By Michele Brittany, West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
Walking around Artists Alley, it is unusual to come across husband and wife creative teams that are able to blend their creative talents into a cohesive project. I met Clint and Dawn Wolf in early 2011 at the last Wizard World Anaheim show and chatted with them about their young webcomic series Zombie Ranch as well as admire Dawn Wolf's original art.
Flash forward to Wondercon earlier this month, I met up with the Wolfs who were preparing to launch a KickStarter to fund the printing costs their upcoming trade paperback. The project will celebrate the fifth anniversary of Zombie Ranch.
Michele Brittany: Welcome and thank you for your time! Can you introduce yourselves to my readers?
Clint Wolf: Right in with the tough questions, huh? Well, I'm Clint Wolf. I'm the writer.
Dawn Wolf: I'm Dawn Wolf, the artist.
CW: As you might have guessed from the similar surnames, we're either brother and sister, or married, or both. Thankfully, we are not both. We've been married for ten years, and working on our webcomic Zombie Ranch for five.
MB: Congratulations on your five-year anniversary with Zombie Ranch. And what better way to celebrate than to have a Kickstarter to pull together your comics into print form! Can you tell me how you came up with the story and what it is all about?
CW: It might be best summed up as post-post-apocalyptic. It's set in an alternate future in the wake of a zombie outbreak which didn't quite wipe out humanity, and where zombies are now wrangled for profit. We like to call it our Weird New West. The comic is about a big broadcast corporation from one of the Safe Zones sending out camera drones to follow a crew of ranchers as they work "the most dangerous job in America."
DW: It started when I drew a late-night illustration for the Art Show at San Diego Comic-Con. I didn't really have any big thoughts behind it, but when Clint asked me about it I told him the woman with the shotgun was a zombie rancher.
CW: If she'd answered zombie hunter we wouldn't be here. Zombie rancher set off all sorts of questions in my mind, and the answers I came up with were the genesis of the setting and story.
MB: Can you tell me about Susannah Zane, our protagonist and resident zombie herd expert?
CW: She comes from a long, proud family lineage of Texan ranchers, but her daddy was the last one who ranched cattle. Suzie was born after the end of the Zombie Wars, part of what's called the Repop generation, so all this weirdness just seems completely normal to her. For instance she rides a zombie horse that she's owned since she was a little girl.
DW: When the story starts her dad's been dead for a few years, so she's in charge and is the one having to make all the tough decisions. We liked the idea of having a woman in that role since you don't often see it, especially in a Western-style genre.
MB: I am curious, how did you decide on the web comic medium to tell this story?
DW: Back when we first started I had been taking web design and comic book classes, so I was really excited about putting together a site at least for promotion.
CW: We also got confirmed for our first exhibitor table at a convention right around the time we finishing kicking around ideas, and decided we were going to go from a story outline to a complete full-color comic book in a month and have it to sell at the show. This was an insane notion, but we didn't know any better. In the end we ended up with a six-page minicomic and decided we'd finish the rest of the chapter online, and by the time that was done we'd realized just continuing as a webcomic was going to be far cheaper, easier, and more widely distributed than any other option.
MB: I admire that as a husband-wife team, your talents blends well together – writer and artist. Can you talk about your creative and decision-making process? Are there unique challenges you encounter as a husband and wife team that you might not encounter otherwise?
CW: I don't think we face any particularly unique challenges. We'll argue back and forth at times, but I'm pretty sure you don't have to be married to do that.
DW: Clint usually gives me a script and sometimes a storyboard and then I give him feedback on what I think will work visually. Then the arguing begins.
CW: Sometimes. There are a lot of other times where we actually do listen to each other's points and come to a solution, sometimes one that's even better than what we would have come up with on our own. This is the key to a happy comic, and most likely a happy marriage as well.
MB: Turning back to the Kickstarter you have going right now, what is your goal? By the way, I love the names of the incentive levels – very clever!
CW: Why thank you! I remember Dawn seeing my first draft of the tiers and saying something like "Where are the clever names? I know you can come up with clever names."
DW: Something like that.
CW: Honestly, the Kickstarter came together very smoothly once we knuckled down and got to it. It's about collecting the first seven chapters–basically the first major story arc–of the comic into a single trade paperback volume. This isn't actually our first time doing print; we've done limited run individual print issues before, but never a whole TPB, and it's something we've had fans wanting for a long time. It's also a big milestone for us, a way to celebrate all the work we've done and potentially share our story with a wider circle.
MB: After the Kickstarter, do you have other projects in the making? Anything you can share with my readers?
DW: I'll probably be launching a Patreon soon after we're done with this. Other than that, we're trying to focus on the now.
CW: Yeah, it's a big priority of ours to try to have our first Kickstarter be an on-time, on-budget affair. Kickstarters have a reputation for taking a lot longer to deliver than their creators originally estimate, and having backed more than a few in my time it's not entirely undeserved. I'd like to avoid that, and meanwhile also continue putting out the webcomic week-to-week as usual.
MB: Any upcoming cons on the horizon that fans can stop by your table and say howdy?
CW: Our next currently scheduled convention table will be in Artist's Alley at the Long Beach Comic Con in September. On Free Comic Book Day on May 2nd, we'll be making an all-day appearance at Player's Dugout Comics & Cards in Riverside, California.
MB: And for those who cannot make the cons, where can they find you online?
CW: Zombie Ranch is available to read online at zombieranchcomic.com, and our company website of Lab Reject Studios at labreject.com has a newsletter you can sign up for so we can keep you up to date on happenings. It also has a link to our Redbubble store for online purchases.
DW: And there's my personal gallery site at artofdawn.com, where you can find links to my Twitter and Instagram and everything and see all the weirdness that Clint keeps me from putting into the comic.
CW: Oh you have no idea. Or well, I suppose you will if you dare to go look.
MB: Clint and Dawn, thank you so much for your time!
Check out Zombie Ranch and their Kickstarter, going on now through May 10!
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer and editor of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland & Company). She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies and can be followed at Twitter @mcbrittany2014.