Creator: Rachel Allen Everett
Comic Book Yeti's Byron O'Neal interviews creator Rachel Allen Everett about her Kickstarter noir murder mystery meets cautionary fantasy project, The Manderfield Devil. Transcribed from the ongoing Saturday Twitter Spaces creator chatform.
COMIC BOOK YETI: This is Byron O'Neal for Comic Book Yeti sitting down today with Rachel Allen Everett to talk about her new Kickstarter comics project, The Manderfield Devil. Welcome.
RACHEL ALLEN EVERETT: Thanks. Happy to be here.
CBY: At the time I was working on prepping for our interview, The Manderfield Devil was already completely funded. So, you're off to an awesome start halfway through the campaign. How are you feeling right now?
RAE: I'm feeling good about it. I'm pretty delighted that it funded as quickly as it did. This is my second Kickstarter, technically, but the last one I launched was five years ago, and it was only $4,000. So, this one was a bigger one. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I'm very pleased that it's funded.
CBY: Let's jump into a little bit about the project itself. For those that aren't familiar, what is The Manderfield Devil about?
RAE: The Manderfield Devil is a noir murder mystery meets cautionary fantasy. It's about a detective who's sent to a strange little town in the panhandle of the US to investigate a string of murders who the townfolk believe were committed by the devil. This detective has a difficult time figuring out what's true and what's just superstition. It's all about how things aren't really as they seem.
CBY: You cited being a total nerd for anything from the 1920s to the 1960s on your website. There's definitely a throwback feel to the panels I've seen for the book. How does that love of the past translate into this project specifically?
RAE: Oh, gosh, I'm a total nerd for all things from the past – anything basically 1950s and older. For The Manderfield Devil, I focused mostly on the 1920s through the 1930s with a real emphasis on the dustbowl and Americana-type stuff that was influenced by Over the Garden Wall. The way that they handled their whole aesthetic was very Americana, very folk artsy, and I wanted to weave some of that into The Manderfield Devil. So, I was pulling a lot from the 1930s.
CBY: The entire book has this warm sepia overlay to it. The color palette tends to avoid bold choices, especially at the beginning, and then (for lack of a better term) blossoms out in the middle of the story. What specific mood are you trying to give the book overall?
RAE: Overall and specifically in relation to color, I was trying to make it all feel like you were watching an old film or like you were reading an old newspaper comic. I wanted it to go through this process of transitioning from that old feeling moving to the face-off with Oasis towards the end of the book. It becomes more vibrant and brighter, and then it circles back around to that darker sort of duller, sepia-tone feeling. Basically, I wanted this real clear distinction between our world and the mythical fantasy world. So, it's [a] very conscious process.
CBY: Is there a film grain filter that you added over the top of everything?
RAE: Yes, I used the film grain filter. A lot of my gradients were all set to dissolve, so they're all pixelated, I guess. Really trying to push that graininess.
CBY: I really enjoyed your panel layout. It's tight on the page with not a lot of excess space. The word bubbles tend to be your choice for breaking them up until that middle period where the panels are less restricted. The font even becomes more pronounced. Is that simply intentional pacing, or was there another influence behind those decisions?
RAE: So, you were noticing that the panels were tighter toward the beginning and then loosened up toward the end?
CBY: Yeah, exactly.
RAE: That's interesting. I don't know if that was explicitly conscious. I think what happened was, I had so much detail and information to fit in those first couple pages. I was trying to keep it short and trying to fit as much story as I possibly could. I wanted to keep the comic 30 pages, but it wound up being 37 pages. So, I think what happened was the comic panels were so tight because I had so much information to fit on each page. Then toward the end with Oasis, I started realizing that certain moments needed more attention and emphasis. So, I had at that point taken what was supposed to be three panels on the bottom of a page and turned that into a double-page spread and other instances like that. Sometimes I pushed it out to a full-page spread or added just a few fewer panels per page to try and give time to those moments because that was the most important part of the comic. I think that's what happened. That's interesting that you pointed that out.
CBY: You've graduated now, if I understand correctly, but at that time you were a college student. I was just curious if there might have been something you were reading that influenced some of those decisions. What are some of your comic influences?
RAE: I love Hellboy. I haven't read all of it, but I've read a good chunk of it, so Mignola was a big influence on the style choices. I also love a lot of obscure graphic novel adaptations. I love Coraline and The Graveyard Book, they were adapted into comics. They were a big influence on me. I also recently have been reading Black Hammer, another influence. Then let's see, one more is Clive Barker's The Thief of Always. It was also adopted into a graphic novel. So, there are a few.
CBY: Wow, that's a little bit old school. I remember The Thief of Always. Wasn't that released in the '90s?
RAE: Probably. I picked it up in a library when I was young and barely starting to get into comics. The first comic ever read was Jeff Smith's Bone, and I only read it because it was the only option in the back of my junior high school classroom during reading time. It didn't have as many words to read. I hated reading so I picked up Jeff Smith's Bone and then wanted to read more comics. So, I went to my local library and found the small section with the graphic novels. The Thief of Always was one of those that really stuck out to me.
CBY: I remember that coming out in the store. That dates me.
I could definitely see some of that Mignola influence in the heavier shading and your artistic style. Do you like having total creative control working alone or do you look forward to a more collaborative process?
RAE: I personally do really love having creative control, especially over a project that I envisioned. I value working on team projects as well and hope to find myself drawing or writing for other people in the future, but I love how much care and detail can go into a personal project. I love working on all aspects of The Manderfield Devil from layouts, to inks, to letters, and to coloring, I loved being able to control every aspect of that process so that I could really convey the vision that was in my head. Whereas working on a team is awesome because you can find new and unexpected ways to convey an idea and each person brings their own strengths to a team. Wonderful, amazing, and unexpected things can happen that way. So, there's pros and cons of both sides, but I really do treasure having full control.
CBY: By most measures, having had two Kickstarters already in your belt is quite an accomplishment. What advice do you have for folks trying to break in and get started?
RAE: Sure: start small. My first comic that I put on Kickstarter was a 16-page, floppy saddle-stitched book. It was a preview issue to a series that I'm still developing. It's called 13 Light Years Away. I call it "zero issue," but it's also a preview to the series. It's super short, and all I wanted was to get it printed as a floppy saddle-stitched issue. I only needed $1,000 to print it. I printed way too many. I think I printed 2000 copies of those, and I still have a whole box laying around. Start small, print a few issues, and have a small goal. I've seen goals recently for only $750. They get funded right away, and I think that's super smart.
One thing that I would recommend against is don't get too excited about stretch goals, add ons, and all sorts of different things you can give to your backers because the more stuff that you add to your campaign, the more things you're going to have to take care of. For example, my first project, I decided to throw in a T-shirt which was way more work than it was worth. I don't think I even know how much I made off that Kickstarter at the end of the day with all the extra things that I wanted to add to it. I was naive. I was young. I was right out of high school when I first launched my first Kickstarter. I was so excited about merchandising and stuff, but just keep it simple. Do the book and like maybe one or two little things on the side.
CBY: One of the best things I've heard recently from somebody I interviewed was to make sure that everything can fit in a single Gemini mailer.
RAE: Yeah, that's great advice.
CBY: You partnered with Chris Bodily with Ghost Machine Publishing. I thought they might enjoy a quick shout-out. How are they helping your visibility?
RAE: Zane is another partner. He's here now. Hi, Zane. He's been really helping out with publicizing, and tweeting, and sharing about the project. Chris has been doing the same. That's mostly what they can do on their end. Chris also goes around conventions and sells his artwork so he's going to help me distribute my comics that way by selling them at different conventions out of the state that I wouldn't normally go to. So, I'm excited for that.
CBY: Does it help with the Kickstarter to be able to say, hey, I've got this project already completed?
RAE: Yeah, I personally think that it helps ensure confidence in the product because you know that what you're getting is already finished. Not only is it already finished, it's available to read online. You can read the whole story at manderfielddevil.tumblr.com. You can read it all for free. I did that because I was inspired by Mark Laszlo's The Boy Who Loved A Ghost Clown. He had published that comic all online for free to read, and it gave him a lot of attention. It wound up, down the line, getting him work for Mike Mignola if I'm not mistaken. He's done stuff in the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. universes by starting with that comic. I was really inspired by that, and he later did print The Boy Who Loved A Ghost Clown and it did really well because it was already available. So, I wanted to do a similar model to that.
CBY: Let's switch gears a little bit. You just graduated with your illustration degree from BYU. You have a really diverse background, including comics, video games, and graphic design. It seems like you're covering the entire visual gamut here. With your other ongoing project, 13 Light Years Away, are we going to continue to see more from that? Are you going to revisit it?
RAE: 13 Light Years Away is a project I've been developing since high school. Like I said, it was the first project I Kickstarted for the zero issue, and yes, I fully intend on bringing that to fruition. It's a much larger story. Manderfield is only 37 pages. 13 Light Years Away is going to be a series. I want it to be a three-trade series at the end. It's my baby project. I wound up doing a bunch of concept development work for my capstone BFA project, graduated with a portfolio of work in that world. You can go see that on my website at raeallenart.com. It's a universe that is really close to my heart. I love it very much, but I do plan to bring it to completion and put it out there. That's my next goal.
CBY: As I understand it, you're also working on a platformer game called Tethergeist.
RAE: Yeah, Tethergeist was a project that came about because of a Game Jam GMTK 2021. I believe it was back in August. The way Game Jams work, this one specifically was 24 hours. We had 24 hours as a small little team to put together a whole playable game. We had two coders. We had a musician, and then we had me and my husband who were the artists. So, all of us work together to build this game in 24 hours. You can play it on the itch.io. It's a cool little platformer that is based on a mechanic where your soul can separate from your body. It's heavily inspired by Celeste. We hope to bring that also to Kickstarter in the future, probably in the next year or so, as a full-fledged game. We want to make it a full game, an app game on Steam.
CBY: What else have you got in the pressure cooker, as if you don't have all this other stuff going on?
RAE: Right now, I'm working on a nine-page little comic that's going to be part of a comics anthology called Another New World the Anthology. It's the sequel to New World, which was Kickstarted and did really phenomenally well. So, they're doing another one. It's a sci-fi anthology. My story that I'm working on is called "Upgrade." It was written by Susan Connelly. She's a TV writer. I believe she's from Scotland. I always mix up Scotland and Ireland. So, I apologize Susan if I got that wrong. She wrote this lovely script. It's about a cyborg who lives in this society where everybody's got updated cyborg implants, and she's the only one that can't upgrade beyond where she's at. So, the story is about her struggle there. It's really fun. It's quite creative, and I'm excited to be drawing it.
CBY: You're just getting started with what I'm sure will be a very successful career in the comics medium. If you could work with any established character or a collection of characters, what would they be and why?
RAE: I would love to do a Hellboy or B.P.R.D universe story. I really love it, just all of the wonderful things that can happen in that universe. So, Hellboy would definitely be up there. I am also interested in working on anything related to The Killjoys by Gerard Way. I've always loved that story. Gerard Way does a lot of really great work in comics, and so I'd like to partner up with him on anything that he does. Then, I guess, another person I'd love to work with is Simon Spurrier. He doesn't really do a lot of continuing series, which is one of the reasons why I really like his work. He likes to create consolidated storylines, so I love everything that he produces. One of my favorite things that he wrote was Six Gun Gorilla. He also did The Spire. So, I'd love to team up with him on anything that he puts out there.
CBY: Do you like the creative freedom of an open story concept, or do you like those things that are that are going to end and very finite?
RAE: I do love stories that end. I think there's a really important quality to stories that have a definitive ending, as opposed to stories that sprawl onward and outward. I think you can convey themes and ideas in a lot more just careful and articulate way in a story that has a specific end point. You can also really establish character growth I feel like a lot better in a shorter story. Whereas in a longer story, you're trying to cling on to this character and who they are, and the reason why people love and come to your comic is because of who this character is. If your character changes, goes through any significant amount of growth in that story, then they change. I feel like people who write these sprawling narratives tend to hold on to their characters' flaws and not really let them overcome them in a way that they could if it was a finished story, if that makes sense.
CBY: It makes perfect sense.
I got a completely random question. This is just my curiosity. There's a pinup section included in the Kickstarter: were those fellow students?
RAE: Some of them are fellow students, and some of them are our colleagues. Jake Parker's more established in the industry. He's an entrepreneurial illustrator. He's done Rocket Raccoon work. He also has his series Missile Mouse that you might know him from. He does a lot more kid-friendly, fun, techie-type stuff. He's a good friend of mine. Then Aaron Austin, he's done work for Nickelodeon and does comics on the side. One of his comics is very beautiful. It's called Evergreen Heart I believe. He does lovely work, and I've always been a fan of his work as well. D. Bradford Gamble, he's an avid comic creator. He created a web series called Food Hates You which was pretty popular. He also did A Donuts Tail, another web series. Right now, he's working on a comic called Shred or Dead, which is about the shenanigans of these little kids that are skaters. It's a delightful, very cartoony, very Nickelodeon-style comic series that was recently Kickstarted and funded. So yeah, lots of really cool people to be working with. I'm very, very excited that they all hopped on and joined. I could talk about all of them, and I plan to do a little spotlight for them on Twitter and across social media to highlight their accomplishments because they're all awesome.
CBY: It's been a pleasure having you on today to talk with me about The Manderfield Devil and the rest of Rachel's world. There's still time to back your project. Full disclosure, I am a backer myself. I'm so happy that it got funded. It's a great project.
RAE: Thank you for having me.
CBY: Thanks to everyone who is listening in today and see everybody next week. Happy Halloween, everybody. All right. Take care.
This is a transcript of the interview conducted on Twitter Spaces with Rachel Allen Everett on Saturday, October 30th, 2021. Minor content changes have been made to assist with readability.
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All The Manderfield Devil characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Rachel Allen Everett or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED