The following is an interview with writer Craig Petersen on his comic book, Echoes from the Drift. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Petersen about the inspiration behind the project, his decision to utilize Kickstarter as a funding method, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You have been hard at work on a new comic book series called Echoes from the Drift. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the series?
Craig Petersen: Echoes from the Drift is an ’80s-inspired sci-fi story that revolves around two main characters. There’s Jenni, an adventurous young woman from 1987, and Zayf, a lost wanderer from a parallel universe. One night, their lives collide, and so begins their journey to explore alternate worlds. There’s a fun group of supporting characters who will both help and hinder Jenni and Zayf. Will a friend on one world be an enemy on another? The possibilities of parallel universes is one of the core ideas of this 5-issue series.
BD: What inspired you to tell this sci-fi story that is so thoroughly infused with action, adventure, comedy, and drama?
CP: Echoes is kind of my love letter to the ’80s, the era which I grew up in, with a whole lot of my influences thrown together into one comic. My inspirations include the original Star Wars movies, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, Mad Max, Fist of the North Star, Clint Eastwood’s “Spaghetti Westerns”, UFO Robo Grendizer, and Blade Runner, just to name a few.
I wanted to make a comic book series in the spirit of these shows, full of adventure and drama, but also explore their themes in my own way.
As far as the comedy aspect goes, I’ve always liked films like Ghostbusters, Army of Darkness, and the Angel TV series. All of these have a great blend of action, supernatural, and comedy. Those films were a big inspiration for my Close to Midnight horror/comedy strips, which in turn helped inspire the comedy in Echoes.
BD: Why do you feel that readers will most connect with the characters and story behind Echoes from the Drift?
CP: I think Jenni is the character people will relate to the most. She wants to follow her dreams and live a life of adventure. Jenni’s also fun and fashionable (in an ’80s sense, anyway). She’ll adapt to situations and learn how to handle dangerous encounters. From the feedback I’m getting, her character is appealing to both male and female readers, which was what I was hoping for.
In the first issue, Zayf is more of an enigmatic figure. His origin will be explored as the series continues. He has been traveling to parallel universes for quite a long time and his experiences have made him resourceful but somewhat reserved; however, Zayf does genuinely care about what happens to other people, regardless of the complications and delays that might cause him.
There’s a core cast of supporting characters. In the first issue, you’ll see how a few of them differ from world to world.
Some readers may also like the nostalgia aspect of seeing show genres they’ve grown up with. But I’m also trying to make the series attractive to new readers who haven’t seen many shows from the ’80s.
BD: What is the most difficult aspect of being both the writer and the artist in the sequential art medium?
CP: I actually love being a writer and artist! For me, the process is fairly organic. Writing is the easiest way for me to flesh out an idea and structure the story that I have in my head. The art evolves the script and, once the art is done, the dialogue can also be tweaked, if needed. One thing feeds the other.
The main drawback is the amount of time it can take for me to do everything, rather than work with a team of people to get the comic finished faster. I’m working on a few ways to solve that so I can augment my original approach.
It can, at times, be difficult to make sure the character motivations are convincing and natural. Luckily, I can get some friends and collaborators to read my layouts (so I can re-work them if necessary) to make sure my ideas are explained in the best way possible. A second set of eyes can point out any flaws you might have missed when you’re deep in the story.
Coloring is challenging for me. For a long time I’ve worked in primarily black and white, so I’m still finding my way when it comes to coloring. But I think it’s good to keep pushing your art skills and keep learning new things.
I really enjoy my current inking style, which was what I used in the prequel to Echoes called In Ruins. The prequel helped me break away from my previous inking style, which was getting too detailed and stiff. This new style was influenced by my longtime admiration of artists like Yoji Shinkawa (Metal Gear Solid), Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal), and Mark Texeira (Sabretooth, Union).
BD: Like many independent creators, you launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the production of the comic book series. For others who may be interested in launching their own campaign, what can you share about your experience?
CP: Research what your audience is looking for and plan well. Work out a strategy for your whole campaign. Not just the project page and rewards, but also how you will promote the campaign while it is running.
Stonemaier Games offer a lot of helpful Kickstarter lessons on their site. Their lessons can apply to everyone. I also teamed-up with Backercamp who helped tailor my campaign to try to expand my Kickstarter audience.
Plan your budget carefully and don’t forget to add in all the taxes and Kickstarter fees you’ll have to pay. If you’re planning to ship the rewards yourself, make sure you research the actual shipping costs (and possible customs fees) for your backers.
Currently, any shipping amounts that backers pay gets added to your Funding Goal. (It’s not kept separate.) So, make sure your goal allows for your expenses and shipping.
Think about how far your social reach is. Social media is massively important for campaigns. Make sure your friends and family are aware of your campaign a few weeks before it starts. They are going to be your core group of supporters.
Focus on what you’re trying to create and work out the production costs of all the rewards you’re offering. For example, I offered the original pages of artwork to my backers, and they liked the opportunity to own them. Think of interesting and unique rewards for backers that don’t create too much extra production time or will stretch your budget too thin.
BD: As Echoes from the Drift continues, are there any exciting updates or plans that you would like to share with our readers?
CP: Echoes #1 was funded on Kickstarter last year. The comic has recently been printed and sent to all the backers. The crowdfunding process has been a learning curve, but it’s been exciting as well! I’m very happy with how the comic turned out and now I’m working on my plans for Echoes #2.
I’m also working on translating Echoes into Spanish and French to help spread the comic further throughout Europe. I attended the Kboom convention here in Barcelona, which was a lot of fun! I’ll also be attending ICE in Birmingham (UK) and Thought Bubble in Leeds (UK) to meet fans and other creators, so if anyone is interested in meeting me there, let me know!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your work?
CP: You can read In Ruins, the 10-page prequel to Echoes from the Drift, for free at my website. You can also take a look through the various sketches and comic projects I’ve worked on.
If you’d like to get a print copy of Echoes #1 (which also includes In Ruins), sketches, or to own one of the original pages of artwork, then you can order these from my online store.
If you’d like to find out what I’ve been up to lately, you can join me on Facebook and Twitter (@CraigPetersenNZ).