Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent launch of your Kickstarter campaign for HEK Studios’ inaugural publication, the HEK Treasury! Brian, as the originator of this studio project, what inspired you to launch this team project?
Brian Hurtt: I know that Matt has said before that this originated with me, but I don’t quite remember it that way. It seems to me that it has been more of an ongoing dialogue between us for years. I’ve always been a proponent of self-publishing and full creator control and ownership, and I’ve pushed over the years for us to pursue that route. It’s something that all of us believe in, though it was only recently that the stars--and our schedules--lined up. This project really started to coalesce around the time we decided to move from our studio rental into a building that we all own. What may have once felt like a shared work-space was morphing into something more permanent and real. It really made us stop and think about what it means to each of us to be a part of this studio and what this studio means to us. In a way, this book is a manifestation of those thoughts and conversations. The nature of this project evolved over the past several months, from a concept art book to an anthology magazine to, ultimately, where we are now with this book--something I think of as an art exhibit. A thematic collection of shorter works that showcase the work of our studio.
BD: Given the incredible titles on which you have worked individually, what makes you most excited about this experimental and collaborative effort?
Matt Kindt: Well, I’m excited to see all of our work in one book side by side. I think we have such unique styles - and we’re so different from each other that it’s going to create a kind of new crazy tone that none of us have really hit before. But really what I think I’m most excited about, beside the experimental format and storytelling elements we’re putting into it, is what this book represents. We’ve all lived in St. Louis for a long time, and there have been a lot of great cartoonists that have lived, and still live here. But I think this endeavor - the HEK studio is the first thing to really firmly plant the flag here and establish St. Louis as a great creative environment for comic book writers and artists. We have a really thriving community, and we want the industry to know about it.
Brian Hurtt: I feel like we had a few guiding principles with this project. First and foremost, we saw this book as a platform to allow each of us to express ourselves through the types of stories we wanted to tell and to do that without the added pressure of having to convince an editor or publisher that these stories are worth their while. We also wanted to be able to collaborate with each other on some of these stories. There’s a strange magic, or creative alchemy, that comes out of collaboration--two or more creative voices coming together and making something that none of them could do alone. It can be just as eye-opening and surprising for us as it is for a reader. And lastly, it’s exciting to come up with stories that are not limited by page count (either too much or too little) or hemmed in by format. The oversized nature of the book and the flexible page count give us more freedom than any of us have had on any project we’ve done to date. It’s all very exciting for us, and I think that passion and excitement will come across in this book!
Marie Enger: I mean, Matt and Brian both said it already - the collaborative effort! We’ve been working together for like 5 years now? But this is the first time where we get to line our stuff up side by side and say, “THIS IS WHAT WE’RE DOING.” And like Matt said - this is our chance as St. Louis folks to say, “Here is St. Louis - we’re more than the arch, the zoo, and cops behaving like homicidal maniacs. We’re a place for art, we’re a place for comics.” This is the first time I haven’t felt limited by format or page count...or hell, even subject matter! The only limits we have here are self imposed and that is SO FREEING. We’re here to push each other and root for each other. That’s amazing. I’m really grateful that we get to do this! Wait. No.
That we made this happen.
BD: The book will be printed in a large prestige format for readers to enjoy this fall. How do you feel that this increased size and formatting allowed you to push the limits with your storytelling and artwork?
Matt Kindt: This is the largest format I’ve ever worked in. And I think that’s really what’s most exciting. The pages are going to be big. And we have (pretty much) as many pages as we want to tell our story. I went to Webster University for graphic design and fine art so that’s also an element that always excites me about comics. Every book is like an art project. How do we make the format and the design of the book help tell the story. Because the design and the comics inside are all interconnected - or they should be. So the large format is kind of bombastic and we’re adding pullouts and tri-folds and all kinds of things to make this thing big - which fits our theme of big crazy sci-fi. It’s going to be immersive and interactive.
