True North Strong and Free 2: Canadian Corps, An Interview With Rod Salm

There’s four days left in the Canadian Corps Kickstarter, and while they’ve funded, they’re also very close to hitting one more stretch goal. Rod Salm, letterer for Canadian Corps, took a stab at some of my questions too. Here are his replies.

CG: What ís the first comic you remember buying?

RS: Uncanny X-men 141 when it first hit the shelves. That was the first comic in the Days of Future Past series written by Chris Claremont. Comic selection in Churchill, Mb, back then was pretty limited so there was no guarantee the next issue would ever show up or how many (my brother tended to scoop up any cool comics before me, the ratter) and with no comic book stores it was a pretty scattered affair collecting comics back then. It was so different than everything else on the shelves but it was months before another X-Men title came in so I was left hanging on for a very long time to find out what happened next. Epilogue: I was lucky enough to have met Chris Claremont and his wife at a convention and had him sign that very book.

CG: (As an aside, Days of Future Past is one of my favourite X-Men stories, and it introduced one of my favourite characters, Rachel Summers/Rachel Grey! Good choice.)

CG: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?

RS: I’ve always been a creator (art or writing) of some sort, it’s only recently, with Andrew prodding me, to take it to the next step and work on a group project with him and this crew to get into comic storytelling.

CG: What is the appeal of superhero comics for you?

RS: They are epic! All the skills for lettering are needed in graphic design layout  but what’s more exciting: super powered individuals battling an alien invasions or selling a furniture. I’ll let you decide.

CG: What aspect of the book are you most proud of?

RS: Andrew, as well as writing a top notch story, has assembled a team of really talented people to pull it off. We feed off each other and are pushing to make this a book of the highest standard. From lettering, to colour, to the pencils and more, we’re all contributing our best work.

CG: Is Canadian Corps part of a larger, shared universe?

RS: I hope so! I was inspired by the drafts of the script I saw that I wrote a character within it, Tundra, that I hope I can work with Andrew in getting published.

CG: What makes a Canadian superhero different from the superheroes south of the border?

RS: Geography. Canada is really, really big. For a superhero to be effective they have to have a way to transverse this vast expanse. We can’t write one mega-city where all the action takes place because that’s just not Canada. The country has to be taken into consideration in any storyline involving a Canadian superhero. American comics may move locations, but in Canadian comics the location is fundamental to the storytelling aspect.

CG: What’s next for you?

RS: I’ll be getting my webcomic back up and running, www.deathatyourdoor.com, and working on more books with Andrew as well as searching for concept artists for Tundra.

CG: Thanks for stopping by, Rod! Good luck!

True North Strong And Free: The Canadian Corps, An Interview With Andrew Lorenz

I love me a good Kickstarter campaign and the Canadian Corps is one I’ve been following with interest.

I’ve been reading comics as long as I’ve been reading, and have had a soft spot for another group of Canadian heroes named Alpha Flight for a lot of that time. Which meant I am stoked to see what Canadian Corps does with our national archetypes.

Big thanks to Andrew Lorenz, writer of Canadian Corps for agreeing to answer a few questions.

CG: What’s the first comic you remember buying?

AL: The first comic book I remember buying is Web of Spider-Man #4. Picked it up from the campground shop at White Lake in the Whiteshell. I recall it very clearly because I had to make a choice between that or a Batman/Superman Brave and the Bold issue. Spider-Man was always my first choice back then because of the 60s cartoon I used to watch reruns of on TV as a kid. Superman was runner-up.

CG: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?

AL: I think pretty much anyone who’s ever read comics has at one point thought about making them. I remember coming up with stories when I was in elementary school and writing some short stories in junior high that were comic book-like. For so long though it never seemed a viable option- you really only had DC and Marvel until the last 15 years and getting into those companies pretty much required knowing someone or living where they were located.

The Internet changed all that.

Suddenly you were able to talk to other creators from all over the world. You were able to find different avenues to showcase and sell and distribute your work. You could self-publish. That was something I had never even considered until I saw the work done by people like A.P Fuchs, a local writer whose Axiom-man books were a big influence on me. As was Charlie McElvy’s WatchGuard Sourcebook- in him I saw another creator who’d come up with a bunch of characters and stories that finally took the step and did something with them.

But really it was running into some super supportive co-workers when I’d picked up a part time gas jockey job to help out the manager (who’s a friend of mine) that needed some reliable help and a chance at some easy extra money. Somehow or another it came out that I had come up with these characters and had these stories and the three of them- Michael, Mike T. and Cassandra (who is now my lovely lady friend) were ridiculously encouraging and excited about the ideas I had. To the point that they would let me work on developing characters and storylines while on-shift and they’d pick up the bulk of the work if I was “in the zone”. I can’t thank them enough for their support and nagging at me until I did something with it. Michael was actually the one who put us over the funded amount for the Canadian Corps Kickstarter; that’s how awesome they are.

CG: What is the appeal of superhero comics for you?

AL: What ISN’T the appeal? Action, adventure, drama, quiet character moments, cool costumes, evil villains, awesome powers and the fact that you can tell ANY genre of story WITH superheroes! You can tell horror stories, sci fi, set stuff in the 1930s, whenever wherever.

A lot of people have knocked superhero comics over the years but I just point out the success of TV shows like Flash or cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series as proof that you can tell a great superhero story and people will love it.

CG: How’d you assemble the creative team for the book?

AL: Magic.

Hahaha! Sometimes it certainly feels that way, anyhow. I’ve said it several times but I really could not have asked fro a better group to work with on this book. I met Justin at Winnipeg’s C4 Comic Con- I was familiar with his work doing the covers of Axiom-man and when I saw some more of his work I knew I wanted to work with him. The plan had always been to do an all-Canadian superhero book with all-Canadian creators.

There are a TON of talented Canadian comic book creators out there but you never really hear of their citizenship; which is sort of how Canadians are in general- we don’t advertise it unless we’re talking hockey. I wanted something that embraced that. We’re awesome people, we’ve got a cool country- you can go all over the world and find people that think well of us, so why can’t we buy into that ourselves? But I digress.

I’d met Rod the following spring after running across HIS Kickstarter for Death At Your Door, an awesome web-comic and got the chance to meet him at a small con not long after. Rod was a super great guy but at the time I hadn’t thought about working with him on anything- he had his stuff and I had mine.

Donovan was someone who Justin introduced me to- they’d known each other for some time and Justin was convinced he was the guy who should colour the book. It took me probably about 5 minutes of finally sitting down for some one-on-one with Donovan to know he was the guy.

So we had pencils, inks and colour down. Only lettering was left and I KNEW it had to be Rod. I didn’t even know if he’d be interested in doing that kind of work, or even if his services were for hire, but I’d made up my mind. Luckily, Rod, like Justin and Donovan, was too nice to say no.

CG: What’s the secret origin of the Canadian Corps? Why this book, and why now?

AL: I’ve always wanted to do a Canada-based comic book and I’m a big fan of team books as a reader. Also as a writer- it’s much easier having a group of characters to riff of each other than a solo book. I’ve been working on LEGACY for a couple years and last year I introduced a second S17 title, New Guard. My plan when I started was to bring in a new title every year- this is Canadian Corps’ year.

When I did my first Free Comic Book Day tabling, I realized that I really needed to get out something that would appeal to the varied groups that were coming in and checking out the comics. Before it became a bandwagon thing, I really believed that comics should be for everyone- I don’t understand how people DON’T like comics but I can see how it can be hard for everyone to find something they like. Hopefully this will fill that spot for some people.

Originally it wasn’t going to be an all-ages sort of book but with all of the creative team having kids, I understood how much it meant to them to have something they could show and share with them. To that end I tried to tone down the language without dumbing it down- not that my books have a bunch of swearing but I always believed that dialogue should reflect how people really talk. And not dumbing it down was important to me- I’ve never talked down to my kids and I honestly believe that if you talk to kids like they’re just short adults, you get further and they respect that. No one wants to be looked down on. Not to mention I wanted it to be fun for adults to read.

CG: What aspect of the book are you most proud of?

AL: The response from people. From the creative team to the people who have checked out the Facebook page or stopped by our tables at the various cons we’ve previewed stuff at. And we haven’t really showed that much but the response has been hands-down the best I’ve ever had for a book. Justin and Donovan have said the same. People are thrilled about the characters- from Warrant’s mustache to their being a First Nations/Native American member to how cool and powerful Shieldmaiden looks. When I got together with Donovan and Justin a month or so back they all said the same thing I had been thinking- Why didn’t we do this book sooner?

