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25 April 2020

Flight of the Eagle

About this time last year Colin Maxwell successfully launched his comic Raid on the Forth, and now he' back with a new comic, Flight of the Eagle. He's currently Kickstarting it here and I recently caught up with him to talk comics... 

Flight of the Eagle - what's the elevator pitch?
The true story of a World War Two Polish submarine that made a dramatic escape from internment and fled across the Baltic Sea to join the allied forces in Britain. Winston Churchill called it “the greatest adventure story to come out of the war”.

People may remember your work on "Raid on the Forth" last year; how did you first come across the "Flight of the Eagle" story? 
When researching Raid on the Forth, which is my comic about the first air raid over Britain of World War Two, I discovered that a Polish submarine had arrived at the naval dockyard at Rosyth just two days before the raid. Once I began researching it I was astonished that I’d never heard the story of the Orzel before.

How long has it taken to put the whole comic together?
I’ve been researching the story since I first read about it over a year ago, but planned to put pen to paper in January this year. Unfortunately I had food poisoning which lasted a month and I was very ill, so it was delayed quite a bit. While I was unwell I managed to piece together the story and then began drawing it after I’d recovered. It came together very quickly after that. I was drawing almost every day for about six weeks.

As with all stories from the past there are conflicting versions and all sorts of propaganda and mis-reports which have to be sifted through and weighed up. The research takes a long time, and sometimes I uncovered new information that took the comic in a different direction. In particular, I was intrigued about what happened to the original Captain of the submarine, who survived the war.

You've got a different Commando artist to do the cover this time - how did that come about? Had Ian seen "Raid"?
I’ve been a fan of Ian Kennedy’s artwork since I was a boy reading comics such as Warlord and Commando, but I didn’t meet him until Dunfermline comic con in 2016. We got chatting, and have been friends since. I’ve also interviewed him a couple of times at comic events and was lucky enough to get an invitation to a celebration of Ian’s 70 years in the business which was held at D.C. Thomson’s offices in Dundee last year. Ian read Raid on the Forth before it was released, as I’d sent him a copy to get his opinion. When I was looking for a cover artist for Flight of the Eagle I had considered Ian, but made the final decision when I saw some of Ian’s submarine artwork that someone had shared on a Facebook group.

Was the cover image your vision or Ian's? How did that 'commissioning' process work? Plenty of back and forth or did Ian nail it first time?
I sent Ian a few ideas, some thumbnails and reference images, and he said he’d try to do ‘something different’ for me. Ian knew a little of the Orzel story already, in particular it being in Dundee for a while for a refit. A week or two after commissioning Ian he sent me a pencil drawing of what he had in mind and I was quite happy for Ian to work his magic.

The comic is on Kickstarter now and it's tearing through its stretch goals (which is great to see) what were your reactions when you saw that?
There was a great reaction to Raid on the Forth last year, and I realised there was a much bigger appetite for war comics than I’d expected.  I didn’t know how the reaction this year might be, considering the current Coronavirus situation - many people are delaying their Kickstarters because of it, but the response so far has been tremendous. I wanted the book to be out for the 80th anniversary of the Orzel’s last patrol, which is in May, so that’s why I decided to do the crowdfunding now. I’m very pleased with how things are going.

Are you getting a lot of 'repeat customer's from your last Kickstarter?
Yes, I think there were around 140 backers last year, and many have returned to back the Orzel campaign. There are a lot of backers from abroad, particularly the USA, and also a few from Poland, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising.

Are there any more local war stories that you'd love to tell?  
I’m always on the lookout for stories, either to turn into a comic book myself or to inspire a fiction story that I might pitch to Commando (a few of my scripts have been commissioned and will hopefully be published later in the year). The story I’m considering at the moment was one I heard about when I went to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre to do a talk on ‘Raid on the Forth’. They had a display there about a St Bernard dog named Bamse who came to Scotland on a Norwegian ship that had been drafted into service at the beginning of World War Two. Bamse seems to have had all sorts of adventures during his time in Scotland, and I think it’s a story worth telling in a comic book.

Colin - thanks for your time

You can follow Colin on Twitter @MaximizedComics
The Kickstarter for 'Flight of the Eagle' is here

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