Sebastian Hawks: Mountain Of The White Death, And The Future Of Crowdfunding

Tristan “T-Rex” Jones writes;

I’m not usually one for spruiking my wares like this, and in an industry already plagued with crowdfunding campaigns the immediate response — usually (unless you see a known name attached to it)– to something like what I’m putting on the table here is “Ehh… I don’t know you…” followed by maybe a brief skim of the project and if the imagery is interesting enough, you might go back and read it. If you’re one of those people and’ve just done exactly that then HA!
Caught you! But thanks for coming back and giving me your attention. If you’re the other type that digs looking into these sorts of things for new books to read, then cheers! Hopefully, regardless of where you’re coming from, what I’m about to throw out there tickles your fancy enough to help us make this book happen, because so far, it’s been a bit more of a task than I’d anticipated.

Some of you may know me from my work on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the Mirage days. I wrote some issues of the black and white stuff that were received well enough to be invited back in (briefly) to write for IDW’s Lovecraft inspired horror event Infestation 2. I’ve also been a part of the Ghostbusters creative team at IDW for the past couple of years, I did the fifty-something hand-drawn covers that were featured here a while back (even got a shout-out in USA Today on Christmas eve, which was a touch rad). Anyway, Greg McLean, writer and director of Aussie horror films “Wolf Creek” and “Rogue” saw some of my work and asked me to come in and take a look at a character he had but wasn’t sure what to do with. From the outset, it seemed like your textbook adventurer type character. Indiana Jones of England, that type of thing… We’ve seen it all before. But there was something in there that appealed (all those characters do in some way I guess), so I said yes and started brainstorming.

What I came up with excited me more than anything I’d worked on to date. The first thing I did was email my friend, Chris DiBari, who had previously worked on “The Warriors” for Dynamite, George Romero’s “The Crazies”, and the smash hit revenge western “Pale Horse” for Boom! Studios. He knocked some quick sketches out (which you can see on the site), and everything started falling together. I’d come up with an angle for the story I was happy with and, more importantly, and angle for the characters I was happy with — one that took Hawks in particular beyond that generic “in the mould of Indiana Jones” type thing — and took it to Greg, who loved it.

Now, a bit of background on Greg’s involvement, because so far, it seems to be a stumbling block for a lot of people and I can understand why. With Hawks essentially being Greg’s character, and a project I’d been brought in to help build, he’s the guy ultimately in charge. Going through Pozible (nutshell: a clone of Kickstarter that lets Aussies start projects — more on that later), was his decision as was the monetary goal (again, more on that later). Beyond those things, this, really, is a baby Chris and I are sharing. Creative control has been so good that it may as well be creator owned. Anything I was worried wouldn’t fly in the development was welcomed with open arms. I know there are folks out there that see a film person involved in a project like this and immediately become cynical, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been during the entire development process myself. At the end of the day, Greg’s just a big comic nerd. He’s trying to set up his own label (Diezelpunk) and that’s pretty much where it ends. Last year, they made Dark Axis, with APE Entertainment, but with Hawks, Greg  nwanted to use it as a launch point for a truly independent Diezelpunk. So that’s it. It’s not some comic being made so we can get a film deal out of it, because frankly, fuck that. Chris and I both left film and television years ago to work in comics because it’s what we both love. You can probably hear everyone shaking their heads and muttering “you idiots”, but it’s true. I’m writing this thing to be a comic book. I’m actually DELIBERATELY writing it so if it were to be a film, you’d have to throw Peter Jackson dollars at this thing, so it’s not gonna happen.

On the subject of dollars, it might be a good time to get that business out of the way. $35, 000 is a lot of money. Especially for an Australian production. And yeah, we’ve already been on the receiving end of the backlash inherent in all these kinds of projects — wether it’s justified or not. I’m sure anyone who’s been involved in one of these things knows what I’m talking about. Anyway, back to the money; it’s not unreasonable when it’s broken down — production costs, a page rate for Chris (who’s left a couple of good gigs to work on this), rates for our colorist Mike Spicer and our letterer, Rachel Deering (who is also the creative force behind a seriously great gothic horror book called “Anathema”), all that sort of business — but it’s still a high number. I can’t fault Greg for setting it, but I also can’t fault anyone for baulking at it. It just kills Chris and I that we haven’t hit that target, when we’re seeing projects on Kickstarter and Indie-Go-Go flying past that amount, which I think may have a lot more to do with the chosen platform for the campaign than some of the niggly things I mentioned earlier. So… Pozible.

Pozible’s basically the Australian clone of Kickstarter. It even looks pretty much the same. The biggest problem for us is that Kickstarter’s a brand now. There’s a built in fan base of people for that site alone. If you’re not on Kickstarter or Indie-Go-Go, you’re apparently not worth the time or attention — and this is actually something I’ve been directed to by friends on various forums. I’ve seen people who willingly back and encourage Kickstarters or Indie-Go-Go projects, refuse to support us because we’re NOT on one of those platforms. No shit! But here’s the news flash — Aussies can’t do Kickstarter. Brits couldn’t either until Kickstarter UK launched recently. It’s a long, stupid mess of red tape involving Amazon and banks and citizenship and things like that that are a nightmare enough on their own let alone connected the way they are to Kickstarter. We can do Indie-Go-Go, sure, and I even suggested we do that straight out the gate (and as a comic creator, probably won’t start a project with them again), but at the end of the day, it wasn’t my call, and I think being Australian, Greg saw benefits in working with local businesses. I can’t shake my head at that, but the comic creator in me knew we’d have trouble, especially at that goal. So, here we are, working with Pozible.

In spite of what appears to be some form of stigma, elitism, or (probably) pure laziness, we’ve managed to raise just over half the amount needed to make this happen. I hope it happens. Chris hopes it happens. Obviously everyone out there that’s pledged so far hopes it happens, and so far we’ve had great support from folks like Ross Campbell, Brent Schoonover, Tom Taylor; even Ben Templesmith and Sean Murphy have stood up and helped get us out there. We’re all genuinely excited about this book and want to make it happen, but we need to strike while the iron’s hot. Everyone involved is about to head into new projects soon and if Hawks doesn’t make the goal now, it gets shelved and we figure out what to do with it when can set aside the time again (something none of us can be sure of). Honestly, it takes no time to sign up to Pozible, they don’t hassle you at all (unless you want them to), it’s completely obligation free and it opens you up to a world of new possibilities in terms of projects you can look into.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m writing this, and not Greg, the person essentially in charge of the project. Good question. Fair question. The answer? I just want to see this thing out there. Like I said, Chris and I are genuinely excited about this project, we WANT IT TO HAPPEN. Greg’s out making Wolf Creek 2 in the middle of the Australian outback, so the burden of publicizing this thing pretty much falls on us, and I think both us pretty much hit the reach we’re going to via our twitter and facebook accounts and other means. Sure, he put press releases out through various websites that follow his horror work, but fuck those guys! We want YOU guys! We want the COMIC BOOK FANS! We’re making this thing for you guys! Not them! Not Greg (well, kinda for Greg, because he’s one of you guys as well)! Not some company who want some stupid percentage ownership of the property so they can do whatever the fuck they want with it! We just want to make good comics and get them out there for you, the good people reading and supporting us creators, to enjoy.

So please, take a look at what we’re doing. If you ever wanted to see something along the lines of those old Hammer Horror and adventure films be directed by Terry Gilliam, but produced by Spielberg and then made into a comic, THAT’s what this is. Take a look at Sebastian Hawks. And to sweeten the deal for all you international folks, we’re shipping this bastard out to you for free! We’ve got around (possibly just under by the time this goes up) two weeks left to make this happen. So if you’re willing to put money down for things like retellings of classic literature we’ve heard time and time again in various mediums, please consider looking into something new and exciting that you’re only going to see in comic book form!

If you want to know anything else, I’m on twitter at @trexjones, Chris and Greg are as well at @chrisdibari and @gregecp respectively. Just hit us up. And a tremendous THANK YOU, to all the love and support people have shown us so far!