Indie Comics Showcase #276: Wokebusters, Atrium, & Monkey: A Graphic Novel

 

 

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!

 

Monkey: A Graphic Novel – Vol.1
by Zeo Niu

Check out the campaign page here!

Chris Braly: Briefly tell us the elevator pitch for your comic

Zeo Niu: Monkey is like one-third Dr. Strangelove, one-third Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and one-third Tank Girl. It’s the perfect concoction of alt-history, post-apocalyptic, mutant-filled action comedy. Monkey is a fully colored graphic novel series, and the first issue is 64 pages long. It’s a vibrant reinterpretation of the Chinese classic “Journey to the West.” The story traces the extraordinary journey of Monkey, a rebellious antihero born from a dinosaur egg in the Nevada Desert during the height of the Cold War. His existence challenges the US government, leading to a cataclysmic World War 3 and the narrative into a post-apocalyptic wasteland 500 years later.

 

 

Monkey: A Graphic Novel -- A trippy post-apocalyptic action comedy

 

CB: Where did the idea for this comic come from, and made you decide to self-publish it?

ZN: I grew up with the classic story Journey to the West, and Monkey King is absolutely the No.1 superhero for me personally. When Gorillaz teamed up with a Chinese director for an opera edition of Journey to the West, I was blown away by the concept and Jamie Hewlett’s punk rock reimagination of the concept design. The idea of “What if Monkey is a punk rock superhero?” popped into my head. After a few iterations, I fell in love with the idea of inserting Monkey into a Gonzo-style post-apocalyptic alt-history. There are a lot of literary and historical references peppered throughout the series.

I believe there’s a space in the indie comic book/graphic novel market for a story that’s fun, sometimes ridiculous, yet rooted in real historical events. That’s why I decided to launch it on crowdfunding.

 

 

CB: Who is it aimed at?

ZN: This is for people who like the history of the 1950s- 60s, the Cold War, rock and roll, the Beat Generation, the whole nine yards. If you happen to be a Journey to the West fan, another layer of narrative will be unique to you. Still, even if you’ve never heard of the story, the rendition will have you hooked if you’re into alt-history and post-apocalyptic action comedy.

 

 

CB: Tell us about your style and creative process, and how you developed them

ZN: The script’s first draft took me a long time to finish because I found it challenging to visualize the panel flow (I don’t have an art background). Coming up with stories and plot lines was the easy part since the source material, Journey to the West, provided a very clear through-line of story arcs, so I could just pilfer elements as needed. While writing the script, I laid out the script in panels I designed (very preliminarily) on my iPad and drew stick figures just to have a basic idea of composition. I was extremely lucky to find the artist David Monge Bautista, who is not only a fantastic artist but also very adept at paneling. He ended up changing many of my panel designs, and they proved to be the right changes—it really elevated the whole story.

 

 

CB: Talk about your creative team that contributed to this project

ZN: I found my artist, David Monge Bautista, via a Facebook group, and his vibrant style immediately captivated me. Not only is he an excellent comic book artist, but his sense of humor also matches the story very well, which is a rare find. For example, there’s a robbery scene in the script, and it was David’s idea to draw the two bandits as the characters from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, adding flair to the whole sequence.

It took me a long time to locate the right colorist—I’m not a fan of the popular “glossy” style. I was determined to find a colorist who could deliver a punk rock, gritty but fun style that embodies the story. David’s line art is amazing, so I didn’t want to tarnish it with mediocre coloring. I probably tried out a dozen colorists with test pages before I found Nikos Koutsis. Nikos is a veteran in the field and has worked on numerous projects for publishers like Image, IDW, and Boom. Working with him has been one of the smoothest processes ever, and the end product he turned in has been fantastic.

Frank Cvetkovic did the lettering. He was a referral from an artist who worked on another project of mine (which will be released soon!). Just like Nikos, Frank was an absolute breeze to work with, and I’m super happy with the lettered copy.

 

 

CB: What’s your production workflow like? And if it’s not complete, how far along is the book?

ZN: My production workflow is quite involved as I’m the writer and creator of the series, and I pre-fund everything out of pocket. It’s a brutal business, and I don’t want the artists to work in the hope that they might get a share only if the book sells. While some partnerships might work that way, I want to ensure the bottom line is covered so the artists can focus on delivering their best work.

So, I’m wearing the hats of both writer and producer. I finish the script and send it to David for line art. David creates a rough pencil draft and sends it back to me for notes. After incorporating the notes, David finalizes the line art. We repeat this process repeatedly, and then we do a final pass to fix minor issues like consistency. Once the line art is done, it goes to Nikos for coloring. Nikos usually sends in batches of five colored pages at a time. I provide notes, and we continue until it’s done. Before the colored copy goes to Frank for lettering, I re-edit the whole script (since David often changes the panel design) to align with the art copy, add specific lettering notes, and send it to Frank. That’s pretty much the whole process.

