Hi James, so BartKira (or Barkira in Japanese), Black Hook Press first got to know about Bartkira when we interviewed The Zoom, he said he was working with other illustrators on the project. Who’s in on the project ? I’ve not counted, but there’s well over 500 artists getting involved. It’s a good mix- there’s people who’ve never made a comic book before sitting alongside professional artists, like Eisner-Award winner Cameron Stewart. There are artists who I consider my peers whose work I’ve admired forever, like Shmorky Kay, Kristina Collantes, Jane Mai, and Rockstar Games’ Roxanne Vizcarra. But there’s also incredible artists who disappeared off the map a long time ago and don’t have an internet presence, yet who kind of came out of the woodwork to get involved in this- like Bodie Chewning, or Franz Boukas who used to make incredible comics with Rebecca Sugar.
People who never thought they’d make comics on this scale are being given the opportunity to get involved in something huge and exciting. I have a feeling that so many of the people who’re making some kind of comics debut with Bartkira are going to go on to do incredible work. I want this to be a catalyst that inspires young artists to do ambitious, exciting work and break out of the current webcomics mold. I wish every artist here had a whole graphic novel I could read.
That’s a lot of people to reign in. Who’s responsible for co-ordinating the creation of Bartkira ? I am. I check the Bartkira email address once a week. I set it up to be very simple- the rules and methods of submission are all very clearly delineated, so once I’d planted the seed in people’s mind, the project kind of grew without me having to be involved in a very hands-on way. That’s good, because it means Bartkira can happen while I work on my own comics projects.
I have been pretty hands-on with the project, all the same. I’ve mostly let people do whatever, but I’ve occasionally asked for little changes- mostly to preserve the tone and pacing of the original book, which I want Bartkira to be faithful to as much as possible.
So how did the idea for Bartkira come about and how did you get people to come on board ? Pretty simple- I saw Ryan Humphries’ brilliant original Bartkira drawings and I realised that this could probably be a huge thing. I’ve managed community projects of this scale before just using my own drawings (like my whole ‘Choose A Cat, Draw A Girl’ thing a few years back) so I was confident I’d get enough people involved in this to make at least one volume of Akira. It was just a matter of asking Ryan if he could pass the ball, and then running with it.
As soon as I announced it on my tumblr, it exploded. I tried not to be too in-people’s-faces with how I promoted it- I think when you’re using two massively established properties like The Simpsons and Akira, the promotion takes care of itself.
What sort of time frame is involved for this sort of large project ? Lessee... about two months? 5 pages each isn’t a huge ask in terms of people’s time, but I wanted people to be able to fit the project in around their own schedules.
I hear from a good source that you have the seal of approval for Bartika from the Akira camp, can you tell us who has given the green light and how that came about... I’m not able to comment on this at this time (!)
And what has the response been from The Simpsons camp ? Zip. I’m trying to reach out to Matt, but I hear he’s pretty good at making himself hard to find. At the very least I’m glad no-one at Fox has managed to shut us down.
When can fans see the results of all this hard work ? Right now, you can look at the Bartkira tumblr tag to see what people are doing. http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/bartkira. Once all the submissions are in, the whole project will be released as a single torrent file. There’s a lot of demand for an official Bartkira website, but I’m much keener to keep the whole thing underground and off the radar. I don’t doubt, however, that the project will show up on ‘read manga online’ sites like MangaTraders.
Once the project is completed what are your plans ? I’m currently working on a project with Joe Keatinge, Sloane Leong and Kristina Collantes for Image Comics (scoop!) and I’m making tremendous progress on my own comic Zygote, which will eventually be published by Blank Slate. And of course the Japanese translation of Masterplasty by Black Hook Press.