Every Friday, 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 twelve-bladed supercopter just for this feature, which flies across to The Mansion every week with a new creator onboard.

This week sees Zak Simmonds-Hurn whirl on over to tell us about Simon Swift, a series appearing in today’s newest issue. The series is drawn by Zak (find him on twitter here!), and written by Tom Fickling. If you want to find out more, then try an issue of The Phoenix for yourself!


Steve: Who is Simon Swift?

Zak: Simon Swift is a hot-headed teenage boy who has had to leave behind a sheltered, rural life in order to rescue his mother, and avenge the death of his father at the hands of terrible demons! Furthermore, Simon carries a mysterious amnesiac soul within him whom only he can communicate with.

Along his journey though, Simon was joined by a group of new friends, the archer Longrange and his wolf Shiba, Elena the thief and Obaba, who has the power to manipulate earth (a pretty handy bunch of people to have around you in a fight!)

At the conclusion of series one Simon seemingly achieved what he had set out to, but now the soul inside him is starting to cause Simon excruciating pain. With Simon’s life in peril, his friends must set out on a new adventure to save him!

Steve: What’s your favourite thing about this week’s story?

Zak: I really love the build-up of suspense in this week’s episode as the whole first page is a tease of a massive aquatic threat! Whilst Simon’s friends are concerned about his wellbeing, we as the readers know that there’s something much more alarming headed their way. The final panel has to be my favourite moment though and it was also incredibly fun to draw! Tom and I do enjoy a cliffhanger ending!

Drawing the fishes and aquatic foliage for the underwater scene on page one was surprisingly relaxing. My drawing style isn’t particularly naturalistic so those scenes were a really enjoyable challenge for me as an artist. Watching episodes of the Attenborough series ‘Blue Planet’ was a real inspiration for me whilst drawing these scenes


Steve: What inspired the series?

Zak: As the writer Tom already had a fairly clear direction for series one of Simon Swift when he approached me with the idea. In terms of my artistic approach to the series I was aiming for a blend of Tolkien and Shonen Jump. We wanted to make it feel like a lived-in fantasy world with a history of its own but also have a cool cast of characters with interesting fighting styles and back stories. I’m a big fan of One Piece and I know Tom really enjoys Naruto so there’s definitely a keenness to make the action scenes in Simon Swift powerful!

Every time we encounter a new creature or villain it should be much more exciting and scary than the last and every time we visit a new location I want to make it the most epic scene I can draw! We really wanted to have relatable characters inhabit this extraordinary world. I like the fact that our heroes are often bickering amongst themselves- it helps to ground the story and make the fantastical elements more believable.

Steve: Where else can people find your work? What else do you have coming up in the future?

Zak: Well, for the next few months I’ll still be drawing this current series of Simon Swift and I’m really excited about it! I think it’s going to be a fantastic series and there are going to be some huge shocks that I wouldn’t dare to spoil!

As well as doing the art for Simon Swift I created ‘Sky Drifters’, a series about a puffin called Tod who piloted a raincloud. Sky Drifters was also featured in the Phoenix – Tod was a really enjoyable character to create stories for, so hopefully we’ve not seen the last of him!

I’m also currently creating and self-publishing a comic called ‘Monstrosity’, It’s aimed at an older audience than my other work. It is an action-adventure series starring a guy called Daigo who has a demon-possessed arm, it involves lots of fighting, Demons and has an undercurrent of mystery and humour to boot! If you’re interested to know more, you can check out the Monstrosity website at: www.monstrositycomic.co.uk

So for the foreseeable future I’ll be drawing plenty more Simon Swift and am aiming to have Monstrosity issue two ready for the annual ‘Thought Bubble’ festival in November. 2013 is looking like a fun and exciting year!

For more information on any up and coming projects my main website can be found here: www.zaksimmondshurn.co.uk

I hope you enjoy Simon Swift’s adventures each week just as much as Tom and I enjoy creating them!


Thanks so much to Zak for his time! Simon Swift will be appearing this week in The Phoenix #75. And thanks to Liz Payton, who piloted the supercopter!

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