“A story about a guy turning into a big blue giant with unbreakable diamond-like skin can’t possibly go without a good amount of action, right?” Frederik Hautain talks The Happy Few
Former Broken Frontier Editor In Chief Frederik Hautain was used to writing about comics, but now he has turned to creating them instead and launched the Kickstarter for his first full length comic The Happy Few. In it a wise-cracking surfer dude gets superpowers thanks to a sinister scientist so that he can get revenge on the slimey mob boss who beat him up. We catch up with Frederic to find if he is one of the happy few and what powers he would want if he could get in a pill?
Tell us a bit about the inspiration for The Happy Few, I’m guessing the idea of a super powers pill was the driving force? How does the science work can you choose which power you have or is it forced upon you?
Frederick Hautain: The Happy Few was born out of an idea I had put together for a short story in an anthology built around the theme of superpowers. When I realized I could easily expand the story into a full one-shot, I decided to do just that.
It wasn’t as much ‘superpowers in a pill’ that was the driving force for the story, but rather the fact that our lives can be permanently altered in an instant by forces we have no control over. I was writing the story in the same period that the terror attacks happened here in Belgium last March and I connected the existential thoughts that were running through my head with my initial notes for that anthology short story… and here we are.
What made you choose to leave Broken Frontier and become a comic writer? And how are you finding the experience so far?
FH: I had wanted to be a writer for a long time, and the itch just became too big to scratch to ignore even further. Especially after feeling a huge amount of joy seeing my short story in the Broken Frontier Anthology in print and holding that book in my hands.
While figuring out the pieces to the puzzle as you’re creating a story from the ground up is a daunting task, the thrill of working together with other creators to bring your ideas to life beats all that a thousand times over.
In a sense, I still can’t believe I’m actually doing this – and we’ll need the Kickstarter to succeed for The Happy Few to actually happen – but creating comics is a great experience!
And it’s awesome that I was able to leave Broken Frontier in the hands of Andy Oliver. He was the perfect and only person I wanted to give my baby to and I have the utmost confidence that he’ll take the site to new heights.
From looking at the first few pages it looks like you’re going pretty hardcore with the action and gore, is that an integral part of the story or just a reflection of your own tastes in comics?
FH: A story about a guy turning into a big blue giant with unbreakable diamond-like skin can’t possibly go without a good amount of action, right? The gore-level is quite ok though, we’re keeping all the axes and chainsaws in the closet. But we do let loose a little when we have Len go through a gruesome nightmare, which serves as an extra linchpin for him to take the pill that will give him superpowers. The preview page we’ve got on the Kickstarter page is part of that scene.
The action and the brutal scenes are not necessarily a reflection of my own tastes. To me, they’re more factors that can be part of a story and if they’re needed to tell a good story, by all means the creators should work them in.
I enjoy a lot of comics and have a pretty wide taste, but if I have to pick two favorites those would be a good mystery or earthbound sci-fi.
Did the tone of the story inspire your choice of artist or did your choice of artist allow you to really cut loose?
FH: Germán Erramouspe came aboard as I had the character details and outline already done and had started the actual scripting. I knew I had to find an artist who could easily make the transition from your average dramatic scene to superhero action and back without losing the realism. His or her style also couldn’t be too ‘scratchy’ or ‘hard’ because that wouldn’t fit with the wisecracking persona of our lead character, Len Jeffries. His jokes get in him into extra trouble, and he keeps at it while he’s all big, muscular and blue. You can see why I’m extremely happy to have found Germán.
Germán was instantly enthusiastic when I pitched him the story – and he’s been a joy to work with. Hopefully his work on The Happy Few will help him get noticed more in the US comics scene. He’s done some work for Avatar and Dynamite already and he’s up for a big breakthrough.
You’re funding on Kickstarter, can you give us any top tips on crowd funding – both as a consumer and as someone who has funded a book through it successfully?
FH: The first thing I would advise is to really go over your budget again and again. Make sure you’ve planned everything correctly, calculated all the costs etc. Putting in some of your own money in a publishing project is ok, but you don’t want to break your own back because you forgot about shipping costs or packaging or other stuff.
I would also advise not to set your launch goal too high, unless there’s a very good reason for that. I’m saying that because in case of the Broken Frontier Anthology and for The Happy Few, our goal is higher than most projects, but that’s because I want the people I work with to be paid for their creative efforts. That may make the Kickstarter campaign harder, but it’s for a very good and very clear purpose: creative talent should be properly compensated for the work they do.
As a starting writer, I’m ok with seeing my book in print, but the rest of the team consists of established creators and they should be treated as such. They need the Kickstarter to be successful to continue their work on The Happy Few, so we really need your support on this to get there.
You’re going for a 48-page bumper first issue which feels like a great way to make a debut stronger, was that the plan or is it your way of giving your backers more for their money? What’s the long-term plan for the series?
FH: The campaign is not for a big first issue… The Happy Few is a one-shot, so this is it. While there’s room for more, I really like how this story builds to a climax and the feeling it will leave readers with is something best encapsulated in this one-and-done format. I think you’ll feel the same way once you get to page 48. 🙂
We do want to give our backers more bang for their buck and that’s why we’re going to print the book with a thick cardstock cover akin to many of the Marvel and DC specials you saw in the Nineties for example.
And finally if you could take a pill and get superpowers what would you want/not want?
FH: The ability to fly. It’s a cliché no doubt, but I’ve wanted that as a little kid even before discovering Superman! If that’s a no go, I’ll go with teleportation.