CG: Is Canadian Corps part of a larger, shared universe?

AL: It is indeed. All of the September17 Productions (S17) books take place in a shared universe- LEGACY, New Guard or the up-coming Troubleshooters (with Eryck Webb) or The Sentries (with Andre Siregar of LEGACY #2-4), they’re all in the same world. That being said, you do not NEED to read all the books (but you should! they’re great!) to follow what’s going on but if you DO, they are some neat Easter Eggs that carry through them; guest appearances too! I’ve always enjoyed stuff that was linked together despite separate stories- whether Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels or the shared univereses of DC and Marvel.

CG: What makes a Canadian superhero different from the superheroes south of the border?

AL: They fight cybernetically enhanced polar bears armed with hockey sticks and fueled by double doubles from Tim Hortons?

Traditionally Canadian heroes in comics have been kind of a joke compared to American superheroes, or at least have generally been perceived as such. With Canadian Corps I wanted to change that.

It might sound kind of weird, because I SHOULD say they’re COMPLETELY different but at the end of the day they kind of are NOT. Which was one of things I wanted to go for. Don’t get me wrong- there’s TONS of Canadian flavor in here (because I want to celebrate what makes Canada great) but I wanted to make them just as good as any other heroes from anywhere else. Too often Canadian superheroes end up being the butt of a lot of jokes (What do you fight cyber-polar bears with hockey sticks or something? Seriously I may write this now…) and I wanted to make it clear that Canadians kick ass as much as any other country, if not more.

Having a Canadian flavor was something that was important though- the first book takes us from the streets of Calgary to the far north of Nunavut. Further volumes will have stories involving Canadian cities and ideas that reflect the various cultures and histories that make up our fine country.

CG: What’s next for September17 Productions?

AL: Some days it feels like what ISN’T next for us! Haha!

Canadian Corps #2 (the second half of the collected edition) is up next for the art crew when they wrap up a couple of their own projects. New Guard #2 has been completed for pencils, inks and lettering- colouring is 2/3 done. After that Kenan will be heading straight into LEGACY #7 (#6 comes out at the end of this month!) after he’s done.

The Sentries (#1-3) is my big summer blockbuster story that will really open up the universe of S17 and introduce even more aspects of the world that we are creating through the books. Sentries #1 comes straight out of LEGACY #6 but, as with all the other books, it has a story that is its own thing. The high concept might be something like Avengers meets Pacific Rim meets Star Wars. But different. And better.

Troubleshooters is a book I’m doing with Eryck Webb, an artist I’ve been wanting to work with for a couple years now- I had originally approached HIM to do New Guard but luckily he was too busy at the time and I found Kenan. If he’d been able to do the book I would’ve missed out on working with Kenan and that would’ve sucked because he’s a great collaborator.  That being said, I wasn’t about to give up on doing a book with Eryck and I’m stoked to have him on Troubleshooters. Much like The Sentries, Troubleshooters will open up more aspects of the S17 Universe while still being its own creature. If you liked the TV show Fringe or the comic book series The Authority/Stormwatch, this book will be your kind of thing.

Character handbooks are slowly in the works- I had wanted to do something along the lines of Marvel’s Handbooks but I’ve started leaning towards a complete S17 Universe Encyclopedia, but we’ll see. Still plenty of work to be done there- over 300 characters to write-up. Also we’re looking at turning those write-ups into a role-playing game sourcebook so there will be that to do as well. Luckily I have a gaming expert to help me out there in the form of DT Butchino who regularly releases his own wicked characters in a series called Acts of Villainy for the Mutants and Masterminds system. There are few, if any, systems he isn’t familiar with though- like I said, he’s an expert.

Besides all the comic book stuff I’m also working on a few novels in my spare time and will be looking to put in a bunch of time on those in the new year. My game plan is to write the next year’s worth of S17 comic book scripts by December so I can concentrate on the novels next year. The novels I’m working on are: Return to Grenfell (my first stab at a Fantasy novel), Formerly Known As the Indestructible Kid (about a former teen superhero sidekick turned private detective) and Innocents Lost (planned to be the first of the Steven Kincaid mystery series). At some point I’ll be doing a novel adaptation of the LEGACY #10-12 story arc and that will be called LEGACY: The Storm.

