In the competitive world of comics it is important to stand out and get noticed and that is what happened when The Untamed was released at the end of the 00’s. It received accolades from the likes of Clive Barker and early on talks of a live action version were rumored. Now a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to support a printed copy of the graphic novel and we spoke to the brains behind it; Sebastian A. Jones.
Jones launched Stranger Comics in 2008 together with some friends.
‘We felt there was a lack of dark fantasy epics in the comic genre, and we felt we had a fully baked world we could tell character driven stories in’ Jones explains. ‘We wanted to protect our creative visions we had worked very hard on’
Jones, who moved to the States twenty years ago from England, had run a record label so he knew the business side of things and had also written a one issue comic (as part of a 4 issue series) by the name of Salvador for Boom! Studios.
‘It was collaboration with filmmakers The Polish Brothers, but the other three issues were never released. Unfortunate as it had great potential, but it was a great experience allowing me to become good friends with Andrew Cosby (who is a producer partner on the animated TV show we are developing at Film Roman)’says Jones.
Jones describes himself as a Dad and a Dungeon Master and draws his inspiration from the likes of Sergio Leone, Jack Kirby, Malcolm X, Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kuroswa, Alice Coltrane, Alan Moore, Fela Kuti, Muddy Waters, Ennio Morricone, Gorecki, Peter David, Tolkien and above all his son. All very visible in The Untamed a perfect blend of Asian storytelling and spaghetti westerns.
‘In business I look to my Father’s eternal optimism and my Mother’s grounded reality’
Running Stranger Comics is a full time job, but Jones busies himself with teaching and acting in commercials. He isn’t completely alone in his endeavors though.
‘We have a few people that work at Stranger Comics: Darrell May, Joshua Cozine, Eddie DeAngelini, Christopher Garner and Mike Hodge’ he explains. ‘We also work with Ken Locsmandi and Peter Bergting on a lot of projects. Some are full time some part-time.’
The artists that have graced the pages of Stranger Comics have been found through referrals, online or through teaching. The Untamed, as mentioned, became the first title under the Stranger Comics brand, story by Jones and art by the Swedish artist Peter Bergting (The Portent, Dungeons & Dragons), and it generated a lot of buzz. That buzz became very important for the coming productions and Jones is quick to point out how important that buzz was.
‘It was everything’ he states. ‘ It has taken such a long time to produce, mostly because it is a painted book and the trials of having a boutique company and raising a family is not easy. Receiving buzz and excitement let us know that being in the lab for all these years has been worth it.’
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen bumps, only two physical issues of The Untamed were released, but the story was completed and released in digital form in 2014.
‘Now, we feel having the entire graphic novel as a hardcover coffee table book will be a great reading experience’ he is glad to report.
The buzz around The Untamed also brought about early rumors of a live action version. Those rumors faded with time, but Jones has now announced the plans of producing an animated version instead, keeping the initial productions team intact.
‘I am still working with the producer team including Andrew Cosby, as well as Lloyd Levin (Watchmen, Hellboy) and Andrew Sugerman (Death Sentence, Shop Girl)’ Jones says. ‘In fact, all three are helping me produce the animated TV show at Film Roman (The Simpsons).’
The world of The Untamed is not unexplored and those familiar with Stranger Comics have more than likely come in contact with Tales from Asunda and Dusu as well as seen teasers for Erathune. Dusu was just completed and Asunda stands at one issue so far. Jones is eager to share the state of the expanding universe.
‘Tales of Asunda is coming along. We have a two issue tale by Darrell May titled Morka Moa, which has been written and penciled – It should be out this year, and Erathune: issue 1 is complete and we hope to release all four issues this year. Sheldon Mitchell (The Darkness) is illustrating Darrell’s boards and I am writing’ Jones explains. ‘Both books look stunning.’
To bring a physical version of The Untamed is, as previously mentioned, the next goal so Jones and company decided to take to crowdfunding and the ever popular Kickstarter. The project is for an oversized deluxe hardcover version.
‘I wanted to have the fans to be the final part of The Untamed comic series journey.’
Jones explains the range of rewards that can be expected by backers;
‘Rewards range from the book, music, and the motion comic. We will also have Kickstarter exclusive lithograph prints, convention prints, original painted sketches by Peter and Darrell, and opportunities to hang out with the team and our producers. Cool rewards include: poet for hire, and 7 golden coins for 7 souls who could get a convention discount for life, and get your noggin illustrated as a Dwarf or Orc in Erathune. Stretch Goals are currently locked, but they are epic.’
It is easy to get infected by Jones’ positive attitude and the idea behind choosing Kickstarter over other crowdfunding sites was that it is an all or nothing deal. Jones is also convinced that the project will be a success, there is no other option. So what comes after this Kickstarter project?
‘The Dusu: Path of the Ancient Graphic Novel’ Jones begins. ‘Erathune Graphic Novel, Morka Moa, and our kid’s book I Am Awesome (from the I Am Book Series).’
Stranger Comics isn’t only a publisher for comics, they are also in the process of publishing a series of children’s books called I Am.
‘The I Am Book Series focuses on and celebrates the diversity that exists in the lives of today’s children’ Jones says. ‘I AM stresses to children that their uniqueness is a gift to be treasured. Our first in the series is I Am Mixed and we followed up with I Am Living in 2 Homes for kids that deal with separation and divorce. Our next book is I Am Awesome. I wrote the book with Garcelle Beauvais (Jamie Foxx Show, Grimm) and James C. Webster (Dusu) illustrated. We were lucky to have Halle Berry and Dr. Charles Sophy write the respective forewords.’
What are Jones’ future plans after the Kickstarter?
‘I could do with a holiday! But I’m sure we will be following up with our next books and hopefully TV shows!’
For more information surf on over to Stranger Comics Website
Follow them on Facebook for more updates on the projects
or even better; head on over to the Kickstarter page and pledge today: