Paul Bedford is an eclectic kind of creator and one of the more intriguing writers going around. Bedford is the author of the critically acclaimed horror comic The List, as well as numerous other comics. He’s a game designer, he’s a script writer, he’s a self confessed nerd and he doesn’t like Manga.
A Melbourne man, born and bred, Bedford was a creative kid, and his talents and obsessions with popular culture were evident early on. “I suppose it came from being an only child until I was seven. That, and I was a somewhat shy kid being raised by a single mum in a pretty poor part of Melbourne, so a lot of the time I had to make my own fun, which I am now very grateful for. “I was, and still am, very content with my own company. I recall sitting in my room creating massive battle scenes between the many types of action figures I had, Masters of the Universe, Micronauts, Shogun Warriors or anything I could turn into a soldier. I attribute these times with sprouting an active imagination and a love of all things fantasy and pop-culture.”
In the 2nd Grade, young Bedford found his first experience in seeing his creativity come to fruition. An obsession with dinosaurs inspired him to write a book on the topic, which was published by his teacher and distributed through the school. “It took them that long to realise I was a genius,” he jokes. “Jokes aside, when I look back on it I realise that I had one of those rare teachers, Miss. Merritt, God Bless Her, who really encouraged her students, or at least those she noted were possessed of some passion.”
A few years after this, Bedford’s creative spark lead him to design a series of toys based on the Masters of the Universe franchise, which the 12 year old submitted to Mattel. “Maybe seeing something I created get produced and read by others planted something subconsciously, but more so I think I just really enjoyed creating things. I don’t know where the confidence to believe they should be produced came from – especially from such a shy, quiet kid. I mean I had no concept really of what the process of manufacture was. I just liked to make stuff. In that, I can’t say I’ve changed.”
While his first attempts at toy design were ultimately rejected, Bedford’s childhood forays into the game making business would be realised at age 25. Together with his friend, Andrew Grigor, Bedford designed Road Warrior, a board game based on Mad Max 2 and licensed by Mattel/Spears Games. Bedford describes Road Warrior as an auto-combat game, where four players move around the board striving to be the first to complete two laps in order to win. Along the way, opponents can shoot each other with various weapons, or hijack one another’s cars. Road Warrior was one of many gun-based games and toys to be discontinued by Mattel following the Port Arthur massacre in Australia in 1996. But that wasn’t enough to deter Bedford from creative pursuits.
In 1999 Paul Bedford started work on a screenplay called The List. Deeming the 80 page script too expensive to produce into what would inevitably become an “R Rated Art House flick”, Bedford had the idea to turn his screenplay into a comic. “After relishing in the experience of doing so – and watching my script balloon from an 80 page screenplay to a 200 page graphic novel I was hooked on the [comic] medium.”
The boundless scope of a attracts Bedford to the form. “If I was to write: ‘Panel 1: 10000 flying demons descend on the castle’ in a comic, it would cost an artist a bit of paper and some ink, and a lot of time and patience. But were I to ask the same of a movie house, it would cost millions.
“I’m really focusing on comics for the time being. I think the reason is the addiction to seeing my written words turned into amazing illustrations.”
The List graphic novel was published in three instalments, the first of which appearing in 2007, by Bedford’s own Dog With A Bone Studios.
“A typical suburban family is visited by an Arch Angel, who presents them with their birthright, The List, in exchange for the life of the Mother. The Mother agrees to be sacrificed, knowing the family will be held in high esteem by God for doing so. With the Mother dead, the Angel bequeaths The List to the Father, who embarks on his quest. The story opens with his return, seeking his promised reward: Enlightenment – a knowledge he will gain only by suicide. Before this, however, he passes The List down to his Son, who, like his Father, has the Commandments tattooed upon his torso before embarking on his own “holy” quest…
“Don’t come looking for moralistic, pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, happily ever after drivel here. This is no superhero comic.
“The List, a tale of primal rage, insanity, and violence, will dare you to traverse some of the darkest mental territory ever put to print in a Graphic Novel. The List does not aim to please, does not seek forgiveness and will not apologise. It just is.
