Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congrats on the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Real Hero Shit! What can you share with us about the inspiration behind this new comic book endeavor?
Kendra Wells: I started writing and brainstorming Real Hero Shit way back in late 2017. I went to art school and even got my BFA in Comics and Cartooning, but I had felt paralyzed for years about creating my own stories. I had this idea in my head of what I thought people wanted to see in comics, and I felt that I could never measure up to that. I thought I had to be more “serious” and “deeper” and all my work had to be Oscar-worthy stories that will change the world. I was also very depressed at the time, and what helped snap me out of all of this was consuming media that felt messy, and funny, and real. I’ve cited Dragon Age: Inquisition and Critical Role as huge influences because of the way their stories tackled these incredible, epic adventures, but did so with characters that reminded me of my real life friends: witty, clever, queer, flawed. It was a wake-up call to realize I could also just… make a story like that.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing this and other projects to life, especially given that you often wear so many “hats” throughout the process?
KW: It’s complicated! Comics are extremely hard. Real Hero Shit is actually my second full-length graphic novel, I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas with my friend Sam Maggs who wrote and co-created the book with me. I learned a massive amount on that project, especially about balancing workloads, self-advocating, and hitting deadlines, and I tried to apply those lessons to Real Hero Shit. Did it always work? Nope, I misunderstood one of my very first deadlines and ended up writing the first draft of the Real Hero Shit in a single week. But these trials by fire end up being extremely validating and a point of pride for me. I know what my limits and abilities are and I have learned where I can push myself to do my best possible work.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative seeks to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Eugene and the whole adventuring team’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
KW: I’ve sort of joked about Real Hero Shit being "dumb and gay," which I feel like people will find reductive or self-deprecating, but it is the easiest way for me to describe the kind of art that I want to make. The idea that stories that feature queer characters need to be very serious and carefully written to be the best possible "representation’"of marginalized characters is incredibly flat, antithetical to queer experience and history, and frankly boring to me. Real Hero Shit isn’t about characters that are right all the time, in fact, they’re extremely flawed and often in the wrong and that’s why I like them. I hope readers can see the people they love in the characters of Real Hero Shit, and themselves too, even in the bad parts. Sympathizing with characters that make bad choices, understanding where they’re coming from, and loving them without making excuses is a wonderful thing. The human experience isn’t making the precisely correct choice all the time, so fictional characters should represent that.
BD: Iron Circus Publisher Spike Trotman has noted that she considers Real Hero Shit to be “…our 2022 flagship title.” Why do you feel that Iron Circus serves as the perfect home for your story?
KW: Iron Circus was always my top choice publisher for Real Hero Shit, and was the first publisher I submitted the pitch to. I’ve worked with them before, having a short story in the 2014 edition of Smut Peddler, and am a massive fan of the work they put out. The story I wanted to tell was something that I felt traditional publishers would shy away from: a little too raunchy, a little too niche. I knew Iron Circus would knock it out of the park and haven’t been disappointed. I was so happy to be able to work with the team, especially my editor Kel McDonald, and felt comfortable pushing for certain things I really believed in while also trusting their vision. I’m so happy that Real Hero Shit has found a home with them.
BD: Are there any specific backer rewards in the Kickstarter campaign that you would like to highlight for readers?
KW: Yes! I pushed specifically for a print run of the chapter break illustrations in Real Hero Shit. I really wanted to include something that reminded me of the fashion illustrations in my favorite manga series from my childhood, like Sailor Moon, Paradise Kiss and Hana Kimi. We are also going to unlock some enamel pins of the characters that I designed specifically to look like a portrait wall at a gallery that I am very proud of.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Real Hero Shit and to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign?
KW: You can find out more about the Real Hero Shit Kickstarter on the campaign page here. Also follow Iron Circus on their socials, they’ll keep everyone posted on progress as we publish!