By Alex Wilson
Kickstarter has become a platform for amateurs and professionals alike to crowd find projects to completion, getting content directly in the hands of fans. Reach, a Kickstarter from the creative team who brought you In Sanity, AZ comes another project looking for funding, and unlike many other projects emerging from Kickstarter, this one is done and just looking for a little push to print and pay artists, an endeavor close to hearts of many in the comic book industry.
I had a chance to talk with James Ninness, one of the writers on reach to discuss the project and what it’s like working with so many different artists and writers.
James Ninness: We never wanted to be pegged as a “horror group”. It’s probably my fault that happened. I like the dark stuff.
Our first Quad Shot collaboration was actually an anthropomorphic nod to Sergio Leone called RUE (which, coincidentally, we’re giving away for free through the month of June). After that we put out two pitches: (1) a science fiction book called THE GET UP with artist Chris Burkheart, and a magical heist story called CON JURE with artist Joel Gomez. Sadly, neither of those got off the ground.
When we finally learned about Kickstarter and realized it was a way for us to get our stories out there without a publisher, we had settled on IN SANITY, AZ as our next project – because of that book we kind of fell into horror.
For us it’s always been about telling stories we’d want to read. And, since all of us come from very different backgrounds, each story we collaborate on has to tickle each of our fancies, so to speak.
AW: How did the premise of REACH first come about?
JN: Democracy. When Quad Shot (Joe Pezzula, Michael Drace Fountain, Ben Glibert, and I, James Ninness) picks a book to develop we pitch to one another. Each of us brings an idea to the table, we throw it out there, and then we vote. Nobody can vote for his own pitch. Once we finally settle on a concept, we work together to tweak and develop it into something we’d all be interested in working on.
REACH started as an adventure book – a treasure hunt. From there it sort of splintered into three separate tales with a connective tissue. The three of us tried to find an era we’d like to play in (Medieval Knights, Sengoku Samurai, and Cowboys of the American West) and then we worked to establish a few key points that would linger throughout each tale.
In case it does well, we want REACH to be something we can revisit; more time periods, more treasure hunting, more sorrow. With that in mind, we developed each of these one-shots to, possibly, be a small part of a bigger mosaic. It doesn’t need to be. If this is the only REACH book we do, it’ll be fine. But, if we want to explore the world a bit more, we certainly can.
AW: What’s the process of sculpting a multi-issue narrative with so many writers and artists involved in the process?
JN: Communication is key. And, as Arthur Quiller-Couch coined, the willingness to “murder your darlings”.
As writers we have many ideas: ideas for our story, ideas for other people’s stories, and ideas for the overarching narrative. But it’s not collaboration if the whole thing falls out of my head. At that point all I’m doing is having people ghost write my story. Michael and Joe are far too talented for that.
So, we talk everything out and we vote. Sometimes one wins and sometimes one loses, but in the end, the story must be served. It probably helps that the fourth member of the Quad Shot is Ben, our colorist and letterer; his votes help the rest of our egos to stay in check.
When it comes to the art, that’s a very different story. One of us runs that show. I did it for IN SANITY, AZ and I do it again here. As the focal point for all artists it’s a bit easier for one person to manage the production of a single book.
That’s not to say that each writer and artist doesn’t collaborate. Joe and Scott, for example, have the complete freedom to change, alter, and work together. But, Joe doesn’t get any say in what Mike and Chris are doing. The flipside of that is my role as the production guy: It’s my job to make sure that the continuity flows as previously planned by the group. As a team we’ve already decided where things should be headed and it’s my job to help the artists understand that and get through the process without three writers and a colorist/letterer all giving them notes.
Thankfully, we worked with some incredibly talented people this time around and there were little to no hiccups throughout the process. Scott Irwin, Chris Burkheart, and Mike Vasquez are each brilliant in their own rights, so my job was fairly simple.
AW: Three different time periods are dealt with in REACH, ranging from the knights to samurai to the American west. How did you keep the tone of the story uniform over the course of so many time periods and creative minds?
JN: We actually kind of went for the opposite… Joe, Michael, and I wrote very different stories.
Joe’s tale of knights is a heist piece. The action is non-stop and kinetic. To that end, Scott pack each panel to make it feel fast, full, and at an almost insane tempo.
Michael’s created a more melodic piece with the samurai story. This allowed Chris to ramp things up and stay true to some more traditional hatching techniques that cater to a story with singular what-the-fuck moments.
And the Cowboy story is a slow burn. It’s more drama than action, though there’s a moment at the end where– well, it’s gnarly. Mike [Vasquez] kept to his more cartoony style and let the big, open scenes fill the moments with equal portions of awe and tension.
If anything, it’s Ben’s job to keep things fluid. Though he uses distinct color palettes for each story, he is somehow able to do it in a way that keeps everything connected, not unlike the work he did on IN SANITY, AZ where he had to color over twenty artists. He also designed a singular font that we’re using throughout the book. It harkens back to each time period but since it remains the same in all three stories, it ties them in a bit more thoroughly.
JN: We’ve all got our own things going on at the moment. Joe is working on some films, Michael is in the middle of his theater season, Ben is coloring a ton of other books, and I’m working on developing some other comics and television stuff.
Making Quad Shot books is a great way for us to work together to tell a tale and be done with it. Kickstarter is a great way to build the capital needed to make the books. We try to be modest with our goals – none of the writers will see a penny from the Kickstarter since all of the money goes into production and fulfillment. The goal is simply to get the book made.
From there we’re able to sell it online, at conventions, or out of the back of our cars in large, empty parking lots — wherever. But the important thing to us is that it gets done; we’ve told our tale and the demons have been exorcised.
AW: Is there anything else you’d like to share or add?
JN: The REACH: A Graphic Novel Kickstarter runs through the month of June. To entice people, we’ll be raffling off the original art Joel Gomez art for his print “Yoshida” to one of the first 150 backers. So, if you’re interested in owning some kick ass art from a top-notch creator, get over to the campaign page and be one of the lucky entrants!
Also: tell your friends.
Alex Wilson dropped out of cub scouts at an early age after he refused to sell popcorn for “the man.” Since then his life has entered into a downward spiral. He lives in the sinful world of comic books, folk punk, and seedy tattoo shops. You can find him bare knuckle boxing to pay his rent or tweeting about Teen Wolf on his Twitter, @mralexwilson.