Issue 1 (64 pages) has been fully completed. The script and line art for Issue 2 (60+ pages) are also done, with coloring and lettering pending. I have the outline for the next 3-4 issues and plan for a minimum of 10-12 issues in the future. It sounds like a lot, but I’m optimistic about the future.

 

 

CB: What have you been learning from self-publishing and crowdfunding through this process?

ZN: It’s a dreary, gruesome, and highly time-consuming process with minimal financial reward—however, the creative reward is ineffable. If I had to do it all over again as a newcomer, I wouldn’t start with two full-blown graphic novel projects simultaneously (that was what I did, and it was draining, to say the least). Instead, I’d start with a proof of concept or something small, like 12 pages, learn the whole process, and then scale up to a longer, more ambitious project.

I also dragged the Kickstarter planning for a long time, partially due to my schedule and partially because I had no idea how to sell it. To me, selling is way scarier than creating. But like anything, the more you do, the more you learn; you just have to go ahead and do it.

 

 

CB: What are your plans beyond this book? Are there more stories to tell?

ZN: This series consumes the majority of my time for graphic novels, but I do have other projects pending. For example, I’ve completed a horror graphic novel (standalone, black and white, 80+ pages), and it will hopefully be released on Kickstarter in a few months. The big plan is to release Issue 2 of Monkey by the beginning of next year and carry on from there.

 

 

CB: We’re rooting for you, Zeo. Good luck on what looks like a great campaign.

 

Check out the campaign page here!

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Wokebusters
by Jeff Hicks

Check out the campaign page here!

 

Chris Braly: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, Jeff! Hit me with the elevator pitch for your comic Wokebusters!

Jeff Hicks: (Read in a Don LaFontaine voice) In a world driven to the brink of destruction by outrage, 4 men will answer the call and save society from itself. Wokebusters: A Paranormal Parody satirizes modern day society and the outrage that turns people into monsters. 

 

Wokebusters Official Animated Trailer

 

CB: What kind of comic reader is this aimed t?

JH: Wokebusters is an epic comedy. It’s 100 pages with a lot of action. I didn’t want people just standing around making jokes. It’s a comic and I take full advantage of the medium. It’s not particularly vulgar. If it were an early 80s movie, it would be PG by the MPAA. But because it’s released in 2024, it would be canceled by the MPAA. In all seriousness, the book will appeal to anyone from early teens on. You don’t even need to be a Ghostbusters fan to enjoy Wokebusters

CB: Where did the idea for this comic originate and led to your decision to self-publish?

JH: The idea for Wokebusters came from the same place my previous graphic novel, Stealing Solo, came from;a joke on the WCBs Podcast. The guys and I have joked about many things over the past 400 episodes and Wokebusters just stuck with us. After Stealing Solo, it was a no brainer.

I decided to self publish it, because I’ve been fortunate enough to self publish in the past. Through my Youtube Channel, I’ve been able to reach an audience for many years and this is a great way to get my books out there. 

 

 

CB: That’s right! This isn’t your first comic. How do you approach comics production?

JH: I approach comics very seriously, but I keep it fun. I’m always drawing.  I find that genuinely fun.  I’ve been doing paid work since 2013 and back then, I was just drawing the best I could. Now, I can approach a comic with different styles that are  more in line with the tone of the story I want to tell.  I wanted Wokebusters to reflect the parody of a society we live in, so I made it look bright and colorful like a cartoon, to contrast some of the darker elements.  

CB: Stealing Solo was a satirical look at the Star Wars fandom. Is this a similar look at the Ghostbusters fandom too, or something else?

JH: Stealing Solo was a response to the disappointment I felt after seeing The Force Awakens. Wokebusters is a satire of current day society in a Ghostbusters styled package. Wokebusters doesn’t have much to say about Ghostbusters at all, because Ghostbusters is a good franchise again. I took the Ghostbusters working man approach to the paranormal and applied it to the outrage based scientific research of the Wokebusters. It’s an easily digestible way to show people fighting the physical manifestations of what internet outrage looks like. 

Also, there really isn’t really a Ghostbusters style parody in existence, so I thought it would be cool. I am a fan after all. 

 

 

CB: What have you learned from self-publishing through these projects?

JH: Self-publishing is a lot of work and a never ending process, but if you love it like I do, that’s never a problem. It requires knowledge of the entire creation process. I’ve learned that to fully be independent, one must understand story, art, networking, the printing process, shipping and more. I am fortunate I can write and draw my own stories. That’s the biggest obstacle for a lot of people, but it’s more than just that. That’s the easiest part. Getting the book made takes a lot of work. Selling it requires a lot of work. I’ve taught myself how to do many things because I love comics, but the extra skills I’ve learned along the way are a nice bonus. 

