Today I am doing something slightly out of the ordinary. You all know I don’t pitch things just because, I only do if I care about them.
So here goes. I am interviewing Dominic Archer, the mind behind the Kickstarter graphic novel project, A Boxer. This novel details the experience of a homosexual man struggling to find his place between two worlds, feeling himself equally impassioned and alienated by both the boxing and LGBTQ+ communities.
This is a powerful story in an artwork style that reminds me (personally) of collecting the strips of comics from the newspapers on Sundays, that old school pre DC/Marvel style that made me fall deeply for The Phantom or Prince Valiant.
I thought it was better if Dominic would tell us more about the project and answer some questions rather than me trying to convince you this is a wonderful idea to support and sit behind. The following is a Q&A we did beforehand for today.
Q: Could you please tell us briefly about The Boxer?
Dominic: A Boxer is the story of an up-and-coming fighter who struggles between his sexual identity and the masculine culture demanded by male combat sports
Q: What made Mike Shepard, the main character, come alive in your mind and have a story to tell?
Dominic: Mike is a character based upon my own thoughts and experiences with the LGBTQ community. I used to teach in China and encountered a number of students who openly expressed their sexuality to me while I, someone who has had regular interactions with the community itself, have always been questioning where exactly I fit in. Mike’s identity crisis is one of longing to belong, but finding it impossible.
A graphic novel is a different medium to just sitting down and writing a story, was it hard to write it for an artist to turn the words into images?
To me, a graphic novel is no more or less hard than writing prose, it is just a different process. I have been writing scripts since I was 16, and comic scripts since I was 17 so it really is just a case of how you approach the work. It is very different creating a visual scene for a reader of fiction, to an instructional description that an illustrator can then realise in a piece of sequential art.
Q: Thanks for letting us understand how you approach it, so could you talk us through the process of creating a page?
Dominic: This is a tough question, because every page is completely different. And each page in each book is different, because the very structure of the page is based around the flow and pacing of the story you were trying to tell. For example, if you are trying to impart a large amount of visual information, or make an impact on the reader, then you may just want a single image on the page. But if you are attempting to convey the intensity of a conversation, then the page will have to be broken down into a number of panels. However, if you have too many panels, then the dialogue can become unreadable. Action pages will be constructed differently to moments of emotional silence, but all are structured based upon the thematic requirements of the overall book. Otherwise they feel disconnected and that is when the work falls apart.
Q: That’s a lot of things to consider while working a single page! Let’s talk about the artists, what can you tell us?
Dominic: We have an award-winning, international team of creators working on a boxer. Gary Welsh is a Scottish artist with a Masters degree in Comics and Graphic Novels. Marc Casilli actually has two Masters degrees and is a teacher of comics to low income communities in São Paulo, Brazil. Amanda Maranda is another Brazilian illustrator, and she is the winner of the Dente Award for best independent comic. Hassan is the winner of an Eisner award, which is basically like winning an Oscar for us comic book nerds. It’s an incredibly talented team, which forces me to improve the quality of my writing to make sure that I am not the one letting us down!
Q: Gotta keep up with that art team then! Now, there’s a Kickstarter project, why go through Kickstarter? What are the pros/cons?
Dominic: Previously I have self-funded all of my comics work, but this is incredibly expensive. Artists are talented creators, who deserve to be paid for their time and effort, it is their job after all! But it makes it very difficult for writers like myself to put work together when each page can cost well over £150. It also means that a 100 page graphic novel like A Boxer is too expensive for our publisher BHP comics to fund. So Kickstarter is really our best way forward! The downside is that it may not go through, but if that happens we are just back to where we started and will find another way to make the art happen.
Q: Being an artist myself (but not one that does it as main job) I can fully understand wanting to support them. I truly appreciate that! Let’s talk a little on the hopeful and futuristic (?) side… what are your dreams for this story and beyond?
Dominic: My dream for the book is just to see it realised. Writing comics is different to writing a novel, in that with a novel the main thing stopping you is your personal situation. For a lot of us, that is a challenge all its own! We all struggle with realising our potential. But in comics you also have to deal with making sure other people are on board too. As a writer, you are the de facto project manager, promoter/marketer, agent, often editor and financer which brings a lot of responsibility and stress. So to see our work come to life will be an incredibly rewarding feeling.
Q: That sounds like a crazy amount of work and effort for just one graphic novel/comic. Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Dominic: The Kickstarter is running until the end of February and the cheapest option is a digital comic for just £5. If you’d like to back us further there is a paperback edition for £15 or you can just give us all of your savings, although it is likely that I will feel a little guilty when I accept it.
And that is all for now. Hope you this view into why and how the project came to be. If you are interested in supporting it on Kickstarter, you can find it here. There you will also find the first six pages, whereas I am only including the first one here. Go, be curious and support art!