Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Look out! There's a Kaiju behind that building!


Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! I am pleased to be joined by Kat, Josh and Patrick from Team Kaiju who are here to talk with us today about their Kickstarter Project: World War Kaiju. Thank you all for joining us.
Patrick - It’s great to be here, thanks!
Josh - Did…did you just teleport me into the room??? Is that even legal?
Kat – Thanks for having us but…er… can you teleport in some clothes… for all of us?
Clothing costs extra, so you'll have to make due.  I think the first question has to be, what are kaiju and how can we have a world war with them?
Josh – Kaiju is a word that has become synonymous with Japanese giant monster cinema. Kaiju, or rather daikaiju, directly translates to mean, “giant mysterious beast.” What separates these creatures from the over-size monsters of American film is that the Japanese tradition is heavily influenced by a combination of Asian folklore, Shinto animism, and the cultural consciousness of post-war Japan. American monsters tend to be giant animals doing what an animal would, just on a larger scale. Japanese monsters are more like forces of nature or angry gods. Kaiju have personalities, agendas—their destruction is not random. When Godzilla rises from the ocean, there’s a reason he heads straight for the city. He’s pissed off and mankind has gotta pay.
How can there be a war of the kaiju? In terms of our graphic novel, it all comes down to one basic premise: In World War Kaiju the atom bomb was never created. When the atom was split at the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, what crawled out of the smoking crater was a towering beast of pure destruction. Codenamed Fatman, the Second World War to an abrupt end when the U.S. unleashed this beast on Tokyo. This marked the dawn of the Kaiju Age.
Fast forward to five years later, and every major world power is caught in the grips of the Cold War. But unlike the Cold War that plagued our history, the unrelenting arms race of World War Kaiju isn't about atomic bombs. It’s all about atomic monsters—who has them, who doesn't, and who is willing to use them. As you can imagine, it gets real ugly, real quick.

What kind of story are you telling with this book? Is it like “World War Z” in that it’s a look back from the characters perspective or is it all “current events?”
Patrick - This is certainly told in the form of a retrospective, but since it’s being told from an older guy from a government spying background to a younger guy who’s a journalist, there is an inherent tension and implied story going on about the “present” of the 1970’s.
Josh - Actually, if I’d known two years ago that people would assume the title was a zombie reference I would have called it something entirely different. The intent had been to riff on the titles of classic Toho films like “Destroy All Monsters” and “War of the Gargantuans.” Truth is, I’m not much into zombies, so “World War Z” had been off my radar. Maybe I should've paid more attention. But World War Kaiju is the name we've got, I’m sticking with it. Now if you want to ask about “Pacific Rim,” on the other hand…yeah, that has EVERYTHING to do with why we’re launching our Kickstarter now. Thanks to Del Toro’s film, the public has suddenly been a lot more open to stories like World War Kaiju.
You are looking to raise $15,000 for an 80 page graphic novel in a 9x6 landscape format, that’s an odd layout. What made you choose a landscape layout? Also your stretch goal will make that a 200+ page comic, do you have that much story planned out?
Patrick - I think Josh came up with that idea originally, and we just really ran with it. There are a few great reasons to do this. First of all, we wanted a big, wide-screen look to the book. After all it’s about giant monsters AND it’s an epic story in general. Another is that right now, comics as a print media are starting to be phased out in favor of electronic media, and on most home screens the wide format is just natural for the hardware. Why try to fit a tall comics page into a shape where you are forced to scroll? And yet a third good reason is that since we are bypassing the monthly comics format, we don’t have to worry about fitting on shelves at comics shops.
Josh – Actually the format is not as odd as you may assume. Plenty of illustrated books opt for “wide-screen” because it is so art-friendly. Since it mimics the way the eye sees the world, there is a lot more that can be done visually. Wide-screen also reads better, too. The only reason we don’t see more wide-format comics is because of how stores shelve product. Seriously, it all come down to convenience. Comic book stores generally avoid anything that does not conform to traditional book sizes—no matter how good the book looks. One benefit of Kickstarter is we don’t have to worry about this. Since we’re going straight to the fans, we can put all our focus on creating the best reading experience possible.
Kat – And yes, we do have enough story to fill 200+ pages if we reach our stretch goal of $35,000. We've had this book planned for two years now, and the next one as well.


