Shawn DePasquale is best known for his lettering work on a number of comic series, including 27 and Letter 44. Along with Sherard Jackson, the creator of Image's Semantic Lace, DePasquale recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of The Galaxy Girls, a digital sci-fi graphic novel. As of this morning, the Kickstarter has raised $1,754 of its $11,000 goal.
I spoke to DePasquale and Jackson via email about the project and careers:
Chrisitan Hoffer: How did the two of you meet and decide to collaborate on Galaxy Girls?
Shawn DePasquale: Sherard and I actually met about a million years ago at Megacon in Orlando, Florida. This was back in, jeez, like... 2001? Sherard, correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway I was at the con promoting the first self-published book I ever created with my collaborator and friend, David Kushner, and we met Sherard who was promoting his Image series, Semantic Lace. I moved out to LA five years ago and was pleasantly surprised to discover Sherard was here as well. I knew what he liked to draw and knew that Galaxy Girls had all of those elements so i pitched him the idea of working together.
Sherard Jackson: It was indeed Megacon, 2003. Fun times. Whoever schedules that con is either an evil genius or a perverted madman. Okay, picture it: the same weekend there's a comics convention, there is also a cheer leader convention. Sometimes the two intermix. Oh, for added goodness, there's a hot tub convention happening too! So.....yeah....
But anyway.., I moved to LA in 2011. Shawn contacted me shortly after I got there. At first I was a little apprehensive, since I've collaborated on only a small number of other projects. I usually write and draw my own. But, I loved the pitch, and I loved the characters. I saw this as a unique opportunity to just draw the epic space ship/sci-fi book I've always wanted to see.
Hoffer: What is the basic premise of The Galaxy Girls?
DePasquale: The Galaxy Girls is about two estranged sisters who are forced back together through a series of circumstances that ends with their ship, The Galaxy Girl, being taken by a wicked General in the Intergalactic Union. The sisters, along with the rest of their crew, embark on a mission that takes them all over this massive galaxy we call The Milky Way, pits them against strange alien races and eventually forces them to confront an ancient threat big enough to threaten the Universe. Sherard, anything to add?
Jackson: That about covers it (laughs)
Hoffer: Why did you decide to use an all-female cast in Galaxy Girls?
DePasquale: I have two answers to this question, but it begins with the origins of the idea. It started with a tattoo on the back of an ex-girlfriends thigh. The image depicted a cool space chick with a laser gun, and always reminded me of Barbarella.
Once I started writing and plotting, I realized Mallori Galaxy had a sister. I enjoy exploring the differences between siblings and how far you can pull them apart without breaking the "sibling tether" that binds them forever.
From the Galaxy sisters came the rest of the crew. I wanted a big, barbarian-type but didn't want to have some hulking dude step in everytime there was trouble so I created Vernita (the giant bird-lady). I wanted a doctor/inventor onboard but didn't want it to be a brilliant guy they all swooned over, so I went with a little girl, a female Doogie Howser. Finally, there was Dahlia, the sex-bot or PleasureDrone as we refer to her. The moment I knew I was writing sci-fi I wanted to write a robot, but the idea of her being built and initially programmed only as a mindless sex-toy only to then be taken in by our girls and reprogrammed to be whatever person she wanted, really excited me to dig into.
Hoffer: Do you feel there needs to be more female-centric comics available today?
DePasquale: Yes. This is, I guess, the third part to your previous question. I could've easily made this a book about guys in space doing guy things and getting girls and kick all kinds of ass, but haven't we seen that a billion times? And I could've mixed the crew and we could've had sexual tension between the characters, but we've also seen that. What we (well, me anyway) haven't seen is an all-female cast of smart, resourceful and powerful women. So I wrote what I wanted to read.
Jackson: Without a doubt. I've always preferred female protagonists over male. My last two graphic novels (Semantic Lace, Assembly) and web comic had female leads. They're more interesting to write and draw. With male protagonists you know exactly what you're getting: the story's goal-oriented, it's a mission. We've seen that in comics for 80+ years now. With female protagonists you get better opportunities for character-building.
The best thing about publishing comics now is you have more online venues for telling female-centric stories and fewer publishing obstacles. If you want to see those stories, they're out there for you to find.
Hoffer: One of the interesting things I noticed about this Kickstarter campaign is that you're only offering the completed comic in digital form. Why did you decide not to offer a print version of the comic?
DePasquale: Because it made our goal double and I REALLY want to hit the goal and make this book. I'm nervous enough about hitting our $11,000 number, so asking for $15,000 or $25,000 (which is what it would cost to print it in hardcover) just seemed like too big of a mountain to climb. If people like the book, the digital book, I will gladly make it available to print-on-demand. This is also why we built in the stretch goals from the beginning. We wanted to make it clear that, sure we would LOVE a printed book, but out goal right now is to just have a finished product.
Jackson: We want to do the print version. If/when we're fortunate enough to meet our stretch goals then a printed version will be the first thing we do. But most importantly, we want people to have access to the book. A physical copy in your hands is an added bonus, but not necessary to enjoy the story.
