It's commonplace now for established entertainment professionals to use Kickstarter to get new projects going, but Daniel Way and Jon Proctor are hoping the crowd-funding site helps them revive an old one.
Gun Theory started its publishing life in 2003, during Marvel's short-lived revival of their "Epic" imprint. Two issues were released of what was then intended to be a four-issue miniseries, but the Epic line disintegrated and readers never got an ending. Since then, Way and Proctor have both been involved in multiple projects — Way's a Marvel mainstay with lengthy runs on Deadpool and Wolverine, and Proctor has kept busy as an illustrator both in and outside of the comic industry — but Gun Theory has never been far from their minds.
Gun Theory tells the story of a mostly anonymous hitman named Harvey, whose life changes course after an encounter with a woman at a laundromat. The new, self-published, version of Gun Theory planned by Way and Proctor doesn't reprint the earlier two issues; it's been re-scripted by Way, and Proctor is drawing the story from scratch as an approximately 120-page graphic novel.
At press time, the Kickstarter campaign has earned around $9,500 of its $42,000 goal, with 11 days to go. Newsarama talked with Way (who also wrote the Deadpool video game, scheduled out next month) and Proctor in detail about the project.
Newsarama: Daniel, Jon, the Gun Theory Kickstarter has been live for about 10 days now. Of course, there's still a ways to go, but it looks like a solid start, and you've gotten some solid endorsements from big industry names like Axel Alonso and Rick Remender. Has the reception thus far met your expectations
Daniel Way: Well, this is the first time I've “kickstartered” something, so... I don't know? What I can say, though, is that the response thus far has been incredibly gratifying. Publishing Gun Theory as a graphic novel (as was originally intended), with all new art and an updated/expanded script, is a pretty huge undertaking — we can use every bit of encouragement we can get! Well...that and your money, of course.
As of this writing, we're at about 20% of our goal, which is... well, again, I don't know. Jon and I have already received several offers from publishers interested in Gun Theory but we went down that road once before (back in 2003, with Marvel/Epic) and frankly, we'd prefer to do it ourselves, our way. And I think that's what readers want, as well, so... please contribute!
Jon Proctor: First time for me as well. It's maddening as hell in a lot of ways. Probably the longest 30 days of my life once it ends.
The response from the industry has been great. To have people whose talents I respect tremendously come out in support of Gun Theory is pretty great. I think the only difficulty is keeping the ball rolling without annoying everyone with constant reminders. There's a fine line there. Like Daniel said. We need all the help we can get and if people can get us over the finish line with contributions I can promise that we'll be kicking down the doors to make this reiteration of Gun Theory better than ever!
Incidentally, Kickstarter states that of the projects which reach 20 percent of their funding goal, 82 percent are successfully funded and of those that reach 60 percent of their funding 98 percent are funded. So of course we'd rather be at 60 percent than 20 percent at this point but those odds do seem to stack in our favor so far. Though, there isn't exactly any one tried and true formula for any given campaign. So in short, I shamelessly ask everyone to please go support Gun Theory! Go... now...
Nrama: You've both stated that Gun Theory is something that you always planned to get back to when the timing was right. What made Kickstarter the right route for this? Also, there have been several examples of high-profile creators like yourselves getting their Kickstarter project subsequently picked up by a traditional publisher — is that something you'd be open to, depending on circumstance?
Way: As I said, there are offers but there've been lots of offers over the 10+ years since we pulled the book back from Epic. When that deal fell apart, it left Jon and I feeling very… wary about doing Gun Theory with a publisher. You have to understand that if we were to bring in a publisher we'd be bringing in another creative partner. And whereas Jon and I know exactly what Gun Theory is — which is how it's been from the start — we've yet to hear from a publisher who “gets it”. Maybe it's because their primary concerns (marketing, sales, etc.) have nothing to do with ours. What Jon and I want is to tell an intensely violent story, featuring a romantic element, which does not — in any way — romanticize violence. For some reason, that seems to be a difficult concept for publishers to grasp. Readers, however, seem to have no problem with it and that's why Kickstarter is the perfect solution. It cuts out the middleman.
Proctor: Kickstarter takes away the red tape. Like Daniel said, we've had offers but he and I can finish each other's sentences when it comes to Gun Theory. It's difficult to find anyone with that kind of passion and commitment. While publishing offers are fantastic, they involve more moving parts. We know exactly what we're doing with this story. I could almost draw it blindfolded! Well, on second thought, no, that would be silly.
But seriously, having a deal fall apart after two critically and financially successful issues is just one of the pitfalls of working for major publishing companies who can afford to dissolve a project and crush hopes and dreams with the flick of their wrist. Be it political or otherwise unforeseen contract disputes, it's difficult to jump back into that frying pan again. It's like climbing a mountain and realizing too late just how steep it really is.
