Official Press Release
After more than ten years in development, "The Black Tower" finally makes its debut as an ad-supported interactive webcomic series targeted at environmentally conscious teens and adults.
The webcomic series, created by Kelly J. Compeau, centres on Dreanna, the teenage daughter of New York billionaire Kyle Raines, who, after spending the first 15 years of her life in a catatonic state, suddenly awakes to discover that she was born with the reincarnated soul of an ancient supernatural entity, half-god/half-demon, and is now burdened with the responsibility of initiating a peace treaty between the two warring supernatural factions.
"Needless to say, Kyle doesn't take this news very well," said Compeau. "I mean, how do you ground your kid for missing curfew when they have the power to make your heart explode in your chest just by thinking about it?"
Adding conflict to the already strained father-daughter relationship is Azulen, Dreanna's true spiritual mother, who is supreme ruler of the entire supernatural realm on Earth, and her spiritual father, Iblis, the suave, seductive and blood-thirsty Prince of Demons.
This is where the environmental element comes into play. In the world that Compeau created for this project, all gods and demons are born from Earth's plant life, and as more and more plant species become extinct through blight, deforestation and the effects of global warming, their power wanes until they finally just fade from existence.
"And that's a bad thing," Compeau explained, "because these supernatural entities are solely responsible for herding, cleansing and recycling souls into new bodies before birth. If they aren't around to 'process' these souls, then every mortal being on the planet - from mosquitoes to humans to whales - would all be born dead, resulting in the slow, agonizing death of this entire world."
What's unique about this project is the interactive element, a first in the comics industry. Every issue of "The Black Tower" will be made available online at www.theblacktowercomics.com, with clickable links to product placement advertisers, music videos and YouTube/MySpacetv shorts (live-action extensions of the comic book), Wikipedia pages and internal Black Tower factoid/who's-who webpages, to help new readers get up-to-speed on what's going on. There will also be links to fully functional faux websites seen being accessed by characters in the webcomic, and blogs written "in character", with comments posted by devoted fans who choose to play along with the charade. All readers have to do to access these special features (Easter eggs) is roll their mouse over the panel featuring the "Interactive Icon" (the little black & white X in the bottom corner of the pic) and they'll be taken to a website that may feature the product shown in that panel, or it may take them to a music video for the band featured in that panel, or a character's MySpace page etc. If the comics do exceptionally well over the first two of its expected six-year run, Compeau hopes to expand "The Black Tower" empire by launching a video game companion, paperback novels, action figures, board games, trading cards, toy props & weapons, posters, calendars, and a clothing & jewelry line, among other things.
"If the fans want it, we'll try and give it to 'em!" she added.
Compeau, a Canadian screenwriter with very little experience in the comics industry, didn't feel confident enough to write the first few scripts on her own, so she enlisted famed, multi-award winning comics author, Jeff Mariotte (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, Supernatural, 30 Days of Night), to provide some professional guidance and make necessary changes to the scripts.
"Kelly kindly credits me as a co-author," said Mariotte from his ranch in the Arizona desert. "But the truth is that it's her vision and almost entirely her work, and she is the one who deserves the credit for what's there. It's Kelly's Ferrari. I'm just the mechanic who tunes the engine now and again."
Mariotte has signed on for the first four of the proposed 36 issues, with writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Smallville, Supernatural, Star Trek, X-Files, Stargate: SG1, Lost, Heroes, Blood Ties and other comics/TV shows expected to contribute scripts as their schedule allows.
Rounding out the creative team is artist Donald Jackson, who is expected to contribute his talents to a majority of future issues, schedule permitting.
"Don's an amazing artist, and I consider myself very lucky to have him on-board," said Compeau.
Another partner in this ambitious venture is Stargate: SG1 actor, Cliff Simon, who has allowed the use of his image for the lead character of Kyle Raines. Other well-known actors are also expected to lend their image to various characters in the comics, and co-star in the occasional live-action YouTube/MySpacetv video short over the coming years.
"I'm very fortunate to have some really great friends in the entertainment industry," said Compeau. "People who truly believe in this project and want very much for it to succeed."
Earlier this month Compeau did a soft launch of the webcomic, to gauge fan reaction and make adjustments to the website before launching a more aggressive marketing and promotions campaign.
"The feedback has been absolutely amazing," she said. "I've got folks from Finland, England, Australia, France, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Chile, South Africa and Japan emailing me to say how much they loved it, how they can't wait for the next issue to come out, and to inquire about buying a printed copy."
Although plans are underway to have a print version of each issue available for sale online in 2009, in keeping with the project's environmentally conscious theme, Compeau strongly encourages fans to buy the hard copy only if they intend to keep it as part of their permanent collection, or pass it around to friends at work or school before repurposing it.
"The last thing I want is to contribute to the growing problem of waste management," Compeau said. "So, please, if you're going to buy an issue, read it and pass it on, or yank the staples out and use the loose pages as gift wrapping paper or bird cage lining. Just don't throw it in the garbage!"
Kelly J. Compeau launched her showbiz career in the late 1980s, singing lead and back-up vocals for an '80s pop/rock cover band, utilizing her ability to mimic the vocal style of numerous recording artists including Olivia Newton John, Karen Carpenter, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry, Annie Lennox, Madonna, Paula Abdul and Sade, among others. She later transferred those talents to broadcasting, singing jingles and creating a variety of character voices for radio and television. In addition to her work as an on-air personality for a New York radio station in the early '90s, Kelly also wrote news, sports and enter-tainment stories for live broadcast, and ad spots for local businesses. By the year 2000, Kelly had become a sought-after freelance marketing, advertising and promotions consultant, and writer/photographer for local newspapers. Experience which later proved invaluable when she scored a sweet gig in live television as a copywriter, floor director and production assistant for CHUM Ltd. & Rogers Television. She also dabbled in acting, having appeared in the award-winning TV mini-series H2O, starring Paul Gross, and the cult hit indie flick Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace, among other things. Later, Kelly founded Showbiz Media Services, working as a publicist & talent manager for mostly L.A.-based actors, writers and producers, and KJC Group Entertainment, an Ottawa-based television/new media production company.
Jeff Mariotte has written more than thirty novels, including super-natural thrillers River Runs Red and Missing White Girl (both as Jeffrey J. Mariotte), original horror epic The Slab and Stoker Award nominated teen horror series Witch Season, as well as books set in the universes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Conan, 30 Days of Night, Las Vegas, Supernatural, CSI: Miami, Charmed, Star Trek and Andromeda. He's won two Scribe Awards for his tie-in fiction. He is also the author of many comic books, including the original Western/horror series Desperadoes, some of which have been nominated for Stoker and International Horror Guild awards, Angel, CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations, CSI: Miami, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Shield, Gen13, StormWatch, WildC.A.T.S, Hazard, Deathblow, Wetworks/Vampirella, and Graveslinger, which has just been optioned by Spitfire Pictures (T3: Rise of the Machines ). He is a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Western Writers of America, and the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. With his wife, Maryelizabeth Hart, and partner Terry Gilman, Jeff co-owns Mysterious Galaxy, a San Diego bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror. He lives with his family and pets on the Flying M Ranch in Arizona, a place filled with books, music, toys and other products of American pop culture.