Launching today, Top Cow Productions' latest Kickstarter project, an OGN titled Stairway, takes a hard look at our DNA and the potential it has to rebuild our society in the wake of a nuclear disaster. Inspired by compelling sci-fi fare like Looper, Source Code and Children of Men, the project from writer Matt Hawkins and artist Raffaele Ienco aims to raise $10,000 to become a reality. And if the publisher's last Kickstarter initiative -- Golgotha -- is any indication, the support for these creators and they're contribution to sci-fi storytelling is definitely present.
CBR has the exclusive announcement of the project and an abundance of details from Hawkins, in addition to a handful of preview pages from the project, which you can check out dispersed in the interview below. If you're interested in donating to the Stairway Kickstarter, head here.
CBR: How did this project come about?
Hawkins: In 2012 some Harvard geneticists discovered how to write information on DNA, record data like on a computer hard drive. I first read about it in Nature magazine, a science research publication and was fascinated by it. I tracked down their original published papers and poured over them. It kind of stuck with me and then I read another research article a couple years later about how what we used to call Junk DNA they now call non-coding DNA and it’s full of information and functions that we don’t understand yet. Essentially, it’s an amazing time in genetics research and new discoveries are being made every day.
It struck me that we might find ancient information hidden in our DNA. Assassin's Creed deals with this with memories, but what I’m talking about is that someone, our creators maybe, intentionally left a vast amount of information for us to discover some day once we were technologically able to. There really isn’t a better way to have it be saved. Temples, books and documents will be obliterated and altered over time. If you want to leave a permanent record that will be relatively intact over great periods of time, recording it on an entire species DNA would do the trick.
I didn’t have a name for this for a long time but when I realized that the core of the plot is an attempt to build a stairway to heaven Stairway worked.
What's the plot of Stairway? How would you describe its intended audience?
Hawkins: Stairway is a Sci-Fi story in the same space as films like Looper, Children of Men and Source Code. It’s a near term dismal future after the global economy has collapsed due to a limited nuclear exchange between Pakistan, India and China and people are trying to build a new, better future for humanity. Hope is in short supply and people are desperate.
The key two people in the story are Alicia Viskander and Arthur Hopkins. Alicia is a 28-year-old genetics researcher who discovered the key to unlocking the data hidden in our DNA. Arthur is a 78-year-old billionaire entrepreneur who’s obsessed with fixing his reputation after a failed Presidential bid and is funding her research.
Their story is about finding this information inside of DNA, working together to try and piece it together from the various strands found in humans globally. They’re finding bio-schematics and tech blueprints of things from mythology, religion and unheard of things.
At its core it’s a story about the most powerful force in the universe, the love a mother has for her child.
Why was it best to tell the story as a single graphic novel?
Hawkins: Some stories work better in a single, non-serialized read. The nature of monthly comic books is that you need to have a heightened cliffhanger for each of the chapters. This is hard to pull off consistently and writing an OGN allows for a slower burn into the story and more character building moments and less focus on shock and dramatic twists. These are all in the story of course, but they’re spaced out for stronger effect when they land. The landscape is shifting in comics; especially for more indie publishers and I think there will be a lot more OGN type launches than there have been in the past.
What’s the goal for this Kickstarter and what are some incentives?
Hawkins: We’re asking for $10,000 for the campaign. We’re keeping the incentives simpler this time with the main tier being the book itself with a Kickstarter exclusive cover. We’ve got some 25th anniversary Top Cow stuff available as well. There is a tier we’re experimenting with where I’ll be holding a writers summit that people can join either in person here in Los Angeles or via Skype. It’ll be super limited to like 5 people and those 5 people will each have a short story that I work with them on that we’ll publish as an anthology.
What are the main challenges of a Kickstarter like this one?
Hawkins: I think the biggest challenge for us is trying to keep the tiers and the project simple. Crowdfunding is just another distribution outlet. We’ve gotten too clever with too many different tiers and funding goals in the past. There are a lot of creators that have made crowdfunding their primary revenue source but for me it’s additive. I’ll do a couple crowdfunding projects a year. If you like Kickstarter you can get the book early and with an exclusive cover. If you don’t, and you want the book, you can wait until it comes out through the other channels.
What’s a lesson learned from the Golgotha Kickstarter?
Hawkins: Golgotha was an experiment that was wildly successful. I expected that it might impact our sales through the other distribution channels (comic shops/amazon/book shops/digital) but it did not. Our sales on Golgotha were actually stronger in EVERY CHANNEL than other OGN books we’ve released in the past few years. That may be a one-off result…but we’ll evaluate after we have more data.
What does Raffaele Ienco uniquely bring to the series as an artist?
Hawkins: Raffaele is an amazing, expressive artist that does such kick ass Sci-Fi backdrops that he was my only choice for this one. We worked on Symmetry together and he did Mechanism and Manifestations that we published as well. Since he writes some of his own projects, he brings a lot to the project and suggests story ideas and dialogue, which makes my job easier. And I shouldn’t say job, because this book was a pleasure to work on and in my humble opinion is the best thing I’ve written so far.
Top Cow's Stairway Kickstarter is currently underway; you can contribute to the project here.