The Truth Shall Set You Free in Blanco
Blanco is a 64-page black and white post-apocalyptic sword and sorcery graphic novel currently being funded through Kickstarter. Co-created by writer Marco Lopez and artist David Brame, it features lettering by DC Hopkins and is edited by Derek Ruiz.
In a post-apocalyptic future where mankind has long since been dead and Medieval Kingdoms, control their people with an iron fist. The religious rule is the order of the day and Blanco, is one of the most beloved warriors in the Kingdom of the seraph Azrael.
He and his brother Cain hunt the heretics who dare defy their father’s law. Zealots of a new apocryphal belief that is spreading across the Five Kingdoms and the Middling Lands.
When Blanco discovers a band of heretics is heading through the Outer Zone to a safe haven, they call New Eden. He decides to make an example of them, but what he finds in the Outer Zone will literally change his perception of the world he lives in.
We got to chat with the creative team about the series, its influence and the democratization of comics.
Graphic Policy: So, tell us a a bit about Blanco.
Marco Lopez: Well, not to repeat what I said in the campaign. But Blanco is about a Nephilim in the service of the Kingdom of the Seraph Azrael. And he is one of the most beloved soldiers in his father’s service and a fundamentalist who blindly follows his father’s will. But eventually, that blind faith is going to open him up to a truth that, as the old saying goes, will turn his world upside down.
David Brame: Blanco was Marco’s idea. He contacted me and I thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to put my sauce in the mix.
GP: Where did the idea come from?
ML: It’s been so long since I came up with the idea of Blanco that I don’t remember the exact details. I vaguely remember thinking about the old 70s Jack Kirby DC comics. The whole 4th world and other titles he created. I’m a huge fan of pulp storytelling. Whether it’s The Shadow or The Phantom or Conan, John Carter and Tarzan. I love the whole aesthetic. I think it mostly came from my love of Kamandi, OMAC and Hanna Barbera, and Ruby & Spears action-adventure cartoons. I also wanted to do something that was postapocalyptic where the world reverted to a past time. It doesn’t really make any sense that we’d revert back to medieval or 18th-century tech or whatnot but, I loved that about cartoons, and I wanted to do something similar. Kamandi but without the last human boy as the lead. All of man is gone, and all that’s left are humanoid animals. Or so they’re led to believe.
DB: I’ve always wanted to work together with someone who wanted to do an andro/anthro story and Marco and I vibed really well on what kinds of stories we liked to tell. We both had a love of ban Dessine and European comics. Large format, cinematic storytelling, sweeping saga-like beauty—we are blending 70s pulp sword and sorcery with contemporary euro stylization all bookended by post-apocalyptic furry content. What’s not to love.
GP: How did the team come together for this?
ML: David was the original artist back in 2010 when I first came up with Blanco but, he had to drop out because of a job opportunity. Fast forward 9 years later, and I was pitching this to publisher 133art. I think I talked to David a bit about it back then, but I don’t think either of us made the connection on the 2010 version. I mean, it had been 10 years. 133art was really high on David drawing this, and so was I, and David loved the idea, so he came on board but then 133art had to back out when they started their distribution arm. So, I talked to David about it, and we took it over to Subsume, and the rest, as they say, is history. During all this, I did find those old designs and realized David was the artist back then. I hit him up about it, and we had a good laugh about how the world is so small. It really shows you this was meant to be that 10 years later, we’re working together again on Blanco.
DB: I partied a lot back then so there is a solid decade of fuzzy memories. I vaguely remembered the Blanco project when Marco hit me up but then things clicked in place once I saw the artwork. My first thoughts were “cool idea—but we can do better” fast forward a few scribbles and doodles and chats we developed the Blanco pages we are previewing.
GP: There’s a lot of fundraising platforms out there. You originally chose Indiegogo but switched to Kickstarter. Why the change?
