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An interview with team Karma Police

Hello gentle readers!

Even after all the great reviews we’ve received and inspiring interviews we’ve done over the last month, I still feel an irrepressible urge to talk more Karma Police. There is just so much good stuff that goes on behind the scenes here at KP central, and while I’d like to ramble on about my inspirations for the series or delve into how time is perceived in a particular 16-panel page, I realize that the main attraction here is the amazing creative team that put this thing together.

With that in mind, I decided to reach out and interview artist Tony Gregori and colorist Jasen Smith in the hopes of learning more about their creative process, what it takes to work as a team, and whether or not they hated me for one specific page in issue #3 (hint: they did just a little). Let’s get to it…

Karma Police #1 - Cover

When did you guys first start working together, and when did you realize that you made a good team?

Tony Gregori - I think we started working together on Michael Sarrao’s Unmasked, before then Tim Daniel and I tried getting him to work on a book with us called Throwback but we weren’t able to work it out. I was a fan of his work from afar, I saw some stuff he did with John Broglia and I really loved the vibrancy of his work, it is very unique. I think we are a natural fit, have a lot of the same sensibilities ,and we understand each other pretty well. We’re close friends now, he’s one of the few people I confide in, so when there’s an obstacle we’re able to talk it out and get to the bottom of it.

Jasen Smith – Yeah, the first thing was Unmasked and then Armada X. Michael Sarrao brought us together to work on those two books. Then we were crossing paths again and again from other guys wanting to pitches and short stories. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how I wanted to color Tony’s work. He’s got a mixed bag, detailed backgrounds, simple characters. It’s like Mignola mixed with Sean Gordon Murphy.

 

We have already talked with a few people about the decision we made to change the coloring style on Karma Police. Do either of you have any regrets that we abandoned the original style? What is it about the second style that works so well?

KP #1, page 3 - before and after

TG - I liked the old style initially, but after getting in the new pages from Jasen, I was in love. It fit the book perfectly, simple yet creative and beautiful. It just grabs your attention, and it’s consistent. I have no regrets, except that we didn’t get to it sooner.

JS – I wasn’t positive on the first round of colors. I think I was more concerned about mimicking other people’s style to try and get it to work. For it just wasn’t working, not a fan of the soft airbrushed look with heavy textures. I’m more a fan of the simplistic look. Something you’d see in cartoons or what Stewart did on Hellboy. Tony and I had worked on a short for a book called, “Imaginary Drugs” and in it I did a cell shaded style and loved how it looked. I didn’t add any effects to it, and did a bunch of color-holds. I really dug how that style looked and when an editor asked us to change to a simpler look, I knew more of what I wanted to do.

 

To my constant delight you both went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected in terms of speed, quality and dedication to the project. Is that just how you roll?

TG - Yep.

JS - We know each other pretty well, despite living several miles away and never meeting face to face. It’s like a long distance relationship sometimes. But I think we hit our stride with Karma Police. Before, it was really about finding how to fit these two pieces of a puzzle together and now those two final pieces are together to create a work of art.

 

Jasen: could you choose one page of Tony’s work that really inspired you, and give us a rundown on how you made your coloring decisions?

JS - Could I pick one of my kids as my favorite? I’ve colored for a lot of different people in a lot of different styles. When I started working for Hi-Fi Color it was like being thrown into a battlefield of guys who have been fighting since the start of a war. There I am, not sure how to even load my gun. But in those situations you either give up and quit or you struggle and become better. I chose the latter and since then have learned so much more. I thought I reached my peak on coloring years ago, coloring a page that took only 8 hours was what I thought was my best. Now, those same pages take 2 hours and look much better.
There isn’t a favorite page of mine in Tony’s work, I like to compliment the artist, it’s my job to compliment his/her and not overshadow. There are pages that are so detailed that I question if he hates me though.

 

Tony: was there a page where you and Jasen had difficulties coming to an agreement on the final colors? What made that page such a challenge?

TG -To be honest, not really. There are sequences that we debated over, the opening to issue 4 was a source of contention for a day or so, but we came to an agreement. He wanted to start off at Defcon 5, but I knew that we’d get there eventually and wanted to It’s been a great learning process for me, listening to Jasen’s ideas, juxtaposing them against what I had in my mind for the page, and finding a common ground. I’m just proud and lucky that I get to work with him and call him my friend. He’s tireless, dedicated, and talented. And he has a great head of hair.

