Kickin’ it with Patrick Gerard – Ungrounded
4cr: Hi, Patrick! Welcome to today’s Kickin’ it with. Could you give our readers a bit more info about yourself?
Well, I’m a student working on my second Master’s degree fulltime. I have a background as a writer, performer, director, and performance storyteller. I’ve had a mix of work history between marketing, artistic residencies, offices, restaurants, and unloading a truck. Through it all though, I suppose you could say I’ve always brought my own weird perspective to whatever I did.
I’ve always enjoyed working as a writer, whether in fiction or journalism, but I find the business side of things pretty fascinating as well. I trained myself to work with print and design while splitting time between working as an academic research assistant, student, and actor, though that was handy knowledge to have for magazine work I wound up doing later.
Some of the most enjoyable but most stressful work I’ve done was with telling fairy tales to children at performance events. That meant telling the stories in an unscripted fashion — no book in hand or memorized dialog. I think that taught me a lot of interesting lessons about the rhythm and pacing of stories while also encouraging me to experiment pretty wildly with story structure. Kids can be demanding and get in your face in ways I’m not used to seeing in film or theater. It’s a rush!
4cr: You’ve recently launched your second campaign on Kickstarter, and this time you’re focusing on publishing Ungrounded in a new Hardcover edition. What can you tell us about Ungrounded?
Ungrounded grew out of a book I was putting together back in 2006 which I called Inlaws & Outlaws. I&O was a book I tried pitching Image and several others on but I was fairly new to the production techniques of assembling a comic and 5 pages ended up costing me a year’s savings.
I’d been invited to pitch for several companies before that, going back to around 2002. I pitched work to CrossGen, Mirage, and Marvel… but the bulk of my focus was on DC Comics. Responses were slow and I was generally thankful to get a rejection. I did get my name in the credits of a Superman comic (Superman v. 2 #178) when I suggested a storyline idea that got adapted by Jeph Loeb for that issue. I was fairly chatty with a lot of professionals online and think that separate conversations I had with a few people probably wound up getting pieced together to form Infinite Crisis. You can probably blame me for Superboy-Prime being a villain (and for the direction they took his personality).
I was tired of nothing going anywhere though and I honestly ran out of money trying to develop Inlaws & Outlaws, which featured a somewhat different version of our magnetic hero, Mr. Solenoid. In that, he was an aging hero whose daughter was marrying the son of his arch enemy. I had some of the early concepts there like the multi-colored gorilla henchmen.
I was challenged to rework my ideas a few years later and really started thinking about re-making the idea of the super-hero. Nor deconstructing. Not simple nostalgia. But doing something weird and different, cramming ideas into every page. I felt like All-Star Superman and Nextwave both hinted at a different way of doing these stories and I wanted to shoot in that general direction.
The flying polar bear, Ulysses, was one of the last concepts to come along, probably from a mix of playing games like World of Warcraft and trying to brainstorm a new silhouette for a super-hero. I think every good hero has a unique silhouette. Batman has his ears. Thor has his hammer. You can recognize Superman or Spider-man by their outline. I thought a hero riding a bear seemed fresh and if that hero had magnetic powers like Mr. Solenoid, a POLAR bear was too good of a pun to pass up.
4cr: What is different between the softcover and the hardcover versions for Ungrounded?
Well, I’m very happy with how the softcover turned out but I really wanted something on thicker paper with a nicer printing process. Bolder colors.
That’s the initial inspiration.
The other is that Art Thibert’s availability opened up. I had hoped to get him for the original cover but he was too busy working on literally something like three or four books a month for DC. I managed to catch him just before he started work on their new big weekly book, Future’s End.
Art’s a legendary inker in comics. He’s worked with Jim Lee, Art Adams, almost every one who was big in the 90s. He’s also a talented penciller with a range of styles. He did an issue of X-Men during Jim Lee’s run that I think a lot of kids at the time assumed that Lee drew. He launched Cable’s ongoing series as the artist and had an early Image book called Black & White. More recently, he wrote and drew an original creation of his called Chronomechanics, illustrated in a very delightfully cartoony style.
