In May, Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos‘ “Fairy Quest” became one of the most successful comic projects on Kickstarter to date. Jenkins and Ramos’ oversized graphic novel is the first of four installments delving into the story of Red Riding Hood, her best friend Mr. Woof and the fictional world of Fablewood, where all stories reside. The Fairy Tale section of Fablewood is ruled by the dictatorial Mr. Grimm, who forces all residents to live out their stories exactly as they’re written — and if they don’t, they’re forced through a mind wiping machine.
The “Fairy Quest” Kickstarter raised $95,100 with 1,642 backers — and that success continues in February when BOOM! Studios starts to release “Fairy Quest” as individual issues in the direct market. Available in single issues for the first time, BOOM! Studios will publish “Fairy Quest” as an eight-issue series made up of all four oversized hardcovers.
To shed some light on the announcement, CBR News spoke exclusively with Jenkins about bringing the series to BOOM!, the extended plans for “Fairy Quest,” heading back to Kickstarter to fund future installments and his plans for further collaboration with Ramos in the expansive world of Fablewood.
CBR News: Paul, “Fairy Quest” had great success as a project on Kickstarter and now you and Humberto are teaming up with BOOM! Studios for single issues. How did this partnership come about?
Paul Jenkins: [“Fairy Quest’s”] been around for a while. It’s very much a labor of love series for both of us. We’ve done it through Kickstarter and that allowed the project to exist. It was a great success and we’re going to go back there for subsequent versions of the book to enable the editorial to be done. Such of the publishing vagaries these days, publishing books and making them viable entities is kind of hard because the direct market’s very difficult. So, we have to look at different models, different ways of doing it to reach a much larger audience than those who are prepared to go to comic stores.
We never did solicit this to the direct market. We used Kickstarter, we did a prestige edition of the book, which is really, really high production values and really, really expensive to make. Once the book came into existence, that’s when BOOM! contacted me and said, “We love this book. We’d love to be publishing it and working with you guys to do the serialization.” This “Fairy Quest” book, there are eight chapters of it in a sense and the first two chapters are contained in the first book that Humberto and I printed ourselves. There are eight chapters to be available and it’s never been solicited to go out to the direct market. When I tried to put the book forward to the direct market where the first product was not really a comic, but instead was a prestige edition, it almost seemed like an unmanageable sort of thing. It was almost like the direct comic book market struggled to find a way to sell those. I think in a sense if we had done these editions that BOOM! is going to do first and then sold the ones that we had, the comic stores and the fans would already know the product because they had already bought it at a cheaper price. So what we’ll probably do is to solicit the book in our version at some point in the direct market later on and BOOM! are going to help us with that. We’re not sometimes too equipped to do it. [Laughs]
For those that might not be familiar, what is the core concept behind “Fairy Quest” and who are the key players?
I should preface this by saying that Humberto and I started work on this book I think in 2007, so it’s been around for a while. I know fairy tales are quite popular, but we were first. The premise is basically that it’s a world and the world is called Fablewood. Fablewood is where every type of story lives together. In one area, you’ve got romance and in one area, you’ve got science fiction and all this. They all co-exist in this massive uncharted forest of Fablewood. Our story takes place in the area of children’s fairy tales. In this area, the fairy tales are run by this guy called Mr. Grimm and he’s completely fascist. He makes them tell their story and if they don’t tell their story accurately, they’re put into the mind eraser and their minds are wiped. They start off all over again like robots, just going through the motions of their story. So it’s a really sinister environment, but then again all those fairy tales were always really sinister stories.
In this environment, Red Riding Hood is probably one of the most prominent characters along with the Wolf. They try to tell their story every day, but secretly, they have become friends and they absolutely love each other. They don’t want to live under this tyranny anymore, so they decide to escape from the village and run away to this place they’ve heard of called the Real World. They heard of it from this little girl called Wendy that came one time. They’re going to try and find the Real World and escape from the tyrannous Grimm.
The first book from Kickstarter is called “Fairy Quest: Outlaws” and is part of a larger story. How long is the actual saga, how long a series do you have planned?
