“The internet has helped to bootstrap comics out of the ghetto of superheroes and into the broader world of other genres!” Faction volume 1 editor Damon Keen on creating a Kiwi comics anthology for ComiXology

Faction volume 1With a cover that features Godzilla attacking downtown Auckland, Kiwi comics anthology Faction volume 1 is looking to take over the world of digital comics just like it’s cover star. Released via ComiXology Submit, Faction volume 1 takes work by some of New Zealands best up-and-coming comic superstars and combines them into an eclectic must-read collection. From the silence of outer space to laser abusing couriers to a clown hunting a whale, Faction is a ‘stupendous comic hodgepodge’ and we were keen to find out more about it so we got in touch with editor Damon Keen to get the inside story!

Faction 1 One Giant Leap
Damon’s own story One Giant Leap pre-dates Oscar winner Gravity, (which it frequently gets compared to!)

Tell us how you came to put together this anthology? How did you hook up with the various artists and writers and what inspired you to put together an anthology in the first place?

DK: The comic scene in New Zealand is pretty small, so here it just makes sense to have an anthology – by working together, more people were likely to see our work, just by accessing each others’ networks. And certainly for me – as a creator – I just wanted people to read what I was writing – so it was definitely a selfishly motivated project to start with! But the more time I spent looking into the NZ comic scene, the more I was blown away by the talent here, and the more I wanted to do this for its own sake – just to spread the word about all these talented kiwi bastards!

Faction has quite an eclectic selection of titles, was there any common factor to the stories or was it just the people who you knew and who you wanted to put the story together? Were they produced specifically for the anthology or have the been published before? 

DK: I certainly knew some of the artists – and approached them personally, asking them if they wanted to create a piece for Faction. Others I’d heard of, or tracked down on the internet. It was a learning experience, and Amie (the other editor of Faction) and I were making it up as we went along. The main motivation was quality and producing something to a standard that we felt hadn’t been seen in NZ before. Faction 1 in particular was really intended just as a showcase, rather than anything else. Eclectic was the name of the game.

That’s continued with issue 2 and 3 of Faction, although with these issues I was more concerned that the overall books work as a whole, and I think that’s reflected in the editing choices. Having said that, we’ll be putting out a special issue of Faction later this year, themed around climate change which I’m really excited about. Tim Gibson is doing the cover!

Faction 1 Ricky and Lyle
“The more time I spent looking into the NZ comic scene, the more I was blown away by the talent here, and so I wanted to do this for all these talented kiwi bastards!”

How did you decide who would go in this first issue? Will it be the same creators in subsequent issues (assuming more are planned) or completely different ones? And what made you choose to put Godzilla on the cover?

DK: From the outset, we wanted Faction to be an edited anthology – and that meant we had to make a few difficult choices, but overall it went pretty smoothly. We were looking for people who understood the craft of comic writing, who (we felt) had the comic chops. And we wanted people who were producing work on a par with anything anyone else in the world was doing. And it wasn’t that hard; Kiwi comic artists have been beavering away in relative obscurity for decades, and they’ve gotten pretty slick at what they do.

At the same time, there’s enough new kids on the block that we should be able to keep rotating through a range of artists as we go forward, as well as touching base with old favorites issue by issue.

In regards to the cover, I approached Greg Broadmore – one of those amazing Weta concept artists we have down here, and asked if he’d fancy doing us a cover. Do something iconic I said! And boy, did he. That’s Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city he’s munching though. Nyam nyam!

Anthologies are often very subjective, but which is your favourite story and why? And which are you proudest of including – I assume your own (One Giant Leap) would be pretty high on the list! (Our favourites were Bookish, Ricky and Lyle, and Fred the Clown.)

DK: Yeah Ricky and Lyle was great wasn’t it? It’s just hilarious. Darkly, darkly hilarious. I love Bookish too – that really feels like the meat in the sandwich to me, which I think is really important for an anthology to have – one big, solid story – with all the rest kind of working as shorts; the main feature if you will! But yeah, I kinda love them all. GREAT to get Roger Langridge on board. He’s a bit of a legend.

Btw, my own comic (One Giant Leap) predates Gravity – before anyone feels the need to point out that it’s got similarities – Which they frequently do!

Faction 1 Bookish
Jonathan King’s Bookish “feels like the meat in the sandwich… the main feature”

Faction is being released digitally via ComiXology Submit, can you tell us what made you decide to go down that route? Will it be available in print as well and how will it being available digitally help you market the book – I assume the fact it is a global app with a global reach will help you get a wider audience? Or that is the plan?

DK: One of the mandates I had for Faction was to try and get as many people reading it as possible. I feel I have a responsibility to the contributors to get their work into the public eye, otherwise, what are they getting out of Faction really? It’s an enormous amount of work to create a comic and the contributors to Faction aren’t being paid for it.

Also, I consider Faction an experiment. I want to push the boundaries with it and see what we can achieve – see what works and what doesn’t. We’re going to make mistakes – but hopefully the lessons we learn will help the NZ comic community as a whole.

So in that sense, Comixology is just an extension of that mandate. Getting kiwi comics into readers hands – wherever they are.

Which reminds me – if anyone would like to pick up the PRINT version of Faction (plug plug) they can get it here: www.factioncomics.co.nz

Faction Fred the Clown
“The internet is providing a platform to launch some wonderful new artists”

We’ve seen several Australian/New Zealand digital projects breakthrough here on the site, from Tim Gibson’s Moth City to Tales to Admonish and Space Lord MoFo. Do you think digital is helping the Aussie/Kiwi comic scene to develop and how have you seen it change in recent years?

DK: I can’t speak for Australia, but I think this is one of the most exciting times to be in comics in NZ – certainly the most exciting time for kiwi comics in my lifetime. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms are driving a wave of new comic projects here (ExtraOrdinary, Nothing Fits, Sunshine and more) and the internet is providing a platform to launch some wonderful new artists.

Basically the internet has helped to bootstrap comics out of the (excuse me!) ghetto of superheroes and into the broader world of other genres. And it’s given people from other backgrounds a voice. Comics are for everyone now, not just white, male superhero fans – and it’s important to us that Faction reflects that – particularly in NZ. I think that’s how comics are going to grow in our country.

Which has, in fact, led to some cartoonists and myself launching a new boutique publishing group called Earth’s End. Our goal is to start printing New Zealand graphic novels – starting with an amazing book called The Dharma Punks. So hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more of kiwi comics in the future!

You can download Faction volume 1 from ComiXology here for £0.69/$0.99 and for more information or to order print copies visit www.factioncomics.co.nz