Neill Cameron is best known online for his A-Z of Awesomeness and drawing a lot of weird Santa Clauses on his blog last month, but he also recently had his comic Mo-Bot High released as part of the DFC Library.
Mo-Bot High is the tale of Asha, a typical young girl starting out at a new school. She deals with bullies, makes new friends, goes to class, and tries to figure out why everyone has giant robots launching out of their cellphones. Of course, it’s more difficult for Asha than it looks, as everyone uses their robots to fight with, and she keeps “getting distracted from the mystery by awesome giant robot breakdancing contests and stuff,” says Cameron. “As you probably would.”
Cameron’s been drawing and self-publishing comics since he was 13. He released several issues of Dumbass Comics, worked with Jason Cobley to create Bulldog: Empire (reprinted in the first Mammoth Book of New Manga), and created the webcomic Thumpculture, which he’s hoping to restart this year. Despite these previous works he views Mo-Bot High as his first “proper” comic. Proper meaning not only that he wrote and drew it all by himself, but “also in that it has Giant Robots”.
Cameron got in touch with The DFC after hearing that there was a new British comic for kids being developed, and deciding that was the sort of thing he’d like to be involved with. Perhaps unsurprisingly he was already on their list of people to get in contact with and they soon started discussing story ideas. “They asked me to come in and pitch a few ideas to them,” says Cameron. “And happily Mo-Bot High was the one they really liked. Because it was the one I really liked, too.”
It’s no secret that Cameron is a fan of robots, having drawn plenty of them over the years, so it was perhaps inevitable that they featured heavily in one of his pitches. “I’ve always liked giant robots,” says Cameron. “And often at school I would daydream about having one of my own, and what I would do with it. That’s pretty much where [the idea for Mo-Bot High] came from.”
Once the comic had been accepted Cameron worked closely with his editors at the DFC as he wanted to make sure his first time writing a comic wouldn’t be his last. Cameron says that his editors Ben Sharpe and Will Fickling were crucial in the development of the comic, helping to “take a bunch of diffuse ideas for Things That Would Be Awesome and moulding them into an actual story”.
Cameron says that the editors were also important in helping him find the right tone for the comic. “My original version was a lot harsher, meaner, and borderline nihilistic,” says Cameron. “Ben helped me see that maybe a story about kids having their own giant robots should be FUN. After that (in hindsight rather obvious) revelation, the story really started to fall into place for me.”
Cameron knew from the start that he wanted to create an all female cast of characters for his comic. “I wanted to do a proper Girls’ School Story, in the vein of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers or the Chalet School series,” says Cameron. “But, you know, with giant robots.”
“Also, I thought it would probably be a good idea at some point, if I was serious about this Being a Writer thing, to try and write some characters who weren’t just thinly-veiled versions of me” says Cameron. “And whatever else I may be, I am not a 12-year old girl.”
The first volume of Mo-Bot high was released from The DFC Library late last year. It collects the episodes of the comic that were originally published in the weekly anthology, plus a new ending Cameron created for the book. He’s currently working on volume two.