Chip Reece’s son Ollie is a real life SUPER-HERO. Born with Down syndrome and needing three open-heart surgeries before his first birthday, he has overcome more obstacles than most people will face in their life. As Ollie got older, Chip wanted to share his love of comics with his brave son, but couldn’t find a hero that represented Ollie. So Chip did the most amazing thing… he created one himself.
METAPHASE is a potent love letter to Chip’s son Ollie, showing a young boy with Down syndrome, pining so much to be like his Super-Hero father and inadvertently unleashed a dangerous villain upon the city. Ollie rushes into action, facing the villain himself, and transforms into Metaphase, a Hero like his father, with abilities that are even more powerful and more spectacular that anyone could have every dreamed.
The comic, published by ALTERNA, which has amassed an awesome collection of Indie Comics, and is lettered by Alterna founder PETER SIMETI and brought to life by the spectacular artistic talent of KELLY WILLIAMS, is a eight-two page action adventure romp filled with heart and excitement.
I recently had a chance to chat with METAPHASE writer CHIP REECE about comics, the representation of persons with disabilities in today’s comic book market, as well as the trails and tribulations of Kickstarter.
LETS START AT THE BEGINNING, WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO MAKE COMICS?
Not long after having my son, who has Down syndrome, I decided to look for comics that featured characters like him. I couldn’t find anything, which led to me taking my own crack at it. METAPHASE is my first ever, comic writing venture, and totally a love letter to my son. If it weren’t for him I would have never taken the leap from fan to writer!
CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ISSUE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE THE SCRIPT? IS IT MARVEL STYLE OR FULL SCRIPT?
METAPHASE was initially imagined as a mini-comic that I planned to share with the people who were a part of my son’s life. So, I had what was originally a ten-page teaser comic of something that could be a larger story. It basically gave me the framework for the start and end of the story. Once I knew the story would be bigger, I fleshed out individual character details, created a detailed outline and then drew from that to write the full script.
I am definitely a full script guy. A big part of that is it helps me understand the pacing of the story and the timing of dialogue within a scene/moment. Still, I’m extremely flexible on how the artist interprets or brings an entirely new perspective to a page or panel. I really lucked out working with Kelly, because he did all of that and more, even suggesting some additional scenes that gave one of the supporting characters more depth in a clever way.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A COMIC BOOK WRITER? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED OR PERHAPS A MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST ANOTHER CREATOR ENTERING INTO INDEPENDENT COMICS DO DIFFERENTLY?
I’ve had a pretty good experience so far, but a part of that may be because my expectations are a little different from a lot of people trying to “break-in” to comics. I wrote METAPHASE for the sole purpose of my son having a comic character he can relate to. The fact that it has gone beyond that is still amazing to me. If money and time permits, I’d like to keep making comics for my son.
As for a mistake? I’m sure there’s some things I bumbled through being a first time creator, but I think we were fortunate to not have any glaring issues. The best thing I can say is to do your research. There are a TON of “how to” type things out there. From finding an artist to how to run a comic book Kickstarter, it’s all out there. Research and asking lots of questions is what helped me get started.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER TO A CREATOR/ARTIST LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS IN TODAY’S MARKET?
That’s a hard one. I don’t feel like I qualify to answer that! I will say that there doesn’t seem to be a “size fits all” way of getting there. Whatever your goal is, set it in front of you and work hard at it as much as possible. Man, that sounds cheesy…
METAPHASE WAS A REALLY COOL STORY AND I BEING A DAD MYSELF, THAT LOVE BETWEEN FATHER AND SON REALLY CAME ACROSS ON THE PAGE. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE THIS STORY AND CRAFT IT IN A SUPERHERO SETTING?
Thanks! Yeah, my son is THE reason METAPHASE exists. On one level, I saw my son as superhuman in the way he survived a barrage of surgeries related to his multiple heart defects. But, story-wise, I went the superhero route because I felt like it was the biggest way to illustrate that having Down syndrome doesn’t change how big you can dream. I want my son to know there isn’t a ceiling to what he can do.
METAPHASE IS ALSO A VERY PERSONAL STORY FOR YOU, HAVING A SON THAT WAS BORN WITH DOWN SYNDROME. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO YOU TO WRITE THIS STORY AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE FEEDBACK YOU HAVE RECEIVED FROM OTHER READERS WHO HAVE LOVED ONES WITH DOWN SYNDROME?
