There's roughly a week left in the Kickstarter campaign for CASH: Sandbox Cowboy and the comic has reached 56% of its funding goal. Despite the stress of running a Kickstarter campaign, Chad Halley sat down with Jimmy Gaspero to discuss CASH, his writing process, and what he's learned so far.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Chad, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to discuss CASH: Sandbox Cowboy volumes 1 and 2 and your journey in comics. How have you been doing?
CHAD HALLEY: I'm good, thanks. Always excited to talk about CASH. Appreciate the opportunity.
CBY: What is your origin story as a creator? Were comics always a part of your life? And when did you know you wanted to create your own stories?
CH: I'm just a kid from Akron, like LeBron, but not quite as tall...or handsome...or rich. I grew up a smartass kid from a poor family of reprobates. I can't even remember my first comic; I've loved them for as long as I can remember. I was an artist growing up and thought I'd end up drawing comics. By high school, I knew I didn't have the goods to draw comics so I started writing. I dropped out of college to explore the exciting world of manual labor and blue-collar shift work. Late in my 20s, I became physically disabled, and writing became my distraction from 24/7 pain. Somewhere in all that mess, CASH was born.
CBY: What is it you do when you aren’t creating funny, action-packed comics that are “lock, stock, and ready to rock”?
CH: I entertain my lovely wife and three dogs with my witty banter and good looks. All four are saints for tolerating me.
CBY: What is your writing process like when you have an idea for a story? Do you outline first or just start scripting to get that first draft done?
CH: Every story usually starts with a single scene, or maybe a line of dialogue that pops in my head. It's like a conversation manifests from the subconscious. Then I daydream. I accumulate scenes or moments or conversations and write them down. Then the structure/blueprint is laid out while I'm also fleshing out the characters that need it, but usually, they manifest fully formed. I write an extremely detailed outline with dialogue. Then I script without dialogue and send that script to the wonderful artist. The dialogue and narration is constantly evolving and being refined. I write dialogue and narration even as the letterer is working. My letterer is a saint. You can probably tell I'm super obsessive about dialogue and narration.
CBY: The rest of the creative team for CASH: Sandbox Cowboy is artist Daniel Caval, letterer Erek Foster, and shading by Erick Lay. How did the creative team for CASH: Sandbox Cowboy come together and what makes your collaboration successful?
CH: I recruited this squad of assassins exclusively from Facebook groups. I LOVE Daniel's style. He's a badass Brazilian. I happened onto his stuff by chance, and originally messaged him just to tell him that. Of the seven parts of this miniseries, he's drawn issues 1, 2, and is finishing issue 5 right now. Erek slays on guitar when he's not doing killer letters or making me laugh. Erick, the shader, was introduced to me by his brother on Facebook. Total happenstance. He's one of the best black & white painters in the biz.
"CASH is no sweetheart. He's no hero. He's a gun-for-hire looking for one last big payday to retire. It's all about the money. The story itself came from daydreaming at jobs about a world where all my favorite characters from the Westerns coexist and mingle..."
CBY: What factors went into the decision for the look of the comic, where it has found a middle ground between black & white and color. The palette suits the story in the desert, but were there other considerations, such as economical ones?
CH: I went back & forth between color and black & white for months, mostly due to the economics. Erick did a black & white sample page and I was sold. His grayscale is gorgeous. Plus it works with the crime noir feel we're going for.
CBY: There is a version of volume 1 available on your Gumroad, which is 23 pages. The current Kickstarter references a remastered volume 1 that is 26 pages. Without spoiling anything, can you give us a hint of what’s in the 3 additional pages and whether any other part of the comic has been changed or adjusted for the Kickstarter?
CH: Great question. In the three additional pages, we meet the series' main antagonist, our big baddie, SPIDER NAZIRI, and get to see part of his twisted backstory. The rest of the issue will have a few tiny changes and polishes. I didn't go full George Lucas on issue 1, just a smidge.
CBY: Is this your first Kickstarter? What’s the experience like running a Kickstarter, and do you have any advice for someone planning to self-publish their comic?
CH: I was just talking to another creator whose campaign recently concluded, successfully I might add, and we agreed running a campaign is like signing up for a 30-day marathon of stress. Constant tweets and social media posts, basically screaming from the rooftops about your comic. Worrying about meeting your goal. It really feels like you've failed on a personal level if you don't meet your goal. My advice: make sure you have more than enough promo art before the campaign begins. When you think you have enough, get more. Maintain your positivity. Stick with your messaging and promoting, even when you're discouraged.
CBY: Do you find it difficult to market/promote yourself when running a Kickstarter? Have you found effective ways to publicize the CASH: Sandbox Cowboy Kickstarter? Are you concerned when starting out on Kickstarter that you’ll be penalized in some way as a creator if you haven’t developed a track record of backing other indie comic Kickstarter projects?
