Over the past few years, I’ve found that one of the best places to discover independent comic book creators is via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. For those interested in self-publishing their stories – whether in lieu of or on the road to traditional publishing – Kickstarter is a great avenue to get their books in the eyes of others, and to begin building a solid fanbase.
One such upcoming book, currently raising funds on Kickstarter, is Spirits: The Soul Collector by Colin Lawler and Joseph Grabowski. With 10 days to go, the book is very close to reaching its intended goal of $7,000 (and may have already passed it by the time you read this). From the synopsis of the story and the unique cartoon style of illustration, Spirits looks to be a fun all-ages series that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Lawler and Grabowski were generous enough to spend some time with Geeks of Doom, discussing Spirits and more. Continue below to check out the interview and watch their Kickstarter video.
Geeks of Doom: First off, thanks for taking the time to share your story with the Geeks of Doom community!
Joseph Grabowski: Thank you, too! We’re in the humble beginnings of our tenure in this industry. There’s a lot of content out there so any little bit of spotlight on our own project is much appreciated.
GoD: Aside from the synopsis of Spirits: The Soul Collector found on Kickstarter, would you be able to provide any more details about your comic?
JG: Sure! The basic idea is that all around us, but unseen by our eyes, exist living, physical manifestations of the elemental components of our world. These are what we call spirits. Like you might imagine, there are water spirits, air spirits, plant spirits, etc. These are easy to understand, but we’ve crafted a world where the more abstract components of it also have spiritual representation. There are light and dark spirits. Spirits of emotion. Of time. Math. Death. And so on. If there’s a concept you can think of, it is likely there are spirits living in unison with it. There are also a special handful of humans who possess the innate ability to see and interact with these spirits. These we call seers.
Zoomed-in, Spirits is a tale of two seers. There’s Will, a stubborn, unready, 12-year-old boy, who is handed tremendous purpose for the first time in his life. He is a bit of a black sheep in an otherwise powerful lineage of seers, as he lacks any real ability to see his own destiny through without assistance. That brings us to Norah. Norah possesses a curiously elevated level of acuity and strength, but her greater path is one she has yet to discover. She acts as Will’s guide and protector as they search for Will’s younger brother’s stolen soul. Will and Norah’s dynamic is very yin and yang. Balance and duality will be recurrently present and important threads in the fabric of Spirits.
Zoomed-out, we will attempt a much grander and more ambitious tale. The Soul Collector, the first book in the Spirits series, centers around the necessary balance of light and dark in the world. We hope to use the long-existing, commonly accepted societal concept that light is inherently good and dark is inherently evil as means to challenge readers toward deeper reflections about what happens when we take things at face value.
If things go according to plan, each of the subsequent books in the Spirits series will also address large-scale dualities in the world. Potentially ones we feel to be misunderstood by society. All while remaining a fun, playful, all-ages fantasy/adventure.
GoD: Wow! Thank you for the in-deapth description. It certainly has me even more excited to read it! What were your inspirations for Spirits?
Colin Lawler: Our concept of Spirits is, in fact, not our own.
Before science, before modern religions, before the pantheons of ancient civilizations, humans all over the world believed in spirits. The term for that belief is animism. It’s such an amazing word. When I first heard it, I immediately thought of animals, and the idea of any object moving and acting as an “animal.” Yet later I realized it also contains the same roots as the word “animation,” which is nothing more than giving life to the inanimate, err, I mean non-moving objects.
Animism is considered to be humankind’s oldest religion. And while it could be claimed that there are only few cultures who still hold this belief, I don’t think it’s completely non-existent with the rest of us. Take the terms “Mother Nature” or “Mother Earth.” Those are examples of animism.
Growing up driving around with my father, whenever we would continually hit red lights, he would turn and say, “the traffic gods are not on our side today.” At the time, I knew he was joking but in a way, I also didn’t. Because when you think about it traffic does have a life of its own. Sure the traffic lights, the cars, the pedestrians, the construction, the zillion other obstacles are all partially to blame. And I’m sure a mathematician can discuss probability but they won’t be able to explain the feeling that on some days, the traffic gods, or spirits, just aren’t on your side.
So, when we were first bouncing around ideas for Spirits we knew we weren’t developing a concept which would be a stretch for our readers. Because deep down, even in the smallest way, I think we all believe in spirits.
JG: As far as fictional works that have inspired us, there are so many!
The themes of spirituality, hidden energy around us, and being in tune with nature were all imparted upon us by many of the Hayao Miyazaki works (namely Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind), as well as Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra series.
The magical, fantastical whimsy you’ll see in Spirits, in both art and storytelling, comes from the likes of Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss, L. Frank Baum, and Roald Dahl. Dahl specifically was a big influence on me as a young mind. I never really stopped believing in magic, in large part because of the stories he told.
From an execution standpoint, we’ve found certain works by creators like Craig Thompson, Shaun Tan, and Jeff Smith to be immaculate down to the littlest detail. They inspire us in that respect, and of course, Scott McCloud is in our heads every step of the way.
GoD: What an excellent collection of series and creators to be thinking of along the way! What is the creative process like for you two while working on the comic?
JG: Creating the broader plot concepts is the most fun part. The ideas haven’t existed for long at that point so we don’t cling to them with any bias. This allows for a lot of “what ifs” and really out-there ideas to be pitched and in that sense we’re basically just chucking spaghetti at the wall. If any of the noodles stick for us both, they’ll likely end up in the final bowl. It’s a weird analogy I suppose but I haven’t eaten yet today.
The more evolved phases of creation are a bit less exciting. One of us usually writes a large chunk of script, then the other goes in and changes bits and pieces or possibly scraps the whole part. This process of back and forth happens many times over until it’s at a place we’re both comfortable with.
Overall, the plot construction and script writing are true collaborative efforts.
CL: Then I start drawing, don’t stop for a long time, and voila, we have a comic.
GoD: What made you choose Kickstarter as a way to self-publish Spirits?
JG: Spirits is currently published digitally by a company called LINE Webtoon (read.spiritscomic.com). We knew we wanted to print it, but we really believe in the epicness of the story and we wanted to make sure we could keep 100% of the rights to the IP. Most physical publishers out there seem to want a percentage or else they have no incentive to promote your product. Self-publication was the obvious choice.
As far as using Kickstarter, we actually ran one about five years ago to print the first 30 pages of Spirits. It was black and white back then, and everything has since been redrawn, but we did it because it seemed like the most approachable way to get a fanbase going, and thus more leverage when pitching to publishers. At the time, that’s what mattered to us. Now, we just want to tell a great story and get it in front of as many eyes as possible.
GoD: As it is, the Kickstarter book will contain 20 chapters of the ongoing series. How extensive is your long-term goal for Spirits?
JG: Spirits is a tale we feel we can tell over the course of three books, the first of which being The Soul Collector. The Kickstarter is for the printing of just Part One of The Soul Collector, which will likely be a three, or possibly four-part experience. In short, we’re printing the first 176 pages of what might end up as a 2,000-3,000 page series. Yikes.
GoD: Well, that just means the fans have a lot to look forward to! How have you both grown creatively since beginning this journey together?
JG: I’m not sure if I’ve grown more creative, but I’ve definitely grown more capable of tapping into the creativity that already exists within me. I’m sure a lot of that is due to writing much of Spirits‘ content, but I think it has more to do with just spending time with Colin. Aside from being a wizard, he wrote a really beautiful, short, illustrated tale called Ink the Void. It’s about shedding the reluctance or anxiety that comes with a blank page and a bucket of ink. “Embrace the slop,” Colin often says, and I think that’s the perfect phrase for learning to be unafraid of mistakes. That’s the fear that typically locks the door between idle hands and ones covered in paint.
GoD: Might there be any other comic-related projects in the works, either together or individually?
JG: Oh, absolutely! We have some other story ideas we’d like to pursue, and we intend to work on a few of them throughout the course of Spirits‘ production. We have a visually trippy, murder-mystery on the horizon. Colin has also started a few other fantasy stories that I’m sure he’d like to revisit. We started an LLC called In Other Lands with the hopes of eventually growing our pool of creative types and just giving as many stories to the world as possible.
GoD: A “trippy, murder mystery” sounds intriguing! Sounds great! Aside from pledging on Kickstarter, how else can the GoD community help support your endeavor?
CL: You can read the digital version of the comic at LINE Webtoon (read.spiritscomic.com), you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter (@drawingupastorm, @joeygeewhiz, @spiritscomic), and you can stop by our table and say hi at conventions (San Diego, Rose City, New York). Other than that, just keep being you and don’t be afraid to embrace the slop!
If interested, head over to Kickstarter to back this awesome project!