In the first, of what I hope will be a million interviews with amazing comic book creators, I had the opportunity to discuss the finer details of ‘Long Ago and Far Away’ with creators Chris Mancini (Writer) and Fernando Pinto (Artist) discussing how they brought their comic book to life, how they managed a successful Kickstarter campaign with over 500 backers, and giving unique and unmissable insights into how they found the whole process!
Ten Questions about Long Ago and Far Away
1. Getting started and keeping it brief, can you guys explain what your comic, Long Ago and Far Away, is about?
CHRIS: “Sure. Jason was the “Child Knight” from our world who saved the Legendary Kingdom of Elvenwood from the evil Witch-Queen Nexis. Now, Jason is a depressed 30-year-old who lives with his mother and runs a comic book store. Poorly. But Elvenwood needs his help once again. Will he be the hero he once was? Or will he just make things works because he grew up to be a complete jackass?”
FERNANDO: “To me it’s about redemption, second chances and getting over yourself. Oh, and fart/dick jokes. There’s also that.”
2. How long have you guys been working on this project?
CHRIS: “It really has been years. It’s a story I’ve had in various formats for a while, and I really thought a graphic novel was the best way to tell it. But even after that decision was made it still took a while. Between preparing for the kickstarter, making the book, and shopping it to publishers it probably took an additional 2 years.”
FERNANDO: “If I remember correctly, Chris contacted me after the great Jonathan London (Of Geekscape fame) gave him my info. I had done some logo and comic work with Jordan (Geekdrome, LoudMouth, etc ) and he liked me/trusted me enough to vouch for me. This was really cool because I was already a listener of Comedy Film Nerds, so hearing the dude whose movie opinions I heard in my headphones every week actually talking to me was a trip.
After some skyping and emailing with Chris, the book started as a 10 page presentation for Mark Waid’s old company, the name of which escapes me at the moment. This was in 2015. After that didn’t pan out, we did a kickstarter for it mid 2016 and, after a successful KS, we worked on it until early 2018. Then I slept. For a while.
Then, after all our amazing KS backers got their books, Chris shopped it around and we found a publisher in SBI, who I had been working with for a bit on Fantasmagoría and a couple other things.”
3. In bringing this comic to life what, for you, was the most important thing to focus on?
CHRIS: “It was most important to me to treat it like making a film, where all the elements needed to come together to create something special. I worked on rewriting the script and worked very closely with Fernando on the art. I wanted it to have the right tone and feel for the story. Even the joke pacing within the panels was very important to me. Fernando nailed it and then some. While I knew what I wanted, this is my first comic so it was a learning curve for me. Thankfully Fernando was patient and got me up to speed. It was a true collaboration.”
FERNANDO: “I can’t speak for Chris, but for me it was first that it told the story coherently, second that it looked good, and third that I didn’t die in the process. Comics are hard, you guys.”
4. The premise for the comic is amazing, where did that initial idea come from?
CHRIS: “I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy novels. Growing up I read everything I could from Conan to LOTR to Narnia. I was especially partial to kids from our world traveling to fantasy lands to save the day. So I always thought, what would happen to that kid once he grew up and became an adult? Would he question that it ever happened? Would he feel that his best days were behind him? What kind of person would he be?”
FERNANDO: “Gotta divert to Chris on that one. This was already in his head when I came in. I just had to make it look cool and not flake out on him.”
5. What would you say was the biggest change you had from your original idea to what the comic has become now?
CHRIS: “I wanted to make an epic fantasy comedy. That’s where it started. But as I was writing, the story became more and more personal. And as I was re-writing I realized that WAS the story. It’s really about one person finding their way again after being lost for so many years. It’s a redemption story with noble elves, sexy witches, polite black knights, naked wise men and surly ghosts. “
FERNANDO: “As for the story, it stayed pretty much the same after Chris sent me the original screen play he had done. What did change in the process was the size of the actual comic. We started with the idea for a 120 page book and it ended being over 170 after Chris was done adapting it, which was cool, but it made the actual making of the book take longer than expected. Once again, thank you to our original KS backers for being patient and not hitting me when they see me at conventions.”
6. What was your greatest obstacle in bring the comic to life?
CHRIS: “Yikes! But there were soooo many! The main one being money. It was originally going to go up at Mark Waid’s digital comics site Thrillbent.com but the funding fell through. Even so Mark has been a generous mentor throughout this entire process. He wrote an amazing foreword for the collected edition which will be out at a later date. So without funding I realized I had to do it myself. I decided to kickstart it. Thankfully, it funded, and then Starburns Press picked it up. And there were about 1000 steps and delays through those last two sentences.”
FERNANDO: “Just the sheer size of it was a challenge, It’s the longest project I’ve done art for, and I was doing art and colors. It was fun as hell but, as I mentioned earlier, sleep was needed afterwards.”