In terms of the issues that BOOM! are planning, it’s eight issues of that. In terms of the hardcover beautiful books that Humberto and I do through Kickstarter, it’s four issues of that. There’s two of BOOM!’s for every one that we do. We’re talking with BOOM! right now about the idea of collecting the entire thing together and helping us move to the mass market. Humberto and I are business guys — I have my own company, Clockstop Entertainment is one of the two publishers of the book. It’s Clockstop and BOOM! publishing together. In order to move it to the mass market and have relationships with Simon & Schuster or Barnes & Noble or whatever — brick and mortar stores, which is where this book should be, ultimately. If we can have a really successful relationship with a company like BOOM!, it can help us with some of the organizational stuff too, so they can bring it to a larger audience.
Bringing this story to the direct market is obviously a big step for you. Considering the success of the Kickstarter and the great response to the project, how does it feel to bring your story to the direct market in this very real way?
Well, that’s it. We wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t right. We talked to BOOM! about the fact that yes, there are certain things you do when you create and this one’s really a labor of love. It really is. We’ve resisted offers and we’ve resisted situations in the past, but this one is the right one. It’s something I feel good about. I’ve been working on the “Deathmatch” series with BOOM!, I’ve nurtured a good relationship with them. I’ve known Filip Sablik from his days at Top Cow and he’s always been one of my favorite people in comics. So, I got a lot of good feelings because Filip is working at BOOM! If they’re going to employ a guy like Filip, then that’s good. We got to talking because I sent Filip a copy of the book and he just adored it.
The funny thing about it is there isn’t a single person who gets that book that doesn’t rave about it. Humberto and I have had the funniest situations at conventions where men in their 40s who have gotten it come back with their hands flapping, saying, “Oh my God, oh my God! When is issue two coming out?” We know that it’s a really, really well-loved book. This is sort of an attempt to move it into a market that we weren’t equipped to go into because I don’t think it’s majorly viable for us to put a $30 book through comic book stores and try to get it through that distribution. We needed this book to exist first so we can sell the high-end books as well at a later date.
Talking briefly about the Kickstarter specifically, you’ve had a couple of speed bumps in shipping out some editions of the book.
I’m a little frustrated [about that]. We came back from convention season and there was stuff like production issues. We were highly praised for running possibly one of the best Kickstarter drives that there had been. I thought we had been really communicative and had done really well. I was a little dismayed to return to the fray and find that some books had not gone out and there was some stuff that hadn’t been manufactured. There’s an issue with the dye — the embossment dye on the deluxe edition — and some people hadn’t gotten their PDFs and stuff like that. So I am back right in the thick of things right now to absolutely make sure that the Kickstarter fulfillment are really being handled. I literally just got back in the last couple days. It’s going to take me a little while to understand who’s been shipped what, what the warehouse are doing — but, I took it super seriously. I hate the fact that delivery has been less than stellar and I’m going to go remedy that right now. Because we loved it. It was such a great experience raising the money for that book and it’s really allowed the book to exist. We want to do all of them on Kickstarter and it doesn’t suit us well if we’re not shipping products out properly.
So, the whole “Fairy Quest” saga will get published via Kickstarter?
Yeah, we’ll do them all via Kickstarter, we’ll raise the money for the editorial. Nowadays there are new ways to do publishing. I don’t think BOOM! could ever afford it to do a book like this way — they could have, and they love it, obviously, but it’s a constant pressure trying to deal with the direct market and trying to raise money for editorial. But the combination of raising money on Kickstarter, allowing that to create the editorial, providing the materials to BOOM!, allowing that to be the thing that they publish is actually pretty smart. It means they can make money from it, we can make money from it and the book can be for the benefit of all fans and get to a larger audience. That kind of co-publishing is actually really smart.
When the pledge drive for “Fairy Quest” wrapped, it was the most successful comic Kickstarter other than “Womanthology” — no small feat. You and Humberto were actually two of the first major creators to use Kickstarter as a funding platform.
