Thursday, January 17, 2013

Six Gun Mage



Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  I am very pleased to be introducing to you another old friend of mine, Chris Hazelton creator of the long-running Webcomic Misfile!  He’s here to talk to us about his newest project Six Gun Mage now on Kickstarter, thank you for joining us today Chris.  

Thanks.  Glad to have the opportunity

Now for those who don’t know you, I think a bit of background is in order.  You’ve been doing Misfile since February of 2004 which is quite the feat in the webcomic world.  Misfile has also been put in print several times which proves you have a history of bringing comics to market.  Would you care to tell us about your latest project?  

Sure.  I love doing Misfile, but in the back of my mind all these years I’ve always wanted to do sort of a more “epic adventure” sort of story.  I came up with a few that were sort of high fantasy, but none of them ever really clicked.  Then, back in 2009, I picked up an old hobby from my childhood I’d been out of for a long time; shooting sports.  Suddenly everything just sort of clicked.  Magic, adventure, guns. Why not do sort of a fantasy/old west sort of mixture.  It’s a lot less trodden than typical fantasy stuff and I figured it would leave me more wiggle room to really have fun with the story.  That kernel of an idea eventually grew into the 6 Gun Mage comic project.  It’s the story of Kylie, who in this world would be referred to as a “gun mage”, a sort of wizard that uses their gun as a focus for their spells.  The world she inhabits is very old west meets steampunk and is recovering from a series of wars.  The story starts with Kylie being a bit of an enigma.  Her backstory is revealed through her friends and backflashes which also bring out the ultimate direction of the story.  That’s sort of book one in a nutshell.



With a long running webcomic and previous print experience why bring your project to Kickstarter?  I mean couldn’t you just do what you did in the past?  

We always CAN do what we did in the past, but we’ve already done it.  Why not try something new?  It’s riskier to try something new, and a bit scary, but I don’t want to be that guy who just keeps doing the same thing over and over out of fear.

Would you describe this as a “Steam-punk magical western” or is the project a bit harder to pigeonhole than that?  

I can and have described it that way, but ultimately all those things are just aspects of the setting.  Like always, my stories are really about the characters as much as the settings.  So it’s Kylie’s story, and to a lesser extent the story of the story of Gwen and Zeitz, the other characters you can see in the promo work.

Why six shooters?  Was it to get the whole Western motif?  Or did you just like the idea of slinging spells like you would bullets?  Sounds a bit Outlaw Star to me. (Which isn’t a bad thing.)  

Actually, most guns in the 6 Gun Mage universe AREN’T six shooters.  The revolver sets Kylie apart both from other gun mages who use single shot weapons, and the populace at large who for the most part have embraced more modern weapons.  There are many gun mages.  Kylie is the only “Six Gun” mage.

Ah, that’s a nice bit of differentiation.  What market are you targeting with this comic?  Just comic readers in general or mostly just your current fans?  

I don’t really look for a market when I come up with ideas.  I had no idea who my market would be with Misfile.  It materialized later.  I’ve always found it more important to tell a story that you feel passionate about.  You can tell a good story about anything.  If the story and the characters are compelling, the market will find you... Of course, advertising helps too, but I’ve got a guy for that.  

How important is it to tap into your current fanbase to run a Kickstarter like this?  

Extremely.  More than 90% of the pledges so far have come from people who already read my work, and I am beyond grateful for their support.  It’s one of the reasons I’m giving out so many incentive gifts.  I feel like people should be rewarded for their support and their belief in my work.  It makes me feel extremely fortunate to have been blessed with so many supportive readers.

What do you say to your detractors who deride your artwork as being poorly drawn or too “male wish fulfillment” as I believe one reviewer of Misfile wrote years ago?  

To each their own.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions.  If I felt a need to please everybody I’d have stressed myself into an early grave years ago.  Besides, messages from detractors make up less than one in a hundred in terms of messages I receive.  It helps when the positive support drowns out the negative to such a large degree.  But again, if you don’t like my work, I’m fine with that.  Don’t read it.  

How do you keep creating after all these years?  

Honestly it’s not the length of time that’s difficult.  It’s the having kids around me 24/7 now that’s made it difficult.  It really saps my creative energy.  I have to set aside times and activities to help me relax.  Role playing Games and going to the shooting range help me with that a lot... It also helps explain why my current project became a fantasy western I suppose.

{Laughs} I hear you when it comes to kids!  Man I just realized I’ve known you since before Misfile!  Back when you had Building 12!  Do you remember those days or are those things we don’t talk about anymore?  How much do you think all the mistakes and problems you had with Building 12 affected your run with Misfile and now Six Gun Mage?

Of course I remember.  Those were good times.  I made a lot of mistakes in Building 12.  They really helped me with Misfile.  I also made a lot of mistakes with Misfile that should help me with 6 Gun.  I’d be insane to think that I won’t be making more mistakes on this new project as well.  Life is a learning process.  Mistakes are ok.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Still kind of working on that.  I’ll let you know how it pans out.  

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to follow your progress?

I’ve been kind of the face of the project, but it’s been my wife and my ad guy that are really keeping track of things and getting the word out.Their help makes it possible for me to really work on the story and the art.  Since they’re the ones sort of covering that angle, I don’t think I can really go into it right now and sound like I have any idea what I’m talking about.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

It’s more involved than you’d think.  We spent literally months preparing for this launch.  Don’t think you’re just going to click and type a few things in and get going.  It also helps to have friends and helpers to put everything together and tell you what’s working and what isn’t.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Just “thank you” and check out the project if you get the chance.  Hopefully if you like it I can meet you at a convention some time and talk.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!