John Lees Puts on the Cape and Sets ‘The Standard’ [Back Pages]
A familiar fixture at conventions, writer John Lees' The Standard has been in-publication since 2011. The story of a retired superhero forced to put back on his cape to investigate the apparent murder of his former sidekick, the six-issue series was picked up by ComixTribe and published across 2013-14. Joined by artist Jonathan Rector and a creative team of Will Robson, Mike Gagnon, Kel Nuttall, and Steven Forbes, the series was highly acclaimed across the UK, and earned Lees the Best Writer Award at the Scottish Independent Comic Awards.
This year the team has come to Kickstarter to fund a collected hardcover edition of the complete series. Featuring over 200 pages of story, back material, and many other surprises, the collection has already been funded and is headed into stretch goal territory. Following on from that success, ComicsAlliance spoke to Lees about the long journey that led him here.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of The Standard?
John Lees: The Standard tells the story of a much-loved superhero from a bygone era, now an elderly man living in retirement from crime-fighting as a high-school chemistry teacher. He is forced to don his old costume once more to investigate the death of his former sidekick.
CA: What was the genesis of the project? How long have you wanted to get this comic up and running?
JL: This was very much a labour of love, many years in the making. The Standard was actually my first ever comics project. The first draft of the first issue was written way back in late 2008, and it was in 2009 that editor Steven Forbes came onboard and we started seriously developing it as a project.
We finally landed with artist Jonathan Rector in 2010, the first issue was completed, self-published and released locally in Scotland in 2011. Then, once ComixTribe distributed it, the series made its worldwide Diamond debut in 2013. But with various delays in the production, the final issue wasn't completed until the summer of 2014 and now, in 2015, we're finally at the finish line, with the collected edition being prepped for release. So it's been a long journey!
CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it?
JL: I love superheroes, basically. I've always loved superhero stories, and I wanted to express that love in a comic that might make people feel the same sense of wonder that I got reading the likes of All Star Superman or The New Frontier or Zot!
When I was making my first dive into the world of writing comics, I thought, "This might be the only chance I get to do this, so I might as well cram everything I love about comics into this story." I wasn't one for thinking, "I'll start small and tell the big, grand story I REALLY want to tell later." Perhaps unwisely, given the scale of the project for a debut effort, I wanted to tell the biggest, best story I was capable of telling at that time!
CA: How did the creative team come together?
JL: It's a global team, and I hadn't met any of them in person at the time of hiring them. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, that needn't be an obstacle! I believe all of the creative team was recruited via ads posted on Digital Webbing, in one form or another.
Jonathan Rector was actually the third artist to jump onboard the project, after the previous two fell through, but some things are just meant to be, I guess, as he was the best possible fit for this story.
CA: How've you found working with ComixTribe?
JL: An absolute joy, a delight. The books ComixTribe put out are great, but more than that, the people themselves are so passionate, they just live and breathe comics, and really dig down with you and support your projects like they're their own. Every time I've gone out to NYCC and tabled with the ComixTribe boys, I've been treated like family, and it means a lot. I have immense respect for ComixTribe, and hope I'll always be working with them in one capacity or another.
CA: Why take The Standard to Kickstarter?
JL: That's down to ComixTribe too. With The Oxymoron, and The Scam Ultimate Collection, ComixTribe have developed a reputation and a fan following for running some of the best Kickstarter projects in the comics community. Their massive oversized hardcovers are genuinely some of the most beautiful comics on my bookshelf, and as soon as I saw the presentation, I knew that The Standard had to also be immortalized in this form to stand alongside them.
This project is the chance to make the book I've been imagining in my head for years into a reality at last!
CA: Obviously the comic is already finished --- but what else can people expect in the final collection?
JL: We have plenty of bonuses lined up, not all of which we can give away until the stretch goals are announced. But expect a new foreword and afterword, and some behind-the-scenes commentary on the development of the series. And we should hopefully be able to provide some cool additional artwork too... and some other cool stuff I can't talk about yet.
CA: What’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
JL: I want it done by October at the very latest. I'm going back to New York Comic Con this year, and I want it ready by then. So, you shouldn't have to wait too long!
The Standard has already passed the Kickstarter goal of $8500 and will run until 27 June 2015. You can find out more at the above link, and download the first issue for free!