Early this year CBNAH caught up with writer and artist duo of Tristan Roulot and Patrick Hénaff to talk about their two part book series The Will of Captain Crown, which was first published in France and successfully funded on Kickstarter for an English version of the comic. Both men are from France and are now currently living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Captain Crown is something unique, it's a hard boiled pirate crime story about the death of Captain Alexander Crown and his will. His chief officer, Red is entrusted to reunite the five children of Captain Crown. In this interview, they talk about the comic, using Kickstarter, living in Montreal and much more!
CBNAH: First off, how do you feel with the Kickstarter project in the last stage of sending out the rewards to the backers?
Patrick Hénaff: Well, we're pretty excited because we've been working on that for a few months now. Going through the campaign, it was very successful and sending out the final product, the book.
Tristan Roulot: That for us was our final sprint. The book is printed. We received it and are very content with the printing, the printer did a very well job, all that is left are the displays, the prints and little bonuses we promised to print. It is an end of a lengthy process.
CBNAH: Can you tell us the genesis of Captain Crown?
PH: It all started (it was the book in French) with me meeting Tristan. He had this story, he worked on the story long time ago, and tried it with another artist and never went through. When I moved into my own studio, I met with Tristan there and after awhile we wanted to do something together. He has this story with pirates that he told me about. We started to do a few pages and we sent that to the French publisher. The publisher was probably looking for that type of story. We signed the contract with them, very fast, and we started to work on the book right away.
TR: It was nice, I had arrived in Montreal, it had been five or six years, I went to a studio where Patrick and other comic book authors were at, and so Patrick and I, we thought about doing a project together, and for me being in North America, I had to do projects rather than comics, so I started proposing a story about Spider-Man, and, so one drunken night he asked why I proposed Spider-Man related things. He said, "I'm a Breton, my interests are boats, the sea, etc." And, well, there it was, a story of pirates was hatched, to which I replied "Sure". I had that story sitting inside my boxes for a very long time and so we went for it right after that evening. (laughs).
CBNAH: For those who didn't back the Kickstarter for the comic, what's the story of the comic?
PH: The story it's a little bit of a crime story set in a pirate environment. It's about an old sailor, an old pirate-- a legendary captain in the Caribbean. Who's killed and his second in command need to find all of the captain's children in order to give them the inheritance. Also, he has to unmask one of the children as the murderer of the father. He knows it's one of the children but doesn't know who. He has this double task to do in the comic.
CBNAH: Growing up were you either a big fan of Tintin or Spirou magazine?
PH: A little bit of both. I had a lot of them. My father used to collect them, so I had piles of both of those magazines. I also read those old style European, Belgium comic books and I learn to draw from them. And I was reading a lot of American comic books that were available in France at that time. But I had piles of Spirou at home, like the old ones from the 60s and 70s.
TR: I discovered Tintin when I was 16-17 years of age. My father bought a lot of comics, and that's what I read instead of magazines, there were tons of comics, piles and piles of them. I rather Tintin than Spirou, when it comes down to reading Tintin remains immortal.
CBNAH: What was your favorite strip from each magazine?
PH: Favorite one? They were a lot of great titles from both magazines. I used to like Gil Jordan. A lot of those titles are totally forgotten now. Too different kind of art that I do now, things like that I appreciate still.
TR: Something I read at the time and still read with great pleasure is Thorgal. Anything writer Jean Van Hamme does, I'm big fan of his work.
CBNAH: Who were your main influences growing up?
PH: Pretty much all the great talents that worked for both magazines.
TR:I had told you about Jean Van Hamme. He's a big influence because he is the best in France in terms of scenario, in technical scenario, meaning the narration is very precise, very condensed. He knows everything. The dialogues are complete, nothing gets disposed, it's perfection. So, Van Hamme, or else I'd say Alan Moore, he has a philosophical and social dimension. Alan Moore is in my opinion number one, and has been for a long time.
CBNAH: How's life living in Montreal compare to France?
PH: It's strange because I didn't do the transition from France to Montreal. I used to live in Alberta for about six years and then moved from Alberta to Montreal. So the transition was from the west of Canada to the east of Canada. I had my cultural shock while living in Alberta, and it wasn't all that different here(Montreal). I never been an artist in France, so I have no idea what's it like to be a comic artist in France.
