When you support a comic on Kickstarter, it usually comes with the risk of an unknown or little known creative team. While this can often lead to some wonderful new discoveries (like Squarriors or The Rattler), it can also end with you paying for a book that you don’t like – if the book even gets made at all.
But when two proven talents like Bryan Hill and Matt Hawkins are the ones behind the project, it’s a pretty safe bet that the book is going to be worth your coin and then some.
Combine two of my favorite writers with the gorgeous preview pages released this month, and I couldn’t type in my credit card info fast enough.
Golgotha is a 128-page original science fiction graphic novel. As of the time this article is being written, the Kickstarter campaign for it has already surpassed its funding goal with more than a week remaining.
Hill and Hawkins were kind enough to sit down and discuss their latest project (along with a few other interesting bits of info) with AiPT!.The Campaign
AiPT!: What made you decide to tell Golgotha as an original graphic novel-length tale rather a serialized/monthly comic?
Bryan Hill: Some stories simply work better as a whole meal. Short answer, but the best I can give.
Matt Hawkins: Some stories lend themselves better to being read/told in one straight shot. Golgotha is definitely one of them.
When you do something as an OGN, you don’t have to be as fantastically grabbing straight out of the gate. You can build tension and anticipation more slowly. I liken it to the first Alien film. We were going for something more like that. I’ve read countless “monthly” comics that don’t read well as monthlies, but make great trades. This is especially true for original creator-owned type stories where you have to set up the world, lay out the rules on how thing work and introduce the characters and try to make you care about them. It’s a lot easier to tell a Spider Man story in the serialized format because you don’t really need to lay out much about the world, people reading it already know the background and the basics. In a sci-fi or fantasy setting you’ve got so much more to do and when you only have 22 pages to do it in, it’s hard to grab the reader.
AiPT!: Why go through Kickstarter rather than publishing Golgotha traditionally?
MH: We’ve done two Kickstarters and started noticing that we were reaching some readers that did not buy comics through traditional media. Some books of ours, like Sunstone and Think Tank, perform WAY better in the book trade – through Amazon and alternative distribution methodologies.
We’re also experimenting with things. Selling an original graphic novel is very hard in the direct market, especially for a new property. So we thought we’d try something different.
AiPT!: With how well the Kickstarter campaign is doing already, are there plans for any stretch goals?
BH: Definitely. By the time of this running they’re likely already on the site (Mr. Hill is a prophet; the book reached its goal!)
MH: We’ve discussed it and have some ideas. I wanted to try and keep it as simple and focused on the book and getting the book out there than anything.
AiPT!: Golgotha’s premise is plenty interesting on its own … but knowing you two, there’s definitely going to be some powerful and twisted human drama driving the story. Any info about that part of the book that you’d be willing to share?
MH: I pitch it like this: How would you like to leave everything behind and start over on a new world? Make that mental leap and resolve yourself that everyone you knew on Earth would be dead by the time you arrived? You’re excited for this new chance and the opportunity to help shape this new world.
After 88 years in cryosleep, you arrive to discover that faster transit was engineered a year after you left and an entire colony already exists that’s been here for thirty years … and they have no need for you and don’t even want you here. And the grandson you never knew runs the colony and he hates you.
This is Michael Lawton’s story. Welcome to Golgotha.BH: It’s a story about father’s and sons – well, GRANDfathers and sons. It’s also about the human need for specialness and how that need permeates our whole society. What happens when that need, and our feeling of ultimate agency, are taken away?
AiPT!: Besides being a high concept sci-fi tale, what other stories and sub-genres share Golgotha’s narrative DNA?
BH: I liken it to “frontier narratives.” I thought about Cormac McCarthy a lot while writing. I also kept in mind the existential novels about exploration and civilization. Heart of Darkness by Conrad. Lord of the Flies by Golding. Works like that.
MH: Apocalypse Now and 2001 are the types of stories that this is more similar to. I’m a Michael Crichton fan and a lot of the stories I like to do fit into the kind of story he’d tell. There are some religious overtones to this and the idea of humanity’s overall insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things plays a big part of it all.
AiPT!: Is the book’s title a reference to the place where Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem?
MH: That’s where the name originates, but in our story, it’s the name of the spaceship that Michael Lawton and crew travel on to get to the new planet.
BH: And also the idea of it. The place that is the fulcrum of a great change in human civilization. A change that required tremendous violence to facilitate.
AiPT!: Other than the obvious emotional trauma, what type of conflicts could potentially arise from a group of colonizers landing in the right place, but the completely wrong time?
MH: Well, in Michael Lawton’s case, specifically, he’s a warrior and they’ve tried to set up this new world without need for a man of violence. So he’s rejected from the outset, but ironically becomes exactly what they need.
BH: Humans aren’t that different than other animals (and I do consider us animals). We have pack structures and primacy issues. Part of frontier is the aspect of discovery and ownership. When that’s challenged, there’s always inherent conflict. In Golgotha, the past literally collides with the future. That’s bound to create problems.
AiPT!: Will Golgotha feature space opera/widescreen action, or will it be a more intimate/psychological narrative?
BH: A bit of both, but think more Ridley Scott than George Lucas this time around.
MH: Like Bryan said, there will be some of both, but it’s definitely a more intimate and psychological narrative.
AiPT!: What inspired you to begin writing this project?
MH: I was researching quantum entanglement and the idea of suspended animation in space travel. It doesn’t currently exist, so if we did travel to other systems, it would either be robots and AI or a multi-generational ship. But given the relativistic idea of travel, I started to think about how much stuff would change for the travelers.
