Interview: Kevin LaPorte on Small Press Comics in the South, Roadkill and Successfully Running Kickstarter Campaigns
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by LOLtron » Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:26 am
The Outhouse speaks to Kevin LaPorte about his small press publishing house Inverse Press, his ongoing series Roadkill du Jour, and his successful Kickstarter campaign management.
Kevin LaPorte is one of the two founders of Inverse Press, an Alabama based comics publisher. Inverse Press's books tilt towards the weird and dark, with a little bit of subversive Southern humor mixed in. LaPorte has been involved with a number of Kickstarter campaigns in connection with Inverse Press, including a recently started Kickstarter for the third issue of Roadkill du Jour, a horror series that mixes motorcycle gangs, voodoo magic and Southern folklore.
We recently spoke with LaPorte about Roadkill du Jour, its origins and inspirations and his success in running Kickstarter campaigns. His current Kickstarter campaign, which will fund the third issue of Roadkill du Jour can be found here.
Christian Hoffer: This Kickstarter campaign is for the third issue of Roadkill du Jour. For readers unfamiliar with the book, what's the basic premise of the comic?
Kevin LaPorte: Roadkill du Jour is the story of the last survivor of a decimated biker gang who has been cursed to eat nothing but roadkill ‘til the end of his days. Strangely, each animal he consumes lends him their physical attributes for at time after they’re eaten. So far, armadillo armor and vulture wings have graced his body after indulging in street pizza. He is on a mission to rebuild his gang, lift that disgusting curse and get revenge against the rival gang’s witch, the one who put the hex on him!
In the first two issues (currently available in digital or print form at http://www.inversepress.com), we’ve seen this biker (duJour is his name) survive everything the witch Mama Houdoo can throw at him as he sought out the misfits that now make up his Roadkill Motorcycle Club. He’s survived giant, possessed alligators, soul-stealing owls and even a tussle with an anthropomorphic catfish that has ultimately become a close ally. As we open issue 3, duJour and his reformed gang are on the road to Mama’s lair…
Hoffer: What sort of reception has Roadkill du Jour and Inverse Press received from comics press and retailers? Have local stores been eager to pick up a locally made comic like Roadkill du Jour?
LaPorte: I'm pleased to say that there have been a number of reviews of Roadkill du Jour issues 1 and 2, and they've been overwhelmingly positive! It's always cool to me for a thoughtful reviewer to not only enjoy the story but to pick up on themes or subplots that go beyond the surface, and we were lucky enough that most of the folks who gave their time to read and review this book have done so. I can't adequately relate just how gratifying it is to have critical readers both enjoy and "get" my story on levels that, in one or two cases, I'd not even consciously considered. For anyone who's interested, I've posted a full listing of reviews of Roadkill du Jour (thus far...) as Update #2 on the Kickstarter page (http://kck.st/1kQFYmi), so check'em out. There have been critical trends across those reviews, and they're worth noting - primarily the heavy dialect I employ with some characters and the fast pace of the story that introduces new characters abruptly in some cases. While those are stylistic choices on my part as the writer, I've definitely taken the criticism into account in work I've produced since.
As for retailers, MOST comic shop owners are simply reluctant to even consider an indie book for their stores. That's a harsh, but common, reality. However, in cases where I've been fortunate enough to arrange a meeting and actually let them see our books, hear my pitch for each and enjoy the art as they flip through the pages, they almost always decide to carry the books. The Inverse Press retailer network is small but growing. Our local comic shops - FOS Comics and 99 Issues - have been remarkably supportive. Each shop keeps Roadkill du Jour in stock, as well as our other Inverse Press titles - Flesh of White (by Erica Heflin and Amanda Rachels) and Last Ride for Horsemen (by myself, Nathan Smith and Gavin Michelli). They've brought me in to promote the book with signings or during special events of their own, as well. I honestly can't say enough positive about how these two stores have interwoven their businesses with the comic community at large in the Mobile, Alabama area, including the creative aspect of that community. They've made a lot of what we've done possible.
Hoffer: Do you plan on introducing any more characters to the gang as the series moves on?
Hoffer: You mentioned that Roadkill du Jour has a mainly male fanbase. Do you feel that the book has appeal for female readers as well? Would you like to grow Inverse Press's readership to include more female readers?
LaPorte: Sure, you mentioned the diversity of the cast earlier, and we want our reader base for Roadkill du Jour to be just as diverse. My observation is simply that mostly males (and a diverse group of them...) respond quickly to the cover art and the concept/pitch. As for Inverse Press as a whole, I think there is a strong and burgeoning female reader base, particularly for Erica and Amanda's Flesh of White and for the coulrophobia-inducing Clown Town graphic novel Amanda and I completed a few years ago (available now on comiXology...ahem). I definitely don't want to overstate any demographics of our readership, as what I'm saying is purely limited to data collected by direct eyesight. The nature of indie comics is that you put the books out as far and wide as possible, and you're really never quite sure who's doing the buying, as there are few realistic options for sales analysis.
Hoffer: What's the most bizarre roadkill find you've ever experienced?
LaPorte: I worked for 16 years at a psychiatric hospital that was seriously housed in a 19th century facility that was once a Confederate arsenal (there were modern buildings for treatment and housing purposes...), and it was located 30+ miles north of Mobile, which meant logging lots of drive time through the woods over many, many days. So, I saw lots of weird roadkill, but the MOST bizarre was a 10+ foot alligator that had obviously been hit a few times by 18-wheelers, as there was enough red and green splattered across the road to color Christmas for a few years to come. Then, there was that time Amanda and I were driving back from Albuquerque and came across what had to be a large porcupine flattened in the road. Looked like a giant, meat-pink sea anemone...
Hoffer: How does Magnolia Springs, Alabama, where you currently live, and the deep South factor into the writing of the book? Do you feel that the deep South has been accurately portrayed in other comics and media?
Hoffer: What's it like being a local comics creator from a small town in the South? Is Inverse Press something you're locally known for?
LaPorte: Although I live in Fairhope, just 30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, we're really part of the larger Mobile metro area, which is surprisingly large, population-wise, and inclusive of Biloxi, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida. It's not all that small, really, but being a comics creator here can make you feel like it is. There are surprisingly few of us making comics down here, but, now that social media and local events have put us all in contact, it's a thriving culture. We get solid local coverage from the local newspaper/news website, and the local arts councils take us seriously. So, yeah, I'm "that comic guy" now around here, and it's usually the first thing folks ask me about when I run into them. I enjoy that, and so do all the ridiculously talented collaborators I'm fortunate enough to work with.
Hoffer: Since this interview is being conducted via email, I have to ask, just how thick is your Southern accent?
LaPorte: Honestly, I don't have much of an accent, which makes me unique among my immediate family. Ever since I was a teenager, locals would ask me where I'm from. I don't know to what I should attribute my minimal accent, as it's not something I consciously modified. However, whenever I travel north, people quickly identify me as a Southerner and remind me there's some little bit of twang in here somewhere. Or maybe it's just the constant requests for sweet tea...
Written or Contributed by ThanosCopter
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