No one else wanted to so recently, comic book writer/artist Keith Champagne sat down to interview comic book writer/artist Keith Champagne about his new graphic novel, The Switch, which he and the project’s co-creator, the artist (and second best looking man in comic books) Tom Nguyen are currently funding on Kickstarter.
Here’s what Keith had to say. To himself.
KEITH: Keith, thanks for sitting down with me today. Off the bat, let me just say that you’re one of my favorite writers. In my top 75, definitely.
CHAMPAGNE: You sound so much like my mom right now; I’m in her top 75 too, fourteen spots behind Marv Wolfman who is sixty spots behind Alan Moore. You’re a handsome fellow, by the way.
KEITH: Your turn to sound like my mom. So enough small talk, I know how busy and important you are. What’s this Switch thing you got going on? Wasn’t that a Jennifer Aniston flick?
CHAMPAGNE: Immediately incisive and probing. Kudos. The Switch is the new project I’m launching, side by side with my great friend and collaborator Tom Nguyen, on Kickstarter. It’s currently a 64-page, full color, oversized graphic novel although when we hit our stretch goals, it’ll grow to an 80-page hardcover.
KEITH: Oversized, you say?
CHAMPAGNE: Yeah, we’re printing it at 8.5 x 11.25 inches instead of the smaller, standard comic size. As a point of reference, it’s the same size as the Punisher: Big Nothing graphic novel that Steven Grant and Mike Zeck produced a while back.
KEITH: Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just print it standard?
CHAMPAGNE: Well, yeah…it would. Quite a bit cheaper, actually, and we have a very modest financial goal for this project in the first place. But we crunched the numbers hard and would rather put the money into the book, not our pockets.
Tom and I both feel like the larger format makes the project a little more…special. Also, on an aesthetic level, Tom puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his work. The larger format makes a statement; It gives the artwork room to breathe.
KEITH: You guys have worked for DC for over twenty years each. You’ve done projects together for Dynamite, IDW, and Titan. So why Kickstarter? Why not pitch it around?
CHAMPAGNE: Personally, I don’t feel like pitching is a very efficient process anymore. I had a proposal in last year with a company and it took almost the full year to finally get rejected. I have three different pitches in with three different companies at the moment, all between two and seven months time. It’s no one’s fault; editors are busy and these companies build out their publishing plans a year in advance. We do feel like Kickstarter is a gamble, no one really knows what’s going to happen once a campaign goes live. But at least it’s an efficient gamble. We’ll find out in 30 days, thanks to the readers, if this project is alive or not.
It’s also really cool to work directly with the readers, to involve them in the process and be able to thank them not only with the book but with some great rewards for helping us out which, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get into a bit more later.
Also, creative control. This project is completely by Tom and myself. Writing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering…it’s one hundred percent our baby to raise it right.
I don’t want to imply that I’m not fine working in the “studio system” as a writer. I’m good at it but it can be tricky taking notes from ten different editors and making it all work. Or running the gauntlet of checks and balances on a licensed property. With The Switch, it’s just two guys making the best comic they possibly can with no other fingers in the pie.
KEITH: Not to put too fine a point on it but Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform fueled by social media. The average fifth grader has more twitter followers than you. Concerned at all?
CHAMPAGNE: I have no comment at this time except to say @keithchampagne.
KEITH: There are a lot of projects listed on Kickstarter every month. Why should people pay attention to yours? You haven’t even told us what it’s about yet!
CHAMPAGNE: You haven’t asked yet, dummy!
I guess first of all, Tom and I are tried and true industry veterans. We’ve been working on the biggest books that DC Comics puts out for pretty much our entire adult lives. We know how to do this stuff and we do it really, really well.
Also, we have guest stars. People like Doug Mahnke, Pat Oliffe, Leonard Kirk, Khoi Pham, Dev Madan, Gordon Purcell, Peter Tomasi, Andy Smith, Peter Krause, Marc Deering, Bill Morrison, Don Kramer, Neil Edwards, Edgar Salazar, Mike Collins, Sergio Cariello, Pasqual Ferry, Christopher Jones, Khoi Pham, Patrick Gleason and Jerry Ordway are all helping us out by donating their time and talent to contribute rewards to our campaign.
It might be the greatest lineup of pro rewards in the history of Kickstarter. We’re incredibly grateful to these guys for helping us out…and we haven’t even mentioned what’s coming in the stretch rewards yet.
KEITH: Aside from being your friend, what does Tom Nguyen bring to the table on a project like this?
CHAMPAGNE: Well, I mean, he’s a great artist and we have nothing but good times when we work together. But most importantly, people often confuse him with Dustin Nguyen. Even Scott Lobdell did it once at a convention. So, you know…we got that going for us.
KEITH: So what’s the book about, dummy?
CHAMPAGNE: So glad you finally asked!
Growing up, did you ever have a group of friends where one day, you pick your head up and realize that you’ve got nothing in common with these people and can’t figure out why you’re still friends? People grow apart, it happens all the time.
Now imagine that you’re a super villain and those friends are a Legion Of Doom-style group. You’re surrounded by the scariest super-powered sociopaths and monsters that could exist in this world and you’ve reached a point where you can feel whatever soul you have left just withering away and dying being around these people. But you know all their secrets; it’s not like they’re going to let you walk away.
How do you get out? For our main character, the answer is to create a second identity, this time as a superhero, and start secretly fighting crime instead of committing it. It’s a plan that gets incredibly complicated very, very quickly.
That, my friends, is The Switch. It’s the truest labor of love for Tom and I. We hope you’ll check it out.