Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of The River of Blood! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Sean Fahey: Thank you! And thank you for the opportunity to discuss The River of Blood with you on Fanbase Press. I sincerely appreciate your support of indie creators.
The River of Blood is a supernatural Viking-Horror graphic novel. The story follows a group of Varangian Guard mercenaries, Northmen, who must escape Constantinople after their leader is falsely accused of murder by a political rival. On their return home up the Volga River, they come across a Russian settlement that is being terrorized by unknown assailants some believe to be pirates. Others believe the river is cursed by spirits of the damned. The Northmen agree to help the settlers and soon discover that the true threat is much darker and insidious than any imagined. Their journey forces them to question their values, their faith and the very nature of good and evil. In a word, the book is about “courage,” what it means to be genuinely courageous. I (humbly) describe it as, “Vikings” meets “Supernatural.”
The book is inspired by classic works I’ve long admired such as “The Icelandic Sagas,” Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories, Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness,” as well as several contemporary works such as Michael Chrichton’s “Eaters of the Dead,” Mike Mignola’s “Baltimore” series and the aforementioned television series “Supernatural.” I’ve long been drawn to tales of ordinary men and women thrown into extraordinary circumstances forced to ultimately rely on their inner strength and moral compasses to see them through their journeys and fight in the service of a larger ideal. “The River of Blood” is my humble attempt to honor that classic tradition.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with Carlos Trigo and Jok to bring this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
SF: I can’t speak enough about Carlos and Jok. Both of them are incredibly talented professionals and just great guys. I have a lot of fun working with them. Prior to “The River of Blood,” I worked with both on other projects. Carlos did pieces for our Western anthology “Tall Tales from the Badlands” and our science-fiction/horror anthology “Dark Matter.” Jok was also part of “Dark Matter” and did a piece for our Viking anthology “Sagas of the Northmen” as well. Long story short, I knew what they were capable of and – more importantly – we already developed a kind of “short-hand” before starting work on “The River of Blood.”
I think you see the fruits of having this kind of relationship in “The River of Blood,” particularly when it comes to the depiction of violence and the horror elements. When I told Carlos and Jok at the outset that I wanted a good deal of the violence and horror to be implied, that I wanted the reader’s imagination to work overtime, they knew exactly how to translate that. Horror is tricky in comic books, because you don’t have absolute control of the pacing in the way you would with film. There are no “jump scares.” You need to get in the reader’s head, and I think the most effective way to do that is to imply something horrific and allow their imagination to complete the picture. Carlos and Jok do a superb job using shadows, silhouettes and suggestive imagery to evoke that “fear of the unknown” and force the reader’s imagination to go to some dark places. Finally, our letterer Kel Nuttall gives the visuals the requisite breathing room to be effective.
With regards to the second part of your question – my creative influences – they’re all over the map. As far as comic book writers, Mike Mignola, Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and Jason Aaron are the ones I go back to most often. That said, I’m equally inspired by my favorite fiction writers and filmmakers. I’m a huge fan of James Ellroy and John le Carre, both of whom have mastered the art of depicting “compromised but noble men” struggling with the moral dilemmas presented to them by a having to live and work in society’s shadow. The dirty work required to keep civilization going. The films of John Ford and Akira Kurosawa appeal to me for similar reasons, though their protagonists are generally less compromised and operate in the open, which – in some ways – makes their dilemmas more pressing. They have more to lose. The thread is consistent though, whether it’s Brubaker, Ellroy or Kurosawa, their protagonists live by a strong moral code and must rely on inner character to handle the curveballs life tosses them. In short, they’re human. They’re relatable. Like all of us, they’re flawed, but (generally speaking) they work through those flaws in order to serve an idea greater than themselves. Those are the kind of characters I want to write. Oh, and I would remiss if I did not mention John Carpenter. There’s an element of Carpenter in almost everything I write.
BD: You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to assist with the funding of the project. As an indie publisher and creator, do you find Kickstarter to be an invaluable tool in the comics-making process and would you recommend it for other indie creators?
SF: I enthusiastically recommend Kickstarter as a method for Indie publishers and creators to get their work out, particularly in a COVID restricted environment. As you know, Cons are just now starting to get going again, and conventions are – by far – the best way for Indie creators to get their comics noticed and connect with fans. There is absolutely no substitute for that in person connection and the ability to dialogue with other creators and fans. Short of that experience, Kickstart is arguably the best distribution tool for Indie publishers; it affords Indie creators tremendous reach.
Our experience with Kickstarter has been fantastic. “The River of Blood” is our third Kickstarter campaign. Our two previous campaigns, for our Viking anthology “Sagas of the Northmen” and our science-fiction/horror anthology “Dark Matter,” were both fully funded well ahead of schedule. The platform is easy to use, and I’ve had nothing but professional experiences with the folks at Kickstarter. I’m very comfortable recommending it to other Indie creators as a distribution vehicle. My only caveat is that I do not have experience with campaigns seeking completion funds. Our campaigns (to include for “The River of Blood”) have been for completed books, ready to ship upon completion of the campaign. That limitation notwithstanding, in my experience, Kickstarter is – as you say – an invaluable tool for indie creators to get their work noticed.
BD: Can you provide us with a sneak preview of some of the Kickstarter campaign’s backer rewards?
SF: Happy to! The reward tier I’m most excited about is the “Sketch Bundle.” At that level, backers receive not only digital and signed print copies of all our releases (to include “The River of Blood”) but will also receive a signed original sketch by “The River of Blood” artist Carlos Trigo of the backer’s likeness AS A VIKING! We sincerely appreciate Carlos being able the support the campaign this way, but I should note this tier is limited to ten bundles, and they are going fast.
We have a tier for every budget, digital and print. Rewards start as low as $5.00 for a digital copy of The River of Blood. That’s $5.00 for an eighty-six page, full color, stand alone, graphic novel. We genuinely just want to get the book in people’s hands.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SF: Absolutely! I just completed the first draft of “Devil Country,” our next graphic novel. “Devil Country” is a Weird War story that takes place in North Africa in 1942. It centers on a team of British commandos that are part of the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service who get trapped in an underground tomb, in a remote part of the Egyptian desert, during a violent sandstorm. Needless to say, they’re not alone down there. At its core, the book is about human grit, determination and perseverance in the face of mounting tension and pressure. I describe it as Ben McIntyre’s “Rogue Heroes” meets John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” I’m consolidating notes now from the various colleagues I sent the script to, and we should be hiring an artist sometime in early 2022.
We’re also discussing doing another issue of our Western anthology, “Tall Tales from the Badlands.” As with our third issue, this would be another “Weird West” themed issue. We have several scripts, but art production would be well down the road though, probably late 2022.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The River of Blood and your other work?
SF: The best way to learn more about The River of Blood is by checking out our Kickstarter page. Our primary method of communicating directly with readers about future projects (as well as giveaways and promotions) is through the Black Jack Press Newsletter. Folks can join by shooting us an email at: blackjackpresscomics (at) gmail (dot) com. This is the best way to ensure that you do not miss an announcement or promotion. Additionally, we have an active social media presence on Facebook (Black Jack Press - Home | Facebook), Twitter (@BlackJackPress), and Instagram (@blackjackpress).
We also have online stores at both DriveThruComics and Indy Planet. The River of Blood will only be available through Kickstarter until after all rewards are satisfied. We will then make the book available on our online stores along with our previous releases.