After years of working in the comics industry, David Crispino, store manager of Collectors Corner in Parkville, decided it was time to take a shot at writing his own book—a supernatural western.
Knowing what an expensive proposition publishing a comic book can be, Crispino turned to the internet fundraising site Kickstarter to self-publish his first title, an "alternate, supernatural history" of the Great Sioux War called Blood & Time.
In order to get the book to the printers, Crispino, 31, will have to raise $5,000 by Oct. 13—as of Sept. 19, the week-old campaign is about a third of the way there.
"I knew I would either have to pitch the book to a publisher ... or, I've been seeing movies, music and art being funneled through Kickstarter; it's becoming kind of a top independent publishing company," Crispino said. "Anybody can see something and choose to fund and back it."
And if they do, they'll be rewarded—that's the way Kickstarter works. Users browse projects and when they find one they'd like to back, they pledge whatever amount they choose to the campaign.
Rewards, like copies of the finished product, special edition t-shirts, and other goodies are given to backers when the campaign is funded.
"I asked for $5,000, and I want people to understand that none of that is profit," Crispino said. "I'm paying the artist, paying for printing, and paying for the fees and shipping ... that's it, and I tried to design the rewards around that."
Crispino, a Hamilton resident, said that the inspiration for Blood & Time came to him from an unusual place: a stock painting on the shelf at a big-box retailer.
"The bronco buster in the painting, the rider... he looked like Karloff's Frankenstein," Crispino said. "This idea is along the same lines—it's a horror western."
He explained that the series begins with a "true number one"—the first issue tells the origin story of why the Native Americans created an avatar of war.
"It's based around the Great Sioux War and Custer's Last Stand," Crispino said. "Even though the Native Americans have won some victories, they realize that the white man will keep coming—driven by his greed for gold."
Although it's loosely based on history and Crispino said there might be allusions to characters like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the story also has supernatural elements and frames westward expansion by Europeans as driven by a legendary Algonquin spiritual villain called the Wendigo.
That's about as much as he's willing to spoil at this point, although the script for the first issue is complete and Crispino's sent it to his collaborator, Montana-based artist and long-time friend John Warren.
Crispino described Warren's art style as focused on horror, graffiti art and surrealism. Warren is illustrating and inking the book in black and white with a gray wash.
"He's hopefully working on it as we speak," Crispino said. "I should have the first pages later this week and I'll start lettering them."
Crispino described the process of writing a comic book as at once similar and very different from writing a novel and offers some advice to aspiring writers and artists.
"Essentially it's like a novel—you're writing dialogue, a setting, the internal thoughts of characters ... but then you have to think about panel layout—how many panels do you want on a page—and structuring that dialogue on a page, and as hard as it is, surprising the reader."
"It's a lot of work, don't expect it to be easy," Crispino said. "A lot of people have a romantic idea of art and artists, writing and writers ... you have to keep a schedule and you have to keep writing, keep the words coming ... you can't just wait for inspiration to strike."
Crispino added that he sees comics as an art form.
"Comics are prophetic and high-minded," he said. "These are people tapping into a place where they want us to go."
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