7. How long did it take to write the script for Long Ago and Far Away, and how did you approach writing that?
CHRIS: “It was a process over years, since it had been in development in other forms like an animated show or a screenplay. But I really always thought a comic/graphic novel was the way to go. You don’t have to worry about if a shot is possible or not or if there isn’t enough of a budget to make it look good. If it can be drawn, it can be in a comic. It just felt so organic, like it was the right fit all along. Comic books are a different medium, and the writing needs to reflect that. While there are similarities to other mediums like writing and storyboarding for film, the differences like pacing and directing the panel flow needs to be respected. As I was writing it felt more like the script should have been a comic all along, rather than any other format. Then when Fernando started delivering pages it truly felt like the story was coming to life right before my eyes. I knew this was how this story needed to be told.”
8. What was the process of getting all of the pages together from concept to competed, and how long did it take to do each one?
FERNANDO: “I couldn’t really tell you how much each page took, sine we worked in stages. I did the layouts for the book first, to get the narrative and beats as clear as we could. Comedy timing in comics can be a thing. After that I did lineart for the pages and once Chris approved those I went to colors. But, as a ballpark figure, in average I’d say a full color page takes about a day and a half of work if I was doing it one page at a time.”
9. How did you find the collaborative process between writer and artist and vice versa, what challenges, if any, were there in working together and finishing the comic?
CHRIS: “I think it was definitely a challenge being new to writing comics and working with an artist. Luckily, Fernando made it easy. We would go back and forth a lot, and there were always great touches he came up with in the art that I had never thought of. So after I got through my learning curve (that I had to go through again with the letterer, Troy Peteri, also very patient) things started to go smoother and get more streamlined. Also by then Fernando and I had developed a writer/artist shorthand.”
FERNANDO: “The process I’d say was pretty smooth. Chris is usually pretty open to me suggesting stuff if I feel there’s something that might work better on a page compared to what might be on the script. Now that we got our rhythm down, the next one we are working on (“Rise of the Kung Fu Dragon Master, coming to KS soon) should be even smoother.”
10. What pearls of wisdom would you give to any writers and artists out there that are trying to be successful in the current comics landscape?
CHRIS: “Well, this is my first one so I’ll defer that question to Fernando. But I will say for any artist in any medium, it’s not enough just to have a great idea. Whether you’re a writer, director, artist, or singer. You have to go out and do it. Make your dream and be OK with failing. Because that’s what a lot of it is. I wanted to make a Twilight Zone style anthology show but didn’t have the money to make 16 short stories, so I scaled back and created a short scripted podcast “Conversations From the Abyss”. Now people can listen to my stories and I didn’t have to re-mortgage my house. And I hope it DOES get picked up as a show, but for now it’s out there for people to enjoy. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/conversations-from-the-abyss/id1266917699“
FERNANDO: “Most important thing I’d say is sit down and work. People prefer to see a comic than you telling them how cool that thing in your head is going to be. Might sound obvious, but not a lot of people sit down and actually work on their ideas. Create your own projects if the industry isn’t hiring you. You can get your stuff out there easier than ever these days, and that will lead to more work. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of the craft so you know what you can expect and ask from your collaborators. Learn how to write a decent email to avoid confusion. Deal with comments and criticism like an adult. Sleep enough. Exercise. And don’t be a dick.”
Ten Questions about how the creators found the Kickstarter Process
1. Why did you choose to bring Long Ago and Far Away to Kickstarter, instead of approaching a comics publisher?
CHRIS: “Well, it was going to be published at Thrillbent.com and then the funding fell through. Rather than spend a year putting together pitch materials, trying to go about pitching, waiting forever to hear back, etc I knew that it would be an easier sell if it was already completed. Also, I knew that if I raised the money myself I would have complete creative control. So I decided to go that route.”
FERNANDO: “It was originally done for a publisher, as I mentioned before, so afterwards, Chris mentioned kickstarter since he had experience using the platform after his successful Ear Buds doc KS. I was just excited to be a part of the platform. Being funded by people that actually want to see your product is a model I can get behind.”
2. How did you find the Kickstarter process, and what challenges were there along the way?
CHRIS: “The kickstarter process is both terrifying and rewarding, often on the same day. It’s great to see pledges come in, but there are stretches with no activity and you wonder if you’re wasting your time. Luckily I had done two before this one so I knew how important it was to get the word out, and to constantly be engaged in the process both with people who pledged and reaching people who hadn’t yet. The challenge is always getting enough people to hit your goal. So promote, promote, promote!”
FERNANDO: “On my end, it was just social media promoting and providing any art Chris might need for the campaign other than our preview and cover. It was fun, man. Also, as a nerd, it was great hearing Chris mentioned my name on podcasts as he was promoting the campaign. I’m a simple man, what can I tell you.”
3. Did you have any doubts that your campaign would be successful, or was it a crowd-pleaser straight away?
CHRIS: “Ha. I don’t think anything is a crowd pleaser on kickstarter right away unless you have a giant fanbase or a board game that everyone wants. I’ve done three successful kickstarters, for a movie, a festival, and a comic. They were all a ton of work. Money doesn’t just show up for a kickstarter campaign. You have to fight for every pledge. I was able to mobilize my fans from my podcast “Comedy Film Nerds” where we talk about movies every week with other comedians, but it wasn’t enough. I had to hit other podcasts, get help from friends with large social media presences, and just promote for the duration of the campaign. Other comics creators helped me get the word out too, like Mark Waid, Mark Allan Miller, and Marc Guggenheim. I had a triumvirate of Marks helping me. And of course Fernando brought all of his fans over too.”
