INDIE SPOTLIGHT #2- ROADKILL DU JOUR

INDIE SPOTLIGHT
by Glenn Matchett

 

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Welcome back everyone to another installment of our look at small press comics that we feel deserve a bigger spotlight and your hard earned dollars.

When  looking for that new comic to scratch the itch that we can’t quite identify the majority of us go to the comic book shop. Those fortunate enough to have a good LCS will have a good selection of both mainstream and indie press along with staff who will perhaps a new book that could become your new favorite.

Of course not all comics can be found in the comic shop (many aren’t even distributed by Diamond). Often times you need to search the net or find them at comic cons. Since working with GrayHaven (who frequent many a con) I have noticed a lot of small press creators selling their own self published work at cons, doing it to get people to talk about their books and build a reputation.

There are some real diamonds among these comics you can’t get at your local store and some companies that are doing fantastic comics that unfortunately  aren’t even a blip on the comic market radar. One such company is Inverse Press which was founded in 2010 by writer Kevin LaPorte and artist Amanda Rachels and their company goal is a pretty straightforward one: just to make great comics.

After many successful Kickstarter campaigns and some of the finest indie books I’ve ever read including CLOWN TOWN and FLESH OF WHITE (written by GrayHaven’s own executive editor Erica Heflin) main writer Kevin LaPorte and artist Shawn Harbin are back for the third issue of their miniseries ‘ROADKILL DU JOUR’.

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Following the path of a biker who has been cursed to ride the roads in a search for his love Vanessa ‘Roadkill DuJour’ is a dark tale that fans of horror will  take to like ducks to water. The main character DuJour is cursed by the voodoo priestess of a rival gang to go on this dark path alone with only the dead carcasses of animals found on the road to sustain him.

If it sounds dark and slightly messed up, it’s because it is. Writer Kevin LaPorte crafts tales that are dark in nature and fans of Stephen King novels or even Image’s The Walking Dead will find a similar tone within the pages of his comics. He takes his protagonist on a sinister road filled with demons and monsters from your worst nightmares.

If you like Sons Of Anarchy by the way of Lovecraft then this book is what you are looking for. It’s definitely offering a story that is decisively unique which is an extreme rarity in the mainstream comic market. If you’re even worried about picking up the first two parts the third issue will be running a Kickstarter soon where the first 2 will be available as rewards for your generosity.

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For more about the third issue Kickstarter and ROADKILL DU JOUR  I caught up with Kevin so he could tell us more about the book and himself!

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10 QUESTIONS WITH KEVIN LAPORTE:

 

GH: Tell us more about yourself Kevin, what made you want to start writing comics in the first place?

KEVIN: I’ve been a voracious reader of comics since the mid-1970’s when I discovered The Hulk and Spider-Man on spinner racks in local convenience stores around the rural area of Alabama where I grew up.  The Marvel books of that era had a weird, imaginative darkness to them that struck a chord with me and has stayed with me to this day.  On top of that, I was always fascinated with stories in general and began creating my own early on, if it was using action figures as a kid, via Dungeons and Dragons as a teen, or by actually writing my own stories (and even a few comic scripts) around the time I graduated high school and matriculated to college. 

As these things go, my literary pursuits were lost along the way as I was busied with marriage, graduate school and, eventually, a career in mental health.  I wrote a few short stories here and there over the next 15 or so years, and the occasional Star Wars RPG adventure, but, primarily, my writing was confined to the technical variety – psychological reports and official memoranda.  Finally, in 2009, a series of discussions about creating our own comics with my partner, artist Amanda Rachels, inspired me to quit procrastinating and making excuses and actually write.  After a lot of research and even more trial-and-error, comic scripts started happening, which has led me to where I am today in terms of really writing and publishing comics.

GH: How did Inverse press come about with Amanda?

KEVIN: Amanda and I began our foray into really producing comics with a web comic called The Blind Eye, which we released from 2009-10.  After the first full arc was complete, we wanted to collect it in print form, and we needed, in our opinion, a publishing imprint to give the effort an “official” feel.  Inverse Press was a brand that just sprang from my brain unsolicited one day. I designed the logo that same weekend, and the flag of our enterprise was born.  Since then, we’ve used the brand for all of our published comics, as well as related publications, such as Ancients & Warriors – The Sketch Art of Gavin Michelli, for one of our friends and regular collaborators.  We’re not getting rich, but Inverse Press became an official corporate entity in 2013!  Things are happening!

GH: To date you’ve run (to my recollection) 8 successful Kickstart campaigns in a row.  What’s your secret?  What tips do you give to someone who might be wanting to travel a similar path to getting their own books out there?

KEVIN: The secret is WORK. And I say that after ELEVEN successful Kickstarter campaigns – yeah, that number doesn’t leave my head, because each and every one has taken at least a year off my life, I think.  Seriously, though, the best advice I can give is to commit to work on the campaign a good portion of each day (there is NO vacation from Kickstarter) well in advance of launch and far past completion.  You have to lay a foundation in terms of preceding awareness of the property and campaign, then spend every hour of the campaign fretting over exposure and securing backers to ensure success, and THEN deal with printers and producers and collaborators and – worst of all – shipping companies to fulfill your orders and satisfy your backers, who are the most important folks in the whole equation.

