Cody Walker has a long history with Sequart, having served as our webmaster and having produced multiple books for us, including one on Planetary and another on Grant Morrison’s Batman. We sat down to talk about how he’s branching out into producing comics, including with his new comic Everland.
JULIAN DARIUS: You’re currently running a Kickstarter for a comic called Everland. Could you explain the concept?
CODY WALKER: I’ve had the basic idea of the story for a few years and it really started from trying to just write pirate comics. I thought about how popular pirate comics were in Alan Moore’s world and I started thinking about what could make them popular in our own.
But also, I had an idea for a Peter Pan story set in the Dungeons and Dragons world of Dark Sun. In that universe, every time someone uses magic, it kills part of the planet. There are consequences for using that magic. So, I just imagined what it would be like for a boy with no conscience having all of these powers and laying waste to the world.
So, these two ideas of pirate comics and a darker take on Peter Pan mish-mashed together to create Everland, which is a 32-page one-shot comic made up of four 8-page stories by four different artists. Each story will focus on a different important part of a Peter Pan-inspired fantasy world and tangentially connect to the next story. The stories include:
It focuses on how terrifying it would be to be a child kidnapped by fairies and forced to join a cult of boys who worship an evil god.
- Chapter 2 – “The Boy-God Horror” with art by Nate Peters – a terrified pirate does battle with the Boy-God.
Basically, if you were a pirate in Peter Pan, you would be terrified by this predator in the form of a boy-god flying around and laughing as he murders everyone you know and cuts off your limbs. I mean, even in that horrid NBC musical, Pan laughs as he says, “I cut off Captain Hook’s hand” and Wendy is just cool with that. How is that NOT horrific?
- Chapter 3 – “Mermaid Love” with art by Ryan Wheaton – a shipwrecked pirate finds unlikely love with a squid-like mermaid.
There is a really annoying trope in fiction right now where people fall in love with beautified versions of monsters. Vampires and werewolves are hunky guys who are just misunderstood and I’m kind of sick of it. I love the idea of a guy falling in love with something that has nothing that we would objectively call beautiful. So, we take a mermaid who is supposed to be the most objectively beautiful of all monsters and turn her into the fish-terror that she would be and you know what? There is still love there. She saves a pirate’s life and he loves her not because of her looks, but because she SAVED HIS LIFE. She was noble and honorable and he loves her for that.
I’ve wanted to write a strong female lead for a long time and I’ve always had a soft spot for Iroquois mythology, so this was my chance to write that story. Orenda is a 10-year-old girl whose father is murdered by a giant crab so she sets out to kill the monster. The biggest challenge she has to face, though, are a trio of fairies trying to convince her that she is just a girl and that she can’t do anything.
Of all the characters in the book, Orenda is most clearly our hero. I have a soft spot in my heart for her and I would write her adventures forever if I could.
DARIUS: I love these ideas and the diversity of the stories this issue. Was that diversity something you thought about, in putting this issue together?
WALKER: Most definitely. They stem from me trying to write what I’d like to see on the page and also the different genres I wanted to write in. I knew I wanted a giant crab story and I originally was going to make it about a boy who fights it, but then I thought “why not a girl? How would that change it?” Then, I knew I wanted a story about one of the Lost Boys and how frightening it would be to try to survive which led naturally into what it would be like to be a pirate and have a Boy-God haunt you.
The mermaid story was the last one and I was originally going to write a story about the creation of Everland. I had this idea of how it was created by the fairy king Oberon while his wife Titania created Neverland, but I realized that I’m not Neil Gaiman and I could never make that work. So, I set out to just make solid, relatable characters and put them in somewhat universal situations. So, even though you may not fall in love with a squid monster, you understand the idea of not being able to love who you want. We can’t fight giant crabs, but we all relate to caring for our parents.
DARIUS: Some of these stories sound like logical reinterpretations of a Peter Pan-style universe, and it seems like you’re not shying away from some of the darkness there. On the other hand, the artwork I’ve seen looks pretty bright, befitting the Peter Pan tradition. So this isn’t a grim and bloody reinterpretation. How would you describe the tone you strike, and was that important to you?
WALKER: I suppose it’s tough to describe because you’re right, it ISN’T a grim-and-gritty approach to Peter Pan. I don’t want it to be a harsh book that kids can’t read. I want it to be all-ages, but still looking at that world from a different perspective. I just wanted it to be a fun book for my son, I guess. He’s only 2 and he won’t care about this for years and maybe he’ll never care about it at all, but I wanted to write something that was heroic and a bit frightening.
