The Rattler an interview with Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle

We The Nerdy had the chance to talk to Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle, about their Kickstarter project The Rattler, which has been getting some rave reviews (WTN will shortly be reviewing it too so stay tuned for that). The project is fully backed, but you can of course still back the project which runs until April 26th. We also got to hear some great tips for new writers as well.

We The Nerdy: In short what can expect from The Rattler, the Kickstarter page looks great, but for the benefit of those that haven’t checked that out yet?

Jason McNamara: The Rattler graphic novel is a white knuckle hell ride to the bottom of one mans soul. Stephen Thorn is a bitter victim’s rights advocate whose career was founded on the disappearance of his fiance ten years earlier.  His life is turned upside down when he receives a message that may or may not be from her. This sends Stephen on a very dark journey of self discovery.

WTN: The black and white (with occasional red) tone of the book from the preview pages looks like it fits perfectly, was this always the plan?

Greg Hinkle:  No, I don’t think so, but thanks for saying that. I’m pretty sure we set out to do a straightforward black and white comic. Jason and I both have an appreciation for black and white movies and comics, so that much was on purpose. I don’t think the idea to use red even came up until we were already about 20 pages into the book. The red was just an experiment that ended up working out. I will say that it was hard to only use the red for the blood. I really had to fight off the urge to put some red on every page. 

WTN: Where did the inspiration come from for the book?9cbb0b569903bc3b056ebba911c03854_large

JM: The book was inspired by an ill-fated road trip I took in 2001. I was travelling with a friend and our car broke down in a remote part of California. A passing motorist stopped and offered to tow us to a gas station. Instead he tried to kidnap my friend. She was able to get away but the whole thing scared the crap out of me. I kept wondering about the type of person that would do that. Where was that person now? And what if I never saw my friend again? What kind of person would I become? Those questions led to me writing the script for The Rattler.

WTN: The art has a kind of cartoony feel with also elements of looking like Sin City, what is it like blending the “fun” with the overall dark themes of the book?

GH: I was exposed to cartoonists like Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Watterson, and Jack Davis pretty early in life, so I think my art tends to naturally lean towards the cartoony end of the spectrum. I wish I could say that I’d made a conscious juxtaposition of the lighter, cartoony style and gory subject matter. Then I’d sound like I know what I’m doing! Honestly, I was more concerned with just telling Jason’s story as well as I could. It was a little tough for some of the gory stuff though. Figuring out the visual vocabulary for some of the nastier bits was tough. Referencing guys like Eisner and Davis can help give me a starting point sometimes, but it’s hard to find examples of Jack Davis drawing people getting impaled, you know? So a lot of it had to be built up from scratch. 


WTN: How has the whole Kickstarter experience been so far?

JM: After months of research, playing with shipping scales, soliciting feedback, lettering artwork and pouring over U-Line catalogues, it is incredibly satisfying to finally go public with the book on Kickstarter. We met our initial funding goal on the third day, which allows us to print enough copies for everyone who pre-orders one through the campaign.

This edition of the Rattler is exclusive to Kickstarter. We’re not over printing this to send copies through distributors and we’re not bringing the book to conventions; this is where we’re putting our effort. So if you want to read the The Rattler, which has been getting excellent reviews, Kickstarter is the place to get it.

WTN: Any tips for aspiring artists and writers and artists?

GH: Advice? Oh goodness. Marry someone with a stable job? There really isn’t a magic answer to this question. If you want to make comics, make comics. Spend as much time on it as you can. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And learn to take criticism and rejection. You’ll hear a lot of both at the beginning. Don’t get defensive. 

JM: If you want to be writer than you have to write everyday. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to crystallize your unique perspective into a voice that’s your own. You just have to put the time in. Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote a memoir with his left eye-lid; if you have a story to till you can find a way to tell it.

WTN: You have worked on books for Image, what have the main differences been with working for a big outfit and the “smaller” projects you have also done?

GH: There hasn’t been too much of a difference between the two for me yet, but I can see some differences coming from down the road. Working with Jason has been largely under self-imposed deadlines. It’s our project, and we’re Kickstarting it ourselves, so if we wanted to change something, we’d have a quick chat and change it. There are a lot more people involved in the production over at Image, so things are planned out farther in advance. Thankfully I’ve got James (Robinson) to help walk me through the process with AIRBOY. Jason has really spoiled me though. 

WTN: This is for neither of you your first self published book, how has this one differed, and what things have you learnt from past projects?9534411b87391260c1ef8ab75a0f05f5_large

JM: From past experiences, and late books, I knew to get The Rattler done before we even decided what to do with it. This allowed Greg and I to work at our pace and to craft a book that we are extremely proud of. I know better now than to think I can promote a book while working on it, it’s just too much. So, we prepared all of the rewards for the Kickstarter in advance. The book, the prints, the posters; They’re all one sent email away from going into production. That frees me up to engage our backers and spread the word.

From a marketing perspective it’s completely different. As opposed to approaching retailers, who then have to pitch it to their customers, we’re taking our pitch directly to our personal networks. These are people who may enjoy comic culture, and want to support us, but may not necessarily understand how the direct market pre-order system works. This simplifies the experience but services a smaller portion of the comic book community. So, we’re going to be moving fewer books than if we went directly to Diamond but to a more passionate crowd. It’s a trade off.

WTN: How did the two of you get together?

GH: I submitted a mini comic to be considered for the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini Comics one year, and Jason was a judge trying to select the winner. (It wasn’t me.) We’d run into each other at the shop and talk comics, and before long I was selling comics with him and the rest of the Writers Old Fashioned folks at conventions. I worked with Jason on a short story for a horror anthology that I put together, called PARASOMNIA, and he pitched me the idea behind THE RATTLER a short time later. 

JM: I pitched it as Pretty Woman meets Cannibal Holocaust and he was in.

ef2676dabd29ce093f8f9208b70a06eb_largeWTN: What has you main method for getting the word out their been for people to back the project?

JM: There’s no smoking gun but I will say Greg’s artwork is probably our biggest asset. A brief glance at the book and it is obvious that, at the very least, the book is going to gorgeous. Also, because the book is finished, we were able to send out review copies weeks in advance. This led to a handful of journalists becoming passionate advocates for the project.

WTN: I notice now you have got the full backing you wanted, so congratulations on that! any stretch goals planned?

JM:  Thank you; we were astounded by the early response to The Rattler. We have announced an initial round of cool stretch goals and have some more designs waiting in the wings. But we also have to be careful because this is where campaigns often get into trouble. Creators get excited by early success and start adding rewards that prevent them from fulfilling their primary goal, which was to send people a book.

Shipping is a huge consideration. The first thing I did for this campaign was buy a shipping scale, I made dummy packages and ran shipping drills. There’s a tipping point where International shipping becomes untenable. I can confidently say The Rattler will not be printed as an oversized hardcover anytime soon. But on the upside, your exclusive soft cover will ship on time.

Remember to check out The Rattler Kickstarter page to back the project and get your copy of the comic, We The Nerdy will also be reviewing The Rattler, so stay tuned for that. You can follow Jason and Greg on twitter as well @greg_hinkle and @JasonMcNamara