A few months back, I wrote a promo for The 4th Monkey. Recently, I chatted with the two of the organizers via email about how the anthology came to fruition and the creative minds behind it.
The 4th Monkey is an ambitious project. How did it start?
James E. Roche: It started, for me, with a message from Daniel telling me he wanted to put together an anthology featuring a bunch of other indie creators, and gear it towards issues that are near and dear to their hearts, in hopes to raise awareness towards those topics.
I immediately wanted to be a part of this. After conversing about it for weeks, fine-tuning and ironing out the kinks, we decided to partner up and work to make the book a reality. Countless restless days later, here we are, a month from the Kickstarter launch, Tuesday September 12th.
Daniel Farrand: The more I wrote, the more I found myself swaying towards writing stories based on issues that strong values on. Not only did I want to try and entertain through my writing, but I wanted to actually try to educate and raise awareness.
Comic books are read by millions of people each and every month. The concept behind The 4th Monkey was to use this platform to bring together a group of Indie creators who all feel the way I do. People who believe that through an entertaining, but informative, anthology we could give something positive back to the community we all love so dearly.
I first reached out to the creators, who had personally helped me on my own indie comics journey, to gauge a reaction. Every single creator I asked immediately, and without hesitation, signed up.
As the project grew, I knew that to produce the book I wanted. That's I'd need help. That's when I reached out to James E. Roche. He had shown such love for the project already, and was already somebody I admired in the indie comic world.
Comics are a great way of tackling real world issues, either directly (Marbles and the topic of depression) or indirectly (Saga a science fiction with a lot to say about war that startling reflects our current conflicts). Funny enough, my first experience with this was an anti-smoking PSA Marvel comic I got in middle school. Looking back at it, the book was ridiculous. I mean, you had Spider Man, Luke Cage, and Storm fighting this evil smoke villain that wanted to get college athletes hooked on cigarettes so he could rig gambling bets put on them and eventually save enough money to buy out all the rackets. It was really dumb.
But it seems like you guys have your sites more set on serious social issues. Do you want to tell us some of those issues? Also, how strongly do you feel toward these topics that you would want to put together a whole anthology about them?
James E. Roche: I think it's safe to say that anyone who reads the book, us included, can probably go down the current list of 8 stories and rate each one against the other on how strongly they feel about their subjects. Don't get me wrong, they're all important, but, based on your personal experiences, or how much you know about a particular subject, you might not be as interested in one stories topic as you might another. Our goal is to let the creators tell the stories that they want to tell, about the issues that they want to talk about.
Each of the 8 stories, dealing with both environmental and social issues, have a uniqueness to them, because they're coming from a place of importance to one or more of the creators involved.
"No Going Back", created by writer Brian Hawkins and artist Kristofor Harris, deals with suicide; a subject very near and dear to Kristofor's heart.
"The Scout", written by Madeleine Holly-Roising, deals with the issue of pesticides and their harmful effect on the bee population, which has been a concern of hers since childhood.
Thankfully, Russell Nohelty wrote a funny story, which lends some comedy relief, called, "Rats in the Kitchen"; a "Ren and Stimpy-esque" tale. It deals with political polarization, which Russell even says "may not be the most pressing matter we face as a world, but is the most annoying on a daily basis".
The other stories deal with poaching, online bullying, water pollution, mental abuse, and alcoholism.
I'll also add that, even though they may be tackling serious subjects, after reading the scripts and seeing the page one artwork it's clear that the creators involved are bringing their A game and telling some very entertaining stories in the process.
Daniel Farrand: For me, it was wanting to try and use the indie comics scene, that is full of such amazing people, to try and influence people for the better.
As a huge animal lover, I naturally gravitated towards an animal based story. In particular, the effect that poaching is having on some of the worlds most endangered species, some of which that are on the brink of extinction. Something I strongly believe that we need to open our eyes to, before it is too late.
The stand out story for me, or one of feel strongest about (aside my own). Is Rob Andersin's "Social Consequences" that delves into the world of online trolls and their accountability for their actions. Something we have seen making headlines recently.
Agreed on the Internet troll thing, particularly when guys like Milo Yiannopolus were making a living off of abuse until it backfired on him recently. Anyway, let's talk about the creators. How did you assemble everyone on the project?
Daniel Ferrand: Assemble?? Does that make me an Indie Nick Fury? Lol.
The honest answer is that I messaged the highest profile indie creators I was friends with. I knew that to make this a successful and hopefully an annual occurrence, we had to pull some big names.
