Interview: Paul Jenkins Talks Fiction Squad and Kickstarter

Ficition_Squad_001_Cover_BachsCrowdfunding has changed the comics landscape, in a way democratizing what gets published, with funders voting with their wallets. While numerous new creators are taking advantage, many well established ones are too, like Paul Jenkins. Jenkins really came on the scene in the mid 90’s with a run on Vertigo’s Hellblazer, and since then has penned some of the most iconic characters out there.

In 2012, he turned to Kickstarter, with artist Humberto Ramos, to launch Fairy Quest, a new series featuring some of the most well known fairy tale characters re-imagined in a whole new way. Almost two years to the day since that first project was funded Jenkins is back with his fourth Kickstater project, Fiction Squad, the third to featured the world of Fablewood.

Like the first two Fairy Quest volumes, Fiction Squad will be licensed by BOOM! Studios, once it’s all funded, and the publisher will produce it for the mass market… but, the Kickstarter project features numerous rewards for backers that you can only get there.

We got a chance to talk to Paul about the new series, Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general. You can also see some of the interior art below!

Graphic Policy: So this is your third Kickstarter involving the Fairy Quest world, but your fourth overall. What is it about Kickstarter that first drew you to it?

Paul Jenkins: Kickstarter is a very honest form of publishing, I suppose. It revolves around readers and fans getting behind a particular project. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to find. I have found a ton of really interesting stuff there, and now I am starting to cast my net into the gadgets area, where I can back really cool ideas and inventions. Sometimes, I want the cool loot. Sometimes, I just want to help. It’s a very unique environment.

GP: Do you think this will become a regular part of your creator owned projects?

PJ: Yes, probably. I like the fact that I can communicate directly with the audience as the project is being created. It’s a kind of shared experience that is difficult to replicate elsewhere. If you have never tried backing a Kickstarter you should consider it. It’s fun. You feel like some kind of benign overlord, like a rich billionaire overlord (results may vary).

GP: What lessons have you learned over your three previous ones?

PJ: Lesson #1 is about fulfillment. It is difficult, and stressful. We had shipping issues with the first Fairy Quest and I think I gave birth to multiple kittens. Keeping the fans entertained and informed is also a must.

GP: Part of the process is staying in touch with the funders while the fundraising is being done as well as after until the project is delivered. Does this weigh in how you approach putting everything together, knowing you need to keep folks updated?

PJ: Yes, I think so. I mean, the design of the project is very difficult, and it is a fragile environment. I have sometimes added a pledge category, only to realize that addition was a terrible idea. On other occasions I have added something that I didn’t think was a good idea and it went out of the door like there was no tomorrow. People like limited edition stuff, I can tell you that! Some of it we try to predict, and other times we are flying by the seat of our pants after the landing gear has fallen off! It’s nuts.

FictionSquad_01_Cover_Dialynas_CLRGP: So tell us a little about Fablewood, how did you first come up with this world?

PJ: Fablewood actually began life years ago as I was developing IP and ideas for my creator-owned stuff. It is a huge, uncharted forest where all of the stories that have ever been told live near each other, divided by genre borders. The various genres are divided into Realms. The thing I love about this idea is that I can tell a story about a character from one genre trying to interact with characters from a different genre. Fablewood has endless possibilities. The first Fablewood story was actually created as a separate idea by myself and Humberto – Fairy Quest. It’s the story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf becoming friends and trying to live together outside of their Realm. But in fact, Fiction Squad was the original Fablewood idea.

GP: Remixing and mashing up classic characters in new ways has been very popular over the last decade or so, what did you do to make sure yours stood out from the pack?

PJ: I guess it is all in the implementation. I mean, there are lots of Zombie ideas but only one Walking Dead. I think the uniqueness lies in the potential of taking a character from, say, a song and having them deal with characters from science fiction. How would a horror character interact with a romance character? How would an elf make out in the world of Sherlock Holmes? Like I said: endless possibilities…

GP: How does Fiction Squad fit into the Fablewood world?

PJ: It’s set in the Realm of Children’s Stories, in a city where all of the nursery rhymes live. Our main character, a failed gumshoe detective named Frankie Mack has left the Crime Realm to work here, only to find out children’s characters are all mildly insane. His usual rules do not apply.  The Queens and the Witches are the Mafia, and the mayor is a Crooked Man. It’s all completely mental, and police procedure is optional. So in a way it is a comedy of errors with insane people at the helm.

GP: You’re working with Ramon Bachs on this volume. How did he come on board?

PJ: I asked him because he is amazing, talented, humble, and a really good person. He can flit between many art styles, and he delivers work so quickly and well.

GP: How did the project come to BOOM!?

PJ: Uhm. They asked me. And I love working with those guys, of course. So I said, “Yes, as long as you deliver a fresh aardvark to my door every Tuesday.” They agreed to those terms. I’m beginning to think I got the raw end of the deal as my house is overrun with aardvarks.

GP: This series is scheduled to be six issues, where the first volume of Fairy Quest was just two. What got you to want to expand the series into a longer narrative?

PJ: Well, to be fair Fairy Quest is also six issues, divided into three hardcover books. Fiction Squad is all six of the issues in one massive volume. Which is awesomeness, I feel, considering that readers can immediately get the entire collection for pretty much the same price as one volume of Fairy Quest.

GP: The description of it, it sounds like a good ole mob story. What are some of the classic tales of that genre that might be influencing this one or you consider your favorites?

PJ: I always wonder about influences but I can never really pin them down, it’s strange. I guess Roger Rabbit is an obvious comparison – a gumshoe trying to make sense of crazy cartoon characters. Obviously, any old Marlowe novel fits the bill. But I sometimes struggle to decide where influences may come from, and my usual answer is, “Real life.”

GP: What is it about the noir genre that got you to want to take a shot at that type of story?

PJ: Noir is misunderstood, in my opinion. I think noir is about fatalism, and Fiction Squad is not necessarily about that. It has a fatalistic style of narrative from Frankie, maybe. I would consider Fiction Squad to be more of a mixing of metaphors.

GP: How do you think crowdfunding has changed the comics landscape?

PJ: Changed in the past tense is a little premature. I think it is slowly changing things, and is about to grow and change a lot more. It affords creative freedom to people like myself. But it’s a difficult thing to organize. Let me get back to you on that one in a few years’ time…

GP: What advice would you have with someone going the crowdfunding route?

PJ: Be honest, be transparent, and always wear clean underwear. Not necessarily in that order.

GP: Thanks so much! For folks interested, you can contribute right now! Check out some of the interior art below.