Alan and Carrie Tupper and Havana Nguyen are the heart of Moving Ink Media!. Based out of Atlanta, the trio's Glyph award winning work, Kamikaze, has been featured on Bleeding Cool, NPR, Syfy and various other news outlets! The series has been described as "If Mad Max and Batman Beyond raised a kid." In this interview, we get some insight from Carrie (writer, inker, painter, and art director) and Alan Tupper (layout and backgrounds artist and rough pages) on their new Kickstarter campaign for Kamikaze, which includes raising funds for an animation adaption!
GREG ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Thanks for making the time, Carrie and Alan Tupper! I understand you're both busy with your campaign. While I have you both, can you give us a brief run down about Kamikaze? Also what inspired this series?
CARRIE TUPPER: Kamikaze is about what happens when the world's first heroine grows up 200 years after the fall of human civilization. Markesha, our main character, desperately wants to run away to a better life outside of the dystopian city she calls home. But money is tight and immigration's expensive. Home girl is trying to save up AND get rent paid so she takes a risky job that blows up in her face, and goes from courier to an anti-gravity equipped covert operative almost overnight.
ALAN TUPPER: The idea started off as us trying to frame and talk about the challenges and experiences of early adulthood. And also to digest a lot of the big problems we struggle with as a civilization today. While we're tackling these heavy subjects we've always approached these stories through the lens of human connection and the spirit of hope and resilience.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: The series is actually well known in the indie scene, having been a popular web series for 5 years and garnered a few Glyph Awards over the years! What do you feel resonates with audiences with this series?
CARRIE: I think what draws people to the series is the art, but what keeps them in is the story and characters. Markesha is a character a lot of folks relate to because they see themselves in her hustle and struggle. A lot of fans also see themselves in Markesha's relationship with her father, Toshi – especially if they come from a single-parent home. The relationship between parent and child is unique because you have to rely on each other.
ALAN: We've been told by fans that they find the characters compelling and real. They also find the depth and complexity of the world to be exciting. There's a lot of places to explore in a world like this and our fans are always eager to join us in that exploration.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: For the first time it appears that you guys are allowing other people to jump on into the sandbox of Kamikaze. Can you tell us a bit about this and who are the creators you have involved?
ALAN: The anthology is really building on an established tradition of bringing outside creators to create short adventures set in the Kamikaze universe. Not only will the anthology feature Midnight Run (written by Dan Jolley, art by Jamel Jones and Licca Kirk) and Soundbox (written by Malisss White, art by Jamel and Hank Jones), it'll feature at least two new short stories which expand the Kamikaze universe, written by Robert Jeffrey II and John Robinson IV, and art by Takiea Marie and Erin O'Neill Jones. If we can get to our stretch goals we'll be able to add even more stories and creators like Talynn Kel!
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I'm a fan of a lot of those creators! Now with the release of your most current Kickstarter, you're also branching off into animation! What prompts this next step?
ALAN: We keep getting asked for it! "Where can we watch it?" "When is it coming out?" In the last 5 years we've had professionals approach us and based off the quality just assume it was animated. Based on that we've realized it's high time to deliver what our fans are asking for.
CARRIE: Sheer impatience and determination. We kept thinking it couldn't be done, until we talked to Esteban at Echo Bridge.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I understand you already have some voices already set up?
CARRIE: Animation needs voices so it was a unique challenge to find actors who fit our characters. One actor we're really excited about is Lee Shorten (The Man in the High Castle, Supernatural)! He's been cast to voice Toshi, our leads father. Toshi is a fast favorite character for many of our readers and he's the beating heart behind the short and Markesha's story. Now to just hit that stretch goal, so we can get Toshi on screen! We're also thrilled to have Dani Chambers (Chisei Hatori Ancient Magus' Bride) as our lead Markesha, Monica Rial (Tsuyu Asui/Froppy from My Hero Academia, Bulma from Dragon Ball Kai) as the Romanian tech engineer Audrey Dalma, and YouTube musician Jonathan Young as our antagonist.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Wow! What a cast! As of this interview, you have a few days left to raise $27,000 and you're almost at $22,000! What are some rewards and incentives for new people jumping on to help support and bring this to life?
ALAN: Virtually every backer tier comes with introductory materials for new fans to get up to speed on Kamikaze. The Hero Pack is easily our most popular and includes copies of Volume 1, Volume 2 and the anthology. Other tiers include digital downloads of the short and score, creator commentary and instructions for a game played in Markesha's world. And our books have always been stuffed with lore and world-building material for fans who really want to dive deep.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I really hope people will jump on board and make this a reality, because I am in fact a fan of the book and would love to see this animation happen!
*NOTE: Carrie and Alan Tupper were kind and able enough to get some quotes from various members of the animation, from actors to animators to further whet your appetite!*
CAST OF KAMIKAZE:
How did you get involved with Kamikaze?
DANI CHAMBERS (Voice of Markesha Nin): What attracted me to this project was the art style and story. I love the character designs and the way the backgrounds are drawn! It's so mesmerizing to me and seeing it animated just makes me so excited to see this beautiful art come to life!
MONICA RIAL (voice of Audrey Dalma): I was approached about the project by Carrie Tupper while appearing at a convention. I was so inspired by her passion for this project. I could tell it was something very special. As she told me more about the diversity of the cast and the relatable issues the characters face, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. What I admire most about Audrey is her strength and intelligence. She is an inventor with a heart of gold. She's had a rough life but that doesn't keep her from trusting others. She still manages to see the best people. And she accomplishes all of this while still grappling with the English language. I've had a long career voicing various strong ladies and I'm honored to add Audrey to that list.