FERNANDO: “Does anyone come into Kickstarter with that certainty? I didn’t know if it’d work, but since Chris had done it before successfully I had trust in him.”
4. At the end your campaign boasted 500 backers, how do you think you managed to get so many people on board with the concept?
CHRIS: “Well, I can’t be completely sure but I think it was a combination of constant promotion and the concept resonating with people. Even if people are fans of yours, if they don’t like the idea for your book they are not going to buy it. There are plenty of artists I like who I don’t own everything they’ve ever done. So I think it’s a combination of people liking you, liking what you do, and liking what you’re presenting at the time.”
FERNANDO: “Ritual Sacrifice! Or actually people liked what they saw, had trust we’d get the project to them, and they knew Chris from Comedy Film Nerds. One or the other”
5. You chose to raise $28,000 for your project, why did you choose that amount in-particular?
CHRIS: “I was trying to estimate paying everyone and the printing and shipping costs. And… I got it wrong. The book ended up being more pages and the shipping and printing costs went up by the time we were done. I had to put my own money in to get it finished.”
FERNANDO: “It was the initial calculation Chris did for the 120 page book to be done and shipped. After some changes, since the project grew, we had to take a little longer to get it done and do some financial calisthenics. In the end it all worked out. Indie comics, everyone!”
6. What preparation did you do leading up to the release of your Kickstarter campaign?
CHRIS: “LOTS of prep. Kickstarter has a nice save feature so you can work on your campaign, save your work and make changes up until you launch. It’s all important. I come from an indie film background so I wasn’t comfortable just talking into my phone for a video. I called in a favor and got a professionally edited video that incorporated who I was with what the project was. You have to pitch yourself as well as the project. Fernando created sample artwork, and we even made an entire preview of the book that could be downloaded from the kickstarter page. And I made sure it was clear what people were getting, from what the story was to what the rewards were.”
FERNANDO: “Well, on my end, the heavy lifting was not much since the preview and cover were already done. I just had to provide any promo material Chris might need for the actual campaign. Chris took care of the campaign itself, so big ups to him.”
7. For you, what was the most important thing to get across to any potential backers?
CHRIS: “Why they should back this project, and why they should believe I can deliver it.”
FERNANDO: “For me? That it looked good, that it was good and it was going to get done. I’m still waiting for a couple graphic novels I backed a couple years ago. People will trust you if you can deliver, and Chris had that part covered, so I just had to keep up.”
8. After your Kickstarter had been funded, how did you find the process of giving the backers their rewards?
FERNANDO: “I did all the commission and extra art needed for the backers and the actual book. As for the part about getting the rewards to the backers… Chris?”
CHRIS: “Expensive and time consuming. I hired someone to help me, which lowered the work load but increased the cost. Plus not everyone sends back their surveys or gives you their correct address. You’ll be sending out rewards or re-sending out rewards many months after your initial rewards delivery.”
9. If you could do the Kickstarter again, is there anything you would’ve changed this time round?
CHRIS: “Sure. You learn from every crowdfunding campaign. Next time I will explore digital only rewards, as they are way cheaper and easier to deliver.
FERNANDO: “Have a clearer idea of the page count of the book. But we have that down, so you can expect “Rise of the Kung Fu Dragon Master” coming your way soon (plug plug plug)”
10. If you were to give advice to someone starting their own Kickstarter Comic Book Project, what would it be?
CHRIS: “That you need to treat any crowdfunding campaign like a full-time job. Spend the time in “pre-production” and get all your prep done correctly. If you’re presenting a comic, you HAVE to show artwork and sample pages as well as the story overview. Remember, you can’t just put a project up and wait for money to appear. Get all the help and promotion you can get. However, be wary of paid services who offer to “help” with that. There are a lot of scams out there too. Try to get the word out as organically as possible. Try and get visibility from other creators (in ANY medium) who you have relationships with. Have friends and family help spread the word. Backers often come in small, slow numbers that eventually get you to your goal. It’s rare that there is a magic tweet or post that suddenly gets you 1000 backers. Slow and steady wins the race!”
FERNANDO: “Get as much of it done as you can so you can actually show people some of what they’re gonna get. People trust actual things better than just ideas.”
END OF INTERVIEW
I want to give a MASSIVE THANKS to Chris and Fernando for answering this long list of question and giving us some great insights into their project. Long Ago and Far Away has come to the end of its arc, and you can read the WHOLE THING right now over at comixology, which I highly recommend you do, it’s a great comic, with great art, and great characters and deserves as many readers as it can get! You can also expect to see a FULL REVIEW of their comic series right here on FPFLP sometime in the near future!
You can find the series right here – COMIXOLOGY LINK
You might also be interested in keeping up to date with what Chris and Fernando on Social Media as well, you can find links to their stuff below!