Crowdfunding is great. I’m very grateful to all the people who believe in me and the idea. It has helped me create quality books. I like it because it gives people an alternative to the mainstream and less of a barrier for the creator. However, I’m working towards an alternative. I’m going to get Wokebusters into a lot of people’s hands and turn myself into a publishing company. I want to be in stores. I want to be everywhere. That being said I wouldn’t be where I am now without the people and I’m very thankful. I’m living my dream. How could I not be happy?   

CB: You wrote and illustrated, but who’s the rest of your creative team?

JH: I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful creative team on Wokebusters. I wrote the story and drew the pages. A guy called Chis Inker inked me and my colorist goes by Siryanz. I gave them room to experiment and that added some extra flavor to the book. There’s a lot of creativity on display in Wokebusters. The book is already completed and ready to go to print.

CB: Are you working on your next comic? If so, can you give us any hints?

JH: Of course. I’ll tell you about the entire lineup for the upcoming year!  My next book is titled Christmas ‘93. It’s about a mall Santa that promises a kid the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures and the crazy journey the mom goes on to make it happen. It’s based on a true story and has become a Christmas legend around here. We tell that story like other families retell The Night Before Christmas

I also have a few more like a kaiju story, a Stealing Solo sequel and a little  later down the road a superhero book.

Be on the lookout for more from me. I have many stories to tell.  

CB: I look forward to them. Thanks Jeff!

 

Check out the campaign page here!

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Atrium
by Steve Bynoe

Check out the campaign page here!

Chris Braly: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, Steve. What’s the pitch for Atrium?

Steve Bynoe: Humanity’s fate lies in the hands of two paramedics and their security detail as they race against time to deliver a donor heart and elude the assassins driven to stop them at all costs.  Atrium is an action suspense horror thriller in the vein of The Transporter and The Taking of Pelham 123. Atrium is a 5 issue miniseries with Issues 1-3 fully funded and printed. Each issue is 22-24 pages and is in full colour. If you like action, suspense, car chases, shootouts and horror, then Atrium is for you. 

 

Atrium Issue 2+3 Kickstarter Comic Book Campaign Now Live

 

CB: Where did the idea for this comic come from, and what inspired you to self-publish it?

SB: Our idea for Atrium has been germinating for a few years and what initially started as a concept for a indie film eventually blossomed into a comic book property. We pitched Atrium to several publishers and after not getting any traction decided to go the crowdfunding route. We Kickstarted issue #1 last November and recently crowdfunded Issues 2 and 3 a few months ago.

 

 

CB: Talk about your style and creative process, Steve.

SB: I grew up reading a lot of Marvel and DC when I was a kid and have loved comics ever since. I am a big fan of movies, anime and television and I try to create stories that lit my creative spark all those years ago. I also illustrate and draw my own comics so I always try to make sure I’m aware of what the page will look like when I’m writing.

CB: Who is on your creative team?

SB: On art we have Lucas Filappi. Peter Van Horne and I are the co-creators and writers. Nikos Koutsis and Mike Toris handled colours. Gregory Parkin is on letters. And Vaughn Joseph is our editor and designer.

 

CB: What’s your production workflow like? 

SB: Everything starts with the planning of the overall series and then what the beats will be for each issue. I work with my co-creator/co-writer, Peter Van Horne to make sure the structure is solid and then we script the issue. The script is sent to the artist and he comes back with breakdowns for the issue. I reread the script along with his breakdowns and provide notes if necessary. Once final line art is complete it’s off to the colourists and letterer to work their magic. The book then goes to design to add some special touches and then it goes out to the printer.

 

 

CB: What have you been learning from crowdfunding through this process?

SB: The biggest takeaway from the entire experience is just how involved it all is. Creating the book, while difficult, almost seems like its the easiest part of the process. Fulfillment, shipping, advertising/social media, printing and communicating with your backers can be overwhelming the first time around. You just have to remember it’s a constant hustle.

 

CB: Beyond the five issues planned, are there more stories to tell?

SB: The world of Atrium is a vast one with lots of world building possibilities to explore once the current miniseries is over. We’re only scratching the surface in Issues 1 through 5 and have a lot of ideas planned for where we’ll go next.

 

 

CB: Anything else you would like to share with our readers before we sign off?

SB: Issues 4 and 5 wrap up the miniseries and the creative team is working hard to deliver a story that will entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat. We’re eternally grateful to our backers and can’t wait to introduce more people to the world of Atrium.

CB: Good luck on the campaign, Steve!

Check out the campaign page here!

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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!

 

 

 


 

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Chris Braly

I'm one opinionated, based geek. I try to steer this tiny ship and can often be heard monthly on the Comic Book Page Previews Spotlight podcast with several fellow "comic book nerds." Follow me on Twitter @ChrisBraly. My preferred adjectives are brilliant/beautiful.

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON