Notes For The Next Stop is Lewknor Turn

The Next Stop is Lewknor Turn is actually the second comic I’ve released into the world. The first, made in 2002, and gladly lost to the the dark corners of the Internet, was given this stellar review by an eventual comics giant:

For god’s sake, Ian, just ask her out.

— Kieron Gillen

I came very close to putting that on the back cover as praise for earlier work1.

Drive Time

The idea for Drive Time came from a Bleeding Cool ‘article’ a while back with a Twitter round-up of people complaining that a comic had too many repeating panels within its pages and thus didn’t represent good value for money. After I had finished rolling my eyes, I thought it would be funny to write a comic where every panel is exactly the same. After reading a bunch of M. John Harrison short stories, it morphed into ‘what if you were listening to Dave Pearce’s drivetime show at the end of the world?’ The horror, the horror.

Page 1: Anyway, the fixed view point inside a car, a classic Eddie Stobart lorry, and everything is fine. The mundane as an entryway to the haunted.

Page 2: Honestly, part of me would have loved to spin this descent out to a full 22 pages, but I also didn’t want Nicolás to go crazy drawing the same thing over and over and over — I did have other stories for him to draw, after all! I was also concerned about things getting a bit boring…although that’s part of the point of the early panels. Which is why there’s a bunch going on in every panel - there’s the view out of the car window, the radio, the car dashboard, the conversation our ‘main’ character is having.

Page 3: You can’t beat a bit of vague 70s family acting odd by the roadside. I hope you all noticed that they continue fighting in the rear-view mirror.

The time discrepancy on panel 4 was intentional, but I think I made a mistake; it’s supposed to add an extra layer of oddness onto the page, but although it is somewhat called back to at the end with the reveal (and that time must have been acting oddly anyhow), it doesn’t quite work for me on a re-read.

Page 4-5: And now things go off the rails. Weird sigils everywhere, ‘Containment’ signs, cars on fire, communications lines failing, and ‘let’s go outside, which seems to be a terrible idea, judging from everybody we’ve seen out in the open so far…

Page 7-8: The big twist! She’s been in the car all along! Were you shocked, dear reader? Things fall apart some more, everything starts to turn into flesh (one of my guiding lights for this story was also Chloe Maveal’s demand a while back to see more ‘wet’ horror in comics. I did my best!), and it all ends badly, with no real explanation. Sorry.

…but not too sorry. One of the things that initially drove me nuts during the pandemic when I was working my way through Harrison’s work is that I’d often feel that I’d reach the end of a story without ‘getting it’. As if I re-read it enough times, things would slot into place. Or I was just too dim to see the obvious resolution that wasn’t quite spelled out for me. Then I actually read some of Harrison’s critical work, discovering that he hates puzzle-box stories and his stories are meant to be like that…which made me feel less stupid, and also partly vindicated on my boredom with puzzle-box stories in general. So, no answers, I’m afraid…

The Next Stop is Lewknor Turn

The reason that this whole comic exists in the first place is a tweet I saw one Sunday from Rhian E. Jones, talking about the weirdness of Lewknor Turn on the bus trip from Oxford to London. A weird, out-of-the-way stop that always looks haunted when you stop by it at 2am, in my case always coming back from London from a concert. Having read the tweet in the morning, I spent the afternoon sketching out this story, and that led to coming up with the other three stories to come up with a collection.

My intent was to try and invoke some of the creepy, haunted 1970s TV folk horror; grimy videotaped insides and faded 16mm film exteriors mixed with my own memories of going on that bus journey to London. And yet somehow plonk it in recent times instead (I didn’t give much thought to the actual time period other than ‘now-ish’, but the last page actually matches up to the train strikes of 2022, putting the bulk of the story in 2018/2019).

And yes, the trade dress of the comic is meant to resemble the Oxford Tube livery. I spent real money to use the right font and everything…

Page 1: Ah, all the comedy train classics — leaves on the line and the horror of the wraparound toilets on the Virgin trains. It’s like Mock The Week in here or something…

Page 2: The High! Nicolás did a great job capturing both Oxford and the classic Oxford Tube bus, I think.

Page 3: In an odd twist, I actually found myself having to do this journey in 2022, as rail strikes meant I couldn’t go to London by train. And I will say that Sam was right, especially when there’s frost everywhere.

Page 5: So much text — Marin did such a good job fitting all this on this page, but I should probably have extended this sequence by another page to space it all out a little.

Page 6: I love the Niamh’s foot extending into the third panel. Again, this would probably have been better over two pages in a way to build up the tension. Instead it’s a little rushed. But look at Marin’s sound-effects and the great use of different fonts — and Nicolás’s glitching techniques! So good!

