Welcome back to another installment of Indie Comics Showcase, the weekly blog where we signal boost a few truly independent comics that are currently crowdfunding their projects, crowdsourcing their funding in some way, or just completely self-publishing on their own. Every little bit of support for these creators matters, from a single dollar pledge to the twenty-five dollar bundle, and of course the higher tiers are usually fun too! Even if you can’t back a campaign or buy a book, you can share or tweet about these projects to your friends and followers.
On Indie Comics Showcase, we interview the creators, show off some art, and tell you how you can check out the product for yourself. Below we have some outstanding crowdfunding campaigns this week for you to learn about, enjoy, and hopefully support by backing one or more of them! Thanks for checking these out and for being the best part of Indie Comics Showcase. Let’s jump in!
HOME FREE: INTO THE WOODS
by John Kratky
Check out the Kickstarter campaign page here!
Chris Braly: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, John. Tell me about your current project ‘Home Free’. What’s the synopsis?
John Kratky: Sara was looking to escape the town of Coos Bay, and after meeting Emmy, she found her way out. Of course, nothing comes easy and that way included breaking loose of Emmy’s abusive pimp Grip. Once on the road to freedom they discover that he had a bigger reach than they thought, and it isn’t long before they’re involved in a high speed mountain chase. If they make it out alive, will the bond they have survive as well? Home Free: Into the Woods is the 2nd issue of 5 issue series, and is a 24 page black & white comic.
CB: What inspired this story and convinced you to self-publish it?
JK: Home Free is a loose sequel to a graphic novel titled The Black Wall that I had previously completed with artist Michelle Lodge. As we were kicking around ideas for something smaller we could launch on Kickstarter before trying to publish that, we thought it would be interesting to pick up with Sara, a character from that graphic novel 10 years later. Although a loose sequel, it was written in a way where it doesn’t matter which you read first, as each story will paint a different picture of the other until you read it, creating an engaging experience for the reader. We started work on this story in 2020, and that year really inspired me on where to go with the story.
Self-publishing is all I know. I started writing webcomics in 2006 and never stopped.
CB: What audience is Home Free aimed at?
JK: Home Free is a crime comic, with some classic noir storytelling thrown into the mix. It starts small, but the themes and the world sort of increase beyond that as the story dives deeper into Sara’s past and the world she lives in. This comic is for people who enjoy engaging drama, crime comix, and character studies. Michelle and I like to call the work we do together dramatic crime-fiction. The audience may be a bit more mature, but not necessarily because this was the sort of media I was consuming as a teenager.
CB: Let’s get into your experience doing comics. Tell me about your style a bit.
JK: I’ve self-published 6 1/2 comics (one got away) previous to Home Free, but this is the first one seeing print. I’ve done fantasy and slice-of-life, but mostly work within the crime & horror genre. They just speak to me loudest. It’s what I love to read most, and what I love watch, so it is just natural that is what I create.
CB: Introduce me to your creative team that contributed to this project.
JK: Michelle Lodge and I have been working together for quite a few years. She had posted on a forum that she was looking to work on a noir comic and I just happened to be wrapping up a script and looking for an artist. I contacted, liked at her work, and that was it. We’ve been working together ever since having created a 300 page graphic novel, a pitch that we will release ourselves later, and now Home Free.
I don’t even know how long Eduardo Camacho and I have been working together. He’s a fantastic and completely reliable letterer who I’d highly recommend to anyone.
CB: What’s your production workflow like? And if it’s not complete, how far along is the book?
JK: My stories always start with either a very simple theme for me to develop, or a character. I open up a notebook and brainstorm. I take a week or two to just write ideas and think about the world , idea, character, and then when I’m ready I pinpoint some very simple plot points to reach and then I just go. I don’t like to overthink it ever. I never get an artist involved until I have a complete script. I rarely ever ask an artist to change anything, or get too specific with characters. I just want them to read thee script and figure out who they are drawing. The last draft of the script comes with finished art pages. I edit my dialogue to better fit what has been drawn and then I send it off to the letterer. Then we crowdfund and get it made.
CB: Crowdfunding is a bit of a learning curve for some. What are you doing differently? And with so much experience in self-publishing, what’s been your biggest challenge through the process?
JK: We are trying something different with this campaign. On the least one we had a “be in the comic” tier, but issue 3 is very tight on characters, so we have a “create your own graffiti” tier instead. just something we are trying out. You can get your original art in our book. Marketing has always been my biggest issue. I suck at it. But I’m learning to do a much better job through these Kickstarters. There are also so many more options these days.
CB: What are your plans beyond this book? Do you have more stories to tell?
JK: I’m working on a horror comic, sort of a graphic novella, with artist Anna Wieszczyk right now that I plan to release after the Home Free and The Black Wall campaigns are complete. Michelle and I haven’t really discussed what is next. We do have a script that we wrote together that I would love to work on with her, but she may want to jump onto something else first. We still have a lot to do before we get there anyway.
CB: The book looks good, John. Thanks for chatting with me. Anything else you’d like to add?
JK: if you enjoy engaging charters with some pulp thrown in, give us a shot. I feel we have a unique comic that will hopefully stir up some emotions by the time issue 5 is released.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign page here!
by Jeff Zanelotti
Check out the Kickstarter page here!
Chris Braly: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, Jeff. What’s your elevator pitch for Accidental Renegades?
Jeff Zanelotti: “Accidental Renegades” is a manga-inspired comic about a group of bumbling, super-powered mercenaries who unintentionally ignite a global revolution. They’ll have to stay one step ahead of government agents, bounty hunters, crooked cops, and jilted exes…but will they finally embrace their role as heroes, or face the consequences of their actions?
“Accidental Renegades” is 36 pages of insanity described as “the bastard love child of Kurt Vonnegut and One Piece, raised by Quentin Tarantino.”
CB: What led to the creation of this book and your choice to self-publish it?
JZ: I wanted a voice to speak out on things that should be addressed, and this book is my bullhorn. It addresses issues like corruption, discrimination, and equality, among many others. I chose to self-publish because if that story does not exist, then I’ll create it myself.
CB: What kind of comic readers is this suited for and who is it aimed at?
JZ: It’s a comic with heavy manga influences and inspirations, especially Shonen-style manga. As it tackles some heavy subject matter, this book is not geared for children. “Accidental Renegades” is clearly PG-13. Fans of diverse characters engaged in over-the-top misadventures will enjoy this comic. If your pull list ever included Saga, Nextwave, Doom Patrol, or the Umbrella Academy, then this is for you.
CB: Who are some other artist that inspired you?
JZ: I love the artwork of Chris Bachalo, Humberto Ramos, Joe Madueriera, and Pepe Larraz, as well as manga artists like Kohei Horikoshi and Atsushi Ohkubo. They influence my art style in many ways.
CB: Are you doing this alone, or do you have a creative team?
JZ: It’s all me. I am a lifelong comics and manga reader, a military veteran, and a high school teacher. Since I am doing every step if this myself, I can play loose with the process, and I rely on a lot of shorthand notes to myself as I build the plot and write the script. Collaborating is easy when you only have to talk to yourself! My experiences shape my creativity in many ways, and I am constantly refining my skills after publishing a one-shot comic called “The Troublemakers” for FCBD in 2021. That experience was challenging, but invaluable towards helping me grow as a creator.
CB: How far along is the book?
JZ: The script for “Accidental Renegades” is complete; thumbnails are roughly 90% complete, with some refinement expected on a few panels. I usually start with backgrounds because it helps me better visualize the placement and perspective of the characters. Those backgrounds are now complete, so the work is focused on the guts of the storytelling…blocking, figures, expressions, etc. I like to spend the majority of time on this step. It’s the most important, and the most fun.
CB: What have you been learning from self-publishing through this process?
JZ: Too many things to list here, but mostly the importance of time management, planning, and staying on schedule. I’ve also learned a lot about how to leverage social media as a tool to help the project succeed, as well as the importance of having a “tribe” of creators to lean on when needed.
CB: Any plans beyond this book? Are there more stories to tell in this universe?
