” It has taken a lot of effort to convince many that you don’t actually have to like football to appreciate it” John Wagner talks about aliens vs. footballers in new series Rok the Gods coming soon to Kickstarter!

John Wagner’s sci-fi football series is back with a new series, Rok The Gods coming to Kickstarter this October. We were big fans of the precious Rok of The Reds series, with it’s mix of all powerful aliens and Roy of the Rovers style sporting shenanigans. So how will things progress for our alien sport star in this new series, and what does a comics legend like John make of crowd funding comics!

So what can fans look forward to in the new Rok The Gods book? More football and aliens?

John Wagner: Pretty much, but there’s more, including new and almost magical powers for Rok and an absurd ‘buddy movie’ running through it when miniaturised Kyle Dixon and referee Bull escape and go on the run.

Did you always plan to continue the story after the first arc, or is this a reaction to the positive reception of the first story? Have you had to tweak the world of Rok to accommodate new characters or were they there all along in the background?

JW: I never imagined we wouldn’t continue the story, though I knew raising the funds for it would be the main obstacle.  Rok’s world always had plenty of room to expand, wasn’t a problem bringing in exciting characters like the murderous Skrel and the mighty Godstone.  I have an especial liking for Rok’s ‘old duffer’ uncle, Morg.

What did you make of the reception that Rok received? Did it surprise you that fans would be so into an aliens and football comic?

JW: We were all really pleased at the support we received and the obvious enjoyment Rok of the Reds gave to a lot of people.  Our main problem was getting it to enough of them.  We always knew there would be a certain resistance from sport haters.  It has taken a lot of effort to convince many that you don’t actually have to like football to appreciate Rok and we don’t always succeed.   But the fan base is still building, and recognition like the book’s shortlisting by the Scottish Book Trust for Teenage Book of the Year, 2020 is a big help.

Based on the preview you’ve released, this feels like more of a sci-fi book than a football book? Have you moved away from the sporting side of the story, or will that still be a major part of the book? And do you prefer writing sci-fi books to sports books? (Is there more scope for the story?)

JW: It’s a bit light on football for the first couple of chapters, but it comes much more into the story after that. The mix of sci-fi and sport is one of the things I love about Rok.  It gives the story a totally different flavour to the kind of work I normally do.  Quite refreshing.

Artist Dan Cornwell did an amazing job on the first series, and you seem to be pushing him even further with this book? Do you now feel you have really push his visual skills and tell more sophisticated stories because you know he’ll deliver? How’s he getting on with completing the pages for this story?

JW: It was Dan’s amazing work on the alien sections of the first story that convinced me to feature that side of Rok’s life more heavily, and you won’t be disappointed by what he’s turning out.  Abby’s colours are great too – a little more subtle than the first story, quite entrancing.

Dan’s returned to 2000AD work for the moment.   He’s halfway through Chapter 2, where we’ve had to stop temporarily because of lack of funds.  Hence the Kickstarter, launching on October 2 (see Rok the God).  It’s ironic that because Dan’s work was so well received on Book 1 he was able to quit his job and go fully freelance – but now, without a wage coming in, he can no longer afford to draw at the miserly rates I can afford to pay.  We’re victims of his success!

You’re releasing the book via Kickstarter, why did you choose to self-publish rather than release it via a publisher?

JW: There wasn’t enough profit in it to continue to split receipts with a publisher.  As it is I’m still a few thousand in the red from the first book, money I don’t expect to get back.  Comic strip is very expensive to produce.   It was an amicable split and our relations with BHP are still fine.   I can’t say I’ve been enjoying the publishing side, it’s not what I’m good at, but needs must.

What is your take on the world of crowd funding, will you be doing this more often with your books? And will you be offering any unique stretch goals?

JW: I’ll let you know when it’s over.  It’s been a helluva lot of work.  We’ve produced a really good video – hired an actor to play Kyle Dixon and got Steve Green of Judge Minty fame to put it together for us. Worth watching just for fun, if you can put up with the sight of my ugly mug.

We’re asking for quite a lot, much more than British comic producers usually ask for (I don’t know how they manage).  My thinking was if we don’t ask for enough to at least break even then I’ll have to make up the difference and be honour bound to produce to the stipulated schedule.  So if we make our target, great.  If not, well, we’ll get it out eventually, though it might take some years.

With so many comic book properties turning into movies and TV, do you think Rok would make a strong TV series of movie as well as a comic? Who would you cast as Rok if you could choose anyone to play him?

JW: Don’t know who I’d cast, but it would make a great movie.  We’ve had some interest, but nothing is happening yet.

Finally, are you working on any other titles at the moment, or is Rok your main focus? Will there be more Rok once this arc has finished, or is that TBC?

JW: I’m doing a little bit of Dredd and may well finish Spector, but Rok’s my main squeeze just now.  I’d certainly like to continue it after Rok the God, should I live long enough!

What is the timeline for fans to get their hands on the various issues and the complete Rok of The Gods?

JW: We’re aiming for the graphic novel to be ready next summer.  We’re not producing separate issues – we’ll only do that if the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, and then I’ll have to cover the cost of each issue before stumping up for the next.  We will, however, be printing issue 1 as a special ‘sneak peek’ preview edition.  For physical sales we’ll include a voucher that allows buyers to discount the price against the cost of the graphic novel, so they won’t lose.

We’re also so convinced that readers are going to love the story that there will be a digital link to issue 1 free to everyone who checks out the Kickstarter – 20 full colour pages – try before you buy.

You can pledge your support for Rok The Gods on Kickstarter in October, and you can see John in person at Leamington Comic Con on October 5th. To pick up Rok of the Reds visit BHP Comics’ online store.