By Patrick Gerard
When the first campaign for the comic book Ungrounded debuted in early 2013, we attracted quite a bit of attention and managed to exceed our initial goals by quite a bit. The story of a super-hero who rides a flying polar bear was just "out there" enough to spread around the internet and attract readers from over a dozen countries. Now, two years later, we're launching a follow-up, Ungrounded: The First Revolution, which reprints the original material with brand new stories by the original team but a few additional names which should be familiar to comic book readers.
We had a few great testimonials from established creators but none quite so bold as Hourman and sometimes Batman '66 writer Tom Peyer, who compared the book to the work of Grant Morrison and Jack Kirby. Peyer latched onto the story's absurd meta-commentary on the history of comic books and the idea of super-heroes and cosmic forces "breaking" the world, both literally — and figuratively by setting out to correct real world problems with "can do" science fiction solutions.
Years before Seth Rogen and James Franco took on North Korea in the film "The Interview", Ungrounded quietly deposed the country's leadership in a single panel, followed immediately by a one panel takedown of Israel's land disputes, which was solved by creating two alternate universes for Israel and Palestine to occupy. Solutions in the real world often seem zero sum with winners and losers but Ungrounded, to paraphrase a line by Morrison in Justice League Declassified, presents a complicated world of flying polar bears and zombie-vampire werewolves where super-heroes dole out "everybody wins" solutions whenever possible (and frequently when impossible).
In the end, the heart of the book lies in a kind of childlike faith in impossible solutions to real problems, drawing part of its inspiration from a Superman story in a February 1940 issue of Look magazine where Superman brought both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin before a world tribunal. It's interesting to contrast that with today's comics where recent years have shown us alternate glimpses of world weary Supermen, one of whom devoted his life to Hitler's empire, in an issue of The Multiversity by Morrison, and another to Stalin's, in the famous Red Son by Mark Millar. I have heard more than one creator or commentator suggest that today's heroes are perhaps embroiled in realism because of a cultural fear in the West of either defying reality or offering trivial solutions. Ungrounded: The First Revolution is ultimately a comic book aimed starkly at defying reality.
In fact, the name "Ungrounded" is a bit of wordplay which alludes to this. On a surface level, it features a flightless super-hero who is lifted into battle on the back of a flying polar bear. On a secondary level, it plays with the hero's electromagnetic powers. On a third level, the name was selected to evoke the book's defiance of "grounded" realism in today's popular culture. Ungrounded: The First Revolution continues all of these meanings and finally gets around to the always-planned fourth meaning of the book's title, in which we treat the word "ungrounded" as a synonym for "unearthed" or "excavated".
This time, we have a chapter of the book actually written by Peyer, with his sideways take on scripted cable drama like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad". He is joined by Brian Augustyn, perhaps best known as a longtime editor and Mark Waid's co-writer on The Flash, as Augustyn takes us on a pulp sci-fi adventure. The book features a pretty amazing roster of artistic creators, most of whom have experience working on multiple successfully Kickstarted (and delivered) books including a pin-up by Hero Hourly and Crimson Society artist Carlos Trigo (also of 2000 A.D.) The book features a brief chapter by Jim Ritchey (The Green Llama, Total Eclipse) and John Derrick West of Imaginary Drugs. The collection's cover features a brand new cover penciled by original artist Webb and further enhanced by the digital painting skills of Tony Washington (whose diverse work includes World of Warcraft and the 2007 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" animated film). Since the first volume is reprinted, we also have a pin-up by the Edison Rex art team of Dennis Culver and Stephen Downer as well as Batman: Arkham Knight's Art Thibert. The book features multiple new stories by Webb (who is also on art duty for the official Transformers Collector's Club Magazine) and myself.
What is most exciting to me as the book's principal writer and now editor is that while we have an anthology worth of talent on the book, every story contributes in some way to the mythological world we're all building and also develops the book's larger story, which emerges as a strange tale of impossible hope with a weird cast that includes a costumed college professor who moonlights as the electrifying caped hero Mister Solenoid, a vampire-zombie werewolf assassin, the billionaire treasure hunter named Vivian Von Valiant, a magic super-speedster, and, of course, a flying polar bear named Prince Ulysses who came to life from the pages of a children's book. In these new stories, these characted are confronted by the quarrelsome Dramatic 5, The Flamingo Fuhrer and his Floridian Iron Parrot Legion, the grief of loss, and a man named Fred. The new adventures span from Miami to Mars and back again, across time, and briefly detouring through a diner in Oregon.
Not everything works on the first attempt in the world of crowdfunding and this is the second attempt at Kickstarting this project. In this case, it looks as though the second time is the charm and we're currently on track to be completely financed. It took revised goals and a faster production timeline, drawing on more guest collaborators, to get this project on track for successful funding. Fortunately, this Kickstarter campaign is poised to smash its goals this time, looking as though it will finish up well in excess of its funding goals on May 1st 2015 and scheduled to arrive in backers' hands by the end of October.
Patrick Gerard is a writer, performance storyteller, scholar and misfit who earns his first Master's Degree on April 25th. You can follow him on Twitter at @Writcom