Writer Spellbound Crimes: James Duran
Artist Spellbound Crimes: Mariana Meira
Writer Psychedelic: Andrew Malacarne
Artist Psychedelic: Daimon Hampton
Writer Penny's Dreadful Tavern: Tom Ravid
COMIC BOOK YETI: I'm chatting today with the three creative minds behind the soon to be launched Kickstarter project, THREE. Let's just start with you, James. Your book is Spellbound Crimes, which you've described as a book about a diverse punk band of witches, which has me sold on the concept right there. It sounds really fun. Tell me a little bit about where this idea came from and what your inspirations were.
JAMES DURAN: I like practicing witchcraft on my own. I'm really interested in the occult and love music. I grew up going to concerts all the time, so I was trying to find a way to create a story that would combine friendship, music, and witchcraft together. I thought they could be in a band, so that's how I put it together.
The new She-Ra, I really love, and I wanted something that would evoke that feeling of friendship and adventure but that would also include being in a band and getting into crazy situations.
CBY: Do you play in a band yourself?
JD: I don't. I was a 2000 scene kid really into bands like My Chemical Romance. I used to go to the Warped Tour and the like growing up. It was my thing.
CBY: I spent about 15 years in the entertainment business myself, doing a little bit of everything, working with bands, Broadway tours, you name it. I certainly get where you're coming from. That sounds like a seriously fun concept.
JD: Thank you. I used to work in radio as well and set up green rooms for artists so I've been around it for years. I just don't play anything.
CBY: I don't either. Well, I guess I play the didgeridoo sort of adequately. I had to learn as I was given one as a gift when I was touring with an Aboriginal band. It was such an incredible gift, I thought, "I really do need to learn how to play this."
You're collaborating with Mariana Meira who is doing the artwork and lettering on your portion of the project. I took a look at her work on Instagram. It has this '80s pop art linework feel to it. It reminded me of Dennis Mukai with a little bit of modern manga elements thrown in. How did you find her and connect?
JD: I follow a bunch of artists on Twitter. It was my first time approaching an artist, and I just really loved her work. It was really vibrant, and I thought it would fit with the comic well. She was one of my first choices. She said yes right away and was excited to work on it without seeing the script because she liked the pitch so much. That's how it happened.
TR: "This has been fantastic for us. This is the first time actually speaking to each other and hearing each other's voices. I think it's probably our first interview for our first Kickstarter. Thank you very much."
CBY: If you had to pitch Spellbound Crimes in one sentence, how would you do it?
JD: A reckless, witch punk band gets into adventures way over their head. Friendship, music, crazy hijinks – that's what it's about.
CBY: Let's move onto Andrew next. Your book, Psychedelic, was originally based on the idea of a magician who can only use his powers when he is high. Then it seemed to have evolved away from that concept a little bit based upon what I read in the newsletter. Why don't you take it from there? Tell us a little bit about the genesis of your project.
ANDREW MALACARNE: I'm a really big fan of characters like Dr. Fate. He's one of my favorite magical characters. I love the idea of two people sharing a body and having to figure out how to work together.
When I first started coming up with ideas for what my comic would be about, I wrote down a list of a bunch of pitches as they were coming into my head. I had some crazy ideas for sci-fi, fantasy, all sorts of different genres. It came about from a Pinterest inspiration board where I was getting into '60s blacklight posters and really trippy artwork that was drawn by artists during the Silver and Bronze Ages. You can clearly tell, and some even admitted, that they were on different substances when they drew it. It makes it so unique because it was drawn by a mind that was not fully aware of what was going on. So I thought, what would that look like if a magician was looking at the world through a mind that wasn't fully in control? That spawned our main character, Harper. He robs someone to sell their purse and all the stuff in it for his pill money. He ends up keeping a necklace that he doesn't know actually has two spirits inside of it. The spirits are always looking for a way out and accidentally find one. I never really want get into what kind of drugs the pill is because I didn't want to glorify that. I keep it vague in the story, but it actually suppresses Harper's mind and allows the two spirits to take [him over], similar to Firestorm or Dr. Fate.
CBY: Damon Hampton is doing the interior work for your project. When [I] looked at your newsletter project blurb, he had this Jamie Hewlett, kind of Gorillaz-meets-Aeon Flux vibe in the panel work. It fits the concept really well. How did you approach them to build that relationship for your book?
AM: Originally, I had been working with another artist, Winston Gambro, who designed my logo, and we were getting ready to get started on the project. He was going to be my interior artist, but something happened with scheduling and things didn't end up working out. So I had to find another artist pretty quickly. Damon stepped in and was so great. They were able jump in and help get it all out on time. I really wanted something trippy, and his work just fit perfectly for the style of the book. I went through his portfolio, and it just screamed "trippy" to me. You said Gorillaz style – that was something that I was really looking for, someone who could convey the trippiness and the uneasiness of the magic as it flows through the story.
CBY: Will there be a different look when they are on and off the drug? Does the visual experience change or just stay consistent throughout?
AM: We went with a muted or more neutral palette for the scenes where there isn't any magic. You can see it in the preview pages that have been released so far. When the spirits take over, the magic changes everything around it. It's very bright. If you look at the costume, the magic flows through the gloves and the shoes. There's really bright oranges, blues and pinks. I wanted something that stood out from everything around it.
CBY: Slightly unfair, because James had no time to prepare: if you had to pitch Psychedelic in one sentence (or two) how would you do that?
AM: I've always pitched [it] as, "What if Dr. Strange or Dr. Fate, instead of being an old Egyptian magician, was just a selfish teenager who wanted to go explore the world?"
They're your unlikely hero.
CBY: Taking a step back away from the projects, if I am understanding this correctly, this is the first time you have all actually spoken to each other. It has been all Discord threads thus far. Is that accurate?
TOM RAVID: That is accurate, yes.
CBY: That's amazing! Really, really cool. I'm honored.
So, your piece of the project Tom is called Penny's Dreadful Tavern. Looking through the press materials, I can't help but think you played a lot of D&D. It has a Rat Queens vibe to it. That's what jumped out to me. Can you talk about what your influences for the book were?
TR: I was definitely playing a lot of D&D and most importantly I was watching a lot of D&D streams: Critical Role, Acquisitions Incorporated, many others. Stories that came out of that, I actually wanted to make a little web animation with an animator friend of mine. That never came off the ground. When I discovered comics and comics writing, this was a perfect idea, a zany, wacky, sword-and-sorcery story in a weird setting, all those kinds of things.
CBY: You grew up in South Africa and have described how comics weren't a big thing there. So, how were you exposed to them originally?
TR: In South Africa, comics aren't a big thing or not to my knowledge anyway. I didn't know anybody, until I was around 18 years old, that read comics. They just weren't in my scope of world. I really loved the Watchmen movie and loved V for Vendetta, especially. Because of those loves, I sought out Watchmen first. I managed to buy those. Comics are very expensive in South Africa. Due to import costs, it's very prohibitive. Then a new friend of mine handed V for Vendetta to me. That was [when I was] about 18 or 19, and then nothing for the next six years until I got a hand-me-down iPad and discovered online digital comics. In a weird confluence, it just all came together, and I had that ah-ha moment, "Wait...I can write them."
CBY: You're working with Argentine artist, Luis Santamarina, on the project. Looking at your preview pages, his work has a Rick and Morty feel to me. How did you find Luis?
TR: Luis I found on a Reddit community, the first place I found where people make comic books properly. I tried back in South Africa to find friends or friends of friends that might be interested in making comics, but nobody really understood. Nobody was really an illustrator that wanted to write comics so those fell through many times.
Then, I discovered /ComicBookColabs in a very self-defeated moment when I typed into Google, "Why do artists not want to work with me?" I discovered a new place and plucked up the courage to post a call for an artist to work on a little story with me. Luis posted underneath and his art style was completely wrong for the story that I wanted to tell at the time, but then I had this story and it was perfect for Penny's Dreadful Tavern. I bit the bullet and commissioned two of my first comics at that same time. His style is amazing, and he's really fun to work with. He's really excited about D&D, fantasy, and wacky hijinks, so it was perfect for me. So Pennys Dreadful Tavern is a comic in the THREE collection. Its title is 'Pilots,' and it's really titled 'Pilots' for more reasons than one: 'Pilots' for a fictional show in the universe which is The Office meets Hell's Kitchen, meets Cheers, meets D&D. It's also me writing it as a pilot to see if anybody would be interested in more stories like this.
