Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.
Jonathan Thompson is no stranger around the MFR headquarters. I try and talk to the prolific scribe anytime he’s dropping a new project. But this talk is unique, as Jonathan is taking one of his best books, NIGHT OF THE COMET, and bringing it back bigger and bolder than before after a somewhat bumpy road that led to and from a publisher and back to another Kickstarter campaign. So like the titular comet of the book, I scoped out its path and hit Jonathan up just in time for the launch of the campaign. So read on and make sure to support the campaign, because this book is going to look incredible in this new format.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: So Jonathan, when Night of the Comet originally came out, I actually only spoke to Attila Schwanz, the artist, about it. That’s when the book was going to be called The Killer-In The Dead of Night. You and I never actually talked about this book! So from your perspective, how did the project initially get rolling way back before the original kick starter was successful?Jonathan Thompson: I guess we didn’t. It started with me seeing a cover by Attila from his book SYMPOSIUM CLUB out of Italy. I got in touch with him through a mutual acquaintance and he forward me the book. What I saw inside blew me away. It was raw and insane and I knew I wanted to do something with Attila. Fortunately, he felt the same.
MFR: This book has already been published through a successful Kickstarter and has had a turbulent path toward being published recently. Can you tell us what happened with Source Point Press?
JT: You know, I wish I knew the truth. I can only speculate. We ran a Kickstarter almost two years ago to create the book. As Kickstarters go you tend to ask for less than you need to get it across the finish line. We got it across the finish line by the skin of our teeth but it still left us in the red. We were in early talks with SPP because they put out my first book (Tales from the Dead Astronaut). They liked the book and we signed a contract for it. Then it seems like the company underwent a leadership change. But, I had faith because I have faith in the book. When we ran the Kickstarter a lot of top creators saw the pages and supported us. That support turned into some amazing pull quotes from Martin Simmonds, Cullen Bunn, Ho Che Anderson, Rich Douek, and Michael Conrad. All creators who’s work was in line with what our book is. For SSP that didn’t do enough for them to get the orders where they need to be. I can understand that. Attila and I are unknown creators. It’s harder to get a comic shop to say yes to half a dozen copies of a book like this to start. But, maybe that lies with the pre-order process. Relying on a book to do big numbers on the first Wednesday might be flawed thinking. This is a book that should be discovered. Readers lack that chance of discovery if it’s not on a shelf. I don’t blame SPP for not getting our pre-order numbers in the place they need to be. I think there are too many factors at play. It was just disheartening to have our emails ignored for all of Dec/Jan leading up to when I was asking about order numbers. If we had known what trouble we were in, then we would have known that we needed to take our promotion to another level. But, we found out our book was canceled the day before it was supposed to release. We spent over a year anticipating our book to see a wider audience and were smacked in the face by finding out like this. So we dissolved the contract and took the book back. On Kickstarter selling 200 copies is equivalent to selling 5k copies through traditional publishing. And we can put the book out the way we want, which is why we are doing the European-sized hardcover through this print run. (only 100 copies though!) I’m not a publisher. I’m a creator hoping to entertain and delight readers. So, most likely this is the last print run that Night of the Comet will have.
MFR: Wow, that’s quite a path! So are you adding anything to this edition? I mean I’m sold on the larger edition because these pages need to be seen like that. It’s fantastic work. But any extra goodies you and Atilla are tossing in?
JT: Well, the hardcover I think is the best showcase for Attila’s work. It’s big and loud and a glorious (or rather gory) way to display the art. We’ll load it up to 100 pages with a 12-page Diary of a Madman piece Attila did, a photo gallery of what Attila’s painted pages look like, and an interview talking about the process of making the book. The campaign will also have a standard trade paperback version with a different cover. Pretty much the version of the book that was supposed to come out. All backers will get a pinup print that Martin Simmonds did for us which is a neat bonus from a creator who loved our book and wanted to support us. Plus, you can grab a lot of my back catalogue of books like Burn Residue #1, Airplane Mechanics, A Game of Doubles, and the soon-to-be-released ALL IN.
MFR: Getting all those other books is a true reward. That’s a badass move. So how would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it yet? Plots, themes, good stuff like that.
JT: You’re right, maybe we should actually talk about the book! So, NIGHT OF THE COMET takes place in a cliff-top mansion of an aged samurai, run down from a life battling against a yakuza mob trying to take him out and prevent his mass surveillance system. Tonight is a special night for the samurai as it is the anniversary of his wife’s murder by the hands of the yakuza and also the night with a particular comet will pass by signaling a gateway to the underworld. The Yakuza has a plan, too, they’ve set their most vicious killer, a blood-hungry maniac in sunglasses after our hero. I like to think of it as a Batman vs Joker story!
MFR: Now that you mention it, having read the book a few times, I totally see that Batman and Joker dynamic. Damn good job (laughs).
JT: Our main inspiration was Arkham Asylum from the art to the tone.
MFR: I was about to ask about that book specifically. What else served as inspiration?
JT: I’d say Blue in Green was one that stuck out to me. Same with Department of Truth. I was trying to find books with more abstract art and try and find a new way to tell a pretty classic story.
MFR: I just started reading Department of Truth and totally agree. As a writer how do you approach something that you want more abstract art for?
JT: Honestly, my scripts got looser. I knew I could trust Attila to run wild.