It’s our favorite time of the year! No, we’re not talking about the holidays, though those are pretty swell too. We’re talking about the time of year when we get to chat with Greg Anderson Elysée about his latest Kickstarter for Is’nana the Were-Spider, the hit award-winning graphic novel series.
Greg is back, along with Walter Ostlie, Lee Milewski, David Brame, Kat Aldrich, and Deron Bennett, for a third volume of Is’nana, this time featuring two stories in Is’nana the Were-Spider: The Ballads of Rawhead & John Henry. We spoke with Greg about the project, and in a surprise at the end, before we could finish the interview, Greg launched a second Kickstarter for a new comic called Marassa about a space pirate named Princess Mara, so we got to ask a few questions about that as well.
Read on to learn more, or just click through to the Kickstarter links above if you’re so inclined.
Can you give our readers an introduction/refresher course on your Is’nana the Were-Spider universe?
Sure. Is’nana the Were-Spider is a horror fantasy coming of age series about the son of Anansi the Spider, the West African spider god of stories. Father and son must come together to stop creatures of horrors and chaos that Is’nana accidentally set upon the world. They’re trying to bond and grow from each other and also attempting to not to drive each other crazy. The series implements themes and characters and figures from various Black folklore, myths, and spirituality, from African to Caribbean and African-American.
This new project features two stories. Can you tell us about those?
One story highlights Is’nana meeting the legendary John Henry who raced and defeated the steam drill during the making of the railroads. One of the portals that Is’nana opens up in Vol 1 caused a portal to open up in John Henry’s time period after he defeats the steam drill and sends him to a universe where robots rule and hunt humans down for fuel. Is’nana and Anansi go to the universe to help him. This is illustrated all by Walter Ostlie.
The second story focuses on a boy who moves into a new home with his father and twin brother and realizes the house is haunted by the demonic spirits of Southern boogeymen, Rawhead and Bloody Bones. This story is drawn by David Brame, colored by Lee Milewski and Kat Aldridge, and finally lettered by Deron Bennett.
Is’nana Vol. 1 and 2 artist Walter Ostlie and colorist Lee Milewski are back for this book, and also joining you this time are David Brame and Kat Aldrich. I’m sure it’s not fair that you’re hogging all the spotlight, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about the creative teams.
Well, Kat Aldrich actually joined us on Vol 2 and her work with Lee was fantastic. I always want to work with Lee and Walter. I’m a huge fanboy for their work and I always want them involved in Is’nana in some capacity. They both really helped with the style of the character and the books, so it feels only natural to keep trying to channel that same type of energy and while keeping some aspect of consistency.
David Brame and Deron Bennett are the two newest members of the series. I worked with David on another project, an anthology short, and I fell in love with him. He’s a very diverse artist and great to shoot ideas with. It’s a very Black story, and he was the one who presented the concept of Rawhead and Bloody Bones to me as they’re derived from the Gullah Geechee culture in the South he’s from. I really wanted to complete the team with another Black comic creator who is also talented as heck as a letterer so I reached out to Deron. I feel it’s fitting as I also want to release this on Black History Month.
In your past work, you’ve intentionally drawn on African mythology and folklore, citing an absence of a lot of material based on it in popular culture. In this new book, you’re drawing from African American folklore in the form of John Henry. What made you want to use Henry in a comic?
I’ve always loved the stories of John Henry and I always enjoyed the visual adaptions I’ve seen, from the animations to the different artist drawings and children’s books. I think the visual also of a big Black man swinging a hammer and showcasing his strength is a pleasing image and the fact that he was able to face against all the odds stacked against him is admirable, despite that ending where he dies of exhaustion. I definitely want to keep honoring the spirit of the figure and have him fighting and swinging in a more modern or futuristic setting rather.
John Henry fighting robots with his sledgehammer is pretty god damn awesome. That’s not a question, I guess. More of an observation.
Elysée: Haha! Thanks, man. It’s a concept I’ve had in mind for so so so long and I’m a little surprised it hasn’t been done before. I’m definitely interested in going further with this concept in the future.
When you started your Kickstarter for the first Is’nana the Were-Spider, you were a hungry young upstart comic creator looking to make his mark on the world. Now, you’re a successful, award-winning creator who can’t lose at Kickstarter. Has it changed the way you approach making comics at all?
I’m still a hungry (young?) upstart comic creator if you ask me! There’s always room for more and always room for growth, especially with my artistry, but I am proud of how far I’ve gotten in a few years. I’m definitely learning more about the business, marketing and distribution, details in creating a product. There are some methods I’m definitely not doing again that I did in Vol 1 and 2, but I’m also always experimenting and seeing what may work and what else not to do.
As your first stretch goal for this campaign, set at $10,000, you’re going full 90s with a set of Is’nana trading cards. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that you should never go full 90s?
Haha! Well I don’t have any holographic covers or variants yet and I’ve yet to give Is’nana any giant guns or patches, but there may be room! What do you say, Walter?
But I was a huge fan of trading cards and I loved the art for them. I have no idea where mine are anymore, but I had booklets of them. I’m always trying to see what other types of merchandise I can do with Is’nana to get people excited. Recently I got into these Black History cards where each focused on a prominent Black figure with some information and small history. I think it’d be cool to do that with Is’nana and other Black myth and spiritual characters and figures. I’m always looking for ways to get some interest and knowledge out when it comes to these Black characters that don’t get much focus.
One of the big topics of discussion on Twitter this week was “breaking into comics,” with the usual answer given by established creators working for major publishers: “just make comics.” As a guy who is in fact building a career by doing just that, is it really that simple?
Yes and no. Many people keep saying they have an idea but they never take the steps to it. Even if it’s sitting down to write down a page. The main person holding potential creators back are themselves. Finding the right team isn’t easy but it can be done. One of the biggest issues also is money. You have to save up a lot for reliable and professional artists but there’s also spots like Kickstarter that can help with adding funds and also marketing to a set of audiences you wouldn’t have had before. You just never know until you take the first few steps.
Greg, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with old friends who have become successful, and not just because it gives me a chance to plan out ways to ride your coattails. Any last words you’d like to leave the readers of Bleeding Cool with?
It’s a pleasure for me as well, my man! I want to thank everyone who has supported the book thus far. It’s always a great feeling to see the way the book has impacted people and I also want to thank my fellow creators, from Vol 1 to now. I hope more people are willing to come on board and take a chance.
Also keep your eyes open for my next creator owned book, Marassa. It’s a sci-fi fi book about space pirates, cosmic Vodou, and other fun trips thangs!
Though the interview ended here, the night before publication, Greg informed us that the Kickstarter for Marassa had launched, so we had some more questions to ask…
What kind of masochist runs two Kickstarters at the same time?!
Haha! I swear, it’s not intentional! Given that Is’nana is entirely on me, Marassa is being published by Evoluzione Publishing, run by Marcel Dupree. The plan was to actually run Marassa last month, but this Is’nana book came about and we had to switch gears. Now my insanity is one the edge!
Okay, so what’s Marassa all about?
Marassa is a fantasy-sci fi series about a twin brother, Sa, and sister, Mara. Mara had retired from being a space pirate and became a princess of a section of an alien planet and has twin children of her own. Sa kept with the lifestyle and has come back into Mara’s life with the map of their deceased parents’ long lost and hidden treasure. This starts the whole series as the adventure brings forth drama, bounty hunters, other space pirates, cosmic vodou and other Africana influences in an cosmic setting.
If people can only choose one Kickstarter, which one should they pick?
My connection — breaking—- up—!!!