Smash Pages Q&A | Will Tempest on ‘Harsh Prospect’

The creator of the webcomic-turned-crowdfunded graphic novel discusses the science fiction/horror story, his approach to design and his work in the tabletop game space.

Will Tempest is an artist based out of Edinburgh in the UK, where he creates comics, tabletop RPGs and more in the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres. Last year he crowdfunded a print collection of his webcomic, Harsh Prospect, which is available to read on the web, on Webtoon or to purchase for download.

Harsh Prospect is a science fiction story in the vein of The Thing or Alien, as a struggling colony on an alien world discovers “a blob of goo” that proves to be more than they bargained for. The eerie setting is made even more so by Tempest’s designs; readers of Tempest’s work on Cities of Magick or Materials know that he has an eye for creative yet practical character and creature designs.

I spoke with Tempest about the project, as well as a tabletop game he’s developed with his brother. We discuss the comic, its influences, his approach to design, what I learned from crowdfunding and more. My thanks for his time.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Josh Hicks on ‘Hotelitor’

The creator of ‘Glorious Wrestling Alliance’ discusses his latest graphic novel about a hotel shaped like a giant robot.

Josh Hicks has worked many odd jobs in his life, which is relevant to the topic of this interview, but right now he is a Welsh animator, cartoonist and director. His work spans comics, animation and music videos. As a filmmaker, he directed Spectre of the Bear, and he helped create animated music videos for the Foo Fighters and Tyler Childers.

On the comics side, Hicks created Glorious Wrestling Alliance, a comic about the surreal world of professional wrestlers, and he’s followed that with a new graphic novel, Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit, which comes out next Wednesday from Graphic Universe. It’s the story of a mobile hotel, shaped like a giant Shogun Warrior or other manga-inspired robot, and the denizens that work and stay in it. When a giant alien monster attacks the hotel, the surviving guests and staff find themselves stranded in deep space, leading to all sorts of chaos, and it’s up to 18-year-old intern Anna Greene and her fellow workers to find a way home.

It’s a fun story about giant robots and aliens, but also has deeper themes around the struggle between classes, how we think of thr service industry and late-stage capitalism. I spoke with Hicks about the project and the themes it touches on, as well as the UK wrestling scene and what he’s working on next. My thanks for his time.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Luke Arnold + Chris ‘Doc’ Wyatt on ‘Essentials’

The writing duo discusses their crowdfunding project for the new graphic novel from The Lab Press.

Luke Arnold is an actor and writer best known for his roles as Long John Silver in Black Sails and INXS frontman Michael Hutchence in Never Tear Us Apart. His first novel The Last Smile in Sunder City came out in 2020 as part of the ongoing series The Fetch Phillips Archives.

Chris “Doc” Wyatt is a writer and producer whose work includes independent films like Napoleon Dynamite and Coyote, as well as animated series like Rocket and Groot, Lego Ninjago: Dragons Rising, Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many more. He’s also written comics for Marvel, Dark Horse, 1First Comics and more.

Together, they are the writing team for Essentials, a new graphic novel coming from the newly formed The Lab Press. The story centers on a mathematician who predicted the end of the world but failed to prevent it. He discovers there are other survivors, but they’re trapped in alternate realities full of zombies, robots, mythical creatures and more.

Each of these alternate realities will be illustrated by a different artist, including Vince Locke, Andrea Mutti, MK Perker,Brendan McCarthy, DaNi and Jason Howard, with colors by Jordie Bellaire, Brad Simpson and Wesley Wong, and lettering by DC Hopkins. Bill Sienkiewicz provides a chilling main cover.  

The graphic novel is currently up on Kickstarter, and has already reached its goal. (Please note that the interview was conducted prior to the project’s launch). I spoke with Arnold and Wyatt about the project, working with seven different artists and what’s “Essential” in this story. My thanks to them both for their time.

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Smash Pages Q&A | S.E. Case on ‘Rigsby WI’

The creator of the slice-of-life webcomic discusses its first print collection, her approach to creating the small-town setting and drawing on her teenage experiences to bring her characters to life.

S.E. Case is four chapters in on Rigsby, WI, a webcomic she’s been posting since 2019. The comic is about four average Wisconsin teenagers and the trials and tribulations they encounter with their friends, their families and their futures. While the teenagers may be average, the strip is anything but, as Case has brought to life four characters who will make you laugh, cry, yell and ultimately remember what life was like when you knew everything and nothing at the same time.

Case has teamed up with Iron Circus Comics to publish the first print collection of the webcomic, which is up now on the crowdfunding site BackerKit.

