Writer CW Cooke On His "John Hughes Meets Quentin Tarantino" Series, Barrens

It's the last forty-eight hours of Project Nerd's Kickstarter campaign for Barrens, a dystopian [...]


It's the last forty-eight hours of Project Nerd's Kickstarter campaign for Barrens, a dystopian comic that's billed as Kill Bill meets The Breakfast Club.

The first of three issues has officially been funded, but the creative team is still working toward getting their story told and into the hands of readers, so writer CW Cooke joined ComicBook.com to talk about the project.

Barrens, which is debuting as a three-part mini series, is set in post-apocalyptic America where the world's population has dwindled due to virus and warfare. The remaining cities are well protected, inhabited by the wealthy, and spread out across the country. When these wealthy need something taken care of without question, they hire Esme Ford, because when the Barrens are involved, Esme Ford is the only one you can trust.

You can check out our conversation with Cooke (as well as his video) below, and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign if you want a copy of #1 or other perks.

My first question with any Kickstarter: Once funded, what is the big motivator to keep you going and wanting to continue collecting pledges?

Everything extra helps! With Kickstarter, it's a lot of audience-building and finding people who want to follow your work and keep following your work. Not only that, but everything extra goes back into making the book and paying the incredible art team or paying for advertising costs or printing or shipping costs.

That's the reason we offer stretch goals and extra perks for helping us get higher and higher. Kickstarter is a leap of faith for the creators and the fans, so giving them extra for believing in us is the best possible thing to do. In my opinion.

Obviously, the kind of YA dystopia is a popular subgenre, with The Hunger Games dominating the box office and all. What makes your take on the idea unique?

It makes the genre more workmanlike, a little more like something you'd have seen in the 80s or 90s action movies. We're trying to lean in on some of the things people will compare us to, but honestly, the idea of telling a story like this, in a post-apocalyptic setting with these characters, was too fun to pass up.

We're trying to make it something special, something unique, and something off the wall, so we're pulling from various different sources and ideas. We're treating it more like the original Star Wars films than the prequels, everything will be a little dirty and grimy as opposed to shiny and new.

You've said that the project is kind of Kill Bill meets The Breakfast Club. Can you talk in a little detail about the basics of the story, for anyone who hasn't watched the trailer?

Barrens is going to follow Esme Ford and her team who take on rough jobs, escorting people through the horrible regions of the US and getting them to safety, doing things you'd expect the team from Predator to do. But the Kill Bill meets Breakfast Club mashup comes into play with the way the story breaks down. They get a job, the characters are friendly in the same way the Breakfast Club characters were in that they were thrown into a situation together, and the job turns out to not be what Esme expects. When she finds the person they've been hired to kill, she takes the boy and leaves, and then the book turns from a team book about her group into a bit more like Kill Bill. She has to protect the boy, get him to safety, and her team wants to stop her by any means necessary. So it will get bloody and violent quickly. Just imagine the Breakfast Club fighting with Hanzo steel!

Is the Kickstarter just for #1, or for the whole three-parter? Different people do it different ways.

It's for issue one only but we don't plan on doing additional Kickstarters at this point. That's another reason why the more we make this time, the easier it will be to complete the rest of the series without any speed bumps. I don't anticipate any, but things come up and change along the way. At this point, only for issue one and to build the audience to keep the story going.

Can you talk a little bit about the art team and what drove the series to go in this kind of stylistic direction?

Bryan Timmins is a guy I've known for a couple years now and is someone I've been kind of pushing to work with for as long as I've known him. He's done animation and things like that and he actually did a page in the fourth issue of Solitary to help out when we needed it (he also has an amazing pin-up in the trade paperback too). His art style is fresh and exciting to me, something a bit sketchy and vibrant that is necessary to tell a story like this. I feel like had George Miller known about him, Bryan would have been drawing a number of those Mad Max tie-in comics recently too. As for the direction of the art, that was all him. He and I built and continue to build the world together with Project-Nerd Publishing and it took a mind of its own. And I always try to write for my artists' strengths, so I think it's the best of both worlds really.

Obviously this isn't your first go-'round in comics. What have you (and your team) done before this that readers might remember, or want to pick up?

I've done comics for a number of publishers and continue to do more and more. Solitary was my big creator-owned series that came out late last year and finished earlier this year (First arc finished and the trade paperback came out in August, second arc starts sometime early next year). Stillwater is my new series from Action Lab/Danger Zone which should be a digital first release very soon. I've done some of those biography comics and stuff like Tom Corbett Space Cadet and some Vincent Price comics, and a bunch of things in between. Bryan, as I mentioned, was in issue four of Solitary and the trade paperback, and beyond that, I think this might be his first series but I know he's been featured in anthologies and had a few short stories published elsewhere. Seek us out online! Lots of fun stuff!

How important do you think it is to have low-level rewards like the $1 and $3 levels? I feel like not everyone does that on Kickstarter, and it's likely to their detriment.

I think they're unbelievably important which is why we decided to do something fun with them this time. Everyone who pledges from $1 gets to have their name in the book somewhere, and not just in a little thank you page in the back (which I also think is very important). So they might find their name as graffiti or as a name in the book or a street sign or something like that. But putting those low tiers in the book helps people pledge at a low level and not worry too much about what they've done. It lets people get in at all different levels. There's people that want the big packages and those that want the smaller stuff. It's best to have a little of both. It's best to give the people what they want.

Do you have some favorite post-apocalyptic stories that helped inform this project?

I'm a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic story or the post-apocalypse genre. Movies and TV and comics and video games and books and everything related to that idea or story premise is usually something I seek out. Most likely it started after seeing Mad Max and Road Warrior at a very young age and then growing up with stuff like that and Escape from New York and various other stories throughout. Tank Girl comics, some of Akira, Quentin Tarantino movies, and then even going outside of that stuff and throwing in the 80s and 90s movies or the female action movies from all of those eras and just piecing that all together in my head like a crazy person. I tell people it's like a mixture of John Hughes and Quentin Tarantino but that's just the tip of the iceberg. My plan and the plan of the team is to give people a crazy comic that blows them away. Something that they read once and have to read again just because it's so insane.

Besides Esme, who's covered pretty well in the Kickstarter campaign, what can you tell us about some of the characters, and what they're up against?

A lot of the characters and the action is going to take place when they all face off against each other, so a big portion of this is Esme's story, but beyond her, I think Riot is going to be a lot of people's favorite character. She's got a great visual presence and is sort of the second in command in the team. Outside of Riot and Esme, we have Bear and Downer and Hedge, the rest of the team, who all have amazing designs and none of them look the same but have their own crazy awesome looks and attitudes as you can see in the art. Downer might surprise a lot of people, and in my opinion, Hedge is our comic book version of a Michael Madsen type. He thinks he's a leader in this story but he is most certainly not. Outside of each other, they'll face some forces once they get into the Barrens and other security forces and even another team similar to theirs that is at cross purposes with them. A big action setpiece comes in the series, and it will be a knockdown drag out fight that everyone might not survive.

All in all, we want you to be excited and to have fun. That's the biggest thing I can say about this book. We plan to have fun and we hope you do too!