Creators Workshop members and Comics Experience alumni have teamed up with our friends and partners at Source Point Press for an exciting Kickstarter with a fresh and fascinating premise. Roads (Not) Taken began as a challenge in the Workshop, serving as both personal introductions and a creative exercise exercise. Participants  – which include Milton Lawson, Ramon Gil, Blake Braswell, Marta Tanrikulu, Stu Rase, Will Allred, Jason Czaplicki, Keith Davidson, Emily Elmer, Diana Naneva, and more – tell stories about famous fictional and non-fictional figures they want to meet, and what a road trip with them might look like.

The book provides a fascinating glimpse into how many of our creators view the world and the people who inspire them.

Roads (Not) Taken sets itself apart from the pack of anthologies currently coming out in a few key ways,” says Source Point Press President and Editor-in-Chief Travis McIntire.

“Beyond the fact that this collection of writers and artists are some of the best in the independent world, the theme – a road trip with someone that exists outside their world – forced the creators to put their characters on the move, to consider how a character (from other fiction, or from history) would interact with their own creations. What this has lead to is one of the most engaging, and interesting, comic anthologies I’ve had the privilege of reading…and publishing!”

Workshop member and alumnus Shaun Manning is coordinating the campaign along with Travis. We spoke with him about the project.

Comics Experience: How did the concept for Roads (Not) Taken come about in the Creators Workshop?

Shaun Manning: This project was the brainchild of fellow workshop member Dave Kawalec, who had solicited concepts under the heading of “Getting to Know You” in the forum. The idea was to create stories that would help us, as creators, get to know each other through the creative process, through choosing and telling the story of a famous traveling companion, living or dead, real or imaginary. There was a lot of excitement and interest around the idea, and we had a number of names batted about for adventurers.

CE: How were the stories chosen?

SM: After that initial round of excitement, a good number of scripts were submitted to the workshop group. We offered our critiques and recommendations for strengthening the core concepts, and in at least one occasion we had a traveling companion change. Because this is a community effort, we didn’t outright reject any pitches at this stage. There were, however, some that were not re-submitted after revision — which is fine. The creators may have had other priorities they’d prefer to focus on.

The next challenge was putting together a creative team. Comics Experience has a rich community of writers and artists, but possibly because of the ways this project came about, a lot of these pitches originated with the writers. We made efforts to pair folks up within the CE boards, but of course that could never suit all needs. So there was something of an obstacle as writers worked to find line artists, colorists, and letters to bring their story to life. Some of that initial batch of writers didn’t manage it, or didn’t manage it on time; that’s nothing against them, sometimes a pitch just doesn’t work out, sometimes you’re not resourced to make it work out within the submission window. These creators do great work, and continue to do great work.

Now, it wasn’t a matter of “if you get art done, you’re in.” Though I’d seen all of the scripts and the stories were strong, it was still possible that the finished comic just wouldn’t be up to par. Thankfully, I didn’t have to have those difficult conversations, because without exception these creators delivered. There are a number of really interesting styles in the book. Stu Rase drew his Ol’ Dirty Bastard story himself, and it is completely fitting. Some of our other creators also pulled double duty, like Ramon Gil, who wrote and colored his story as well as designing the anthology. But in all cases, these folks delivered  – Colin Cheney found Diana Naneva for his story about the poet John Clare, and her style is completely fitting if you know anything about John Clare; Keith Davidson for Ronn Sutton and Stephen Legge to do his very EC Comics-style story about Death hitchhiking with clowns. Marta Tanrikulu, Lipe Diaz, Sandro Ribeiro, Emily Elmer, Kevin D. Lintz do something different still with their story about a short drive with the teacher who became an astronaut on the doomed Challenger launch. The list goes on.

CE: Why does the theme of road tripping with inspirations resonate with creators and audiences? Is there any difference between how the two engage with the theme?

SM: It’s a bit of a party question, isn’t it? It goes back to that initial workshop post of “Getting to Know You.” Who you choose says something about you. How you see yourself, how you wish to be seen; what you need, or what you think you need. How you perceive the world. What holds value. That’s the creative appeal.

For readers, well, these are familiar faces. We know them, or think we know them; at any rate, they are great cyphers. Roger Ebert is synonymous with “film critic,” and we trust his opinions. Stephen Hawking is an icon not only because of his genius but because of his unique life. Charlie Chaplin holds a place of privilege in the history of comedy and film. These people mean something, beyond their individual existence. That gives them special power in storytelling.

The road trip, too, is a familiar journey. Even if we’ve never been cross country, we’ve likely been on a long car ride, we know the sorts of conversations that ensue and how this environment is often very far removed from the ways our every day existence operates. We learn things about each other, sometimes big, but more often small yet poignant. And again, not all of the stories in Roads (Not) Taken are literal road trips; most aren’t. But the idea of a journey is central, venturing from Point A to Point B and experiencing change along the way. These icons, our traveling companions, facilitate that change, and I think this combination is what makes these stories compelling.

You can support Roads (Not) Taken on Kickstarter here.