Back in 2012, Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos launched the Kickstarter project Fair Quest: Outlaws which was an instant hit funding more than 30% of the original goal. After being brought to BOOM! to be published as a series and becoming accessible for those who didn't get the chance to pledge, Jenkins and Ramos are back with the second volume, Fairy Quest: Outcasts (click to go to the just-launched Kickstarter page)!
Jenkins sat down with Newsarama last month and discussed the ins and outs of the new production, as well as what makes him tick as a creator and writer, and what he has lined up next, not only at BOOM! but for the world at large.
Newsarama: With the success of the first Fairy Quest and then going to BOOM! later on, why are you returning to Kickstarter instead of being published straight from BOOM! itself?
Paul Jenkins: Well you know there's a few reasons, right? First, you could call it a co-publishing with BOOM! and BOOM! is quite happy about that. I think primarily BOOM is the co-publisher, along with the fans. When we went to do Fairy Quest Volume 1 I think Humberto and I took a fairly big risk at that point. While I knew Jimmy [Palmiotti] was doing a few things over at Kickstarter it had just begun then. There had only been a couple of comic that had done okay. Gail Simone had done hers and you have the Womanthology group, and that had done pretty well, so it was beginning to catch on. We looked at it and I said to Humberto that nobody is going to expect us to do this bloody fairy tale, but we love it and it's one of my favorite things I've ever worked on.
But, here's the thing, if we go to a publisher first, just any standard publisher, we're going to have to rely on what their marketing rules are and what they do, how they want to package it, when they want to release it and so on. But in a sense, Kickstarter is an opportunity to have the fans be the publisher and I think they want to be the publisher for us. We rely on them to make this book become real and when it does become real it's going to be beautiful. It will be the book that we chose it to be. That's important to both of us. We've been up and down the houses at this point and we both know how to work in this industry why not make the book that we want?
We knew it was a risk, though and so it took a lot of effort but we did it! We raised a lot of money and it did well. The crazy side of raising the money was that we underestimated the cost of shipping. Shipping killed us. So what people think we got was not probably what we needed for the book to go out like we needed it to. That was one problem. Second problem was we brought, for the first time, someboby outside from me and Humberto, this doesn't include BOOM! as they are great, but we had employee from my old company and he absolutely blew it.
The day I handed it over I explained to never lose touch with the fans, just do what I've done, I'm just too busy to do all of this now, and that ex-employee blew it completely. The problem was they listed a few things as shipped that were not shipped so now people are complaining about the location of their stuff but I replied that the records showed that it had been shipped and you've got it. Also, they had listed things that were not shipped but had shipped so things get double-shipped. When you double-ship a package to Austrailia and you haven't got enough money for shipping, it's an extra $25 for shipping for the second time and the cost of the package, you're literally throwing away like $90 that you've lost.
Ultimately it was great to do this Kickstarter, but there was a cautionary tale to never let it lose our control. So why go back to Kickstarter again? I know this is a bit of a long-winded answer, but we get to give the fans the product they want. Now we have a publishing partner with BOOM and so we can get the monthly book out, the softcover book to Barnes and Noble if we want, so we have the whole package, even with the foreign market. Fairy Quest is now available in Spain and in France, so the fact that the fans put it together the first time, made us want to go back.
Nrama: Long-winded maybe but completely makes sense. Now let's talk about the story a bit. At the end of the first volume, you had Red and Wolf at the outskirts of the Dark Forest. It seems like you had a sequel in mind from the start, so where are you taking the characters this time?
Jenkins: Now, just to be clear, the next issue is not a sequel, but just the next issue. I never intended to end on that first story. They were presented as 56-page graphic novels but that's how we wanted to print them. This is just the second chapter. We have eight chapters planned, but might do six depending on how things go from here. So what happens next is that the characters start to become self-aware. They live inside a facist society, right? They're told by this guy, Grimm, that if you don't tell your stories, society collapses. So it's really a choice of freewill versus- I heard somebody once say that we don't want freedom, we want safety. People don't want freedom, they want comfort. So it's sort of a story like that. They get out of where they live and where they're comfortable. When you're a young person who graduated for college and have to make a living somehow, it's sort of like that. They find the way to escape to the real world where they can live as friends is along the Yellow Brick Road, but they don't follow the Yellow Brick Road and by doing so, they become self-aware of themselves and other stories. They find out they're in their own world, but there are other parts of the world that are other genres of fiction. All this stuff is starting to come apart.
Nrama: So you're going to mix other genres and do a crossover of sorts?
Jenkins: No no, we will eventually, but here they're trying to make their way out of children's tales. Of course they keep running into our versions of characters, like, we have this really great version of Rapunzel. She's like this crazy-ass witch that lives in the tower and she's so miserable, but Red always sees the good in people. Red wants to help her, but Rapunzel isn't exactly a good witch and doesn't want it.
Nrama: Are there any new characters you wanted to use but couldn't find room for the first time you're getting to in Fairy Quest: Outlaws?
Jenkins: No, only because when we did the first one it was broken down page by page , so we didn't miss an opportunity in the first one and it's every character where they need to fall. We have this great version of Snow White and when people actually see the mirror, they'll go "ahhh, I didn't see that coming". How we're doing the mirror is a person that can see inside your soul. So it's not really a mirror, but more like a reflection of who you are and how he sees you.
