Hello friends and readers, welcome back to Indie Comics Showcase. The weekly blog where we try and bring you our pics of the top Indie Comics from across the web, as well as interviews with their creators. We have some truly outstanding crowd funding campaigns this week for you to learn about, enjoy, and hopefully support by making a pledge!
Every little bit counts, from the single dollar pledges to the fifty dollar, and of course the higher ones. Some of these campaigns have got some great higher tiers which add even more value by offering stuff you can’t get anywhere else. Take a few minutes this new comic book day and check them out, visit their campaigns. And in the meantime, I thank you all for being the best part of Indie Comics Showcase!
Let’s jump in!
by Dan Whitehead
Ella Upgraded is the story of am 11 year old girl who has a video game console implanted in her brain after an accident and amazing things happen! Today we will be talking to the writer of the comic, Dan Whitehead.
Please Visit The Campaign Site Here.
John: Dan , Welcome to and thank you for being a part of Indie Comics Showcase. I am happy to be discussing your Indie Comic Ella Upgraded with you today.
Dan: Thank you for inviting me! There are so many great indie comics these days, so I really appreciate the chance.
John: Before we get started I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about yourself .
Dan: Let’s see, I’m based in the UK and have been getting paid to write stuff since I was a teenager in the 1990s. I’ve worked on magazines, books, video games, comics, even written for TV. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work on official publications for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Rugrats, Looney Tunes and more but I started out in the games industry, writing for computer magazines back in the days when they came on floppy discs, so a lot of my work comes back to games in one way or another.
John: What can you tell us about Ella Upgraded?
Dan: Ella Upgraded is an all-ages comic about an 11-year-old girl who is obsessed with her dad’s old GameBox console. She’s in an accident, and her wannabe scientist brother Josh saves her life by using the broken console to fix her. Now she discovers that she can put a game cartridge into a slot at the back of her head and gain access to the abilities of the main character in the game. So if you puts in a ninja game, she gets all the skills of a real ninja.
I self-published the first 24 pages as a taster issue last year and have been selling that at conventions, and kids really seem to love it. More than once I’ve had someone buy it, go away and read it while still at the show, and come back and demand the next part.
So I figured I should do just that – and UK publisher Fair Spark Books came aboard to put the complete 48-page volume out, which is what we’re working on now, to launch in early 2020.
John: Can you tell us a little bit about how Ella Upgraded came to be, how the characters and story were conceptualized?
Dan:: I knew I wanted to write something for kids, as I worked on lots of children’s comics, books and magazines in the 90s and early 2000s and it’s such a great audience to write for. If they’re into what you’re doing, they’re REALLY into it and let you know about it, which is so much fun.
The concept is a throwback, I guess, to comics like Dial H for Hero and shows like Ben 10, where the hero character has a very specific range of abilities or personas they can call upon. I was also inspired by British comic strips like Billy the Cat, which took superhero tropes but applied them to a more down-to-earth suburban setting. That’s part of the fun of writing Ella and Josh together – they’re just normal people living in the normal world, but this insane thing happens to them.
John: What are some of the first comics you remember reading?
Dan: Comics were just everywhere when I was a kid. The UK comic scene was still really vibrant in the 80s when I was growing up, with humour comics, war comics, sports comics, and of course science fiction comics like 2000AD. I honestly don’t remember which was the first I got, because even as a toddler there were nursery comics with things to make and do.
John: What are some of the comics that have made the biggest impact on you?
Dan : As a kid, it was stuff like the aforementioned 2000AD, which back then was still basically a children’s comic but smuggled in really subversive stories by people like Alan Moore. There was also a humour comic called Oink which was a massive influence on me – it was really anarchic and gross, and was the first “funny” comic that I actually found funny. I’d also pick up UK reprints of Marvel and DC, but I always seemed drawn to the quirkier stuff.
John: What does Ella Upgraded mean to you, what about it makes it a story you want to tell?
Dan : Most of my self-published comics work has been fairly adult, with a strong horror influence. Writing Ella lets me do something in a completely different tone of voice and she’s such a lovable goofball of a character – wildly over-confident but always means well – that I find stories for her just come so easily. I just have to think of any kind of video game, and how it might grant her a different power, or how she might use those powers, and a new storyline presents itself.
John: What are some of the things that have served as a source of Inspiration when working on Ella Upgraded? Do you read anything, watch any shows, listen to music as you work?
Dan: I can’t watch or listen to stuff while I work – I’m too easily distracted. The inspiration, in terms of writing, was very much the early Marvel stuff. I wanted to see if I could tell a story where the main characters are introduced, and the superpowers are gained, in less than ten pages. Just really hit the ground running and don’t stop. I’m a chronic over-writer, so forcing myself to keep things light and fast challenges me in fun new ways.
John: Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Dan: I’ve always got lots of ideas for new stories and characters bouncing around in my head, and over the years I think you develop a kind of sixth sense for when something has percolated for long enough and is ready to actually emerge into the real world. I tend to do most of the work in my head, on long walks, before putting fingers to keys. I’m not a fan of massive rewrites or doing draft after draft with massive sweeping changes. I only start writing once an idea has developed enough that I know, more or less, everything that needs to happen. Often the story will surprise me as I write it down, but I always know exactly who the characters are and where they’re going, even if the route to get there varies from what I thought it would be.
John: What have some of your influences been over the years and how have they affected your work?
Dan:As I said earlier, so much of my work seems to come back to video games in one form or another. As a kid, it was games and comics that occupied all my attention. I was one of that generation who got to see games emerge as a pop culture fad, then develop into a cult hobby and then into a commercial juggernaut. It’s not often you get to witness an entirely new artform being born, and it definitely influenced how I view stories. I’ve noticed there are a lot of former games writers in comics these days, and I think it’s because when you play a lot of games – for fun or for work – you can’t help but experience stories in a different way. That’s one of the things I try to bring to my comics writing – that experiential feeling of being part of the adventure.
John: What are your hopes for Ella Upgraded and for the future?
Dan: Right now, all my attention is on the Kickstarter for this first volume. I’ve got a stack of ideas for what could happen in Volume 2, 3 and beyond. I think she’s a character with a ton of potential for cartoons, TV shows, movies – and of course video games – but there’s just so much stuff out there right now that I’m just concentrating on the stuff I can actually control: finishing one book at a time as best I can and putting it out there.
John: Is there anything else you want to share with us before we sign off?
Dan: I want to highlight the work of my collaborators on Ella Upgraded, in particular the artist – P.R. Dedelis. This was one of the rare occasions where I’d looked online for an artist to work with, rather than someone I knew already or had been recommended to me, and he just blew me away with his lively, agile realisation of Ella. Abby Bulmer, our colorist, is a star – she works for 2000AD, and has her own brilliant comic called Imaginary Gumbo, and her colors just made P.R’s art pop off the page. And I think you should always shout about your letterer. Bad lettering can kill even the best looking book, and that’s why I keep going back to Jim Campbell, who works on tons of stuff for Dynamite, BOOM and others. He’s a secret savior of the UK indie scene, and ensures that the finished result looks polished and professional every time.
John: Thanks Dan! We are rooting for you!
Dan: Thank you for offering me the spotlight! I hope lots of people read this and decide to help us bring Ella to a wider audience!
Please Visit The Campaign Site Here.
Heirs of Isildur
by Matt Knowles
Respected Watchmaker. Puritanical Village. Mystical Portals. Chaos Ensues. Timeline Unravels.
Chris Braly: Welcome back to Indie Comics Showcase, Matt! Tell our readers all about Heirs of Isildur.
Matt Knowles: When Mykal Isildur, a respected watchmaker in the puritanical Steampunk village of ‘Shadow’s Haven’, stumbles upon a hidden mystical portal, he has to reconcile the regimented existence he’s worked his whole life to perfect versus the outrageous one he’s unintentionally created for many others and himself. Will he understand what it all means before the timeline completely unravels?
The story is about a watchmaker in a conservative little steampunk enclave (named Shadow’s Haven), who has dedicated his whole life to make sure that time works EXACTLY as it should. One day he follows his curious nature and unintentionally opens up a time portal that starts bringing people from other era/times to him. So now this person that is all about making sure that TIME works exactly as it should could be the one who ultimately breaks the timeline. We also have a 12 track melodic metal CD that goes along with it. This is why we use the tag line ‘Where Steampunk, Comics, and Metal collide!’
CB: Wow! Sounds immersive. Can you let us in on who or what inspired you to run your current kickstarter?
MK: We had already produced 10 issues of the series in a self funded fashion, as well as the 12 track metal CD. We had successfully kickstarted the first issue of the medieval spinoff ‘Tales From Nocturnia‘, so it only seemed right to continue the kickstarter path for Heirs. With it being the 11th issue out of 11, we wanted to do something big and grand, and doing a kickstarter with multiple collectible versions of issue 11, plus the 260+ page trade paperback seemed like the way to go!
CB: When did you first get into comics professionally?
MK: My first independently published issue came out in September of 2017. There were plans and prep for it ongoing for nearly two years previous. Right now I am a part of three concurrent titles: The Steampunk Time-Travel ‘Heirs of Isildur’, The Medieval Fantasy ‘Tales From Nocturnia’, and the Adventure Horror ‘The Accursed’ which will be out an Alterna Comics in Feb 2020.
CB: What is it about the steampunk genre that you enjoy so much?
MK: The answer to this is twofold: One, as a lifelong metal musician, I’ve been there done that with all black, goth, etc. The steampunk aesthetic is fun and fancy, and also creative. And that is what leads into the second half of the answer. I felt that my life allegorically was resembling steampunk in that a lot of what it’s about is re purposing the old and turning it into something new and futuristic. I had many old song lyrics that I had filed away from my previous time in music and when I started Heirs, those were the basis for new material after I repurposed them.
CB: What has the creative process been like? What tasks are you handling for this campaign?
MK: The creative process on this one is fun. I wrote the story a while back, before both Steph and Javi came onboard. They still are in the dark until we get to an issue, so that they get to experience it as a fan FIRST, and then as a teammember bringing it to life. Our other titles Steph and I co-write so we know the plot and direction the whole way through. For the kickstarter campaign, I have been handling much of the graphics and page design (including the promo video). Steph and I both handle the day to day promotions and posts. We have both made in person appearances as well. Before the campaign is over we’ll have EIGHT of those done.
CB: Tell us about your creative team, who is doing what?
MK: InSymmetry Creations is myself and Steph Cannon. Steph and I wear many hats dependent upon the project. For Heirs specifically, I am the writer, creator, and musician behind it, and Steph is the Editor and Story Consultant. We both are involved with communication and review of all art from our main artist Javi Laparra out of Digital Dream Studios in Guatemala. We have other titles such as our medieval spinoff Tales From Nocturnia, and our adventure/horror mini series The Accursed that she and I co write.
CB: What advice would you share with other indie creators that you’ve learned through these crowdfunding and self-promotion experiences?
MK: No matter what the medium, there’s always going to be competition. That doesn’t mean fellow creators are out there looking at you like an adversary. What I mean is that the public only has so many dollars to spend. So you have to make sure what you put out counts, and your public image is one that will draw people to you.
You can not expect to just print a book or launch a campaign and expect that people are going to be flocking to you. You have to put yourself out there and work hard at promoting but you also have to understand that self promotion only about self gets old and tiresome to everyone. Finding other creators that believe in your product, that are willing to spread the word while you are also spreading the word about them, is huge.
CB: What else can you share about the project? And do you have any final words for our readers?
MK: Our ongoing Kickstarter campaign ends in just a few days – this Sunday August 18th. We really hope that people will go and check it out and consider backing because we really believe in the story and products that are available. The Kickstarter serves multiple purposes: it unveils issue 11 of 11 of ‘The Crossroads Conundrum’ story arc with 5 different collectible covers. It also offers the 260+ page enhanced trade paperback version. It has been entirely relettered / early issues reformatted, and has behind the scenes notes, song lyrics, and more. We have trading cards, one of a kind art, the ability to get drawn into the issue, and so much more.
CB: Outstanding! Well thanks so much for chatting with us, Matt! Good luck and we are rooting for you!
MK: We appreciate it, and ya know what – we are rooting for you guys too!
Back this crowdfunding campaign here!
GRAVEYARD SHIFT Volume 2
by Mark Poulton & Jon Malin
Writer / creator Mark Poulton (Savage Hawkman, Avengelyne), co-created Graveyard Shift last year with Jon Malin (Cable, Thunderbolts, Jawbreakers). They crowdfunded the comic book project through Indiegogo. The campaign eventually reached an amazing $106,096 before it ended! The graphic novel tells a story that’s been described as if the X-Men met the Universal monsters, and shows the adventures of a group of science and security personnel that are are betrayed and murdered by the people they work for while studying advanced human regeneration. They’re cast aside by being put into their own experiments and are reborn with super human abilities, and soon turn to battling evil as a team known as The Graveyard Shift!
Chris recently spoke with Mark about the whole process, discussed his career, and found out how the current campaign was going, which ends in just over a week from now. That campaign is on track to possibly even surpass the response to volume one.
Chris: You’ve been working in the comic book industry for just over 10 years. Tell me how you got your first break, and how you eventually began working with Jon Malin.
Mark: My comics career started in 2006, but my writing career began before that when I optioned a teen comedy screenplay back in 2001. The film never got made, but during the whole process I was working on what would become my first comic book series. I teamed up with my artist friends to create Koni Waves. The series was about a female detective in Hawaii, who solved supernatural mysteries. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hawaii Five O with a Scooby-Doo vibe, and that’s Koni Waves.
The series caught the attention of my hero in comics, Rob Liefeld. I was a member of his message board and he was impressed with my work and started giving me jobs including eventually relaunching Avengelyne at Image Comics. I first met Jon through those same message boards. Jon had done some work for Rob too and I was a fan of his art. After relaunching Brigade with Rob and Marat Mychaels in 2010, I reached out to Jon about working together. The first issue had just sold out and I was feeling good about myself, so I pitched Jon a little idea about the Universal Monsters as X-Men… Jon said I had him hooked at the first mention of monsters and that’s how Graveyard Shift was born.
Chris: Wow! The internet is amazing! Volume one of Graveyard Shift was a huge success. Tell us what you learned from that campaign.
Mark: I learned a lot. I knew fulfilling the campaign was going to be tough, but I had no idea. It took 2 months for me to fulfill the project once the books arrived and I think the experience will help me this time around. There’s little things that will save time. We bagged and boarded all of our books and used Silver Age bags and boards. Switching to Golden Age bags and boards this time around will save us time because the books will go in a whole lot easier. Jon also did his sketches inside the book, so he couldn’t get started until the books arrived.
For volume 2, Jon is going to do the sketches on a separate piece of paper so he can get a jump on them. As well, the Gemini Comic Mailers are a big hit with fans and they’ll be back for the fulfillment this time around. I have them in huge stacks in my basement, but I placed them with the label up. I have to flip one over everytime I fold one up. If I place them label down, I’ll save seconds on each package. It might not seem like a big deal, but those seconds add up when you are dealing with thousands of books.
Chris: What was the motivation to let some new talent work on volume 2, and how has that been working?
Mark: The community had been so good to us and made Graveyard Shift possible. We wanted to give back to it and give some aspiring talent a break. There were guidelines they had to follow. Jon and I came up with plots for Von and Cal to follow for their stories. The new characters being introduced were already created and the artists were given character designs for all of them to follow.
Chris: So tell me a bit about your creative team and the creative process.
Mark: The creative team behind the main book is me and Jon as writer and artist. Anthony George is our colorist and Eric Weathers is our letterer. Jon and I work the Marvel method. We go over the story and then I plot it out. Jon begins drawing pages. As he finishes pages, he passes them off to Anthony. I begin scripting dialogue as the finished pages come in. The final step is we’ll send the script and pages to Eric to letter and then have a Google Hangout session with him going over placement of balloons and changing any clunky dialogue or adding new dialogue where needed. Thankfully, Eric is a patient man.
The creative teams for the Supplemental book is as follows: Epilogue story by writer Cal Jameson and artist Render Contender. Killer 99 story by writer Von Claus and artist Todd Mulrooney. And Volume 3 prequel/Lonestar team up story by me and artist Mike McMahon. Anthony George and Eric Weathers will do colors and letters on all books. The process is pretty much the same except Cal and Von worked full script.
Chris: Where did the initial idea for Graveyard Shift come from?
Mark: The inspiration is 90s’ comics, specifically the early Image era. Books like Youngblood, Spawn and Wildcats mixed with horror and sci-fi. The elevator pitch has always been what if the Universal Monsters were the X-Men. You take those classic monsters and mix them with Jim Lee era X-Men and that’s the recipe for Graveyard Shift.
Chris: You mentioned some one-shots, but is there a volume 3 in the works? What are you currently working on?
Mark: There’s definitely a volume 3 in the works. I wrote the prequel to it and that’s what’s included in our supplemental book. The plots for the volume 3 books are done and I’ll start fleshing them out more when I get the free time. I’m currently scripting the dialog to my upcoming graphic novel with artist Mike McMahon, USAssassin. Mike penciled the Graveyard Shift Volume 3 prequel, so I think fans will enjoy his work. Hopefully, we’ll have an announcement soon for USAssassin.
Also, my son, Chase and I just finished writing a Lil Graveyard Shift story. Hopefully, that will be included in the Volume 3 campaign. In addition, I recently finished a children’s book for Jason Solomon from the Solomonster Sounds Off Podcast called The Adventure of Hardy the Horse. We brought one of his mom’s stories to life after she died from cancer and I was happy to help him honor her. I’m also finishing up pencils on another children’s book. Oh, and I also do a line of pro wrestling themed kids books for Sevenhorns Publishing and have a couple coming out by the end of the year. I’m always busy.
Chris: Have you been surprised at the response to the first volume and to the current campaign? What stage is volume 2 at?
Mark: I have been. I remember being so nervous before we launched the campaign for Volume 1. I was worried we might not get the $5,000 we asked for funding and we ended up being fully funded I think in a half hour. This campaign we were funded in 10 minutes. It’s amazing! I want the fan base to know how much they are appreciated. Volume 2 is currently being drawn by Jon. He’s more than a quarter done at this point. All of the stories for the supplemental book have been completed. They just need to be colored and lettered.
Jon and I have so much planned. The stories for Volumes 3 and 4 are already figured out. We are creating a huge world for readers.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Congrats on another successful campaign for Graveyard Shift. We’re rooting for you!
Mark: Thanks for the support! It is greatly appreciated.
Back this crowdfunding campaign here!
Take a peek at these campaigns!
That’s it for this installment! Consider backing these awesome looking projects and always remember to support indie comics!!! If you’d like your project featured on Indie Comics Showcase, submit a link to the crowdfunding campaign to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why we should feature it!
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