@’s by Marc Silvestri
on the CYBER FORCE Kickstarter!!!
A bold move that has set industry heads turning, not only do Top Cow intend to put CYBER FORCE #1-5 in the hand of fans for free, they will also make digital copies available via torrent sites and online. With just days left for fans to contribute and pledge for some amazing rewards, Russ Sheath spoke to Marc Silvestri about the KickStarter project and as his creative vision for the re-imagining of the book that put CYBER FORCE and Top Cow on the map.
RUSS SHEATH (RS): Marc, you are, at this time, 11.5k over your original target of 75k with 5 days to go, can folk still participate in the Kick Starter?
MARC SILVESTRI (MS): Yes! People can still contribute and for a certain amount of dollars you get a good amount of swag. They can head over to their KickStarter page and take a look.
RS: What have been the biggest successes with regards to the rewards?
MS: People really want hardcovers and for a certain amount you get the Cyber Force hardcover which is specific for this Kick Starter campaign. There’s exclusivity and there’s value, thats been our sweet spot.
We also have coming out, to add to the rewards, some more personal stuff from me. More artwork, some covers and a big ticket item which is a trip to Disney Land, a cover and the chance to hang out with us. I’m also going to do a portrait of them, a loved one or a pet, they can even be one of our Top Cow characters. We also have a few store signings so retailers can be a part of it.
We are going to fine tune it this last week and do a few things to juice it up including some more exclusives that won’t be available anywhere else. Some personal stuff from me like an Iphone case that I’ll draw on, that will be one of a kind for the person that gets it.
RS: Tell us about the idea for the Kick Starter? Was it tough to get going?
MS: Our buddy Paul Jenkins just had some success with Kick Starter and his project Fairy Quest so we were able to tap his brain a little bit and also, the Kick Starter people for anyone who wants to do it, are really, really helpful. They want to see you succeed which is refreshing, they want to help and they go, “you know what, that’s kinda cool but we recommend that you do ‘this’ because we’ve seen XYZ happen before”.
We were like, “oh, ok, cool, thanks”! Because we might have done something and screwed it up. They are really cool because your project is interesting to them and not everybody gets accepted I’d imagine, I don’t know the exact policy but I am sure a lot of projects come their way and they go ‘you know, people aren’t going to buy into it’.
The process was really straightforward. Simple’s not the right term, but the interface between the Kick Starter and us was really pretty smooth.
So, we had a pretty good idea, Filip Sablik, Matt Hawkins and I when we were hatching this whole thing, we thought ok, how much do we need to at least help us out with this thing? So here’s a number, which is $75.000 and if we don’t make $5000 in the first three days, we’re screwed! You get that first hit of interest because there’s a lot of anticipation going in and people knew about CYBER FORCE and Kick Starter because it was commercial.
The big kicker for us always was that it was free, that was the thing. Thats the whole reason we did the Kick Starter and its the whole reason we were able to legitimize the project in people’s eyes. It’s like “Oh, you aren’t just using our money to fund your shit, but you are going to put the book out there for free and you are going to do it digitally and in hard copy’.
We had a good idea we were going to make that $75.000 once we had that first 24 hours where our goal was twenty grand and I think we we hit that twenty grand with 20 minutes to spare.
RS: Was CYBER FORCE the catalyst that led to the Kick Starter or was the Kick Stater the origin of the project?
MS: We’ve been wanting to relaunch CYBER FORCE for a long time and I mean ‘really’ re-launch it. We re-booted the Top Cow universe with ARTIFACTS so we had the perfect excuse and it was the 20th anniversary of Top Cow and Image and our first book was CYBER FORCE.
I’ve always loved CYBER FORCE, but I didn’t really care for the comic that we published originally. My apologies to the fans out there who loved that book, but it was never really what I wanted it to be. This was the perfect opportunity!
I was like, I’ll write the thing! I’ll sit and with Matt Hawkins will create the opportunity to re-launch this universe in a way that makes more sense and has nothing to do with mutants. We wanted to separate ourselves from that whole thing because some other company has the market on mutants! 20 years ago we had the excuse of 'I used to draw X-Men' but I decided not to do that anymore. This is a total - and I hate that Hollywood term of re-imagining - but it is a re-imagining. We’ve got some of the same characters and the original concept of who Cyber Force is and who the nefarious people behind Cyber Data are but now its much more real world and its much more grounded.
