Friday, August 29, 2014

Preserving Legends: Hope Nicholson is Getting Good at it

I got to talk with small press publisher Hope Nicholson last week about her new Kickstarter campaign BrokWindsor - Lost WWII Comic Book Returns! She's just as enthusiastic for this project (probably more) as she was with her last. With around 30 days left to donate the effervescent Nicholson makes a strong case as to why Brok is not only relevant but important to Canadian comics. She also touches on the trials of restoring a character that isn’t as well-known as other comic heroes. 

Sheilah Villari: I was a huge fan of your last Kickstarter, Nelvana of the Northern Lights. That book was brilliantly put together and the printing is gorgeous. I wasn't familiar with Nelvana until your project and now I'm in love with her. So with Brok Windsor I'm not really familiar either. Could you give us a brief rundown of who he is and what he means to Canadian comics?

Hope Nicholson: Brok Windsor was created in 1944 and published in Vancouver BC, by pulp illustrator Jon Stables. Brok Windsor was named after a friend of his who died in the war, and the character was pretty much everything you could ask for in an adventure hero. He was an accomplished medical doctor who was on a fishing trip in Lake of the Woods when he suddenly gets lost and lands on an enormous island named Chaqua. Here he quickly becomes a giant, and would keep growing until his heart gave way, unless he found an antidote. So he goes looking for one, with his new friend Torgon, who is a member of a technologically advanced aboriginal community on the island, and they get into all sorts of adventures with ghosts, demons, giant rats, horned lions, and so much more. Some people say it's sort of like a Canadian Flash Gordon, but I really don't think there's much that compares directly to what Brok did by merging all of these different genres together.
SV: You mention seeing him for the first time while working on your film "Lost Heroes". Was it love at first site? How has Jon Stables influenced you as a creator within the comics realm?

HN: I had heard of Brok before in my research, but it's sort of like knowing a friend of a friend. You might see them on Facebook posts, and glimpse them at a party, but one day you actually end up talking to them face to face and BAM, its love. It was like that with Brok, and in the same way, my first thought was: "How did I never notice you before?" In regards to creators, I think I related more to Jon Stables than I did with Adrian Dingle (Nelvana’s creator). Stables seemed to have a strong sense of humour that runs throughout his work.
And at the same time he was a man of economical words. In fact, he dropped the 'h' from his own name, and the 'c' from Brock, simply because the extra consonants were unnecessary. And when it came time to immigrate to the US after WWII, he chose Brok as his middle name (as he did not have one) and when his sons were born, gave them the names "Jon" and "Brok”.

SV: Your Nelvana Kickstarter was very successful. Do you have the same expectations, it seems that you might have hit your target audience for this book. Are you seeing crossover from your contributors?

HN: Strangely enough, it's less crossover than I thought, though there is some. Which, rather than disheartening is TERRIFIC! That means that a whole new batch of people are finding out about the Canadian golden age and pledging just because they're excited about Brok. He’s just a good, wholesome story but that excited me too. It was a character that I could take a chance on, one that I grew to love based on his artwork and story alone, and I hoped that what attracted me to the character would carry across to others.
SV: You've put together a great group of contributors. Did you approach them or vice versa? Were most of these artist familiar with Brok before this project came to life? 
HN: Some of the contributors approached me, when they heard about the project, and for others I told them about the project to gauge their interest. I was surprised at how many jumped at the chance to help out! Still others came forward as the project progressed and they heard about it, so every so often a new contributor is announced.
I can say that I suspect several contributors were aware of Brok Windsor before I told them about him, due to their interest in comic Canadiana. Ken Steacy was absolutely aware of him, having drawn him previously on the cover of the 1980s comic history book Canuck Comics. Most of the artists were not familiar though, and it was fun to see how interested they became as I told them about the character and shared his history with them.

SV: Can you walk us through the process of bringing a book like this back to life?

HN: Well, the process in this particular case was:
1. Determine if I was interested enough in the character to proceed. I find it hard to force enthusiasm, so would rather work on projects I can be naturally passionate about.

2. Determine if the estate and/or rights holders would be interested in having this project begin (they were).

3. Find the issues of the comic books, by hunting through archives and contacting private collectors.

4. Hope that the rest of the issues are found as the Kickstarter begins to raise attention (the last few were found this way).

5. Raise the funds to do the printing and publishing, and increase attention via a Kickstarter (current stage).

6. Restore the comic book pages to a printable quality (current stage).

7. Coordinate the submission of artist pieces for the campaign, and make sure the originals are sent to the appropriate funders.

8. Find a printer, and send the book off.

9. Prepare all of the various incentives such as prints.

10. Receive the books and ship them out with the incentives.

11. Convention travel to showcase the book to the rest of the non-Kickstarter world!

 Whew. That's a lot of steps.

SV: So how will the funds be distributed once everything is collected? 
HN: The majority of the funds will go to printing and shipping. I estimate that for every $30 raised for a book, $10 is for the printing, and $10-$25 (Canada/US) will be for the shipping. That can increase when shipping overseas, and doesn't cover the cost of re-shipping out postal damaged or lost books. The rest of the funds, raised from the original art and other pieces go towards printing the incentives, purchasing packaging material, doing convention travel, marketing costs (ie. postcards), and admin (legal/accounting).

SV: What's going to be your biggest challenge with this project? What did Nelvana teach/prepare you for with this campaign?
HN: The biggest challenge will be the sheer amount of work that goes into being a self-publisher and balancing it with my own life and work. But as I handled the shipping for Nelvana before, I really am familiar with the work that will go into the project and ways in which I can optimize my time and efforts and create less stress on me, and deliver a project faster, and in better condition, than I did previously. For example, little things like knowing how to wrap and package books properly will save me an immense amount of time. Last year I had to learn on the fly, with many mistakes made along the way.
SV: Your project was funded pretty early into launch. You've got some awesome stretch goals that you look likely to hit as you've got about a month left. Are there plans for more if you surpass the ones you have laid out?

HN: I really hope I reach the 25,000 goal and make the Scott Chantler stretch goal, where he will illustrate an original story! Though, if I don't, let's be honest, I'll fund that part out of pocket if I need to, it'll just be too cool to pass up.

There are definitely more stretch goals in mind. One, in particular, I am waiting until I have the artwork to announce widely, but if you like paper dolls, you will have the opportunity to have an original Brok & Starra doll to play with, thanks to John K Snyder III.

SV: What's your timeline for the roll out of rewards? As a contributor for Nelvana it didn't feel like I had to wait long at all. Do you plan on using the same printer or does Brok require an entirely different process?

HN:  I'm glad you felt you didn't have to wait long! As it was, I was a bit upset with Nelvana that we were a few weeks longer than I thought, and some of the rewards were rolled out as a few months progressed due to logistics.

I may use the same printer as Nelvana, but I'm looking into a few options with my print broker as well, based on some really delightful archive collections I've seen in stores. In the end, whichever printer looks like the best fit for Brok, I will use, and the greatest concern to me is print quality, consistency, paper quality, and strength of the binding. I am hoping that if I have everything ready as early as I can, without rushing my contributors or the restoration, that I will have the books out to funders not one minute later than I said.

If you’d like to check out Hope’s Kickstarter click here. You have plenty of time to donate too. The campaign ends September 29th. To keep up to date with Hope’s other ventures be sure to follow her on Twitter: @HopeLNicholson.

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