Earlier this month, a colleague of mine, Kensuke "Ken" Okabayashi launched a Kickstarter campaign for his graphic novel "The Foreigner," a fictional work in the style of a Japanese manga comic, but in the modern context of Brooklyn, New York.
As his Kickstarter campaign for "The Foreigner" enters into the final 100 meters of the race against time, we got a chance to catch up with Ken in order to learn more about the process of writing a graphic novel, funding the project through crowdfunding and his outlook on how we foster creativity in our society today.
You're half way into a Kickstarted campaign for a Brooklyn-themed graphic novel. What's the basic premise for the novel?
Thank you for this opportunity, Medvis. It's been a blast working on The Foreigner. The Foreigner is a 2 volume graphic novel project about Kaz, a socially awkward Brooklynite, who is cast into an alternate world where he must confront battling kings, zombie robots, and crystal eating faeries to save his wife and return home.
As a proud Brooklynite myself, I felt it important to add a relatable character to the region.
How'd you come up with this story and adventure?
The story initially came to me in a dream, I remember waking up excited and having to place my freelance work aside for a day so that I could go sketch out my ideas at a local coffee shop. Although I grew up surrounded by Japanese manga (comics) and anime, I always enjoyed reading about and drawing fantasy characters and stories.
I remember one of my first illustration gigs out of art school being with Magic the Gathering - I couldn’t contain how excited I was.
While there is definitely a Hayao Miyazaki and JRR Tolkien influence to my ideas and themes, there is a deeper spiritual influence behind the scenes of The Foreigner. Each of the character wrestles with one of the seven deadly sins based on The Bible. While listening to Rev. Tim Keller’s sermons, I thought why not make each of the characters struggles relatable to the every day Joe ,apart from the stereotypical imagery of “sins" that popular culture imposes on us.
Ultimately, this story is about Love, Redemption, and Forgiveness. And while each of the character fight his or her own inner demons (in addition to external battles), not all of them come out alive or unscathed.
And so now back to your Kickstarter campaign, why are you raising money on this platform? What will the funding do for "The Foreigner" and for backers of the campaign.
I’m raising funds to offset the cost of printing the physical volume 1 of The Foreigner here in the United States. I will also be using portions of the funds to cover shipping, hire local artist help, and cover fees that Kickstarter charges for all their projects.
While many publishers may use overseas printers and outsource help outside the country, all funds that are raised with The Foreigner Kickstarter will be used to support US businesses and local artists.
Let's say I'm not a comic book person, what are some of the concepts in and aspects of "The Foreigner" which will be appealing and entertaining?
Even if you aren’t a regular comic book reader, I believe The Foreigner will appeal to all fans who enjoy a good fantasy story that’s different from the mainstream superhero comic. My objective of this Kickstarter is to ultimately get a hardcopy of The Foreigner to as many people in this county.
I think if the characters’ struggles are are believable and relatable, The Foreigner will appeal to the general reader who isn’t familiar with the comic book media.
How'd you get into illustration?
I initially was into drawing manga “Japanese comics.” But coming to art school, I decided it was my best interest to not only hone my drawing skills, but also my painting and storytelling ability.
While I’ve been able to make freelance illustration into a career for over ten years, drawing and story telling through comics has always been my first and strongest passion.
Interesting. So where can our readers go to learn more about "The Foreigner" and make a pledge to your campaign?
My Kickstarter campaign for The Foreigner is full swing at Kickstarter. I'm currently just over 80 percent of my necessary funding with less than 2 days left of campaigning. While I’ve been getting great online press and reviews, I really need the public’s help to make this project into a reality.
Please consider backing my Kickstarter.
Thanks for sitting down with me Ken
Thank you for the opportunity for this interview, Medvis.
Ken Okabayashi is the author of "The Foreigner" and a NYC-based illustrator. You can follow him at Twitter @KensukeArt for his thoughts or visit his website in order to view his work.
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts.