With a little under 3 days left to go, veteran Batman artist Graham Nolan's creator-owned Return to Monster Island is the latest crowdfunded graphic novel from a big-name creator, and the latest one to come from Ominous Press, who help facilitate creator-owned finding a place in the increasingly-competitive comics market. The story, which centers on a pair of Navy pilots visiting a mysterious island filled with monsters, follows up on a previous installment Nolan published 20 years ago. Best known for co-creating Bane with writer Chuck Dixon, Return to Monster Island will be Nolan's first major project since the year-long Bane maxiseries the two collaborated on for DC.
In the new story, according to Nolan's Kickstarter page, "Two years have passed since our heroes, Mac and Duke escaped from their adventure on Monster Island. Now the island has once more appeared on earth, this time OVER the Bering Sea, and our stalwart pilots are once more called to service! An alien group has taken over the island from the Gooch and Mac and Duke, with the aid of two Russian flyers have to set things right. Can they do it before the island phases out again?" Nolan joined ComicBook.com to discuss the series, working with Ominous Press, and the benefits of going "straight-to-consumer" with comics.
What is your kind of convention sell if you were to have to tell people with no real knowledge of Monster Island about the book?
Monster Island and Return to Monster Island are a throwback to comics of all ages that focused on characters, fun, and high-adventure.
The look of the book — and its premise — evoke Kirby and Grell for me. Is it challenging to balance the task of making it feel like that sort of book while still making it feel contemporary?
Kirby for sure, no Grell. It's more Roy Crane than anything else. I think that by virtue of setting the story "today" it becomes contemporary. The style may evoke the look of past cartoonists but I also invoke modern or more cinematic storytelling techniques.
Even in the Kickstarter campaign, you are “Batman artist Graham Nolan.” Is it kind of a blessing and a curse to have readers associate you so closely with mainstream superhero work?
Boris Karloff was once asked this same question about his relationship to Frankenstein's monster. He called it "his best friend." There are many artists that spend a career doing great work in obscurity. If fans look back fondly on my Batman work, then I must have connected with them and that's all any artist can ask for.
Is this one of those situations where you have been working more or less nonstop on this when you have downtime, or did you come back to these characters after a break? If the latter, did anything change in terms of your “take” on them?
I published the first Monster Island book 20 years ago and it wasn't until recently that the opportunity came about to revisit the series. The characters haven't changed but some of their hardware and the navy have. In the first story they flew the F-14 Tomcat. A two seater interceptor. Now the navy uses single seat F-18's. I had to find a way to get them back to the island together, so I had to put them into a radar jamming Growler which is a modified 2 seat F-18.
Certainly having two Russian main characters takes on a different cultural context now than it did a few years ago. Did that occur to you at all during the process?
I don't think the context of the Russians has changed that much. They are still our enemies. The cold war just got colder, but it still exists.
Why is Ominous the right “home” for these projects?
Ominous was the perfect fit because they are creators supporting creators. They "get" the creative process, and are big supporters of creator's rights. The great news is that the company is expanding under the umbrella of Creation.Ink. That will contain the creative side of Ominous Press, the retail sales and fulfillment side of Sleeping Giant Collectibles, as well as a robust way for fans to be directly involved. Fun stuff ahead!
A lot of ’80s and ‘90s creators have taken to crowdfunding to finish creator-owned projects. What do you think that says about either the state of the industry or the loyalty of those fans?
It says a lot about an industry that casts aside creators at the peak of their creative powers. There is also no incentive to create anything for Marvel or DC because they own it all. There is too much opportunity out there today to go directly to your audience. I think there is a large segment of fandom that wants a different, more personal and interactive relationship with the properties and the creators. This is the kind of thing that Monster Island and Creation.Ink hope to bring to them.
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