HOW WE GOT HERE...

Michael was given a gift...  At one of these care homes, Michael had a teacher. The kind of teacher that everyone should have at least one of in their life, but whom very few people do.  He put a pencil in Michael’s hand, encouraged him to write and draw. Not as a means to an end, or to make others happy, but as a way to express himself. He taught him that when things got tough, there was some peace to be found in self-expression.  He taught him about being an artist.

 

It was a lesson the kid kept with him, and before long, he wasn’t a kid anymore.  Michael Combs became Mike GLC, a pioneering UK MC, renowned for his singular flow and unflinching bars, who has influenced some of the biggest in the game...  It’s fair to say, he took the self-expression thing and ran with it. 

 

Which brings us back to that jail cell. When Mike found himself in trouble again, having already conquered one artform, it was here that he began making moves to focus on others.  The very first sketches of The Collector, Trooper, and Max- characters we hope you’ll come to know and love- were done on the back of prisoner application forms. Soon after leaving prison, Mike was on Channel Four, starring in Dubplate Drama. Life is weird sometimes.  

 

IT WAS IN THE DUBPLATE DAYS THAT I MET HIM...

Sometimes, life isn’t straight forward.  In order to get where you’re going, sometimes you need to take the long way around.  That was certainly the case for these stories. They had their inception a world away from the draughting tables of art schools, or the notebooks of Stan Lee-obsessed, prepubescent boys.  The preliminary sketches for what would become Hitmen Sagas, were drawn from a jail cell.

 

In order to fully understand how Hitmen Sagas came about,  you need to go back further, to North London in the early 90’s, where a young Michael Combs was coming up hard. Like so many young black boys, Michael became acquainted with the system early.  His youth on the streets of Tottenham gave way to trouble with the law, and time in and out of youth facilities and care homes. Here he met some of the best and worst his peer group had to offer.  While the aim of these homes was to straighten him out, they in fact only forced him to grow up quicker, to become more self-reliant. In short, to give less fucks. This is the way for many young men, trapped in a system designed to keep them at the bottom of the pile. 

 

My Name is Ronan Summers, I’m an actor, voice artist and writer, who grew up in both New York and Ireland, and plies his trade mostly out of the UK.  Mike and I worked together on Dubplate Drama and Kate Modern, a webseries for the same production team. We always got on, so when he asked if I wanted to have a look at the comic book he was working on, I jumped at the chance.  Of course, the art was unrecognisable compared to the standard of his current work, but even at the time, I remember being impressed. Not only with his skill, but with his drive and ambition…

 

… then a decade passed. We always kept in touch, but both of our lives were busy.  I was doing movies, games, and TV shows. I was writing scripts. Mike was making music and doing plenty more besides, but through it all, he always kept silently grinding at his drawings, and establishing these characters in his mind. When he asked me to look at the first edition of issue 1, released  last year, the progression blew me away. Mike’s mastery of this form seemed inevitable. His work was bold and evocative, with a definitive sense of style.

 

But... there was a “but”.  As much as I could see the potential in the story, I felt that there were some issues in the flow and the pacing of the dialogue, and slight lack of distinctive voices to go with his singular drawings.  When Mike asked me for my opinion, I gave it to him.

 

He looked at me for a moment, then he said, “You know Ro, I’ve been waiting three months for someone to have the balls to tell me that.”  I should mention that the man is 6’3”, shaped like a vault door, and lifts the whole gym, so you can understand how this might be the case. Nonetheless, my answer was simple, “Well, I’m never gonna bullshit you Mike.”

 

Thus began the collaboration that brings us to today.  We started by rewriting that original issue, bringing new depth and nuance to the storytelling, as well as new artwork from Mike, so that even if you were lucky enough to and have read it the first time around, you’ll still find plenty new to get your teeth into.  With that done, we’ve now moved into full collaboration mode. Mike and I are currently in the lab, carving up 4 more issues, to be released over the next year. Hopefully, they’ll say a little about where we are as a society, and where we might be going, while giving you memorable characters, bad-ass action and shit-hot storytelling.  That’s the idea, anyway.

 

For our part, Mike will continue to bring the stunning drawings and I will always endeavor to toss the most delicious word salad I can.  You? Well, you just need to strap in and hold on for the ride…

 

Ronan Summers

February 2020

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