JZ: I have about three full arcs of “Accidental Renegades” already mapped out. Much like a manga, the series will have a definite end point…I’m just not sure yet where that will be. These characters have a lot of stories to tell, and I look forward to getting them out into the world.
CB: Are you trying anything unique on this crowdfunding campaign?
JZ: I wanted a manageable campaign for my first Kickstarter, so I stayed with a reasonable amount of options. There are four tiers (digital, physical, as well as tiers that come with a hand-drawn character sketch, and tiers that allow backers to have their logo or likeness in the book. Also, all backers will have their names printed on a “thank you” page as well).
CB: That’s a good strategy. Anything else you would like to share with our readers before we sign off Jeff?
JZ: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it!
Check out the Kickstarter page here!
LEAD CITY #3 & #4
by Eric Borden
Check out the campaign page here!
Chris Braly: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, Eric. Hit me with the elevator pitch for Lead City. Get us caught up.
Eric Borden: Homesteader Colman Cooper and his family are headed for West when they get waylaid by a blizzard high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After his wife grows sick Colman and his family take refuge in a nearby town that hosts a deadly annual contest known as Lead City. With no way out Colman enters the contest and finds himself pitted against seven of the deadliest outlaws the West in a free-for-all, tooth-and-nail battle for survival. Lead City is a 24 page horror Western color comic.
CB: Where did this idea come from?
EB: For me it all starts with the characters. I take a deep dive into developing their backstory. A completely fleshed out existence that starts with their childhood, establishes who their parents were and what happened in their lives to make them who they are at the point we meet them. That background helps inform the decisions the characters might make under the framework of the story I’m telling.
I’ve always been a fan of the myths that can live in a Western, from the fatal commitment of the Magnificent Seven, to the righteous vengeance of William Munny in Unforgiven. The iconic image of the Wild West is the gunfight that takes place on an empty street at high noon and one of the most standout gunfights I’ve ever seen takes place in Open Range. It’s messy and smoke-filled with people missing and surviving after being shot. I knew I wanted to turn that on it’s ear and take a colorful cast of outlaws and pit them against an everyman fighting for his family, a guy who, ten out of ten times should lose that gunfight. But also a guy, that in all the cordite and gunpowder and smoke might find a way to win. I decided to self-publish so I could tell the story I wanted to tell.
CB: What kind of comic readers is Lead City aimed at?
EB: Lead City is aimed at fans of horror and Western genres. It’s suitable for individuals 15 years old and above.
CB: Talk about your creative team that contributed to this project.
EB: While I handled the writing on Lead City, Kyle Brummond was both the artist and the letterer. Kyle and I first met at Palm Springs Comic Con a number of years ago. It was there we learned that we both lived in Las Vegas. We saw each other on the convention circuit from time to time and were ultimately impressed enough with each other commitment to comics that we decided we should work together on a project.
CB: What’s your production workflow like?
EB: After the character bios I generally outline the major plot points in the story. I set to writing the script to hit those points while still allowing the characters enough room to talk to me and let me know where they want to go. After that I hand the script over to Kyle and he goes to work on the art. We take 2-3 story meetings an issue to see if we need to rework dialogue to fit the art. Kyle is a master at economizing and he somehow always finds a way to make the words look slick.
CB: Any plans beyond these two issues? Are there more stories to tell?
EB: There are definitely more stories to tell. Kyle and I have been kicking around ideas for Lead City: Savage Frontier. I also have a book called WinterSpring that’s complete and I’m planning on self-pulishing. It’s a sci-fi adventure that tasks a multi-national military unit with saving the Earth as they’re sent to a planet designated for intergalactic warfare.
CB: Thanks for chatting with us. Anything else you would like to share with our readers before we sign off?
EB: Sure, you can check out all my work at ericborden.com if you’re so inclined.
Check out the campaign page here!
That’s it for this installment. If you’re a creator ramping up your own campaign or have a comic available for purchase online and you want to be featured in our weekly column, click here. And follow Indie Comics Showcase on Twitter at @Indie_Comics and reach out to them for more eyes on YOUR crowdfunding comic project. Until next time, support indie comics!