Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your comic book one-shot, Commander Rao! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the story?
Fell Hound: Thank you so much! Commander Rao tells the story of a rogue soldier who, after a decade of warfare against the despot Baron Klaus, decides to storm the Baron’s manor and kill him herself. In the aftermath, she is lauded as a hero, but the mystery of her motives remains. And so, we go back and uncover the Commander’s violent journey that lead her to that fateful assassination. The aim of this comic was to create a unique, cinematic action comic with highly fluid fight scenes, while still telling a deeply personal tale of survivor’s guilt.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing this story to life alongside letterer Lettersquids), and what (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone?
FH: Initially, I had wanted to make a short action comic, because I wanted to practice drawing fight scenes. In the planning process, I envisioned a comic that could emulate the flow and dynamism of animation and truly make it an exercise in kinetic storytelling. Shows such as Legend of Korra and Castlevania, which both had incredibly choreographed fight scenes, served as major inspirations.
I first came across Lettersquids work on the reddit r/comicbookcollabs. The subreddit was running a short comic competition at the time, and Lettersquids work (with artist Errorbound) won best comic and best lettering. Lettersquids’ unabashedly bold, innovative, and versatile style drew my attention immediately, and I knew he was the one to bring Commander Rao’s explosive fight scenes to life.
In designing the titular hero herself, I wanted to create a unique sci-fi armor that was “old world meets new.” I took inspiration from characters such as Lady Oscar from Rose of Versailles and Lady Maria from Bloodborne for the old-world elements (the cravats, tassels and cape) and embedded those pieces into a modern sci-fi suit. The result was a functional character that had all the firepower of a modern soldier, but with the elegance of a simpler time.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Commander Rao's story will connect with and impact readers?
FH: Despite my primary drive to sell this as an action comic, I think once people read it, they will be pleased to learn the story is much, MUCH deeper than just fight scenes. I don’t want to give too much away, but at its core Commander Rao is a very personal story about dealing with guilt and how a lifetime of lavish victories cannot replace what the war has taken away. I think it’s a very cathartic story for anyone who’s ever lost something dear to them and would fight tooth and nail against a losing tide for a shimmer of hope to get it back.
BD: You originally launched a Kickstarter campaign for the comic to great success. What can you share with us about your decision to utilize crowdfunding, and why do you feel that it serves as such a valuable resource for independent creators?
FH: So, funny thing, I was actually at one point considering releasing Commander Rao for free! …until I spoke with a friend who told me not to do that and put it on Kickstarter instead. That friend had recently launched a couple successful Kickstarters and spoke highly of how it was a great platform to boost smaller creators due to its discover ability. I decided then to take the plunge and kickstart it and here we are!
After my experience launching Commander Rao on KS, I would say that running a Kickstarter is very exhausting but worth it. Kickstarter really gives you a great, direct platform to sell to your fanbase/audience, as well as reach out to new folks browsing KS looking for a cool project to back. Especially this year when publishers slowed down due to COVID-19, many creators took to their own to self-publish. The comics crowdfunding community is also very supportive. I’ve met so many amazing creators through running concurrent campaigns, and we all try to promote each other’s works, give advice, and see everyone elevate together. It’s really an amazing community like no other.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
FH: Yes! Jason Doring (W), Nathan Kempf (L) and I currently have a comic in the Starbound Anthology that’s funding on Kickstarter right now!
I’m also drawing a comic with Brent Fisher (W), Lettersquids (L), and Jordan Patrick Finn (E) for the upcoming Big Hype anthology. Other than that, I’m planning a prequel story to Commander Rao that’s set to launch early next year. Very excited to dive back into the world of Rao and expand upon the story.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Commander Rao?
FH: If you like dynamic, fluid, gorgeously painted action scenes with some of the most explosive lettering this side of the seas, you can now grab a copy of Commander Rao on my Gumroad store!
I describe it as a “10-minute animated short film that will break some bones and break your heart.” You can also follow progress of new works from me and Lettersquids on Twitter: @FellHound_ and @Lettersquids, respectively. We are so grateful for all the folks who have come out to support this comic, whether through backing the KS, doing interviews (Thank you, Barbra!), or even just retweeting the book. Thank you!