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Nexus Graphica
by Mark London Williams

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Arthur Slade
Modo: Ember's End
Iron Man 3
Primates
Genius
Insignificance
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Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 Yes, this is a film -- not book review -- because, what the heck, it's summer, and I've just seen it. You've read the overseas reviews, the commentary on IMDB and all over the web, so there may not be any real surprises for you -- but when you see it, that cotton-candy 3D superhero bigness you've come to expect from these outings will be waiting. Iron Man 3 delivers all that -- director Shane Black keeps things well-paced, and Downey has his quip-under-pressure act honed. I'm simply going to note here that my favorite thing in the film was the arc of Ben Kingsley's "Mandarin," which I realize IM purists won't like, but I thought served as an interesting commentary on the whole "terror state" we live in now, with all the apparatus we've created to try and ward off these real-life "supervillains." There was interesting politics laced throughout the film's subtext -- in terms of local reaction to an apparent arrest by a DHS agent; the use of the "Iron Patriot" suit, and even the justification for the final mega-battle on the docks, and among the cranes. Action movies like climaxes around docks and cranes. It gives you multiple visual levels, but is a controllable area, in terms of the actual filming. But never mind that. There was also supposed to be oil. What was also interesting is how this seemed to be more a sequel to The Avengers than the two previous Iron Man films. What will Joss Whedon do with the character now? In any case, have fun, and let me know what you think of the film version of "The Mandarin" -- increasing evidence that the film universes of these franchises exist in their own parallel universes apart from the "real" continuity in their source material.

Primates by Jim Ottaviani (words) and Maris Wicks (pictures) (First Second)
Primates Well, if I ever wind up teaching a science class, I think I will populate the syllabus with Jim Ottaviani's work. I was a fan of his writing in Feynman, also from First Second (and which made my "ten best" list that year), and here he takes on the trio known as "Leakey's Angels," back in the Mad Men era -- those three accomplished primatologists, none "classically trained," each initially funded by famed archaeologist Louis Leakey: Jane Goodall (now "Dame"), with her studies of chimps, Dian Fossey and her observations of -- and love for -- gorillas, and Birute Galdikas, and her pioneering observations of orangutans. Maris Wicks' playful artwork does justice both to these environmental pioneers, and to all our endangered cousins, who these women studied, watched, and advocated for. And in Fossey's case, died for -- though the details of her death are understandably glossed over somewhat, as the book is intended for younger readers. But it's a great overview of science, environmental studies, and larger than life characters (the three "angels," and Leakey himself). Ottiviani admits he took a "docudrama" approach to compress timelines and bring characters together when and where they might not have been. But I found the thing entirely captivating, and it made me start looking up more background on on these "fearless" scientists (as they are called in the subtitle). And what better for a science-based work than to make you ever more curious about the world around you?

Genius by Steven T. Seagle (words) and Teddy Kristiansen (pictures) (First Second)
Genius We have a double-header from First Second this column, but each book could almost be from different publishers. The imprint branches out from its expected "graphic albums for young people" mission, for an adult-themed tale about the elusive properties of genius, love, and the universe itself. Indeed, it kept reminding me of the underrated 80's-era Nicolas Roeg film Insignificance, which postulated a meeting between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein one sultry NY night. This tale is present-tense, and involves a child genius grown to alienated middle age, who is haunted by the fact that Einstein's greatest insights and discoveries were all made in evanescent youth. He perceives his chance at redemption coming from a secret that his cantankerous father-in-law may hold, from a time when he was guarding Einstein during WW II. Seagle, known for the Superman contemplation "It's a Bird," pairs well with Kristiansen's enigmatic artwork, implying layers of reality just out of reach. Both Insignificance, and Genius, end with visions of apocalypse. But Genius continues a little further, and gives us -- and the characters -- a shot at redemption, too. One likes to think even a haunted Albert Einstein would approve.

Modo Go-Go

Modo: Ember's End
Modo: Ember's End
Modo: Ember's End
Modo: Ember's End
Modo: Ember's End
( Modo: Ember's End
Modo: Ember's End
One of the great things about being a writer -- struggles with the muse aside -- is that you get to meet and to know other writers, most of whom turn out to be interesting folk. (Whether the reverse applies to your humble correspondent is not, I suppose, for me to say!) One such pal is Art Slade, though we've never met in person. We know each other through various online writer communities, and Canadian-based Art and California-based me have yet to cross paths in person.

But we do catch up virtually, and I was interested when he was adding to his already prodigious prose output -- including books like Dust, and the series The Hunchback Assignments -- by announcing a crowdfunding initiative for a new graphic novel. Indeed, this one is drawn from the world of Hunchback Assignments, and since we're in interview mode this spring at NG central, and since successful crowdfunding campaigns can hopefully teach the rest of us a couple things in terms of advocating -- and launching! -- our own work, I thought some Q&A would be in order.

