Followers of artist Tony Harris' work will well know that the creator has spent the past several years planning, writing and drawing the story of "ROUNDEYE: For Love" – his personal take on the feudal Japanese Samurai epic. And of course, some of them may have helped pay for it.
Harris took the pitch for the series to Kickstarter last year to help fund his own work drawing, inking and coloring the pages of the story. After several rounds of funding attempts, he made his goal last year in February and spent the past 12 months working away at the passion project. Today at Emerald City Comic Con, Image Comics invited the creator on stage at its panel to announce that they would release the series this year – first as a six-issue mini with an eventual hardcover to follow.
After talking with Harris during his Kickstarter phase to uncover the heart of the love story/action epic, CBR News caught up with Harris again to see what it means to have the project finally coming to print, how the crowd-funding site helped keep him moving, why this is his most personal comic book ever and why his next three series will all be with Image.
CBR News: Tony, congratulations! You've become one of those rare Kickstarter projects to make it from pitch to print! What's it been like financing your work on this from ground level? Would you go back to Kickstarter again for another book?
Tony Harris: Thanks so much. I am curious about your statement concerning books on Kickstarter not making it to print. I have to admit, there was one point during my Kickstarter experience that I lost hope and despaired. It took me three rounds until I found the magic # that the public was willing to accept. How much of that was a failure on my part to impress? I don’t know. How much of that was a failure on my part to present the project in an engaging way? I don’t know. But! I did raise a little over $11,000 and it enabled me to pencil, ink, and color 15 pages of art, produce 2 traditional paintings, doctor the script, and produce a handful of color and black and white illustrations to be used in one regard or another in the project. That’s a success in my book. It was work that couldn’t have been produced without funding. And that is what my goal was, behind the curtain, was to get funded enough work that I could impress a publisher enough to pick up the book. I think I WILL return to Kickstarter at some point. It was a very gratifying experience.
When last we spoke to you about this whole journey, you had been talking with IDW about a release. Now that you've landed at Image, what can you say about the journey to find the right publisher for "ROUNDEYE"? Does the plan still involve a serial run followed by a hardcover down the line?
Wow. That’s a loaded question. This has literally been a 12-year journey towards publication. Which to a lot of folks' surprise, is not an uncommon thing. I’ve routinely spent years on ANY given project I have been a part of in development. It’s a long, sometimes disappointing and humbling experience to conceive, develop, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, and MAYBE find your publisher, and then…..MAYBE get published. And I am not referring to self publishing. That’s a whole different thing. I'm talking about walking in mainstream circles for the most part. At least that’s where I have lived for many, many years. I find myself lucky to have been afforded multiple opportunities to produce personal work within that construct. But the industry has changed on a fundamental level in the last year or so, with the Big Two going TOTALLY CORPORATE, massive layoffs on the publishing side, tons of creators deemed “Old News” blackballed, and etc.
And among all that chaos, somehow, B. Clay Moore and myself were able to hold onto our footing with our Creator Owned series, “The Further Adventures Of The Whistling Skull” which was, and is, to be published by DC Comics. It was to be released under the WildStorm banner, but once they were dissolved, our Editor, Ben Abernathy championed the project along with Hank Kanalz, and I am convinced its because of their efforts, that I am drawing issue six (of the six-issue mini) just now! Now I find myself living in a different area of the Comic Book World. Firmly planted in the indie market. At least to my estimation, that’s what Image is. It feels right. And at least the next three projects I am doing will ALL be for Image.
Funnily enough, so far, it's been very rewarding, and warm, in regards to my reception by people. That was not my expectation, as I had thought the mainstream and indie markets were so polarized.
Of course, all the business side of this thing is just window dressing around the fact that you've been working on this bad boy as writer and artist for the past year (well, much longer than that but the past year in full production). What have you learned the most doing a comic soup-to-nuts? Is there any of your previous work that "ROUNDEYE: For Love" feels in step with?
No. This is a completely singular experience, unlike anything I have encountered.
We know this has been a very personal project for you. In general, what were your inspirations for the story – both personal and creative?
This story, pure and simple, is a love letter to my wife, Stacie. It’s a tragic tale in the tradition of Japanese Folktales, but the overall themes here are a mirror to my relationship with my wife. The absolute love, the sacrifice, the tragedy, the triumphs, and the total devotion to another human being. It all came from that. The rest is for me and for Stacie – and for the rest of those who read the book – to wonder about. There is a spooky, mysterious quality to the story that just came to be.
Being a new twist on the samurai genre, there are plenty of cultural influences that I'm sure have had an impact on your art style. What visually have you drawn on most in designing the series and the lead?
Oh! I’m so flattered that you would say that about "ROUNDEYE: For Love"! I tried so hard to approach the tale with fresh eyes. So that dictated that I “try” to block as much existing material as possible within this genre. And by block, I mean watch, read, listen to, and soak up EVERY SINGLE THING I COULD POSSIBLY GET MY HANDS ON! This way, I am familiar with what “has” been. So I can only hope that I steer clear of all too familiar ground while telling my story.
Looking at ROUNDEYE as a character, I get the feeling that there's a lot of specific backstory and characterization that make him a non-traditional lead for a story like this. What can you tell us about how he grew into the character we'll be seeing? What defines him?
Okay. There is a bit of backstory that I have, and I never intend on expanding on it. But just for me, so I know how to write him, and steer the story I came up with the notion that ROUNDEYE, (which is NOT his name, but an insult, he was tagged with by people in general) is the only white man on a planet totally populated by Japanese. And I never intend on explaining who he is, or why he is. I think the reader's imagination is far more potent than anything I could conjure in regards to his past, or origin. To be honest, I really like wondering too.I think his pain defines him to a degree. But LOVE is the defining emotion that drives him to do and achieve any and all things. Every breathe he takes, every decision, every action and choice are ruled by his love for one woman. His Tulip.
Overall, what do you think readers who are familiar with your work on other series and with other writers will find most surprising about "ROUNDEYE: For Love"?
That it’s COMPLETELY unlike any damned thing they have ever seen me do before. In so many ways, if you are a fan of my existing work, you will be experiencing my work, my art for the first time, unfiltered and pure.