So we've got these crazy-ass versions of these things like Dorothy, and I don't think I'm giving too much away but she's like trailer trash. She's a redheaded trailer trash hottie and it's awesome. She's really sexy, but a complete bitch. I love her. The Tin Man is like a gigantic robot guy, the Scarecrow is what he is, but the Lion is like bigger and tougher. It's really cool looking.
Nrama: You're using mainly characters that fall under public domain, but was there any problems getting certain characters that you wanted to use but couldn't?
Jenkins: Now what you have to be careful about is usually Disney or any likenesses. If you need Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, you need to make sure you go back to the actual story, not their version of it. You can't use Grumpy or Sneezy because that's their creation, but you can still use Snow White and the Dwarves. You've got to be careful with Wizard of Oz, especially.
Nrama: Like the ruby slippers? Yeah, because that was an MGM original.
Jenkins: See? Thank you. I didn't know that actually. That's my point. You see the problem, though, don't you? We need to be very diligent. They'll shut us down. Me and Humberto, they'll kill us. I think the only one that was a problem was Peter Pan, but a problem in a different way, because of what's been done with Peter Pan. The Barrie family created a situation, as I understand it, is against world wide copyright law. Peter Pan is public domain because it was created so long ago, they created a charter in which much of the revenue from it goes into the Great Ormond Children's Hospital. Therefore, how can we cut off the revenue from the children? Some of it, not all of it, though. Half of it goes to the Barrie family because they've kept perpetuating that thing and have challenged that ever since.
Look, it's public domain. Whether you like it or not, we're not sending you royalties because they do not belong to you. One of these days, there's going to be a problem, because Mickey Mouse will belong to everybody and when it does and all those characters start opening up, they're going to have a big problem. Hook? We used him in the first Fairy Quest. He has four hooks. Every single one of his limbs have been chewed off.
Nrama: Striking imagery for sure. Speaking of character designs like that, is that more you or Humberto?
Jenkins: Half and half, actually. It was my idea to give him four hooks.
Nrama: So whose idea was it for Peter to look like a rooster?
Jenkins: Humberto. So you see how things come about. See, Kickstarter provides creators like Humberto and myself with the opportunity to collaborate properly. So when we broke down the story, I tend to guide it, right, but when it comes to the design of the characters I get to write what I want. Like, Mirror, for example. I want Mirror to be a person that looks in your soul. That's my idea. It's something different. Almost like a butler. And yet, it came about in the way he drew Snow White. She was beautiful and tragic. Just based on the one sketch it was like, dude, I love this so much. This is how we should do it. This is how we should do characters, do comics, always.
The stuff I do with BOOM! now, if I say it's 12 issues, then it's 12 issues. I can do a sequel if I want, but it can be a finite thing where you can pick up the trade. Follow it for a few months and then it can be it's own world, and that's what Fairy Quest is, it's its own book.
Nrama: You worked for the Big Two for such a long time, what made you want to join up with BOOM! Studios?
Jenkins: Well first, I have to give kudos to Filip Sablik who is a great dude, he was at Top Cow and he called me up and asked me if I'd be interested, but he happened to catch me at a time where I had a sort of mailase about whether or not if I was going to do comics anymore. I love comics, you know, and it's a brilliant, economic way of telling stories. I just think at that point I liked comics, but didn't like the comics industry. Well sell a bill of goods as if it's a collectable, throw a chromium cover on it and guess what, chromium covers are coming back. Why? Because we haven't done that enough in 15 years, let's give it another shot.
When we got to Deathmatch, Filip says to me we've got a phenomenal idea of "Hunger Games meets super heroes", and I ask if we can turn it into its own universe where we get to do what Kurt Busiek used to do with Astro City back in the day. Let's have it be real. Astro City is brilliant. You want to get back to good writing. Why don't you let good writers do their work? BOOM! understands what I want. I put myself into my work and guess what BOOM! does? Amazing concept of calling me up and saying "thank you" and "nice work". They have a culture in that company that basically rescued me from not working in comics again.
Nrama: Is there any sort of headspace you have to get into when you're going from Deathmatch to Fairy Quest?
Jenkins: No, not really. My wife says to me one time and said she read this book, turns out it was Hellblazer and it was horror and really nasty, but you're not like that, you're a good person, etc. She asked me how I could write something like that. I told her I watched her while she was sleeping. The truth is, the happier I am, the easier it is to write the difficult stuff. Writing something difficult like death, and writing it convincingly, is a lot easier when you're a happier person. When I've gone through difficulties in my own life, I've written more comedy. So I was in a happy place and I just wrote 12 issues of people getting murdered. And as far as Fairy Quest, man, I've got a 5 year-old and a 7-year old and when you see the first page of the new series, that's my wife reading to them. It's so cool to almost be leaving them a legacy of Fablewood.
Nrama: Do you have anything possibly in the works for BOOM! aside from continuing anything you've started?
Jenkins: We're already starting on it, actually. A new series that will be announced at the right time. Hopefully we'll hear about them soon. Then I have a two to three year plan in place with Ross and Filip and Matt about what I'm going to do from there. At the same time, I have my creative interests amongst the things that I do here in Georgia, ya know, I chair an advisory committe for Governor Deal for building a digital interactive incentivization here in Georgia. I'm working in independent films, and building the independent film scene here in Georgia. I'm in Los Angeles all the time, working for a few game companies...I care about comics so I will always do them, but I have other interests. I'm basically working on rebranding the state of Georgia.