The interview was virtual, too. Art's still in Canada and I'm still in California, and we have yet to grab that cup of coffee in person, but here's what he had to say about Modo: Ember's End, and the campaign around it.

A lot of creators consider "Kickstarting" their graphic novel campaigns the way to go now. Since you had an established literary property, what compelled you to take this same route?

Honestly, it was curiosity. I had watched several other creators use crowd funding effectively and I wondered what my "reach" would be, so to speak. I did publish a comic book series several years ago, so I also liked the idea of taking the helm (gee... that makes me sound like Captain Kirk). So I knew all about the muck work of self-publishing and was ready to try it again.

Of course, you didn't actually "Kickstart," but "IndieGo-Go'd." Talk about the differences, and any particular plusses/minuses that might exist for either route?

The biggest impediment to using Kickstarter was that I'm Canadian and only people in the UK and US can use the site right now. So I either had to find an American partner or use Indiegogo (which is open to the world). So in that sense it was an easy decision. One of the attractive things about Indiegogo is that they have flex funding as an option. That means that even if you don't make your goal, you get to keep the money. On Kickstarter it's all or nothing. Since I intended to finance whatever remained of our funding goal, Indiegogo was the funding path I chose. I do wish I could have tried both at the same time. There are a lot more comic projects on Kickstarter, so more of an audience gravitates there to purchase comics. But on Indiegogo we were big fish in a smaller pond, so we were always in the top five comic projects while our campaign was active.

What steps would you recommend for creators to get their "pitches" ready -- i.e., how much concept art, videotaping, etc., in advance, before launching the fund drive?

People want to see the work. So you at least need to have finished character designs and, ideally, one page of the artwork (though we didn't get our first page up until part way into the campaign... so I don't even follow my own rules). Your pitch video should be perfect and ready to go on launch day. You want to have enough up to tantalize people and show them that you know what you're doing. They don't expect to see everything. It is also helpful to have a version of the cover, even if it's a mock up. It helps people visualize what the project will look like -- what it is they are actually getting. Don't press Go until you have everything perfect. But hold a few things back to add as the campaign continues. People like to see new things.

Congrats on making your goal! So.... what happens now?

Now, we retreat back into our shells and keep banging away until the book is finished. The script is done, but as we move forward with the art, there are often subtle or big changes to the script. So it's a constant back and forth. Right now Chris Steininger (the artist) is inking all of the pages and sending them to me. I do a mock up version of the lettering to get an impression of how everything will be laid out (another chance to edit!). Then send that back to Chris. He will colour everything and do the "real" lettering. Then, just like that, it'll be done. Well... several months later.

Do "traditional" publishing outlets start to take notice after a successful campaign like this? If said campaign is successful, is there still a compelling reason to talk to them?

My intention is to shop the book around to publishers after we have put out our collector's version. I don't know that they've noticed the actual campaign though. Essentially we have only tapped a small part of the market and a softcover version of the book could easily be sold to a much larger audience. Because the whole idea of crowd fundraising is to pay before the object is created, which opposite of the modus operandi of most schools and libraries. They need to see the book. Then buy it! So it's a relatively untapped market. The version we have created will still remain the collector's item that people were paying for. And the mass produced version will get the story to other readers. At least that's the plan. We'll cross our fingers that it all works out.

Anything else?

As far as other things to mention, nothing comest to mind. Though perhaps mention that the campaign is never over. We have a smaller campaign on Kapipal, a crowd fundraising website, in order to pick up those last few orders, because not everyone gets on the ship at once: www.kapipal.com/modographicnovel But once we go to print... we'll officially be done the preselling. And on to the "real" selling!

The real selling indeed! Thanks, Art! With a summer saturated by superheroes in the cinema -- see sidebar! -- one wonders how the Golden and Silver Ages would have been affected had there been crowdfunding for comics projects then. Would the branching out beyond superheroes have started sooner? It's angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff (and/or "counter-history") but it will be interesting to see what happens going forward. Of course, we've also gotten wind of traditional publishers using crowdfunding to get projects going, as well, so the landscape will keep reconfiguring. And we'll try to keep helping you get it figured out, here at Nexus Graphica!

'Til next time!

Copyright © 2013 Mark London Williams

Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series, and info on his work can be found at marklondonwilliams.com. The first "Danger Boy" books is still a free download, and a horror novella, for ostensibly "grown up" readers, is due out imminently. Details to follow in this space. Mark gets Twittery @mlondonwmz.


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