Writer Jon Lock is aiming to make the fourth volume of his creation Afterlife Inc. a reality through his latest Kickstarter so it seemed like the ideal time to catch-up with him.
What can we expect from this fourth Volume of Afterlife Inc.?
When I came up with the idea for Afterlife Inc. (way back in 2007 when I was living and travelling my way across Canada – long story) I originally envisaged the series as being six books in length, with a definitive ending planned. When I eventually started self-publishing in 2011 (I needed a bit of a run up to get started) I realised I wasn’t confident enough as a writer to do those stories justice. I wanted to spend some time at play in the world of Afterlife Inc. – getting to know the characters better and, ultimately, exploring my strengths as a creator. I had imagined myself doing a short story or two before diving into the main storylines. Things… escalated, however, and now, five unplanned books later, I’m finally starting on those stories I’ve had plotted for so long.
Things have changed greatly in the intervening years. Afterlife Inc. has grown in ways I could never have imagined possible, and Jack and Co. have been on a whole host of adventures that were never in the original roadmap for the series. What remains unchanged, however, is that this is the beginning of the end for Afterife Inc. I always wanted the series to culminate in a undisputable finale rather than limping on forever. This is a story about trying to find meaning in a world where everything lasts for ever. In reality, stories only work because they have an ending – and while I’m exciting to be starting on a new chapter, there’s an element of sadness too, as I know where this story ends, and once you start down the path there’s no turning back.
Afterlife Inc. Volume 4: Man Made God is about Jack finally facing the consequences of his actions. Following his death, he discovered an afterlife in chaos and decided to take over and run it like a business – something that everyone, seemingly, loved him for. Now, one of the long-lost former rulers of the afterlife has returned, and he’s not happy. Jack is faced with the dilemma of having to return control of the afterlife to its rightful owner. Can he be trusted to do the right thing… and should he? And is this figure from the afterlife’s dark past exactly who he claims to be anyway?
Are you pleased to get back to the world of Jack Fortune after a break away from it?
Absolutely. Afterlife Inc. will always be my first love in comics. It’s been great to get away for a bit and work on new projects like Cuckoos, Orb and 99 Swords for BPM – not to mention recharge the batteries after bringing out the Book of Life – but I’m eager to get back in the saddle. I would have returned to Afterlife Inc. a lot sooner, but even with turning to Kickstarter to fund a project such as this, it’s not a crowdfunding magic wand. Producing a book of this size (172 pages) to a level of quality I’m happy with, and paying all the artists involved, is an expensive prospect, and for the longest time the numbers just weren’t in my favour. Over the past couple of years I’ve been raising funds myself, such that half of the book is already funded and made. The Kickstarter campaign is to fund the remainder of the book, plus printing – things that might well take me another couple of years to raise otherwise. I hope that putting my own money into the project, along with the support of my backers, demonstrates my commitment to the project. I love Afterlife Inc. with a passion, and Volume 4 will, quite literally, kickstart the future of the series.
The early glimpses of the artwork look amazing – have the first few chapters turned out like you had always envisioned?
Thank you! Being just a writer, I’m nothing without the amazing team of artists bringing my scripts to life. Volume 4 sees the return of series regular Ash Jackson, and the arrival of new collaborator Davide Tinto, sharing pencilling duties – and it’s been fun seeing their different takes on familiar characters. Afterlife Inc. has always featured a wide variety of art styles, and this time around we’ve the team of Mike Bunt and Verity Glass, on ink and colouring duties respectively, tying Ash and Davide’s styles together. We’ve also got a truly amazing cover from Raffaele Ricciardi, which just blows my mind every time I look at it.
Working with Ash is a familiar experience now after all this time, but it’s been fun getting to know Davide and establishing a new creative relationship. He’s got an immensely dynamic and hyper-real style, which suits the frenetic world of Afterlife Inc. to a T, something that I hope comes across in the sample pages we’ve released.
You’ve been very busy with Big Punch Studios but was Afterlife Inc. always something you planned to do more of?
Always, always, always. I could never stay away from Afterlife Inc. for long! And, as I’m sure Nich will agree, our work on BPM or Sandwich Masters was never meant to replace our main projects, such as Afterlife Inc. and 7STRING. BPM in particular, by shaping the greater Big Punch Multiverse, only serves to strengthen and enrich what we’re building across all our titles.
Do you have more planned beyond the six chapters in Volume 4?
On top of the published Volumes 1, 2 and 3, in addition to The Heavenly Chord, we also have the planned Afterlife Inc. books that formed the original map of the series (see question 1). Obviously, things have changed considerably from when I first dreamt up Jack Fortune and Co. but the basic structure of the story remains unchanged. I know exactly where we’re heading; I know how the series is going to end. Given how the world and characters have developed, and the twisting, turning world of self-publishing, if I can bring the whole thing in at nine books, I’ll consider it a triumph! And hey, that would at least equate to three hardback editions. I’ll have to call them the Book of Life, the Book of Death… and the, um, Book of Afterlife? Or maybe the Book of Jack. I’ll be appearing in the last Kickstarter video on my Zimmer frame!
Have you considered having Jack or other characters from Afterlife Inc. appearing in the BPM release?
Hmmm. How much can I say while avoiding spoilers? Let’s just say that BPM, Afterlife Inc. and 7STRING are part of a much bigger story that is really only just beginning to reveal itself. Some big things are going to be going down in the pages of BPM over the next couple of years – things that could well have ramifications for the heroes across all our books. Just keep watching this space. We call it the Big Punch Multiverse for a reason…
What made you return to Kickstarter for this 4th Volume?
Making books is expensive, particularly when you’re going for a full-colour, glossy production, such as you might expect to see from Image, Marvel, DC or any of the large publishers. I care deeply about the quality of my products, just as I believe in paying the artists for their time and effort. I may not be able to offer the same rates as the Big Two, but I want to treat people fairly and try and reward them for their contribution. I’m nothing without the artists – seriously, they make me look good 😉
At 172 pages, this is the largest Afterlife Inc. book to date (excluding collected editions, such as the Book of Life) and that means it’s going to be an expensive project to fund. I’ve been playing the role of ‘producer’ this past year or so: assembling my team of collaborators and gathering funds from wherever I can, be that saving or begging/borrowing. So far, I’ve been able to secure half the money needed to make this book a reality, and as such half the book is already made – which means we’ll have something to show backers while we’re working on the remainder. By bringing the overall target down, running a Kickstarter becomes viable, and that means I can provide a fair deal, and hopefully some great rewards, to anyone thinking of supporting the project.
What else are you working on just now?
Issue 7 of BPM will be going to print in just under a fortnight, and, as a team, Big Punch has been toying with a follow-up to Sandwich Masters for a few months now. We’ve got a prototype made; we just need to find the time to sit down and start brainstorming! We’ve had a surprisingly positive reaction to our first foray into tabletop gaming, and we’ve got plenty of ideas waiting in the wings that we’d like to give a chance to shine.
I’ve recently taught myself a modicum of web design and coding, leading to a completely new website for Afterlife Inc. where you can now read the entire back story for free. It’s taken a long time time to reach this point, but I’m finally happy with the result – and, as with all my projects, it’s hopefully the start of something new and exciting.
Head over to the Kickstarter page now to help make volume 4 a reality.