TR: For me, it's very different because I had done a tour of Quebec, and I had plans of moving from France. I arrived in Montreal and found it absolutely incredible, the type of mix between the American and French culture, the people of Quebec have a really interesting culture, as well as a very interesting energy, an energy we may not have enough of in France. However, what hasn't changed for my career is that the culture in France is subsidized, which means that every single festival takes tremendous care of the authors, they go to big restaurants, big hotels, etc every weekend. They visit the castles! Here, on the contrary, during the Comiccons, the authors pay for their tables, they are the traders of their work. That's a big difference, in comparing the statuses of authors and artisan author...The kind of mix where you have to sell your production. It's very different.
CBNAH: Were there any doubts for starting a Kickstarter for Captain Crown?
PH: Yes, there were a lot of doubts of doing the Kickstarter at every stage. We did the Kickstarter campaign if there was some sort of interest for this type of title. We weren't sure at all if anyone wanted to fund this comic. Once we reached our stretch goal, our next thought was how to present a good looking book.
TR: The campaign was a real roller coaster. It did not stop from the beginning. You see the first 100$, 200$, 300$. We got up to 1000$ and still needed to gain 6000$. You tell yourself that you'll never make it and that there's only 30 days left. At the end of day 8 or 10 we had practically arrived at 5000$ or 7000$, and, once again, you tell yourself "Ouf, it's happening." and it continues. And, it happened again at day 10 or 12, and, reaching the three last days it was at around 15 000$. There's something extreme towards the end, you are immensely psychologically exhausted, it's that intense. It requires a ton of work, to question and ask what we have to put as a new objective for the campaign, to keep things rolling and active, and what we would do differently, but overall it is amazing. For me, it's completely unexpected. We didn't know what was going to happen.
CBNAH: Will you do a Kickstarter for any of your previous works?
PH: Well, we're going to do a Kickstarter for the second volume of Captain Crown in the same exact model. We're hoping to be as successful as the first one. Going to plan that campaign around spring or in the summer. Also, we already kept the rights for North America on our current three book series called Hedge Fund, which deals with banks and the financial crisis of 2008. And by contact we kept all of the rights so we can do the same thing like Captain Crown. But for the future that's the plan to keep on doing this.
TR: Well, indeed, it is true that Kickstarter reaching the American continent is an absolutely amazing solution for us Europeans. Effectively, we have our public in Europe, and yes, the news for a new series is accurate, now that we can negotiate the contracts - we keep the American rights, as well as our chances, and introduce our work...Kickstarter is very interesting...I see no other way to commence it for the moment because we're not only talking about translation, we're talking about completely reformatting the album into a comic, it takes a lot of time, it needs funding...We cannot do it on our own, we need funding!
CBNAH: Has any North American publishers got in contact with you to publish Captain Crown?
PH: No, not yet. But once we got the two books, we're definitely going to send it out to all of the different publishers to see if there's an interest. Maybe or maybe there will be and if not the book still exists.
TR: We went...In its inception, actually, when we imagined doing this translation, we had gone to check out Comiccon in New York to see if there was a possible interest and well we spoke to them about a story of pirates in theme of an Agatha Christie crime story and they asked if there were any zombies in our pirate story, so we very quickly noticed that they were a little skeptical in comparison to European productions, we had mentioned that the story had a historical background and it frightened them, they were maybe scared it would be a little boring, that is why we started Kickstarter. What is certain is that the books made by Kickstarter can't be found anywhere else, even if we go to another editor where we will consider a do-format graphic novel compiling the two books into one, but the object book offered by Kickstarter's backers will however be a specific kind.
CBNAH: Any upcoming Con appearances?
PH: We're going to do that. First one will be at the one in Montreal in the fall. We're going to contact someone from the con to see if we can get a table there.
TR: Yes, it's going to be really interesting to meet and get feedback from our readers. There will definitely be a return. We sent Captain Crown's PDF about a month and a half ago and we already have very pleasant replies, but it will be interesting to see once people have the physical copy of the book in hand.
CBNAH: Where you do see yourselves in three to five years from now?
PH: That's a very good question. I would like to have the answer for that (laughs). We're working on Hedge Fund at the moment and it's going to be done around 2015. And after that, I'm going to be unemployed (laughs).
TR: I heard about a reward. I don't know, it interests me (laughs).
Special Thanks to Lori T. for helping out on this interview.