How many kaiju do you have planned for the comic? Is it just the four shown in the posters or are there more?
Josh – Since the story involves a kaiju arms race…well, let’s just say you’re going to see a whole lot of giant apocalypse monsters.
Patrick - There are dozens of these fearsome critters! Once we got going we just couldn't stop! Go to www.worldwarkaiju.com and click on “the monsters” for a bunch of other previews. I had one of the best times of my life artistically designing all these guys.
Josh – True. I've got to hand it to Patrick, he went above and beyond with the creature design. Once he got a feel for the retro vibe we were going for, Patrick populated the WWK universe with a whole host of creatures that’d do Eiji Tsuburaya proud. Early on we made it clear these creature were not to look like life-like animals, but rather would fall into three anatomical categories—puppet, marionette, man-in-suit. We really wanted these monsters to look like they could have feasibly been conceived by the effects teams at Toho or Daiei films in the 1960s. And Patrick nailed it.
How long have you been working on this idea? What previous work does your team have in graphic novels?
Josh – The idea for World War Kaiju had been rumbling around since late 2010. I think I wrote the first rough script for it in October while on vacation. Really, the whole thing was an outgrowth of me having finished my previous project, “Titanium Rain 2.” A futuristic war story, Titanium Rain took me to some fairly dark places and I needed something of an escape, so I went on a classic kaiju film binge.
Patrick - As for me, my experience in GNs is not as extensive as Josh and Kat. I did a brief series called “The Gatesville Company”, written by Marc Bryant, but that stopped when the publisher, Speakeasy, went under. Then I did a full graphic novel for Archaia - “Starkweather: Immortal”, a contemporary fantasy story written by the inestimable David Rodriguez. After that a few pages and covers here and there, such as a series of covers for Boom! Studio’s “Fall of Cthulhu”.
Another comics-related gig I did was not a graphic novel, but I was on an exclusive contract for quite a while with Marvel in their licensing division, where I worked on the Marvel style guide for licensees, and promotional/display art, as well as various other special projects that go on behind the scenes there.
Josh – As for my own background I’ve done my share of work around the industry, including a Catwoman/Batman story for DC’s Giant Size #1. As for my own titles, currently I have two graphic novels available. There’s “Titanium Rain” which is a futuristic fighter pilot story, which has won a few awards within the sci-fi community. The second title is “Utopiates” which I describe as being bio-tech noir—which is to say it falls somewhere between Blade Runner and Train Spotting.

Your rewards mention a “World War Kaiju Theme Song” who wrote and performed that? Is there a sample available?
Josh – The WWK Theme was written and performed by British composer Jonathan Sharp. Jonathan was kind enough to compose some epic trailer music for the Kickstarter preview, so we figured why not a include the track with the digital incentive pack? 
Who came up with the Kickstarter Video because it’s a great video that fits the theme and setting wonderfully! About the only thing better I could think of is if you could actually have actors with out of sync lips.
Josh – Thanks! That video was about four days worth of no sleep and a lot of coffee, but the work appears to have paid off. When creating the preview it was vital the distinctly retro vibe of the story be cemented in viewer’s minds, yet it also needed to show the intensity of Patrick’s art. There have been more than a few backers who have made “Watchmen” comparisons due to this fusion of retro themes with darkly satirical story telling. Frankly, I think these fan are being exceptionally generous making such a comparison, but…hey, it’s still nice to hear, right?

How did you discover Kickstarter?
Josh - It came to me as if in a dream.
Kat – Bill Corbit of Mystery Science Theater fame posted on twitter he had a graphic novel on something called “Kickstarter”. So I clicked the link to check it out.
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?
Josh – We've been highly active in this way. We’re doing audio interviews with everyone involved with Team Kaiju. Also, I’ve been podcasting answers to the many questions backers have asked about the book and its world setting. One of my favorite updates was the “artist profile” of Patrick McEvoy which was a three minute video comprised entirely of his artwork. This update did a lot to show backers the quality we are going to bring to the finished book…plus, seeing his art set to music just looked cool. Last, over at the official WWK website, we’ve been slowly unlocking various artwork and profiles of the monsters.
Kat – I’ve been hitting Facebook and Twitter with our updates. I’ve been promoting the monsters as we reveal them on the website, and updating everybody as we hit milestones towards our goal. Podcasts have been incredibly supportive. Many journalists have had us on their show to talk about our book. As well, many people in the industry have been very kind in promoting us to their fans. J.K. Woodward, David Wachner and Phil Hester to name a few. The response has been very exciting and I thank everyone who has supported us.

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 track your progress?
Josh – It is all done with an atomic pickle that I pray to every night. He comes from Venus. Actually, to get the word out, I’d say all of the above. We've used any and every means possible to draw people to the cause. Podcasts have been especially helpful. Also, there is a highly active kaiju community online who have been massively supportive. Many have taken it upon themselves to spread the word, which is wonderful.
Likewise, fans of my books and Patrick’s body of art have been hugely supportive in terms of backing the project.
Do you have any tips/advice you would give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
Josh – Maybe it doesn't conjure up romantic images of DiY rebels bucking the system, but my advice? Math. Know it. Embrace it. Or at least do what I did, and marry a business major who knows the importance of creating a sound plan of attack when it comes to ensuring your Kickstarter campaign will effectively fund your venture. You can do absolutely everything right with your Kickstarter and still fail if your initial numbers are off. I’d say more, but this is really Kat’s domain.
Second to that, I’d urge people to realize with Kickstarter you are forging a special relationship with fans. These are people who are willing to go above and beyond the average viewer. You backers have shown they are willing to invest in you and your unique vision. Treat them like gold, show them special consideration, and give back to them whenever possible. Never forget it is your backers who have allowed you to realize your dream.

Kat – You definitely need to figure out ALL expenses for your Kickstarter before you settle on a goal. Figure out how much you want, how much your incentives will cost, how much it will cost to ship everything, plus the 10% Kickstarter is going to take for their fees, then add a little extra to cover any costs you may not have thought of. There is nothing worse than a Kickstarter that under funds its project.

Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
Josh –I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who believes in our work enough to pledge to the project and allow us to tell this crazy story about a world where WWIII was fought with monsters, not missiles. I’ve said it plenty in past interviews, I don’t write for fame, a notion of celebrity is not what drives me. It’s because I have a story to tell, and as long as I have a committed audience ready to join me on that trip I will continue to produce the best damn stories I can. So thanks again. Unlike my past books, which were through major publishers, World War Kaiju couldn’t have happened without you.
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!