CH: It's an uphill battle when you don't have a track record of successful campaigns or a built-in audience. But building an audience is one of the most fun aspects of crowdfunding. Meeting all our new recruits in the CASH ARMY has been a real joy.
CBY: Turning now, finally, to the comic itself, CASH: Sandbox Cowboy, I read the version of volume 1 available on Gumroad and overwhelmingly agree that Cash is a bad guy. He’s vulgar, rude, violent, misogynistic, sexist, and I found myself laughing out loud at many of the things he said. It has a sincere 1980s action-comedy vibe. What is the inspiration for CASH, the story, and what was your inspiration for Cash, the character?
CH: Every time you think you're about to see the creamy center below his gruff exterior, he spits in your eye. CASH is no sweetheart. He's no hero. He's a gun-for-hire looking for one last big payday to retire. It's all about the money. The story itself came from daydreaming at jobs about a world where all my favorite characters from the Westerns coexist and mingle; Rooster Cogburn hanging out with Butch & Sundance, Hannie Caulder and Calamity Jane, the Magnificent Seven, the Man with No Name. When I heard vets talking about the "Sandbox" like the wild west and how it felt like they were playing "Cowboys and Indians," suddenly I saw those characters modernized and in that setting.
CBY: Is Cash based on any person you know, or are there parts of Cash’s personality or demeanor that are based on people you know? Have there been any real-life events that have influenced CASH?
"In the coming issues of the miniseries, we have cage fighting, drone strikes, people exploding people, hand-to-hand combat to the death, vicious dogs, the Yakuza, the Russian mob, mercenaries, a helicopter crash, a prison break, and a 19-page MAD MAX-style car chase including 6 dune buggies, an armored humvee, a Ford Bronco and an old Winnebago called Bertha."
CH: I grew up with a disabled veteran dad who inspired parts of CASH. He raised us with gallows humor, joking at funerals, laughing instead of crying. He raised us to be unflinching in terrible situations. I didn't want to glorify the vulgar aspects of CASH, I wanted to make him this real man who's spent his entire adult life in this military culture, seeing and doing unspeakable things and having to compartmentalize those things to function and survive. With the female protagonist, Libby, she's a runaway, a pickpocket who gets by with guile and resourcefulness. My mother's family are nomadic scammers, liars and thieves, always on the move, leaving behind a trail of not-so-happy campers everywhere they go. The Libby character draws a lot of inspiration from those people and that world.
CBY: I love that the Kickstarter page, in describing the 26-page second issue, mentions Smokey and the Bandit, one of my favorite films. I was recently listening to Patton Oswalt on Brett Goldstein’s podcast Films To Be Buried With and his last question is which one film do you want to show to everyone in heaven when you get there, and Patton’s answer was Smokey and the Bandit. Are you a fan of that film and, if you are, was there something about Smokey and the Bandit that you wanted to convey in volume 2 of CASH?
CH: Who doesn't love the Bandit films? Who doesn't love the wise-cracking, devil-may-care, tomcat archetype? And Burt Reynolds was one of the best to do it. We introduce a character much like that in issue 2, a total scamp named Lucky. As for the "Smokey" car chase stuff, James Cameron said he likes to distribute exposition on the move, like in Terminator when Kyle Reese explains Skynet and the future during a car chase. Exposition on the move...makes it less boring. Cameron's pretty good, so I proudly stole that. Thanks for the advice, James. And thanks for Titanic, it totally got me to 2nd base with my 8th grade girlfriend.
CBY: What can backers of the Kickstarter expect from volume 2 of CASH: Sandbox Cowboy, and what can readers expect from future issues?
CH: Volume 2 is all killer, no filler! Knife fights, car chases, fist fights, and adultery. We meet the posse of badasses CASH recruits to take on our SPIDER and his gang of cutthroats, and did I mention the big ass tank?! And that's just issue 2. In the coming issues of the miniseries, we have cage fighting, drone strikes, people exploding people, hand-to-hand combat to the death, vicious dogs, the Yakuza, the Russian mob, mercenaries, a helicopter crash, a prison break, and a 19-page MAD MAX-style car chase including 6 dune buggies, an armored humvee, a Ford Bronco and an old Winnebago called Bertha.
CBY: Are there any comic creators working today whose work inspires you?
CH: Kelly Thompson, Matthew Rosenberg, David Walker…I grew up a Claremont guy. Frank Miller was an inspiration; Sin City rocked my world.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
CBY: Are you currently working on any other projects CBY readers should check out?
CH: I have a few CASH stories in my noggin and a different miniseries altogether I've written a detailed outline for, but I'm focused solely on the "Sandbox Cowboy" miniseries until the entire series is complete.
CBY: Do you have a website and/or are you active on Twitter? Anywhere else you can be found online?
CH: @coldhardcomics on Twitter.
CBY: Thank you so much, Chad!