I am pleased to announce the launch of the newest comic book Kickstarter Project. Former Comics Nexus Editor-in-Chief Daron Kappauff is joined by former Nexus columnist Chris Delloiacono as writers for their original science fiction comic book called Horizen’s End. The project also marks the return of comic book fan favorite artist Darryl Banks, most fondly remembered for co-creating Green Lantern Kyle Rayner for DC Comics with writer Ron Marz in 1994. The creative team also includes Moose Baumann, Troy Peteri, Dave Lanphear, and Stephane Roux.
Daron and Chris describe Horizon’s End as a science fiction story with fantasy elements. It is focused on a young female heroine, Andara, who finds herself abandoned on a hostile alien world, where she must not only survive and learn about her burgeoning abilities, but she must also carry out the mission that brought her there. The story takes place in the far reaches of space, far from Earth and before humans have made first contact with an alien race.
I am also pleased to have Daron and Chris’s first interview for the project which launched on Kickstarter today. The page has a pretty cool introductory video among other things that explains the concept for the graphic novel. Their crowd-funding Kickstarter page can be found here and their Horizon’s End Facebook page is here for your regular updates from the excited creators.
Comics Nexus: Congratulations on your new project. What can you tell us about Andara and her Galactic journey in Horizon’s End?
Daron Kappauff: Thanks, John. In terms of where she starts out and where she ends up physically, her journey isn’t all that long. Not in this first story anyway. She arrives at the planet Usyel with her mentor, Caido, with the goal of freeing its people from the subjugation of the Black Dominion. Before their mission truly begins, though, Andara finds herself left there alone and abandoned. And maybe most importantly without a way home.
Metaphorically speaking, though, her journey is more complicated. Andara is the embodiment of anyone who’s ever been wronged and left with a near uncontrollable rage. But unlike most of us she’s given the power and freedom to go about seeking her revenge. Her true journey lies, then, in learning the repercussions of actually giving in to that anger and how to pick up the pieces when that fury only leads to more hardships.
Chris Delloiacono: I want to add that Horizon’s End, in my mind, is about the hardships many of us face to become “mature.” How much conflict did you face while growing into your body and the responsibilities that come with adulthood? For me, I didn’t deal well with others, and controlling my mouth and actions didn’t come easily. I lost jobs and friends at a frightening clip. Even still, I had the support of loved ones to pull me through.
Andara is, essentially, a rebellious teenager without a safety net. She’s dropped into a situation where she can’t rely on anyone. She has to go out and survive based on her wits and become an inspiration for others. All this while dealing with her insecurities and, more importantly, attempting to corral those inner demons of revenge. Maturity cannot be taught; it’s something that comes to most people when they are ready. The words are bandied about often, but this is a coming-of-age story, only it’s wrapped with an awesome space opera bow!
Daron: And she’s not the only one on this voyage of self-discovery. Our main supporting character Klique, a young Usyelian native, also learns what it means to grow up and the importance of family while dealing with the trials life throws at him. Of course the burden of living under the oppression of an alien armada may be a bit more extreme than any of us are used to, but that’s the joy of comics isn’t it? Finding relatable characters even in the most extreme and farfetched scenarios.
Nexus: What is the significance of the title “Horizon’s End”? Does it play into your story at all?
Daron: It’s funny, but looking back, I don’t think the title originally had any bearing on the actual story. Chris and I were trying to come up with something new, something that would pop off the page. However, now that we’ve fully realized our story and our main characters, I think the name really embodies the story we’re trying to tell.
The horizon often symbolizes the future. There’s this idea that we can put all the troubles of one day behind us with the setting sun and look to start fresh when it rises again. But with our story, our characters find that the horizon only represents more suffering. There’s no sense of hope for the future here, not at the outset anyway. And our characters have to push past that hopelessness and find a way to make a better future in the face on an impending darkness.
