Hailed as “a science-fiction fable for a Resistance audience,” John is joined on the 22-page story by Beth Varni on art, Toben Racicot on letters, and Jason Fleece on editing. He spoke with us about what readers can expect, and his delightful social media alter ego, the satirical foulmouthed political commentator Shower Cap.
Comics Experience: Without spoiling any aspect of your story, what can you tell us about The Worth & The Cost?
John Luzar: The Worth & The Cost celebrates the folks who choose to come off of the sidelines and onto the front lines. I wanted to explore and celebrate activism and activists, because that’s the makeup of the audience I’ve been building with the Shower Cap Blog.
It’s the story of Martyn, a palace guard, and Wyndym, an imperial bureaucrat, living under the oppressive rule of Emperor Penryck, whose selfishness and incompetence threaten to drive the planet into starvation, ruin, and riot. (Sound familiar?)
For Martyn, doing the right thing means putting his family first. But do you owe your children comfort… or freedom? Wyndym is desperately trying to improve the system from within, but what happens when she’s made party to a global atrocity?
And Emperor Penryck? He just wants to make sure no dying peasants get blood on his nice, clean cape.
CE: Your Shower Cap perk is something truly unique to Kickstarter comics! What can you tell us about your political alter ego and this offer?
JL: Heh. So, Shower Cap was born when I combined a couple of gifts my best friend gave me: a Captain America bathrobe, and a Captain America luchadore mask ahead of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign rally in Chicago (in the end, he chickened out and didn’t show, but that’s another story.)
The Shower Cap persona is… sort of gleefully juvenile and profane, righteously angry, kind of a “can you [expletive deleted] believe this [expletive deleted]” voice. Writing the blog is very cathartic for me personally, and the most common feedback I get is that it helps folks out a little bit, to laugh at all the horrible stuff constantly assaulting us in the news.
As a first-time comics creator, promoting a stand-alone one-shot comic, I don’t really have a lot to offer, in terms of rewards; no previous comics, no prints or bookmarks or alternate covers featuring characters the audience has an existing connection to, but I do have this character voice, and this style of writing. So I figured it would be a nice perk for my audience, to create some original, custom, content in that voice/style. That’s where the idea for the custom letters came from, and they’ve been pretty popular so far! It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what issues my backers pick for me to write about, and also to swearing a whole lot at some elected officials who deserve it.
This has been the plan for a loooooooong time, actually… there are no ads on my site, and all the content is public and free. I knew it would be an uphill battle, building a comics audience without any credits to my name, so I wanted to tell a story that I thought would appeal to the audience I’ve been building. Luckily, my readers have been really into it so far. I was pretty nervous about it, honestly, like… what if nobody cares? And then the up-front response was so great, we tripled our goal before noon on the first day… it was really exciting, and also a big relief.
CE: What advice did you get from the Fred Van Lente workshop that specifically helped you with The Worth & The Cost? What about the other courses and Creator’s Workshop?
JL: Fred is an excellent coach; he pointed out some basic flaws in the draft I showed him right away; for example, that I was wasting more than half of my pages in exposition without getting my story started. Whoops. Like, I thought I was having trouble getting my story to fit into a single issue, and he pointed out I didn’t have that much actual STORY, just information. So I went back to the drawing board.
As for the other courses and the workshop, I mean… wow.
So, I’ve had to do dozens, maybe even hundreds of things, for the very first time. Writing the script, making a budget, creating contracts, hiring the art team, managing the schedule, giving notes, running a Kickstarter, giving interviews, getting the files ready for the printer, on and on and on… it’s all of these huge things that had made making a comic seem prohibitively intimidating in the past.
But after the courses (and especially a package of old videos Andy [Schmidt] offered after the Advanced Writing class), what’s crazy is how prepared I felt at every step of the way. Not saying there weren’t obstacles or mistakes, of course, just that I had a lot of information at my fingertips, which helped me solve problems, and set expectations.
And then on top of that, any time I needed a little extra help, I could swing by the CW and ask for help. And just refining the script using feedback from the critiques section was helpful, too.
CE: What is your relationship like with your creative team?
JL: Jason is actually an old friend from Chicago theatre, he’s directed me as an actor, but we’ve known each other quite a while, and we figured we’d help each other out as we try to break into comics.
Jason found Beth and Toben online, and they’re both great… it’s been really useful to have collaborators with more experience, they’ve helped us avoid quite a few mistakes.
As for relationships, I admit it’s been very strange for me… I’ve mostly been in theatre, as an actor, writer, or director, where you’re face to face with your collaborators throughout the entire process, more or less every single day. This has been more of a “go to your corners, do your work, touch base periodically” style of collaboration. It definitely took some getting used to, but I think everything has worked out well.
I mean, the entire working process with Toben, giving him the lettering draft, getting his work back, and then a round of notes, took less than a week! It was perfectly pleasant, (and he’s fantastic, by the way) it’s just a very different type of partnership than I’m used to.
It’s certainly been nice to have Jason to bounce ideas off of, and to work through all the production elements with. We’re both putting together a comic for the very first time, and it’s also been very cool to share the joy as the project comes together; every “first” (character designs, thumbnails, etc, through the finished book) has been a ton of fun.
Don’t forget to pledge to the Worth & The Cost Kickstarter campaign here!