Indie Creators Team Up to Kickstart Some BAD KARMA

 

Since the inception of Kickstarter in 2009, the crowd-funding site has helped make many comic book projects a reality — and in cases like Womanthology, Sullivan's Sluggers or Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman's I Draw Comics, raise far beyond their original goals.

The latest success story is Bad Karma, a forthcoming hardcover anthology from pals and comic pros B. Clay Moore (Hawaiian Dick), Jeremy Haun (The Darkness), Seth Peck (X-Men) and Alex Grecian (Proof, 2012 novel The Yard). With nine days left to go as of press time, Bad Karma has surpassed its $18,500 goal by nearly $9K.

Newsarama talked with all four of the main creative forces behind Bad Karma — who are joined on the book by contributors including Jonathan Hickman, Ben Templesmith, Chris Samnee, Rebekah Isaacs, Jason Latour, and more — about the July 2013-expected book, the Kickstarter experience and where the project might go next.

"Ninth Life of

Solomon Gunn"

piece by Jenny

Frison.

Newsarama: First, guys, congratulations on not only hitting the goal, but hitting it quickly, and subsequently exceeding it by more than $8,000 at this point. It's a common question for Kickstarter projects like this, but how does that compare to your collective expectations? Obviously every Kickstarter has an amount of unpredictability to it, but given the established reputations of everyone involved, you had to be at least somewhat confident going in.

B. Clay Moore: I wouldn’t want to base our expectations solely on our reputations, whatever they might be. The key was to assemble a project that we all could be proud of, and one that was less about testing the weather in the marketplace, and more about telling the stories that we want to tell. I always assume readers will respond to honesty and genuine enthusiasm.

Jeremy Haun: I was just hoping that we didn't sit at $15 for the first week. We really had no idea what to expect. That first day we came out the gate strong. We owe all of that to the support of fans.

Seth Peck: I honestly had no idea what to expect. I just wanted to put together the best package we could, and tell the stories we wanted to tell. It was rewarding to see people respond so favorably.

Nrama: And another fairly cliché Kickstarter-related question: Why was this the right route for Bad Karma? What kind of added freedom is there as opposed to a traditional publisher? Are these stories that you'd have trouble telling elsewhere?

 

Moore: There’s something exciting about having complete control of a project, from the ground up. For one thing, I wanted to see what we could do left to our own devices. But the market has always been pretty open to us telling the stories we want to tell, as have publishers like Image and Oni.

Alex Grecian: I think we could have done this project with a publisher. We have good relationships with several, including Image, but this was a way to experiment and gauge interest in that experiment without putting anyone else on the line. The four of us took all the responsibility for this and we're grateful that people seem willing to gamble on us.

Haun: We also liked the idea of the expanded upgrade and merchandizing possibilities that doing a project through Kickstarter allows. Getting to do Bad Karma as a slightly oversized hardcover is something that we could have done with a publisher. The little things like a slipcase edition, hand pulled screen prints, and t-shirts aren't really something you get to do with a new project. I'm a sucker for things like that and going through Kickstarter allowed us to offer them to fans.

Peck: I like the idea of incentives, and having our audience be a genuine part of making the project happen. I’m kind of in love with the whole concept of Kickstarter, and this was a way to do a bunch of cool extras, letting the market dictate what all gets added to the final project.

"Chaos Agent"

page.

Nrama: You're all located in or around Kansas City, which is known to have a pretty tight-knit comic community. How close is the Bad Karma team? And how did the idea to do something ambitious like this come to fruition?

Moore: Very close. We’re all good friends. I’ve known both Seth and Jeremy for over 10 years, and have collaborated with both professionally before this. When Alex showed up on the scene with Proof, it was clear that his sensibilities matched those of other KC area folks. We have a lot of common interests, and (I think) mutual respect for each other. Alex and I bonded even more last year when we attended a mystery writers convention together and some businessmen in a bar almost poisoned him to death (but that’s another story).

