Dominic Archer’s new book, A Boxer, has just hit Kickstarter and with it taking a look at how sport & sexuality can conflict against each other it’s got extra depth that needs exploring…….so some questions were on the cards.
What inspired you to create ‘A Boxer’?
The spark for the idea first came about when I was living and working in China. A number of students approached me to discuss their sexuality and their fear of how family members would react. Their concerns about social isolation resonated with questions I was asking about my own identity. The crazy number of English language podcasts I was listening to eventually led me to Finding Drago, a piece of comedic investigative journalism into the mysterious disappearance of a Pulitzer Prize winning author, famed for his Rocky IV fan-fiction novel.
The absurdity of Finding Drago (and the boxing influences it brought) melded with the more serious questions of identity that I was asking and A Boxer was born out of that.
Is this an idea that’s been in development for a while?
I first came up with the concept at the end of 2018 and was developing it until April 2019 when I commissioned the first 6 pages of art for us to pitch to publishers. One of the benefits of writing a graphic novel over an on-going series is that it has time to incubate. The downside is, without a deadline you might never make the damn thing! So by the time the book has been funded and drawn it would have taken around 2 years from idea to realisation.
How did you put your creative team together for it?
As with any “We’re putting a team together” montage you need people you can trust to deliver when you need them too, a maverick who doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but their own and an expert to bring the whole thing together.
Gary Welsh and Marc Casilli are two of my old comrades from the University of Dundee’s Masters degree in Comics and Graphic Novels course. When your comic is stuck in a tight corner and you’re looking for a penciller and an inker you know will have your back, there’s few other places to turn.
Gary’s work on Pat Mills’ Ragtime Soldier got a lot of well deserved attention last year. And Marc’s autobiographical series Legit continues to set the Brazillian indie comics scene ablaze.
Amanda Miranda is the wildcard in the bunch. A Sao Paulo based illustrator and winner of the 2019 Dente Award for Best Independent Comic, Amanda’s colours bring a vintage style to a very modern narrative.
For the letters we managed to bring in a genuine Eisner-Award winner. A man so well versed in the dissection of the comic book medium he needs a highly acclaimed YouTube channel as well as one of the industry’s top comics journalism magazines. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is the letterer of such titles as Peter Canon: Thunderbolt and Killer Groove, the award winning editor of Panel x Panel and the host of Strip Panel Naked and with his expertise we might just make it through.
It feels like a timely book to release given the topics you’re covering – was that a challenge to write?
The topic itself became more timely after we started working on it. When we had first started pitching it to publishers, a Twitter account called ‘The Gay Footballer’ appeared, in which an anonymous queer English footballer spoke about their experiences and announced they would come out to help spread awareness about LGBTQ issues in sports. Sadly, they changed their mind and this led to a number of changes in our approach to the book as parts of the concept came to life in front of us.
Unfortunately we might not be able to ask ‘The Gay Footballer’ about their journey for years to come but large parts of the book’s exploration of legacy would have been very different without them.
A homosexual boxer is a great central character – what was he like to develop?
Writing Mike Shepherd (our titular boxer) was actually the part of the book I saw the most clearly. His perspectives as a character that exists outside of multiple identities reflected a lot of my feelings about those students who had been brave enough to accept themselves despite cultural boundaries, while I battled with my own sexuality, nationality and even career choices.
Mike’s story is not just about overcoming homophobia (there are many more in-depth explorations of that from a range of incredible authors) but also about coming to accept an identity that reflects him, rather than the various social pressures that are at play in his life.
What’s it been like now that BHP Comics are involved with the project?
I was lucky enough to sit down BHP’s Sha Nazir at Comics Salopia and pitch him the idea. What made BHP’s approach to the book so different to everyone else we spoke to was that they didn’t try to reformat it or influence the pacing to fit into a mini-series. Instead, it was a practical conversation that said “if you want to make a 100-page graphic novel with a 5 person creative team, it is going to require funding.”
BHP brought a much needed injection of realism into the process, which led us to crowdfunding the artistic team’s creative costs. If the idea resonates with readers then it will be a pleasure to release a British/Brazillian book with one of the UK’s most important comics publishers.
Do you have any plans to return to the characters after this graphic novel release?
The closest plans we have to revisiting the characters are our Kickstarter stretch goals, which consist of two 5-page chapter breaks that expand on side characters, a 5-page epilogue to build
upon the ramifications of Mike’s decisions and an essay that further develops the book’s themes of diversity in sport, written by academic far more qualified than I.
What else are you working on just now?
Right now A Boxer is taking up almost all of my time so I haven’t been able to give much thought as to what comes next. My other passion project was a 40-page comic book adaptation of Spanish Bombs by The Clash. Once A Boxer is flying off the shelves and I’ve taken the weekend off, that may well be what I dive straight into!
Massive thanks to Dominic for sparing the time to talk about ‘A Boxer’ and you can jump on-board the campaign at the link below:
You can also catch-up with the creators and publisher though the links below:
Gary – Website