When I saw that there were no comics with characters that have Down syndrome, I felt like I HAD to do it. It would be my fault if there weren’t comics for him when he was old enough, so it became a mission. I want Ollie to feel like comics are a world he belongs in, not just another place on a long list that ignores or doesn’t include him. Comics have a long way to go in representing people with disabilities, and I’m doing what little I can to change that.
The feedback has all been positive as far as I can tell! On the most basic level, people have been happy just to see positive representation. We’ve had several nice reviews, but the best are always individuals who are parents/siblings/family of someone with Down syndrome.
HOW DID YOU AND ARTIST, KELLY WILLIAMS, AND LETTERER/PUBLISHER, PETER SIMETI, MEET AND DECIDE TO WORK TOGETHER FOR THIS PROJECT?
I was promoting Kickstarter projects on StashMyComics.com, and came across a project Kelly was involved in called THE CABINET with writer Christian Sager. Kelly’s unique style stuck with me as well as the particular details he gave to facial expressions and features. I sent Kelly my initial teaser pitch and he was interested right away.
While things were coming together for the teaser, I was doing some research on printing the book. I asked for ideas on Twitter to which Peter responded by asking me to email him specific questions. One email later he asked for a pitch and from that told me he would be interested in publishing the book!
Kelly and Peter’s help were invaluable during the production phase of the book. If they ever got sick of my asking questions, neither of them showed it. I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with on a first comic project.
I LOVE OLLIE’S DESIGN WHEN HE IS METAPHASE. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?
I basically described his “power mode” as him looking like a human black hole and described his abilities. Kelly took that and created something way cooler than what was in my head. I was especially blown away by how he pulled off the phasing scene where Ollie lets the villain fly into him. It is probably my favorite “super” moment in the book.
I SEE THAT THIS PROJECT WAS ALSO FUNDED BY A SUCCESSFUL KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN. SO MANY CREATORS NOW A DAYS ARE USING KICKSTARTER AS A VEHICLE TO BRING THEIR CREATIVE PROJECTS TO NEW AUDIENCES AND I HAVE HEARD STORIES ABOUT THE GOOD AND BAD ASPECTS OF KICKSTARTER. IS THERE ANY STORIES OR ADVICE YOU CAN SHARE WITH OUR READERS ABOUT YOUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN EXPERIENCE THAT MIGHT HELP THEM PREPARE FOR THEIR OWN LAUNCHES?
There are so many things to talk about! I’ll keep it down to three suggestions:
#1 RESEARCH – I was promoting Kickstarter’s for a while before I ever imagined running my own. The time I spent doing that gave me a lot of insight into what does and doesn’t work and how to budget for different aspects of production. Look up some successful Kickstarter’s and get some ideas. There’s also a bunch of helpful tutorials and videos out there.
#2 BE PREPARED TO DO A LOT OF WORK – Preparing for and running your project will suck a lot of time. If you have a day job, you’ll need remarkable time management skills.
#3 HYPE – We had a ten-page teaser comic release on FCBD prior to running the Kickstarter. It went a long way in drawing and building interest to the project!
YOU ARE ON A DESERT ISLAND AND CAN HAVE ONE MUSIC ALBUM, ONE MOVIE/TV SHOW, AND ONE NOVEL. WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Music: TMNT’s Coming Out of Their Shells Tour Album
Movie: Groundhog Day
Novel: Something with a lot of pages so I have plenty to wipe with while I wait for a rescue.
WHAT IS ON YOUR CURRENT “MUST READ” LIST?
I haven’t been able to keep up with monthly comics, but I’ll list some favorite GNs/collections I’ve read recently:
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Nanjing – The Burning City by Ethan Young
Oyster War by Ben Towle
Usagi Yojimbo Saga by Stan Sakai
Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING CONVENTIONS OR EVENTS YOU WILL BE ATTENDING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERSHIP TO BE AWARE OF?
I’m actually pulling back this year while I write more METAPHASE, but I’m certain I’ll be at Air Capital Comicon in Wichita, KS this November! While everyone’s waiting to road trip to Wichita (heh), they should all go see Kelly Williams at C2E2 March 18-20!
You can pick up Metaphase on comixology here