This was about 2012 – I think it was after I saw the film Enders Game. There were some elements of these ideas in there and they stuck with me. When I started doing the research, I had some ideas and then brought Hill in and we started developing out an outline.
BH: I’ve always been a fan of literary science fiction. Asimov, Clarke … the kind of things you discover in a library growing up, those books with the spaceship on the cover and the wonderfully vague title in the embossed font.
When Matt shared this idea of two expeditions colliding into one other, each vying to define mankind’s future, I saw an opportunity to play in that space a bit.
AiPT!: Writing a high concept story like this seems like it would be very singular process. Postal proved that you guys work very well together – but how exactly does it happen?MH: Well, Hill does the heavy lifting (heh).
I have a lot of what I think are really interesting big concept ideas and start fleshing them out. In Postal and Golgotha, Bryan did most of the actual scripting, but we developed out the plot together. A lot of this is over months and months of lunch meetings, emails and phone calls.
BH: In this case, I talked to Matt about the story and wrote the scripts. He would approve and ask for changes to match his vision. I actually rewrote the first quarter of the book four times to get it in sync with what Matt had in mind.
Any collaboration requires some emotional distance and an ability to not be precious about things. No two people will see the world the same way, but our balance of perspectives seems to work. I’m less interested in technical things. I want things to be accurate, but I’m not fascinated by the technical aspects of science. I am fascinated with the human cost of science. That’s the place I start from in writing. What do I want to say about people?
AiPT!: How did Yuki Saeki and Bryan Valenza become involved in the project?MH: I met Yuki at a convention and liked her work. We stayed in contact and I offered this gig to her and she accepted.
When I asked her who she wanted to color her pages, she said Bryan Valenza. At that point, I didn’t know him. I reached out and he also graciously accepted.
I really like the cell-shaded way this came out. It’s a fun fusion of west and east art styles and I’m proud of how it came out.
BH: Yuki had great sample pages, the open style of manga combined with western storytelling. Bryan is an enthusiastic colorist who also gets that specific balance of influences.
AiPT!: (For Matt): One of the things I’ve typically enjoyed most about your work over the years (especially in Witchblade) is how the characters evolve over the months and years that the series they inhabit is published. How if your process different for characters who, at least in a narrative sense, have a much shorter lifespan?
MH: Well hopefully there will be 20 volumes of Golgotha!
We treated this like a film. We had to introduce the characters, tell the story, and end it in spectacular fashion after putting them through the grinder. Long arcing comic series always come off to me more like long TV shows. Obviously with less time and space you have to make the emotional beats hit and hit hard. You can’t be as subtle or allow relationships to slowly materialize like you can in longer running content.
AiPT!: (For Bryan): While much of your recent work is still heavily steeped in the supernatural/surreal, it’s still been grounded here on modern day Earth. What is it like getting to dive back into some hard sci-fi … and is it a genre you’d like to explore more in the future?
BH: The real world is surreal! The widespread grounding of culture is a fairly recent phenomenon. You don’t have to go back far to have people worshipping all kinds of strange gods and thinking about dragons.
I do enjoy science fiction, but there’s so much of it in comics I don’t want to scream into the wind. I have Aphrodite V on the way this year and that’s sci-fi, but much more in a James Cameron/Ghost in the Shell sort of vibe. I also have an original project thematically connected to Homer’s The Iliad that’s a science fiction story. It’s VERY big. Expect details soon.
Random and Miscellaneous
AiPT: What is your favorite comic that you are reading right now?
BH: Like the rest of the world, I love God Country by Donny Cates. Tom King is doing great work on Batman.
Speaking of Tom, I’m re-reading Sheriff of Babylon for the fourth time. That book is remarkable in nearly every way.
MH: I like what Bryan’s doing in Postal. He’s been writing this solo since issue 9 and although it’s not necessarily how I would have written it, it kicks ass and I read it the second the scripts come in.
AiPT!: Ashlar (Romulus), David Loren (Think Tank), Samantha Copeland (The Tithe), and Mark Shiffron (Postal) are all having dinner together at a run of the mill chain restaurant. The waiter walks over and places the check in the middle of the table. All conversation stops.
Who picks up the check?BH: Ashlar just had water because she won’t eat at a greasy spoon. Mark works out the tip to the last cent. David makes jokes until Sam picks up the check.
MH: I think it’d be either David Loren, who’d use a government expense account credit card, or Samantha Copeland, who’d have a stolen one.
AiPT!: Between Dwayne Campbell and Laura Shiffron, who would it be worse to have single-mindedly hunting you for justice and/or vengeance?
BH: You could probably buy Laura off, but Dwayne is a true believer, so he wouldn’t stop until he had you. It’s easier to deal with anti-heroes. They bargain.
MH: Definitely Laura Shiffron. Dwayne’s Achilles heel is that he’s a nice man.
AiPT: Which criminally underrated Denzel Washington movie is better: Fallen or Inside Man?MH: For me its without question Fallen. I love that film. I actually had to look up the trailer of Inside Man to see if I’d watched it before. I have, and remember liking it, but Fallen kicks ass. Time is on my side, yes it is!
BH: Tiiiiiiime is on your siiiide. Yes it is! Hmm. As a film, I think Inside Man is likely better constructed, but Fallen is more my thematic speed.
In all honesty, just watch Man on Fire. I’ll have my Denzel done Creasy.
Stretch goals are already being added to the Golgotha Kickstarter campaign. Make sure to secure your copy before time stops being on your side.