There are plenty of graphic novels and comic books vying for funding on Kickstarter, but it’s not every day you see one in the Spaghetti Western genre. It’s a niche genre, for sure, but one that’s rife with a rich film background and captures the lawlessness and chaos that makes for excellent drama. We sat down with co-writer Chris Massari to discuss his comic series, The Six Swords, which you can back on Kickstarter until June 29th!
AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time Chris. What’s the elevator pitch for your book for those who may not have heard of it?
Chris Massari: I like to say it as this, our professional elevator pitch is The Six Swords is a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western set after WW4, in the Divided States formerly the United States, influenced by old school kung fu films, filled with dark humor and political commentary.
The shorter more fun version is The Six Swords is a hack and slash story about six anti-heroes filled with F-bombs, South Park-style humor and lots and lots of violence. Some of the characters are seeking redemption, some revenge, some a place in the world and some cause they have nothing better to do. There is no real ultimate good the Six must reach or are fighting towards. They have to work together cause they kind of have to or they’d end up dead.
AiPT!: Top 3 favorite Spaghetti Western’s – go!
Massari: Cowboy Bebop, Kill Bill and, of course, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
AiPT!: Some would argue the Spaghetti Western is a rather niche market. What inspired you to use this genre?
Massari: I don’t think it was necessarily something that was directly chosen, it just kind of happened. As myself and the other two writers/creators Mel and Matt moved from the initial idea, which was a very loose Venture Brothers-style comedy, to what it is now, it just kind of happened. We have a lot of Tarantino and Shaw Brothers influences, it’s just kind of how things came together for the story.
AiPT!: The creative team behind this book is large and I’m curious, how did you get this gang together?
Massari: It all started when one of the co-creators/co-writers, Mel, decided to get hammered on Facebook one night before the 2012 apocalypse and was just having fun. He made a “what if” story on how we’d rescued a friend in California if it happened and made up loose characterization of our particular group of friends, turning them into the beginning blueprints for The Six Swords. Matt and myself loved the idea and we just developed it from there.
Mel, Matt and I all went to school together and then college too by happenstance. We grew up in a small town with a college in it, Rowan University, so we’ve known each other for awhile.
As far as collaborating, it involves lots of sushi, procrastination, and cursing. Generally, it’s super easy to collaborate cause we’ve been friends forever and we’re all relatively sensible and reasonable individuals. If we hit a roadblock, as Mel likes to say, we “jill it out” until we all agree on a final product. We’ve definitely hit roadblocks and things we adamantly disagreed about in the story. It takes time but, we’re all reasonable enough and professional enough to not take anything personally and work through it, in order to create whatever is best for the book, personal preferences aside. We generally brainstorm at a sushi lunch, which is a little harder for geographical reasons now, we no longer live in our hometown together and do our writing through a feeder system. The first three issues are really Matt’s skeleton, that we filled in together and finalized together. Whereas the second arc was more mine and the third is Mel’s. It’s kind of like, we come up with some ideas. One person takes those ideas and does a summary script, then the other two come in and change stuff. We talk, see what we like and don’t. Someone, whoever is generally the most motivated, comes in for the second sweep adding more bulk to the script, we deliberate and make more changes. Then rinse and repeat until we have a final script. It’s really worked so far to create the best stories, at least, I think. It’s a constant editing process from different viewpoints but, never too many cooks in the kitchen. I think because we are all unique but, similar enough, we work to create the best-finished product together.
With the art team, we found Ryan through forum searches for artists, the same with our Letterer Renato. While Elaina, the Color Artist, Mel knew through a mutual friend. Our cover artist Plaid I met at Wizard World Philly when I bought a Moon Knight commission from him and loved the commission so much, I wanted him to do our covers too. Abdul, our publisher, I met at NYCC and that’s a whole other long story.
AiPT!: Is there a year this series takes place? Since it’s the future, why all the swords? Where did the guns and bombs go?
Massari: I should know this but, I think like after 2080 or something like that? I should really know that off the top of my head but, I can’t remember.
We chose swords cause swords are cool, more fun when it comes to action sequences from a technically and visual aspect and cause swords are fucking awesome. Haha.
As far as the guns and bombs, we keep it pretty vague and will visit it to some extent in future stories, don’t want to give everything away from now but, it comes down to lack of ability to reproduce in large quantities. It’s not that they’re gone, it’s just the materials, resources and general know how to do so, is scarce and extremely expensive. We actually visit this issue directly in the next arc, involving a battleship cannon, so you’ll have to read to find out more.
AiPT!: If this series was made into a movie who would be the ideal director? Or maybe it’s more for TV?
Massari: If this was made into a series, animation for sure. It could work as a live-action TV show or movie but, I think style wise it would just work so perfectly as an animated series. It’s very visceral, colorful and has gratuitous violence that just looks pretty when it’s drawn and colored. There’s something beautiful about the violence or what we’d like it to look like and animation would be best, in my opinion, outside of the comic.
As far as a director, Shinichirō Watanabe and the Samurai Champloo team or if it was a movie, Quentin Tarantino definitely.
AiPT!: Is there a part of the comic-creating process you love the best? And a part you don’t like?
Massari: I’d say the collaboration or the thinking and throwing ideas back and forth. The “writer’s room” atmosphere of having, thinking of ideas, throwing things out and seeing if they stick, just building something. The creation and building block aspects are always my favorite.
The part I don’t like is the technical, accounting and general non-creative stuff so far. People forget we have to maintain budgets, build our brand and do other stuff as a business that is downright boring, tedious and bland.
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Massari: Umm Netflix, anime, comics, sleep? Do I really have to choose just one? Haha.
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