Sometimes it seems like the entire entertainment industry is a giant "no" factory that churns out the next exciting franchise where the biggest thing ever that you didn't see coming that will shock your pants off happens leaving you breathless and you'll have to see it though we can't talk about it yet but just trust us it's exciting as hell and it will change everything! Gun Theory is a story with none of that pretentiousness. It's a story which grabs you by the shirt collar, slaps your mother and then leaves your mouth agape as you realize it couldn't have ended any other way. There is no hidden agenda. It's gritty and it pulls no punches as to the depths of darkness that the human soul can dive, while at the same time being an attempt at redemption from a life of terrible choices. After a decade of waiting we just want to get this book into the hands of readers with as few fingerprints on it as possible. It's a "pure juice is more worth the squeeze" kind of ethic we're working towards.
Nrama: Daniel, timing-wise, how much was getting Gun Theory off the ground again a contributing factor in leaving Thunderbolts? Are you looking to concentrate fully on creator-owned work for the near future?
Way: Over the past 10 years, I'd been continuously telling myself that I'd eventually do Gun Theory but I'd do it in conjunction with my Marvel work; the logic being that one would benefit from the other. A logical plan, but the fact of the matter is that over those 10 years I'd done tons of work for Marvel... and nothing else. If I could've done both, I would've done so by now, y'know? In order to move forward on Gun Theory (and the dozen-or-so other creator-owned projects I've dreamt up over the years) I had to commit to it fully, and that meant stepping away from Marvel. Simple as that.
While I can't say that I'm doing creator-owned, exclusively, I can say that it's now my main priority. Working on creator-owned books means, for the most part, that I get little to nothing up front, money-wise, and I've got bills to pay. So I'll still be doing work-for-hire gigs here and there with different publishers.
Nrama: You've made it clear that the Gun Theory that's being Kickstarted is all-new material — so given that, and Daniel, knowing that it's a story that's lived with you in one form or another for years, how much has the story changed over the years? The basic elements appear to be the same, but when you're revisiting from the original, do you find it more of a matter of updating things here and there or looking at some elements in a totally different way, adding new characters or plot elements, etc.?
Way: I'm not attempting to re-invent the wheel; Gun Theory was, is and will always be a great story. All I'm doing is updating certain elements to bring it into the present — things that didn't exist when the story was first written, or have ceased to exist since. The other thing I'm doing is restoring all of the content that had to be cut for various reasons (content, format, etc.) from the "Epic version."
Nrama: To put a finer point on that last question: Obviously, 10 years is a long time, and it's been a very significant period on both of your careers. How much do each of you think you've changed and evolved as creators (and collaborators) in the past decade, and how do you see it affecting this current version of Gun Theory?
Way: I'd say we're both a lot more skilled and confident in our work but, that being said, Gun Theory is... I don't know... "frozen in time," kinda. Probably because we weren't able to finish that story — in a way we wanted — all those years ago. There's so much inertia and urgency still attached to the story, still trapped within us along with it, that's just screaming to get out.
Proctor: We've both honed our skills in a way that will benefit Gun Theory in tone, look, and feel. There are things I've learned and tricks I've developed that haven't really been done the way I'm doing them. The energy in the artwork is leaping off the page for me like never before. I see Gun Theory as a prizefighter who's been training secretly in the forest for a decade who now emerges ready for a title fight. A one-punch KO. With this version of Gun Theory we'll be swinging for the fences. Anyone who comes along for the ride will be treated to a story unlike anything they've ever seen before.
Nrama: Even though it's been 10 years since the first two issues of the original Gun Theory came out through Marvel/Epic, it's clear that it's something that still resonates with the both of you. What do you think is unique about the themes and nature of the story that makes it as relevant today (or maybe more so?) as when it was first introduced?
Way: Even more so than when Gun Theory first came out, we're living in a world where everyone's trying to watch everything at all the times and seeing nothing. We're so inured to living in a state of "terror" that we've become almost numb to it. Gun Theory gives that fear, that dread, a form... a form that walks into your house and shoots you, face to face. It reminds you about life and death.
Proctor: Like Daniel said, we've almost become numb to terror and violence. I think Gun Theory still resonates because we're all vulnerable to violence. We take for granted the crickets that sing at night out of open windows and doors but crime and it's unpredictable nature are everywhere. You can't show a pair of naked breasts on the news, but dead bodies and violent crime get front-page headlines.
There's a saying in the news business, "If it bleeds, it leads." We're not glorifying crime and violence. We're pointing out that you better be damn careful to avoid it, because if you see Harvey coming it's already too late. As Daniel so eloquently wrote on the first page of the first issue of Gun Theory over ten years ago, "There is more to fear from an empty heart than from a loaded gun."