They do not have secret
corporate funding, or superstar writers/artists. Instead, these are
comics truly from the heart, because many of the creators have wagered
all their own spare time and money on them, sometimes more. This year,
one such book leapt out at us. Okay, the writers/publishers actually
handed it to us, but you get the point.
From tiny brand-new
publisher Opposite Number comes The Wonderverse, an alternate
universe tale featuring cowboys, the supernatural, possible alien
invasion, and a British costumed vigilante from a time before such
things were understood.
Drawn in a style that
looks to combine Art Adams and Judd Winick with a manga sensibility,
The Wonderverse is no simple story. The first issue jumps around
over an eight-year period, covering many different characters whose
relationship to each other may not be readily apparent.
The best concept is
"The Magic Bullet;" when fired, it kills, but once removed, the wound
heals and the victim recovers. Used by the villain of the piece, Lord
Valos Bergman-Jones, to fuel a carnival career, the bullet may be
physiologically linked to a mysterious gunslinger known (so far) only
as The Spook. But enough of the mystery is in place to make it worth
exploring this first mini-series, Nexus.
One of the book's co-creators,
Jona Kottler, took the time to talk with Fanboy Planet about the origins
of the book, her plans for the future, and just how much sweat goes
into trying to publish a book while having both a day job and a family.
What got you into comics?
Oh, gosh. I think that it started in high school, a lot of kids our
age were familiar with comics from the great shows when we were younger,
you know, like Superfriends, The Incredible Hulk (live-action
show), even Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. My boyfriend,
now husband Jason (co-creator of The Wonderverse), was into
them, so it was a logical step to turn to the actual comic books.
DM: So what
made you decide that you could write comics?
JK: After reading
a lot, I thought "I could do better than that." With that kind of
smugness that you have, that you think it's so easy to do better than
them. And we (she and Jason) talked and talked and talked and then
one day we just decided we either have to do it or stop talking about
it. So we started writing a script with some characters from various
things that we had been doing for a long time. Jane (Pembrook, the
book's female lead) was actually a character from a role-playing game.
JK: Castle Faulkenstein.
And so, we completed a script then we realized we were completely
unartistic, and we made up some flyers and put them around local comic
stores saying "artists wanted, this fabulous new comic book, that
can't afford to pay you a dime, would really like all of your hard
JK: This was
in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
DM: But you're
in California now.
JK: We're in
California now, but our artists (Chayne Avery and Russell Garcia)
still live in Albuquerque.
up these flyers, and Chayne (pronounced Shane, like the cowboy, according
to Jona) and Russell were a team themselves?
JK: Yeah. Just
doing the same sort of things we were. They were drawing a lot and
thinking, "wouldn't it be fun if we could really do this for real?"
Chayne works for U.S.
West, or Qwest I guess they call it now. He draws ads as a daytimer.
He wanted for a very long time to not be just a commercial artist.
To be able to more creative in his work. We found each other at just
the perfect time.
DM: So what
do you and Jason do?
JK: Jason is
a computer programmer. He writes software for NEC Systems. And I'm
DM: So that
pushed the move to California?
JK: Yeah, it
did. Partially as a way to fund the book.
DM: Why go
right into self-publishing? Or did you try to sell your ideas someplace
JK: We never
even considered going someplace else. We wanted to keep control of
it, and learn how to do it ourselves. We used to own a business together.
We're sort of big-time do-it-yourselfers. Rather than spend a long
time sending stuff out and hoping, we just thought we'd jump in and
DM: So what
kind of problems and good things have you faced in launching your
own company, Opposite Number Comics?
JK: We sometimes
call it our trip to Europe. "How's the trip to Europe doing today?"
because it's a lot of money. Costs a lot of money. And it requires
lots of sacrifices, in many different ways. We spend a lot of time
working on it. We have a five-year-old son, and we have what we call
"date night." And we go out and work. People say "have you seen X-Men?"
and we're like, yeah, once, but we have to go work. Leave us alone,
we're working. Once a week we get to work together, otherwise we work
separately and try to collate our stuff.
DM: So how
long did it take you from the point of hiring Chayne and Russell to
the official release date, (was it) this past September?
JK: It was officially
released in July. We sort of launched it in San Diego. It took us
almost a year from meeting them, mostly because we were inventing
There are a couple of
books on the market about how to self-publish your own comic book
which are somewhat instructive, but it's like someone giving you advice.
You know, like they tell you "when you're in college, never do this,"
and you're like, oh yeah, sure, it won't be like that for me. You
just have to blunder through and make your own mistakes. Those have
been the hard things. It takes a long time with everybody having day
DM: Is this
first mini-series then completed and just awaiting sales?
