Almost exactly a year ago this week, I published my first article here on Broken Frontier, fulfilling a long-held dream of becoming a writer in whatever capacity I could make that dream manifest. In the twilit hours of a wintery night during the first week of 2016, I came across the Broken Frontier website, saw a contact link for prospective contributors, and (on a whim) sent an email expressing my interest. That email was answered promptly by one Frederik Hautain (The Happy Few), founder and then-Creative Director of the site, who vetted me quickly and courteously and set me on the path to becoming a regular contributor to this excellent source for independent comics journalism.
Last month, Frederik made the (surely bittersweet) decision to step down as BF’s helmsman in order to focus his energies on writing comics instead of writing about them. (Read Frederik’s fond farewell here.) And, on Tuesday, February 28, the fruits of that labor will be one step closer to being realized: Frederik and his creative team will launch their Kickstarter campaign for their debut effort – an exciting new one-shot book called The Happy Few, an action-packed existential drama with some tasty twists and turns.
It goes without saying that I am honored to have had the opportunity to cross paths with Fred and join the BF team during his tenure; and I’m doubly-honored to be the lucky chap who got to interview him about his thrilling new venture!…
BROKEN FRONTIER: Without revealing too much, tell us a bit about The Happy Few? What makes it a unique addition to the world of comics?
FREDERIK HAUTAIN: On the first level, The Happy Few is a 48-page one-shot about an evil and clever doctor named Zeller — the one with the long grey hair in the preview pages — who’s trying to create a drug that gives people superpowers. Outside a Miami nightclub, he runs into Len Jeffries, a poor SOB who just pulled too many wisecracks on the local mob boss, not to mention that he also hit on [the boss’s] new girl. Zeller offers Len a chance at redemption, and Len ultimately gives in. But where that takes him, that’s something you’ll have to find out when the Kickstarter succeeds, hopefully!
More so than being a story about ‘superpowers in a pill’, it’s a story about being in power versus being powerless and whether we’re in control of our own destinies.
Did you set out to write the book as a one-shot, or is there a possibility that it may grow into a larger series?
The story builds up to a strong climax but at the same time it doesn’t close the door completely shut. And, while there could potentially be a follow-up adventure, once you’ve made it to the final panel I think you’ll agree with me that it would undermine the feeling you walk away with as a reader if the story were to continue. I can’t tell you much more than that without spoiling anything!
In general, what inspires you as a writer, and, specifically, to write The Happy Few?
At the risk of sounding blasé or immediately hovering towards cliché, I think what inspires me the most are the possible (and impossible) answers to the questions ‘What’s life really all about?’ and ‘What makes us human?’. That existential element has creeped into everything I’ve written thus far, whether it’s poetry, a novel outline or my comics work.
I’m also a big fan of (mostly) earthbound sci-fi, espionage and comedy. While there are no aliens or spies in The Happy Few, there’s a good amount of fun back-and-forths that I hope will put a smile on people’s faces amid the drama in the book.
Oh, and the base idea for The Happy Few was a 16-page story that I was going to do for a superpower-themed book, but it turned out that the creators were not going to get paid [for their efforts]. And that’s something I didn’t want for my collaborators, so I decided to flesh out the basic stuff I had into a full 48-page story that I could then pitch around and crowd-fund.
Tell us about your creative team and how you all came together to make The Happy Few. Readers of Broken Frontier will surely recognize some of these talented folks, no..?
I got introduced to Germán Erramouspe via Facundo Percio, the artist who did the short story “It’s About Time” with me in the Broken Frontier Anthology. Like Facundo, Germán is an Argentinian artist who’s flown under the radar in US Comics but has done some great work at home. I gave him a quick outline of the story and he immediately said yes.
And, I already worked with colorist Varga Tomi and letterer Thomas Mauer on the Broken Frontier Anthology and they were happy (no pun intended) to jump aboard the project as well. The team has really clicked, and it’s a joy to be a part of that.
For the logo design I turned to Bart Croonenborghs, a good friend of mine, former BF staffer and designer of the current BF logo by the way.
So in a way, you could say that The Happy Few has several Broken Frontier fingerprints all over it. 🙂
How do you plan to conduct your Kickstarter campaign? Will you be trying any new approaches or offering any unique rewards to prospective backers?
When I first started thinking about the rewards, I originally wanted to get a ring made with the Apollo symbol akin to the one worn by [The Happy Few’s] bad guy, the mysterious Dr. Zeller. But getting that custom-made was too expensive.
So, our rewards will be quite straightforward — but that’s ok, as I’m not a huge fan of offering ‘out-of-the-box’ rewards just for the sake of it. A comic book Kickstarter should be about the book, first and foremost, so all of the rewards we’re offering will have the book in it, available either in print or digitally. The printed edition will be square-bound and have a card-stock cover. Then, we’ve got some expanded packages where we’re also including the Broken Frontier Anthology (which has a short story of mine about time travel), and copies of Ghastly Tales featuring three stories drawn by Varga Tomi and written by Marguerite Bennett. Germán is also doing huge 8×12 full-body commissions of a backer’s character of choice — that’s indeed any comics character [the backer desires] — for every pledge of $100 or above.
And lastly, 5 backers have the chance to get drawn into the book and receive the original art from the page they’re featured on.
Having founded Broken Frontier, what’s it like to now be “on the other side” where you can look back upon your creation and see it from a new perspective?
It’s odd and amazing at the same time. I’m still in a bit of a “schizo mode” where I feel like it’s mine, but it no longer is, you know? Broken Frontier will forever be my baby in that I gave birth to it, but it is now very much Andy’s [Andy Oliver, BF’s one-and-only Zen-master of the Small Press universe!]. I gave him the keys — it’s his house now, and I know he’s got some superb ideas to build it into a great-looking mansion. Knowing that Broken Frontier will continue to be a haven for all things creator-owned and independent has put my fatherly feelings at ease. And, having been a journalist and editor for so long, I know perfectly well how things work on that side of the fence. But, going out and asking for people to promote your project while you haven’t yet built a rep for yourself as a comics creator, that feels odd too.
So let’s stick with odd mostly, and add a sprinkle of amazing for actually being a comics creator now. The amount of ‘amazing’ will go up soon enough when it’s fully dawned on me that I’m really, really doing this.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’ve got a few things in various stages of development, among them two comics projects that I’m currently seeking artists for.
One is an offbeat team book with a sci-fi twist that I’m scripting along the format made popular by Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D.: a series of connected mini-stories or adventures that link together to make a bigger whole. The other is an all-ages graphic novel that’s half-part grim, half-part funny in which a whiz-kid decides it’s a good thing to experiment with Voodoo.
But, first, I’m going to focus fully on the Kickstarter campaign for The Happy Few. I can’t wait for readers to hold the book in their hands!
I want to deeply thank Fred for taking a chance on me and allowing me to join the BF team — as a writer himself, I know he understands how electrifying it feels to be given an outlet for those inner passions that drive a person to sculpt with the written word.
And, I’m sure I speak for all of us here at Broken Frontier when I say: “Fred – we’re proud of you for having the courage to embark upon this journey into the world of comics-creating!” We invite you all to visit Kickstarter and back The Happy Few… be one of the “happy many” who lend their support to this excellent project!