Kurtis J. Wiebe likes playing with genres. In 2011, he kicked off his run of books at Jim Valentino’s Image Comics imprint Shadowline with the supernatural mystery series “Green Wake” as well as “The Intrepids,” a sci-fi action adventure comic. Since then, he’s launched the WWII lit-referencing drama “Peter Panzerfaust,” dipped into the world of ghostly romance with “Grim Leaper” and even got in on the post-apocalyptic giant ghost-robot game with “Debris.” His next project continues to break brand new creative ground for the writer.
That project is “Rat Queens,” a fantasy book featuring a quartet of monster hunting women who hang out in a town called Palisade which has become all the more dangerous thanks to the Queens’ hard partying ways. Wiebe developed the concept, which mixes fantasy action with magically imbued modern day technology, with co-creator Meg Dejmal and artist John “Roc” Upchurch.
While Wiebe originally planned to fund “Rat Queens” by way of Kickstarter before distributing the book on digital platform comiXology, he instead decided to stick with Jim Valentino’s Shadowline after showing the Image Comics co-founder all the materials he had for the book at that point.
CBR News talked with Wiebe about switching from Kickstarter to a more traditional production method, teaming up with Dejmal and Upchurch and why he wanted to get in on the fantasy game.
CBR News: First, a few basics. Does “Rat Queens” have a set number of issues at this point?
Kurtis J. Wiebe: Right out of the gates, we’re making this series an ongoing series. “Rat Queens” will be structured similarly to “Peter Panzerfaust” where we’ll be doing five-issue arcs with a two month break in between where the trade will be released in the interim.
You co-created “Rat Queens” along with Meg Dejmal and artist John “Roc” Upchurch. How did you all develop the book and how did the workload break down?
I’d done a pitch with Roc around this time last year in a sort of similar vein; a quirky fantasy story with modern elements, but it wasn’t quite right tonally. I loved all his designs and wanted to work with him on a fantasy book. Last fall I started to conceptualize a new series specifically for him and the groundwork for Rat Queens was laid out. After taking character notes, I contacted Meg Dejmal to assist with world and character development.
We’ve seen the leads Hannah, Violet, Betty and Dee by way of teaser images on your blog, but what else can you tell us about them and the world they live in?
This is an action/comedy series about monster killing and partying in a fantasy world. So, we’re taking a lot of fantasy tropes and having fun with them by taking modern culture and blending it together. You’re going to get wizards, dragons, elves and orcs in spades but with a healthy dose of blood and black humor.
As for the Rat Queens, the title of the series is actually the name of their adventuring group. At the beginning of the series, they’ve been working together for a short time having met in the town of Palisade. Realizing they all had special talents and were fully capable of killing nasty monsters, they banded together, bought a shack on the edge of town and set about hunting baddies. The only problem is they are equally capable of insane parties and most of the gold they earn goes straight into weekend long barn burners that have become a near bigger threat to the town than the monsters that used to stalk the countryside.
Palisade sounds like the kind of location that becomes a character in and of itself. Was that a goal from the initial story conception?
It’s our Sunnydale. All the action will take place in and around Palisade and it’s full of weird little people who will become recurring characters throughout the series. There are going to be some events that will make this town a draw for evil forces, which will become a long term story point for the rest of the series.
What went into the decision to use modern appliances in the world of “Rat Queens?”
It won’t be super prevalent, but I always liked the concept of magic as technology. So, items like cellphones will be part of the world but in a fantasy, magical way. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re going to be taking a lot of modern concepts and adapting them to this fantasy world. Everything from culture to technology.
Looking at your previous works, you seem to be a big fan of genre-hopping with your projects. Is fantasy a genre you’ve wanted to tackle for a while now?
I really haven’t had a proper stab at fantasy and it’s definitely a genre I love. This series comes from the hundreds (if not thousands) of hours invested in fantasy books, D&D sessions and “Baldur’s Gate.” I really am an unabashed gamer and I think that passion, mashed together with my simmering cynicism, is going to make “Rat Queens” sing.
You were originally going to produce “Rat Queens” through Kickstarter and comiXology. What made you decide to go through Jim Valentino’s Shadowline instead?
My original plan for the series was to self-publish it, being responsible for everything from top to bottom. As we neared the deadline to have everything ready for the Kickstarter, I showed all the developed content to Riley Rossmo who said I should show the work to Jim. Within ten minutes Jim e-mailed back that he liked it and wanted to know when it would be ready. So, everything changed very quickly and before I knew it we landed a September 2013 release.
Truthfully, I’m relieved and excited to have made this decision. I think the Kickstarter and self-publishing was more than I could handle at the moment with everything else on my plate. Now I can focus on the writing and making this series the best I can.
“Rat Queens” #1 from Kurtis J. Wiebe, co-creator Meg Dejmal and artist John “Roc” Upchurch will be released from Shadowline/Image Comics in September.