JK: The first
mini-series is not completed. We're doing it kind of as we go along.
Number two will be out in November. It's going to be quarterly for
these first ones. We're going to an anthology format in number five,
after the mini-series, or we may be calling it (number) one, having
ultimate power, as we say. We're going to get an anthology and have
a bunch of different artists. We have four artists that we're talking
to right now. Each one of those artists will take on one of the characters
from the book.
DM: The book
mentions that this first story will go from 1871 through the forties.
So will these four main characters be the mainstays of The Wonderverse?
JK: They'll be
the mainstays of The Wonderverse for a little while, for x
amount of time, until we're not interested in their stories anymore.
If you're looking at
it from a television point of view, we don't want to be American television,
we want to be British television. We want to tell a story until it's
over, and then end it. We want these people to grow old and die and
have descendants and move on, rather than have Jane be twenty-two
years old for the next fifty years. We'd like the stories to go until
they don't, and maybe stop short of where they don't go on anymore.
DM: The art
does seem to have a very heavily manga-influenced look, especially
in the design of (British/Jewish detective/young hero) Mordecai. Was
that something that you had intended, or is it just because Chayne
answered the ad and he was good?
JK: It has a
lot to do with Chayne's style. We looked at several different artists,
and his (work) was really by far the best. When we looked at some
of his sequential work together, we thought, wow, we're trying to
make this of our world, but not really of our world. And this is one
way of making it look not exactly like the Victorian Age. It's like
it's a different place.
Although it wasn't our
original intention, it was perfect. As soon as we saw it we thought,
yeah! It's going to give it it's own look. Wild West manga.
DM: The title
of the book itself: Why call it The Wonderverse, when the characters
and situations seem so dark and bleak? Wonder has a connotation of
being light, like in "the wonder of it all."
JK: Hmm. Wonder
has a connotation for me of awe. And awe doesn't necessarily have
to be positive. Also, it's a sort of a realm of hope. There's a lot
of darkness right now, but with darkness, I think, always comes an
underground movement of hope.
DM: What attracts
you to this time period for your story, especially when you still
have a character like Black Jack who is a very familiar vigilante
JK: Well, Jane
was in that period originally. The way that we write is that we each
created certain characters, and when we do a first draft we each write
pretty much the characters that we created. Then when we go into editing,
we work on each other's stuff and try to polish it out.
Jack was somebody that
Jason had thought about, what would happen if you had a vigilante
before vigilantes? How would you come about in deciding that
this would be an appropriate way to handle your beef with the world?
What if we took it back in time when there weren't any models for
this? What would you use as a model then?
And for me, I was a
literature major in college, and my masters' degree is in Great Books,
so it's fun to explore, for me, literary archetypes and to move them
into the comic world. Which, certainly, I'm not a pioneer in this,
but it's just fun for me to do.
DM: The book
opens with the image of a burning missionary outpost in Africa, and
a Bible being hurled to the ground. Were you purposely courting controversy?
JK: It's quite
a striking image. I wish this were Jason answering. I'd love to make
sure I get this right. No, we weren't particularly courting controversy.
We didn't set out to say "how do we make a bunch of people mad?" It's
part of the story, and it's part of (Lord Valos) Bergman-Jones' character.
We wanted to show just how vile he is, exactly what lengths he will
go to. We thought if we took something that is supposed to be an act
of goodness, and showed how he could turn that around, it would be
very reflective upon his character.
DM: What was
your initial run?
DM: You have
a couple of stores in Albuquerque selling this?
JK: And a couple
of stores in Sacramento, a chain in Sacramento. Those are the ones
that carry it in the store. We sell it from the site, and we're in
Diamond (Distributing)'s committee right now. They send it out to
a committee friendly to independent comics, and then they vote (on
whether to carry it). We're still there, and in discussions with Cold
Cut, the back-order distributor.
DM: How have
you done so far with the book?
JK: We were really
surprised at the convention. We had done a lot of reading on how many
copies an independent comic might sell in total, how many you might
expect to sell at a convention. We talked about it with some of the
people that we met.
We did about fifty percent
more than most of the people we talked to. So we were happy about
that. We've had good local sales, and we just had a really nice review
in the Comics Buyers' Guide. That just came out this week.
You asked about the
bad and the good, and here's the real good: the good is that you get
to do whatever you want. Chayne says, "you know, I was thinking it
would be cool if I could take page 22 and make it two pages." And
we say, yeah, go ahead. It's much more personal. We get to do our
own work and we get to really be in charge of what happens creatively.
And that's a nice thing.
If you're interested
in taking a look at The Wonderverse for yourself, please go to www.thewonderverse.com,
and tell them that Fanboy Planet sent you.