Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for your new comic book series, The Peacekeepers. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this ongoing story?
Rylend Grant: The Peacekeepers is a dark, quirky crime drama in the vein of Fargo or No Country for Old Men. It’s a love letter to case-a-season police dramas like True Detective and The Wire, to Elmore Leonard novels, and to comic masterpieces like Criminal and 100 Bullets.
All hell breaks loose in a quaint northern Michigan community when a team of in-over-their-heads bank robbers kills a beloved Sheriff’s Deputy. In a small town with BIG secrets, local detective Richard Holton races to peel back the layers of a depraved down-home conspiracy before the bungling Federal Agents assigned to the case send everyone involved to ground.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with artist Davi Leon Dias, colorist Iwan Joko Triyono, and letterer HdE in bringing the story to life?
RG: Well, we’ve all worked together before. This is the very same team that brought you 10 kickass issues of my political action thriller, Aberrant (released by Action Lab: Danger Zone in 2018).
That book made about a dozen critics' ten-best lists. It won a Mike Wieringo Comic Book Award ("Ringo Award") for BEST VILLAIN and was nominated for two others... BEST SINGLE ISSUE and BEST WRITER (alongside Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughn, and Brian Michael Bendis).
HdE is brilliant, and he letters everything I do. He was actually nominated for a Ringo this year for his work on my last book, the dark superhero noir Banjax. He also helped us secure a BEST SERIES nom on that one.
When you have thoroughbreds like these in the stable, you ride them as often as you can. We know each other backwards and forwards at this point. It just makes things so much easier. The basic foundational stuff is already taken care of. It frees us up to focus on subtly and nuance… and that’s how you end up with a great book instead of just a good book.
BD: What are some of the fun backer rewards that are available to those who contribute to your campaign?
RG: There is such a wildly enthusiastic fanbase on Kickstarter. We tried to make this as interactive an experience as possible for them. There are original commission tiers. Davi will draw anything and everything you want and then Iwan will color it. Anything goes. How often do you get that opportunity? It’s not like you can walk into a comic shop, point at a book, and say, “You know what? I think I’d like that person to do a pinup for me!” Well, here’s your chance.
We worked really hard with this campaign to find ways to make the backer part of the team and/or part of the book. There are a few DRAW ME IN tiers. You can choose to be a background character in the book or you can go the extra mile and get yourself cast a supporting character… that means we give you lines! There are PUT ME ON A COVER tiers where we put your face/likeness on any of our four covers. You then decide if you'd like a digital file and beautiful physical print or if you'd like to receive an actual physical comic issue with your mug on it!
There is also this bonkers tier where we write and draw an original 5-page story that takes place in the universe of The Peacekeepers that stars YOU as the protagonist. I did some of these for my last book – a paranoid thriller set in the world of astral projection titled The Jump – and we had such a blast cooking them up with the backers.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that The Peacekeepers’ story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
RG: Well, The Peacekeepers is a story I’ve wanted to tell for 15+ years, but haven’t been able to. I’m a screenwriter by trade. My day job is writing movies – mostly big, poppy action flicks – for folks like Ridley Scott, JJ Abrams, Justin Lin, John Woo, and Luc Besson… but there is this other, more cerebral side of me that does always get nourished. Hollywood is a frustrating place. What you’re allowed to do as a writer there you can essentially fit on a postage stamp. They’re only making about five different movies these days. They want you to tell those stories in a very specific way. I’m pretty damn good at writing those movies, but I needed to find another outlet to stay creatively sane.
The beauty of comics is you can tell any kind of story, in any kind of way, as long as it’s GOOD… and I think this is pretty damn good.
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, but from time to time, I wandered “up north” with my family and we encountered places like Morgan County (the fictional setting of The Peacekeepers). I was always very interested in that dichotomy of place. The big, nasty city vs. the “quaint, little town.” How where we come from shapes us so completely. How it puts us at odds with folks who live across imaginary lines we draw on a map.
After I graduated college, my parents moved from Detroit to the mountains of Tennessee, to what is literally the least diverse county in the United States. It’s a place that’s a bit rough and tumble, a place that is a more than a little country… but it is a community with a capital C. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone looks out for everyone. If someone gets out of sorts, the proverbial herd brings them back in line. My visits there really informed this story.
At its heart, The Peacekeepers is about that collision of culture. When that aforementioned Sherriff’s deputy is killed, a national spotlight is shone upon Morgan County. As the story progresses, our “quaint, little town” is invaded by CNN, by Nancy Grace, by an army of Federal Agents looking to get in front of cameras and make names for themselves. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose.
How and why will readers connect with this story? It’s “of the moment.” It’s my fun/interesting way of dealing with/processing all of the political and social crazy happening in this world right now. Hopefully, it helps a few more people deal also.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to highlight for our readers?
RG: Well, my previous titles, Aberrant and the Banjax (both published by Action Lab: Danger Zone) are available in fine comic shops everywhere and via amazon and comiXology. The Jump is still available via Backerkit (thejump.backerkit.com).
It’s worth mentioning that signed copies of all of my previous work are available via The Peacekeepers Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter chose us to test their add-on Beta this go ‘round, and so we’re having some fun with it. It’s a unique opportunity, maybe the only way to get signed books from me for a while. There are obviously no cons right now… but even when they are going full force, I have a 4-year-old at home and I can’t travel a bunch, so I tend to only do Southern California shows.
As far as stuff that’s coming up, I’m one of the guys/gals that got hit pretty hard amid all of this COVID craziness. I had two titles that were set to be announced/released by big publishers, but then it was pencils down, then folks got fired, and all of it was thrown into question. That ship is finally starting to right itself, though, so hopefully I can talk about some things soon.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about The Peacekeepers and its Kickstarter campaign?
RG: I’m on all forms of social media (@rylendgrant). Catch me and the latest on mine there. You can find everything you need to know about The Peacekeepers here.