 

Okay, I’m going to have to dig a bit deeper here. Can you tell me what went into creating the massive double-page in issue #2?

KP #2, pages 12-13

TG- There wasn’t a description of the Grove in the script, if I remember correctly. You just kinda told me to go nuts. So I did some research and decided upon the Buddhist Wheel of Life as an archetype and went from there. It’s supposed to represent the wheel of cyclical existence, so I drew it in order from top to bottom. Starting off with individual souls that descend into birth on another plane, with some cities and landscapes, then some cataclysms recycling through a cycloptic deity’s hands into another plane of being, which in turn cycle back up to continue the process. I mapped it out, diagrammed it, and wrote an index for Jasen. I was visiting my parents in Florida at the time, so one night while they were asleep, I cleared off the kitchen table and drew it. Then Jasen and I went back and forth for a day or so as he colored it, figuring out what everything should look like. I think we did a decent job!

JS - I was both looking to and dreading those pages. There are so many details and it’s so massive, and it’s my job to help bring it together without making it confusing. I spent a lot longer on those pages than any others in the series. Tony had a specific way he wanted it to look and I got as close as possible to that.
When I was all done with the colors, I didn’t feel like it had enough depth, so I copied some of his clouds and blurred them a bit to push that depth a bit more.

 

Also, do both of you guys hate me for issue 3, page 14?

KP #3, page 14

TG- That was a little tedious, but I liked doing it, to be honest. I had to redraw it, initially I had less details on the BHLs in the bg, and realized they needed more work, so I scrapped it after I was ½ done with it and started over from scratch. I was kind of hating myself at that point for not thinking it through before I started.

JS - It took so long to flat and color that page. Hate is a strong word and when I was done with page 14 I sighed in relief. Until I saw the next page which had just as many details. When it’s all said and done, those pages look great and stand out I think.

 

Yep, this is definitely true. Tony and Jasen are my main men, and if you want to see more of their magic, please consider backing the Karma Police Kickstarter in the next HOURS, as time is running out!

Peace,

Chris

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The Lost Pages

Hey folks,

With the Karma Police Kickstarter in full swing, I want to take you groovy people behind the scenes to show you the sacrifices the creative team was willing to make in order for this book to be as spiritually bad ass as possible.

Sacrifices in the form of beautiful artwork that ended up on the cutting room floor. Let’s take a look at some original pages from issue one, starting here with page 6:

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 09.36.19

I loved this introduction of the Karma Grove monastery and our main monks. But something wasn’t working.

Take a look at panel 2. Jack, our main character, is looking off to the side, disinterested in the conversation. This is what I called for in the script, but I ended up changing Jack a bit to make her more accessible. I felt she should be facing the reader while Dorje (the older gentleman monk) explains to the mother the mission of the Karma Grove. The biggest difference between the original page and the final, however, is the reveal of poor little Suzie’s inner demon. Showing the demon here raised the tension, but we buried it on the following page, only to bring it up again on page 8. It  also caused a bit of confusion whether or not the mother could see the demon (she wasn’t supposed to), and if so, why she didn’t react to it. As always, avoiding confusion is a good thing.

KPPG7_ColorsThis page is so good, it hurts me to even look at it. Tony’s layout and panel choices are brilliant – the way that round panel 2 just pops out at the reader – and Jason’s colors are so warm and pleasant. (We ended up going for a completely different coloring scheme, which I’ll get into in a later post.) Here in the last panel you see the ratcheting up of the tension, as we realize that Suzie’s little demon is about to pop out again once Dorje removes her binky. Bad move, monk, but once again I felt we had already lost some of the tension since the reveal on the previous page, and wasn’t too sure that this panel was going to be able to bring it back up to 10. Love the look on her face, though!

 

KPPG8_Colors

And it’s on – monk vs. demon baby – the fight the world has been waiting for! Here Jack was serving tea while pontificating about the peaceful nature of the Karma Grove, while master Dorje was kicking a little girl in the face. It still makes me laugh. The problem was, our main character was still passive. I wanted to get her off of tea duties and into the action.