Art did a lovely cover for Ungrounded and I felt that rolling it out calls for an extra special presentation. I wanted a higher quality printing. I had people actually asking me to do a hardcover during the original Kickstarter and everything seemed to align towards giving this a shot.
4cr: Since the campaign has been doing well, have you given any thought to potential stretch goals to make this book even better?
The first thing I can tell you is that some of the nice printing options out there like UV laminate and glossy paper are hard to get at an affordable price on small printing orders. So if we’re extremely successful, I plan to order enough copies from a printer I’ve been in touch with to get the book on a much nicer paper stock.
I haven’t ruled out the possibility of adding some extra pages to the book along the way however, which could include some things like our interior artist Eryck Webb’s character designs, my character designs, artwork from the original Inlaws & Outlaws comic ashcan. I have supporting material there but, honestly, doing the math involved in the printing cost increases of more pages takes some finesse. I’d have to see where we’re going.
I also don’t want to get too complicated with stretch goals because my intent is to have this book at the printer the day after the campaign ends. That way I can inspect the hardcover and try to get the full run ordered almost immediately, to get these into backers hands ASAP.
4cr: Are any of the original art pages from Ungrounded available in any of the reward tiers for this campaign?
Eryck Webb, who did the bulk of the art, works almost entirely digitally. For a lot of the book, there is no actual original art and I’d advise any fans of his to check him out at Eryck Webb Graphics for a digital commission.
I do have a pin-up page by an artist named Jim Ritchey available at one tier. Jim’s an old friend. He did The Green Lama at AC Comics and was an artist at Eclipse back in the day. As he likes to point out, he’s one of the few American artists to draw a Miracleman appearance in a comic. (He worked on Eclipse’s company crossover Total Eclipse, which had Miracleman teamed with the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters, and a number of oddball comics characters.)
He was someone who was in line to work on Ungrounded at one point before Eryck came along but it wasn’t the right fit at the time. He was happy to work on a pin-up for the book though and that art is up for grabs in this campaign.
4cr: Will the books be signed or unsigned?
It various based on the reward tier whether the book is signed or not. My goal is to get this printed and out the door quickly. You wouldn’t think signing would take as much time or be as costly as it is but I have a metallic ink I like to work with that takes some time to dry on a glossy cover. So in general, to cover for the time involved, I mostly sign the higher reward tiers.
It would be nice if we could get every collaborator’s signature but the reality is, we’re so scattered around, getting one book signed by everyone would involve enough shipping to circle the planet several times over. I think about half of us will be at Comic-Con this year for various reasons but I doubt there will ever be an occasion where everyone who contributed work to the book is ever in the same room at the same time.
4cr: How did the Barenaked Ladies cameo end up happening?
This was something I had hoped to do more with prior to the first Kickstarter.
I have been a fan of the band since I was a teenager. I was VERY into their work. I used to collect all the different live albums, even from the same tour. I knew they were fans of the Fantastic Four. Sir Paul McCartney is a fan of the Barenaked Ladies. Paul McCartney appeared in a Fantastic Four comic back in the 60s. The whole thing made a weird kind of associative sense to me, especially since they write songs that have played with the imagery of northern lights and I knew that the arctic and northern lights were a big part of my book’s visual iconography.
I contacted Kevin Hearn from the band about a cameo I had in mind before the first Kickstarter ever happened. I never heard back so I wrote them out of the book. Months later, after the Kickstarter was successful and while Eryck was working on the book, Kevin Hearn got back to me. He found my request in his junk mail folder and he wanted in. This led to some quick rewrites.
I coordinated a few things with him and their agent. As I understand it, Ed Robertson (the band’s lead guitarist — and, I believe, the man responsible for the band’s Aquaman and Fantastic Four references in their music) was very excited about appearing. I like to think that they were sitting around waiting for someone to ask them to appear in a comic book and I just happened to be the first person to pick up the phone and make the offer.
4cr: Thanks for your time. Care to add anything else before we sign off?
I think that about covers it! Thank you!