The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 224 | More concept art from The Last Devil

Leaving Proof 224 | More concept art from The Last Devil
Published on Friday, May 16, 2014 by
In this week’s column: we share more concept art from The Last Devil and talk about crowdfunding, comics, and Lowell Dean’s WolfCop.

Picking up from last week’s column, below are the updated color and line tests for two of the characters from The Last Devil, one of two creator-owned comics projects I am co-developing.

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Macanaya line and color test update (most recent version at the far right)

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Naga line and color test (most recent version at the far right).

I already discussed the basic premise of The Last Devil last week, but for those of you looking for more detail, below is the text of an “elevator pitch” I wrote up some time ago (pretend it’s for a long-ish elevator ride):

The Last Devil is a pulp-adventure/alternate history story that features the historical figure Vincente Macanaya, a 19th century mercenary and former leader of the elite Bodyguard of Frederick Townsend Ward‘s Ever Victorious Army. As one of the foreign “devil soldiers” under Ward’s employ, Macanaya took part in numerous bloody campaigns in Imperial China to quell the Taiping Rebellion on the orders of the Manchu Qing Dynasty leadership and their allies.

The Last Devil is set in early 1898, during the onset of the Spanish-American War. Macanaya is now an old and bitter veteran, recruited by a revolutionary cabal to lead an expedition in search of a mystical weapon in a small, uncharted archipelago in the South China Sea that might ultimately help liberate the Philippine islands from the competing Spanish and American powers. Macanaya finds himself in the company of a bizarre, volatile bunch of adventurers, each with their own agenda. When a figure with ties to Macanaya’s “devil soldier” past surfaces as a rival for the prize, things only get more explosive!

There’s very little reliable historical information written about the real Vincente Macanaya—I’ve been researching him for the better part of the past year-and-a-half and few fragmentary descriptions of the enigmatic mercenary have survived and most of what I know of Macanaya I gleaned from the 1978 volume Mercenaries and Mandarins by Richard J. Smith and 1992’s Devil Soldier: The Story of Frederick Townsend Ward by Caleb Carr—so we’ve obviously taken a lot of liberties with our interpretation. As I mentioned last week, The Last Devil, while steeped in real-world history, isn’t intended to be a historically accurate comic: it’s more of an anachronistic action-adventure “weird history” project (think Samurai Champloo) with a hint of satire that happens to feature a mix of historical figures, characters from Filipino myth and literature, and original creations.

Don’t forget to visit the Unwilting Art tumblr for more of our concept sketches and random bits of art.

On crowdfunding, comics, and independent film

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Queen Crab is one of six graphic novels Jimmy Palmiotti has had successfully funded on Kickstarter.

One of the most surprising—to me, at least—developments birthed by the Internet these past several years is how it has democratized the funding of creative endeavors. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have made it possible for numerous comics creators to raise up to and over a million dollars to see their vision through, and it’s not just amateurs or beginning professionals benefiting from the trust and kindness of strangers. Comics industry veteran Jimmy Palmiotti, for instance, has carved out a parallel career as a “crowdfunded comics creator,” with six Kickstarter-funded graphic novels under his belt as of this writing, and a number of them eventually making their way to the general comics-reading population via Image Comics. [Click here to read our review of Palmiotti’s Queen Crab and here for our review of Palmiotti’s Retrovirus.]

It is in the arena of independent filmmaking, however, that crowdfunding and Web 2.0 word-of-mouth has perhaps had the biggest impact as far as popular commercial entertainment goes, reviving an industry that had been marginalized by changes in how the public accesses independently-produced films. As I wrote earlier this year in a column on grindhouse-inspired comics:

The rise of home video and the decline of grindhouse theaters in the 1980s all but eliminated what some might call the “traditional” grindhouse film, but the guerrilla filmmaker/huckster spirit which informed the genre would find expression in any number of low-budget, direct-to-video productions. These days, the proliferation of the Internet, alternative funding and monetization models, and the lowered cost of professional quality digital filmmaking equipment and software continues to change our conception of contemporary grindhouse film.

How much impact has crowdfunding had on the independent film industry? As of March of this year, some $200 million in pledges has been funneled into hundreds of film and video fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaign backers have raised over $49 million for film and video projects between 2008 and 2013. Those may seem like relatively modest amounts when compared to the budgets of today’s major studio blockbusters—2007’s Spider-Man 3, for instance, cost $258 million to make—but with indie productions, a few thousand dollars can spell the difference between a feature film’s completion and distribution or its cancellation.

One of those successfully crowdfunded independent films is WolfCop, written and directed by Saskatchewan-based filmmaker Lowell Dean (Dust Up, 13 Eerie).

The horror-comedy, which features Leo Fafard (I Heart Regina, Moccasin Flats) in the role of a down-on-his-luck police officer named Lou Garou (ha!) cursed with lycanthropy, secured funding through a multi-pronged approach: Based on the overwhelmingly positive public response to a two-minute trailer, the project was able to obtain CAD $1 million worth of financing and production support as well as a guaranteed release in the Cineplex chain of movie theaters through the innovative CineCoup Film Accelerator program. And on IndieGoGo, the film doubled its fundraising goal of $10,000 by offering original graphic novel and action figure rewards for backers.

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By offering action figure (left) and graphic novel (right) rewards, the WolfCop production team was able to raise over $20,000 on IndieGoGo to supplement its CineCoup Film Accelerator funding.

WolfCop is set for an industry screening at  the Cannes Film Festival (May 14–25, 2014) and is headed to Cineplex theaters in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Moose Jaw on June 6 and in Cineplex theaters in Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg on June 13.

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