You may have noticed that I am quite of fan of the independent project by Luke Keith and Jeremy Fiest entitled 7%. I’ve written a review of Issue 1 and Issue 2 which you should go check out.

Luke and Jeremy were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for Ideology of Madness. Give it a read and then go pick up their comic, 7%

1. Tell us about your independent project and the process behind it?

Luke:
The name of this project is Seven Percent. It is a six issue comic mini-series developed by Jeremy Fiest and myself. I originally came up with the idea back in the summer of 2010, I spent a while working on the basic concepts before I went to Jeremy. By December of 2010 we had completed the first issue.

Professionally, I write a lot of code, and if there’s something programming has taught me, it’s that everything must fit together and have a purpose. Every line of code has a reason for existing. In other words, if I create a story that takes place in a distant future where the human mind and technology can work harmoniously together, what are the implications? How can this technology be used and how can it be abused? What sort of conflicts might arise as a result? It’s important to me that the story I create does not conflict with itself or the rules of that universe. I am a an absolute stickler for this sort of thing.

In developing the story, I tend to place a heavier focus on the big picture and making sure everything makes sense. Jeremy has a talent for character development and telling stories. As a result, our process if very efficient and we rarely step on each other’s toes. Writing this story with Jeremy could not have been more fun or gone more smoothly.

Jeremy:
Luke and I have worked well together, as far as writing partners go, because our strengths and interests compliment each other. He’ll come to me with a few of the core ideas and I’ll execute and build upon them, mostly focusing on the mechanics of the plot and character; however, I’ll of course do my fair share of building the universe throughout this process. After I do a draft, I’ll send it to him for his notes. From there we chip away at it until it’s in a place we both love, and even then we’ll work at it some more. Something we’re exploring in this book is the idea of good vs. evil, a concept of focus I brought to the table early on. No one is squeaky clean nor is any one person absolutely bad, so that’s how we’re approaching the dynamics of power and how certain characters interact with it. Power is an interesting thing. It changes you to some degree, for better or worse.

When Luke came to me with this idea, I was a bit intimidated by the sheer scope of the universe; I tend to write smaller scale, character-focused stories, but I have, however, always had a great love anything well told within the action or science fiction genres. So after I thought about it, I fell in love with the challenge of writing this book. I love the idea of juxtaposing these very human questions and elements against this massive Sci-Fi universe backdrop.

2. How have you been able to fund your project?

Luke:
As an artist, I refuse to creatively compromise my vision in order to make a financier happy. The only answer was to finance it myself. It’s an expensive hobby and a bit of a money hole. We would have to sell 8,000+ copies of each issue to break even, so I do not expect to ever see that money again. I do this because I love it!

Jeremy:
Mind control.

3. What has been your influences in creating comics and what made you want to do so in the first place?

Luke:
I’m not really a huge fan of most American comics, primarily because the stories are not that interesting to me, and there is very little character development and/or story progression. For example, how many times has Batman and Superman been told and retold in comics? How many conflicting stories are there? It makes it hard to follow a single story that I love. This is why I am a HUGE anime and manga fan. A good example is Naruto, which recently released the 626th chapter. Every chapter contributes to the main storyline and moves the story forward in a way that is constantly building on what you’ve come to know and love. The characters get older, they learn new things, they emotionally progress, etc. I wanted to bring this level of character development, storytelling, and creativity to American comics.

Jeremy :
I started out writing screenplays. I worked for a short time in the Hollywood scene and directed a feature film shortly there after in my mid-twenties. I started in comics around the age of 18 (I’m 31 now) after I got to know Ray Dillon in high school. He basically introduced me to the comics medium and we started working on small projects together, he being an artist. I’ve been doing it off and on over the years, working on a few freelance projects here and there, but never on anything I was truly passionate about. When I had started moved to Kansas from Los Angeles, I started working freelance more steadily and that’s when Ray introduced me to Luke and the Turtles project.

My influences vary. I’ve read everything Alan Moore (who hasn’t), and I’ve read as many interesting indie titles as possible. If something more mainstream starts doing something different enough, I’ll look into that as well. The newest Hawkeye run is a good example. I’d say I draw my greatest influences from film and literature, but how those show up in my writing for comics varies and depends on the project. In going into SEVEN PERCENT, I looked to writers like Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Orson Scott Card. I also looked relied heavily on my nerd-level knowledge of film and television. Of course, this process wasn’t so much about directly emulating anything from past writers (though, it’s good to know what works and what doesn’t), but more about trying to create something that was fresh and at the same time somewhat nostalgic. That was the goal anyway. Whether we accomplish that is up to the readers.

