Where would you go if you lost your job? Would unemployment in this floundering economy send you to a life of crime…as a super-villain henchman? This is the idea explored by writer Jamison Raymond and artist Ryan Howe in Henchmen, a fun and fascinating Kickstarter project in it’s final stretch. The 616 Project was lucky enough to get a hold of these two up and comers and traded a few questions regarding this project.
Ricardo Carrion: So, before we get into things, tell us a little bit about Jamison Raymond the comic book fan. What are your all-time favorite works? What are you currently reading?
Jamison Raymond: I have always liked superheroes. I can’t remember when I got into them any better than I can remember my first word. In fact, Batman might have been my first word. I’m a cape and spandex man. Hands down. So to speak. Sure, I’m a fan of the heavy hitters: your Spider-Mans, your Supermans. But it was Green Lantern that has been my favorite since the beginning. I got into GL in the Rayner years back when Ron Marz was writing the book. I was in high school and would always have the latest issue in my backpack. I was also a huge fan of Joe Kelly’s run on Deadpool. I cut my teeth on those two books. Those were the books that got me to Kokomo Comics every Wednesday to spend my hard earned Taco Bell money. And I still read them! I couldn’t be happier that Geoff Johns has put the Lanterns back on the map. And as a comedian, having a guy like Brian Posehn writing Deadpool… are you kidding me?! It’s the best! Here I am, an adult, still reading my two favorite books and I have a comic book of my own coming out. If you asked 13 year old Jamison what his life would be like at 30, the answer would probably be pretty similar to how it actually turned out.
RC: Who would you cite as influences on your writing? Is it mainly comic book writers or do you draw from prose and film?
JR: It seems silly to cite Flannery O’Connor as an influence on a book with pictures, but it’s true. I read an essay that she wrote on storytelling. I’m paraphrasing, but she said that people hate surprises. That is always in my head whenever I write anything. That essay changed the way that I tell stories. I lay it all on the table from the very beginning. The fun becomes sorting it out. I don’t believe fundamentally that people care about what happens. They care about what happens to whom. Characters are everything. If a character is compelling, people will read the book. The more dynamic the character, the more compelling. That said I am aware that I am writing a book with pictures. So, if I left it there, I would sound like an epic-level douche. When I think about what kind of comic writer I want to be, I look to Geoff Johns and Ed Brubaker. Those are guys that write superhero comics the way I like them. Take the New 52: Green Lantern that Johns wrote. That isn’t a book about two mortal enemies forced to work together to defeat an army of evil doers. That’s just what happens. The story is about two guys, one that has fallen from grace and the other on a path for redemption. That is a human story. It’s bigger than the Green Lanterns. It’s more personal. It’s character driven, like O’Connor said. Those are the stories I like to read, so those are the stories I want to tell.
RC: From the videos on your Kickstarter page we see that the kernel for this project seems to have stemmed from your life. How closely do you draw on your personal experiences for your writing?
JR: I write what I know. I have to draw from my life. But that is usually just the beginning. For Henchmen, I took a situation that I remember happening to my family from my childhood. It’s a pretty common one these days. But I can’t possibly predict how anyone would react to that situation. So, I just image myself and what I might do or how I might feel. Then I add superheroes and robotic bowling pins. That is the fun part about Henchmen. The emotions are real, but the world is a playground. I get to let it go off the rails a little bit, leave reality behind. Then sit and image how I would react to it. I’m doing what I did as a kid every time I’d read a comic. The only difference now is that when I come back to the real world I have to remember to write it down.
RC: Ryan, how did you get involved with the project? What was your take on it?
Ryan Howe: Brian contacted me after talking with Brian Roe of R Squared Studios whom I’d just finished a project with. I hadn’t really done anything in the superhero vein of things in quite a while so my interest was already piqued, but after chatting with Brian in more detail about Headpin, Striker, and all the Henchmen, I was completely sold. The mixture of the henchmen’s point of view coupled with the both absurd and grounded take on things was really interesting to me.
RC: Tell us a little bit about you as a comics fan. What were your earliest memories of comics? What are you currently reading?
RH: My family was actually pretty big on comics in their own individual ways growing up. When I was 9 or so I was stuck in the hospital for a few days and I remember my Grandad bringing me one of Bark’s Uncle Scrooge comics from the corner drugstore. My Mom had a ton of digests from the 60s/70s with the old Gold Key Disney stuff, Archie, and Richie Rich which I read voraciously. I remember my Dad had a bunch of old Marvel and DC stuff, including some House of Mystery issue with these really creepy puppets turning on their master. Finally, our local library had a pretty good selection of Asterix and Tin Tin so I was exposed to a pretty wide gamut of stuff in my early years.
As far as what I’m reading now, I’m all over the place. I’d kind of drifted away from superheroes for quite a while, but Marvel’s Unlimited service has me right back into the thick of things, both old and new. I think my pull list right now is Fantastic Four, FF, Savage Dragon, Saga, Witch Doctor, Hellboy, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, Atomic Robo, Glory, Prophet, and Batman. I just got finished going through Punk Rock Jesus and Next Men, too. Comixology’s been really interesting in the sheer volume of stuff to dig through and try out.
RC: As you are handling all of the art chores, tell us a little bit about your work on this project. What kind of feel are you going for?
RH: That’s a good question. It fits fairly neatly in my wheelhouse as far as the tone of everything goes which brings a certain comfort level to setting everything up. I think my main challenge has been to make sure that the humour in Jamison’s script comes through in the art as well as the writing.
RC: Why did you choose going to Kickstarter with this project as opposed to approaching an established company like Image, etc? What advantages or challenges have you found from choosing this method for your funding?
JR: Crowdfunding is the way to go. Of course I thought about submitting to Image or IDW. But a lot of those don’t take open submissions. So that means I have to get an agent. With Kickstarter, we get to go right to the masses. We got to put together and idea and ask the internet directly if this is something people want to see. The difficulty is that there is a lot more hustle. The internet is a huge place, and we are three tiny voices screaming into an ocean of voices. So, it requires a constant vigilance. We can’t ever stop talking about this thing, until enough people say, I want to see you succeed and I am willing to help.
RC: What suggestions would you have for any up and coming writers and artists in the comic field?
JR: We are up and coming! My advice is don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. If you think your story is worth telling, then tell it. Tell it to whoever will listen. Eventually, if it’s good people will jump on board. As to whether that is good advice or not… check back with me at the end of the month. Ha!
RC: Do you feel like going forward, Kickstarter is going to become more popular for people to get their creative endeavors off the ground?
For sure. It already is. I’ve been doing comedy and writing for a while now. I remember when I first heard about Kickstarter. The first computer I found I looked at it. I immediately saw endless possibilities. I saw a way to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m positive that every creative person out there thinks the same thing. It’s the best way to do any indie project you can imagine. But as I’m sure anyone that has funded a project through Kickstarter will tell you, it doesn’t make it easy.