Every Friday (well sort of), Stately Beat Mansion invites round a comic creator or two for a cup of tea, complementary Kit Kat, and a chat about their work in The Phoenix. The Phoenix is a UK series which features a range of the best all-ages comics available, from all kinds of wonderful creators – all compiled into a single issue each week! The Phoenix have very kindly commissioned a bicycle made for two just for this feature, which journeys across the wilderness over to The Mansion every week with new creators mounted.

This week sees Daniel Clifford race on over to tell us about Tracks, a story appearing in today’s newest issue. Half of the Art Heroes team along with artist Lee Robinson, Tracks marks their first work together in The Phoenix. So if you want to find out more, then try an issue of The Phoenix for yourself!

Phoenix Issue 112 cover 2

Steve: What is Tracks about?

Daniel: Tracks is about the kids of South Town and their bike racing season. This strip focuses on Bianca, who has never really won a race before but has the heart and passion that the race fans love. And it looks like Bianca is finally going to pull off the big one… until she comes up against a BMX bandit called Freddy.

Steve: What inspired the story?

Daniel: We were inspired by classic British anthology comics with the very simplistic idea – kids with bikes racing and getting into trouble. But we also take a lot from cartoons, like Recess and Hey, Arnold. Lee’s art is very inspired by Dragonball, which I’m not sure everyone sees – but when you look, it’s there. I grew up watching the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show and we wanted to take that idea of a world where kids could rule and have their own sports competitions and shops and whatnot and you never really see any adults. That’s something we’d love to develop if we get to do more Tracks strips.

Steve: How is your comic-making process? How do you take your ideas and make them into awesome comics?

Daniel: With Art Heroes, we work very closely together to work up ideas and to put the pages together. Lee draws thumbnails, which I letter and put the panel borders on. Then Lee pencils and inks the pages – although he works completely digitally. I tweak the lettering and then he colours the pages. It’s not me writing and Lee drawing, we both have a lot of input on everything. A real team – and that’s what makes it fun.

 Tracks page 1

Steve: What’s your favourite part of this story?

Daniel: The South Town Races Commentator is my favourite part of the strip. He’s a young lad but he’s got an old soul. He takes his job very seriously and doesn’t like anything that brings the racing season into disrepute. Lee’s favourite thing about the strip is the character designs. We’re always trying to create characters that are weird for some reason, but are still relatable. I think he did a great job of achieving that with his designs.

Steve: Where else can we find you? What else do you have coming up?

Daniel: We’re on Twitter and our website is ArtHeroes.co.uk. We’ll be at London Super Comic Con in March and at as many conventions as possible in the second half of the year. We should be releasing a new anthology comic in the middle of the year. It’s called Art Heroes presents… and will feature a horror, a western, a time-travel adventure and a comedy strip. We’re treating it a little like a self-titled album, trying to make something that really shows off what we’re about.

Many thanks to Daniel for his time! You can find Tracks in this week’s issue of The Phoenix – out today! And many thanks to Liz Payton for the bike loan!