Rees Finlay…Through ‘The Blue Flame’
Welcome to Emporium Purgatorio’s ‘Artist’s Edition’. Here we are exploring Rees Finlay’s comics & art, particularly through the lens of his upcoming work, ‘The Blue Flame’.
Somewhere between ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, The Blue Flame explores love, loss, guilt and what it means to battle your demons.
We mean Artist’s Edition articles to give a face to that particular artist and insight/exploration into the exact mechanics of birthing a comic as an Indie Artist. While this article is ‘stand alone’, we highly recommend beginning with Part 1 of our conversation with artist Rees Finlay.
“I let people down”
Comics for Rees and his friends growing up were never really thought of, they were “just kind of a part of our lives”. They would spend time at Forbidden Planet, maybe grabbing “some cheap superhero books with our pocket money”. But the main interests, as with many a hetero teenage lad, were video games and attempting to talk to the opposite sex. Dipping in and out of self-described ‘heavy comic fandom’ , the comic panels that broke the camel’s back had John Constantine in them.
I decided to pick up some Hellblazer trades…And it’s safe to say those early [books] are what DIRECTLY led to me wanting to make my first comic ~ RF
Doing his due comic diligence in prep for the Constantine TV series, his reading of the Hellblazer trade paperbacks eventually led him to the previously highlighted ‘Artist Alleys’. While there is still an aversion on Rees’ part when seeing an Indie Comic artist due to the too often tactic of the ‘bully them till they buy sale’, he also credits many an Indie artist, such as Al Davison, and small press talents he looks up to, mentioning Verity Hall (Mystery Circus), Sammy Borras (Giant Rhinos in Space and the most beautiful zines you’ll every find), along with many others, continuously helping to stoke his own artistic (Blue) flame. Considering the dangerous relationships, mental health breakdowns, and the ever present car accident Rees has endured to this point, that flame’s heart seems to be pure fire fuel.
“I made mistakes”
Those words from any of us would be axiomatic. These words from Rees Finlay lead to a crack betwixt the reality you are currently in, and the one created from the combination of unrestrained markers and pens laid to paper. Since my first exposure to the work and the art Rees has been bleeding onto these pages, there are parts that have been imbedded like glass shards stepped on, while others are a soft, cooling breeze across the skin on a warm day. Tripe analogies for sure, but there is no ambiguity to convey. While most biographies , however revelatory intended, end up being an almost antiseptic and detached 3rd-person overview, ‘The Blue Flame’ is an infinite Escher print, with our own selves staring back, no matter how deep we dive.
Closing this chaper paves the way for me to go out and be the person i want to be ~ RF
I’m loath to put comparisons down on comics and their stories, or even to ‘review/critique’ any comic in the traditional sense. While my feelings and opinions are certainly valid, as are everyone’s for them of course, the only outcome I see in this approach, whether it is a negative or positive review, is taking something from the creator and putting (biased) filters on. With what Rees Finlay has given us in ‘The Blue Flame’ it makes any of those concerns a moot point: the story is besides the point; the art is besides the point; the meaning is besides the point…
…So what do you have left then?? God Damned FEELING! Not that the art isn’t amazing. Or the words themselves not pointed and vibrantly expressive. It is that ‘The Blue Flame’ pushes past these too common markers of what makes something a ‘work of art’ itself. Because no matter how much you may wish, or how many times you tell yourself that what you are reading has nothing to do with you, in that deep down damn dirty part within, like recognizes like.
‘The Blue Flame’ is offered as the last comic from ‘Damn Dirty Comics’. Again blurring the bar between the printed page and Rees’ real world experiences, in the 3rd act of the book we learn how Damn Dirty Comics, and specifically the name itself, came to be.
I figured I didn’t need comics in my life…I was completely fucking wrong. ~ RF
“I walked away from that”
We are all ugly inside. Parts of us. Some of us to greater or lesser degrees. But would you be able to lay out that ugliness for the world to see? To invite them to see? Rees Finlay has said that he didn’t realize why he did this [The Blue Flame] until now. And I think that is what makes takes this work from a comic to a Comic Book, with all the gravitas and respect that nomenclature denotes. This is hard to read. This is difficult to read. But this is necessary to read. Rees tells us that ‘The Blue Flame’ was done for himself (his demons?) most of all. Not to be ‘known’. Not to make a sale. But because the alternative was the real-life Blue Flame would have engulfed him with no more chances and no more choices. I believe him. I believe ‘The Blue Flame’. I believe that this is a project from Rees Finlay that will change you…
i didn’t write this to entertain. i don’t want you to agree with me. i just wanted to show you how ugly i am inside…and that i plan to do something about it. ~ RF
Rees spends a lot of these days fearing what will “define him”. “I don’t want ‘Works in Retail, Pretty Uneventful Life’ to be scrawled on my gravestone”. Rees Finlay also feels the need to do “something that matters”. Well what ever comes forward. Whether ‘The Blue Flame’ is the next hugely successful blockbuster franchise comic adaptation, or the printed copies are used to level a table leg, there is a certainty this writer here has…
Rees Finlay has already done something that matters…
The blue flame puts a lot of our characters to bed and explains the truth behind my fiction ~ RF
“I need to make amends”
I leave you with a shortened excerpt from one of Rees Finlay and Emporium Purgatorio’s much longer and wide ranging conversations over the time ‘The Blue Flame’ had been written. There are still so many subjects and meanings that could be explored, within ‘The Blue Flame’ as well as within Rees himself. But I believe that, for now, brevity from myself is not only appropriate but also required. Because at the end of the day, the only one that will be there with you in that space between spaces that Rees has clawed down to is…’The Blue Flame’. Whether that is your (Rees’) savior, or whether that is your (Rees’) comeuppance, you will have to brave this Comic Book in order to find that answer…
“I think my outlook on small press and self publishing has changed greatly. I had aspirations of being the Stan Lee of Indie Comics, surrounded by yes-men and thinking we could do bigger numbers than Batman with our little superhero stories, and probably considered myself to be in a position to tell others ‘how to do it right’.
There’s some incredible resources online; the UK has some amazing printers who’ll make your words and pictures a reality. There’s great masterclasses hosted at art studios and comic shops. There’s your mate who’s really good at inking telling you how to step-up your line game (Yes, Tim, I’m talking about you!).
But here’s the thing, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. If that was the case all the comics would look the same, and who wants that? I don’t want that! Do you? Why? That sounds terrible! I don’t wanna be your friend anymore.
When I first started out I was OBSESSED with making my comics look professional, like that Spider-Man comic I got back all those years back. I wanted every line to be clean and perfect. As a result I got books I look back and cringe at. Obviously my perspective as creator is gonna be more critical, I’m very prone to beating myself up about flaws in my work (I’d make a terrible father). However, I feel I’ve progressed so much since then, my work is a lot more loose, markers on top of liners on top of pencils, I don’t even erase the pencil lines anymore. As pretentious as this is gonna sound…I’m now in this to make art, to express something, to serve up a chunk of my heart and a plate and nervously await results. I don’t consider myself a writer or illustrator anymore.”
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. There is only your way! If you wanna draw a comic on a toilet wall, do it. If you wanna print 1000 glossy trade paperbacks, do it. But make it yours… ~ RF