Friday, March 9, 2018

Kickstart the Week(end) with Skeleton Bay Detective Agency Vol. 1

By: Nicole D’Andria

Voted a “Project We Love” on Kickstarter, Skeleton Bay Detective Agency is a story of teenagers dealing with puberty and ghosts. To celebrate finishing the third issue, the creators are collecting the first three issues of their webcomic in a full colored 80 page graphic novel! Learn about the spooks in Skeleton Bay from the creative team themselves in this latest “Kickstart the Week” feature.

Newcomer Carly at Skeleton Bay High School gets involved in the next big case of the Skeleton Bay Detective Agency involving several break-ins at the docks. But the police aren’t looking at the actual culprits: ghosts! The kids of the Detective Agency find themselves chased by adults and the supernatural, getting into something bigger than they’d ever imagined! According to their Kickstarter page, Skeleton Bay Detective Agency is “a tribute to the games dreamt up while goofing around with your buddies in the backyard on summer break, steeped in the tales told around the campfire, and infused with the urban legends whispered to one another late at night during sleepovers.” The series is focused on teens but is still an all-ages story.

The webcomic is written by Cameron Petti, who wrote, directed, edited and starred in he Adventures of James King, Captain of Industry! for WLUW’s Radio Theatre Extravaganza, and his articles have appeared in Paste Magazine, Ain’t It Cool News and Adventures in Poor Taste. The artist, Taylor Carlisle, has worked on Viz Media’s The Art of Hope: Nepal Charity Book and the Fury Road Fanzine Kickstarter. There are also two colorists who have worked on Skeleton Bay Detective Agency, Brittany Peer (TMNT Casey & April, MISFIT CITY) and Sigi Ironmonger (Hero Cats Of Stellar City, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers).

The project only has a few days left and it’s a little under $1000 away from reaching its $7,200 goal. Rewards include a digital copy of issue 1 ($3), a digital copy of the complete volume ($12) plus a printed copy ($20), you can even get a T-shirt of your very own ($50). Consider pledging before the campaign ends on March 13, 2018 at 12:59 AM EDT on their official Kickstarter page.

Enjoy my in-depth interviews into the spooky world of Skeleton Bay with writer Cameron Petti, artist Taylor Carlisle and colorist Brittany Peer.

Cameron Petti
Me: How did you decide this was the time to make Skeleton Bay Detective Agency into a physical comic book and not just a webcomic?

Petti: As avid collectors of weekly books ourselves, Taylor and I have always had our sights on printing our comic in some form or another. After doing a few small print runs of single issues for conventions, the graphic novel format was the next big landmark and a format that can catch the eye of a lot of new readers, so we’ve known we’ve wanted to do one for quite some time.

With that goal in mind, we took stock of the series and decided that the first three issues are the best introduction to the world of Skeleton Bay. You meet the main characters, see some of the world, and end on the first big twist of the series.

So really, the reason we’re doing the Kickstarter now is that we finally have enough material! Our Kickstarter ends on the same day the last page of Issue Three gets posted on our site, which means we can hit the ground running immediately after and get going on getting the book out into your hands!

Me: How would you describe each kid in the Skeleton Bay Detective Agency?

Petti: Jake, the fearless leader, inspired by his Grandpa Max’s tall tales, formed the Agency in the first place. Fearlessness is often accompanied by recklessness, however, and Jake’s going to need more patience to figure out what leadership truly means.

Ben is Jake’s best friend and right-hand man, but that is not an easy job to have. As he grows up and starts to figure out who he is, Ben is discovering that his life may need to be lived outside of Jake’s shadow.

Rudy is the team’s tech guy and man on the radio. Having watched way too many scary movies for his own good, he likes the idea of ghosts, but in practice is much less excited. Sticking his head in the sand only works for so long, however, so he’ll have to decide how long he’s able to stay in his comfort zone.

Carly is the new girl in school and is coming from a chaotic life with her mom, so she’s been looking forward to the peace and quiet of Skeleton Bay. Now that she’s been roped into the Agency though, she’ll have to decide if these crazy kids are worth the commotion that comes along with them.

Jen is the oldest of the gang and, as the only one with a license, the Agency driver. She’s also on her way towards graduating high school and must decide if she’s still a kid or has to become an adult.

Sammy is Jake’s dopey little brother and the Agency’s only Junior Detective. Always excited to tag along, he’s got a long way to go before Full Detective Status but is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Me: Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Petti: As much as I like the idea of being the Fearless Leader, as the youngest of three brothers, I think I more often relate to Sammy. Trying to keep up with the cool older kids is something I spent a lot of my childhood doing and is one of the most “pulled from my own life” aspects of any of the characters to date.

Me: The story not only focuses on ghosts but the usual stressors of being a teenager. What can you tell us about this dynamic between the threats the kids face against the supernatural and in their daily lives as teenagers?

Petti: The interaction between the two halves of their world is exactly what this story is about. Just because they’re ghost hunters doesn’t mean they aren’t still humans, and more so, they’re kids. It’d be impossible for mundane things like school to not influence their supernatural lives and vise-versa. That means, not only will they have to navigate friendships, but they’ll also have to save those friends from evil specters!

Me: In what ways will the physical copies of the series differ from the webcomic?

Petti: The biggest difference is that the printed copy with be in full color! Do to our weekly workflow, the pages on the site are black and white, but a big part of the money raised on Kickstarter is going to Brittany so she can focus her professional talent on bringing the story to life in a completely new way.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?

Petti: You should pledge if you’re looking for something that’s just straight fun. There’s a lot of reasons to be bummed out in our world, but Skeleton Bay seeks to provide a Saturday Morning Cartoon on paper that you can take a break with and relax with.Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
Petti: As boring as it is, I’ll repeat what everyone else says and say ”just write.”

Write regularly, power through, and finish like 4 or 5 projects. Doesn’t matter what they are or their length, as long as they’re all completed; beginning, middle and end. Then, go back and read through all your stuff, especially the first things you wrote because you’ll inevitably go, “Oh man, that first thing I wrote was terrible!” But then you’ll look at your second story and like some stuff, and your third comic will have some fun dialogue, and yeah, you’ll feel decently confident with some stuff in your fourth and fifth projects, and hey, turns out you do like an idea or two in that first comic.

It’s just like after you work out and you flex your muscles in the mirror. It’ll feel empowering to see the progress. It’ll encourage you to keep working, but also make you go, “oh yeah, duh, I definitely was out of shape before I started jogging.”

The act of writing exercises certain muscles in your body, so make sure to keep working them out, but also strike a couple of poses for yourself occasionally.

Taylor Carlisle

Me: How did you become part of the Skeleton Bay Detective Agency webcomic? 

Carlisle: It's actual a funny little story. I was having lunch with my grandmother, shortly after graduating from art school, and she mentioned that a friend of hers has a grandson who was also hoping to break into comics and that we should touch base. One quick email exchange later and Cameron and I were brainstorming ideas for projects. Cameron had seen an old art school piece I did, a single page comic involving a kid being haunted by a ghost in his room, which inspired the initial idea of Skeleton Bay. So we owe a lot to our grandmothers and their support for us and our career goals.

Me: What has been your favorite page/panel to draw so far and why is it your favorite? 

Carlisle: If I had to pick one single page, it'd have to be Page 15 of Issue 1, which opens on Jen's station wagon outside of the Skeleton Bay shipyard, under the full moon. It was a tricky page to plan, since there's a lot of dialogue and conversation between all the characters. That said, I think it's a great microcosm of the series, with all the characters and their defined roles (Ben and his enthusiasm, Jake and his almost reckless determination, etc.). I also really enjoy the shot of Rudy's bedroom since it allowed me to drop in some fun Easter eggs. Our plan is to make Rudy something of a movie buff, as the story progresses, so I included posters on his wall of Back to the Future, one of my personal favorites, and Akira, one of Cameron's favs. Visual storytelling like this is one of my favorite aspects of making comics.

