Published on August 27, 2014
Alan Spinney, centre, holds a copy of Brittle Hill, volume 2, a comic he and his wife Helen, also pictured, created. The couple are pictured in Black Bowser Comics in Sackville along with co-owner of the local business Andrew Black. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Published on August 27, 2014
The Sackville Public Library was the inspiration for the building pictured above on a page from the comic Brittle Hill, volume 2. PHOTO SUBMITTED
A repository for books of all shapes and sizes, the Sackville Public Library is now featured in one.
Moncton residents Alan and Helen Spinney used the local building as the inspiration for a scene in the pages of their new comic book, Brittle Hill, issue 2.
Alan said he and his wife, who are both very new to the world of creating comics, attended a workshop at the East Coast Comics Expo in May of this year. The workshop facilitator, Ty Templeton, who has worked on some of DC Comics' top titles, including Batman, Superboy and Spider-Man, gave the class some advice that the Spinneys took to heart.
"He said to make sure that when you start your story people know where you are," Alan explained.
In Brittle Hill issue 1, the three main characters, two teen girls and a teen boy, find themselves in trouble and are sentenced to community service repairing damaged tombstones in a local cemetery. And that's where one of them discovers the grave of her grandfather, which she didn't know was there.
Alan said that discovery leads the three teens to seek more information at the local library, which takes place in issue 2.
Taking the advice Templeton gave at the workshop, Alan and Helen set out to find a suitable library to serve as a reference.
Alan said Moncton's library was too big, adding they also looked at the library in Salisbury, but it was too small. Having worked in Sackville in the '90s at Hawk Communications, and having stopped into Black Bowser Comics in more recent years, Alan said he was familiar with the community's library, which, it turned out, was just right.
"I thought it was perfect," Alan said. "It had just the right look. It looked like a town library, and it had an interesting kind of a retro feel to it, like the slanted roof and all the windows, and I thought, 'People will know this is a library right off the bat'."
Alan said he added some landscaping to the front of the building so it wasn't an exact replica but wondered after why he was trying to hide the fact. His next step, he said, was to send a message to staff at the Sackville library through their Facebook page.
"And Alan (the library manager) responded and was really tickled that I used this image."
Both being oil painters, The Spinney's evolution as comic book artists grew out of an idea Alan had last fall.
"I knew there was an event called Free Comic Book Day, at least throughout North America, in May and I thought I 'd love to do some tiny little thing and then just give it away on a Free Comic Book Day.
On a drive from Moncton to Cape Breton with his wife a short time later, Alan told her about his idea. Not only was she receptive to the project, Alan said, she felt it should be expanded into a larger, more involved project.
"So we had the whole drive and we were talking back and forth and we were having a great time collaborating and brainstorming in the car."
Having brought his laptop, Alan said they sat in the hotel later and typed out the story. The name for the comic, which has a supernatural element to it, came out of a brainstorming session and seemed to fit perfectly, Alan added.
In the end, the Spinneys decided to do a full-colour comic and sell copies at the East Coast Comic Expo this past May.
"So we thought, 'Okay, well now we have a date, and we have about six months, and we better get going'. So we had to learn the fine art of comic writing and story telling, and drawing and printing in six months. It was pretty much a crash course."
Alan said reader reaction to the comic has been extremely positive, adding that they're enjoying themselves, having another two issues in the works.
"It's a lot of work, and we're having a great time doing it," he said, "but we'll take a pause after issue four and see if we want to go further with it."