While at Rose City Comic Con I had the wonderful chance to meet two gentlemen looking to get into the indie comic scene in Portland. Through a friend, Justin Zimmerman, I got the chance to hang out with Colin Westerfield and Mac Cooper. I spent a little time talking to them about their project and their vision for a new graphic novel titled White Knuckle Birthday. After the convention, with the release of their Kickstarter campaign, I knew I had to interview them about their endeavor.
KC: First, tell me a little bit about yourselves (both Colin + Mac)! What got you into the comic world, what else do you guys do, and how did you come together for this project?
Colin: I’d only dabbled in comic book collecting until about 10 years ago. I lived near this shop called House of Secrets in Burbank, CA and the staff turned me on to books like “Y-The Last Man” and Alan Moore stuff. I was blown away. I’d been trying to break into screenwriting and realized I had to try my hand at writing comics.
I moved to Portland about 6 years ago and proceeded to have the toughest year of my life. I’d been itching to write a crime comic and realized, “Now would be a good time to tap some angst and dark themes”. So, I plotted out “White Knuckle Birthday”, wrote the first issue, and placed a Craigslist ad for an artist. I really wanted someone who could render emotion on characters’ faces and nail black-and-white illustration. Mac sent me a sequential art sample and his art was so incredibly strong and sophisticated. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for what I wrote.
Mac: I’ve always been into comics, but never had much money for them. As a result I had a only a few carefully chosen books that I’d pour over as a kid, and I guess they influenced my art style through endless doodling (mostly in class – oops) to the point where my senior project for my art degree ended up being a sort of fine-artsified, summarized version of a story my roommate and I came up with. I can’t even look at it now because it’s so bad, but after I graduated I thought I’d see about doing this for real – enter Colin and WKB. It’s a great match because Colin really lets me go nuts, and I get to play with dramatic angles, composition and high contrast basically to my heart’s content. I also get to create this gritty backdrop and populate it with all the stuff that should go into it, which is one of my favorite parts of the process.
Outside of the various comics projects I’ve worked on, I’m a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I’ve also gotten into graphic recording and murals lately – variety really keeps you sharp, and different areas and media can really help inform the other projects you have going!
KC: So, White Knuckle Birthday. That’s a hell of a title; how did you come up with it?
Colin: I’ve always loved how intense those two words sound together. It hit me one day that “White Knuckle” had the building blocks for an excellent comic book title, I just needed a third word. I started kicking around crime-themed words like, “White Knuckle Hitman”, but everything sounded too over-the-top. I decided to change things up and go for even more ridiculous combinations. When I said “birthday”, I laughed out loud. I was sold.
KC: If you had to give a brief two or three sentence summary of White Knuckle Birthday, what would it be?
Colin: “White Knuckle Birthday” tells the story of Rob Powells’s harrowing attempt to fix his complacent existence and pursue a life he can only imagine. To that end, he chooses the behaviors/people that held him back all along and detonates his life in the process. Injury and death abound and he must fight to save his own life and the lives of most everyone he cares about.
KC: What is the scope of the project? How many issues are you hoping to do?
Colin: Originally, we’d planned a serialized run of 8-issues. Life got very busy and we realized that might take more time than we had. So, we trimmed White Knuckle Birthday down to a lean fighting weight of 4-chapters for the graphic novel Kickstarter campaign.
KC: It was great to meet you guys at Rose City Comic Con. How did the con go, and did you get a lot of people interested in your comic?
Colin: It was great to meet you, too! That’s really the best part of the cons for us: making new friends and spending time with other artists/creators. Rose City brings in such a huge, enthusiastic crowd and that definitely helped us spread the word.
KC: I love the art style chosen – what led to this particular style being the best for the story?
Colin: I knew I wanted “White Knuckle Birthday” to look like a modern Noir story. In that sense, I felt it should have that classic black-and-white palette with everything else (e.g. dialogue, locations) reflecting our current time period. It was uncanny when Mac sent me his art sample because it looked like what I envisioned in my head.
KC: What inspired the story itself and made you want to tell this particular tale?
Colin: My first year in Portland ended up being unbelievably challenging and I overcame a lot in that time. I’d been watching “Deadwood” and reading Cormac McCarthy and I felt really plugged-in to looking at characters who faced tough choices. With all those thoughts swirling around, I felt the time was right to flesh out the concept of “White Knuckle Birthday”.
KC: You’re doing a Kickstarter for the comic. What’s your goal for the money you raise and why should people get in on this comic now instead of waiting?
Colin: Half the money will go to printing the graphic novel and shipping it to backers. The other half will go to paying Mac and Jeff (the letterer), producing incentives (e.g. buttons, scripts, posters), and giving Kickstarter their cut (10%).
The “White Knuckle Birthday” Kickstarter campaign is both a graphic novel and a comic book subscription. Backers will get to read digital versions of each chapter as it’s produced and receive the whole graphic novel when it’s done (December next year). So, this project is much more of an interactive experience for our backers. We want everyone who supports us to get something unique and special for contributing. That’s why we’ve also loaded each pledge level with cool incentives. Many of those incentives (e.g. scripts, copies of original pencils, “making of” videos, project updates) are exclusive to this campaign.
KC: What are the dates for the Kickstarter, and how can people get involved?
Colin: We launch Friday, October 17th at 12:00AM and you can check us out at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1795417378/white-knuckle-birthday-the-graphic-novel. We invite everyone to come check us out. If you like what you see, join the party and spread the word.
KC: Doing any other cons or promotional gigs anytime soon?
Colin: We’re gonna try to do Rose City Comic Con next Fall, if schedules permit. We’re also keeping our eyes open for more independent comic cons throughout the Pacific Northwest.
KC: Anything else you’d like people to know about the project?
Colin and Mac: The only other thing is: we want to thank you very much for interviewing us. This was a lot of fun and we really appreciated the opportunity.
Did they hook you? I hope so! I myself have already contributed to the campaign, and now you can too! Click the link below to be taken to the Kickstarter page where you can pledge some dough and get some cool swag in return. Go support a fabulous indie comic!