Chris: I love titles that don’t really tell you anything about the genre but hint at the characters’ journey. If you follow the news, there seem to be people every day arriving at their own end by choice. When is life no longer worth living, essentially when does hopelessness trump any belief of improvement? When is it better to give up? The gauntlet we have planned for Andara, and our supporting cast, will hopefully bring the reader to the point where they believe our heroes are doomed.
Some of the most memorable stories that I’ve read are the ones where you are certain the hero will die. The best comics or genre fiction are stories where the writer pushes the lead, whether it be Batman, Spider-Man, James Bond, or Harry Potter to the point where you think, this is really it! I don’t know about you, but when I read the last Harry Potter book, JK Rowling made me truly fear that Mr. Potter was going to die. We hope the reader is so taken with Andara’s story and fears that the final horizon has been reached. Or, maybe we are trying to tell you something about how the story ends…
Nexus: You seem to have the worlds with an “s” around Andara and her back story quite fleshed out. How do you make a sci-fi, galactic-scoped book accessible and relatable to readers?
Chris: Anytime you go intergalactic there’s a danger of creating characters with incalculable powers or establishing a setting where there’s no reasonable frame of reference. When that happens stories lack resonance. Daron and I grew up with Star Wars as one of the pillars of our formative years. We talk a lot about using the original film as an inspiration for what we are doing. George Lucas created a lush universe of possibilities, and he sprinkled in a lot of back story as well. The universe was awesome but we only cared because it was easy to see ourselves in Luke, Han, Leia, and even Darth Vader.
We’ve spent many hours talking about what’s come before and where it’s all heading. In the end, Horizon’s End is a story about people in a science fiction setting. We’ve attempted to bring relatable problems to our characters. There’s no deus ex machina our leads are pursing. We didn’t start with the idea of some huge space battle and then make characters that fit the scenario. Without a doubt there’s a bigger story, but the character arcs of Andara and Klique are how we hope to ground a sprawling intergalactic adventure.
Daron: Chris pretty much nailed it here. It’s all about the characters, and I think that’s true of any genre, no matter how large or small the scope. Using myself as an example, I personally am not a big fan of westerns. I don’t hate them, but they’re not my first choice in genre entertainment, and I certainly don’t seek them out. With that said, HBO’s Deadwood is one of my absolute favorite television shows, and Tombstone is easily one of my favorite films. Why? Because of the amazing, or better yet amazingly flawed, characters that populate those worlds. Interesting, relatable characters are the key to any successful story. And since day one, our goal has been to try to deliver characters with those qualities.
Besides good characters, though, I think we’ve made our world accessible because it feels “familiar.” If you were to put it under a microscope you’d inevitably find similarities to all sorts of science fiction stories that have come before. And while some people may cite that as a weakness, or shy away from admitting that, I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of. Frankly, I don’t think it’s something that can be avoided. At this point in history, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to come up with entirely new concept within a widely popular genre. In fact, it seems like most people nowadays set out to just try and combine existing concepts. We’re entirely okay if people draw parallels between our story and Star Wars, or Flash Gordon, or John Carter. We want our readers to easily get our world at large, so we can really narrow our focus on the specific character driven story we’re trying to tell.
Nexus: Part of the premise involves freeing or averting the subjugation of alien worlds from a hostile alien race. Tell us about the threats Andara and her solar system faces?
Chris: Let’s start with The Black Dominion which is a plague of locusts descending upon worlds that cannot defend themselves. Once in place, they take some of the populace into their ranks and make the rest work for the Dominion’s gain. They are a powerful force, but much of their effort is spent bullying planets that have no conceivable means of fighting back. Usyel is a pre-industrial world, so how can they possibly defeat this fleet from space?
The second danger is a drug named Solotrin which the Dominion is forcing the populace of Usyel to mine. This drug gifts the user with a temporary telekinesis of sorts. Imagine how this substance can increase the power of an already mighty army. How many other worlds would fall? We will also explore how the drug affects the people mining it, not to mention possible side effects for the user.
