October 16, 2013

Interview -- Matt O'Keefe on DEADLESS: Four immortals determined to die

This is the story of four fools who forfeited their mortalities to a trickster and now must do its bidding to reclaim the right to die. So reads the solicitation for Matt O'Keefe's Deadless, a great creator-ownded comic I had the pleasure of reviewing some time ago. Deadless has been finally found a home at Alterna Comics and is scheduled for release on October 9th, so I took this opportunity to contact Matt and talk a little about the book, the process of getting it published, marketing a creator owned title, and what readers can expect from him and the series.

Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: First off, congratulations on getting Deadless published. Before we get into that adventure, give us a little rundown on the concept behind Deadless and how you came up with it.
Matt O'Keefe
Matt O'Keefe: Thanks! A quick synopsis is that it’s about four immortals determined to die. They’re not all at that point by the end of Deadless #0, but they’ll get there. It starts out with a very defeatist tone, which probably came from my own life. I wrote this in college, when my mental health went way downhill. I felt stuck in my depression for a long time, and with Deadless I guess I subconsciously brought that experience to a supernatural scale.
CB: I guess you can say, then, that writing about a devil helped you purge some of your inner demons?  Could you comment at all about how the creative process helped restore some balance to your life and how the act of writing can be a healing exercise?
O'Keefe: The worst thing you can do when you’re depressed, in my experience, is laze around. Writing and especially developing Deadless kept me busy, giving me less time to mope. Plus I could remind myself that, as bad as I thought I had it, my characters have it so much worse.
CB: Yeah, you really put them through the wringer. So, I understand that creating Deadless as it appears today was a true labor of love. What was the process you had to go through to get this book together?

O'Keefe: It started with Decrepit. I teamed with my pal Pat Loika (who readers might know best from his Loikamaniapodcast) to do a short comic story, just for fun. But looking at the finished pages I saw potential for more and developed this idea about four miserable immortals. 
I then searched for artists for the other chapters. I got really lucky finding Arisyahrazad (Anointed) and Cecilia Latella (Hexed) in online communities; I really can’t imagine those stories without their flair. Sam Tung (Unfriendly) I was already familiar with from his work at GrayHaven Comics, and I knew he was the guy to tell Jasper’s story. Then I got my former collaborator Douglas Draper, Jr. for covers. And I knew Jesse Turnbull, the amazing colorist, through Doug.
Once I had the completed pages I hired Tim Daniel (EnormousMorning Glories, Bendis’ Icon line) to design the book. After that I printed it and pitched it at C2E2 and NYCC in 2011. In the end I was picked up by Alterna, which publishes the New York Times best seller FUBAR, among other great titles.
CB: Without going into too much detail, how were you able to get these artists to work with you? Did they agree to work on spec? Were you able to pay them a page rate? Or did you have them sign some sort of contract in blood (heh)?
O'Keefe: Everyone received a page rate. Since I designed the project as an opportunity to collaborate with a number of artists, sharing ownership wasn’t really a feasible option. Cost of production is one of the biggest hurdles in makingDeadless. I’m actually looking for an artist for future arcs so if anyone reading is interested in illustrating in exchange for backend pay and exposure, feel free to contact me.
CB: So now that you got this zero issue out, what are the plans for Deadless past this and what can we expect from the series?
O'Keefe: The first arc, Die Trying, is three issues. The Deadless are together for the first time, and we see a devil’s deals gone wrong.
CB: Do you have an end in mind for the series? Are you planning a long run or will this be a self-contained story in a smaller number of issues?
O'Keefe: I’m trying to be realistic and plan accordingly, so I plotted out a 12-issue ‘season’ that stands alone. But, if there’s demand beyond that, I definitely have more story to tell.
CB: You have plans for a website tie-in. What sort of content can fans of the book expect to find there?
O'Keefe: Since I can’t guarantee a regular publishing schedule, I really want to offer readers something to keep them engaged in all things Deadless. The DeadlessComic.com blog will have posts showing every step of the process for my favorite pages, really frank discussion about the state of the comic industry for a small press writer, and a lot of exclusive info about the series. That’s just to start.
CB: How important do you think it is to keep your audience engaged in the series even when the books are not on the shelf? Besides the web site, will you be using other platforms to keep in touch with your audience and, through that, build a larger one?
O'Keefe: Social media is key. I’m using my Twitter page to drum up interest, but really the power is with the readers. The best lead to a sale is a recommendation, so people sharing Deadless helps a LOT. And, as I say in the zero issue, I’ll DM everyone who uses the hashtag #Deadless four pages of unseen art from the series.
CB: Anything else going on in the world of Matt O'Keefe that people should be aware of?
O'Keefe: Well, I have another book coming out from Alterna that hasn’t been announced yet which is tangentially related to Deadless. It’s funny, or at least tries to be. The final inks came in for the first issue, and they look amazing. The artist, Blake Sims, will probably have a deal with Fantagraphics or Top Shelf by the time we finish the first volume.
CB: Final question. Where can someone get their hands on all this Deadless goodness?
O'KeefeDeadless will be available on ComiXology October 9th.

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