Packs of the Low Country: Chicago Comics Creators Kickstarter Campaign

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Packs of the Low Country

PACKS OF THE LOW COUNTRY is a six-chapter graphic novel set in a world where monsters have, relatively recently, become a reality--the dreamchild of creators John Dudley and Don Cardenas, two Chicagoans with a love of the comics art form and a passion for telling stories.

Currently, the two have begun a Kickstarter campaign to put their six chapter tale into a hardcover format, and thus far the response has been positive and on track to meet that goal.

We sat down with Dudley to discuss the origins of this latest entry into the monster-fighting genre, to learn what makes it stand out from its competitors and how the book went from idea to reality.

How did you and Don come together to work on this project?

Don and I met at the 11 O'Clock Comics message forum, which is a community for the podcast, "11 O'Clock Comics." This was a little over four years ago, now. I had posted about this story that I had been letting marinate and putting together for some time, and I needed an artist. Serendipitously, and to my good fortune, Don was interested in collaborating on a story. He had some similar interests of his own, and the story kind of piqued those interests. Fortunately we both lived in Chicago--another serendipitous thing--and we actually met and had a cup of coffee and discussed the story, the ideas I had and where he was coming from as a visual storyteller. We had a good comic book art date, and decide, "Yes, let's do it."

At the time we were thinking it was going to be at least four issues, but we had a sense that it was going to go a little longer. I took him beat-by-beat through the story--which has changed tremendously since then since we've collaborated--but that was the beginning.

We figured it might take a year. It took us four.

I'm kind of reminded of THE WALKING DEAD, in that the story happens after the major changes to the world have already taken place? So what has happened to this world of PACKS OF THE LOW COUNTRY?

Imagine the world is overrun by every creature of nightmare you could imagine. This is a world that's sixteen years of living with that. We're talking about werewolves, giant kaiju-like monsters, and literally everything in between. PACKS is about having had to live with that for sixteen years and yet still believing that the world can be better.

During that four year span, a lot of books have come out. I have to imagine your heart was in your throat when you saw things like SCOOBY APOCALYPSE hit the shelves.

Yeah. There've been a million instances, actually, of things that have reminded me very much of our own story, in ways that felt shockingly similar. I think it's a case of the collective unconscious moving stories in similar directions. I think a lot of writers have felt this way, that they had unique ideas that suddenly, as they're developing it, a lot of other creators are exploring it at the same time. There were elements of that, including SCOOBY APOCALYPSE and a few others, that felt pretty similar in one way or another. But I'd like to think we have our own wrinkles as well.

Have you had anything published in comics before this?

This is my first full-length comic. It was an ambitious effort at that. I had done a number of short comic stories with other artists before Don, and a few since. And there is an element of this story itself paralleling the journey of learning to become a comics creator. I think it's very much a story about confidence, and taking confident steps forward in a very scary, monstrous world. As a writer, I couldn't help but parallel some of that journey to stepping into the creation and the growing confidence of building a graphic story.

The publishing paradigm has shifted tremendously over the past decade to where it's more acceptable for creators to publish their own material, but print versions of comics still require a lot of money. How well has the Kickstarter path been working for you?

It has been really amazing to see the level of support we've gotten through this Kickstarter campaign, which goes through the end of November. We are quite ambitious at trying to get a hardcover edition of this book together. With a book we've spent so much time on, we felt we owed it to ourselves to get a hardcover edition onto our own bookshelves, not to mention into the hands of would-be readers who very much want to have the opportunity to read the story.

But Kickstarter is exactly that--it's a kick-start, right? It's an opportunity to get a book funded to the point of publishing and to your backers, but also that confidence in setting that precedent to have the published book on hand going forward as well. To us, that means the convention season beginning in spring and summer -- we really hope to be able to have this book and a proven audience to kick-start us forward.

By the end of PACKS, we see that it's been a team-building story. Naturally you don't build a team without having plans to use it. Are there plans beyond this graphic novel?

There are. We like to say with this story, we wrap up all the loose ends out of genuine interests in seeing what happens next. We want this to be a story that feels complete. We blow up our Death Star, so to speak. But if you're walking out of the theater, you might start talking about, "Wait a minute. Darth Vader didn't die, did he? Where was the Emperor?" Little questions like that maybe aren't overtly on the mind, but there are major threads that are very much left available to pull.