Interview with Jason Horn

With a successful Kickstarter campaign for his webcomic, Ninjasaur, behind him and a second campaign underway for a prose novel, Kathryn the Chrononaut, Nashville-based artist Jason Horn takes a few moments to tell us about his life in comics. – July 22, 2012

Important links:
Kathryn the Chrononaut Kickstarter
Ninjasaur
Jason’s Tumblr
Jason’s Twitter

DBP:
What was the first comic you ever remember reading? Did it take hold or was it another comic that hooked you? What was it about comics that pulled you in?

JASON: I don’t know the exact comic, but it was almost certainly Batman. The funny thing is, I didn’t really read comics for the first few years. I just admired the art. It took me a while to take the time to read them properly. All those words covering up the drawings were just too intimidating. But the art certainly pulled me in…still does.

DBP: Tell me about the first comic you remember drawing and writing? What was it about? Got any pictures?

JASON: Oh, man. So embarrassing. I didn’t make comics as a kid like some of my friends. I wrote silly prose stories featuring my elementary school classmates, but didn’t try to make comics until college. In 1998, my first attempt was titled Arc of Delirium and was essentially a terrible version of Grant Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian. I wrote the first issue but didn’t get far into the pencils. It was so bad. But there was a rhino (my favorite animal) which I brought into Ninjasaur. So I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

DBP: What creator do you remember really being enthused by as a kid? Whose work excites you now?

JASON: I loved Rob Liefeld. I mean…loved. All those Image guys were my favorites. Sigh. But I remember really liking Mike Mingnola’s Batman covers. That’s who excites me now. Hellboy is the greatest ongoing comic on the stands today. His clear, beautiful storytelling is one of my biggest influences.

DBP: With Ninjasaur, you’ve definitely gone in the opposite direction of gritty, “real world” comics. What inpsired you to go more in an “all-ages” direction? As a creator, does that limit you or just give you a really fun ballpark in which to play?

JASON: I kind of accidentally fell into all-ages comics. When I created Ninjasaur back in 2006, I didn’t really think about kids. It wasn’t until I was selling mini comics at a convention and all these kids were buying Ninjasaur that I realized it should be all-ages. It should have been obvious given that it was a comic about a dinosaur ninja, but I was writing it for people in their twenties. Thankfully, I didn’t really have to tweak it much for kids because it didn’t have adult content. Now I shoot for the Pixar model. True all-ages content that adults and kids fully enjoy on different levels.

DBP: Tell me about a moment when you said, “Oh, comics … you’ve got it all wrong …” and one (or more) where you were genuinely excited to see what comics can do … a mental “fist pump” if you will.

JASON: The gritty direction comics have been taking since Watchmen and Batman: Year One has become so boring and predictable. It’s time to move on. Comics can be fun. They don’t all have to be all-ages, but enough with the big crossovers where all the heroes are fighting each other.

On a more positive note, I’m very excited to see so many creators focusing on creator owned comics. Working for the big publishers is great fun (I assume) but making something you can control and own is the way to go. The smartest thing a creator can do in comics is to get to a point where you don’t need anyone’s permission to make your comics.

DBP: You’ve recently become a father (congratulations), has that impacted how you see comics or the types of comics you want to create? In a few years, when she starts to read, what would you like the comics industry to look like … if you were, you know, the king of publishing?

JASON: I don’t think it’s changed my view on comics. I hope my daughter grows up reading fun, great looking comics. I am currently working on a semi autobiographical comic that is certainly not for kids. She shouldn’t read that until she’s mature enough for it, but I’m interested in making all kinds of comics.

In a few years, I hope comics are a good mix of cheap digital downloads and reasonably priced trade paperbacks. I’m not sure monthlies, other than some from the big publishers, will last much longer. They loose money a lot of times, so I see monthlies going digital sooner or later.

DBP: For the last several years at HeroesCon, you’ve been a part of what I like to call “Bro Row” with Dean Trippe, Joel Carroll and Mike Maihack. You all seem to share a genuine joy for the art of making comics. How important is collaboration and fellowship in the comics community? Who are some others who have inspired and encouraged you along the way?

JASON: Getting to sell my comics alongside my friends has been so motivating. HeroesCon keeps me going when the work gets hard and tedious. I’ve been inspired by so many great artists. Jim Apparo’s Batman was MY Batman. Batman is my favorite superhero and Apparo’s art is the way he looks in my head. Kirby’s DC stuff and his 2001 work is big for me. And Grant Morrison’s writing has been a huge influence on me. I love his crazy, meta stuff and that’s kind of where I’m heading with the new Ninjasaur stories. Morrison craziness…for kids.

DBP: With your latest Kickstarter, Kathryn the Chrononaut, you’re moving into young adult prose. Tell us a little about the project. What did you do to prepare for it? What’s your goal with this project (outside of raising the money)?

JASON: Kathryn the Crononaut is a pro science, all-ages time travel novella. My goal is for it to be a fun way to introduce kids (or readers of any age) to advanced scientific theories such as string theory, fractal geometry, and primordial black holes. The story uses time travel as a fun sci-fi element, but I’ve secretly built it all on a foundation of very real scientific theories.

I’ve been interested in theoretical physics for yeas. I watch a lot of PBS’s Nova and Science Channel but I’ve also read Stephen Hawking books. I took little aspects of numerous real theories and devised a way to develop time travel. And, here’s the crazy part, I think it could work (sort of).

DBP: You’ve had a successful Kickstarter and are now on another that’s looking to be a bit more difficult, tell us what you’ve learned about what makes a successful Kickstarter project. What are the needed ingredients for success?

JASON: The Kickstarter I did for Ninjasaur went very well. Setting it all up took some time, but it was pretty easy. Filling all the orders (right after having my first child) was a lot of work. And dealing with the printer wasn’t a walk in the park. But I’d recommend Kickstarter to anyone.

The Kickstarter for Kathryn the Crononaut has been pretty slow thus far. With Ninjasaur, it was a free webcomic that built an audience over five years. Prose is something I’m not exactly known for and doing it as a children’s book on Kickstarter has been very challenging. I had heard that the children’s book category is where Kickstarters go to die. This may not be an understatement. But I’m still optimistic about its chances of getting funded. I’m about to release the first 1000 words of the story to see if that will hook readers into wanting more.

DBP: With a week left, hat can your fans do to make Kathryn the Chrononaut your second home run on Kickstarter?

JASON: If the story sounds interesting to them, they can donate to the Kickstarter. Even if they just donate $6 for the ebook version, every bit helps. And anyone who could spread the word by posting a link to the Kickstarter site, that is always a big help.

DBP: Okay, tell me one creator I don’t know that I need to start following, like, right now or the world will end?

 JASON: Robert Wilson is a good friend of mine that everyone should know about. He’s one of the great artists I’ve met at HeroesCon that has become a close friend and trusted colleague. He’s working on a lot of projects that will hopefully be out soon. You can check out his stuff here: http://robertwilsoniv.com/

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