The technology and some of the ideas ramp it up. You aren’t going to see blue people running around or a guy with antlers called Warbuk. You don’t see any of that stuff. This is more more character driven and absolutely more up to date and more topical, this version of Cyber Force is more topical than it could ever have been 20 years ago because now we are keying on how social media and technology affects society which, 20 years ago, it didn’t.
The only thing technology did 20 years ago was it got you there faster. Your car got you there faster, your microwave cooked your food faster but there was no exchange of data that was faster, 20 years ago. Everything has changed in the past 15 years!
Now, in this brave new world the themes of CYBER FORCE and technology run amok are incredibly relevant. You only have to look around and see that without us technology could not exist but on the other hand, without technology we could not exist.
You know, lives are destroyed in 140 characters! Careers are destroyed in a quick tweet. When could you have done that before? It would have taken a huge news organization months and months of hard, nefarious work to do a character assassination of somebody. Now a person can do it themselves in 30 seconds. So now we’ve got this vicious cycle that we’ve created and Cyber Force explores that dichotomy.
This is literally the first time in the history of our world that our intelligence as a species is outpacing our ability to adapt and to evolve. We have moved farther and faster in the past 100 years than we have in tens of thousands of years. So, thats the big idea.
The goal here is to really keep people off balance. I hate predictability so when people think we are going to turn right, we’re going to turn left. And, when we are going for the left turn and the g-forces are sending you that way, we’re going take a hard right.
RS: You mention that the original incarnation of CYBER FORCE wasn’t how you had envisioned it, have you had this vision of CYBER FORCE since those days and what stopped you from going with your original vision, 20 years ago?
MS: 20 years ago, I always wanted it to be more sci-fi than super heroes and mutants. My brother came in and I deferred a lot to him and what he wanted to write in CYBER FORCE. I look back on it now and think a lot of that stuff was kinda silly and not what I wanted to do. With the re-boot we are getting rid of the whole mutant aspect of it. Cyber Force exist because they need to and that’s not because they are heroes, I don’t want to say anything more because I’ll give too much away.
Cyber Data and the villains that run Cyber Data, what they are doing in their own, twisted way is they think they are doing the right thing and that the only way our species is going to survive is if they continue doing what they are doing. So we are going to have some fun with that.
RS: What is it that you love about CYBER FORCE?
MS: I’m a sci-fi fan.
Sci-fi and horror fantasy are the things I grew up on. The best sci-fi and the best fantasy, all that stuff is rooted in the human condition, otherwise the big concept doesn’t mean anything. All the best sci-fi movies or books that you’ve read, have, at its core ‘whats going to happen to this human character?
RS: What is it they did to get themselves into this situation and how are they going to get out of it, using their humanity?
MS: If you look at Frankenstein and how enduring it is, it hits us on so many base levels. Eternal life, playing god by creating life, being in control of life...what is Frankenstein if not the ultimate fantasy in control? If you think about it, I am creating life! What's more controlling than that? Also, what is more horrifying than that, when you think about it! How playing god and trying to make things better, will always make things worse, I get to play with in Cyber Force.
Also, our need to be convenienced and our need to make things easier for us is what drives our technology. Its what drives everything! Steve Jobs knew that, it's why the IPhone rocks. It's about convenience and interface. So, what happens to a society if you keep doing that?
A lot of the good in us is defined by how much we work and how much we put into each other and how much we put into the world around us. Now, if generation after generation is having the effort removed, what’s going to happen?
If this is the generation of entitlement, what’s the next one going to be? Entitlement is being driven by technology and because Cyber Force is what it is, we can play with all kinds of sci-fi stuff and all kinds of horror.
If you see any of the artwork, I want to have that mixture of beautiful and horrifying at the same time and this attractive loveliness that this melding of man and machine is. CYBER FORCE is probably the culmination of all the characters I’ve created and books I’ve worked on over the past 20 years. There’s elements of Hunter-Killer, elements of the DARKNESS, elements of WITCHBLADE and obviously the original CYBER FORCE that I can draw from. All those themes fit into CYBER FORCE.
RS: Speaking of artwork, tell us Koi Pham, your artist on CYBER FORCE?
MS: We had been looking for a while and originally I was going to have Kenneth Rocafort do this. It was a project I was going to tailor make for his skills and he would have done a great job but he went over to DC. I realized that CYBER FORCE has this world that’s going to look really cool but the key is going to be in the characters, so, I need somebody that can draw character and that can draw people ‘acting’.