Brian Hurtt: I’ve been dying to do a creator-owned project in this format for years! I have worked in this format before when I worked on the online comic, Table Titans (two GNs of material which will hopefully be collected within the year), but this will be the first time I’ve done so with my own, creator-owned work. I’m just so excited about playing on, literally, a larger canvas. There’s more room for story (more panels!) and when you do go big with a splash page--or a double-splash--you go REALLY big! The larger page size is not an opportunity to just enlarge a page layout as it would appear in a standard comic format, but to use that space creatively and get the most out of the format. That’s what I’m most excited about--pushing myself and pushing the limits of this format!
Marie Enger: You know that Matt and Brian were the first folks to take a chance on me, right? And that for a year, I spent time helping Brian with some 6th Gun-related stuff (spotting, cleaning pages etc.) - which is where I learned that I want, no NEED, to cram 12 panels on a page. I GOTTA. Having more space means I can do that without goin’ absolutely nuts trying to cram it all on a small page. Just kidding - I’m still gonna make myself crazy but working big? It’s a dream!
BD: What are some of the fun backer rewards that are available to those who contribute to your campaign?
Brian Hurtt: Up front, we have stickers, patches, and prints that we’ve all created. We’ve also each created a “dystopian paper doll” sheet and have each taken very different approaches to that that are really fun. We have other cool stuff cooking up that is dependent on meeting stretch goals, but I don’t want to give away what those might be until we unlock them--stay tuned! Of course, we also have the super deluxe hardcover which is going to have this really cool gold foil image printed on black cloth that I’m super excited about.
Marie Enger: Ooo...like Brian said - paper dolls, patches, stickers...A HUGE BEAUTIFUL BOOK?! And then some secret stuff. Really cool secret stuff. Stuff I want to tell you about but can’t until we unlock those stretch goals! But that foil image on the deluxe version? That’s got me the most excited. That’s gonna be beautiful.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
Matt Kindt: I’m currently writing Folklords with Matt Smith on art for BOOM!, and I just finished a long run of Black Badge with Tyler and Hilary Jenkins on art. I’ve got a few more books ready, but they haven’t been announced yet. But this is the only thing this year that I’ll be both writing and drawing. I’m pouring everything I’ve got into it.
Brian Hurtt: I’m co-writing Manor Black with Cullen Bunn, with art by the inimitable Tyler Crook, that just launched with Dark Horse. I’m also finishing up the script for the second arc of Shadow Roads (another book I co-write with Cullen) that is published by Oni. Cullen and I are also working on a new series with me as the artist, but that is in the early stages of development at this time, and I can’t say much more about it - other than it’ll be awesome! But, like Matt said, this project is also the only thing I have on my calendar that I am writing and drawing this year, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
Marie Enger: Ooof. MAN. Yes? I’m finishing a Kickstarter on my eldritch body horror book, THE BONES OF THIS PLACE - a story I did for Inktober 2018 based on my very new experience with chronic illness and the toll that takes on your body and mind. I’m also continuing work on my breakout hit, TTRPG - CASKET LAND, where you basically have to survive a landscape that’s doing it’s hardest to kill you, and if doesn’t succeed, the monsters lurking within it will finish the job. I also do an Eldritch Stoner webcomic for the HEK patreon called FHTAGN and LOATHING - where four friends struggle to navigate their crumbling relationship, Lovecraftian terrors, and figure out how they got to the plane of Loran in the first place. It’s like DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? meets “MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.” And uh...Two secret things? I can’t tell you what those are yet...but for some reason, they let me do an all-ages book (It’s full of monsters, don’t worry!), and I’m gettin’ my Carcosa creep on next year. But, this book? Right now, it’s the main priority. I’m ready to tell you all about the cult of Crom Cruach. I’ve been ready for YEARS.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about the HEK Treasury Kickstarter campaign?
Matt Kindt: The best thing is to just head to the link for our Kickstarter. We’ll be posting process and videos all month. Or head over to our Patreon, where you can stay updated on all of our projects, plus even more behind-the-scenes process on this book. You can find that here.