CBY: We all know how difficult crowdfunded projects are to get off the ground. What made you guys decide to go with a format that includes three different stories from three different creators?
TR: If I can speak for my other collaborators, I think we all have similar fantasy-inspired themes that will all work together, but more importantly, I think together, we have [a] better chance for success. Especially with shorter stories, trying to crowdfund comics alone, I don't think, is very viable. Together, we have more content for everybody and can pool our resources.
JD: "I grew up going to concerts all the time, so I was trying to find a way to create a story that would combine friendship, music, and witchcraft together."
CBY: You guys put all this together on Discord? How did you find each other?
JD: Yeah, it was on Discord. Andrew had suggested that he wanted to do a Kickstarter, and I was actually thinking the same thing. So, I asked him if he wanted to get together, and he said yes and that he knew somebody else and that's how I met Tom. We all had the same idea to Kickstart our short comics. I asked if it was better for us to get together. Like Tom said, trying to Kickstart short comics ourselves didn't make sense. It wasn't going to be successful but doing it together would be more beneficial to everybody.
CBY: I know Tom has done some other small projects. James and Andrew, is this your first comic endeavor?
AM: This is actually one of the reasons I wanted to work with other people on putting together a Kickstarter. This is my first full short comic ever. I've done a few one-pagers through some groups, but I've never self-published my own short. As the other two have said, it would be better if we did it together. I want to increase the chances of success of the first one so it could lead to better chances down the road. That's one of the reasons we all teamed up, it would strengthen all of us by working together.
CBY: Are you guys planning on expanding this to do individual stories on your own platforms, maybe another collaborative effort, or let's see how this goes? Where is all that at?
AM: At this point, we haven't really talked about what the future is going to look like yet, but we were all hoping to work to build this together, which would help all of our own individual platforms. There's always potential for the future, that this could lead to another collaboration because James and Tom have been incredible partners. We're all in three different time zones. I'm on the East Coast. James is on the West Coast, and Tom is in Japan. It's been hard, but we've always been really good with communicating, so I would not mind, in the least, if we did another collaboration together.
CBY: It's amazing to me how the international comics community has come together. The interconnectedness of it all and how different platforms, like Discord, have been able to just bring people together. It's a great little community.
When are you expecting to actually launch the Kickstarter?
AM: "I love the idea of two people sharing a body and having to figure out how to work together."
TR: We're launching on the 31st of August, so in just a couple of days.
CBY: We've got some people who've been listening here since the beginning. If anyone would like to ask a question, there's a little icon button, you can just raise your hand and I can turn on your mic. You can ask a question of Andrew, James, Tom or all of them. Anybody got a question?
MELISSA: Thanks for letting me in. I wanted to ask the team, if this is your first crowdfunding project, what are you finding and what are you learning from crowdfunding as first-timers? And if you're not, what is some of the knowledge you are bringing into this Kickstarter?
TR: I'll kick off by saying this is all our first Kickstarter. Part of the reason we want to band together was to figure out this platform collectively and see how we could use that in the future. Learning about the platform, about crowdfunding, definitely is getting into the promotional side of things. I think we're all relatively introverted people throwing ourselves out there into the void. Thinking about costs and rewards, can we deliver it? Part of the reason why we were going fully digital at the moment is because physical shipping and things like that will bloat our budget completely. We want to have the best chance of getting this project Kickstarted. Keeping the costs low and focusing on what we need is the best call. There are not many digital-only Kickstarters out there so we'll see how that goes.
AM: I'll just add, we knew it'd be a risk to do a digital-only Kickstarter especially because we're all relatively new to this. We don't have as big an audience as some other creators so we decided to take the risk and see what would happen. I definitely think digital comics can be iffy. I've seen entire threads on Twitter where people talk about why they prefer having a physical book, and I totally get the appeal of a physical book. With all of us, all over the place, across the world, it just made sense to do digital-only for now. Plus we're all in different phases of life. Tom is in another country so it would be almost impossible for him to do the shipping with how astronomical those costs can get. I'm just about to go back to college, and I can't really run shipping out of my dorm room. James has a full-time job. So, it'd be really hard for all of us to manage all of it without losing a lot of time and inflating our budget a bit. So, we just decided to stick with purely digital and just see how the audience responds.
