In May 2013, IDW Publishing will release "Wild Blue Yonder," a five-issue sci-fi adventure miniseries written by Mike Raicht with art by Zach Howard. And while it's being released by a major publisher, "Wild Blue Yonder" got its start as so many creator-owned comics projects do these days, with a campaign on Kickstarter.
"Creator-owned books like this don't have the funding necessary for an artist who is making his living as an artist to work on them full-time," Raicht explained to CBR. "Zach was eager to work on it, but he had to continue to support himself. Taking 10 months off to draw a creator-owned series is tough, if not impossible. This was a way for us to compensate Zach while he worked on the book full-time."
The goal was to raise $12,000, and the project exceeded that by more than $4,000, a result Raicht is obviously pleased with. "Working through Kickstarter was great," he said. "Beyond the fact that we reached our goal, I loved the fact that we were able to spread the word about the book and talk a bit with people interested in the story we were trying to tell."
And what is that story, exactly? According to the Kickstarter write-up: "While navigating the dangers of a post-apocalyptic society in the sky, Cola, a teenage girl fighter pilot, and her family fight to protect The Dawn, their flying fortress and home. With the world in chaos, bullets dwindling and fuel drying up, the few survivors in the sky must use anything at their disposal in order to survive. Battles rage from ship to ship as jet-pack warriors, planes and crew members scratch and claw to claim the few crumbs society left behind."
The main character of the series is Cola, whom Raicht described as "your average teenage fighter pilot trying to save her family from certain doom. She is one of two jet pilots that protects The Dawn, which is the air barge that she and the other 25 people or so living on it call home. Like most teens, she has some mom issues.
"Unfortunately, her mom is the commander of The Dawn, and the two of them don't really see eye to eye," Raicht continued. "Cola is a great pilot, but she doesn't always do things the way her mother thinks she should. Lives are in the balance, so the two of them need to find a way to co-exist or the rest of the ship will be in serious trouble."
The danger comes in the form of the Judge, the series' antagonist. "The Judge is the commander of the largest air force left on the planet," Raicht explained. "His air barge, The Executioner, is essentially a warship. He believes he and his armada are the fittest and therefore deserve to survive. Resources are running out. Fuel is becoming scarce and difficult to mine. He wants The Dawn because it is the only ship in the sky that runs on an unlimited energy source."
"Wild Blue Yonder" places Cola and the Judge on a collision course in a battle for control of The Dawn and the skies. The story and art have a bit of a steampunk flavor, but Raicht doesn't characterize the series that way. "I'm not sure if 'Wild Blue' is full-on steampunk," he said. "It's a bit more Mad Max in the sky than a steampunk world."
It is, however, a post-apocalyptic story, set in a world struggling to hold itself together. "This is a world that has already died once and is on the verge of dying again," Raicht said. "The world has already experienced nuclear disasters and is so polluted that people cannot survive at sea level. These groups, who have endured the first cataclysm and taken to the sky to survive, are now experiencing a second disaster. Humanity is on the verge of extinction, and everyone is trying to find a way to survive."
Howard's art is the key element in bringing that world to life. "Zach is amazing at everything he does," Raicht said. "If you've seen his work on 'The Cape' or his 'Judge Dredd' covers, you know what I'm talking about. He's an expert storyteller. He does amazing character work. He designs ships that are cool and people that feel real. Most importantly, he can draw the hell out of a dude taking an ax to the head and make you swoon for the cute girl flying her jet. I love working with him, and I'm extremely lucky to do so.
"Besides having Zach's awesome art, we're really trying to make sure the characters really sing," Raicht added. "Each group of tribes in the sky has a purpose for what they are experiencing and a real motive for trying to destroy the other groups around them."
While the creative team envisions "Wild Blue Yonder" as a complete tale told in five issues, there are efforts already in the works for the property in other mediums, courtesy of co-creator Austin Harrison. "He's our story consultant for this and a few other projects we're all working on together," Raicht said. "[We also have] a producer working on the Hollywood end of things."
With a project that exceeded its funding goals under his belt, a publisher lined up to release it and a foot in the door in Hollywood, Raicht is excited to finally share "Wild Blue Yonder" with the world. "I love stories about groups of people, families by necessity, really, fighting against impossible odds to survive," he said. "I was really eager to write about characters running out of resources and hope. To tell stories about characters using anything at their disposal to survive. To have all of that happening 15,000 feet up with jet packs strapped to their backs makes me even more excited."
"Wild Blue Yonder" #1 will be available from IDW in May 2013.