UNDIGENOUS: An Interview With Co-Creator Kelly Bender

Kelly Bender is a Canadian comicbook writer based in Singapore. I've gotten to know Kelly since we first met back in 2015, when he was in town for the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. Fast forward to 2017, and Bender has quite the catalogue of creator-owned books under his belt, including SNARL, Hang Low Aim High, Death-Rattler, Convoy of Corpses, AQUEOUS, C.L.A.W.S., Sadistic and Yakuza 893. Plus, he was a runner up in the 2015 TOP COW talent hunt, and in 2016, TOP COW produced one of his stories in Cyber Force: Artifacts #0. His latest series (which he co-created with artist Adam Ferris), UNDIGENOUS, is a runaway success on Kickstarter, with the campaign ending June 4, 2017. Bender took time from his busy day to answer my questions about his latest story, and he shares some other great insights, too. Here it is:

Chris Doucher (CD): Hi, Kelly. First off, congratulations on the massive, and quick success of your UNDIGENOUS (book 1 of 3) Kickstarter campaign.

Kelly Bender (KB): Thanks. Adam Ferris the artist) & I co-created this story about a year ago. We pitched it out to publishers, and there were no takers. So we decided to try going at it this route. After we finish the second issue we'll pitch it out again. 

CD: How does it feel to see one of your passion projects garner so much attention and positive fan feedback? Because, with the UNDIGENOUS campaign finishing this Sunday, June 4, 2017, you have smashed your initial pledge goal for this book.

KB: There's always a risk when you put a piece of yourself out there. But when the backers start coming in, it's a great feeling. You have an idea for a story, and you just hope others "will get it." This is my second Kickstarter (Yakuza 893 #1 prior which was 170+% funded) and we've passed those numbers. In fact, we're getting close to being 200% funded. 

CD: Having gotten to know you over the past few years, your work ethic with regard to getting the word out about your projects - whether it's to the fans, fellow creators or media - has been some of the best I've seen. Talk about that. Because we both know there are some creators who think the finishing stage happens once their Kickstarter page has launched. When really, that's not the case at all, is it?

KB: Thanks. I know it's not just me creating these comics. So when I promote the projects I make sure that every person is credited, promoted and valued. My entire goal for the comic industry is "breaking in," and holding the door for as many creators to come in as well. It's never been just about me. Promoting your book will ALWAYS be YOUR responsibility. Nobody cares more about your book than you do. So you have to get the word out. You have to use social media (FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM etc...), build a following, get fans etc.. I've always said that AFTER a comic gets completed/published, that's when the real work starts. Can you deliver? Can you deliver what you promised? 

CD: Okay, the current book: UNDIGENOUS. Give us the rundown on the story, as well as the evolution of having to work with what's going on around you when it comes to launching a new series. I mention this because you describe UNDIGENOUS as "Stranger Things meets The Fog." But, when this book was in the works, Stranger Things wasn't even around.

KB: You start with a story. A concept that (hopefully) nobody else has read/scene before. As a writer it's hard. I have to first find an artist who believes in the story, then an inker, a colorist & a letterer. You're right. When I started this book STRANGER THINGS wasn't out. It wasn't known. When I pitched it to Adam (the artist) I said it's "The Happening" with a better story and a new twist. Now, looking at it, after watching STRANGER THINGS. That's what it is STRANGER THINGS meets THE FOG (or THE HAPPENING). I think it's timing. Perfect timing.  

CD: Now, you're great at giving advice to creators - whether they're just getting started or have been around for a while. Talk about the importance of the post-campaign work. The Kickstarter is successful, now you have to fulfill all those orders.

KB: I support others because I've been supported. Without the advice/mentoring of others, I wouldn't have gotten to where I'm at. Fulfilling your KS afterwards in the quickest amount of time, is what's best. Why? Because late orders are one-time orders. But have a plan:

1) preset up your DROPBOX files for your PDF orders. 

2) order a Rubber stamped with YOUR name & address on it. You don't want to write your name/address 100+ times. Plus, it'll last 1-5 campaigns. 

3) pre-order plastic bags & comic boards. Enough to fulfill your order. 

4) make sure you have enough bubble wrap envelopes.  

You learn something new each campaign you do. 

CD: This being a campaign for book 1 (of 3), are you excited to get the campaigns going for books two and three, and what's your timing look like for those books moving forward?

KB: This campaign was to pay for the printing of the first issue (since its already completed), & the production of the second issue. So next KS will be printing second issue and production of the third. We're hoping to have the second issue completed by Sept/Oct. Then doing the second issue KS in November.

CD: Some people may not know this, but you have been part of the TOP COW talent hunt and have had your work produced. That's no overnight thing. Talk about the excitement that has come with that, and what you think made you rise above and have TOP COW choose you over others.

KB: Thanks. It's funny. As you know I live in Asia. So I didn't get the news until I woke up. I opened my email when I woke up, and the first email I opened said: if you're reading this email you didn't win. I was like. That sucks. Check the next email and it says: CONGRATS! I literally went from the lowest lows to the highest highs. It was awesome. Properly formatting my entry script. I know from talking with the editors of TOP COW, that almost 40% of entrants we're automatically rejected because of improperly formatted scripts. The other thing is that I think they knew I would USE this and run with it. Biggest thing they don't want is for somebody to squander this opportunity. I've always said there's a difference between somebody who wants something, and somebody who WANTS something.  Top Cow is looking for people who WANT this. Plus, my script was AMAZEBALLS. 

CD: Kelly, thanks again for taking the time to chat, and good luck with all of your future works.

KB: Thank you, Chris. It's always a pleasure and thanks for supporting indie comics. 

This interview was written by Chris Doucher, Managing Editor for GeekNerdNet.com.