Marco: The main reason for the change was the political turmoil that was going on back in January. It was the main talk on social media, and unless you’re a name creator, it’s easy to get drowned out in all that talk. Also, we decided to drastically lower the goal. Our aim is just to get this book out. Get it funded. Get it out. There are other avenues after Kickstarter’s success in which we can further release the book.
Also, while I think Indiegogo has better options and is easier to set up and navigate than Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the leader of the pack here. So, it was best when relaunching to start there first. We’re not leaving IGG behind. Our plan is to either go IGG In Demand after the close of the campaign or create an IGG when we reach the goal and have it run for the remainder of the KS campaign and then have that go In Demand.
If you have two top platforms for raising funds, there is no reason to not use both. It would be idiotic to do so otherwise.
David: We agreed the timing and the platform wasn’t a great fit. So we tried again!
GP: Out of the two platforms, what are you noticing the big difference is?
Marco: For me, I think there’s a larger audience for comic books and graphic novels on Kickstarter. Though that’s rapidly changing over at IGG. It’s basically the difference between, let’s say, CGC and CBCS when it comes to who you want to go with grading your comics.
CGC is the older and more trusted brand. But that doesn’t mean you should discount CBCS. Also, I think Indiegogo tends to favor more slam-bang action-type comics. That’s not to say KS doesn’t either, but if you’re a nobody putting out that type of comics, IGG might be more for you.
David: I honestly haven’t put my finger on it. I think any quality project with good visibility can be crowdfunded on any platform. I suppose it seems to be more about luck timing and the hard work that precedes the launch as well as the deliverables. I think most people are hungry for content right now especially those in the sword and sorcery fandom and we are happy to give it to them
GP: You mention it a bit on the project page, but there is a lot of comics released, and crowdfunding platforms provide another avenue for consumers. What are your thoughts about the choice’s creators have today for their releases?
ML: Unless the only thing you want to do is write for Marvel and DC. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But you need to get your work out there and build a fanbase. And crowdfunding helps with that. Even the most popular webcomics eventually crowdfund collected print editions or merchandise. Crowdfunding is making it easier than ever to self-publish and build yourself into a force to be reckoned with. It’s not easy, of course, or everyone would be doing it. But it’s another arsenal in the distribution of stories. Especially if you can’t do it all yourself in comics.
DB: Crowdfunding is a boon for independent creators. Initially relegated to hawking your merch in sweaty artist allies and praying for the big 3 to pick you up, being an indie comic artist was a tough road. I would say with all these new accessible options for distribution, printing, and dissemination being an Indie creator now is only based on visibility. We are finding that there are niche markets and subcultures in the comics spectrum everywhere. The crowdfunding independent model has allowed us to tell a plethora of stories and we are excited Blanco gets to be apart of that.
GP: Do you think crowdfunding has democratized the comic industry in a way with consumers voting with their dollar to make projects happen?
ML: I think it has because that is always the answer to any entertainment industry. Does it sell? If the publishers don’t believe your idea or story will sell, you can prove it to them. The American comic book industry still isn’t there with the wide variety it should be publishing. Like, say Manga, or European comics. But it’s getting there, and until it does. Crowdfunding proves even the weirdest or controversial, and even old-school ideas are worthy of people’s money.
DB: Absolutely democratized. However, We are still left with the pay to play model—meaning if you have more money or resources to advertise or connect to your audience you’re likely going to have a higher success rating even within the indie world. But with that said as creators, our goal is to entertain and to craft new and interesting ways of telling stories. Blanco is for sure something that’s not a wasted vote.
GP: You describe the series as Conan with great anthropomorphic characters. Did you always want to do anthropomorphic? Were there thoughts of just using humans or some fantasy race?
ML: The characters were always going to be anthropomorphic. You can thank a childhood of Don Bluth, Rock and Rule, Disney Afternoon, and other animated films and series. It’s always been my dream to combine the aesthetic of something like those titles in a brutal adult world.
