Stephan Franck’s career has given us some beloved animated stories, such as the classic film The Iron Giant. His stories aren’t confined to the big screen as the creator of the heist comic Silver. Through his own Dark Planet Comics publishing company, he’s written and drawn an elaborate vampire heist adventure in Silver. The story concludes in the upcoming fourth volume which the creator is currently funding through a Kickstarter campaign.
We got to talk to Franck about the future of crowdfunding and how hard it is for any creator to end a story.
COMICS BEAT: For the fans who’ve followed Silver, where does Volume IV pick up the story?
STEPHAN FRANCK: As you know, Silver takes place in an original universe that is inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and 40 years after the events of the novel, we meet conman/master thief James Finnigan and Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing assemble a team to steal the Silver Dragon, a mythical treasure hidden deep inside Dracula’s castle. So as volume 3 ends and volume 4 begins, we found our team having managed to make Dracula’s massive treasure mysteriously disappear, and seem to have surmounted all their personal conflicts and various dysfunctions. They are now in a race against time to get out of dodge before Dracula understands how they pulled off the heist. That is, of course, easier said than done, and just in case the end of vol 3 lulled you into a sense of false security, things are about to get crazy. In fact, Volume 4 is the one that is the most action, suspense, and disclosure heavy of all, and will keep you guessing until the very end. I’m really excited, as I feel that the series ends at its strongest.
COMICS BEAT: You’ve stated this would be the conclusion of Silver. These days in comics, most creators stretch their works out until the gas runs out or sales don’t justify producing anymore. Was the finish to Silver what you had in mind from the beginning?
STEPHAN FRANCK: Absolutely. Silver is a complex heist story, so as such, it had to be tightly plotted, with tons of setups planted early and deep that only pay off at the very end, and scenes that you experience one way when you read them at the time, and that you understand as having this whole other meaning when you look back from the end. Not only that, you want the complex story to still feel clear and linear—in other words, you want it to go down easy. You want the reader to always feel like they know what’s happening, and to understand and root for what the characters are trying to accomplish. Even it turns out that you were conning them, in the moment, it all needs to make sense. That said, as you draw the book, you are in a sense performing it, inhabiting the characters, and as such, a different emotional connection kicks in. So at that moment, things happen. But it’s not that you are changing things, as much as adding a new dimension to their execution.
COMICS BEAT: To follow up on that. As a storyteller, can you describe the feeling of drawing that last panel or writing that last line of a script?
STEPHAN FRANCK: I still have a few pages to ink, but all the breakdowns are in, and when I put down my pen after finishing the last panel, my only thought was: “Holy shit, it all connects!” It’s true that crossing a heist story, which already has a ton of moving pieces, with some deep cut vampire lore was a high-flying act. And all though I knew that in theory that the math all added up, it was something else to reread it and find that it actually did while staying a clear and linear story you can follow. Then I realized that, as a reader, I was also feeling real emotion with where the characters were on the final page. Hopefully, the readers will feel the same way!
COMICS BEAT: You have some incredible talent such as Takeshi Miyazawa contributing pieces based on the world of Silver. Do you have a favorite which people will get to see when the rewards are delivered?
STEPHAN FRANCK: I have literally hundreds of great artist friends, but for this Kickstarter, it’s about 3 guests artist whose take on my characters I was really looking forward to. I have Takeshi, as you have mentioned, who’s work I adore. We worked together about 10 years ago on a film project that I was developing at the time, and always hoped for another chance to do stuff together. Rodolphe Guenoden, who you may know for his French BD masterpiece “Ma Reverence” (coming to the US soon from what I hear), and who you may also know as a master animator who supervised all the kung-fu fignts in the King Fu Panda movies. Rodolphe has been a brother since we were in school together many years ago, and anytime we get to work together, it’s a special thing for me. Then there is the one and only Mel Milton, who I met only a couple years ago, but who quickly became a dear friend. His art is so powerful that it just speaks for itself. Couldn’t be more excited to have them on board.
COMICS BEAT: The –do it yourself creator-owned– ecosphere is becoming the new mobile app market where every day someone launches a new Kickstarter project. You’ve managed to deliver quality projects and fulfill the promises of your campaigns but there’s certainly challenges people don’t see. Do you feel as though the Kickstarter method of producing comics is sustainable for the industry?
STEPHAN FRANCK: I feel that in a world were the big companies have the lock on everything. Especially in the cultural space they are all consolidating into giant separate pipelines, which they hope you’ll never have to leave to see what’s happening anywhere else. So In that context, Kickstarter is one of those rare avenues where new things can happen independently. I think it’s fantastic. But even now, we can see that it’s getting harder and harder to reach out to audience through social media, where the organic spread of things is being limited on purpose. Along the same line, whatever will happen with net neutrality is crucial. So I feel that we are in a golden age of artistic entrepreneurship, but who knows how long it will last.
COMICS BEAT: You’ve finished four volumes of Silver and the spinoff Rosalyn graphic novel, what will you be working on post Kickstarter?
STEPHAN FRANCK: I will continue exploring the Silver universe with more complete stories that take place inside it, as well as other comic stuff that I have started work on. I am an executive producer on the Playmobil Movie that is coming out next year, and that I feel will take people by surprise because it is really super fun! Then, there is a bunch more film stuff…so basically, tons of things—most of them I can’t talk about.
Silver Volume 4 is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign and will release later this year.