Kickstarter is now the major way to raise funding for new projects, particularly for creatives. Geek Pride has a history of raising the profile of Kickstarter projects, which we are doing today with the graphic novel Journey to the Middle Kingdom.
So, Jonathan, tell us a little about Journey to the Middle Kingdom.
Journey to the Middle Kingdom is an action adventure graphic novel where three American high schoolers are selected by the Jade Emperor, King of Chinese heaven, to go back through time to save Chinese history. All through the Middle Kingdom there are heroes of Chinese legend and fantasy who are missing, and without them, world history is in peril. To help the children defend themselves, the Jade Emperor sends a phoenix as their guide, and also three magical calligraphy brushes. With the brushes, whenever you write a Chinese character in the air, whatever you write, becomes real.
I’m raising funds on Kickstarter for the first in what I hope to be a series of novels. The main characters will try to find out what mysterious force is trying to undo Chinese history and then return home. In each book, they’ll take part in one classic Chinese fairy tale after another. The first legend they take part in is “Legend of the White Snake Maiden.” The original story is that a white snake maiden, a demon, falls in love with a mortal man. Their love is forbidden by the laws of nature, but they fall in love regardless. A Buddhist priest, Fa Hai, wants to rid the world of all demons and targets the white snake maiden. Fa Hai is successful in defeating her and traps her in a pagoda for all eternity. That is, until the white snake maiden’s friend, the green snake maiden, comes to her rescue and defeats Fa Hai. That’s the classic tale, but in my universe, the green snake maiden is nowhere to be found. That’s where the three high schoolers come in. I know many Americans aren’t very familiar with Chinese stories, but the main characters aren’t either, so that’ll be the fun of the series.
Tell us about yourself as a writer. Is this your first graphic novel?
This will be my first graphic novel yes. I’ve self published five books, four of which are about the Chinese strategy game of “Go” and the other is about my time as an ESL teacher in South Korea. I’m really beyond excited to do a graphic novel, not just because it’s a new medium of expression, but also because Journey to the Middle Kingdom is going to have really great illustrations to go along with the excitement of the story.
What first made you interested in Japanese and Chinese cultures?
I started studying Japanese in high school. I liked the challenge of learning the writing system, and I wanted to be able to read manga and understand anime. When I got to college, I took both Japanese and Chinese because the opportunity was finally available. I’ve always been big into foreign languages. I studied seven while I was at college. In order to learn the languages better, I became interested in fairy tales and legends, and as time went on, I just read a ton of them. I even translated a lot of manga and anime from Chinese and Japanese into English, which was a lot of fun.
Do you watch anime or read manga? If so, what are your favourite series?
Both. My two favorite animes are Slayers Next (yeah, I’m old school) and 12 Kingdoms. 12 Kingdoms is a beautifully written masterpiece of human psychology and Slayers Next is pretty and I like any series with a thought out magic system. My favorite manga is Death Note. I actually don’t like the anime for Death Note because it doesn’t do enough justice to my favorite character in the series, Mello. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Yugioh and Soul Eater, because they were the first anime’s I ever got the chance to translate.
Which Western comics have influenced the writing of Journey to the Middle Kingdom?
I’d have to say I pull a little of everything in. I was a Spiderman/X-Men. I watched Batman the animated series like everyone else and I was glued to the set Saturday morning when the X-Men theme came on. I read DC and Marvel comics and when I was older I got into all kinds of manga, good and bad. I wanted to have my own unique style, so I tried to put a lot of thought into the characters and the setting so that it would come out with something I could stamp my name on.
We met online through forums. He is nothing short of amazing. We’re totally in sync on many aspects of the characters, and he has this fusion style of old Chinese art with a modern flair that leaps off the page. It’s interesting to teach Gabriel about Chinese culture and these characters who he had never known before, and see how he interprets them.
How have you found fundraising through Kickstarter?
It’s a third job (smile). I’ve done a lot of work to get the word out. I’m not well known as a graphic novel writer so I knew going in it would take a lot of work to get my message out to an audience. Kickstarter is in and of itself a platform, but you have to take your work and get out there and let it be known to people. Kickstarter is a really an excellent platform for artists of all kinds to get their message out there.
Do you consider yourself a geek? If so, what are you most geeky about?
Definitely a geek. Guilty as charged. I’m a science, math, anime, manga, RPG, and language geek all rolled into one.
Where can people go to find out more about Journey to the Middle Kingdom?
You can visit my Kickstarter page at http://kck.st/18MDa35 or just mosey on over to www.journeytothemiddlekingdom.com. I’ve got sample pages, character drawings, artwork, all sorts of stuff for people to see what I’ve got in mind.