Some people get money with an inheritance, but for Jacqueline "Jacky" Johnson she gets a jet pack and comes up with a superhero identity to go with it. In the upcoming creator-owned miniseries Jupiter Jet, Johnson's superheroics raise the attention (and ire) of the local mob and its up to her to protect her and her younger brother.
The husband-and-wife team of DC All Access host Jason Inman and Top Cow head editor Ashley Victoria Robinson are working with artist Ben Matsuya on this "all ages" caper, and are riding high in the final days of a successful Kickstarter that, to date, has raised over $23,000.
Action Lab Entertainment plans to publish Jupiter Jet in late 2017, but one of the rewards of the Jupiter Jet Kickstarter - which closes on Friday - is an early copy of the first issue. Newsarama talked with Robinson and Inman about their comic book and bootstrap funding initiative, working with Ben Matsuya, and their broader thoughts on the promise (and the onus) of "all ages" material.
Newsrama: To get things started, I couldn’t help but notice that neither of you are exactly new to the industry. Jason, you work over at DC All Access and you, Ashley, are one of Top Cow’s editors. Even still, you’ve been involved in a number of comic anthologies, too.
What initially brought you into the field professionally?
Jason Inman: I’ve always been a fan of comics since "The Death of Superman" and had written for several comic book fan sites. But, it was the DC All Access host contest where I finally got to work professionally in the field. They were asking for submissions from anyone and I was lucky enough to be the one the picked! Comic dreams can come true!
Ashley Victoria Robinson: Although I’m the head editor at Top Cow, I also write for them.
I, actually, started out as a playwright and I fell into writing comics on a bit of a lark. I’ve been reading comics since I was a little, little kid, but never thought about scripting them until I entered the Top Cow Talent Hunt in 2013.
Nrama: When I saw that you are both already members of the comic publishing industry, I had to wonder why you decided to take this to Kickstarter to be funded. Why isn’t it going the more traditional route if you already had Action Lab’s interest?
Robinson: Something people may not know about creator-owned comics is that they have to be paid for upfront. Publishing companies handle the printing and distribution cost and creators are responsible for everything that comes before that. It’s important to pay artists, colorists and letterers a living wage because of how much time their work takes up. It was very important to Jason and I to pay Ben and the rest of the creative team what they deserve and crowdfunding was the only option we had to bring Jupiter Jet to life.
Inman: A big part of this project too was to create it under our own steam as well.
Nrama: Can you explain a little more what you mean? Why was it important for you to run the marketing on this apart from Action Lab’s marketing department?
Robinson:It wasn't really a choice. When it comes to crowdfunding, the creators are in charge of raising the funds and marketing. The publisher doesn't come in until the series is finished and about to go to Previews, comic book stores, et cetera.
Nrama: Shifting gears a bit ,Jupiter Jet is billed as an all-ages comic about 16-year old Jackie Johnson, who is something of a “sci-fi Robin Hood.” Can you talk a little bit about your interest in all-ages comic books?
Inman: I read Batman Adventures, Superman Adventures, as well as the tie-in comics to the animated 90s shows religiously when I was a kid. They were solid stories that didn’t talk down to kids at all. Plus, fun fact: It’s where Mark Millar write his first Superman story. I want to strengthen the field of all-ages comics, because I fear the day that a 5-year old can’t buy a book in a comic shop.
Robinson: There is often the misconception that because a story (in any medium), is all-ages or kid-friendly that it is simple. That writers need to “talk down” to a less sophisticated audience and that’s just not the case. Some of my favorites stories of all time as all-ages (Peter Pan springs to mind), plus, stories like Lumberjanes have found a great home in the current comic book industry.
When we conceived Jupiter Jet, there was never any question about it not being an all-ages story. That’s just the perfect place for it to live.
Nrama: You’ve touched upon this a bit, but “all-ages” sometimes ends up being something of a misnomer, right? Some assume it means its age-appropriate for early readers (Pre-K to 2nd) up to adults; however, our industry often applies the label to comic books closely aligned with middle grade readers and up (3rd grade and older) given the language and thematic complexities.
Would you say Jupiter Jet falls in line with the comics publishing approach or is it a comic that most parents would find appropriate for younger kids?