KEVIN PACULAN (Voice of Link Sohn): What drew me to this project was the diverse set of characters that were established in the comics. They felt so organic to the merciless dystopian world presented and each character had a unique personality I enjoyed learning about as I read on. There's a lot to admire about Link and one of them is his charming attitude in this dangerous world you can't trust anyone. He's witty and cocky but he's this smart young hacker who knows what he has to do to keep the team up on its feet.
What have you learned from working on Kamikaze?
RIAL: I've learned so much from both the creative team and Kamikaze itself. First of all, I know this gets said often but it should be said again and again: representation is important. These characters are each so different and three dimensional. You can find a little of yourself in each of them. I love the idea that a little girl who's immigrated to the U.S., possibly struggling with the language, could see Audrey and realize that she could grow up to be just as strong and successful someday if she believes in herself. That's so inspiring.
Whenever I'm recording for Audrey my go-to word is "Heart." Audrey has such a big heart and she is genuinely concerned for those around her. It's incredibly sweet. She looks so tough but she's got a soft side.
This process has also taught me that Kamikaze has amazing, loyal fans. There are so many folks who I didn't even know were fans of the series until the Kickstarter announcement. I was being congratulated by people who had read the comics and I didn't even realize they were comic readers.
CHAMBERS: Each of the characters come from a different place. The team that Markesha ends up being with starts to become family. All from different backgrounds, but still can create a team to get the job done. Learning this, also shows me that the audience wants this as well. People from all sorts of places and background coming together to get the good things done! It does help me feed into Markesha. She has been through so much with her dad and knowing that she is starting to learn to depend on others to help, shows me that she can grow. I want to show that with my voice that she will grow as a character to become more open to listen to people.
PACULAN: I've learned a lot about promotional strategies so far with this Kickstarter and how constant you have to be with contacting and spreading information with social media. Social media isn't really my thing but it's my first time experiencing something like this, so there's lots to learn. From what I've learned about Link, he attracts a humorous audience, I'm sure many readers love his attitude and his fashion style. All of this helps with voicing the character because it gives me ideas of what else I can experiment with the character's personality traits
What are your hopes for this project?
RIAL: The hope is that this is just the beginning. I think everyone involved would love to see Kamikaze animated beyond the trailer and pilot episode. We would be delighted if we had the opportunity to make it a full series! Most of all, we want to make the Kamikaze fans happy and proud to be a part of this fandom. Anything beyond that is just the icing on the cake.
PACULAN: I hope that with this animated pilot and anthology series being made, this acts as a launch pad to reach other studios that will help escalate this project into a full animated series with a larger cast and production team. I would like to see this passionate teams voice be heard and be able to reach more audiences beyond just comics and animation.
CHAMBERS: That we will be continuing to tell this amazing story and have it as a 12 episode series! I am so ready for it too! This amazing art and characters in a fully animated series? What could be better than that?!
THE PRODUCTION TEAM AT ECHO BRIDGE
What have been the lessons working on Kamikaze has taught you?
ESTEBAN VALDEZ (Animation Director): For me, it's been a privilege to have met Carrie, Alan, and Havana Nguyen (Lead Character Artist, letterer and graphic designer) when they first launched Kamikaze many years ago. I think we all united around a similar consensus that we were all tired of seeing the same concepts and stories being retold, rehashed, and refurbished to audiences who have been craving for something new and original for about a decade now, but haven't really gotten it. The marketplace forgot the idea just because the audience likes a brand that that's all they want to see and consume. People have different tastes, ideas, and wants and if we're talking about true diversity in creating content, being able to be creatively diverse is just what Kamikaze is bringing to the table. And we're happy to support the team in their efforts to bring their passion and love for animation and comics to life.
OMAR McCLINTON (Producer): The Kamikaze team is very careful to remember what the project is all about the human condition. They understand that this "Kamikaze world" is no longer their project, but they share it with the fans and it's refreshing to see producers take such pride and careful attention to this responsibility and how the fans appreciate it. This, among all else, makes this a very special project for everyone involved.
What's going from comic to animation look like in practice? Is the 10-minute pilot all you're aiming for or are you looking to go beyond that?
VALDEZ: In practice, it should be a straightforward path. There is demand on both the audience and distribution side. We have supply. Basic economics. And seeing as we're at the very start of the streaming wars, it should become very interesting. With regards to the short… Well, I think you know the answer.
McCLINTON: Evolution of any character, whether in the narrative of the story or the means used to tell it, is always a good thing. The animated short is a natural progression for the character and the fans to enjoy the Kamikaze universe. I see this as the next step, but not the last in its continued evolution.
What are your hopes for Kamikaze?
VALDEZ: A very bright future. Carrie, Alan, and Havana have poured their passions into the property to make something purely for the audience. What I would hope for Kamikaze is that it continues to pave the way for other independent creators to make the leap into creating something bold and new. In addition, I would hope for Kamikaze to not just have a seven-season run, but to become its own franchise in and of itself. I'm a big supporter of the independent and I would love to see a happy ending for people who work hard and have tremendous character. That would be a really big win in my book.
*Campaign ends Tue, December 10 2019 11:59 PM EST! Check it out and pledge on THE LINK today!