As difficult as it was, we made the decision to scrap these pages and do something different. Of course it’s better to realize these things before starting production, but sometimes the story develops in ways you hadn’t foreseen. We are extremely happy with the way things turned out, though. Here you go:

KP_PG6_Colors.jpg

KP_PG7_Colors.jpgKP_PG8_Colors.jpg

Aren’t these pages lovely? A new pacing, new color scheme, and just as much demon baby. Now with more yak milk.

So it’s a happy ending after all.

Thanks for listening. If you want to receive your own copy of the book in digital or print format, please head over to the Kickstarter page and consider throwing some financial support our way. We appreciate all the help!

Peace

 

 

 

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KARMA POLICE: preview

Here are the first 9 pages of KARMA POLICE, issue 1. Story by Chris Lewis, art by Tony Gregori, colors by Jasen Smith, letters by Nic J. Shaw.

KarmaPolice001_page1 KarmaPolice001_page2 KarmaPolice001_page3 KarmaPolice001_page4 KarmaPolice001_page5 KarmaPolice001_page6 KarmaPolice001_page7 KarmaPolice001_page8 KarmaPolice001_page9Issues 1 and 2 available on Comixology. Kickstarter coming soon!

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It’s all in the hours, yo

Hey folks,

As we get closer to hitting our funding goal for Mixmancer, I’ve started putting together all my scripts for the “Script Selector” reward level. This will feature the script for Mixmancer, as well as at least 7 others that I’ve written over the last 7 years.

I just finished reformatting one from 2008, and it gave me quite a laugh. Chris Lewis ca. 2008 was waaaay into hitting the return key to get to the next page of the document. He also like using captions. A lot. I decided to reformat it to make it look (and read) like my current scripts, but I haven’t changed any dialogue or panel descriptions in order to make it look like I knew what I was doing back then. Because, really, I didn’t. The story, Little Earth People, was the first miniseries I wrote. A slightly altered version also saw the light of day in 2009 as part of DC’s Zuda competition. Check out that Joe Pekar art!

LEP_page1_LETTERED

It would take hundreds of more hours at the computer before I would get to the point of being able to write something like Mixmancer, or my book Drones that is coming out in April via IDW and Comics Experience. Sometime in the intervening years I also figured out how to add page breaks.

In addition to LEP, you’ll see my script for the Intro To Comics Writing course from Comics Experience. That will take us to some Azkaban fan fiction that was also developed as part of the Comics Experience Creators Workshop (and which still cracks me up). Then it’s time for the first issue of Drones, the short story I contributed to the psychedelic Imaginary Drugs anthology (IDW), and two current projects I’m incredibly proud of.

Looking at these scripts, I realize they tell the story of my development as a writer. Sharing and remixing stories is at the heart of Mixmancer, and I’m excited to share this one with you.

Bro-hugs to all,

Chris

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JBS MIXMANCER PINUP

Artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer did a pinup for the MIXMANCER Kickstarter. Here’s a process piece from layout to colors:

I’m in love with this hip-hop hipster chick. So glad he went with her rather than the dude he originally planned on drawing.

We’ve got more MIXMANCER pinups available at all reward levels $5 and higher. You can check ‘em out here. Thanks!

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Creating a kick-ass logo is easy…

…just hire Yannick Fortin, graphic designer and Canadian extraordinaire!

A lot of people have been asking me who designed the logo for my new book MIXMANCER. Well, I was chatting with my editor Yannick Morin, and he introduced me to a friend of his. This is how the conversation went:

Yannick, je te présente Chris, un très bon ami à moi et un auteur qui n’en est pas à son premier comic. Il a besoin d’un logo pour son comic MIXMANCER, une histoire assez pétée de DJ cosmique qui peut remixer des hsitoires pour changer le monde. Pense rave+ psychédélique + métaphysique.

I said, “yeah, what Yannick said,” because I don’t understand that crazy talk. Then I wrote back to say, “please add some hip-hop to whatever it is you’re doing.”

Yannick (Fortin, not Morin) came back to me about a week later with this:

MM LogoSuch a 70s piece of funky fresh pop – It was love at first sight.

But I’m a greedy bastard and I wanted more! I asked Yannick to try out a horizontal version to see if it would fit better with the cover of the book. This is what he delivered:

logo-MIXMANCER-FINALAnd that’s the version we ultimately ended up going with. You can check out Yannick’s logo and the final cover over on the MIXMANCER Kickstarter page.

Creating a good logo is tough work – especially when your briefing is in French. So if you find yourself in need of a graphic design genius, a guy who can morph one idea into two equally attractive logos, give Yannick Fortin a ring.

Examples of Yannick’s work, as well as his contact information, can be found here.

 

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MIXMANCER Kickstarter LAUNCHES

We are live, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a long time coming, but the MIXMANCER Kickstarter is finally here!

MM Logo

With the help of my friend and editor Yannick Morin, I finished writing MIXMANCER back in the summer of 2013. Afterwards, my collaborators Carlos Trigo, Andrew Crossley, and Nic Shaw brought it to life just in time for Emerald City Comic Con in March ’14. I ended up doing a very small print run and pitching it around to various publishers. Since then, MIXMANCER has just been hanging around, waiting for me to make a decision on how to bring it to a wider audience. Things finally came together when I saw what an amazing job Ryan K Lindsay did with his Kickstarter campaign for Deer Editor. (A book that is infinitely better than its Kickstarter campaign, as if that weren’t obvious.) And as MIXMANCER deals with themes of digital sampling and remixing, what better way to share it with the world than a (mostly) digital Kickstarter? (The obvious answer here would be to give it away for free online, but that would undermine my entire existence and deprive my comics-making slush-fund of needed duckets, yo!)

So here we are. It’s going to be a fun 30 days as we try to raise $1k for our little hip-hop sci-fi comic book mashup. This is a book that couldn’t be done at a traditional publisher, and in order to spread our devious meme we’re relying on the largess of complete strangers with incredibly good taste. People like you! And just as the book features various pieces of pop-culture spilling out of its innards, so too does the campaign have something for everybody. We’ve got a digital version of the book for just $2, as well as remixed interior pages, print copies, defaced works of art, talking pinups, and superstar commissions. This is the jam!

We do realize, however, that one person’s favorite tune can annoy the hell out of other people. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, no problem. But maybe somebody in your social circle would totally be down with a Kool Keith / Swamp Thing-inspired one-shot. Every mention or share on social media can help us reach those potential readers, and we’re grateful for all the help we can get.

As one last bit of inspiration, I’ll leave you with something I heard long ago in the Parliament of Trees:

All our stories…are subtly…different…yet the underlying…pattern…remains constant

That’s what MIXMANCER is all about.

If you’re interested in the underlying pattern, please check out our subtly different story over on the campaign page.

Thanks!

 

 

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MIXMANCER REMIX PLEDGE LEVELS

 MIXMANCER – a 24-page hip-hop sci-fi one-shot, influenced by your favorite pieces of trivial pop-culture! Written by Chris Lewis. Art by Carlos Trigo. Colors by Andrew Crossley. Letters by Nic Shaw. Edits by Yannick Morin.
Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 15.28.53

In my last update I talked about the main digital rewards on offer in our Kickstarter, and today I’m going to drop the details on some funky remixes. Let’s get it on!

$50 – DEFACEMENT MIX – limited to 10

I’ll send you a physical copy of the book, remixed with the help of wite-out, glued-on pictures, cut-out ransom note letters, and probably gobs of glitter. Includes the EXTENDED MIX and SCRIPT SELECTOR PDFs.

This is going to be BIG fun! And time consuming. Actually, I’m quite scared about this reward level, as I’m sure I’ll want to spend way more time on these than I possibly have. But the Mix is strong in me, and I’ve already got some ideas for themes and visuals that are going to make these things pop. I’m also open to requests, so if you are dying to see your favorite Hollywood actress duke it out with an Italian soccer star, I will make that happen!

$175 – MIX AND MASHUP

A guest artist will re-imagine one of the interior pages and send you the original art. Includes the EXTENDED MIX and SCRIPT SELECTOR PDFs.

I’ve got a bunch of highly talented artists ready to reinterpret every page of the script. Help get some money in their pockets, and you’ll be the proud owner of a brand new page of original artwork.

And now we’ve come to my big dream. If we can get 24 backers at this level, I’ll get all the pages colored, have Nic Shaw drop some new letters down, and put together a digital remix version of the book for EVERY SINGLE BACKER! It’s Mixmancer Redux, baby!

