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Award winning 77 Publishing based in Castle Bytham releases 10th issue of The77 comic and prepares for LoLz release

A man who followed his dream of publishing comics during the Covid-19 pandemic is celebrating a successful year and exciting future with a new release.

77 Publishing, based in Castle Bytham, has just released the 10th issue of its flagship comic, 'The77,' and is gearing up for the launch of 'LoLz,' aimed at readers young and old.

This year, the company was awarded the Best Independent Comic Award 2024 by Comic Scene, a British comic book industry publication based in Scotland.

Ben Cullis with some of the works the publisher has printed.
Ben Cullis with some of the works the publisher has printed.

Founded by Ben Cullis during the first lockdown, "The77" has thrived.

With a background in teaching and a lifelong love of graphic design, Ben has brought together a diverse team of artists and writers to create award-winning comics.

Released in May 2020, "The77" is a collaborative effort involving artists, writers, and editors experienced with iconic comics like Roy of the Rovers, Eagle, The Beano, 2000AD, and Judge Dredd.

77 Publishing's flagship title The77 has just released its 10th issue.
77 Publishing's flagship title The77 has just released its 10th issue.

Inspired by the pinnacle year for British comics in 1977, Ben aimed for a broad readership, blending genres like sci-fi, fantasy, war-based strips, romantic fiction, and classic comic humour.

Crowdfunding supported its production, offering contributors comics, artworks, T-shirts, or even the chance to appear in comic strips.

The comic quickly gained popularity, partially due to the halt in traditional comic production during the pandemic, attracting many well-known artists and writers.

This Comic is Haunted is another of the publisher's brands.
This Comic is Haunted is another of the publisher's brands.

“Covid gave us the opportunity to actually have a very hard time thinking about focusing on what was important to us creatively, which received a lot of favourable reviews, and had an opportunity to be seen by quite a lot of people in the industry at the time.

“We've taken that on board. We've run with it, and here we are four years later.

“To be doing something now in my late 50s, which is something I always thought I wanted to do, is a dream come true,” said Ben.

Ben was proud to publish Ian Gibson's Lifeboat.
Ben was proud to publish Ian Gibson's Lifeboat.

“We do want them to be extremely good quality comics. They look good, they read well, and we want people to come back for more, and that seems to be what's happened.

“It's been pleasing that what started during covid has actually become something which I can be proud of.”

In the four years since launching, it has diversified its titles beyond just "The77" to include retro-style, horror, and other genres with titles such as "This Comic is Haunted" and "Blazer".

77 Publishing is gearing up to release Lolz aimed at younger readers.
77 Publishing is gearing up to release Lolz aimed at younger readers.

The company has expanded to include four directors and works with upwards of 60 writers and artists.

77 Publishing is now a limited company and has progressed from not only Crowdfunding individual issues but also securing distribution deals for titles.

They have published graphic novels like "Lifeboat" by 2000AD’s Ian Gibson.

“Man and boy, I've been a fan of Ian Gibson's art books since I was very young, so being able to meet him, being able to work with him, being able to ensure that he was able to see something which was a personal project for him as a magnum opus, was extremely important.

“And to gain the trust and respect of someone like that in the industry was just phenomenal.”

They continue to work on new projects, including collaborations with well-known figures such as Pat Mills (2000AD), John Wagner (Judge Dredd), Liam Sharp (Hulk, Wonder Woman), Mike Perkins (Batman), Glenn Fabry (Preacher), and Mick McMahon (Sonic the Hedgehog), as well as artists from Beano and other famous British comics.

They have established themselves as one of the largest publishers of new comic book talent and work with experienced creators.

The team prioritises a collaborative approach where creators retain the intellectual property rights to their work.

77 Publishing actively participates in comic conventions and sponsors events like Lawless, a celebration of British comics, where they engage with fans and network with industry veterans.

They have a submission policy open to new artists and writers, fostering a supportive environment for emerging talent.

Ben and his team are now working on their latest project, "LoLz," aimed primarily at younger readers, although they say it can be read by anyone aged “7-77”.

"LoLz" is designed to be an environmentally friendly alternative to comics bundled with plastic toys, instead emphasising the importance of encouraging children to read and be a creative outlet.

“When you go to the supermarkets or newsagents and you look at what's available for children, we still have the Beano and we have the Phoenix, but past those titles, what it seems to be is comics which are hidden in plastic bags with plastic toys, and they're not what I remember buying.

“I don't think it's really something which, with our concerns about the environment and really wanting to be just true to what comics should be, encourages young children to read as being a pathway to their learning and making reading enjoyable and fun.”

A Kickstarter campaign to launch the comic, the 26th campaign that 77 Publishing has run, has already received more than £2,000 from over 90 backers in just a few days.

Ben hopes the company will raise around £5,000 to cover costs.

The first edition trial launch of "LoLz" will be appearing on shelves in WHSmith and other newsagents up and down the country in the near future.

Asked for advice on breaking into the industry, Ben recommended that aspiring artists and writers reach out to industry professionals like himself to ask questions.

He encouraged them to start creating their first comic without worrying about perfection and to focus on doing something they truly love, as this passion will lead to great results, even if it's just for themselves at first.

He said people will be interested in seeing what they create.

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