That’s exactly right. We knew we were putting our reputations on the line. We knew it was a bit of a risk, but we also knew that we were really going to go and say — because it’s great, a lot of people on Kickstarter said, “I never heard of you guys.” That’s great. We love it. Good! If you like the book and you’d never heard of us and you’re very happy, then we have new fans.
With the initial format for the book being this hardcover, have you had to change anything about “Fairy Quest” to suit the individual issue format?
No, and this is why: the way the book was always done, it has a natural break after every 24 pages. So in a sense, it could always have been [done in single issues]. And we wanted to tell it that way. It was always eight chapters of 24 pages, which makes exactly eight comic books perfectly. What people don’t realize is that it was created to be very much European style format. It’s not something we do in American comics very much, but sometimes there are eight by nine-panel pages. It’s a larger-sized book. It’s literally laid out so that lots happens on a page. You can imagine, it’s a very difficult story to do. That is what we’re presenting to the American comic market primarily through BOOM!, so I think it’s really cool. It means people have a really thick, bold story to read in any given comic. Let’s face it — right now, we’re buying comics with 20 pages with two double page spreads. If it’s me, I fret over that. I hate that, I’m not a big fan. 20 page comics with not much going on. I always have people yell at me in American comics because I don’t like writing double page spreads. They say, “You need one.” … We don’t have a lot of that in “Fairy Quest.” It’s a real thick story with a lot going on.
Since “Fairy Quest” has been presented as four hardcovers, what will happen with the covers for the single issues? Will Humberto provide covers, or will you branch out to other artists?
I think what’s going to happen with the covers will be it’ll be the images — and there’ll also be some alternate covers that BOOM! is doing for their sales. In terms of covers for future editions, obviously, we’d always do one cover for the book that we do and usually one cover for the French edition, because we have a French publisher and we love working with them, too. They’re amazing. This book is really well-received in Europe and going to other territories as well.
We have a little phenomenon going. I’ve had two phenomena in my career. I’ve had lots of big books, but the two things I can describe as a phenomenon were “The Inhumans” because I wrote it and it came out and issue #2 showed up and suddenly, the world started with “This is the greatest!” and I was like, “Well, why not issue #1? What was wrong with that one?” [Laughs] Won an Eisner and nobody said bad things. The second is “Fairy Quest.” There’s not a single person that’s read this book that hasn’t fallen in love with it. I’ve never seen that in another book. I’ve never seen a disappointed criticism ever, and that says a lot.
Expanding on some of your earlier comments, are there plans for BOOM! to publish a collection that’s separate from the Kickstarter editions?
We’re talking to them about that now. It would either happen one of two ways. Either it would be all eight issues collected together, which would be a big, thick and expensive book, but it would be worth it. Or maybe collect them in two sets of four in softcover. We haven’t gone the softcover route yet, but we’re talking about it. We’re not close to it, we don’t want to dilute it. We think some people really, really love that hardcover book. People really adore it. I also think that people are happy in the direct market to receive it in the form we’re going to give it to them. In the end, I think it’s up to us to decide if people can manage eight issues of 24-pages. That’s a ton of books because the price of that will be very expensive. Can they manage that? Can we manage to sell something like that? Or is it better to sell them as two lots of four because that’s what people will manage once it comes out? It’s one of those publishing decisions where you have to throw a dart and say, “I think it works that way.” We’ll probably ask our fans and see what they want. We love interacting with our fans, especially via Kickstarter, so we may ask them what they think they would want.
What’s coming down the line for you and Humberto in terms of future collaboration?
“Fairy Quest” is the first of a number of stories that Humberto and I have planned over a long time. One of the next stories we’re going to do is the story of a detective who lives in the Detective Fiction world and he is brought into the world of Nursery Rhymes because they find every Nursery Rhyme is a crime scene. This guy comes in to investigate and there is a turf war between the Witches and the Queens. They’re like the mob and so he’s stuck in the middle. We have stories planned for a very long time. We love Fablewood and we know the fans are really into it. Cross your fingers.