One of the highlights of last year’s “Best of….” list that we ran amongst creators was the first volume of Torsobear. Largely the work of a group of creators based in the south of England, it’s a great anthology with a central theme of a world populated by all of the toys of our childhood that is alternatively charming, nasty, funny and sarcastic.
The brains behind the organisation is the editor and writer Brett Uren and with Volume Two currently up for funding on Kickstarter (be warned – the video is pretty crazy!), I reached out to him with a few questions.
Downthetubes: What can we expect from Volume Two of Torsobear?
Brett Uren: Our Empire Strikes Back 🙂 All the writers, new and returning, have just managed to capture a much bigger, darker, more oppressive tone this time around. The humour is probably even more in evidence than before to balance out all the horrors that befall Ruxby, Hazbrow and the main characters of each ‘yarn’. We’ve also gone to great pains to make sure that everything holds together more tightly, so that the anthology aspect becomes a bit more subtle too.
Downthetubes: Any new creators onboard?
Brett: There are a ton of new faces on this book. Conor Mahoney, who wrote for Fubar American History Z is onboard with his artist collaborator Emman Padilla.
Eddy Norden is a writer/artist who handles everything on his terms quite impressively.
Peter Rogers of The Interactives fame is working with incredible children’s book illustrator Mike Motz (seriously, the man has created art for 50+ kids books published in the US and a load more published through his own company).
Dave Windett is a true UK pro with The Beano in his long list of artistic credits. Jimmy Furlong who created upcoming ape-themed antho S*** Flingers is putting something never before seen together with Andrew Hartmann. Phil Buckenham of Rented to the Dead is drawing a great Jon Scrivens script that, for a change, doesn’t involve them doing anything zombie-related.
Plus we’ve got great art talent in the form of Samir Simao, Sage M Coffey, Ben Ling, Charlie Hogg and Ashley Ribblet.
Downthetubes: It seems to have a much creepier vibe?
Brett: Oh yeah. That wasn’t initially intentional, but I think that was a function of trying to top the invention and stakes of the first volume. It’s still quite in the background, but we do have more of a pervasive antagonist this time around. Plus, while actually going over our Kickstarter and con/retail customers, we found that our demographic was naturally in the older spectrum anyway, so we could pitch the tone for a mature audience this time around.
Downthetubes: The cover seems to hint at some murderous intent, too…
Brett: The current main image of the Kickstarter is probably going to end up being the back cover image, as Hal Laren is again putting something spectacular together for the front image. But what the shushing creature represents is all about the book having a central connecting thread and holding together better. What you see there is Toyburg’s equivalent of the Joker, a clear escalation over the simple corrupt influence that Mayor Huggington exerted over proceedings in the first volume.
Downthetubes: I understand that the story has a central theme?
Brett: In the last Torsobear, the theme was very much about loss of innocence. Well, in Volume Two we carry that idea of awakening into adulthood, of becoming aware of the real world to the next stage: it’s about feeling the weight and consequences of your actions.
Downthetubes: Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Brett: I can’t say too much more than I already have, suffice it to say that Ruxby making the choice to be unwavering in his pledge to serve the law has made a powerful enemy of Toyburg’s elite, who get him sent to Toyburg’s prison The Corner, with a lot the playthings he has arrested down the years.
The prison scenario is very much a standard setup, like the murder procedural of Volume One, but again it’s all down to the execution and use of logic particular to a world of toys that lends it such scope for the creative people involved to play with.
Downthetubes: How was your experience with the first volume?
Brett: It was thrilling, exhausting and a huge education in so many things. I loved it though, as did many of the returning collaborators, hence why we’re giving this another go.
Apart from my daughter, it is hands-down the thing i’m most pleased for being involved with 🙂 – despite the difficulties involved. The best things in life are not easy.
Downthetubes: Anything you are particularly proud of or would have done differently?
Brett: I’m just amazed that we managed to get it to come together anywhere near as well as we did. I’m proud to have worked with such amazingly talented people who all ‘got it’ without having to really ram home the concept.
I definitely would build in a lot more safety margins into the timings and the budget, as I ended up putting myself in tricky situation financially, as many first-time Kickstarter campaign runners have done.
Downthetubes: The first goal for your Kickstarter ? Any reason for this?
Brett: I’m aware that this time around that we’re asking for a bit more than we did last time, that it is going to be tight getting the money. I made sure to look over a lot of campaigns to see if that kind of funding was feasible before committing. It’s equivalent to $21,000 dollars, which has been the stretch area for some, but done often enough to be a higher chance than average.
The reasons are many. It’s a bigger book for a start, but I also poured a bit of my own money into paying postage/printing costs/artist rates after a few hiccups on the last. Due to personal reasons I can’t afford to pay a penny that isn’t budgeted for in the Kickstarter goal this time around.
But the most important reason is one I talk about a bit on the campaign page, and it’s one that crops up all the time at the lower level of the industry. Many creatives in comics have to be wary, as they can really be taken advantage of in a huge way.
If you’re not expected to work hard on a project for ‘exposure’ instead of a page rate, then there will likely be deal in which you don’t benefit long-term from your invention, your creations will benefit a publisher into the future.
Even many established names at the higher levels in the comics biz will have brushed up against shady practices alluded to here. For that reason, I’m charging more so that our collaborators on Torsobear will visibly be paid a good page rate, and be paid a bonus for bringing in large amounts of sign ups. As part of our agreement, collaborators also get to keep ownership rights with us jointly – meaning they can use their characters in any way that they like and benefit from stories/merchandise they make involving them.
I’m in this to make a great piece of creative work and get it into readers hands, not profit from especially. It’d be nice, but that’s not the reason I started all this.
Downthetubes: What can you tell us about stretch goals and rewards?
Brett: Merchandise can be gotten for small additions to the £25/£38 print book pledged level, with some really cool rewards at mid-high tier. At £100 pounds. you can get your face ‘toyified’ onto Mike Motz’ ‘Law Above’ illustration at half movie poster, and upwards of that I’ll paint you a canvas on some tiers, you can get drawn as your favourite toy into the book as a minor character for £150 and get every one of my new books for the next 10 years free from £300 upwards.
Pledgers are entered into daily competitions for sketches and art prizes, and even people who don’t pledge can get a free poster in they refer friends who then pledge. Everybody can get something from our campaign, even if they don’t pledge themselves. We aim to remain interactive on Kickstarter.
Retailers can use us like a pre-order system and pledge to get books at 60% cover price discount, and see if one of our collaborators is local enough to them to sign the new book in store when it launches.
As for stretch goals, for £1000 over we’ll add another story to the book, £3500 more and all the books will be hardcover. For £5000 over the goal we’ll get plushy teddy victim torso toys made for you if your pledge is over £150 and as for £7500 over the goal… well, it’ll be a big jack-in-the-box surprise for you all 🙂
Downthetubes: When is the planned release and will you be doing any upcoming appearances or conventions?
Brett: After the campaign close on 1st June, we’ll be beavering away, slaving to get this new book done in a couple of months, probably sending them out to backers in September. I’ll be at London MCM near the end of May and the almighty Thought Bubble in November. There I’ll be with good friend and fellow writer of bears, Andy W Clift!
Downthetubes: Brett, thanks very much for your time talking to us.
This project is well worth a look and I found that the first volume was a really interesting and different type of project. Not for the young it twists our conceptions.
• You can find the Kickstarter for Torsobear 2 here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/bretturen/torsobear-volume-2-all-stitched-up
• You can find some more information about the book at www.torsobear.com
Many thanks for reading.