As for how Bad Karma came to be — a few years ago Jeremy, Seth and I put together a collaborative “virtual studio” with Jason Aaron, Jason Latour and Tony Moore, called Atomic Revolver. Before we had a chance to do much together, schedules and life got in the way, and things never really launched as we intended. With so many creators (and friends) in this area, I always had an eye toward trying again. While we already share our work and advice, coming together in a more formal effort to pool resources and collaborate on ideas and projects just seemed natural. We briefly talked to Dennis Hopeless about joining, but his schedule is brutal these days. Inviting Jeremy in as a writer turned out to be the move that really completed the group.

Grecian: We're a pretty damn perfect mix of personalities and strengths. We complement each other well. It was surprisingly easy to build a shared universe without stepping on each other's toes and I think we've got something we can continue to add to in the future. Also, I feel much better now, but I've learned not to accept food from strangers.

Haun: If you want to be able to hang out with industry friends you have to figure out ways to work together. I've known these guys for years. While we always make it a point to hang out at cons or get together whenever possible, schedules get busy thanks to our various projects.

"Hellbent."

When Clay called and asked if I'd like to be a part of Bad Karma, I jumped at the chance. Not only was it a step towards exactly the type of thing I've been wanting to do with my career, but it was a group of guys that I like hanging out with.

Peck: The collaborative aspect of comics has always appealed to me, and this is a chance to do that while building something that will last beyond the initial project. We’ve known each other for years, and our personalities and styles seem to mesh well. I’ve been lucky in my career to have friends like Clay, Jason Aaron, and Rick Remender to sort of mentor me and serve as sounding boards when I’ve needed one. Sitting down and brainstorming with Jeremy, Alex, and Clay is incredibly exciting, and I feel like they push me in directions that make me a better writer.

Nrama: And beyond the main four, there is definitely a dignified and diverse list of contributors, like Ben Templesmith, Declan Shalvey, Chris Samnee, Rebekah Isaacs and a bunch more — since you're all well-connected comic pros, was it pretty easy to line up collaborators for the book?

Moore: All I know is that we’re eternally grateful to our friends for helping us make this happen. These are all busy people, in high demand, so agreeing to take time out of their schedules to contribute is appreciated more than we can express. And I think special thanks have to go to Jonathan Hickman for agreeing to design the cover and logo for us, right out of the gate. He gave us early momentum, and beyond sharing his talent, his advice is always spot-on. I think everyone involved knows we’ll always be here to assist them whenever they need it.

Haun: When we started discussing putting together artists for this project, we sat down and made a list of creators we know and whose work we love. It was a massive list. I don't think we could have even begun to plan for how many of the artists said yes.

Our core group of artists, drawing the main stories, are just fantastic. Phil Hester, Mike Tisserand, Chris Mitten, and Tigh Walker are dream talent for any project. Getting them all in one place is just kind of crazy.

I think this is the type of project that creators want to get behind. It's about the creativity. There is a lot of love for creator-owned work right now. It's exciting to have so many of the best talents in the industry working with us on our little project.

Peck: I’m incredibly grateful for the artists who agreed to be a part of the project. Beyond words, really, because every way I can think of to say thanks falls short of expressing how deeply I appreciate their support. I’m equally blessed to be working with Tigh again, he’s the perfect collaborator, and I’m really excited for people to see more of his work.

Nrama: Since this is listed as "volume one," and the five main sections are billed as "introducing" original concepts, it seems that each of them are considered to essentially be the first part of something that could have a longer life outside the book — is that a correct assumption? Is this something of a collective launching pad for what could be longer projects?

Moore: That is a correct assumption. Having said that, each story is designed to stand on its own within this context. But the worlds have all been fleshed out on a much larger scale.

Grecian: We wanted everything in Volume One to be complete and accessible and not leave readers hanging, but we also have plans to do more. We've tried to create concepts that hint at richer lives beyond this single book.

Nrama: And on that note — though the Kickstarter page contains short descriptions of each of the five stories, can you share any more detail on the individual concepts, to whatever degree you feel comfortable at this point?

 

Moore: Old Dog is sort of the next step after Hawaiian Dick for me. Whereas Dick is a '50s crime story, the supernatural trappings and the Hawaiian setting have always kept it a step removed from hard-boiled noir. The title character here is tied to both the roaring twenties and late forties L.A., and I hope he presents a slightly different type of hero (or anti-hero, if you will) than you usually see in the genre. There’s a larger world we’re building around Jack Boxer, and this first story introduces some of the pieces. The fact that Chris Mitten agreed to collaborate on the story was icing on the cake. We’ve been talking about working together for ages, and a concept like this sits in both our wheelhouses.

 

Grecian: Oliver Ames, The Armchair Assassin is a stand-alone story about the main villain from Middleton, a concept I've been thinking about for years and years. Time travel isn't something I usually mess around with and I wanted to challenge myself. Phil Hester published my first comic book story in the back of an anthology he did years ago, but I wrote and drew that story. I never got a chance to actually work with him, so the opportunity to collaborate with him now is a dream come true for me. He's obviously one of the most talented and respected guys in this entire industry and I plan to ride his coattails as far as I can.

 

Haun: Chaos Agent is the story of Chaos Agents, tasked with creating situations of large scale chaos. Sometimes it's things we see, sometimes it's not. The trick is, Chaos Agents are the good guys. They aren't trying to destroy the world, they are trying to keep it going. It is a concept that kept making its way to the top of my "to do" list. Bad Karma was kind of the perfect place to launch it. I'm telling this story before the story. It works as a fun stand alone but can easily build into something down the road. Mike Tisserand was an absolute dream find for the project. He's an animator out of Vancouver, British Columbia. From the moment that I saw his stuff, I knew he was the guy for Chaos Agent. I'm lucky to be working with him.

 

Peck: Hellbent is a concept I’ve been working on for about five years, and it’s influenced a lot by stuff I read outside of comics. It’s a crime/horror story set in Victorian London, and it’s got elements of Lovecraft, James Ellroy, and Arthur Machen. The story follows a crooked cop who is the only thing standing between our world and an invading force of extra-dimensional nasties.

Nrama: The Bad Karma book is unique in that it also contains short stories and prose. How important is that element? And do you see the opportunity to work in different forms as another freedom granted by self-publishing?

Moore: Alex really established himself as a novelist this year, with the success of his debut novel, The Yard (which hit the New York Times Bestseller list). It seemed only natural for him to include a prose piece, and both Seth and I decided to follow suit. The last prose piece I published was in the first Hawaiian Dick trade paperback, but it’s a slow-moving side focus for me. And, sure, having complete control of the book allows us to easily follow that muse.

Peck: Yeah, this project gave us the freedom to stretch a bit in terms of form, and it’s equally thrilling and terrifying, especially when your work is sitting next to Alex’s. Again, it’s an example of being pushed to do better work by the company you keep.

"Ninth Life of

Solomon Gunn,"

a collaborative work

written by all four

Bad Karma creators

and illustrated by Haun.

Nrama: One last Kickstarter question — whenever there's a high-profile campaign like this, I always wonder how challenging it is to a) come up with multiple incentives that are both unique and appealing, and b) taking the time to fulfill them. Naturally b) isn't an issue at this point, but was it difficult at all to come up with incentives that would not only be something different, but also worth a reader (or retailer)'s time?

Grecian: Jeremy (and his wife) shouldered a lot of that responsibility and he was able to break things down in ways I know I couldn't have. I was prepared to personally visit each backer and tell our Bad Karma stories over s'mores and hot chocolate, but Jeremy came up with a list of things that were much more practical.

Haun: I'm a sucker for incentives. Show me a Kickstarter with a cool product and then fun stuff beyond that and I'm in. When we started working on the Bad Karma Kickstarter I thought about the things that I'd love to have as a fan. This is stuff that we don't usually have the opportunity to produce with a standard project, so we really pushed it a bit. We also tried to come up with incentives for every budget. Someone might not be able more than five or 10 bucks. We still wanted to let them know how much we appreciate that and give them cool stickers, coasters, and such.

I think things really came together when I paired up with Burt Butcher, the printmaking professor at my local university. He helped me take some of these incentives from standard items to hand crafted individual pieces of art. We sat around dreaming up stuff from hand pulled screen prints to a hand crafted clamshell box inset with a zinc printing plate. These aren't the kinds of things that you normally get with a standard comics project. We really wanted to give something extra special back to our supporters as a thank you for making Bad Karma possible. 

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