“In that place where your demons dwell; in that secret, concealed part of your mind where your insanity is kept at bay by all your conditioning; in those times when rage, injustice, and hopelessness overwhelm you; when all around you is darkness…The List understands.”
“With The List I set out to smash all the clichés and templates I had seen in horror and create a living nightmare set in a contemporary, suburban reality so that it could be easily related to – and so amplify its effect,” Bedford says.
“While writing the script, I tapped into the very darkest side of me in order to have it ring true with the reader. The rage, desperation, obsession and tone were all dredged up from a well of personal frustration. The audience is smart and will detect falseness very quickly, so it’s heartening to get feedback from readers who comment on how honest and real it reads …while scaring the shit out them.
“After turning away two artists that I wasn’t completely happy with, I was introduced to Henry Pop by Avi Bernshaw – a man entrenched in the Melbourne Comic scene. Henry had read the script and seemed crazy enough to want to draw the bloody monster of a thing. I had seen some of his art when we first met and it seemed to ‘Manga-ish’ for what I had in mind for The List (a gritty, realistic rendering), but when I saw the first sketches he had produced, it was like he had read my thoughts and produced exactly what I had envisioned. I immediately wanted to marry him, but I thought he may be against that so I settled to have him as my collaborator.
“I met Tom Bonin at an indie-comics convention back in 2006 and asked if he was keen to come aboard. Initially he was reluctant, which was understandable as he didn’t know me from mud, but he liked the script and agreed to do the inking for Volumes II and III. Tom’s inking style enhances Henry’s already excellent pencils, and brings much of the heavy atmosphere and dark feel to the reading experience.
“To have such amazing talent stick with me for so long and produce such a huge, demanding work is an astounding display of commitment and faith. I am a very lucky writer indeed to have been blessed by having not one but two great artists stay aboard.”
Bedford plans to soon begin work on returning The List to its screenplay roots, as well as adapting it into a single volume graphic novel. “Already I have a bazillion ideas to make it more fucked up and disturbing than the comic – while sticking all the time to the themes and scenes. Basically an enhancement; an inclusion of things not possible in the comic format. It’s going to be a blast to write – and fucking terrifying to watch.”
But it’s not all nightmares, violence and horrifying angels. Bedford is not tied to any particular genre or creative format, and despite the grotesque imagery and disrobing themes in The List, he admits he is not much of a fan of horror.
Bedford has also penned numerous other comics including The Day I Stopped, a collaboration with illustrator J Marc Schmidt, as well as having comics featured in two Tango Collections: ‘Clichéd, Soppy, Heartfelt… for the most part anyway’, a sweet, romantic tale illustrated by Matt Emery, published in the Tango anthology, Tango: Love and Food (2009) and, ‘A Recipe for Disaster’, a sardonic piece telling the story of Hitler’s rise to power, illustrated by Ren El Hopsum and published in Tango: ‘Love and War’ (2010)
Bedford’s stories have also appeared in two other anthologies, ‘A Very Special Occasion’ in Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls (2011) and ‘The Return’ Tides of Hope (2011), an anthology put together by SupaNova Conventions to raise money for the 2011 QLD, Australia Flood Relief.
The Day I Stopped will also be published in the upcoming anthology, The Light and Dark of it All, a collection of tales, all written by Bedford marking different philosophical observations on life.
“The List was one piece of me, while the works mentioned above are another. There no doubt I’ve felt incredible rage, heart wrenching sadness, been cynical, and have a romantic side also… but everyone has known these things; I just turn those universal feelings into stories. I think creative people don’t necessarily feel any deeper than anyone else, they simply allow themselves to acknowledge and utilise them as opposed to just trying to get over them and move on.”
With such an impressive range of creations and more in the works, one might wonder how a man who also holds down a day job has the drive and the energy to keep creating so prolifically. “I chose the name of my publishing company, Dog With a Bone Studios for a reason: if you’re going to produce a comic (or any piece of art), be a dog with a bone – grip on tight and don’t let go! Other people, obstacles, your insecurities, fears and many other factors will try and rip that bone from your mouth. Clamp that jaw, growl your warning – and be prepared for a fight!
Bedford is currently developing a new game, the details of which he is keeping firmly under wraps. He is also working on a screenplay for a film, Sorcerer.
by Kate Murphy