Daron: A plague of locusts is a great metaphor for the Dominion. They come to a planet and strip mine it of anything valuable: resources, inhabitants, you name it, and then leave it utterly destroyed. They aren’t like your typical, invading, alien army, though. They’re not out looking for a new home world, or ways to make their home world sustainable again. They don’t even have a home world in the strictest sense. Instead, the Black Dominion is a conglomeration of races that rape and pillage worlds across the galaxy for fun and profit. And in my mind, this makes them a bit more sinister than your standard “War of the World” aliens who are looking for new ways to survive. The Dominion doesn’t have to do this, they want to.
Besides the Dominion, and even the Solotrin that Chris mentioned, Andara will have to deal with some serious personal conflicts as well, both physical and mental. We’ve already mentioned that she’s going to have to deal with her personal feelings of being abandoned, as well as an overpowering urge to seek revenge for a whole host of wrongs that have been inflicted on her. But on top of that, she’s going to have to figure out how to win the trust of a race of people that don’t see her as anything other than another “invading alien.” And she’ll have to win their trust if any of them are going to survive. Chris used the word gauntlet earlier. We’ve definitely set up a gauntlet of challenges for her to overcome.
Nexus: Is the warlord and his conquering aliens a comment on today’s international politics, particularly America’s military presence in the Middle East?
Chris: When I went back to school for my teaching degree I had to choose an academic major. I originally was a business major but that didn’t qualify as a teaching specialty for elementary education, so I am also the proud holder of a specialization in history. I’m not an expert, but I feel somewhat qualified to say that Western policies in the Middle East have fractured the area and caused immense difficulties. I think the majority of today’s problems link back to the handling of the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. If the Europeans and Americans had not been so free with dividing the area up for their own gain, well, we might not face such a mess today. That all said, the Romans, Napoleon, and the Crusades stirred the region up in the centuries prior.
I don’t own a gun and I’m not a proponent of war unless it’s a last resort. I’m pretty much a pacifist. I feel that most of the world’s recent conflicts have sown the seeds for the wars of the next generation. To get back to Horizon’s End, the Black Dominion is simply out for plunder and to decimate Usyel. I tell my students that there is little black and white to the good and evil of the world. We live in a world of grey tones with propaganda bombarding us from our television sets. The truth is not always apparent in the modern world, but leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Milosevic presided over abhorrent acts and needed to be defeated. I don’t think the Black Dominion is the type of group that would inspire a lot of policy debate over whether they should be stopped.
Daron: Uh, yeah. What he said.
But seriously, of all the themes Chris and I discussed when we put this story together, which began nearly a decade ago, terrorism and America’s presence in the Middle East wasn’t really one of them. However, if you wanted to liken the Black Dominion to something more familiar to Earth’s cultural/political history, I think Chris nailed it by bringing up Hitler and Mussolini. The Dominion could be compared to a group like the Nazis if they had been allowed to advance unchecked. For our story’s purpose, no one stood against them, and this advancement went on for centuries. Our villains spread across the galaxy, absorbing and decimating any and all cultures they came across. And our heroes have tasked themselves with trying to stem this flood with nothing more than a handful of sandbags and a whole lot of determination.
Nexus: Americans have gotten tired it seems of the War in Afghanistan and before that Iraq. How do you make the “heroes” of Horizon’s End popular with readers jaded by similar themes in the real world?
Daron: Well for starters, we made our heroes the insurgents attempting to throw the invaders out. That should be something different for most Americans to cheer for.
But as we said above, our goal with this story really wasn’t to be an indictment of the United States’ handling of the Middle East. We’ve painted our heroes and villains with much broader strokes of “good and evil.” Which isn’t to say they won’t be complex characters, or that there won’t be certain shades of gray within various characters or motivations, but it won’t be difficult to figure out who you should be rooting for, “jaded” feelings or not.
Chris: George Washington is an American icon, and he was an insurgent that fought against the recognized government with guerilla tactics. To go back to Star Wars once again, the entire original trilogy is built around the idea of overthrowing the recognized government. I don’t think people will see an allegory for modern diplomacy in Horizon’s End. They’ll hopefully find the good guys endearing and the villains worth booing and hissing. Comics today comment too much on the modern world and the sense of fun is often lost by grim and gritty reality. Our goal is to make an enjoyable comic with characters we hope the readers will want to get to know.
Nexus: You bagged a great artist in Darryl Banks. How did that happen and why is he the right artist for your first comic book project?
Daron: That’s kind of a long story, but I’ll try to truncate. I first met Darryl some years back at the Pittsburgh Comicon. Since then we’ve kept in contact (I’ve gotten a couple amazing commission pieces from him, and he’s read some of my published fiction). Around the same time we first met, Chris and I were coming up with Horizon’s End, and both of us pictured Darryl drawing the series (though we never brought it up to him). As years passed, Chris and I talked with a slew of artists about the project (all of which fell through for one reason or another), until finally near the end of 2012 I called Chris up and said, “Screw it, let’s just ask Darryl. We’ve always imagined him drawing it, what the hell’s it going to hurt to ask him?”
Chris was obviously on board, and to both of our surprise, so was Darryl. As to why Darryl decided to say yes to us, when I know other people have been asking him about projects…well you’d have to ask him. I knew he wanted to get back into comics after being out and working on toy designs and other projects, plus our story is definitely in his wheelhouse. There was never really anyone else we wanted to work with, so actually getting to work with Darryl kind of feels like a dream come true.
Nexus: Who else is on your creative team? What spots still need filling?
Chris: We’ve been honored to score several other big creators for Horizon’s End. Our colorist is the brilliant Moose Baumann who’s been coloring X-O Manowar & Harbinger for Valiant recently. He’s also colored Batman, The Transformers, Star Trek, Flash, JLA and about a million other comics you might have heard of. Moose also worked with Darryl on many issues of Green Lantern, so there’s no question the book will look fantastic.
We also are fortunate to have Troy Peteri lettering the book. Troy letters pretty much everything at Top Cow and works with a gentleman named Mark Waid frequently. That’s on top of writing his own comics and lettering a whole bunch of other things. Plus we have Troy’s mentor, Dave Lanphear – a lettering veteran, helping us with design work. Dave also created our beautiful logo.
We’ve also been extremely lucky in having a whole host of other industry creators helps us out with rewards and the like for our Kickstarter, topped off with the legendary Ron Marz writing the Forward to the book!
Daron: And to top the top off, fan favorite cover artist extraordinaire, Stephane Roux provided us our amazing cover.
Nexus: What is your process as writing partners?
Daron: That’s an interesting question, and one we thought and talked about for a long time before we sat down and started writing. We knew we didn’t want to do the Plotter/Scripter thing, but we weren’t able to find much on how other co-writers worked together. We knew we wanted this to be a true collaboration, though, so that’s what we set out to do.
We started by figuring out the specific story we wanted to tell. Anytime I start any type of story, I have to know how it begins and ends – everything else usually comes pretty easy if you know your boundaries. Once we had that, we bounced ideas around and came up with a 5 issue/chapter outline for our initial foray into this world.
Our scripting method is probably a bit different than most co-writers use (we’re guessing anyway). Since we had a pretty detailed outline of each issue, we broke the script down into scenes, and we each dove in to them separately. For example, I originally scripted the opening scene with Andara and Caido, while Chris wrote the next scene introducing Klique and his brother Elmir. We then swapped them back and forth making notes and suggestions and changes as we saw fit. It’s interesting because if you were to look at the original scripts you could easily tell who wrote which part, but when you look at the final version, you’d see that it’s become a real hybrid. After a while I sometimes forget which one of us started working on the various parts.
Nexus: It seems to be quite difficult to self-publish anything nowadays in the more traditional ways. Why did you choose Kickstarter, which allows you to have would-be fans support the project monetarily in advance?
