You’ve seen her in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and in the web series “Bandwagon.” You’ve read her premiere webcomic “Contropussy,” now being published by IDW Publishing. Now, writer, actress and creator Emma Caulfield is set for her next project. Fresh on the web with new pages every Tuesday and Thursday, “Ripped” is an original idea from the minds of Caulfield and her frequent collaborative partner Camilla Rantsen involving the origins of Jack the Ripper in the 1800s Victorian Age. The webcomic sets its sights on four men involved with the University for Psychic Advancement with art by “Contropussy” artist Christian Meesey.
Caulfield took some time out of her schedule to discuss “Ripped” with CBR News, the characters involved that could become Jack the Ripper, her collaborative process with Rantsen, a few tidbits about some lessons learned from creating “Contropussy,” and her extremely successful Kickstarter campaign.
CBR News: Emma, tell us a bit about “Ripped.” What’s the general concept behind the series and what was the inspiration for its release?
Emma Caulfield: The concept is what happened before Jack became the Ripper set against the backdrop of psychic phenomena in London. Camilla Rantsen and I wanted to tell the story about someone you think you know, explore otherworldly powers and figure out a way to combine the two. I think we’ve done this successfully.
Who are the key players in the story and how do they interact with the world that you’ve built in the 1800s Victorian Age?
The series revolves around four men — Teddy, Frederick, William and Callum — who are affiliated with the University for Psychic Advancement in one way or another. There is also a woman named Gemma who figures prominently but we haven’t introduced her yet so I can’t say much! There are other players to be sure but those are our core.
The comic deals with Jack the Ripper and the psychic phenomena of that era. How historically true to these events is the comic?
We take a lot of liberties, as I think we can, since so little is known about Ripper. The facts of his victims when we go into that, will stay as they are. But for our purposes, “Ripped” is the story of Jack before he became the Ripper. It is about how our core characters are intertwined and how they are connected karmically and spiritually. As far as psychic phenomena, we know that there was a university established at the time to help people explore their gifts. Just knowing that existed gives us a lot of room to play and imagine what was going on behind closed doors.
Why do you think “Ripped” lends itself well to the webcomic format? By the same token, why did you decide to go the webcomic route for your first phase instead of, say, traditionally publishing it in the single issue format.
We would have loved for it to be published. You know — have a big splashy release. But we didn’t explore that route. We didn’t take our ideas and look for a distributor. We started our first project, “Contropussy,” off on the web and now it’s being released by IDW. Could “Ripped” go down that same path? Maybe, maybe not. But what we do know is we have so much freedom in this format and we can really interact with our fans with is a lot of fun for us.
The pages you’ve posted so far have got a really unique artistic flair to them. Can you tell us about your artist, Christian Meesey, and how you started working together?
He’s a genius. We worked together on “Contropussy.” Christian Beranek, who served as “Contropussy’s” production manager, introduced us and were blessed that we could get him a second time around. His rate went way up since we first started! Thankfully for him he can command that rate because people in the industry are seeing how amazingly talented he is. He is also super nice and a great collaborator, so there’s that.
You’re once again working with Camilla Rantsen, your collaborator on “Contropussy” and the “Bandwagon” web series. How has your creative process developed together over these projects and what has your process been like so far for “Ripped?”
Well Camilla and I have been friends for years so we have a great short hand, you know? From the moment we began working on screenplays we worked seamlessly together. One of us begins writing (usually her) and the other continues. This process continues on until we are finished. We will have writer meetings and discuss where things are with the story as we are writing to ensure a smooth through line. We will sometimes see things unfold and get re inspired by something we thought we would be a minor touch and then expand upon it. Really we just laugh a lot and bask in our genius and wonder why more people aren’t seeing what we are seeing. After that we congratulate ourselves on our modesty.
Speaking of “Contropussy,” the series is set to be released as a graphic novel from IDW later this year. What can you tell us about the collection?
We are very excited about that. We can say we have been published. We will have unused sketches and other cool Meesey art as well as the finished arc of what we started on the web. I don’t know whose idea it was to not finish it online but instead finish it in the [collected] book, but it’s awesome. As for whatever else IDW has in store, I couldn’t tell you.
What did you learn from developing “Contropussy” that you applied to your process doing “Ripped?”
Well once you do something once it only gets easier with each passing try. We knew nothing about the comic world when we started and now we have a lot of tools and knowledge under our belt. We had always set up the format for iPad and we continue to do that. We are proud that we were one of the first to do that, actually. We were tech savvy and didn’t know it. We also knew we needed to make the site pop and attract people to stay around. We are very proud of the site Jen Sylvester and Mark Ford put together. As for people sticking around? Time will tell…
“Ripped” is just one of your projects launched to great effect on Kickstarter. “Ripped” raised a little over $21,000, three times its original goal. Why do you think Kickstarter is a good platform to launch these projects and how would you measure its success as relates to “Ripped?”
Thank God for KS. Kickstarter is like Starbucks. They got in early, branded themselves and became the go to place for crowd sourcing. There are others that I’m sure are great but I haven’t worked with them. They know what they’re doing. What else can I say? As far as our goal I’m so grateful we raised so much more than what we asked for because we underpriced everything! Like every dime is spent and then some. We also underestimated the cost of shipping out all the incentives. Things aren’t cheap! “Ripped” was a big success story on Kickstarter and hopefully we can continue that success in action.
What are you working on beyond “Ripped?”
We only just started “Ripped” and have such high hopes for it to continue on in television. I also have a web series called “Bandwagon” that we are in the process of securing funding for the second season. Then of course acting in outside projects like “Once Upon A Time” which I just finished. Who knows what life has in store. All I can hope for is that it pays my bills and allows people to view me as I wish to be seen. And that is as someone who can do it all…
“Ripped” updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays.