Passion projects often take time, and in Matt Emmons’ case, since 2016. This week, his Kickstarter for Gardener is ending, which means his “space western about self-acceptance and survival on a failed colony planet” will be getting the attention (and funding) it deserves.
With more than 232 pages, the graphic novel will be a deluxe hardcover featuring the story and hand-drawn art Emmons has been developing for years. Bernardo Brice assists with letters and Jazzlyn Stone is on marketing for the project.
Emmons chatted with us ahead of the Kickstarter’s grand finale on Thursday, April 22.
Deanna Destito: Where did the concept for this come from?
Matt Emmons: The concept for Gardener spilled out of me kicking a bunch of character designs around that hadn’t had a story attached until I looked at them all together and felt like they belonged in the same setting. I’d grown up on watching ’70s and ’80s sci-fi and monster movies and always wanted a world that was much more about those characters than most stories were, so once I got the thought in my head to make a story, I decided it would center on characters like that.
Destito: In the Kickstarter, you state it’s been in the works for a while. What delayed the book and why is now the right time for it?
Emmons: Life mostly! I worked on Gardener when I could in between my day job and taking other freelance art jobs that popped up. I just kept putting it off until I realized I should just go for it and see what happens rather than let it be one of the many ideas swirling around my head. I thought it would be fun to launch the Kickstarter right around the third anniversary of the first issue/chapter being released. And wanted to make sure my previous Kickstarter project, Dagger Dagger, was being delivered to backers before launching a new campaign.
Destito: Why was crowdfunding the right route for this?
Emmons: Crowdfunding has always been less daunting for me than approaching a publisher. They’re two completely different worlds, but I’ve already been so used to selling my work directly to my audience, and I’m still very much new to traditional, direct market publishers, so rather than bide my time and hope a publisher wants to take a chance on someone with a 200-something page book who hasn’t had any previously published work I wanted to take it to Kickstarter and see how I fared on my own.
Destito: While you have assists with letters from Bernardo and marketing from Jazzlyn, this is mostly a solo project. What are the pros and cons of taking on a big project as the sole creator?
Emmons: I don’t think there’s any cons for me personally, I’m used to it! I like working on my own comics from pretty much start to finish so I can be on my own timeline every step of the way and that way I never have to stress much about making sure everybody else is happy. It started more as a budgetary restraint but it’s gone a long way to making me appreciate each part of a team that’s working on a book because I know how much work goes into every step. I enjoy having a small team on Gardener because it is great to have people in your corner though. It’s one thing to make yourself the whole thing, but it’s a different kind of rewarding to know when it’s better to bring other people in to help with something and it makes the project stronger!
Destito: There are a lot of stories where humanity has to rebuild after devastation. What sets your world apart?
Emmons: I’m at a point where I’m getting more confident that my artwork stands on its own enough to catch people and pull them in. It’s a slow burn of a story that gives readers enough of what they’re familiar with when it comes to the genre but isn’t a cookie-cutter sci-fi story. The story isn’t about how to fix the world or go back to some imagined sense of normalcy, but rather Gardener is very much about the characters learning to live with themselves and where they are now.
Destito: Any plans to revisit this universe in the future?
Emmons: Definitely! It won’t be as another book, but I’ve got some plans that will hopefully get people to spend more time in Gardener’s setting in a more interactive way. There’s too much lore that I wound up making for the setting that I like too much to keep hidden away.
Destito: Who is your favorite character and why?
Emmons: My favorite is definitely Bug. Everyone loves Goo Man more than anything and he’s a close second for me, but Bug was hands down the most difficult character to design. He’d been a part of the story from the beginning, but it took me a little over six months to come up with an iteration of him that I was actually happy with. Him being so difficult to come up made me most attached to him, and I’m always a sucker for the monster – even if I’m the one that made him.
To back Gardener, click here. The campaign ends tomorrow, April 22!