Page 8: Spoooook! Niamh & Alan! The look of recognition at the end! A fairly traditional ending that presents no answers (see the previous story), but I think it works.


This story wasn’t supposed to be here. At least not in this form. For a year, I’d been toying with a story about an artist that lived in my most hated building in New York, haunted by their early works of art. But I just couldn’t make it work, so I put it to one side and worked on a different story, which got to the point of being fully-scripted before I realised that it also didn’t really work in its current form of “1970s Public Information Film crossed with a Los Campesinos! song and somehow Quantum Leap as well”. But I still needed one more story for this book…so I went back to the New York idea and struggled. By chance, I came across a reference to a housing estate in the North being built on top of an old mine…and things clicked into place. I wrote this script in a weekend and got it out to Nicolás to draw very soon after, which was probably a little bit of a mistake - as I read it through again, it definitely could have used one more draft. But at least one panel turned out almost exactly how I pictured it in my head, and well, it’s never a wasted opportunity to beat up on Tories.

Page 1: I’m fairly sure part of the mood board I sent Nicolás was full of Tory horrors like Grant Shapps and co. ‘Dad’ would have been in his 20s during the 84-85 strike.

Page 2: Panel 1 gives me big Yeowell’s Peter St. John from Zenith energy.

Page 8: During the pandemic, I found myself rediscovering John Smith and reading pretty much every comic he wrote. Excavation, in both its New York and here in the Northern form was an excuse to get to this page. And I couldn’t have asked for a better letterer to handle this; Marin does such a wonderful job here with the caption boxes and even the text itself becoming warped by the spectre of the old mine. Even though I feel the story needed another pass - this panel is one of my favourites in the collection.

Page 9: The North Will Rise Again, and the NUM gets a long-awaited revenge.

Mystery Ad Page

When I was writing the stories, I set hard limits on page count; which probably hurt things a little, but I wanted that restriction so I didn’t just go off and just write; there was always that tightness that had to be worked around (and it helped for budgeting purposes too). This was great, but when it came to actually laying the collection out, I realized I was a bunch of pages short. Drive Time was fairly easy to sort out, as the conclusion of that story leant itself to just having a blank page following. The end of Space To-Let gave me a chance to mess around with a hellish Foxtons-like vision of selling body space in the future, but I still had one page that needed…something. Hence this page, which is an advertisement for a potential sequel book, but with the text sent through a CLIP tokenizer. Decode it back for secret information!

Space To-Let

Finally, of all the stories in this collection, this is my favourite. It’s an idea that feels at home in a 2000AD Future Shock, there’s a double twist, and I think it’s Nicolás’ best work on all four stories. Plus, working digitally, it was very easy to incorporate the purple/cyan effect without blowing up the budget for printing. Who doesn’t love a “do you see? Housing in London is very expensive!?!!? allegory”?

Page 1: Like I said, Nicolás does so well in this story, and the different colouring of the panel columns was just the effect I was going for. Plus, misdirection from the first sentence!

Page 2 & 3: Right from the start of this project, I knew I wasn’t going to produce printed copies; the expense versus the demand just was not worth it. Even so, every story was written with the idea that it could be. This is probably most obvious here; this is totally a two-page spread that does work when reading digitally, but missing a little of the effect when you don’t see the bottom panels of the two pages side-by-side.

(incidentally, I wrote this while the Queen was still alive; I feel like I should have done a little more to indicate that this is 204x above and beyond the drones and robots circling about. And I’m already smuggling model weights about, so that background detail has come to pass even sooner than I suspected…)

Page 4 & 5: Conference and an info-dump, the latter of which just about barely sets up the twist on the last page.

Page 6: Part of me wanted to keep the purple / cyan thing up all through the story, but it’s mainly Helen’s story, not Mark’s, so he only gets one more cyan panel here.

Page 7: Oh noes! Evicted from your own body! The satires! Plus a horrific scenario of the rich moving into their own children in the captions.

Page 8: This last page is one of those “working in comics” affairs where everybody came together to make the page so much better. Nicolás does a terrific job with the art, but the first attempt at this page had far too much text on it. Marin was very polite about trying to get it all in, but listening to her advice, I struck out two or three caption boxes from the script entirely and moved the remaining ones about the panels, which I think makes the final twist of ‘this isn’t Helen’s body’ work better.

And that’s your lot! Will there be another comic this year? Probably not. But you might see a few experiments towards the end of 2023…

  1. I actually did ask her out and it went as badly as you could expect. And then two months later, I moved 4,000 miles to the US, which you might say was a touch extreme, but I disagree… ↩︎