I’ve got a few other things that I’d like to do as well but it’s a matter of fleshing the ideas out a bit more and finding the time.

And that’s that! Thanks again for doing this, sir!

CG: You’re very welcome, good luck with the rest of your Kickstarter!

Awesome Crowdfunding Roundup

I’ve become more than a little addicted to supporting crowdfunding projects. Here’s a few of my more recent trophies. I tend to lean heavily towards books and roleplaying games, to the exact surprise of nobody. Lots of ebook editions that can’t be shown too, although I suppose I could’ve thrown my Kobo in the picture…

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I realized that a few of my friends have projects going on at the same time, and so I thought I’d give them a shout out. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been and will be supporting.

You might remember Scott Henderson from this awesome Thunder Road illustration:

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Scott is trying to fund his epic fantasy graphic novel, The Chronicles of Era.

Book I of The Chronicles of Era: Whispers of Redemption will introduce readers to a world where mankind made for himself a paradise fit for gods. Mankind lived in the City of Heaven for two thousand years before The Adversary destroyed paradise and returned humanity to a harsh and brutal world. The survivors rebuilt their civilization, but their history was reduced to myths and legends. Hundreds of years later, three youths—Seth, Sidrich and Caitleth—are caught between the struggles of a great empire and the scattered rural clans struggling to maintain their way of life.

All the while, secret forces are edging closer to awakening the Gifted Ones and reopen the gates of paradise…

It looks phenomenal.

Chronicles of Era

Clare C. Marshall is trying to fund her next book: The Silver Spear, a sequel to The Violet Fox.

Clare has written a couple of guest blogs for my site, one on Writing the Bad Guy, and the other on The Creation of Marlenia, the World of the Violet Fox. Clare was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Canadian Self-Publishing Award in the Young Adult category. Go, Clare!

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Cool anthology alert!

My friends Erika Holt and Andrew Romine have stories in this anthology Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging, edited by Nayad Monroe. This anthology also has a story by Jennifer Brozek who was the editor of my Steampunk story, “A Taste of the Other Side.” Not Our Kind already has a great ToC, and if it hits its stretch goal, there will be an open call for two more stories to fill out the collection.

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EDGE Publications will be publishing nEvermore if it reaches it’s goal. This is a Poe-inspired anthology edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles. There’s no open reading period on this one, but it looks cool for readers. And October is the perfect time to be thinking of Poe.

I asked some friends what they’re currently supporting, and here’s what I heard:

Perry Grosshans, General Manager for THIN AIR and an editor for Rite Publications recommends: Age of Conan Strategy Game.

My friend Ashley, aka author Sierra Dean, recommends: The Black Glove.

There’s also Patreon, which a few friends have taken to. Patreon is a digital patronage system that allows creators to be paid for their work.

On Spec has been publishing Canadian Speculative Fiction for thirty years. They published my first short story, and recently published a Thunder Road ‘verse story. They’re also really fine folks.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an editor and publisher at Innsmouth Free Press. She’s also a damn fine author. Her debut short story collection, This Strange Way of Dying, was one of my favourite books of 2013.

Bundoran Press is a fine purveyor of Canadian science fiction that has garnered a lot of awards notices in its eight years of publishing. If you like smart, thoughtful SF (and who doesn’t?), they’re definitely worth your time.

What’s getting your backer dollars these days?

Write on!

 

An Interview with M.K. Hobson

Here’s my promised follow-up interview with M.K. Hobson about the Kickstarter Project for her third novel, THE WARLOCK’S CURSE. In my years as a bookseller and writer I’ve interviewed over thirty writers, occasionally as a paying gig, but usually because of the simple reason that I loved their work. Mary is the first author I’ve reconnected with for a second interview (another first, her Kickstarter was the first one I ever backed!).

Enjoy!

CG: What encouraged you to give Kickstarter a try?

MKH: It’s very simple. Spectra didn’t want to continue my Veneficas Americana historical fantasy series and I did. I’ve got a very strong vision for this series, and since I managed to build some good momentum with the first two books, I thought THE WARLOCK’S CURSE was a prime candidate for testing the “new publishing” waters. Additionally, the book was almost complete by the time Spectra passed on it, and I was quite excited about the work I’d done, and I wanted to share it with readers (and because I’m ornery as a mule) I decided that’s what I would do.

CG: How’s the early response been to your project?