Me: Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Carlisle: It’s difficult to pick just one since, after drawing these characters for nearly four years, they practically feel like your kids in a way. However, if I had to pick one, it'd probably be Rudy. I relate to his introverted personality and a lot of the aspects of his planned character arc deal with stuff I've struggled with in my own life. Like me, he's also a sizable film buff, which plays a lot into his character and his future development in the story.

Me: How did you come up with the various characters designs for the group and the ghosts?

Carlisle: Some characters, particularly Jake, Rudy and Sammy, went through several revisions before they felt “right”. They were the first characters we conceived when first brainstorming Skeleton Bay. Jake was originally more of a Hardy Boys type but, as Cam and I discussed more and more about his character (like how he was influenced by his late Grandpa Max, how he wore his grandfather's older bomber jacket, etc.), the more his final design emerged. In the case of Carly, Ben and Jennifer, their character traits had been nearly fully ironed out before the designing process, so their designs came to fruition almost effortlessly. Ben, in particular, took one single drawing and it just felt spot on for what we wanted.

For the ghosts, the design process is generally a bit more straightforward. With the 'Midnight at McLloyd Mansion' one shot, I wanted to utilize a variety of shapes and sizes to quickly illustrate both their character traits and the time period they stem from. While we haven't gotten to a lot of the planned ghostly goodness in the webcomic yet, this will be the primary method of designing ghosts in future adventures.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?

Carlisle: If you're looking for something of a throwback adventure that you can share with your kids and get them excited about comics. Sadly, kids are an often forgotten demographic in the comic industry, even with recent waves of great kids comics from the likes of Boom! Studios, First Second and others. Cameron and I are passionate about inclusion and we think Skeleton Bay has something for everyone.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists?

Carlisle: Alongside drawing, be sure to read as much as you can, be it comics or books about comics. Cast a wide net, too. Don't just read superhero books or just one “genre” of comics, check out slice of life books, comic strips, and manga. The more diverse your reading material is, the more knowledgeable you'll be about how to tell a story through comics. Furthermore, I cannot stress this enough: comics are about storytelling, first and foremost. I've read plenty of comics with gorgeous renderings and details but couldn't make heads or tails of what was actually going on. The quality of your art doesn't really matter as long as your storytelling abilities are used well, through your page and panel layouts. Your art will then naturally improve and that’s the beautiful thing.

Brittany Peer

Me: How did you become part of the Skeleton Bay Detective Agency webcomic?

Peer: Taylor and I went to college together and when he approached me for the original pitch, I was intrigued! 

Me: What has been your favorite page/panel to color so far and why is it your favorite?

Peer: I really enjoyed the attic scene in the one shot we did. At the time I was still finding my legs as a colorist and this issue gave me the chance to play around! Since then that scene’s pallet has really stuck with me.

Me: You’ve done colors for numerous series, including IDW's TMNTU and Goosebumps as well as Boom Studio's MISFIT CITY and JONESY (to name a few). How do your experiences at Boom Studios, IDW and on this webcomic in particular differ?

Peer: Working with a publisher is a lot different than working on a self-published or indie title. Both have positives and negatives but one thing I can say is working with Cameron and Taylor offers a unique chance to really connect with the team without any red tape or obstacles. It’s definitely spoiled me and forced me to bring that same communication and camaraderie to Misfit City, Karai’s Path, and Jonesy, resulting in lasting friendships in those teams.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?

Peer: It’s a fun story and Cameron and Taylor are passionate and inspired individuals. If you enjoyed Misfit City, you’ll love this series!

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book colorists?

Peer: Put in what you expect to get out of an experience. Speak up for yourself and make lasting relationships with the people and colleagues you meet and/or work with. 

Me: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions everyone, and best of luck in the last couple days of your campaign! If you’re reading this and are interested in backing their campaign, check it out here.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.

Other “Kickstart the Week” features:

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