Last week, I reviewed Faithless #1 by Jim Vargas. Vargas currently has the project up at Kickstarter and looking to raise money to get the first issue published. This week, I got the opportunity to ask him some questions about his project, some of the past work he’s done, and his influences. Let’s see what he had to say.
ACB: I see you have played a part in the Reading With Pictures book. Have you traveled with the other creators to the different conventions? What’s been the response on the slightly more educational side of comic books?
Jim Vargas: I didn’t personally travel with the creators, but all those involved in the project were more than welcome to have the book for sale and on display at their convention tables. I believe the responses have been great. So much so there are two follow up volumes in the works.
ACB: As a kid, I don’t remember too many libraries, or other organizations, wanting to acknowledge comics as a literary form all that often. They didn’t so much hate them, just not feature them as events at their branches. Do you get a sense that bringing something like Reading With Pictures to youngsters help kids, not just to find joy in reading something, but to also discover comics in a brand new way?
Vargas: What the project’s founder Josh Elder has done has been very important in helping children with literacy in a fun and learned way. The stories are interesting enough to keep a child’s attention but also informative enough to teach them important life lessons. Along with making it fun for kids, the project also is creating a new market for comic books to thrive in. I was very fortunate and honored to have been able to use my colorist skills to help the project.
ACB: Are all the creators on the Reading With Pictures project from the Chicago area or is it a little more branched out than that?
Vargas: Oh no. There were many talented people, in all sorts of artistic media, involved with the project from all around the country.
ACB: Let’s shift focus to your new project, Faithless. I read you’ve been working on the project and developing it for a few years now. What were some of your main inspirations for the story?
Vargas: Well let’s see if I could sum this up without going overboard with the details. I tend to do that. One very important inspiration would be that of the Batman. I grew up watching the Tim Burton Batman films. I used to stay up late at night and watch them until I fell asleep. It wasn’t until I got a little older and began to read the comics that I got really into the story and character. I really enjoyed the introspective aspect of the comics, as Batman would narrate to the reader as he would use his amazing detective skills to solve crimes and stop his villains. Plus he had the endless will power to never give up. Those were some of the things I tried to build into the main character of Faithless, Alish Karr. Another inspiration was Spawn. In my early twenties I got into the comic. I have always found stories with dark, gritty, ominous narratives interesting. Plus stories that play from the worlds various religions and mythologies have always kept my attention. The last big inspiration I feel to mention would be that of the X-Files. At about the third season of the show I was drawn in. I was deeply inspired by the mythology and deep levels of conspiracy that ran throughout the show. It was something that would keep the viewer drawn in and thinking.
ACB: Speaking of Faithless’ lead character, Alish Karr, she seems to be quite mysterious at times. We see her in situations that we don’t have a full explanation of quite yet and a lot of hints to things that may yet come. Was it difficult putting this character in a story and giving readers a tease instead of just laying it all out for us in the first issue? In other words, how often did you have to tell yourself to pull back a bit and let some things play out over time?
Vargas: Oh yes. I had to pull back quite a bit. There is so much that goes into her origins and future. Several times as I wrote it the first issue out I would catch myself revealing a little too much. Which took some discipline on my part because I already have her highly detailed origins all mapped out in my head. I really tried to reveal just enough to keep the reader wondering and wanting more.
ACB: Do you foresee Faithless being more of a run of miniseries or are you aiming for an ongoing type of schedule?
Vargas: I see it as being more of a long term story with a short term run, in a monthly semi monthly schedule. I mean this in the sense that I would like the storylines developed to go on for a while even a few years, but it will be finite. I have the ending of her story already mapped out. I have always found it a sad thing when great stories and characters in comics lose their greatness by continuing on in endless loops of stale story retelling. I think the great ones are the stories that have conclusions and well thought out endings. I observed this in some of my favorite Anime such as Cowboy Bepop, Trigun, and Outlaw Star. Those stories were well thought out, kept the viewer intrigued and had the stories come to great edge of your sit conclusion, some even leaving you wanting more, but in a good way.
ACB: Looking at your Kickstarter campaign, you’ve got a lot of really cool incentives and products that look to be in the beginning stages of production. What can you tell us about these items?
Vargas: One of the most important rewards I am offering is a very limited print of the first issue. It has a watercolor painted cover done by the very talented illustrator Carla Wyzgala. She was also the illustrator that had drawn out the original preview issue of Faithless. This exclusive printing will only have 200 standard issues printed. I also had put up as a reward the original painting. That was sold in the first couple hours of the campaign launch. Which just shows how popular Carla?s work is. Also there is a T shirt I am offering, which displays an image from the original preview issue. Another neat reward in the works is a re hand painted Lego mini figure of Alish Karr. I thought of this reward as just a nice little something fans could have and put on a book shelf. Plus I had grown up with Legos and thought it would be really cool seeing my character as one. The other reward in production is a very cool 1/6 figure of Alish Karr. This reward I am only making one of to add to its uniqueness. Most of the figure is comprised of various accessories I scoured the internet to find. The body is the same type used in many of the collectors edition 1/6 figures. As for her wings and metal armor they will have been made by me. With the 1/6 figure I may even throw in a 1/6 scale motorcycle, similar to the kind in the story.
