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Pear Cider & Cigarettes: From Animation to Comics with ‘TRON’ & ‘Aeon Flux’ Artist Robert Valley [Interview]

Some people take a rigid, hardline view of success. In this hierarchical thinking, once you’ve achieved greatness in a difficult field, the idea of stepping back to something deemed less challenging and with fewer eyes on it could be considered a retreat. Some people see the challenge there and roll up their sleeves and charge in, eager to see just how much of a dent they can put in that myth. Robert Valley, having already established himself as a commercial director and a success in the animation field (Aeon Flux, Gorillaz, Beatles Rock Band, Tron: Uprising) for the last 20 years, pressed pause on the world of animatics and frames to jump ship to the land of comics. Now he’s turning to the Kickstarter platform to fund the second volume of his book, Pear Cider & Cigarettes.

WARNING: Some of the video below contains imagery that could be considered NSFW.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes is an autobiographical comic, but the kind that makes you look at your life and either wonder what you’ve been doing wrong, or drop to your knees and thank God you never went so far astray. Instead of meditations on relationships and jobs, Pear Cider is a whirlwind journey full of drugs, blood, sex, disease and international travel. Following Valley and his larger-than-life friend Techno, the story skips through the perilous land where childhood meets adulthood and the uncomfortable dawn of responsibility. As Valley wrests himself from the constant party and struggles to find a place in the world, Techno rejects all that in favor of accidental riches and self-destructive brushes with death. As Volume 1 ends, Valley is on his way to China, asked by Techno’s parents to bring his friend back home and get him to stop drinking. Volume 2, which Valley is funding, is the story of how he does it.

Valley set out to raise $16,500 to fund production of the 88-page hardcover book, which starts next month and should wrap up by October. Having quickly shot past its goal, the Pear Cider project has raised almost $10,000 in excess, with less than a week to go on the Kickstarter clock. All the money goes towards Valley’s costs for drawing, coloring, lettering and printing the book under his own steam. While many of the limited rewards have already been spoken for, people can still secure pre-orders of one or both volumes of the books, posters and digital versions of Valley’s Massive Swerve art books which come packaged with the short film they’re based on. If you’re feeling excessively generous, you can secure Valley’s creative consultancy on your own project.

As evidenced by the short film Valley cut together to recap the first volume of Pear Cider & Cigarettes, the book is at turns a lushly beautiful dream and a teeth-grinding angular nightmare, with the kind of pacing that draws on Valley’s time in animation, but translates perfectly to the printed page. Funding the Kickstarter is the best way of pre-ordering your own copy, but also, ideally, works as yet another hand on Valley’s shoulder, dragging him deeper into comics, a move that’s neither a step up or a step down, but sideways into a Venn diagram where all these artforms can live together in perfect, messed-up harmony.

ComicsAlliance spoke to Robert Valley about the jump from animation to comics and how Kickstarter works as more than just a funding platform.

ComicsAlliance: How long have you been working on Pear Cider and Cigarettes? What was the genesis of the project and is volume 2 the end of the story or is there more to come afterwards?

Robert Valley: I took a leave of absence from my job at Disney (TRON: Uprising) in late November. I spent three months making the book and now I have been promoting the hell out of it for the last four months. Over seven months already…holy f***. The story will be concluded in volume 2.

CA: I know you do a lot of animation work as well as comics stuff, and the short film you put together recapping volume 1 of Pear Cider makes a pretty good argument for it as an animated film. What attracts you to each medium and what’s the ultimate decider on doing a project like Pear Cider as a comic as opposed to a film?

RV: I have always been interested in making a successful crossover between comics and filmmaking. One of the main purposes of the book is to act as a storyboard for the film, that is why the panels all have the same aspect ratio. This also lends itself to the creation of the edit as well. All the panels are edit ready and are built in Photoshop layers which will eventually be put into After Effects for a multiplane pass, etc. I haven’t got to that stage yet.

CA: Why should people fund your Kickstarter?

RV: That’s a good question. I was hoping Kickstarter would introduce a new fold of people to my work. The rewards on my project are exactly the same price as I would be selling them otherwise. So I prefer to think that I am collecting pre orders for books and prints, etc. So far it’s worked pretty good. The diagnostics indicate that Kickstarter itself is responsible for almost half the business on my project, Facebook is responsible for about 30%. That was another surprise. I certainly haven’t run a perfect campaign but I really have learned a lot about promotion and social media. This group funding thing is amazing.

CA: Since you’ve already hit your goal pretty quickly, what does any money over what you asked go towards?

RV: Beer and women and antibiotics.

You can learn more about Pear Cider & Cigarettes and still back the project/pre-order your copy of the book at the Kickstarter project page. As of this writing, three days remain in the campaign.

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