The GOLGOTHA is mankind’s first mission to colonize a new world. It will take 80 years for the vessel to travel across space, where its passengers will awake from cryosleep to an untouched civilization that they will call home. But when the crash-landing wakes Captain Michael Lawton from his nightmares, he discovers that technology caught up to and surpassed the GOLGOTHA mission with a second mission that has built a thriving colony. Lawton has left behind the cruel reality of a past that doesn’t want him to find a future that doesn’t need him.
The concept behind GOLGOTHA stemmed from Top Cow President and COO Matt Hawkins’ research into quantum entanglement and transit times to other worlds and he eventually brought on Bryan Edward Hill to help him write the story. Joined by artist Yuki Saeki, who in turn brought in colourist Bryan Valenza, the team completed the 128-page science fiction adventure, and have taken their project to Kickstarter with a goal of raising $15,000.
This marks Top Cow’s third foray onto Kickstarter as the company seeks to reach a broader audience. “There are a lot of people like my wife,” says Hawkins, “who peruse Kickstarter but don’t make it into comic stores (without my dragging her along, heh).” Unlike the other successful Kickstarters under Top Cow’s belt, GOLGOTHA is a full story in a single book rather than a series, and higher tiers of funding will offer backers significant behind the scenes looks at the process of creating such a project. Assuming successful funding, does this mean more Kickstarter plans for Top Cow? “My preference is always going to be the traditional markets,” explains Hawkins, “but selling original graphic novels is hard through comic shops. Especially for new concepts and titles. I’d watched Jimmy Palmiotti and Brian Pulido both do a series of successful Kickstarters for their projects and thought we’d try to replicate. We had the book done here in advance which makes it easier to fulfill the rewards in a timely manner.”
Kickstarter isn’t the only way the company hopes to reach a broader audience, but, Hawkins explains, what works where is largely driven by the content. “Doing books like Sunstone reaches a very different audience. Think Tank as well sells more copies digitally and through Amazon than the direct market. We’re trying to offer a diverse range of books and taking advantage of the various distribution and retail mechanisms. Publishing is an incremental business, especially for original content ideas not supported by other media. Word of mouth and referrals are important.”
But while the GOLGOTHA Kickstarter bustles along, Hawkins can’t but feel the pressure, despite the gratification of fan support. “I’m fairly neurotic about everything and crowdfunding is as stressful as waiting for Diamond numbers for direct market sales.” I’m not gonna lie, as a Top Cow fan who’s been here from the beginning, that 25th anniversary buttons and stickers backer bonus is pretty sweet.
Fans of hard science fiction like Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, or Mass Effect (I’m listening)—and a healthy does of Apocalypse Now in the mix—might find GOLGOTHA to be right up their alley. The heavy science fiction and military aspect of the story is quite different from the fantasy and manga style that artist Yuki Saeki is used to. “It was definitely a new field for me as this was the most hardcore science fiction story I’d ever worked on,” says Saeki. “I had to shift from a manga-influenced look to a more realistic one. I also often used Manga Studio’s digital tools to get the perspective correct for drawing certain things, such as spaceships.” The genre change presented some of the biggest challenges to Saeki, requiring her to do a lot of research. “The biggest challenge was research. The technology had to be based on real things that exist today, so I studied many weapon, drone, and spaceship designs to create convincing visuals. At the same time, things needed to evolve a bit, because it’s set in the future. Matt and Bryan helped quite a bit by providing photos and links for reference.”
Saeki had a lot of freedom in the character design process. Hill and Hawkins provided her with samples of celebrities they had in mind for particular characters, but she wasn’t expected to stick too closely to to the details. “My favorite was Jennifer, because I had fun drawing her hair streaks and sassy expressions.” Working with colourist Bryan Valenza, Saeki her only request was that her art “be rendered in cell-shaded style, because I don’t like the overuse of gradients in science fiction comics.” Beyond that, Saeki had full confidence in Valenza’s colour scheme and his skills, “so I usually just handed him my pages and let him color however he saw fit. I’m perfectly happy with his work.”
GOLGOTHA is well on its way to reaching its goal by May 6th, and, since the book is already complete, backers can expect to receive their rewards just one month later. Then we’ll discover the science fiction mystery that begins with a mission named after the place of Jesus’ death. That doesn’t sound too dark and ominous at all…