Arturo Hilario/ El Observador
Would you read about pirates of the future fighting for their survival, among the looming shadow of a nefarious corporation?
One of the more interesting stories at Silicon Valley Comic Con(SVCC), which occurred the weekend of March 18-20 at the San Jose Convention Center, was not of any of the great cosplayers nor any particular guest panel, but the journey of issue #1 of “Scrimshaw”. The futuristic, post-apocalyptic story of pirates in an uneasy world debuted for the first time that weekend in downtown San Jose. It’s the journey of the comic, a mix of hard work and the oh so 2010’s idea of online crowdfunding, that made it stand out amongst the many sights and forms of media at the con.
The feedback of coming to SVCC to promote “Scrimshaw” was, according to its creator Eric Borden, great. “We really enjoyed it. We had quite a few people stop by and pick up the comic. (We) sold about 15% of all the books that we brought which is amazing for a debut comic. At least that’s how we saw it. We wanted to debut there (SVCC) and because the comic is kind of futuristic to debut in Silicon Valley, we thought it was welcomed very well all things considered.”
With a home base in Las Vegas, Screenwriter Eric Borden has, in fact, written a lot of stuff. Author of the book “House of Cards”, about his experiences as a bouncer in a Vegas nightclub, to producing a short film about Batman villain Harley Quinn, his experiences in writing and creating are what brought him to the world of comics. Part of Borden’s initial reasoning to jump into creating a comic was the ability to do more with less. “You can find that as a screenwriter it takes a lot of resources and people to make a screenplay come to life and in a fashion in which you can get it into other people’s hands. It takes a whole army of people, to make even a short screenplay to the screen. Something like a comic book you can do so much more that it’s not really limited by budget. You can tell so much more in an expansive story in a rich world, that’s what got me into it. I just wanted to be able to do more with less, and I felt that the comic book genre, or at least the format would lend itself to that, in terms of creativity and my ability to tell the story I wanted to tell.”
Borden’s idea for “Scrimshaw” didn’t come until he entered a 48-hour writing contest called NYC Midnight, in which he brought to life the first 2 characters of what eventually would become the basis of the comic’s story. “I had entered a contest really to keep my chops sharp and they give you a genre and a topic and you have to create a script around that. So I came up with a 10-page script with the main characters being Hans Tanaka and his sidekick Saigo. I came up with those two characters and the loose world that they live in in that contest. I knew I was on to something when I discovered Hans and Saigo. (I) Immediately fell in love with those characters and thought they deserved more.”
The next step to “start up” this comic was, like many things these days, get on the internet. Here is where Borden went looking for an artist to collaborate. The artist behind “Scrimshaw”, Dave Mims, was what helped weave the project into fruition.
Using a site called freelance.com, Borden ran into the artwork of Mims, and something clicked.
“I put an ad out for these characters and I saw Dave Mims’ style and really fell in love with that style. I thought ‘that’s what I want for these two characters’. I contacted Dave Mims and had him illustrate Hans and Saigo. I just felt like those two characters needed to be in the world and I wanted to see them in the flesh, or on paper. After I contacted Dave I knew we we’re onto something. It just kind of unfolded organically from there. The fill-in characters for the ship, The Runaway Horse, the world that they inhabit was just a matter of looking for a title for something else. Coming across the word scrimshaw (which is an American artform of engraving into whale bone, animal tusks etc.) it all came together, all at once.”
Finally, the Kickstarter came into play once all the conceptualization and story structures were done. “I’ve run a successful Kickstarter before so I was familiar with the platform. For a book that I wrote a few years back. When we hit our funding we knew we wanted to do Silicon Valley (Comic Con) and knew it was going to be a bit of a crunch. We started drawing the book in January so two and a half months of ‘fast and furious’, we liked that because a deadline is necessary and we felt we could maximize what we wanted to do. As an artist if you don’t set a deadline you endlessly tweak something and that’s not the best thing, so for us from starting on drawing the book to the day we debuted was two and a half months.”
The Story and Process
In “Scrimshaw”, the polar ice caps have melted and 4 generations have passed. This new world is inhabited by an old West type of Japan, one of the only surviving land masses from the great flood of the melt. The main cast is that of Hans and his ship crew. Their home is a type of battleship, The Runaway Horse. The characters come specifically from areas around the Pacific Ocean. Places like Mexico, Japan, American Samoa and New Zealand.
The comic features dossier, bios, even ads for weapons and services in the world of “Scrimshaw”. The idea is that these documents are contained in a Captain’s Log. One example of the character bios is the character of First Mate Mariposa (on the cover of this edition), whose bio says she “was the youngest of seven children born to a fisherman and his wife in New Zihuatenejo, Mexico.” This attention to detail adds to the depth of this world and the characters that inhabit it. “I’m a super nerd, so I like it to be extra realistic when it comes to that. There’s countless hours of research that go into it to make it feel authentic. You can set a lot of action based on what is on a ship once you find out what goes on a ship then it helps build the action and place the storyline that’s realistic and has a real feel for the reader.”
One of the more interesting facets is that “Scrimshaw” shows the reality of these characters, including the details people lose in large entertainment films and media. Borden says, “one of the things I always thought was cool as a screenwriter was that when you’re building a likeness to people they obviously go home to something, what is that world look like? They’re not always doing these amazing adventures. People still have to go to the grocery store, go to the bookstore, the normal mundane stuff that people do. So when you look at that and you think about it that’s the cool part, you really thought about it. You really get to flex your muscle in there and pretty much the skies the limit with something like that. You can do whatever you want. It shows the people that are creating it have done their homework. There’s one thing I’ve learned, especially with the fan stuff going on out there. If you don’t do it they will for you.”
The future for “Scrimshaw” looks full steam ahead. Borden says their next goal is to get issue #2 out by June, just in time for Las Vegas Comic Con (Borden says “that’s our home turf”). “Then we’re hoping to have issue #3 done in September for Salt Lake City Comic Con.”
“Then we’ll announce issue 4 and have our first collected trade. We feel like we’ll have a good body of work there. We’ll do a ‘mega book’. We should have a decent size captains log by then. We feel like the Captain’s Log is the fun part for us. We get to let our ‘nerd flag’ fly at that point. So we love that part and that’s gonna be staying in the book.”
And so it seems that for the time being a comic’s life is the life for the “Scrimshaw” team.
For more information on the “Scrimshaw” project and it’s creators, please visit:
<http://tinyurl.com/zps43zt> and <ericborden.com>.