A few weeks back we took a look at a kickstarter project from Jason Pell and Ryan Howe called Sucide 5. Its the story of a group of friends who try to get their fifteen minutes of fame and out due each other by killing themselves. With the recent uproar about the Harley Quinn tryout page with the suicide bathtub scene, I wanted to go back to Pell and talk to him about using the subject matter to take on other social issues.
BLEEDING COOL: Where did the idea for a book about suicide come from and how does it play into the current city of fame seekers that reality television has bred?
JASON PELL: The story came from a discussion some close friends and I were having one late night out. Someone that was an acquaintance of ours had just committed suicide and I remember wondering if it'd be possible to actually create a compelling story about a group of people willing to kill themselves. The real problem I figured I would have was with making a valid reason as to what could actually drive people to commit such a final act. Once I started thinking about Youtube and reality television's popularity, all of which seldom have anything to do with reason of any kind, that changed. People will do anything to be famous. Add some very lost, very damaged individuals at the core of the story and the rest makes sense to me.
PELL: I was always concerned about the feedback I'd get, well before the Harley Quinn controversy came along. It could easily be perceived as glorifying suicide, or even just trying to capitalize on such a touchy subject. It's not a How-To book and I hope very much that people dig deep enough to see that.
Someone very bluntly asked me at a local convention I was attending, "Why suicide? What about stand-offs or shootings? People really do that." That was the same answer I would have given. People really do that and that's a fact I have trouble dealing with. As far as I know, no group of people have gotten together and created a grand suicide game and my sincerest hope is that it never will happen.
BC: In your Kickstarter message you ask people to refrain from judging the book before reading it. But you want them to back this project so they do have to make a judgment. Why should people back this project?
PELL: It's true they have to make a judgment before backing the book, but it's a judgment of interest I ask for. Here, you have a book that, in the worst case scenario, could be an absolute train wreck if done poorly. But, on the other hand, it's something original. Something, good or bad, you wouldn't see anywhere else. Of course, my belief is that Suicide 5 will be interesting and thoughtful. Something I think will lead to discussions worthy of having at least.
BC: Tell me about Ryan Howe. Where did you find him and how is the working relationship between the two of you? How much is it a collaboration as compared to him just working from your completed script?
PELL: I put out an ad for an artist and Ryan was one of the ones that answered it. Initially, he was not my choice. The artist I was working with originally was fantastic, but something wasn't lining up with the characters. I asked Ryan to give me some character sketches, and after seeing them, knew he was the one. I believe this was the first book he'd done digitally, and though I couldn't tell, he was growing more and more comfortable with creating the book that way. The script was already written, but he didn't hesitate to add a panel here or there when he thought it'd help out the flow. And he was right every time.
PELL: I've been very hesitant to talk about messages. I guarantee if I were to say, "Check out my new book, it's has a strong anti-suicide message attached," that it would draw a lot more press. I mean, who couldn't support that? But to me, the story is too complicated to break down into one simple message. And if I were just to state what the meanings were up front, then why would anyone bother reading it? I have faith in the reader above all else, I suppose. It's that faith that compels me to tell stories and to take the risks that come along with the nastier ones.
As for the book being on Kickstarter, I had some success last year with Season's End (which is available as one of the rewards.) Other than that, I like having complete control. On content, on marketing, on everything. Yeah, I know how things usually end with living-alone-in-a-hovel-in-the-middle-of-the-forest for people that talk about enjoying such control. But hovels can be made up a bit…and the forest doesn't scare me.