DB: For sure. As a young artist from the 80’s lots of start with Disney and Nickelodeon as our understanding of cartoonish characteristics. I’ve always wanted to make anthro work and even more after seeing what was being done with Manga, Anime, and Blacksad.
GP: With that, were there thoughts about the animals and their representation? There’s a lot of stories with anthropomorphic stories where the animals themselves have a deeper meaning.
ML: No, there isn’t really anything behind the different humanoid animal species. They’re not supposed to parallel any human ethnic groups of today or cultures. The one difference, though, is they’re all mammals. You won’t see humanoid birds walking around or anthropomorphic reptiles.
DB: Marco had no directions for me in terms of the animals belonging to specific tribes or whatever there’s just barbarians and not barbarians. Visually though I needed linchpins to help craft the setting, visual mechanics, and how this post-apocalyptic place came to be. Each place we visit will have remixed elements of lots of ancient and contemporary design—I used lots of Bantu, Igbo, Mongolian and Korean elements. Blanco was originally based off a wolf but there are so many wolf stories I opted to base his design on an African Wild dog. I took it a step further and decided the clothing artifacts weapons everything will be distinct to help immerse readers into the world of Blanco.
GP: You mention Conan, Secret of Nimh, and Brian Jacques Redwall as influences, what else are some of the stories influences and inspiration? And are you trying to traumatize people my age with Secret of Nimh!?
ML: Blacksad is an influence, but you won’t see it until the third volume. I’m also inspired by Oscar Martin’s Solo. Everyone in the U.S. should be reading that. He’s an amazing artist and storyteller. Everything Jack Kirby did at DC comics in the 70s. Like I said before, the old action-adventure Hanna Barbera and Ruby-Spears toon and John Carter. And yes, I am trying to traumatize people our age. haha I loved me some Bluth.
DB: I may have a heart of stone because I missed out on the trauma I was like ‘oooh mice’ Blanco will evoke feelings of darkness and brutality but also moments of quiet austere beauty. I have been looking at a lot of HR Geiger, Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, Bill Watterson, Gojima, Otomo and Jae Lee leading up to Blanco as well streaming as many Attenborough docs I can find.
GP: I see the religious rule and I can’t help but think there an overarching influence of religion in our real-world society. Is there some greater themes/meaning to the series or is it just entertaining sword and sorcery?
ML: There will be in the story things I touch on. I grew up Catholic, but I grew up in an open-minded household. I never had communion and was always taught to challenge ideas. But I also grew up with a fascination with religion and the bible. Why people turn to religion and the use of religion for control. I read the Book of Revelations during a major hurricane when I was a teen in Puerto Rico. But as a writer, I believe that in any story character should be first, plot second, and what you’re trying to say third. Anytime you push what you want to talk about in society upfront. Then you’re characters just become a soapbox, and people stop caring. Make them care about the characters, and the rest will find its place.
DB: I have no religious message to convey other than through the art historian aspect of remixing these motifs.
GP: You mention this is hopefully the beginning, how much of the series and world do you have sketched out? Is there a “Blanco bible”?
ML: I’d like to do at least 8 volumes. Each one is the equivalent of a three-issue mini-series. After volume one, I have volumes two through four roughly mapped out, and I know where the series ends and where Blanco ends up. And yes, I have a rough bible and a series of notes I keep every time a new idea, plot, or character piece pops into my head. So, hopefully, with everyone’s help, this first volume becomes a smashing success and will lead the way to more. Adonai speaks to us in our sleep. Adonai wants us to tell the stories of Blanco’s world. Of the world to come. Help us fulfill Adonai’s wishes.
DB: I would love to retire doing Blanco stories. My dream is to have quarterly issues that people ravenously devour and flame me online wondering why there can’t be ten of me making more! But I’ll settle for 8 issues, some spin-offs, and maybe an omnibus hardcover reprint someday in the future.
GP: Thanks so much for chatting and we’re excited to read it. Backed!