Late last year Jason McNamara (The Martian Confederacy, First Moon, Continuity) and Greg Hinkle (Airboy) announced their crowdfunded horror graphic novel The Rattler had found a new home at Image Comics.
Inspired by true events from McNamara’s own life, the graphic novel will hit stores in March with a new cover and one new page. I spoke with McNamara and Hinkle about the new edition, how the Kickstarter campaign went and the potential for a sequel.
Smash Pages: For those who don’t already know, can you share what The Rattler is about?
Jason McNamara: Ten years ago Stephen Thorn watched helplessly as Catherine, the love of his life, was kidnapped, never to be seen again. In the years since, Stephen has reinvented himself as a passionate and bitter victims rights advocate. But when Stephen receives a message that may or may not be from Catherine, he embarks on a grisly journey to be reunited with his lost love.
In a nutshell, it’s John Carpenter meets Americas Most Wanted.
Smash Pages: It’s been almost two years now since you launched the Kickstarter campaign for The Rattler. We spoke about it during the campaign, but let’s talk a little bit about what happened next. The campaign was obviously successful; how did fulfillment go? What did you learn along the way?
Greg: Jason had the campaign planned out backwards and forwards, with redundancies and contingencies. It was really something to see. By the time we finished the campaign, there was very little left for us to do aside from writing a check and uploading files to the respective printers. Jason already had the packaging and postage calculated by the time the books actually arrived.
Jason knows exactly, but I think we got the book to our backers a couple of months ahead of schedule. It was really satisfying to connect with our backers on this book. Connecting directly to the people willing to give our story a chance was amazing.
Jason: What I hadn’t anticipated was how emotional running a Kickstarter would be. We were asking people to assign a perceived value to our work. To see it play out in real time with all the analytical tools inspired a lot of ups and downs. The middle part of the campaign, where nothing happens, was especially depressing.
I understand why campaigns offer more stretch goals, sometimes more than they can deliver, to keep excitement going. But I refused to introduce any goals that could delay fulfillment. Our campaign was very cut and dry, which is what I thought a comic book Kickstarter needed to be at that time.
Smash Pages: Would you do a Kickstarter again, if you had the right project?
Greg: I won’t rule anything out, but I’d probably only do something like this again with Jason. I like the idea of having an entire project ready before funding it, in order to get it in the hands of backers as soon as possible. But completing an entire story before even launching a campaign has the potential to stress out a relationship. If Jason and I hadn’t already known each other I don’t imagine it would’ve turned out the way it did.
Jason: I would do another one because I really valued the interactions I had with backers. I also love project managing and solving production problems, I geek out on that stuff. But to do another Kickstarter, the way I want to do it, to create the experience I want backers to have, would take at least a year of planning and pre-production before we launched. And it would all have to be self financed on the gamble that it would be worth it in the end. That’s a lot of external pressure to put on a writer/artist partnership.
Smash Pages: How did the deal with Image come about?
Jason: Within two months of the Kickstarting concluding we were completely sold out of copies and demand was increasing. So, it was clear we needed someone else to pick up the book and introduce it to a larger audience. Image was our first choice for obvious reasons; we created the book completely on our own, just the two of us and we were adamant about retaining 100 percent ownership.
After completing The Rattler Greg immediately jumped onto Airboy with the great James Robinson. Not a bad career trajectory right? Anyway, Greg enjoyed his relationship with image enough to put The Rattler in front of them and a deal was struck. We asked Joel Enos to join us as an editor and he’s been critical in preparing the new edition for print.
Smash Pages: What will be different about the Image release compared to the Kickstarter edition?
Greg: There’s a new cover, and I got to go back and draw a deleted page that didn’t make the original cut, which was a blast. It’d been more than a few months since I’d finished The Rattler, so it was cool getting to revisit some familiar faces with more practice under my belt.
Jason: I made some small dialogue tweaks, nothing major.
Smash Pages: Jason, you mentioned plans for a sequel in a recent message to your Kickstarter backers. Do you already have a story mapped out, and if so, can you tell us in broad terms what it might look like?
Jason: Working with Greg inspired me to keep writing and creating characters for this world (editor Joel Enos and I call it the Hinkle-Verse). The next book in the series is a period piece taking place in 1993 and follows Emma, a 15 year old prodigy with a unique medical condition who becomes the target of a serial killer. Like The Rattler it has a lot of twists and turns and deals with some pretty dark situations but it will be more of a detective story. It will connect with, and compliment, The Rattler but will also be its own thing. Similar to how Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul co-exist.
Smash Pages: For one of the prize tiers for the Kickstarter, you offered fans the chance to have dinner at your house, Jason. How did that go?
Jason: It was kind of a strange actually. We confirmed a date, sent a reminder and cooked up a feast. But they never showed up.
I hope they’re okay.
The Rattler arrives in March from Image Comics. Check out the cover for the new edition below: