Ernest Furnace is good at two things: stealing and being mysterious. And maybe punching ostriches right in the mouth. You can see that all with God Hates Astronaut creator Ryan Browne’s upcoming book, Blast Furnace.
Originally created as an improvisational comic book a few years ago, Browne is running a Kickstarter to release a full color, expanded edition of Blast Furnace. The new edition comes in at a whopping 280 fully-colored pages, all filled with Browne’s trademark surreal sense of humor--and the script is completely improvised. Meaning no forward planning and Browne only allows himself about an hour on each page to draw, color, and letter. Even Browne himself admits he didn't know what's happening next.
Newsarama recently talked to Browne about the revitalization of Blast Furnace, what made him want to return to it, what fans can expect from it, and the if there’s a possibility of branching off as an ongoing much like God Hates Astronauts.
Newsarama: Ryan, okay so Blast Furnace is back. You released it a while ago, on Kickstarter coincidentally, but it was in black and white. This new version will be in color, as well as essentially double the page count. You've mentioned in the past that you felt like it didn't go well the first time, so what made you want to revisit this project?
Ryan Browne: I think the initial book was good, but hard to sell to people. The black and white looked unfinished and it kept people from checking out the story. Presenting the old stuff combined with the new--all in full color--is a way for it to finally find its audience.
Nrama: Now Blast Furnace is a completely improvisational comic. It's almost similar to Scott McCloud's 24-Hour Comic Book project. How does that work exactly?
Browne: That's exactly where the idea comes from. I love riffing and improving story ideas, but drawing physical comics pages is very laborious. On Blast Furnace, I limit myself to a writing and drawing a page in an hour or less. This makes it so I can get a lot of story ideas and jokes out in a very quick amount of time. It's a very stress free way to work and extremely rewarding to get a story out that fast.
Nrama: You actually hit your first goal pretty early on, and you're already in your first stretch goal. Can you tell us about some of your other goals and rewards in the upper tiers?
Browne: It was great to see the fans come out strong and get the book funded fast! For stretch goals, I'm looking to release some fun rare digital stuff and some nice small print add ins and book improvements. The most exciting backer level is that I will draw an eight page story featuring the backer in the world of Blast Furnace. It'll be fun and crazy!
Nrama: Can you tell us a little bit about our main character Ernest Furnace (aside from mysteriously looking like Battlepug's Mike Norton)? Does he even have an origin?
Browne: I'm not really sure where he comes from. All I really know is that his thought process is simple and focused around steal crap for fun while he wears a flaming tie. He serves as the storytelling vehicle to encounter other weird characters and scenarios.
Nrama: Going through Kickstarter, there's a trust that has to be established between you and your patrons. I'm guessing that's something you don't take for granted.
Browne: Not at all. If a backer is trusting me with their money, then it is my duty to fulfill my obligation fully. It's only fair and it's the only way that the model of Kickstarter works and will continue to be a viable option for creators and readers.
Nrama: Much like with Gods Hate Astronauts, are there plans for an ongoing with Blast Furnace down the line or is it something you prefer to keep self-contained?
Browne: Depending on how his goes, I would live to revisit the world of Blast Furnace. It's a limitless story scape that is very relaxing for me to explore.
Nrama: How would you describe your sense of humor who might not be familiar with either God Hates Astronauts or Blast Furnace?
Browne: It's absurdity presented within serious situations. Like a Coen Brothers film where everyone is a walrus.
Nrama: What are the challenges you think are the most difficult when trying to put this thing together?
Browne: Organizing and promoting the book. If I had it my way, I'd just keep my head down and draw.
Nrama: Lastly, Ryan, do you feel in any way vindicated that this project succeeded this time around?
Browne: Oh yes. Most publishers have rejected even my successful ideas--including Blast Furnace. The fan outreach is total vindication. In your faces!