ComicBook.com first reported on the Section Zero Kickstarter, a campaign to bring back a nearly 20-year-old series from writer Karl Kesel and artist Tom Grummett, almost a month ago. Now, the campaign is in its final three days and funding will be down-to-the-wire.
Originally released in 2000 as part of Image’s “Gorilla Comics” imprint alongside books by Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, George Perez and others, Section Zero is about a secret team of experts and explorers investigating the strange and unknown.
“It’s high-octane high-adventure,” said Kesel in a statement. “In broad strokes— Jack Kirby does The X-Files.”
Only three issues were published, however, before it was shelved; Kesel describes it as a reluctant decision made for "personal reasons," but the Gorilla Comics imprint didn't last long, so even in a perfect world where Kesel and Grummett could have quickly come back to the project, it's possible there wouldn't have been a publishing infrastructure available to help them finish it.
“Our original tag-line was ‘There is no Section Zero’,” Kesel said. “It was wonderfully mysterious and enigmatic…but it was also kinda prophetic.”
Still, the creators have always wanted to revisit the world, and there has always been fan interest. Unpublished pages released online created a lot of buzz, and the questions continue to come up at conventions.
As Grummett puts it, “I’ve often been asked: when are you going to bring back Section Zero? My response would be: for something that special, the stars have to come into just the right alignment.”
After a number of detours and dead-ends, Kickstarter could be Kesel and Grummett’s best chance to finish what they began 17 years ago.
Kesel joined ComicBook.com for a brief chat about the project, what makes it special, and why he hopes to continue it after all this time.
As you wind into the home stretch of the Kickstarter, is there anything that occurred to you halfway through "Darn! I wish I had done (or offered) THAT?"
Not especially. I was surprised how the vast majority of our supporters simply wanted the book— generally speaking they weren’t very interested in the mid-level rewards, although the higher-end “incentives” did quite well.
I was once on a web comics panel with a guy whose name I can’t remember for the life of me. He did a very successful sci-fi web comic, and made a lot of his money through merch. But he said he’d learned that his readers weren’t interested in t-shirts. He’d think of t-shirts he liked and he’d want to wear, but his readers simply didn’t want to buy them. I’d say I learned the same sort of lesson from this Kickstarter — that what our readers really want is The Book.
You and Tom (separately and together) have worked on dozens of projects over the years: what is the thing that has kept Section Zero alive in your minds for all these years?
As Tom has said, it’s an extremely flexible idea. There’s literally no kind of story we could not do with Section Zero. That appeals to both of us a lot. I also think the characters are beautifully designed and a joy to draw. Nothing drains the life out of an project like working on a character who just looks bad no matter how hard you try to make it seem otherwise. And I’ve done my share of those, believe me!
And, of course, the characters have depth, facets and surprises we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on.
Did you guys consider taking the project to a middle-tier type of publisher, or did crowdfunding seem like the obvious route?
We have talked with a few different publishers over the years, but money was always the stumbling block. It’s a labor of love, sure, but Tom and I need to be able to pay our bills while finishing the story. We simply aren’t in a position to work for 1/3 of a year without a paycheck— just like most people out there, I’d suspect.
Kickstarter seems like our best hope to work on a project near and dear to us and still put food on the table. And I’m talking hamburgers here, not lobster. We’re working as close to the bone as humanly possible. We’ll suffer for our art, but our families shouldn’t have to.
Those who backed the Kickstarter early got a digital version of #1 on Free Comic Book Day. Was it just me, or were there some tweaks to the original?
Good eyes! Yeah, when Tom and I tried a digital re-launch of Section Zero in 2012, “Saint Richard” Starkings insisted on re-lettering the whole thing to “freshen” its look— and I took total advantage of his kindness to refine some of the dialogue, tweak some plot points slightly, that sort of thing. Charles Dickens did this all the time, and since he’s kind of the father of serialized storytelling, I figured it was OK to follow in his footsteps. That said: I don’t plan to make any more changes. Of course, plans change...
What would you recommend in terms of if this was a video store and you had to fill in one of those "if you like this, try these..." cards? What other media that a reader enjoys could inform them as a Section Zero fan?
The elevator pitch for Section Zero is: Jack Kirby does The X-Files — if Mulder was more like Indiana Jones, Scully was more like Doc Savage (or his cousin Pat Savage, I guess), and the Lone Gunmen were a Gray alien, a sea monster and a Bug-boy. Ghostbusters and Men in Black also have some definite similarities— I’d say Section Zero easily straddles both of those worlds, in fact. I’d also say if anyone likes the movies Tremors, Them! And Big Trouble in Little China — like I do!— chances are very good they’ll also like Section Zero. And, of course, I’m quite certain historians will compare Section Zero with the works of Shakespeare. I’m just not so certain it’ll be favorably...!