When I think of unnecessary dark stories, I think about Shazam: A New Beginning by Roy Thomas. He turned Captain Marvel into this Dark Knight Returns pastiche that didn’t remotely fit the character. So, with Everland, I tried to be careful to not do that because I wanted to remain true to Peter Pan, but from a different angle.
In the first chapter, a boy is still just kidnapped by a fairy. The fairy doesn’t murder his parents or rape him or anything. She just whisks him away from his home and drops him in this fantasy world where he has to survive.
Chapters 2 and 3 have a bit more darkness to them, but they are explicitly dealing with horror, so I don’t think that darkness is gratuitous.
DARIUS: I know you’ve worked with Nathan Judah before. How did you meet these other artists? What’s your collaboration like with them?
WALKER: All of these artists are local Springfield and Joplin Missouri artists, so they are guys I’ve seen at local cons. Nate Peters and I have started a number of projects over the years that have never been finished, and we’ve known each other from back when I used to work for a comic book store called Vintage Stock and he was a customer.
Ryan Wheaton and I met at a convention and we’ve wanted to work together for some time, but our schedules never quite clicked.
Finally, Chris Yarbrough has another comic with Brett Jones called Radiation Day and they really have their whole operation down. They are really great guys and I just asked Chris if he wanted to tackle this and he said yes. His art is much darker in Radiation Day, but here it is tonally a perfect children’s book.
Also, I have to say that I really love working with these guys. It’s weird because even though we don’t really know each other all that well, I feel like I’ve known them all for a long time. We all just click and it feels like I’m making a comic with old friends. They’re not just talented artists, they are wonderful human beings and we have a blast at conventions together.
DARIUS: Is Everland a one-shot, or do you have plans to continue it?
WALKER: The first issue introduces us to all the elements of the world and when I wrote it, I had just planned on it being a one-shot. However, after I started seeing all of the art coming in, it made me start thinking about how all of these elements would work together.
Right now, I have a rough outline for issue 2 which would follow the same format of four short stories at 8-pages a piece, but I also want to bring these stories closer together, so for the second issue, we have the mermaid kingdom rising from the ocean and attacking everyone else in Everland as part of what is known as “Reap Day.” Every few years, the mermaids come to the land to drag human sacrifices to their dark gods and because the Boy-God won’t allow anyone to have a memory, everyone forgets about Reap Day and so they are never prepared for it.
That’s just the set up for the issue, we will explore the Cult’s relationship with their god, how the Boy-God views Everland, pirates killing mermaids, and Orenda saving the day.
From there, I have ideas for the next three issues boiled down into questions:
Issue #3 – How do you kill a god?
Issue #4 – What happens when a god dies?
Issue #5 – What happens when an angry god returns?
DARIUS: You’ve previously created a comic called Noir City, which we talked about in March, when you were Kickstarting issue #2. Will there be an issue #3?
WALKER: My co-writer, Rich, just moved back to Missouri, so we are planning on meeting up in January to talk about the future of Noir City and we’ve got A LOT of ideas of where we want to go. I’ve started issue #3’s script, but we also want to do an issue called Noir City Tales, which would be three stories that flesh out the world (kind of like Everland, in a way). But we are also slowly working on a Noir City novel that will be really intricate and fun.
So, lots of ideas and that progress will eventually come, but it takes time.
DARIUS: I know you were stressed, when we were talking about Noir City #2, about the Kickstarter making. It ultimately did, but it was close. I had a similar experience with my Martian Comics Kickstarter, around that same time. Are you just as stressed this time? Does it ever get any easier?
WALKER: The first few days of the Everland Kickstarter, I wasn’t remotely worried. We were making money fast and everything was looking good. Then, it all dropped off and stopped. Now, we are struggling (as everyone does after the first week). So, I’m back to being worried again, but I’ve decided that if it doesn’t make it, then it just doesn’t. We gave it our best effort and there are so many other factors beyond our comic that affect funding.
As for if it gets easier, I’ll let you know at the end of all this.
DARIUS: What else is on the horizon?
WALKER: Lots of projects! I’ve been working on a Little Nemo webcomic with my friend Elaine Johnson that is slowly coming along and we will start posting again once we have more comics in the bank.
I also have a sci-fi webcomic in my inbox that I’ve been thinking about releasing, but I’ve been holding off until the time feels right.
On January 1, I’m going to start writing a poem a day and after a year, I plan on releasing that in book form the following year.
Finally, this summer, I plan on finishing my novel Welcome to Pinhook, which is my attempt at the Great American Novel. A meth dealer is murdered in a hotel and the book is an examination about how his death would affect a small town.
DARIUS: Thanks for talking! I hope people support Everland! It’s on Kickstarter here.