Being a freelance writer or artist in the comic book industry definitely has its pros and cons. On the one hand, not being locked into a contract with one publisher means you’re open to just about anything, giving you a variety of projects to work on and gain a reputation not only within the industry but also amongst readers. On the other hand, not having a contract means you’re constantly looking for work while trying to make a name for yourself, which means that any projects you’re really passionate about have to fall by the wayside. Some of this could also be true for writers and artists with exclusive contracts, probably a clause that says they can do creator-owned material, though I can’t be certain since I’ve never seen nor signed such a contract.
But that’s the beauty of Kickstarter. It’s a place where the buyer is king and the creator has an opportunity to get his or her idea/project exposure and funding where normally they’d have to shop it around to various companies and publishers hoping for someone to take a chance. One such freelancer, Joshua Covey, hopes that his campaign for BAAKO – BOOK 1 will get what so many other successful campaigns have achieved, full funding. A fantasy-based graphic novel, Covey (who’s worked on House of Night, The Avengefuls, Supurbia, Fanboyz VS Zombies, Steed and Mrs. Peel, Aliens VS Parker, and Freelancers) describes BAAKO as such:
BAAKO is the story of a young girl coming of age in a world full of unimaginable terrors. She must find the courage to set out on a journey full of peril, loss, and betrayal and learn to overcome it all.
The story is inspired heavily on the fact that I have a daughter of my own. To tell a story with a strong female lead without the “physical” attributes that are so commonly attributed to such a role is of huge importance to me.
This is a journey of uncertainty: of knowing what has to be done, getting out of your comfort zone, building up the courage to take that leap of faith, and hoping you land on your feet!
BAAKO is a fantasy tale at heart and a culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my own book. The story is a mix of multiple genres and a place for my imagination to run wild and free!
Not too shabby, huh? I actually met Joshua at this year’s Emerald City Comicon (he drew Wolverine for me!) and with the Kickstarter campaign in its final two weeks, I emailed him a few questions about BAAKO that he graciously answered.
Sam: How long have you had this story in your head? What does BAAKO mean to you? Is it a passion project or a story you feel is missing from mainstream comics?
Joshua: I’ve been working on the story off and on over the course of about 3 years now, fine tuning it and evolving it into something with a great amount of respect for the reader. BAAKO is both a passion project and a something I feel is a breath of fresh air in what I think has become a cliché comic world. The story plays heavily on the fact that I have children of my own, and to be able to tell a story that they will be able to pick up and read on their own is very important to me. Not that BAAKO is a children’s book, but I want it to be something for everyone. I want it to cater to young and old.
Sam: You’ve added a lot of fan-created incentives. Do you think comics should be more interactive? What should the relationship be between creators and the readership?
Joshua: Absolutely. The fans are the backbone to any successful book, so I believe that they deserve the absolute best and have every right to be as involved in the creative process as the creator.I think to have a relationship with the fans is very important, no matter what the project. You should always engage them on the same level and never try to stand above them. Most importantly, constantly show your appreciation for each and every one. Because with them, you wouldn’t be where you are. A perfect example: My Kickstarter.
Sam: Do you think the comic book industry is lacking in role models for girls? Are there any books you’d let your daughter read? Any books you want her to read (other than yours!) What do you hope BAAKO will do for female readership?
Joshua: Honestly, yes. I think that mainstream media in general is lacking in honest female role models. Not saying there are none to be found, just that I think there could be more. As of right now, there really isn’t a whole lot that she’s interested in. She’s soon to turn 6, and everything out there I feel is just a little “too old” or simply doesn’t portray women in a “realistic” manner. Titles that I try to encourage her to pick up are books like Jeff Smith’s “BONE” and the more kid friendly titles like Adventure Time.As mentioned above, the story of BAAKO is inspired heavily on the fact that I have children of my own. So to tell a story with a strong female lead without the “physical” attributes that are so commonly attributed to such a role is of great importance to me. I want to show that you CAN have a book that shows a woman’s strengths and weaknesses, show that you’re able to give her a realistic and relatable personality as well as show her beauty without lessening the wardrobe.
By doing so, I hope others see that doing a book in this nature IS possible, and that they too start to create stories and characters that don’t cater to a certain demographic just because it’s what “sells”.
As Joshua said, the presence of female role models for girls within the comic book industry is minimal despite the fact that girls and women make up a large percentage of the readership. Projects like BAAKO are necessary to expanding not only the fan and reader base for comics, but essential to the reputation of the industry as one of inclusiveness and openness. It can’t be more of the same. We need more and we need variety or else we’ll stagnate.