Chris: Daron and I have supported a number of Kickstarter and Indie Go Go projects in the past year. Through that support, we’ve seen that crowd funding is an effective method of launching a project. The process allows creators to give something directly to the consumer for making their dreams a reality.
The amount budgeted for the Kickstarter is to cover the cost of publishing a 120-page graphic novel. The proceeds will pay for the salary of the art team, printing, shipping of rewards, and various other fees. We think our rewards will entice fans to try out a story written by two newcomers to the comic industry. Our goal is to make a comic first and foremost. So, the major reward is a copy of the trade paperback either in a hardcopy or digital form. That’s the reward you will find at most every level.
Since we have a first class art team, we’re thrilled to offer all sorts of sketch and art based rewards. Who wouldn’t want to own a page of original art or a sketch by Darryl Banks? Haven’t you always wanted to be a part of a comic book? Imagine having your image drawn by Darryl and further brought to life by Moose Baumann! We are also lucky to have a number of art commission pieces through the cooperation of creators like Mike Grell, Ryan Benjamin, Mikael Janin, Barry Kitson, Todd Nauck and Sergio Cariello.
Even though we’re selling direct to potential readers we would never forget about the brick and mortar stores. Comic shops are the life blood of the industry, and we are offering them an opportunity to stock Horizon’s End at a discounted rate. As another way of supporting the retail world, we are hoping that some shops would like to have Darryl, Daron, and I come to town and do a signing.
A properly run Kickstarter should benefit everyone involved. All of these rewards are with an eye towards making our project happen, but giving a substantial thank you to our benefactors.
Nexus: What’s your long-term goal with this project?
Daron: If we have our way, this will be but the first in a series of Horizon’s End stories. Chris and I are both fans of the “series of mini-series” format made popular by Hellboy. This type of storytelling allows a creative team to tell the specific stories they want to tell and keeps them from having to pad issues with filler. That’s not to say we don’t have enough material to do Horizon’s as an ongoing (I’d say we do), but we would prefer to tell stories with specific beginnings, middles, and endings, and, hopefully, consistent art teams. It’s also easier to make the overall story accessible and enticing to new readers in this format.
Nexus: Why is now the right time, in today’s market, for a project like Horizon’s End?
Chris: The comic industry has been looking up the past few years. A quality story, in just about any genre, seems to have a market. Every week, Daron and I read our comics and dissect the likes and dislikes. Let’s face it, comics are an expensive hobby, but most of us are hooked for life. That expense makes it necessary to be selective about the comics we read. Our biggest pet peeve is overlong storylines with no direction or comics I term: a fight and a conversation. We promise if you read Horizon’s End you’ll get a complete story and, we hope, you’ll be satisfied by the conclusion. Basically, the market demands bang for the buck, and we aim to please.
Nexus: Anything else you want to share with us?
Daron: I’d just like to say thanks to everyone taking the time to get to know our project, and especially to everyone supporting us, backing us, and helping spread the word. Working on this project with this team is a dream come true for Chris and I, and we couldn’t be happier with the amount of support we’ve already been given. Hopefully you all will enjoy reading Horizon’s End as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it.
On a professional note, I would like to thank Daron and Chris for taking the time to speak to me about their exciting new project. On a more personal note, Daron, Chris, all of us here at the Comics Nexus and the wider Inside Pulse family wish you much success.
The Kickstarter campaign for Horizon’s End launched today. It allows you to support the project with several donation options with pretty cool original art and other “prizes” from notable creators such as Darryl Banks, Moose Baumann, Mike Grell, Ryan Benjamin, Mikael Janin, Barry Kitson, Todd Nauck and Sergio Cariello. Also feel free to like their Horizon’s End Facebook page so that you can keep up-to-date on this project.
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Tags: Barry Kitson, DC Comics, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Image Comics, Kickstarter, Kickstarter Kreater Spotlight, Mikel Janin, Ron Marz, Top Cow