Basically, make a plan for each step of the process. Schedule your efforts for each day in advance.  Get some help, if you can.  And network, not just by sending out press releases, but actually interact with comics journalists on a routine basis, even when you’re not shilling.  And, finally, treat your backers like the project-supporting miracle-workers that they are, not as an anonymous line of retail customers.  These are interested people helping make your creative dreams a reality.  Give back, and in copious amounts.  Involve them in the process and share with them as the members of your team that they are.

GH: You also attend a number of cons selling Roadkill and your many other books.  How challenging is it to set yourself apart from the other people selling their own work and how do you get people to check out what you have to sell?

KEVIN: It’s tough distinguishing yourself at conventions.  The current environment allows SO MANY people to see their comics-creating dreams realized – and that’s a GREAT thing – but Artist Alleys at cons have swelled to monstrous, senses-defying proportions.  What we’ve done is…get out of Artist Alley.  Seriously, at big cons, we’ve put down the extra cash to get a small publisher booth (or the equivalent), so that our space is more distinct, and we’ve put the time and creativity into upping our game with regard to our display.  HUGE Inverse Press banner spotlighting our properties.  BIG prints of our covers showing off the talent of our artists and their designs.  Making the booth accessible to interested con-goers by recessing the tables, so they’re not pushed on by the throngs of passing cosplayers, that sort of thing. We’ve also prepared brief pitches for each property, so, when an interested person glances at our books, we have a quick, attractive set of lines that succinctly and deftly describe our stories.

All that said, it’s tough to stand out at big conventions these days.  I really recommend targeting small or mid-level conventions that are local or regional in their reach.  It’s much easier to stand out and connect with potential readers in those settings, especially for small, independent outfits like ours.


GH:
Tell us how Road Du Jour came about.  What inspired it?

KEVIN: Well, there’s no pretty way to tell that story, hah.  Basically, when Amanda and I started touring the country on the convention circuit in 2010, we came across all sorts of exotic roadkill, especially in Texas.  We kept a macabre, unofficial tally of all the different critters we’d seen in two dimensions along the way, and we kept exchanging ideas for stories about the unfortunate street pizzas.  Weirdly enough, all these awful jokes congealed into an actual plot in my head over time, merging with the motorcycle gang motifs of Sons of Anarchy to create the voodoo biker war that forms the backbone of Roadkill du Jour.


GH: Shawn Harbin is extremely talented, how did you meet him?

KEVIN: Amanda and I met Shawn at the very first con we did – MegaCon 2010 in Orlando.  He produces an amazing fantasy/humor comic called The Dungeon, which you can see more of at bsx22studios.com.  As we worked many of the same cons, he and I tossed around ideas for collaboration for a couple of years before settling on Roadkill du Jour, and he really took the ball and ran with it.  The 1970’s exploitation aesthetic of the book is totally his creation, and he crafted such cool character designs at every level, giving the story a distinctive look that I never could have envisioned beforehand.


GH:
Where can people pick up the first 2 issues that might want to catch up?

KEVIN: Issues 1 and 2 of Roadkill du Jour are available in both print and digital formats at our website:  inversepress.com.  The upcoming Kickstarter campaign for issue 3 will also include reward tiers that will net backers issues 1 and 2 in either format as well, but the quickest way to score them is via the website (we’ll ship next day EVERY TIME)!


GH: What’s one thing you can tell us about the book that you think will make people want to check it out?

KEVIN: The surest way I’ve found to get anyone to look through an issue of Roadkill du Jour is to explain to them that it’s a story about a lonely biker whose gang was annihilated by a rival gang’s voodoo priestess who cursed him to eat nothing but roadkill for the rest of his days.  He takes on the physical attributes of whatever dead animal he consumes and uses those powers in his quest to avenge his brothers, rebuild his gang and seek vengeance!

GH: What do you have in the works we can look forward to?

KEVIN: My next book after Roadkill du Jour 3 is the first issue of a 6-issue series entitled, The Absentee, a sci-fi thriller featuring art by Randolph Dixon and colors by Kate Frizzell.  I anticipate a Kickstarter campaign soon after the Roadkillfundraiser ends, as production on the first issue is nearing completion.  The Absentee is the story of a test pilot who returns from a mission with his body physically inhabited by an energy creature that he can control with his consciousness and actually use to exit his own body. What he doesn’t know is that, while he’s away using the monster’s powers, its mind controls HIS body and uses it to destroy all that is precious in his life, including his career, his marriage and even the lives of his friends and allies.

GH: What indie book should people be reading right now?

KEVIN: Hard to categorize an Image book by a Marvel writer as “indie”, but Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West is my favorite book out there right now.  It’s epic poetry in comic form.  The sweeping scale and juxtaposed literary tropes in its own sort of apocalyptic setting are my kind of fun, and the large cast is captivating and distinctive.  Can’t recommend it enough.  Been buying the individual floppies, but, when a high-quality omnibus is eventually available, it’s mine.  Serious literary significance happening in this one.

 

Support ROADKILL DU JOUR and Kevin’s latest effort at his latest Kickstarter here:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/laporte/roadkill-du-jour-voodoo-biker-rumble-in-the-bayou

 

Any suggestions or titles you think this article should tackle?  Hit me up at glenn_matchett@hotmail.com or on twitter @glenn_matchett.

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 Next Week: We look at Chip Reece’s Default Trigger! 

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