This holiday season, get ready to save the world and make it more mathematical, with the return of Solution Squad. Back in 2017, Indiana math teacher Jim McClain launched a successful Kickstarter that brought a team of problem-solving superheroes to life in their very own, 144-page graphic novel, and now he’s back with a brand-new story, games, puzzles, activities, and coloring pages.
McClain takes his love of comics and knowledge of mathematics to new creative heights in order to entertain and educate, and the current Kickstarter for the Solution Squad Holiday Special is (as of last night!) completely funded. With more than two weeks left to get in on it, AIPT were lucky enough to be able to talk to McClain through email about this new installment.
AIPT: Hello Jim, and thank you for taking time to talk with us. I saw that you have a love for holiday comics, and I totally agree with that, as somehow seeing Superheroes celebrate makes them feel a bit more realistic. How did that joy of holidays drive your story for this new adventure?
Jim McClain: Thank you for inviting me! Just before I turned seven, my parents got divorced. The man that my mom took us to live with was incredibly mean and deliberately burned all of my comic books. The only time for the next five years that my brother or I even got to read comics were either in the summer when we visited my grandparents, or at Christmas break. My grandma always got us the treasury-sized holiday comics from DC and Marvel.
This was also the age of Mego action figures, and my brother and I spent hours playing with them at her house. That’s where the premise of the featured story, The Case of the Eight-Inch Action Figures, comes from. It was an oasis in the desert of a tough childhood. That time meant a lot to us, and I wanted anyone else who has a similar situation to have the opportunity to experience that kind of joy through comics.
AIPT: How would you define the mission statement of Solution Squad for new backers and readers? Has anything changed for the characters since the first adventure?
JM: I would describe the Solution Squad as a team of teenage, math-themed superheroes in the tradition of Bronze Age comics. It’s kind of like X-Men Evolution meets Numb3rs. My heroes always try to do the right thing and to solve problems with brains first, and brawn second. And moreover, they smile. The heroes of my youth don’t smile much anymore.
Has anything changed for the characters since the first adventure? Not really. There have only been five complete stories. There’s still time to grow!
AIPT: One of the major things that I like about the way you do your Kickstarters is that you have a finished product, which is fantastic as a backer. How long did this comic take you to create from initial concept to bringing it to Kickstarter?
JM: This particular story was already written when the graphic novel came out. In fact, it takes place before The Candy Crimes of the Confectioneer. It was just a matter of waiting for the artwork to be produced. I had hired a different artist to work on this story before the release of the graphic novel, but the work wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I brought Serena Guerra back to redraw the whole thing after the graphic novel’s publication.
I’ve been working on other projects in the meantime, like Poe and the Mysteriads, and my role playing game, Heroes of STEAM. I don’t want to saturate the market with my Kickstarters, so I limit myself to one per year.
AIPT: I saw with the first Solution Squad graphic novel, you had quite a few artists. Did some of them return? How did you meet up with new artists in order to create this issue?
JM: I brought Serena Guerra back for this one. She had only done 10 pages plus a cover in the graphic novel, and I really love her style. I actually met her at a comic book convention, where she was two tables away from me. At a slow moment, I took a short walk, and discovered her incredible art. We saw each other again the next month at a different show, and she was free! I hired her on the spot.
AIPT: What were some of the successful habits you learned from Kickstarter with your last adventure? Any advice for others who wish to pursue a Kickstarter?
JM: They say it’s all about who you know, and that’s really the truth in this business. Making successful contacts with people who can help you get the word out is very important. Also, as you already mentioned, having a completed product gives a nice sense of security to those who pledge. The file for this book is literally at the printer already. I just need to tell him a number.
I would always advise people who do Kickstarters to be able to show the work, and to always be sincere. But obviously the most important thing is to fulfill the Kickstarter in a timely manner. Prove yourself to be reliable!
AIPT: Now that you’re retired, any plans on coming back to the classroom as a substitute teacher? How wild would that be for students to have a comic book writer teach them some math!
JM: Ha ha! I was a substitute teacher for a whole month before the pandemic started! But now, with multiple comorbidities, I would be putting myself at too great a risk exposing myself to hundreds of different kids a day. For now, I’m going to continue to work at my creative endeavors and see if I can make a go at that.
Jim McClain’s Solution Squad Holiday Special is on Kickstarter until Saturday, October 10. There are several backing levels that allow you to get some or all of the rest of McClain’s work, and to donate copies of the holiday special to Title I (high poverty) schools.