Butcher Queen: Planet of the Dead

STLSPEX’s Brandon Daniels talks with St. Louis comic creators Jim Ousley and Ben Sawyer about their new Kickstarter Project.

Can you give us an introduction to this project you guys are kickstarting?

Our latest project is Butcher Queen: Planet of the Dead. It’s a continuation of the Butcher Queen series we did for Red 5 Comics, and this new series will be published by them as well. They asked us what we wanted to do next, and our creatively hyperactive brains went immediately back to Butcher Queen. We just have so much fun building that world, and our protagonist Syd Kiowa is really fun to write for. The fun thing about this new series is that no prior knowledge is necessary. You can hop on now and enjoy it without reading the first series. Of course, if you read the first series, you’ll get that much more out of it. It’s right there at the intersection of sci-fi, horror, and cyberpunk, and I’m really pleased with the humor in the book as well. The new characters are a treat and we can’t wait to share them.

How long have you guys been a team, and how many books have you created together?

We met years ago working with Ink & Drink Comics here in St. Louis, and our first collaboration was a funny short story called “The Great Pretender” with our friend Oscar Madrid. It’s still one of my favorite things we’ve ever done, and we just hit it off immediately. It’s actually quite difficult finding that perfect chemistry with a creative partner sometimes, but we have done so much work together that it’s become really natural, which is so satisfying.

What is your relationship with Red 5 Comics like?

We love working with those guys, because of two extremely important reasons: they’re supportive, and they’re enthusiastic. These are guys that really love comics, and as far as the stories we want to tell, they let us kind of do our thing. That’s everything you want from a publisher, really. Excitement is contagious when everyone’s on the same page.

Jim, can you talk about some of your inspiration for the story?

The first Butcher Queen series was really inspired by what was going on in the news like immigration, acceptance, racism, and all things tangential to those topics. The new series we wanted our characters to still be in life and death situations, but have more fun exploring who they are. There are still big stakes, but the character moments are really wonderful. The story is really seen through the eyes of a new character named Dagger, who is this high-IQ teenager isolated in the mountains of Colorado with his parents. He comes across something incredible, which immediately thrusts him into the world of Syd Kiowa and Butcher Queen. I was actually inspired initially by this complete stranger I ran into one day, and I never spoke to this person, never even said hello, but the person just had these really unusual qualities, and I started having all of these images turn circles in my head. That’s where Dagger was born, and he became the entranceway into the new story. I’ve really never been this excited to share a story with people.

Ben, can you describe the art process for the book?

Firstly I’d like to talk about my dream board. Every new project I develop one of these to keep the look and style of the project consistent. It’s basically a smattering of images I’ve found from the internet and arranged so that I can rely on it for influence and inspiration. The left side of the image is locales, the middle is the general look of the people in the book, and the right is other works of art that I would like for the book to resemble. I’ve got my own style so it’s not going to happen, but I use art like this as a far off goal. Something I can see but I know I’ll never really reach.


The art of the book used to be a traditional pencil and ink process for most of the first Butcher Queen. You can see here the actual pencils and inks underneath some of the early pages. Very shaky and uncertain, a perfect description of my traditional artwork.

Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of anatomical and skill-based errors. Traditional definitely has its look and appeal but I had to make SO MANY corrections I decided to go digital exclusively for Planet of the Dead.

I start with VERY rough thumbnails for layouts.

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I then go over it again with a little more refinement. If the gap between thumbnail and ink is too big errors occur. So this last step irons out and chance of anatomical or perspective issues. It also helps me decide on costume ideas and solidify essential elements.

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Then, of course, is the inks.

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BG colors and atmospherics.

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And finally, I do the flats because I hate doing them the most.

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And that’s basically it! I DO design my pages side by side so I make sure that they have a relationship with each other, whether it’s a double-page spread or not.

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Can you talk a little bit about the structure and rewards of the Kickstarter campaign?

This is probably our most ambitious Kickstarter that Ben and I have done in regards to what we’re offering our backers. Everyone who backs the campaign at the $10 level and above get a Kickstarter exclusive variant cover by Zach Howard, who is an incredible artist. This variant cover of Butcher Queen: Planet of the Dead issue #1 is only going to be available to backers. It won’t be in stores, and you won’t be able to get it at Red5Comics.com We’re also thrilled that Tim Bradstreet is doing an exclusive print for the campaign, as well. Beyond that, Ben designed this fantastic retro-style Butcher Queen shirt, and we’ll have buttons, window decals, sticker sets, a Planet of the Dead art book, all of that fun stuff. I’m also doing something called Jimbo’s Super Secret Haiku Book, which is a collection of some of my silly haiku poetry, as well as a living room concert for backers here in St. Louis. Basically with all of the other rewards, me and a couple of musician pals are going to show up to your place, and play an intimate concert for you and your friends, a mix of originals and covers. We’re trying to do more than just the typical campaign. We want to make it a fun experience as well. 


What advice would you give to others who are interested in using Kickstarter as a method to fund their projects? 

  I would recommend it, of course! The thing you have to remember though is that it’s an incredible amount of work. Once you launch, you essentially live the campaign until the 30 days are over. It’s just a matter of being consistent with your enthusiasm and message, making sure people know that you genuinely love what you’re presenting and you want to share it with them. Under normal circumstances, we would be doing in-stores and things of that nature, but we all have to stay at home! So we’ll be doing our best to do things that make up for that, like offering “instant gratification reading” where we send you a digital copy of our horror anthology The Dead Palace, and some Wolfbob & Friends stories to enjoy. We just people to get something to immediately, while we’re working the campaign and finishing the Butcher Queen: Planet of the Dead issues. We’ll also be choosing random backers to win gift certificates to comic shops, just so we can support them as well. We’re all in this together, and it doesn’t hurt anyone to spread the word about comic creators and the people in comic shops that help our stories reach eyeballs. They’re just as important as the creators, and I think fans realize that.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Butcher Queen: Planet of the Dead is live now at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/butcherqueenpod/butcher-queen-planet-of-the-dead

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