Many of us spent our time in high school – and let’s be honest, most of college – doodling in the margins of our notebooks instead of listening to the never ending droning on of our teachers about one thing or another, but how many of us took one of those drawings and actually turned it into a 110-page graphic novel 20 or so years later? Well, Ohio-based writer Eric Palicki has done just that. Okay, so I don’t think his full page drawing of “Alex ‘Night-Stryker’ Marshall” exactly counts as a school-time doodle, but the sketch he created in high school has become something much bigger: his new graphic novel, ORPHANS. While there have been a number of changes to the character since his first drawing, not the least of which being his name, which is now Alexis Quinn, Palicki remains just as invested in the character as he was at 14, and has taken to Kickstarter to bring a 14 year old boy’s drawing to life.
Palicki’s story is, as he describes it, “an attempt to approach superheroics not in terms of fighting crime, but of working toward a better world.” ORPHANS is set in a sort of alternate present, and follows Quinn, a failed super-soldier who makes it his mission to use the resources that created him to change the world. “Quinn recognizes that the future doesn’t have to be built on dead bodies, so he’s positioned himself as a uniquely 21st century Robin Hood, taking dangerous technology out of the hands of killers and redistributing it where he thinks it’ll do the most good,” Palicki explains. The story will be told over five 22-page issues, and will be available individually as digital copies, and as a 110-page Trade Paperback version, with an introduction by actress Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but we’ll get back to that later. “Structurally, ORPHANS is like PLANETARY, or like Buffy or Veronica Mars on TV,” he explains. “Each issue has a self-contained A-story, but also works toward an ongoing B-story. There’s a payoff for constant readers, but each individual chapter provides the casual reader with a complete experience.”
While this might be his first foray into long form publication, Palicki is no newbie in the world of comic writing. In fact, he’s been doing it since college, and has published a number of short form comics digitally, as well as web comics. He’s received positive feedback from those past endeavors, but is thrilled with the response he’s seen since launching the ORPHANS Kickstarter campaign. “I’m pleasantly surprised that so many strangers have reacted positively to the project. I mean, I new I could count on pledges from family and friends, but more than half the pledges so far have come from people who came upon it cold, so to speak.”
Palicki came to Kickstarter for a couple reasons. The first, and arguably most important, was to find the funding to not only create physical copies of the book, but to pay the talented artists working on the project. “The nature of writing is that I can do it as a hobby, during breaks of over lunch at the day job, but drawing comics is a full-time gig, and asking someone to draw 110 pages means asking someone to give me 4-5 months of his or her life.” The artist in question is Branko Jovanovic, who has already created the first 5 pages of ORPHANS, as well as the cover, pictured above. The second reason was to gauge interest in the book itself, and with 34 backers contributing more than $1,000 with more than three weeks to go, I don’t think he has to worry too much about interest.
Beyond the superb example presented in those first few pages, one possible reason for that interest could be that he’s constructed a campaign with a number of interesting perks, each one fitting a different kind of comic book fan. Probably the most attractive is that for just $1 you can own a digital copy the first issue, DRM-free, yours to read, and share with friends. “I want the commitment to be as painless as possible,” says Palicki. “I’m confident that you’ll love ORPHANS, but maybe you won’t. A buck isn’t much of a gamble … Once you buy a digital copy of ORPHANS, you’re free to do all the things you could if it was a physical copy, read it whenever you like, and pass it along to friends. In fact, I encourage you to pass it along to friends. Then send them my way for issue two.” In addition to the $1 digital copies, Palicki has included a branded flashdrive, pre-loaded with all 5 issues, as well as a bunch of extras he won’t be able to include in the print version, including scripts, annotations, other comics, and more.
Speaking of the print version, I mentioned earlier that the Trade Paperback will include its own goodies, namely, an introduction written by actress, not to mention the writer’s sister, Adrianne Palicki, whom some of you may remember would have played Wonder Woman, had NBC greenlit the series last year. Says [Eric] Palicki, “Adrianne has some legitimate geek credibility … but many people don’t know that she’s into comics almost as much as I am. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader, and this particular project is one of her favorites.” The paperback is available for $15, but limited editions are also available, numbered and signed by both siblings, for $50 and above.
Whether you’re in it for the story, the art, or the excitement evoked by the words “limited edition,” I would suggest checking out this comic. Eric Palicki is certain to be one of the next big names in indie comics, and ORPHANS will undoubtedly be his ticket on that bumpy, but exciting, ride.
For more information on ORPHANS, or to contribute, check out the Kickstarter page.
To stay up to date on all things ORPHANS, or to see some examples of his past/current work, check out Eric Palicki’s website.