Inman: Everyone can read Jupiter Jet, Grandma, Uncle and little Susie, it’s appropriate for all. All ages comic doesn’t have to be a bad word. In fact, it should be a cherished word, because it’s comic book can be given to anyone! So, with Jupiter Jet, we really wanted to operate on the Pixar model. The story that can be enjoyed by anyone at any age.
Robinson: Jupiter Jet is pretty friendly to all readers (or kiddies who may be having stories read to them), of course, everyone is different, but the themes and characters will reflect something in everyone - at least, we hope so!
Nrama: What then would you say inspired you to make this comic book?
Robinson: We were having lunch one day and I said, “I have an idea for a comic book, but all I have is a name and it’s Jupiter Jet.” Instead of telling me that I was a crazy person, Jason lit up with ideas - a lot of which are highlighted in our first issue. When you collaborate with someone and they get as excited about something as you are, that is a very powerful feeling and you want to run with whatever crazy thing you’ve dreamed up.
Inman: It was the perfect collaboration. It was an idea that was born from one name. As soon as she said it, this whole world spouted from my mouth and wouldn’t stop until we made it.
Nrama: As a husband-and-wife duo, it seems somewhat evident how the two of you came together to work on this comic. How did you bring Ben Matsuya, who will be handling the art duties, into the fold?
Inman: Ben was a fan who sent a piece of fanart of me when I worked at Screen Junkies, helping them with Movie Fights and Honest Trailers. I loved his art so much that I reached out to him to ask him if he drew comics. He sent me some samples and from that, we hired him! So, fans out there, email the people you want to work with as they just might hire you!
Robinson: It’s also good lesson for people who want to draw comics - have sequential art samples ready at all times. You never know when someone might come along and need them.
Nrama: So, let’s take a look at the kickstarter. The Jupiter Jet Kickstarter is running right now and you’ve already exceeded your goal by a rather substantial amount. Beyond the costs to print copies of the book for your backers, what else will the funding be going towards?
Robinson: Our initial goal was just to cover the art production on issue #2 - #5. Jason and I didn’t take a page rate (and we won’t be), and we paid for the first issue out of our own pocket as a proof of concept to go along with the Kickstarter.
Currently, we have stretch funding goals that will allow us to bring in bigger artists to do variant covers and to add a back-up story to each issue called "The Origin of the Jetpack"! The coolest thing about the backup is that we have a DC Comics artist on board for that. Again, like the funding of the book itself, we want to spend the fund on paying all of our collaborators a living wage.
Nrama: One of the troubles with backing multi-issue comic projects on Kickstarter is that it can take a long time to complete and fulfill. You have the first issue finished already, but you’re doing something different with #s 2-5. Tell us about your plan.
Robinson: If you look closely at the rewards listed on the Kickstarter, we aren’t offering individual issues as rewards. It largely works as a preorder for the trade paperback, which should be published in the first quarter of 2018.
As I am writing this, along with Action Lab, we are planning to launch Jupiter Jet in the last quarter of 2017. This means that you will be able to walk into a comic book shop before the year is out and see copies of Jupiter Jet on the shelves!
Nrama: We know that running a successful kickstarter campaign is no mean feat regardless of the goal. What would you say have been the three most important steps or resources for you while preparing to launch your Kickstarter?
Inman: Planning: Make sure you plan every number and dollar down to the decimal point. Outreach: Ask your friends for help. Kickstarters in a vacuum are never seen. Finally, proof of concept: Show people what it is you are creating and make them believe in it.
Robinson: I would say the single most important thing is working with someone much smarter and more organized than you. Jason is the reason our campaign did as well as it did.
Nrama: I know you’ve touched upon this a bit already, but as a final question, what are your plans for Jupiter Jet once you’ve finished the final issue?
Inman: In a perfect world, Jupiter Jet would be five volumes. The first five issues only complete the first volume. So, to me, she has more adventures and mysteries to solve. Hopefully, she flies real high and never comes back to ground.
Robinson: Once we’ve finished the final issue we’ll have to start shipping out a lot of our rewards of Jupiter Jet Volume 1 - haha! So, I guess my plan is to do a lot of shipping around that time.
It would also be my hope that we can continue past the first volume and tell bigger and better stories with her each time.