Jake Parker's "Antler Boy" Gets a Kickstart

Jake Parker was one of the artists whose work helped to establish the "Flight" anthologies as an innovative force. He went onto contribute to the "Flight: Explorer" anthology and work in animation in addition the two "Missile Mouse" books that he wrote and illustrated for Scholastic Books. Last year saw the release of Parker's first picture book, "The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man," which was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon. This summer, some of his creations will be available in three dimensions in two model kits coming out from Industria Mechanika.

Parker's new project is "The Antler Boy and Other Stories," a collection of his short comics that have previously appeared in various anthologies. Parker turned to Kickstarter to fund a hardcover volume of the book, a project that reached its goal in a single day and has continued to grow since then. Parker took time out to speak with CBR News about the book, what Kickstarter made possible, and provided a look at the book.

CBR News: Jake, just to start, congratulations on launching the Kickstarter project and then funding it within a day.

Jake Parker: Thank you. I was shocked it funded so quickly. Definitely didn't go according to my plan.

Why did you decide to go through Kickstarter for this project? You've worked with big publishers, what made you decide to do this on your own?

I had a couple of reasons for going through Kickstarter for this. First, I thought the book would appeal to a smaller niche than a publisher usually likes to go for. Anthologies aren't the biggest of sellers and I'm a bit of an unknown in the big picture, so I figured the best option for the book and for me would be to self publish.

Second, I needed Kickstarter for the money and for the exposure. If done right Kickstarter can be an exposure machine and it will get your work in front of the eyes of many who would have never seen it. And this goes along with something bigger that I've been thinking about lately, with the world wide web the promise is your work can be exposed to an entire world of people. If your social network is like mine you have friends in almost every time zone tweeting and blogging. That's quite a reach, but I still find that I have a limited depth. Even though that network spans the globe, my circle is still a lot of guys the same age as me that are into the same films, the same comics and the same animation. It's an expansive network but it's not very deep. And what happens with that is everybody gets familiar with everybody and there's very little new blood. Now, to bring this back around, Kickstarter has reach and it has depth. There's so many eyes on Kickstarter from so many different backgrounds that all of a sudden there's people who are seeing your work for the first time even though you've had a website on the world wide web for five years.

For people who don't know, tell us about "The Antler Boy and Other Stories."

"The Antler Boy and Other Stories" is a book that's been in production for eight years. It collects the short comics I did between 2003 and 2012. Most of these stories were previously published in anthologies like "Flight," or were self published. All in all there's nine stories and you'd have to get nine different books to have them all in print. When I did my first "Flight" story I fantasized about having enough of my own short stories that I could then someday collect into its own book. I'm really excited to see this day come, and to finally hold this book in my hand.

For people who know your work from "Flight" and "Flight: Explorer" and might fear that they have these stories in another format, what does the book have which they've never seen before?

The majority of these stories weren't in "Flight" or "Flight: Explorer," so they'll have fresh new stories that they've probably not read before. And this book will also have a sketchbook section in the back in which I share a lot of the early character designs and story development for the stories they liked in "Flight."

Do you have a favorite among the stories?

That's tough. I love drawing space adventure stuff, so the "Lucy Nova" stories and also "Missile Mouse" were a blast to create. With "Antler Boy" I was trying a completely new style for me and I love how it looks. "Star Thrower" is so funny to me and still cracks me up. But I'd have to say my favorite, and the gem of the book, is the "Robot and the Sparrow." It's about an uncommon friendship between a common sparrow and beat up old robot. The sparrow teaches the robot all about his world, about other animals, about dreams, [and] the seasons until they day he has to fly south for winter. It deals with separation, with losing a loved one, in a sweet and optimistic way. And [it] says how we can still be with them even though they're miles away, or have even passed from this life. Visually, it's my love letter to Bill Watterson. He's been a huge influence on my art and I paid homage to him with this story.

What do you find so compelling about telling stories for readers of all ages?

My love for all-ages stuff might stem from an appreciation for bedtime stories. When approached with a healthy dose of imagination, adventure, and intrigue coupled with an an understanding of character growth the humble bedtime story can be as riveting as a movie. I think when you have a story that both a 5 year-old can enjoy on one level and a 35 year-old dad can enjoy on another level then you really have done something.

After doing the "Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man" picture book with Michael Chabon last year, has it opened up more opportunities to do more picture books?

Indeed! I just finished a second picture book with Scholastic about apples. And this year I'm working on two more picture books with Random House and Simon and Schuster. And I bet, if the fans asked nicely enough, Michael would be up for doing another "Awesome Man" book. [*wink*]

Will there be another "Missile Mouse" book one of these years?

Yes! But not yet. There's a couple more projects I'd like to get done before I go back to Missile Mouse.

What else are you working on right now?

Besides the two picture books I have a model kit project I'm working on with Industria Mechanika. It's been a lot fun working with these guys turning my 2D art into 3D sculpts. These kits should be out in June.

For more on Jake Parker visit his website, www.agent44.com.

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