Mike Wolfer writes for Bleeding Cool:
If you're a fan of Avatar Press, you're probably familiar with my work as a writer, artist, or both on Warren Ellis' GRAVEL, Garth Ennis' STITCHED, Brian Pulido's LADY DEATH, and a host of other horror titles including FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Throughout May 2014, I'm running a Kickstarter campaign in the hope of reaching a $5000 goal to publish a 96-page, black and white graphic novel titled THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL. This is my first Kickstarter, and I'm finding that the amount of prep work is enormous, which goes far beyond the production of the actual story and art. But I'm ready for it because of the unique history of RAGDOLL, a history which will have a positive impact on the fulfillment of Kickstarter contributors' rewards. But let me interview myself in order to give you all of the gory details:
What is THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, and what's this mysterious history you mentioned?
RAGDOLL first came to life in 1998, when Avatar Press commissioned me to write and illustrate a 7-part, serialized tale for their "Adults Only" anthology title, RAW MEDIA QUARTERLY. Because of my fascination with all things weird and my fond memories of Warren Publications' EERIE, CREEPY and VAMPIRELLA magazines, I created a horror story with fully gray-toned art in an attempt to capture the feel of those old Warren titles. Page lengths for each chapter varied wildly, depending on the length of the other stories in each issue of RMQ, so it was a bit of a struggle to try to jam in as much character-building exposition as I could between the mandatory, explicit sex scenes. But despite the challenges, I've always considered RAGDOLL one of my finest projects, and one of which I'm immensely proud.
So this is a reprint of an old story?
In a sense. Yes, it is a reprint, but there's been a massive overhaul of the art and story. What I've done is remove all of the explicit panels and replaced them with new art, and most fulfilling to me is that since I'm publishing this as a stand-alone trade, I now have no set page count for each chapter. That means that I've been able to supplement each of the seven chapters with totally new pages, to expand on existing events and replace excised subplots which had to be cut because of length restrictions. Additionally, I've added a whole new ending which adds a shocking twist to the entire story. So yes, this is a reprint, but it's almost like a different animal.
One, I wanted to make the story more marketable and have wider appeal, plain and simple. Most of my fans don't even know RAGDOLL exists because of the relative obscurity of the story, buried in an old, Adults Only anthology. And two, all of those sex scenes were really pretty silly, and totally extraneous. I created them because that's what the job called for, but in truth, they did nothing but detract from the integrity of the story. Still, there is a strong sexual element in THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, and it is R-rated for nudity, gore and language, and if you've seen WIDOW, LADY DEATH or my NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD work, you know that my stuff tends to veer into sexual/sexy territory. But I like a balance between all thematic (and "exploitation") aspects of the story, so I bumping up the horror and toned down the sex. And it's now a much stronger reading experience because of it.
What exactly is the story about?
THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL is a multi-layered, non-linear, Gothic horror story, a tale of retribution from beyond the grave. In 1877, a geologist snowbound in a cave in the Carpathian Mountains uncovers the journal of a woman who calls herself "Ragdoll," and as he reads her words, her 100 year-old story unfolds. Ragdoll's origin is enigmatic, but we do know that she was constructed from the sewn-together body parts of many women and somehow given life though supernatural means. But the tragedy of the tale is that most of those women from whom she was constructed were murdered, and their memories, passions, fears, and dreams are all still very much a part of Ragdoll's psyche. And one by one, she will track down and exact a most terrifying revenge upon those responsible for the murder of each woman who is forever a part of her.
This first trade is the introduction of the characters and premise. THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL is 96 pages long, and there's a lot of entertainment packed in there, but I see endless story possibilities in the future. I could easily do a string of sequels, and actually, I'm already planning on that. If the Kickstarter is successful and fan reaction is as positive as I hope it will be, I'm probably going to look at immediately starting production on a follow-up trade.
Why are you doing this through Kickstarter, rather than taking it to another company?
I'm very happy with the company work that I'm doing for Avatar Press and Zenescope, but I was once a self-publisher way, way back, and I miss those days of no-strings-attached creation. And also, if you approach any publisher and explain that you've got a property with an X-rated history, that's a stigma that's hard to overlook. So in essence, I'm starting RAGDOLL over from scratch, retooling the whole thing to create something new, and a new reputation. If publishers are interested in the future, we'll talk, but for right now, I'm having fun calling all of the shots and making all of the creative, marketing and promotional decisions.
Yeah, that's because the work is already completed, and I've already been paid once for it, so I don't have any personal page rates to figure in. The new pages I'm drawing, I'm doing simply for the love of it. The goal I set is enough to cover manufacturing costs and shipping, and also to pay for the new lettering by Natalie Jane, and the cover and art print coloring work of Ceci de la Cruz.
How many cover variants and prints are there?
The Kickstarter is to fund the Standard Cover Edition which I'll sell through mail order and at conventions, but KS contributor rewards are the Kickstarter Exclusive Edition and the Kickstarter Exclusive Art Deco Edition, both of which are available signed and numbered, and I'm also offering sketch editions of each of those. I also have a special Retailer level, where qualified comic vendors can get 5 Standard Editions at a discounted rate. In addition, there will be three 11"X17" art prints planned as Stretch Goal rewards, "The Siren, "The Vampiress," and "The Wolfwoman."
For my first Kickstarter outing, I'm keeping it very simple. I've been watching and analyzing campaigns by other creators and looking at what works and what doesn't, so I'm not offering a bunch of little crap that's just going to get thrown in a drawer and forgotten. My rewards are books, books, books, a 1970s movie poster style glow-in-the-dark t-shirt, some original art, art commissions, and art prints for stretch goals.
What about digital?
I understand that digital release is becoming a vital component to publication success, so I am going to be making a digital PDF available of THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL at the $15 contributor level. As I said, I've been watching other Kickstarter campaigns, and I've noticed that levels that offer digital delivery tend to be less popular than print levels, but I also know that many of my fans prefer digital, or they don't want to have to pay exorbitant shipping fees, or have to wait forever for deliver. And speaking of delivery, since the art is already completed, there won't be a year-long wait for contributors. If the Kickstarter is successful, I'm going to press immediately, so I should be able to begin delivering rewards within 30 days of the end of the campaign.
I'm not sure how followers of my work will see the story. Maybe they'll think that it's typical Wolfer, which is fine by me. But from my perspective, it has a very distinct feel that sets it apart from everything else I've done. That could very well be because of the 18th Century setting; the clothing, the background elements, the attitudes and mores of Central Europe at that time. I've been lucky enough to write a wide variety of genre books, and I try to tailor my style to the specific title. So for example, my writing on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD reads very differently from what I did with Warren Ellis' WOLFSKIN. And I think THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL is unique unto itself, with a definite "voice" that makes it stand apart from my other work.
You can contribute to THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL Kickstarter campaign here, and also receive news and updates at www.facebook.com/thecurseofragdoll, @WolferMike on Twitter, www.tumblr.com/blog/mikewolfer, and http://mikewolfer.deviantart.com/