I wanted to share some info on commissions and original artwork, but the sheer amount of insanely talented people on board is just too big for this post. More to come. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom:

“Flesh…speaks

Wood…listens”

That’s no joke.

January 19th. The Mix is on.

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MIXMANCER KS REWARDS

MIXMANCER – a 24-page hip-hop sci-fi one-shot with more hyphens than you can shake a stick at! Written by Chris Lewis. Art by Carlos Trigo. Colors by Andrew Crossley. Letters by Nic Shaw. Edits by Yannick Morin.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 15.03.06

I announced the upcoming Kickstarter a little while ago, and now it’s time to talk about the entry level digital rewards. These are the levels that are going to scratch that comic itch. They are also the backbone of the entire campaign, and we couldn’t be more excited to share them with you.

$2 – MAIN TRACK

24 pages of Mixmancer madness in a DRM-free PDF.

This is the entry-level, DRM-free PDF for those who are just interested in the killer cover and 24 pages of madcap action. For just $2, you’ll get the book and access to exclusive backer updates.

$5 – EXTENDED MIX

Keep the party going after the 24 pages are over. This PDF includes the story, script, back matter, sketches, pinups, and playlist.

If you want to find out just what went into the making of this Frankenstein monster of a book, this is the reward level for you! I’ll be including the original character designs by Carlos, all the juicy pinups, as well as a playlist that highlights all the pop-culture snippets I cribbed.

$8 – SCRIPT SELECTOR

Why settle for one file when you can get two? This includes the EXTENDED MIX as well as a PDF featuring scripts from my other projects.

In one of the more blatant samples (ie. rip-offs, of which there are many) of Ryan K Lindsay’s brilliant Kickstarter campaign for Deer Editor, this reward level includes a PDF full of scripts from my other projects, including RETURN TO MAKER (my short story in the Imaginary Drugs anthology by IDW), the upcoming construction worker vs. mutant caterpillar miniseries MITCH HAMMER, another new project called KARMA POLICE, DRONES, my Zuda story LITTLE EARTH PEOPLE, awesome fan fic, my first script from the Intro to Writing course at Comics Experience, and more! The older scripts might be a bit rough around the edges, but I’m still proud of ‘em and hope you’ll enjoy seeing my progression over the years.

$10 – MICROPHONE CHECK

I’ll drop some wisdom in the form of a word balloon or caption on the pinup of your choice, and send you the digital file. Includes the EXTENDED MIX and SCRIPT SELECTOR PDFs.

Some amazing artists have stepped up to make the Mixmancer block party even louder. At this reward level, I’ll do a little emceeing over their beats. The result? A personalized, digital pinup with somebody’s words in one of Nic Shaw’s balloons – all for you.

This last one might get a bit sassy!

Tomorrow I’m going to reveal the remix levels, pinup artists, and the chance to create a whole new Mixmancer comic. This, my friends, is where it’s at.

“There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth.” – The Original Writer

January 19th. The Mix is on.

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MIXMANCER KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

Hip-Hop meets Sci-Fi in the greatest mashup since The Grey Album! Written by Chris Lewis. Art by Carlos Trigo. Colors by Andrew Crossley. Letters by Nic Shaw. Edits by Yannick Morin.

MM Logo

MIXMANCER is a 24-page one-shot about a superhero DJ who hunts down a memoir-gone-wrong to a local bookstore. There, he must remix pop-culture in order to fight an extra-dimensional thought-virus, spiky pink tentacles, and self-help fundamentalists!

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 11.15.02

We are bringing MIXMANCER to Kickstarter because, frankly, there is no better way to distribute a book that has been described (by no one) as a Swamp Thing / Kurt Vonnegut lovechild. For only $2 you can witness the birth of a new pop-culture avatar, humanity’s last hope in its battle against cultural stagnation and the same old story you’ve heard a million times before.

The campaign will launch on January 19th, so please help spread the word. The more backers we have at the beginning, the higher our visibility will be on Kickstarter. This will obviously increase the chances that other readers will make their way to the Mixmancer mashup.

As we approach the launch date, I’ll be posting more information about the various reward levels here and at mixmancer.tumblr.com, as well as sneak peeks of the artwork. Speaking of, here’s a look at Tony Gregori and Jasen Smith’s lovely MIXMANCER pinup.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 15.17.51

Smack it up. Flip it. Rub it down. Oh no!

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