MKH: Very encouraging! We reached 40% of the funding goal within the first couple of days, and we’re getting close to 50% at the time of this writing. The funding velocity has, of course, slowed, but that’s par for the course. My expectation is that it’ll pick up again as we approach the finish line. I think backers get what we’re trying to do, and that’s to publish a book that objectively meets or exceeds every quality standard of a book published through traditional channels. That means professional cover art, editorial, copyediting, and publicity—all paid for at non-discounted industry-standard rates. In some ways, I’m testing this new model to see where it fails. Because where it fails (if it fails) is where we will find the answer to the commonly-asked question: “What do we need traditional publishers for, anyway?”  And if it doesn’t fail … well, we will be able to draw some interesting conclusions from that, won’t we?

CG: THE WARLOCK’S CURSE begins another duology in your Venficas Americana series, what is it about a two book arc that appeals to you over a standalone novel or a trilogy?

MKH: A duology gives me the right amount of space to tell the story I want and provides a nice symmetrical dramatic structure. You can build to a good nail-biting cliffhanger, send everyone out for refreshments during intermission, then bring things to a thundering climax in Book 2. Trilogies, in all honesty, creep me out. That middle book … what is that? It’s not the beginning, it’s not the end, it’s just … the middle. And stand-alone novels … well, clearly, I’m far too wordy for those.

CG: THE WARLOCK’S CURSE features Dreadnought and Emily’s son, why keep the series in the family for the third and fourth books?

MKH: From the get-go, I’ve imagined this as a multigenerational family saga. I am fascinated by family histories, how the triumphs and tragedies of each generation indelibly mark the next. I also have this funny concept that will begin to play out in the next two books—as we progress onward through the series, the characters we loved as heroes in the past books will inevitably form the core of whatever “shadowy cabal” the characters in the present book are striving against. The parents always think they know best, and the children are always out to prove them wrong. I think that’s a pretty true-to-life family dynamic, don’t you?

CG: You’ve continued your story through the generations, how far would you take it forward if you could? Could readers expect a futuristic, SFnal take on credomancy?

MKH: Absolutely! I’ve plotted duologies going forward in time through to the present day … but what the “present day” will be by the time I catch up to it is really anyone’s guess. Once I catch up to that “present,” it’ll surely be a hoot to see where I can take it from there.

CG: What was the most interesting thing you learned about the time period of THE WARLOCK’S CURSE?

MKH: I was astonished by how much disparity there was between the theoretical and the techological. By 1910, Einstein’s “annus mirabilis” was already five years in the past … and the “birth” of quantum physics came five years before that, with the debut of Planck’s constant at a meeting of the German Physical Society in 1900. But twelve years later, Americans were still hand-cranking their gasoline automobiles—electric starters didn’t first appear until 1912. That boggles me. The scientists had quantum physics figured out, but you couldn’t start a damn car without breaking your arm?

CG: Aside from the obvious addition of magic, were there any points where you deviated from history to serve your story?

MKH: In these next two books, I had to struggle a lot more with the problem of “breaking history.” Some of the quasi-magical/pseudo-technological advances I’ve put into this book make 1910 America feel a lot more like 1920s America. This is mostly because I felt compelled to avenge history’s more egregious sins against the sainted Nikola Tesla. As a result, there’s a form of “radio” in 1910 (though it’s delivered by Tesla’s World Wireless System, and is played on “Teslaphones”) and I consigned Edison to moving picture-moguldom, which is exactly where that slimy bounder belongs. It’s all very satisfying fictionally, but historically, it opens several cans of rather slippery worms. I had to fight to keep the cool technology from getting too advanced, because I have to leave places for myself to go in the next books. If the 1930s starts looking like the 1950s, and the 1950s starts looking like the 1980s, then we’ve got Nagel posters hanging on J. Edgar Hoover’s office walls, and no one wants that.

CG: As a sartorial aside, do you have a preference for the clothes of either time period of your two series?

MKH: The 1870s will always be one of my favorite eras, because the style is so decadent and sumptuous. The 1910s are much more restrained—slightly dull, even. But when you set the two eras side by side, you begin to see how truly revolutionary the simplicity of the 1900s was. It’s hard, from the vantage point of today, to appreciate how very different and fresh the fashions were. But when you stand in the 1870s and look *forward* … it’s much easier to see, and much more impressive.