By Matt O’Keefe
Since 2008 Jeff McComsey has been immersed in all things FUBAR. The New York Times best selling zombie series has consisted of three anthology-style graphic novels and a number of individual issues. In September Jeff ran a wildly successful Kickstarter for Mother Russia, the first FUBAR graphic novel to feature one extended story. I talked to him about writing/drawing the book – and a lot more!How did FUBAR Press first come together?
FUBAR was originally just supposed to be a convention book. Something with an attention grabbing title that for a few bucks more you got a custom WWII zombie sketch in. Jorge Vega and I put together a bunch of WWII zombie stories from some of my fellow small press creators and Steve Becker put together this gonzo booth complete with replica machine gun. We sold FUBAR: European Theater of the Damned at a few shows in 2008 and I saw a response from people who bought it that I hadn’t seen before. For the first time we thought we might be on to something fun that would also sell. We kickstarted our next book FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead and managed to land it on The New York Times Best Selling Graphic Novel list! Since then we’ve just been focusing on putting out more content and having something new for fans when they come by at the next convention.
Was there a big learning curve with running a small publisher?
There definitely is but there’s also a fantastic community of other guys and girls doing the same thing who are there for questions and support. From the beginning we grew FUBAR organically being careful to not go overboard and spend outside our means. We were fortunate to come up at a time where crowd funding was just getting to be a bigger force in indie publishing. We combined that with a big convention presence and year after year we’ve been able to grow the label and publish more and more.
You ran successful Kickstarter campaigns before Mother Russia. FUBAR: American History Z raised over $17,000. Then Mother Russia raised almost 96k. Were you prepared for that level of interest?
We were ready for it but I’m still surprised by the number of backers we ended up with in the end. Kickstarter was kind enough to feature us in their “Projects We Love” e-newsletter that goes out to almost the whole Kickstarter community during our campaign. As a result we ended up with a lot of backers that normally don’t back comic projects which is awesome for us and comics on Kickstarter in general.
How’s fulfillment going?
It’s going great. Right now I’m plugging away on MOTHER RUSSIA and making sure the stretch goal comics and other stuff is ready when the book is done and printed. So far we have the T-shirts and onesies printed as well as four out of the five stretch goal comics are printed or at the printer.
A lot of creators using Kickstarter have struggled with the added cost of stretch goals, particularly in regards to shipping. Has that been an issue for the Mother Russia?
I think because we had done a few campaigns before this one we had good figures for exactly what each reward costs in terms of shipping going into it. We designed the stretch goals to be very economic but still get us and the backers the most bang for their buck. We chose to focus on adding comics as goals because they are both affordable to print and ship. Also as someone who backs a lot of comic projects on Kickstarter I like getting extra comics :)
Mother Russia is the first FUBAR graphic novel, and a comic with four-interconnected plots is a bonus in the Kickstarter. Are longer-form stories the future of FUBAR?
We have at least one more big anthology we want to do in the near future called FUBAR: BY THE SWORD that expands our historical zombie series to include all of world history and ancient history. After that we’ve got some things cooking for stand-alone material we’re excited to get out there, too.
After the exclusive kickstarter printing we want to run MOTHER RUSSIA as a three issue mini series in shops sometime in the late Summer or early Fall.
Now that you’ve built a big fan base, are there plans to further grow FUBAR brand?
Heck yeah. As I mentioned above we have FUBAR: By The Sword in the pipeline as well as both Steve Becker (FUBAR art director and MOTHER RUSSIA cover artist) and Jeff McClelland (FUBAR story editor) are working up their own stand alone projects. In addition to that FUBAR is participating in Free Comic Book Day this year. We have a stand alone one-shot called “The Ace of Spades” written by Chuck Dixon with art by Steve Becker and myself. Chuck wrote an action packed zombie spec ops story for us and I’m excited to have worked on it and that it gets to be part of FCBD 2014.
In addition to making comics, you’ve also been working as a freelance illustrator. Has this Kickstarter allowed you to devote yourself to FUBAR full-time?
It has. I was just about there before the campaign but now I don’t think I could pull it all off without having that extra time to devote to this project without going full-time. Really it’s two projects. First up is finishing the book and all the extra content and then it’s fulfilment time. Both of those are heavy duty projects. I have excellent help for both of those so I like our chances :)
Do you have any interest in working for one of the big comic book companies?
Absolutely. I love what we do with FUBAR PRESS and the freedom we enjoy writing and drawing our own books but there are some ace publishers I grew up reading that I’d love to work with. Companies like Dark Horse and Oni Press are a big reason why I do what I do. I’d love to get something in the new Dark Horse Presents. That book was a HUGE influence on me in my formative reading years and It’s been a goal of mine to get something in there since they relaunched it.
Are you pursuing adaptations of FUBAR into other media?
Not at the moment. I’m not against the idea of MOTHER RUSSIA the game or MOTHER RUSSIA the movie but making MOTHER RUSSIA a hot shit comic book first is my number one priority.
What have been the biggest surprises from the FUBAR: Mother Russia Kickstarter?
The biggest surprise is how fast my basement filled up with shipping supplies and comics for this campaign. It’s getting out of control down there!