I was looking around and trying to find somebody new, finding untapped talent has always been Top Cow’s thing and I was on Facebook and came across Koi. He had posted one of his drawings so I clicked on what he had posted and was looking at his quick sketches and character stuff and there was a lot of energy and emotion. I was like 'ok, here’s something and here’s a possibility' so I messaged him.
We had never met so we got ahold of each other on the phone and I pitched him and he was really into it. I wanted someone who was really good at drawing ordinary people and this first five issues is the origin of Cyber Force, Cyber Force doesn’t exist yet. Those first five issues you will see the title but this is the origin of Cyber Force and the formation of Cyber Force.
The world we are going to see is kind of split between the world we aren’t allowed to see which is the world of Cyber Data and our everyday world which we are allowed to see. I use those terms literally because Cyber Data allows us to see what they want us to see.
Because the book is rooted in the world that we know I needed someone who could draw people and not just super heroes but someone who could also pick up the design aesthetic that I’d been developing. Fortunately, Koi said “I dig it. lets go”!!! So, Koi, combined with Sunny Gho on colors, who I think is an absolute genius, and the book looks great. Both Matt and I love what he’s been sending us.
RS: I heard you are contributing some story pages?
MS: My backup pages will be in each issue and will tell stories of the world of Cyber Force which will enhance the experience. They are only going to be available in the print version, so if you want to see these other stories that will have a huge impact on what you see, they will only be in the printed version of the comic.
That way you will have to go into the comic shop. It would be a disservice to fans if I were to draw the whole book. There are stories I want to tell, but there are a lot of other things I have to do in my life so I don’t want to screw people up who want that book every month. I don’t want to screw up Top Cow, I don’t want to screw up the fans or the retailers and if I did that book, I would screw it up.
It would be late, I know that about myself and I don’t want to promise something I’m not going to deliver. I would love to draw the whole thing but I know my limitations, but I’m doing the design work, the covers and these few interior pages for each issue.
I love to draw, even with all the other stuff that we’ve done and continue to do, at my core I’m an artist, it’s what I do. At 2am in the morning when I’m at my drawing table I’m in my zone but I can’t handle the stress of a deadline anymore and I’m not going to do anyone any favors by doing so.
RS: How would you like to see the whole project impact Top Cow and the industry?
MS: The Top Cow questions easy, I want to see it work. With Top Cow and with Image right now we are kind of experiencing this renascence which people will start to see. I think its going to get a lot of attention and has all eyes on it. All those eyeballs will translate into ‘what else do these guys do’?
The blue sky scenario for Top Cow is that it gives us the attention that we want, it keeps us in business and we keep doing stuff. We will make a deal with the fans that if you give us your hard earned cash then we will give you are hard earned ideas and creations, we won’t short shift you.
People seem to be buying into it and the people who aren’t buying into it with their cash are buying into the idea of owning a monthly, free comic book. I guarantee you, all publishers are looking at this right now.
RS: Is this something you could see happening again at Top Cow?
MS: Matt and I have had those discussions. Is this a paradigm that would be repeated? Maybe!
Is it something we are talking about? Absolutely!
There’s gotta be reasons for it and if our internal paradigm becomes that we launch books for free, then that's something we may do. We want to hear back from the fans, we want to hear back from the retailers and the community as a whole, critics and journalists. Give us some feedback, did you like it? Did it piss you off? Do you want to see it again?
This is a fun, interactive community thing, you get to be part of the comic book. Even people who are reading it for free are contributing after the fact. It’s been great, it’s been fun, we are humbled and appreciative and we are going to deliver. For people who haven’t checked out the updates, go onboard and have a look. The more we get the more we can do, everything we is going to be for CYBER FORCE.
For Retailers we can give bigger discounts and things like that and It would be great to give these books away to under privileged kids and public libraries, if people keep contributing, we can do stuff like that. It would be great if they jump on and if they have a dollar, pledge a dollar. You start to get something in return past ten bucks if I’m not mistaken. Be part of it!
Here’s something you can be part of in comics. If you are donating something to this, you are literally part of Cyber Force existing, that’s gotta mean something to people!
RS: Many thanks to Marc for taking part in this piece. There are only a few more days left for this Kickstarter. Head over to their KickStarter pageto see how you can participate.
Follow Marc on Twitter @marc_silvestri and Top Cow @Topcow
You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and on Twitter here.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G