4. What would you like people to take in when reading your comic?

Luke:
I want people to fall in love with our characters and enjoy watching them grow throughout the course of our story, which is designed to grow far beyond the six issue arc we are wrapping up right now. I want people to be intrigued by the universe we have created, and I want to approach questions like “What does it mean to be free?” in a way people have never thought of before.

Jeremy:
As a writer, my hope is that the work I’ve does its job for all kinds of readers. That includes someone who breezes through it and enjoyed it at a surface level or someone who takes their time and appreciates what we’ve tried to do on a deeper level.

5. What other projects have you been working on and what kind of stuff would you like to do in comics?

Luke:
Jeremy and I are developing another graphic novel right now called Nocturne. The premise pulls a 180 on the age old mythology of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night. What if there was a creature that ruled the light? What if mankind was forced to become subterranean and nocturnal in order to survive? Life on the surface is no longer a memory, it is a fairy tale told in children’s stories. The story begins when two strange men visit Meridian, an underground city, and tells stories of a city far away where they live on the surface without fear of the creatures.

I am also working on a three issue comic mini-seriers with VJ Boyd, one of the writers for Justified, the hit FX TV show. The series is called Ghost Cop. If you like Justified, then you will like Ghost Cop. The series is being published by Antarctic Press and will be released later this year.

Jeremy:
Nocturne, as Luke said.

6. What are you reading right now, any comics right now you are really into?

Luke:
Well, I’m a huge anime and manga fan, so I am currently following Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Hajime no Ippo, and Berserk. Other favorites are Death Note, Cowboy Bebop, FullMetal Alchemist, Ranma 1/2, and of course Trigun.

Jeremy:
Currently, I’m reading Chew, Saga, Irredeemable, The Manhattan Projects, Hawkeye, and East of West. Just finished The Underwater Welder.

7. What are your plans for the future?

Luke:
I plan to have a couple more kids, get my business off the ground, and make enough money to finance my passion for telling cool stories in a comic book format. I am also working on another pretty big graphic novel that I can’t talk about just yet, but I have plans to write a script for film and raise enough money to send it to the silver screen. But who knows, my plans may completely fail and I could end up flipping burgers at McDonalds. Until that fateful day, I will tell as many stories as I can in whatever medium I can afford.

Jeremy:
To keep writing…even if I somehow lose my arms in a grizzly accident and afterwards I’m forced into learning to wield my left foot instead, like Danial Day Lewis.

And to not work at McDonalds.

8. When will your project be released?

Luke:
The first and second issue of Seven Percent is already available online and for digital download on ComicsPlus and ComiXology. We will continue to release one issue every month until all six have been released.

Jeremy:
I wish there was a set way of doing this. It’s different for each project. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m writing or procrastinating (does sitting upside down on the couch and watching the Colbert Report count as writing?). For this project, I’ve tried my best to take whatever Luke gives me and take it up a notch. There’s always room for improvement. Similarly, like I said before, when I complete a draft, it goes back to Luke and he gives me notes on what elements he thinks could use improvement. I’ll take those notes and start the process over again, trying always to improve on what we’d already done.

9. What is your method of writing/creating how do you come up with your content?

Luke:
That’s a good question, the wheels are always turning trying to think of new and exciting ideas for my existing stories, and stories that I plan to write. I will often zone out during a meal, while sitting in my chair at the office, or even while lifting weights at the gym. You never know what could spark a cool idea, I’ve often woken up in the middle of the night to write down things I’ve dreamed. I’m no genius or super-writer, just an average dude with an over-active imagination and a passion for creative expression. Thank goodness I have Jeremy around to help me organize my thoughts into coherent ideas. That guy is an absolute genius when it comes to writing. Between the two of us, we are never short on content or things to write about.

Jeremy:
I wish there was a set way of doing this. It’s different for each project. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m writing or procrastinating (does sitting upside down on the couch and watching the Colbert Report count as writing?). For this project, I’ve tried my best to take whatever Luke gives me and take it up a notch. There’s always room for improvement. Similarly, like I said before, when I complete a draft, it goes back to Luke and he gives me notes on what elements he thinks could use improvement. I’ll take those notes and start the process over again, trying always to improve on what we’d already done.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

Luke:
If you love Ninja Turtles as much as you should (if you are American and love pizza), then you should definitely check out “Ninja Turtles : Dawn of the Ninja”, a graphic novel by Jeremy and myself, with incredible artwork by Ray Dillon. We have completed two chapters, and released it free to read online at www.dawnoftheninja.com. This was the first comic I produced, and it is entirely to blame for my unquenchable desire to tell stories in a comic book format. It is only after discovering that we would never be able to publish it that Jeremy and I started developing our own original stories. Seven Percent is the first.

I really appreciate IndieReader.com for taking an interest in Seven Percent. I am humbled and encouraged by the amount of support we have received from good people like IndieReader.com. Thank you!

Jeremy:
Thanks for the interview. 

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