Goblins don’t get the respect they deserve, do they? They’re twisted creatures of malicious intent, born of dark magic and with creepy pointed ears – but nobody ever gives them their due as servants of evil.
Not so writer Lela Gwenn, however! Lela has taken to Kickstarter to help fund a prologue issue for a planned six-issue miniseries called ‘Born Dark’, which looks to make you terrified of goblins once more. Pencilled by Richard Clark and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic, the Kickstarter campaign is edging ever closer to reaching the target.
So in order to find out a bit more about her story, I spoke to Lela about the project. Read on to find out about goblins, magic, alternate worlds and much more.
Steve: What is the idea of Born Dark? What’s the story about?
Lela: Issue 0 is set before all the characters get put in each other’s path. It focuses mostly on Bulvis– a goblin who made and lost his fortune betting on his ability to manipulate an 11 year old Malcolm. That was twenty years ago and the loss has grown exponentially over the years. But now he has a new target, a young boy named Jake.
Jake is lost. Shelved in a foster home that sees him as a cash crop. But he’s made friends with a funny little guy in the mirror. Maybe the mirror guy can help him find his sister?
Steve: Why goblins as the villains? What made you want to use them? In the past, there’s been a tendency in fantasy to use them as punching-bags.
Lela: Wellll… Bulvis is a not very nice guy. He’s selfish, sadistic and he doesn’t learn from his mistakes. But I think you’ll find the goblins as a whole are stuck in a world shaped by Bulvis’ mistake. Almost every character in this story is a child of trauma doing their best to do what they think is right. Everyone is the hero of their own story.
Steve: Is this an all-ages story, or one for an older audience?
Lela: OLDER AUDIENCES! That’s one of the things I worry about with the Issue 0 focusing mostly on Jake. It’s a story about an 11 year old… but not FOR an 11 year old. (unless you are like I was at 11, and have abandoned the “kids section” in search of meatier tomes)
Steve: How long have you been working on the project? What first got you interested in taking the first ideas and turning them into a story?
Lela: I started writing this story as prose 3 years ago. At some point I realized it didn’t work as a novel and I had just started trying my hand at comic scripts and it just hit me: THIS NEEDED TO BE A COMIC.
So, I gave it a shot!
As far as the ideas–I started reading adult fiction really early, but the kid’s lit that I read stuck with me. It always seemed strange to me that the kids from the “portal fantasies” from our youth (Oz, Labyrinth, Narnia) always ended up with the good guys and always went home cheerfully ready for school on Monday . No one chose the White Witch? No one said “Meh. The Maze needs a monarch. I think I’ll stay”? That idea stuck with me and I couldn’t shake it. So I started writing.
Steve: The idea of your Kickstarter is that you’ll be making a prologue issue, essentially, which you’ll then use to pitch a further series to publishers. So; in fact; you’re actually using Kickstarter to kick-start something. What made you decide to crowd-fund Born Dark?
Lela: As a team we thought about how we wanted to do this. Both Adam and Richard have been working with some of the better established houses and they felt it was a strong enough story to take to the houses, but when you do that– they want the full package! They wanna see ART! And COLOR! And LETTERS! That’s a helluva gamble for my friends to take on a relatively unknown writer. So we decided to go this way. People get a taste of the kind of story we want to tell, we can show a publisher that we have people ready to support us and everyone gets a kick ass book.
Of course, anything can happen and we are open to all the possibilities, but… aim high, right?
Steve: How have you found the process of organising and maintaining a Kickstarter, yourself, thus far?
Lela: EVERYONE IS SO DAMNED AMAZING. The way people have jumped in and supported the project it just leaves me shocked and awed.
I did a lot of research before this launched. I looked at how and where and when and what people needed to get behind a campaign. For people looking, Comixtribe has a lot of great info out there on running kickstarters and while I didn’t follow Tyler’s advice to the letter it certainly shaped how I did things. Watching how successful Joe Mulvey’s SCAM kickstarter was really inspired me.
This being a cooperative venture is much more coordinated and there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle, but really my main take away is that people want this kind of story. I cannot express the amazing gratitude I have for everyone
Steve: One thing I think is particularly interesting about the Kickstarter is that you’re making a promise to never again offer the comic in this format again, and have capped most of the rewards as a result. What motivated that decision? Do you think a Kickstarter has to have some sense of exclusivity, for the people pledging?
Lela: I have seen the anguish in my fellow nerd’s faces when they back a kickstarter and then see what they paid a premium for “before it was cool” selling for less, or selling in a better packaging or something, afterward. It’s not right. I have no idea what is going to happen to Born Dark after July 2014. I have aspirations, but I know what it costs to see the future in the worlds I build.
If Born Dark gets a publisher and it moves forward I will have 6 issues that have never seen print ready to go for them (so I’m not screwing the publisher) and the people who saw the awesome in a handful of sketches will have an extremely limited print run book to add to their collection. (So I’m not screwing the backers.) I see this as win-win for everyone.
Steve: How did you get in contact with artist Richard Clark about the project? What was it about his art which made you want to bring him on for the project?
Lela: I have this annoying habit of just asking people when I need help. I needed an artist and I needed an artist who could balance this crazy blend between our real world and a place where monsters roam the streets. I needed those goblins to feel as real as the people. Richard was the guy. Luckily the story got him excited enough and he knew I was serious enough that he got on board.
Steve: How has the collaborative process been between the two of you?
Lela: We are both big personalities. Sometimes we butt heads. But at the base of it I think there’s genuine respect there, and we both want what is best for the book. It all works out.
Steve: I notice a few other familiar faces amongst the creative team on the book, notably Adam P. Knave and Frank Cvetkovic, who are parts of the creative teams for Amelia Cole and Artful Daggers. How did the creative team assemble?
Lela: Adam sorta… adopted my scruffy self and did me several favors that I will never be able to repay him for (notably offering to take a look at the script when he REALLY didn’t have to.) Frank is the kind of guy that a lot of people might overlook, but that would be a big mistake. He’s a sweetheart of a man and before I needed a letterer I was like “Hey, when I have a comic, you’re gonna letter it, right?”
I like having my friends around me.
Steve: Frank has his own Kickstarter, Mute, and also worked on other Kickstarter projects like Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits and Molly Danger. Do you think we’re seeing a Kickstarter community starting to grow, with groups of creators working together to support each other’s projects?
Lela: I think this is the way creative people have been forever. This is the Salons of Paris– only nerdier! We form a community around supporting each other’s creative impulses and we foster and nurture each other’s projects and contribute when we can. Not only that, we expand each other’s networks. I have a whole group of friends online who might never know about Nenetl or Fireside Magazine…except I can change that with the click of a RT button. That’s sorta amazing.
Steve: What else do you have coming up? Where can we find you online?
Lela: I have a secret story. It’s sold and in the works but I am to keep MUM about it, so I do. But it’s awesome. I’m a compulsive Tweeter. Seriously I’m at 105K tweets and it jumps up another K every 3 days or so. Stop by and say hi!
You can find my homepage here [Note from Steve: NSFW!) & the site for the comic is www.borndarkcomic.com — and all pages lead to the Kickstarter page which is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lelagwenn/born-dark-issue-0
Many thanks to Lela for her time! Born Dark is running on Kickstarter now – and heading into the last few days, with £500 still left to reach the target. Go have a look!