Sean Murphy is returning to creator-owned comic books in a big way – and checking off almost everything on his bucket list all at once.
In the upcoming OGN The Plot Holes, the Batman: White Knight writer/artist is drawing all the dream projects he always wanted but never had the time for – “a barbarian book, a Victorian assassin book, and a comic strip” – but all at once in one mash-up story that he hopes will be the launchpad for spin-offs for each individual character.
Murphy launched a crowdfunding campaign for The Plot Holes on Indiegogo on Friday, following up on his previous success in various crowdfunding campaigns years ago.
Newsarama spoke with the writer/artist about this project, pausing on White Knight to make it happen, and his ambitions for the future.
Newsarama: Sean, you have been busy at DC with the past few years – writing and drawing 16 issues of White Knight in the past two-and-half years, then also writing for others. With all the success it’s had, even becoming the highest-read comic on DC Universe, why did you decide now was the time to return to creator-owned – and crowdfunded comics?
Sean Murphy: One reason is that I don’t want to wear people out with too much White Knight. When I watch Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, I’m always thrilled for the new season. And because it’s so good, I don’t mind waiting another year while I chew over the events of the season I just watched. Sure, part of me would love Netflix to drop five seasons all at once, but I think it would lose something. There’s value in waiting, because it delays the reward.
The second reason is that I wanted to get back to my indie roots, and see what I could do with all my new Batman readers. Will they come along for an OGN that I’m crowdfunding? I hope so.
Nrama: So here you have The Plot Holes, which reminds me of your innovative character design work from Joe the Barbarian and Outer Orbit. But you’re a writer and artist now, so first tell me – what’s the story of The Plot Holes?
Murphy: The Plot Holes are a squad of warriors who transport themselves into the pages of other books, using their unique skills to edit the plots in order to stop them from being destroyed. And Cliff is their newest recruit, a comic creator who’s just realized his world isn’t real – in fact, it’s a complete fiction that literally exists inside a novel.
The other members are misfits like him, pulled from unpublished books that couldn’t be saved: a samurai manga, a barbarian tiger, a kid from a comic strip, and a vampire assassin.
Outclassed by the other members, Cliff sets out to prove his worth to the Plot Holes as they fight to save as many books as possible. The only thing stopping them is Surge, an ex-member who’s gone rogue – not only is he threatening to destroy the digital matrix containing them, he threatens to destroy the database of digital libraries all over the world!
Nrama: It’s a bit dated, but like Captain N: The Game Master meets Ready Player One.
Anyway, I checked and double-checked, and this would be your first actual team book – not an ensemble, but an actual team book. That’s a challenge for a writer, and especially an artist. Can you talk about that, and how this team works in The Plot Holes?
Murphy: Yes, it’s the first team book I’ve ever done. My goal on each new project is to try something new: Punk Rock Jesus was political sci-fi, White Knight was a political thriller, Curse of the White Knight was a historical thriller, etc.
The Plot Holes mixes different types of genres into one book, with each team member being from a different novel. The barbarian tiger is like Conan, the samurai mechanic is from a manga, and the youngest character is out of a comic strip. And they each have a back story about how they ended up becoming a misfit of their world (their novel), and how they struggle to connect as a family
It’s very meta – especially considering the main character is a comic book creator.
Nrama: Ok, I’m coming back around to that character design – I really love these. They look fun to draw, they’re even toyetic. What went into these designs for you?
Murphy: [Laughs] I just learned the word “toyetic” as well! I think it was from that documentary on He-Man, which was described as a “kitchen sink” type of universe. Which isn’t that different than The Plot Holes.
I had a bucket list of genres I wanted to draw one day – a barbarian book, a Victorian assassin book, and a comic strip – but I didn’t feel like waiting. So I threw those ideas into the same book so I could do it all at once and make a ton of sequels without having to re-brand each time.
The designs took me forever – usually I just design on the page as I’m drawing, but this is the first time I’ve done full turnarounds (which makes my colorst’s life much easier).
Nrama: Your Indiegogo for this launches Friday, and you’re aiming to go straight to OGN – no serialization. Why’d you decide to go this route?
Murphy: I’m actually doing what I always do, but in reverse. Usually it’s floppies, trade, international publication, then deluxe trade – this time I’m selling the deluxe to people first. Afterwards, I’ll see about getting The Plot Holes to the international market. Is there a chance it might eventually be turned into floppies? Maybe, but I have no plans at this point.
Nrama: Your previous crowdfunding books weren’t released outside of your Kickstarter backers (and a couple convention appearances)… there would seem to be a lot of demand for this through traditional channels, as well as digitally. Any plans for that?
Murphy: Yes! One of the IndieGoGo tiers (to unlock) might be my sketchbook Under the Hood and the anthology Cafe Racer. But you’re right – maybe I’ll look into traditional channels once this is over.
Nrama: I noticed for this you opted to crowdfund The Plot Holes through Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter, where you and your art agents have done several successful ones in the past. What led you to Indiegogo instead?
Murphy: IndieGoGo made us a great offer and even assigned us a helper. Plus they have connections to distributors, storage, insurance, etc. And I like that the campaign can run for twice as long as a Kickstarter campaign. Plus, they take less of a cut.
I like Kickstarter and would consider working with them in the future. But I’m a little hesitant – they hired someone who’s been a critic of mine for a while (someone who influences which projects they take/promote, I believe). I’m told this person left, so maybe I’ll try my next book with them? You never know.
Nrama: So big picture then, The Plot Holes – what should people be looking forward to when they read the book?
Murphy: Because the team is so varied, this really is a book for everyone. And the main character is a failed comic book creator- someone many of us can empathize with. But it’s more than just an action packed team book, it’s about what “reality” even means to characters who aren’t real, and why they’d bother trying to survive if they only really exist in our imagination.