Kickstart From The Heart: The Guns of Shadow Valley

tgosv-posterBleeding Cool's Kickstarter Correspondent, Shawn Demumbrum has lead three Kickstarter campaigns to launch comic books, two successfully funded and one that wasn't.  Each week he will point out some of the unique Kickstarter projects that wouldn't normally be published by the big comic book companies, but deserve your attention.  Shawn is the Manager of Comic Book Programming for the Phoenix Comicon.  He is currently working on the Nothing Can Stop Me Now: Stories Inspired by the Songs of Nine Inch Nails.

Tell me about The Guns of Shadow Valley.

DAVE: It's a Wild West adventure about a posse of gunmen with superhuman abilities who have to travel into the mysterious and forbidding Shadow Valley, to defend a secret that lies within from an army led by an insane Colonel. It's big time classic Western adventure with a wide cast of characters and we've added elements of sci-fi, steampunk, superpowers, mysticism and folklore.


What drew you to creating a western story?  What makes it different from other westerns we've seen before?

DAVE: I've loved Westerns since I can remember. They were always grand, epic, and heroic. As a young tyke, I had a cowboy hat and six-shooter cap guns. Even before I knew of superheroes, I knew of cowboys. So several years ago, I had this simple mash up idea that put together two of my favorite things: superheroes and the Old West. And when you think about it, the folk tales of America's past are often superheroic tales. So using that folklore, ideas for characters and stories formed quickly.

JIM: I've always been a big fan of westerns, too. I was raised around horses and cowboys, and I have a soft spot for the old classic films like "The Searchers", "High Noon" and all the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. So when Dave suggested we create a western comic that would be a throwback to those kinds of films, I was on board in a heartbeat.


The two of you have collaborated before on Scar Tissue.  What do each of you bring to this book as collaborators?

JIM: Working together on Scar Tissue was different because I did all the writing. Every so often Dave would suggest changes in the script so that things would flow better visually, but he primarily focused on the art. This time around we're writing it together, and he's shown a wonderful literary sensibility that is great to work with. We both have a clear vision of what the story is about, where it's going, and how we're going to get there. I think we both understand each other and how our work styles fit together. But at the same time, we each bring a unique perspective. I have my own ideas about how characters might think or react and what they might say, and Dave does too. We often surprise each other with the directions we want to go.

What drew you to telling this story as a webcomic?  What limitations did standard comic books have that webcomics didn't?

DAVE: We began 5 years ago with the intention of creating a standard comic book series. We had gone the self publishing route with Scar Tissue, but felt that we were ready to look for publisher interest. We shopped it around, got a few nibbles, but never any deals that we felt comfortable with. We either asked to make creative changes, or give up a lot of the rights, or both. My friend Bryan Deemer, from Comic Geek Speak, had suggested to me the webcomics route. I brought the idea to Jim, we discussed the possible pros and cons, and felt that it was natural. It's not like we were going to make any money from the printed books, so this way we could get our story out there and hopefully build an audience.

JIM: A big limitation of a standard comic book–especially when you're self-publishing–is the guesswork. You print up a book and put it out there, and you hope it sells and people like it. But it's hard to get a sense for how it's received, unless someone takes the time to reach out to you and tell you so, or it gets reviewed, or you're selling tons of copies. With a webcomic, the feedback is readily available. We put up a page of the comic and right away the readers can comment on it. We can interact directly with people as they read it for the first time. We hear their voice, and they hear ours. It's a wonderful benefit.


Why Kickstarter?

DAVE: The time was right. The webcomic had to go on hiatus because I was getting more paid comics work from publishers. I had quit the day job and was making comics full time. But as time went on, I found it harder and harder to keep up with deadlines and produce pages of the webcomic. The release schedule became a trickle and finally dried up. Folks were disappointed, but none were as disappointed as we were. But it just wasn't feasible. Some people had made the suggestion of funding it on Kickstarter. It was half done, so it seemed possible to fund the rest of it and finally print that big hardcover we had dreamed about. I got to a point in my work schedule where I saw that I could take some time off and work towards making a campaign. I suggested it to Jim at last year's San Diego Comic Con, and he lit up.

JIM: I'd had some success with a couple of smaller Kickstarter campaigns before, so I knew the potential was there for it to work. And it was an opportunity to get back into the project and finish what we had started.

Does the Kickstarter fund the complete story that you set out to tell?  Are there other stories in the future for these characters?

JIM: Yes, this book has a beginning, middle and end that encompasses the full story we indended to tell. We do know what comes next for the sequel(s), but for now we're focusing on getting this first book done.

The webcomic has been hiatus.  How have you been able to mobilize your loyal readers to back the project?  Has drawing for some popular IDW and Dark Horse titles made it easier to attract readers of the webcomic and backers of the Kickstarter campaign?  Are you finding that your Kickstarter backers are previous readers or new to The Guns of Shadow Valley?

DAVE: That was something we thought about: would anybody still be interested? We knew some folks were, we'd get the occasional message on the website or Facebook page, asking if it would be coming back. I try my best to keep a certain amount of activity on places like Facebook and Twitter, and I hit multiple conventions every year, still with the Guns of Shadow Valley banner behind me and the preview book on the table. So we've never given up, we always had it in our heads that we would finish this story. I definitely think working on those books for IDW, and most recently working with Steve at Dark Horse, has upped my visibility as an artist, and in turn, drawn folks over to the webcomic and Kickstarter. And I think lots of our previous readers have come back, eager to help us get this story back on it's feet.

Now that you've hit the goal, the challenge is to keep the momentum going to continue to get funding for the project.  What additional stretch goals to you have as incentives for people to continue to donate?

JIM: We've got some free goodies like stickers, a fancy bookmark at the next stretch goal level, and an art print at the level after that. Beyond that–and we're announcing this first here on Bleeding Cool!-we're planning some upgrades to the hardcover book: 
At $40,000 we'll be adding a ribbon bookmark to the spine and replacing the signed & numbered bookplate with a signature page. It'll still be signed & numbered with a sketch by Dave, but instead of being a bookplate that you have to stick into the book, it'll be a full color page that's bound in with the book itself.
At $45,000 we'll be upgrading the cover with a fabric spine, foil embossed lettering, and a debossed front with full-color tip-on image.
At $50,000, Dave and I will be creating a "12-hour comic". This will be a bonus black-and-white comic book (around 22 pages), set in the world of "The Guns of Shadow Valley", made under the challenge of making 12 comic pages in 12 hours. Within that 12 hour period, Dave will be writing/illustrating a 12-page comic and I'll be writing a separate 12-page prose story, and we'll print them up together and include them with every hardcover.

There is no reason for someone interested not to pledge to your Kickstarter campaign.  What would you say to convince anyone sitting on the fence?

DAVE: We've got over a hundred pages of the book online for free right now. I say to folks, read what we've got and if you like it, come on back to the Kickstarter page and help us finish the story.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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