the privilege of introducing the world to Scotland’s first superhero – Saltire.
Dundee has a rich heritage of comic books which are recognized worldwide, which include titles such as The Beano, The Dandy, Oor Wullie. The list is vast and it is iconic. But in the world of comic books and graphic novels, superheroes is a genre almost entirely untouched in Scotland, and even the UK despite the fact that Scotland has produced such comic book writers as Grant Morrison. So why then has Scotland never tackled the superhero genre? This was the catalyst for John in many ways as he explains:
I came to this position I suppose fortuitously by being inspired by an article to create a new concept and a new superhero based on Scottish ideas and ideology’s because a specific article I read pertained that this wasn’t possible, that Scotland couldn’t have its own superhero, that it was too drab, too dreicht, too boring. This gave me inspiration to create exactly what this article said couldn’t be done.
Diamondsteel was established to ensure that John and his creative team had full control of their project. But being a new company, it also meant finding a creative team which could be unleashed onto what could have been perceived as a risky, or daunting challenge. John and I spoke a lot about start ups and entry into the industry. He understood that genuine talent could be found in the young local talent and that is exactly who he opened the opportunity up to from the beginning. Using his finished scripts and concepts, he worked with Dundee’s Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art and Design and invited anyone and everyone to submit concept art:
When the entries came back, there were actually two artists that jumped out for different reasons. One was incredibly beautiful and one was incredibly dynamic. And we thought imagine if we could take the best of these two, it would be incredibly fantastic.
It transpired that these two artists, Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer worked together in animation and found it natural to work on the comic together.
It’s very apparent, even on first glance that the art work is truly wonderful. It is very much carving out its own identity and visual style, rather than attempting to emulate other popular graphic novels. The visual flare and uniqueness is also aided by the variety and distinctive personality that Scotland has everywhere you look along with the rich history and culture, and the team have encapsulated that, both in the distinct visual style and the writing (more on that in the review).
We also discussed the political landscape right now in Scotland. We face a historic year in carving out our future with the referendum on independence taking place on the 18th of September. Regardless of where one stands, it’s an important year. But it can also be quite antagonizing and aggressive. Saltire itself has been accused of being propaganda for the yes vote but John is adamant that this isn’t the case.
I mentioned that both John and Clare are incredibly humble. But it is also clear that they are both very proud about what they and the team have begun. Saltire has made a big impact on the comic book community and work has already begun on book number two which I am informed is even more exciting and epic than the first. With interest from film companies, more positive reviews than you can shake a diamond steel sword at it’s clear that Saltire is here to stay.
Check out the full interview below and look out for our review later this week.