By Jason Karlson
"Turn on the news. What do you think?"
That was it. The response to a question sent to comics creator C. Spike Trotman. In truth it was a rhetorical question. I had asked about the bold, attention grabbing statement at the end of the fundraisers video, Embrace the Alien. I expected that answer but not in such a frank and powerful manner. I have turned on the news, I do see, and it's terrifying. Far from embracing the alien we seem more terrified or anything 'other'. Close to home in the UK, the newly elected Tory government strives even more to turn us against immigrants and the poorer, most needy members of our society. The USA is, in the last year, tearing itself apart as racial tensions spiral out of control. More than ever we turn to fiction as a prism in which to separate out such complex issues and explore them in more detail.
Already over 100% funded on Kickstarter and steadily heading towards it's stretch goals, New World is a comics anthology which aims to explore these fears and tackles the theme of Cultures in Conflict, filtered through a prism of sci-fi and fantasy. Featuring 25 new and original stories from 30 creators over a whopping 365 pages in black and white, showcasing just a few of the Internet's greatest and most unsung artists and writers. Although it has already been funded, with eighteen days to go the organisers are working hard in the last few weeks towards stretch goals that will enable the contributors to be paid more generously, as well as also unlocking contributor rewards, such as seeing the already achieved exclusive Benjamin Dewey cover ungraded into hardback.
The organiser of New Worlds; comics creator C. Spike Trotman is no stranger to the crowd funding website having seven previously fully funded Kickstarters already under her belt. Including the insanely popular Smut Peddler and The Sleep of Reason, one being a female based, sex positive, self professed "sexiest anthology ever" and the other filled to the brim with unconquered fears, respectively. As well as running numerous anthologies and drawing together some of the greatest comics talent around she also has her own long running online comic series, Templar Arizona. Beautifully drawn and running since 2005, it chronicles the exploits of characters living in a "slightly irregular Arizona" that spike herself describes as equal parts speculative fiction, an alternate timeline, and an alternate history.
The artists involved in New World are a mixture of people selected by Spike and through a series of open submissions. Featuring an even mix of relative unknowns and a few you might have heard of such as Carla Speed McNeil; the artist on Alex Decampi's new Image series, No Mercy or Sophie Goldstein creator of the post apocalyptic tale, The Oven . Others equally talented, come from more of a webcomic background such as Abbadon on the fantasy horror series, Kill Six Billion Demons or Ben Jelter and his time travelling sci-fi story, Heliosphere. Just is to name a few out of the whopping 30 or so creators involved, all with unique styles and visions to bring to this collection.
Spike Trotman: I began reading comics as a kid, back when people still looked forward to that day's newspaper strips. I can't quite remember my age, but I was probably in the single digits. I think I was pretty fortunate, too, because when I was just starting to read recreationally, newspaper strips were beginning to experience their last Golden Age, with comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. From there, I graduated to traditional superhero floppies, like Excalibur. But then, comics lost me for a while; while I was a teenager with an allowance, they started in with that "Age of Apocalypse" crap, and started expecting me to buy multiple titles every month, just to follow the story. Eff that. So, I quit.
I didn't read comics at all for a year or two, but then I discovered the alternative press. Stuff like Cerebus and Fun With Milk and Cheese had a huge impact on me. It was around then I began making my own comics, little digest-sized minis I sold in school. Every once in a blue moon, someone I knew from high school will bring it by the con table to sign. The quality of the art HORRIFIES ME, which is only normal, I suppose.
JK: What drew you to Kickstarter to fund this project and also what in particular drew you to the anthology format?
ST: I was down with Kickstarter from the second I first heard about the website in 2009. I couldn't get people that did nothing but talk shit; its possibilities seemed like a no-brainer, to me. I anticipated its transformative effect on comics YEARS ago. But seriously, that wasn't uniquely perceptive. How could you NOT see where something Kickstarter that could lead?
And frankly, I love anthologies. Around the time I started doing them, there was a dearth of small press anthologies that met my expectations. And I'm one of those people who take that classic, meant-as-a-blow-off piece of advice, "If you don't like it, make your own!" seriously.
JK: You've also got a lot of eBooks advising people on Kickstarers and such, do you feel that passing on this information and helping as many creators as possible is important?
ST: Sure! I've never been an information hoarder. I'm hard pressed to consider the concept of the "trade secret" anything other than passé. And if I didn't make those how – tos and guides, I'd just be fielding a dozen emails a month asking me those questions!
JK: Even with this being your seventh Kickstarter, and even thought it's funded, do you still get nervous?
ST: Always. There are no guarantees, y'know? I do everything I can to stack the deck – I send out press releases, I urge everyone involved to self–promote – but I haven't got a crystal ball. Anyone's Kickstarter can crater. A poorly planned campaign can doom even the most in-demand stuff.
JK: Where did the idea for the theme, civilisations in conflict come from? Does it in some way reflect how at times it seems like there is a lot of culture clashes in the world at present?
ST: That theme a rose from what I perceive as science-fiction and fantasy's preoccupation with warfare and adventuring. That's usually what passes for intercultural conflict in most fiction. But on the scale of history, those are blips on the radar. After the war, after The Great Adventure, those cultures still have to deal with one another. There's still something left to talk about. That's what I wanted the anthology to be about, in a broad sense.
JK: What was the process for finding and selecting artists from the anthology? Are there any among them that have pushed the idea of the conflict theme in places you never expected?
ST: Half of the participants in my anthologies were personally invited, and half are selected via an open submissions process. I love doing things this way; it assures the tone and quality level I'm after, and it introduces me to new artists I might have otherwise never known about. Some of the folks who've submitted to my anthologies as strangers have gone on to be good friends!
The most unexpected story I received is probably the one by Ezra Claytan Daniels, Which is about The Singularity. Not gonna ruin it, though.
We know only two things for certain of Jason Karlson; that he was born on the wagon of a traveling show to Latverian parents, and that tales of his origins are wholly fictional. His writing style is pithy and insightful, with hints of oak and red berry, finished with earthy tones and somber notes. If he were to describe himself in a single word it would likely be self-deprecating. He occasionally tweets over at @marfedfolf and rambles on at marfedblog.