Previously a Kickstarter, Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom is now an original graphic novel coming this week via Dark Horse Comics. Created by Curtis Clow and Jo Mi-Gyeong, the action-adventure features three friends operating as Keepers in a medieval fantasy world, where they go about noble adventures with their beast companions. As well as resolving a mystery surrounding the father of one of the Keepers, a tyrannical king looks to outlaw Keepers from the land.
With the book officially out on Amazon, and in book stores on June 29, Clow answered a few of our questions surrounding this exciting new OGN. We dig into the background of this series and what makes a fantasy series charming. We also discuss his success with Kickstarter, with 14-fully funded campaigns under his belt (and now-live 15th campaign).
AIPT: Tell us a little about Beastlands and how — and maybe even when — the idea came to you?
Curtis Clow: Beastlands is an action-adventure fantasy series with heart. It’s a companion creature world inspired by things I love like Pokémon and Digimon. Though I hope I found an original take on it. But the idea is also something that’s close to home with me. I tried to put the human and pet bond as the central theme of the story. A few years before I started working on Beastlands my dog was hit by a car. It was pretty traumatic and heartbreaking as I had to carry her home in my arms while I thought she might be dying. Luckily she survived and made a full recovery, but she required a lot of extra care. That whole experience is what truly inspired Beastlands.
AIPT: Are you an RPG gamer? Beastlands sounds like a great idea to turn into a campaign!
CC: I am not! Though I am an avid board gamer and always wanted to try some RPGs. I do think Beastlands lends itself to being some kind of board/card game. I’ve been working on a card game for it for a few years now. As someone who’s never designed a game before it’s a lot of work! Not sure if this will ever come out, but maybe if I can get it to a point I’m really happy with. Hopefully!
AIPT: Was there a specific page or panel that which artist Jo Mi-Gyeong exceeded your expectations?
CC: Jo exceeds my expectations all the time! It’s always a treat when her art hits my inbox and I get to see something new that day. From covers to interiors, it’s all amazing. Probably that first spread with Renzo leaping was one that really came out better than I even had it in my head.
AIPT: Is there a trick to making a fantasy world feel alive and charming?
CC: If there is a trick, I wish I knew! haha. I guess just making world-building rules to give your world an original feel. But also putting a little bit of yourself into the world. Like I said above with Beastlands coming from such a personal experience. I didn’t try to make this world just for a cash grab, I think that’d show. It came from something so personal. Something with heart.
AIPT: What are some of your favorite fantasy series?
CC: I love strange fantasy worlds. It’s what most of my current work is. Some of my favorites are things like Isola, Step by Bloody Step, Seven to Eternity, and Coda. Those worlds just feel so original and strange. They don’t overly explain how the world works, more like you’re just along for the ride with the characters and discovering it as they go.
AIPT: You pulled yourself up by the bootstraps so to speak to get into comics with 13 fully-funded Kickstarter campaigns, did launching Kickstarters get easier at a certain point (say with the 4th or 5th one)?
CC: I’m actually on my 15th Kickstarter now! Yeah, they definitely get easier as you build a following and launch more. I was always experimenting with every launch and trying new things too. So even if the Kickstarter was successful, I always had mini failures I was learning from and would put those lessons into my next Kickstarter. But more success on Kickstarter also means a lot more work. Maybe we get funded in a matter of hours now on day 1. But that means a lot more backers and that fulfillment will be more work with shipping to more backers. I’m still handling all the fulfillment myself, but it’s definitely something I look forward to handing off one day.
AIPT: For the outsider who has the skills to make comics, is Kickstarter a viable way of making a living?
CC: Yes! I’m living proof of that. I became a full-time comic writer and started my own publishing imprint ‘To Infinity Studios’ from Kickstarter. It was how I transitioned to comics full time and I’m not sure if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for Kickstarter. Though it takes years and many launches to build up a sufficient following. Unless you already have a following outside of Kickstarter. It’s a grind and tough, but definitely possible if you really want it. You’ll have to have a day job to start or if you’re already making some money with freelance writing when just starting. Just to launch a Kickstarter already takes money with needing a good script, preview pages, covers, letters, etc.
AIPT: Do you have any other projects you can talk about today on the horizon?
CC: Yes! Always multiple projects going on. The Beastlands trade will be out in June with Dark Horse and is available for pre-order now. But I also have my 15th Kickstarter live right now until June 8th for my other fantasy series called Slightly Exaggerated. It’s a treasure hunting fantasy adventure about a dying girl that must steal back a sacred gem from a crazed cult leader in a whimsical world. It’s an over-the-top world with flying sea creatures, talking animals, and a strange tree lady. But it’s also a much deeper series about dying, leaving a legacy, and questioning what you’ve been told. The full series, issues 1-4 are available now along with some beautiful variants and a collectors box.
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