Here’s the description from the publisher: Sometimes as a teen in a small town, you can feel trapped — trapped enough to want to gnaw off your own leg to escape. Bethany has gotten some much needed stability in Rigsby, WI — she’s away from her oppressively disapproving mother, and the other local teens Jeordie, Erik and Anna have welcomed her in — and together the four of them know how to escape from the world that is closing in on them. While Case’s vibrant art and naturalistic writing doesn’t shy away from the rougher experiences and feelings of teens, it also covers the truly important topics like, “is Phish a good band?”, “is the neck the dong of the torso?” and “Ernest Hemingway: Was he a piece of shit?” Nostalgic, sweet, bitter and funny all at once, Rigsby WI feels like a teenage afternoon spent with friends, with all the pathos, boredom and absurdity inherent therein. 

I spoke with Case about the campaign, as well as the webcomics’ small-town setting, why now was the right time for a print collection and, yes, is Phish a good band?

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Smash Pages Q&A | Lara Pickle on ‘I Feel Awful, Thanks’

With Pickle’s debut graphic novel arriving this week, we spoke about her inspiration, drawing from her own mental health experiences when creating the story and more.

I Feel Awful, Thanks is the debut graphic novel by Lara Pickle, a Spanish-Romanian artist and storyteller whose work thus far has been more in the video game and animation arenas, for places like Netflix and Nickelodeon. The graphic novel arrives in stores this week and is published by Oni Press.

From the outside, I Feel Awful, Thanks looks like what you might expect from a YA fantasy graphic novel, featuring witches, magic and dragons and. But the story addresses some serious issues around mental health, something Pickle experienced herself. It’s about a witch named Joana who has secured her dream job with a coven in London, so she relocates and discovers the reality of city life is not so idyllic.

I spoke with Pickle about the graphic novel, pulling in her own experiences into the story and some of the fun design choices she made while creating it.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Murewa Ayodele + Dotun Akande on ‘Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods’

The creators of ‘I Am Iron Man’ discuss their new Yoruba-influenced barbarian tale, which Oni Press will release in April.

Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande made a splash on their native continent as the founders of Collectible Comics NG, their own Nigeria-based comics studio, and as the creators of comics like My Grandfather Was a God. They then broke into the U.S. market first with New Men from Action Lab, followed by several stories for Marvel, including the I Am Iron Man miniseries.

Their latest project is Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods, which Oni Press will publish next month. It’s an oversized three-issue miniseries that combines their love for Western comics and animation like Conan the Barbarian and Samurai Jack with Yoruba mythology, bringing an African lens to the traditional sword and sorcery tale.

“According to Yoruba mythology, we were all made by a drunk god, and during one of his drunken stupor, he made horrific monsters also. The first of the gods to visit this new, twisted world was the erratic god of war,” Ayodele said. “When we discovered this little bit of our culture’s mythology, we knew we wanted to tell a gritty fantastical story set in this primordial African world — a world of barbarous violence, monstrous creatures, and gods who give in to primal, destructive urges.” 

I spoke with both creators about the new series, their love for mythology and comics, and more. My thanks to both of them for their time.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Sarah Byam on ‘Billi 99’

The writer of one of Tim Sale’s first comics projects talks about the new hardcover being crowdfunded by Clover Press.

Before Long Halloween, Superman for All Seasons or the various shades of Marvel miniseries like Hulk: Gray and Daredevil: Yellow came Billi 99, the first major comics work of Tim Sale.

The legendary artist teamed with writer Sarah Byam on the project, which was first published in black and white by Dark Horse back in 1991. The four-issue miniseries told the story of a teen vigilante, Billi Chadam, who took up her father’s sword to battle corporate greed and a corrupt government.

And now, more than 30 years later, Billi 99 is back. Clover Press is currently crowdfunding a hardcover collecting the almost 200-page story, with added color by José Villarrubia. The project has surpassed its goal by a landslide, and offers several editions and add ons in addition to the hardcover.

I spoke with Byam about the project, the addition of color, and what it means to see her and Sale’s vision for Billi 99 realized.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Zac Atkinson on ‘The Omega Eleven’

The artist talks about his inspiration for the project, creating his own versions of well-known characters and more.

Last week James Aquilone and Zac Atkinson’s Kickstarter for The Omega Eleven #1 launched, making short work of its goal in a matter of hours. The comic series stars history’s greatest thieves in a time travel heist, as they attempt to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Merlin.

I spoke with Aquilone about the project when it launched, and today I’m happy to share my interview with Atkinson. We talk about his inspiration for the idea behind the series, his character designs for well-known characters like Merlin and Artful Dodger, and more.

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Smash Pages Q&A | ‘The Omega Eleven’ creators James Aquilone + Zac Atkinson

The duo are crowdfunding their latest collaboration, a comic about history’s greatest thieves attempting to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Merlin.

What do you do when you need to steal a powerful artifact from history’s greatest wizard? Assemble a team of history’s greatest thieves, of course. That’s the premise behind The Omega Eleven, a five-issue series by Bram Stoker Award-winning writer James Aquilone and Young Justice and Teen Titans artist Zac Atkinson.

The story follows time traveler Doctor Omega and his companion Jack Dawkins, aka The Artful Dodger, as they recruit a team to travel to Camelot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Merlin. 

The campaign to fund the first issue of The Omega Eleven is live on Kickstarter, where it has already met its funding goal. This isn’t Aquilone’s first crowdfunding rodeo — through his publishing company Monstrous Books, he’s funded projects like the Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th anniversary graphic novel, the prose collection Dead Detectives Society and the first issue of the pulp/horror-themed Monstrous Magazine. A new, second issue of Monstrous is a reward in this current campaign.

Aquilone was kind enough to answer my questions, and even pulled in Atkinson on some of them as well.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Mat Groom returns to discuss the second ‘Inferno Girl Red’

The writer returns to the Massive-Verse for the second volume of the graphic novel series, which is currently up on Kickstarter.

Following a very successful campaign on Kickstarter for the first book back in 2021, Mat Groom, Erica D’Urso and the rest of the team have returned to crowdfund Inferno Girl Red Book Two. The new campaign is currently live.

If you aren’t familiar with Inferno Girl Red, it’s one of the many titles that make up the Massive-Verse, the collection of titles overseen by Kyle Higgins that include Radiant Black, The Dead Lucky and Rogue Sun, among others. It combines Groom’s love of tokusatsu superheroes and boarding school dramas, and it looks great thanks to D’Urso, colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey and design group For The People.

At press time, the campaign has brought in just over $45,000, which is more than halfway to its $85,000 goal. I spoke with groom about the new campaign, what he learned from the first one, how Inferno Girl Red fits into the Massive-Verse and more. He also shares a few details on his involvement with the upcoming Bad Blood playing cards/murder mystery game.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Paul Cornell on ‘Con & On’

The writer of Ahoy’s newest title talks about comic conventions, working with Marika Cresta and more.

Most people reading this are probably familiar with the San Diego Comic-Con, the annual gathering of Hollywood, the comics community, media of all shapes and sizes, and fans from around the world. But are you familiar with the Vista Al Mar Comics Festival, which also has taken place on the California coast for the past five decades?

If not, don’t worry — the Vista Al Mar Comics Festival is fictional, a construct of writer Paul Cornell and artist Marika Cresta for their new miniseries from Ahoy Comics, Con & On. The first issue arrives in stores this week.

The comic is set in five different years in the life of the Festival—one year per issue, spanning three decades—from the points of view of “a diverse bunch of desperate people whose lives revolve around this greatest show on Earth.” The comic will track the lives of two young comics talents trying to break into the business; three “brilliant, boozy and bombastic” British creators; as well as crusty editors, forgotten TV stars and fans who “make the convention experience something to revisit year after year.” 

Cornell was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his work on the title, as well as share some convention memories. My thanks for his time.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Cullen Bunn + Brian Hurtt on the return of ‘The Sixth Gun’

The creators of the horror/Western ‘yarn’ talk about returning to their signature creation with a new Kickstarter project.

The 50-issue The Sixth Gun series — along with its several spin-off series — was a hallmark of independent comics publishing from 2010 to 2016. Co-creators Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt not only created a compelling “yarn” of a story that combined horror with the Western genre, but they also did a phenomenal job of creating a world that always seemed ripe for more exploration.

They wrapped up the initial story of Becky Montcrief, Arnold Drake and the battle for control of six mystical guns, and now Oni Press has announced The Sixth Gun Deluxe Omnibus Library, which is currently up on Kickstarter. Not only are they releasing all the issues of The Sixth Gun, plus all the spinoff miniseries, plus the spinoff series Shadow Roads, in this deluxe format, but Bunn and Hurtt are also creating new material for it — three new prelude stories will unlock as the campaign reaches new milestones over the course of its 30-day run. It’s also a precursor to a new The Sixth Gun project coming in 2025 for the comic’s 15th anniversary.

I spoke with both creators about what it’s like to return to The Sixth Gun after all this time, their collaborative process and what to expect from the new material they’re creating.

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