ACB: As an independent creator seeking recognition on a creator-owned book, can you tell us some of the ways, aside from your Kickstarter campaign, you’ve reached out to others to get yourself, and your book, out there for others to see?
Vargas: Well one of my first methods was to have the six page preview book I mentioned earlier get printed. I sold it at the conventions for the past year. Next as I drew the first issue out I started to mention the campaign on Facebook a few months before launch. Then I got on Twitter and started to build a presence there and gain a small following. I also have done a few early test readings of the book to gauge its reception among potential fans and critics. So far I must say the reception has been positive.
ACB: Speaking of Kickstarter, it seems that’s getting more and more competitive with every passing day. What advice do you have for self starters to help their book get recognized on the site?
Vargas: I can only retell what others have told me. Put your heart into it. You really have to want it to be something truly great. You have to get the people you want to reach as excited about your project as you are. Also its super important that you believe in your project. If you do then so will others. One also needs to come up with fun and exclusive rewards. It has been said that a great video is also key. For me this was a challenge because I had never made any sort of internet videos before, I was a dinosaur compared to everyone who makes videos on the fly these days. So a while before I launched I taught myself all about video making and editing. On the social network side you have got to get on-board and start blogging about what you are doing, to friends, family and existing fans. Get to the various sites and make accounts one for yourself if you don?t have one and one for your project, like a fan page. Both Facebook and Twitter let you do these kind of things. Of course it goes without saying that you don?t want to over post and blog about your project and risk annoying and alienating people, like with anything discretion is key.
ACB: Of course, you’ve got to be a big fan of the medium. What are some of your favorite creators and stories and do either find their way into your art or stories?
Vargas: As I touched on before I am a big fan of Spawn. What Todd McFarlane started with that story left a deep impression on me. Even more so was my interest when artist Greg Capullo started to illustrate it. When I was in art school still learning my skill I would look at old issues of Spawn and seek inspiration in my own darker style of art. In regards to Batman I was hooked to the story arc Hush, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee. I’m a huge fan of both these men’s works. What I loved about the Hush story arc was the way in which we got such a deep look into Batman?s character as the hero and as the man without the mask. The other great thing about the story which also inspired me was the deep and involved conspiracy behind it all. It was what kept me anticipating every month for the next issue. This is what I strive to create in Faithless. I want the readers to get excited for the next issue!, and the next issue and the issue after that and so on and so forth.
ACB: So many think the industry is on the verge of collapse, thanks to digital media and rising costs and aging fans. But it seems that there are more people than ever interested in comics, what with the New 52 going crazy on the sales charts and Marvel’s movies selling auditoriums out. What do you think the future of comics are? Are they an industry on the edge of collapse or is it experiencing a little more of a revival?
Vargas: I think it is on a revival trend. The future of comics, I believe, is one that will mainly reside in the digital and movie markets. I believe that the printed comic will go the way of the vinyl record. In the sense that some comics will still be printed but more as a collectors item. The rest will be all digital downloads. The lucrative film market will also keep the comic industry going if it continues to produce well written films in combination with the amazing visual effects that bring all our favorite superheroes to life.
ACB: Can you give us any teases as to what’s to come for Alish? There are a lot of character designs and notes on the Kickstarter page, but who, and what, should we be looking out for in the near future?
Vargas: Oh how do I answer this one without revealing too much. There is so much to look forward to in this story. One very important character to come into the story at the end of the third issue will be Rochelle Kassin (The Scion). She is a being with tremendous magical powers and abilities. Her involvement in the story will take a reader on a wild ride while keeping them guessing as to what she is hiding. Plus this character is the link to the other universes of stories I have in the works. The story is also set to have various characters from religious mythologies and legends. A lot of what I intend the story to have, in addition to action and a rich involved underlying conspiracy, is a lot of the modern day social taboos, religious and political issues we hear about on a daily basis and those the media fails to share. All told in a manner meant to keep the reader enthralled, and maybe offer a different perspective. As the story progress we will see Alish become more and more powerful and better equipped to face her enemies all the while her greatest foe, which resides inside of her, gains more and more control.
ACB: Most of the major conventions have passed, but are you looking to hit the road with this book and/or Reading With Pictures in 2013? Where can fans find you to learn more about what you’re doing in the comics medium?
Vargas: Yes, in 2013 I am planning on touring the convention circuit with the first issue of Faithless. I am really looking forward to it. I feel that with the completed book I can really reach an audience and get momentum going for its success. I would also do more with Josh Elders Reading With Pictures if asked. Fans can keep updated on what I am up to on several sites.