Thankfully every single writer that I pitched the concept to immediately agreed, and fell in love with the premise.
After we had the writers on board, we had to tackle the artists. To do this, I simply asked each writer who their #1 choice to work with would be (within reason). Once I had a list of names, some real top artists, I pitched the concept to each one, letting them know that they had been specifically requested. Again, we were extremely blessedin the fact that 100% of artists agreed to work on the project.
What made you interested in inviting these creators beyond personal relationships? What about their work seemed like they would be a good fit?
Daniel Ferrand: I was necessarily judging each creator by their past body of work. I'd seen and read their work prior and knew they were all exceptional in their fields.
The main thing I was looking for was their belief in the project. I wanted to work with creators who believed in the premise of "The 4th Monkey" and believed that we could raise genuine awareness around tough issues, and hopefully promote change.
I wanted to have organic passion from creators, I believe this is when anybody's best work is produced. Father than force governed by financial or promotional gain.
One thing important to me in an anthology is to have a strong sense of central theme while making sure each entry is unique. Looking at the comics in The 4th Monkey so far, there is a wide range of art styles and stories. You guys even have a superhero story. Was diversity of content important to you with this anthology? What did you expect from each entry in terms of quality?
James E. Roche: Diverse content is something I feel is key to an anthology. We all know art is subjective, my favorite style may not be anywhere close to the next persons, so if there's a little artwork in the book for everyone it's a win-win.
Even though the greater goal of The 4th Monkey is to bring certain causes to light, the best way to a persons heart is through a compelling story. The different art and writing styles are going to be the key to getting their messages across and making each story unique.
How do you think these unique art and writing styles contribute to their subjects? How does the rat's in kitchen story for example play on its metaphor of polarizing politics?
James E. Roche: I'll use my story, "Dark Waters", which I wrote specifically with Hus Ozkan in mind as the artist, as an example. This is something I've never done before, but Hus' fantastic use of darkness and heavy blacks in his inks made me really want to work with him for a while now and I'm proud that this is the story we get to collaborate on.
"Dark Waters" is about the pollution of our oceans. There are thousands of ways to go about telling a story like this, but I decided to focus more specifically on illegal off-shore dumping, it's decimation of fish populations, and it's destruction of fishing villages around the world. I did this in part to be able to write scenes that incorporated a lot of black and white (things like oily sludge mixing in with crystal clear waters, the bright white moon in the dark sky and it's reflection in the dark waters below) to allow Hus to do his magic. I was even leaning towards keeping the story in black and white but after discussing it with Hus, and after he threw his mesmerizing colors on top of the first page, I knew that'd add a whole other layer to the work.
Daniel Farrand: You'll have to wait and see ;)
It seems you guys are off to a god start gaining interest in this project. You have both a Facebook page and a Kickstarter campaign coming soon on September 12th. What is it about social media that you think gives opportunities fro projects like The 4th Monkey to exist?
James E. Roche: It's social media! Everyone is on it. At the end of the day all you can really do is put all of your effort into making something that you yourself would want to read and hope it's something others might dig as well.
Daniel Farrand: Social media allows us access to a wealth of incredible talent in which to build the 4th Monkey project from. Without it, I would never have been able to assemble such an incredible team.
Excellent, guys. So, tell us a little about the Kickstarter campaign. When does it start? What's the goal? What are you offering contributors?
James E. Roche: The campaign launches on Tuesday, September 12th. Daniel and I have invested our own money into a lot of the artwork you'll see at launch, hoping to show potential backers that we're truly invested into seeing this project brought to life. Our goal is to go ahead and raise enough money to complete the artwork and for a print run for the approximately 100 page book. The print run will be done to get books into the hands of the backers, as well as all of the creators involved.
Aside from rewards like digital and physical copies of the book, contributors can get original pages to some of the stories, commissions from the featured artists, and original pinup work from other guest artists - just to name a few.
Amazing! In the meantime, want comics by the various talent do you recommend readers check out?
James E. Roche: Check out I:RL Persona by Shaun Barrow! It's a fun, action packed web comic I enjoy a lot! Also check out Boston Metaphysical written by Madeleine Holly Rosing. It's fantastic.
Daniel Farrand: I have to give a huge shout out to, fellow Brit, Joey Oliveira and his Ghost Island series. Issue #2 has just been released too!!! So check it out... If you dare ;).
The 4th Monkey Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/The4thMonkeyComic/
James E. Roche's Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamesERoche
Daniel Farrand: https://twitter.com/DanielFarrand01