Of Cats and Lizards:

An Interview with Jason Brubaker—Creator of reMIND

Comixology has defined part of its business model by giving away first issues of on-going series and samples of other comics as a means of catching reader’s attention and hooking their interest for the long-term. Back in January of 2013, creator Jason Brubaker made a splash throughout social media by offering his entire first volume of his self-published graphic novel, reMIND, for free on through the online platform. It was through this marketing campaign I came across this comic and decided to give it a try. The story plays upon both familiar tropes and conventions from myth as well as elements of science fiction in its story of a version of the world not so dissimilar from the one in which we live and a strange and mysterious underwater world inhabited by lizard men.

I had the fortune to speak with Jason regarding his thoughts about reMIND as well as his experience in self-publishing—first through Kickstarter, where he initially funded the printing of the hardbound version of the book, and then Comixology, where the book can be found available in its entirety.

HELVIE: The story is very much science fiction in its interest in futuristic technology and alien species—although alien more in the sense of unknown to the human race than from outer space as the denizens of the deep seem to be co-inhabitants of earth with humanity. However, it also seems you’re flirting with some elements of fantasy and myth as well in the worship of the lizardmen’s god, Nahusthan. Can you tell me about some of the influences on the storyline behind the first volume of reMIND?

BRUBAKER: The story of reMIND is really close to home for me. It’s kind of a metaphor of what I went through spiritually years ago when I started writing it. At its core, I really wanted to give people a warning that before you just drop everything and accept something as truth or fact, you really need to make sure that it’s worthy of your faith. Make sure that it really IS the truth. In the case of reMIND, Victuals was battling with what to put his faith in – The Invisible or the King’s Idol called Nahusthan which he brainwashed the Kingdom into worshiping. I think society today will accept ANYTHING as fact if someone popular claims it to be true on YouTube, a blog or even the news. I wanted to reMIND people that they need to really do their own research on things pertaining to deep belief subjects like God, religion and unquestioned traditions instead of just taking some controversial new authors word for it. Life is too valuable to waste on false idols.

The reason I used an unfamiliar race like the Lizard-men was to give my readers a blank canvas to tell a difficult story in hopes to kill any presuppositions they might have going into it.

HELVIE: I feel like there is a theme of corrupt rulers playing out in various comics as of late. I’m thinking of Mike Oeming and Bryan J.L. Glass’s Mice Templar as one such example, where the king creates secret allegiances with an ancestral enemy in order to secure his base of power. Was there something of the same sort of idea going on with king and the crab people?

BRUBAKER: The Crab people play is very small role in my books and I don’t really try to explain it so that readers can come to their own conclusions about the partnership. In fact, I like to keep many of my story elements unanswered even though I do have the answers. Doing this gives the reader a bunch of stuff to think about and mull over.

HELVIE: You release reMIND through Comixology for free during the month of January. It seems that by giving your book away, you’d potentially lose some sales. What has been the overall response from readers, critics, and fellow creators? Have you seen interest increase significantly since the start of the Comixology promotion?

BRUBAKER: Yes, ComiXology has been a great company to work with. They advised me against giving the whole first volume away for free but I really wanted to give my new audience something to dig their teeth into if they downloaded it. I gave away the whole story online for free before releasing the book back in 2011 and that was the best marketing move I’ve ever made. I keep hearing about new fans who found reMIND on ComiXology and then bought both volumes on Amazon or came and purchased a boxset from my at a convention.

I haven’t seen any of the numbers yet from the ComiXology sales so I can’t judge it just yet but just word of mouth alone has been very positive and I’m very happy with the response so far.

HELVIE: Looking at your blog, it seems that the hard copy of volume two of reMIND will be set to release in April. What sort of hints and teasers can you provide readers about what they will encounter in this next book? Will there be more body-swapping?

BRUBAKER: Yes! More body swapping for sure. :)


HELVIE: What about at the end of the first volume, you lay out the creative journey behind the publication of this creator-owned graphic novel, which seems to have been brought about by your decision to take Victuals and his story online through the medium of webcomics and then to print via Kickstarter. Do you feel that your experience was unique or that this is one of the new modes up-and-coming creators should explore as they seek to establish themselves in the field publishing comics?

BRUBAKER: It was very unique when I first did it and in fact, for Volume 1, I used Kickstarter before anyone seemed to know anything about it. But yeah, I think that anyone trying to establish themselves nowadays needs to put their best work online for free to grow an audience. Then once they have grown at least a small audience, and finished a book, then using Kickstarter is invaluable. In reality, Kickstarter is some of the best marketing that a new comer can get for themselves at this time.

HELVIE: In 2011, approximately 46% of all Kickstarter projects were successfully funded (about 10% of all projects being related to comics). As you mentioned before, you successfully built a following through publishing reMIND online as a webcomic. How else do you think you were able to achieve success when the majority of projects that go through Kickstarter are not able to make their goals? What is one thing you would advise hopeful comic creators out there about conducting a successful Kickstarter campaign?

BRUBAKER: I always tell people who want to launch a Kickstarter that they need absolute clarity with their campaign, most of your book finished and able to be read online, and you need to bring your audience with you. It will be hard to have success otherwise in my opinion. It’s frustrating for people when they hear those last two because it implies that they need to spend a few years posting pages online to build their audience before they even think about Kickstarter.

HELVIE: In addition to the ongoing story of Victuals, you have a new book coming out, Unnatural Talent. Can you tell us what this book will be about? Any idea when it will be published?

BRUBAKER: Unnatural Talent is the working title of my How-to book for self-publishing a graphic novel. The title is referring to an article I wrote about how I think talent is something that is created only when you have a deep interest in something and apply yourself to it more than others. In other words, growing your talents is dedication and hard work. It’s unnatural to what we thing talent is.

Over the years, I’ve written many articles on my blog about what I was learning at each stage and it’s been almost as popular as my comic itself. I keep getting asked to put it all into a book and so this is my attempt to do just that. The release date is up in the air because I keep learning how much it still needs to be considered a real book. The last thing I want to do is just compile all my articles from 2009 – 2011 and send it to the printer. Because of this, I’m pretty much rewriting it from the ground up so I suppose it will be released when I finally feel like it’s complete. Sorry to be vague, I just find that any promises I make online come back to haunt me. Haha!

HELVIE: The last word is yours: Is there anything else you would like to share?

BRUBAKER: I hope this does not come off too sobering or depressing but this is something that has been deep on my heart since finishing reMIND after working on it for over 15 years. Everyone reading this has dreams and desires that they wish would come true. Everyone thinks that reaching a goal or fulfilling a dream will bring ultimate joy to their life that will last. The thing is, even if all your current dreams come true, you will still have new dreams and desires unmet. Lasting happiness and joy will only come from doing the things you were put on this Earth to do. Your purpose. What you were created for. My belief is that we are here to love God and each other. With that said, I can express that love through my comics and publishing and only then will it become fulfilling.

Okay, was that WAY too deep for a comic interview?

Thanks for the great questions


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For more information about Jason Brubaker’s reMIND, you can visit the official website here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Forrest C. Helvie lives in Bristol, CT with his wife and two sons. He is an assistant professor of developmental English at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. in English Literature & Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he wrote his dissertation on the influence of canonical American literature on the development of the comic book superhero. His literary interests are broad-ranging from medieval Arthurian to 19th-century American, and most importantly, pedagogy, comics studies, and super-heroes. He regularly writes for Sequart and reviews comics for Newsarama. Forrest can also be found on Twitter (@fhelvie) discussing all things comics related.

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