Hoffer: Shawn, you're best known as a letterer for a number of indie comics, including Letter 44 and 27. Why did you decide to become a letterer in the comic industry, and how did you get your start?
DePasquale: I love lettering! Although I never decided to become a letterer so much as I wanted to write and make comics, but when I got to the part where it looks like a comic book I realized, “oooooh someone does this? Crap.” So I bought some books and looked online and taught myself. Once I got good enough to letter my own books, and showed some other comic people, they asked me to letter some of their stuff.
Charles Soule, creator of Letter 44 and 27, is a very dear friend of mine. We also go way back to the early 2000's, both starting out in comics together. He's obviously gone on to become the king of all comic books and lawyering, but (great friend that he is) has stayed loyal to me as his letterer since day one.
Hoffer: Does your background in lettering impact how you write comic scripts at all?
DePasquale: It does. If I've learned anything from lettering A LOT of first-time writers it's that (and this will seem ironic based on the length of my answers so far) they overwrite everything. I know just from looking at the script if I've written too much for a panel or a page and cut back before I even send to the artist.
The other way it impacts my scripts is that I know I'll have another chance to edit dialogue when I letter, so I go easy on myself if I can't think up the perfect line because I'll have opportunity later when I have seen the final art and I'm lettering.
Hoffer: You also have experience working in Hollywood on the production end of various television shows. Has that influenced how you've organized the production of Galaxy Girls at all?
DePasquale: I suppose, although not much. Comics are a different beast. If working in TV has taught me anything it's how to craft a stronger story, how to pull more emotions out of scenes in a short period of time, and how to wrap a story up with the most satisfying emotional ending.
Hoffer: Sherard, you're an experienced comic book artist with both creator-owned and corporate titles under your belt. How does Galaxy Girls differ from other projects you've worked on?
DePasquale: IT'S THE BEST ONE OF ALL TIME... oh... this is for Sherard...
Jackson: Yeah! rein it in, man! (laughs)
I get to go completely apeshit with characters and settings!! When I draw grounded sci-fi work, I try to keep everything practical. Everything's meant to look cost-effective. With Galaxy Girls I get to toss that out the window! When I get to the point where I normally think "how would an organization afford a gun, ship, mech, headquarters this big?" I just say to hell with it and make it bigger and crazier!
Hoffer: Could you talk a little bit about your coloring process on Galaxy Girls? I really enjoyed the preview pages' coloring, especially the dragon monster thingy.
DePasquale: The Leviathan, is what we call him in the script, although I think Dragon Monster Thingy works better as a character name.
Jackson: Yeah, and the first twelve pages are SLOW compared to the rest of the story! It gets more and more insane as we go along.
Hoffer: Why did you decide to fund Galaxy Girls via a Kickstarter instead of going through a traditional publisher?
DePasquale: Indie comics is a tough racket, and we didn't want to wait around for years and years for a publisher to bite. We both work day jobs, and the most direct, fastest way to get the money we needed to make the book was Kickstarter. Once we have a complete graphic novel we plan on showing it to anyone who has interest, might just find a publisher yet.
Jackson: And we have complete control of our work.
DePasquale: That’s also nice.
Hoffer: What will the Kickstarter funds be used for?
DePasquale: The money is being raised to pay Sherard. I work a day job, so does he. I'm lucky in that I can write all the time: on the bus, at work, at home, at a coffee shop.. Sherard needs time and concentration to crank out these amazing images, the only way to provide him with that was to raise enough money to give him a decent page rate. This will free him up to take time off his day job.
Hence why we're only doing digital and not print. To print we would have had to add print costs to the $11,000 Sherard needs to leave work for two months.
Jackson: I'll be able to focus on only this project.
Hoffer: What sort of awards does the Kickstarter campaign offer?
DePasquale: For $10 you get a digital copy of the book. If 1,100 people pre-order a digital copy of 112 pages of space-madness for $10 bucks each we'll hit our goal. The idea was to make it affordable and simple for anyone to reserve a digital copy. From there we offer access to a donor-only website where you can see production images, read pages from the scripts, and follow along with the creation as the book in a weekly (ish) format, as Sherard will post the finished pages to the site as we progress.
Then we have some cool T-shirts that Sherard designed for Dr. Dot to wear in the book, but they were so funny and weird we thought it could be fun to offer them as potential rewards. From there we offer original art, custom sketches and printed copies of the 112 page final script signed and sketched on by Sherard and myself.
Jackson: So, Batman and Wolverine sketches for the big spenders! (laughs) just kidding.....or am I....?
DePasquale: We’ll do whatever if it helps get this book made and it doesn’t break state or federal laws.
Hoffer: Do either of you have any future projects you have in the pipeline?
DePasquale: A million things in the pipeline, nothing far along enough to tease, unfortunately. Although I will say one of the next projects Sherard and I would like to tackle together is a follow-up to his Semantic Lace series. That's something we've talked about a on lately.
Jackson: A Semantic Lace revival is definitely on the horizon. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I feel now the time is right.
I might need a co-writer for that :-)
DePasquale: Even in real life, Sherard’s smile is the above emoticon. Because he’s a robot. From space.