TR: "If I can speak for my other collaborators, I think we all have similar fantasy-inspired themes that will all work together, but more importantly, I think together we have better chance for success."
MELISSA: Thanks for answering my question.
CBY: Thank you for asking.
TR: I hope we did.
CBY: Was there anything else you guys would like to add about the experience overall or about your own books?
AM: I just want to say, it's personally been a great first experience. I was really nervous going in, especially being a new creator, but James and Tom have been phenomenal collaborators. I can't wait for Tuesday when this project goes live and to see the response.
TR: I would just echo Andrew. Thank you everybody who has followed our Kickstarter. The pre-launch now has over 100 people following it. It was just fantastic, and it's a dream come true. So, thank you to everyone.
JD: I want to say thank you to everyone. I can't wait. We got 106 people following already. It feels good.
CBY: Well, I'm one of them. I have a very strong inclination that you guys are gonna get funded, and this thing will kick off.
We have Band of Bards chiming in. They might have a question.
BAND OF BARDS: Do you guys have a desire to go to print eventually, and what do you feel it would take to do that?
TR: We have been talking a little bit about that. We do have an idea for a stretch goal for the campaign, a pie-in-the-sky stretch goal that maybe we can do a limited run of 100 in print. Maybe, we haven't really figured out the numbers yet exactly. Further than that, I'm not sure.
CBY: Any more questions?
MELISSA: I guess I'm gonna ask one more. What can we look forward to seeing from the team following what I'm anticipating to be a highly successful digital-only Kickstarter? Is there anything else in the works?
JD: I have a short coming out in an anthology. They're still working on the production dates for that, but it's coming out this fall. So, I do have another comic coming out this year.
TR: I have a comic I did with Marcus Jimenez that's coming out. At some point, I also have plans for another Kickstarter.
CBY: I believe we have another question.
JAMES E.: Hi, guys. I'm really looking forward to this. It's very exciting. Congratulations.
I was wondering if you might be able to give us a little peek as to what other kinds of additional rewards are going to be available.
JD: Starting out, we do have an early bird tier for our first day. You can get all three of the books for a bit of a discount compared to what they would normally be. I'll let Andrew or Tom talk about some of the other cool stuff we have.
TR: We have a wallpaper pack. Three fantastic wallpapers by our cover artist and letterer for Penny's Dreadful Tavern, Nena Maree. One early stretch goal we have planned is for an additional wallpaper pack by our other comic artists. We also have behind-the-scenes PDFs, and bundles with all our other comics.
JD: I'm doing a Spellbound Crimes digital coloring book. Tom and I are including our older comics. My first, Drunk and Damned, is going to be there. We'll also have a commissions tier. Mariana Meira and Luis Santamarina will be offering a limited number of commissions as part of one of our tiers.
AM: We do have one last tier. Since my book isn't finished yet and some of the funding will go to help pay for the rest of the artwork, we have spaces for people to be drawn into the book. One of the spots already planned is a scene where they go to a concert. You can be featured as one of the band members in the book if you back at that tier level.
CBY: Is there anything else you guys would like to add or anything else you want to talk about before we wrap this up?
AM: I just wanted to say thank you for having us on and giving us the opportunity to talk about this. It's sometimes hard to find places to promote outside of your own Twitter account as a beginning creator. This has been a great opportunity for us. So, thank you so much.
TR: This has been fantastic for us. This is the first time actually speaking to each other and hearing each other's voices. I think it's probably our first interview for our first Kickstarter. Thank you very much.
JD: This has been a great interview. I really appreciate you having us on. This is our first time being interviewed about anything. Thank you so much.
CBY: You guys have a fantastic project. I'm very confident that you're going to get funded. It seems like a lot of fun. I'm certainly looking forward to it and really appreciate you taking the time to come on today to chat a little bit about your books. Thanks everybody else for asking questions and hanging out. We'll see everybody next time.
This is a transcript of the interview conducted on Twitter Spaces with James Duran, Andrew Malacarne, and Tom Ravid on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Some minor content changes have been made to assist with readability.