‘You have to ask yourself – Why should a backer, back this project?’
Anyone who has loved comics or science fiction will at some point attempt to draw their own comic-book or fantasy art. Most will realise how hard it actually is, especially when they come up against the astonishing array of talent in the industry. The persistent ones will take it up as a career choice, with the ultimate aim of one day getting published. Now, with the global reach of the internet, a new breed of comic-book creator can take their destiny into their own hands, source funding, and publish it themselves - with the benefit of total creative freedom.
We talk to Jeremy Biggs, co-creator behind the hit kickstarter 'comic-novella' METAL MADE FLESH, to find out the advantages and pitfalls of doing it yourself.
- Jeremy, explain the genesis of METAL MADE FLESH.
The original creator of the world Tuaoni is Simeon Aston – the illustrator. It's kind of a unique arrangement, in that Sim came up with the design for the world and the character ideas and had one story fully finished before I met him. Since we worked together I've added little touches and characters here and there, but I always defer to him if there's somewhere we have to make a big decision about the world.
Metal Made Flesh is three short stories set on the same world. “Flesh” was the first published and that was based on a plot by Simeon. I came up with the story for “Made”, based upon a character idea from Simeon from an earlier story. “Metal” was written very collaboratively, with both of us pitching ideas to each other.
- How did you both meet?
I met Sim at a comic convention in 2012 where I was working with a company producing audio dramas. I had a small comic of my own that I was really trying to gauge reaction to, also. I saw Sim's work and was blown away and thought I just had to work with him. Prior to that I had been working in Sound Design and had just completed a Zombies in Africa film - “The Dead.”
- For people who haven't yet seen the books, give us the basic outline.
Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction by a hostile force, the Veul, and they have taken refuge on a backwater “den of vice and iniquity” - the cyberpunk city world of Tuaoni. There they must survive against impossible odds as the lowest of the low in the crime filled streets of the city's notorious “Strip”.
‘One big influence on the story was Bangkok in Thailand’
- It looks very cinematic. What books, movies - or other formats - have inspired it?
Bladerunner is a big influence – Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger's influence is all over Simeon's artwork. Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer, Judge Dredd, Akira, Hardware, The Fifth Element (and The Incal on which it was, ahem, “based”), Polanski's Chinatown I guess. Oddly enough, Game of Thrones has been an influence in that there's a series of overlapping storylines that are focused around individual characters.
One big influence on the story from both Sim and I, was Bangkok in Thailand, where we'd both travelled. The aesthetic of that place – and Hong Kong definitely feeds into the feeling of “The Strip” where all the action takes place.
- Is the story part of an ongoing cycle?
Metal Made Flesh is a series and is the introduction to the world and the main characters. We also produced a short comic follow up - “Infection”, which was really for the “fans” to show how the three stories link up, and pave the way for the follow up which we're working on at the moment.
- The project looks beautiful enough to have been picked up by a major publisher, yet you choose to go independent, and get funding through Kickstarter.
For us, the illustrations are integral to the whole story – they give you information about the world that frees up the narrative to be fast paced and, in places, almost impressionistic in tone – but for publishers, they tend to view illustrated novellas as bit of a risk we found.
They're not quite novels, not quite comics, so, although we haven't gone all out to pursue anyone yet, we thought it was wise to do this independently at first until we've built up enough of a fan-following that we'll be in a stronger position to knock on some doors. EL James is a great example of that with 50 Shades of Grey, where she built up a large viral following, then had publishers come after her.
Having said that, if any publishers come knocking on our door we'll happily talk to them!
- What do you say to the creatives who are thinking of doing a Kickstarter, but haven't yet galvanized themselves into action?
Creative control is a big plus. We can develop the world more and take more risks in the kinds of stories we want to tell. Monetarily, obviously, we're not sharing the proceeds with a large publisher, but truth be told, anything we make goes back into the world at this stage.
We're actually working on a bible and have already approached a few writers we know are up to the job, to come in and expand the world.
‘In the UK our main outlets have been online and at conventions’
- Getting your book on shelves is key to a publication's success. With a project such as this, how do you handle the practicalities of distribution?
We already have distribution through a niche distributor in the States called “The Distribution Engine” which exclusively deals with UK-based publishers. In the UK our main outlets have been online and at conventions. At some point in the near future we're going to have to bite the bullet and go the ( UK distribution company ) Diamond route though, we think.
- Any other tips for those who are tempted to ‘kickstart’?
Number One tip: Don't underestimate postage.
Number Two tip: Whatever you do. DON'T underestimate postage.
It's a terrifying thought if you ever complete a Kickstarter and then realise that the bulk of your Kickstarter backers are based on the other side of the world. Postage is a significant amount of your total...
Other than that, Kickstarters should have a clear idea of what you're trying to achieve, then consider it from a backer's point of view. You have to ask yourself – what makes you different from anyone else? Why should a backer, back this project? Make it unique and don't just jump on a bandwagon unless you can bring something which is different.
Work hard, and be prepared to contact as many blogs as you can – not just to promote yourself – but because it's good to have feedback from people who are actively writing around the medium. It's not all about you.
As altruistic as backers are, they also appreciate high quality rewards, and they deserve them too.
- Nicely said, thanks, Jeremy!
- Nicely said, thanks, Jeremy!
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