Crowdfunding has become an important part of how comics get made, allowing creators to pitch their work directly to readers, and providing opportunities for comics that traditional publishers may not consider. With Back Pages, ComicsAlliance hopes to provide a spotlight for some of the best comics crowdfunding projects we can find.

Mildred Louis' webcomic Agents of the Realm has recruited a growing legion of fans since it started almost two years ago. The story of five girls who have just started college, things start to get weird when ghostly monsters maraud the premises. Then magical brooches appear --- and wouldn't you know it? Before anybody can say a thing, the girls have formed a superteam ready to defend the planet.

At heart a huge adventure series about magical girls, this is also a profoundly real story, with women who experience life in all its ups and downs. To find out more about how the series first came together, and about the current Kickstarter to bring the story to print, we spoke to Louis about all things Agents of the Realm.

ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of your story?

Mildred Louis: Agents of the Realm is an urban fantasy story that's heavily inspired by a lot of really popular Magical Girl comics and shows. It follows five young women as they venture through college and find out that they're magical warriors who have to save the world. A lot of the focus is on friendship, the kind of growth and experiences that come with going through college and, well, fighting monsters!

CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it?

ML: I loved magical girl stories when I was growing up. My first introduction was Sailor Moon way back in elementary school. I had two older brothers so a lot of the shows I was watching around that age focused around male characters, so the second it aired in the US and I first saw it, I immediately clung to it.

The kind of influence that and other shows have had on me has impacted me through my entire life, so it was kind of inevitable that I'd end up doing a Magical Girl story at some point.

Between that and having graduated college around three years prior to my starting it, it was kind of a perfect spot to get going on it. College was an interesting experience for me, and I didn't really come across a lot of stories that focused on that time period when I was in it, so I decided to start making a story that I would have appreciated not just when I was in school, but when I was a little younger too.



CA: Who are your main characters? What kind of people are they?

ML: The cast over all has a very strong focus on being inclusive and portraying different kinds of women from different backgrounds and different identities. The central five --- Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige and Jordan --- were really developed as being the average every day young woman you're likely to come across.

Norah is pretty socially awkward but still willing and trying to get out there and meet people, while her room-mate, Adele, is very outgoing, very bubbly but also pretty aloof.

We then meet Kendall and Paige who are their classmates. Kendall is a very go-with-the-flow kind of person, very clever and on the ball, while Paige is very outspoken, very confident and stubborn.

The last one of the group that we meet is Jordan who's just the group sweet heart. She's just looking to do good and help people, and means the best in everything she does.

CA: What's the world-building process been like for you as Agents of the Realm continues forwards? Has that been one of your favourite parts of making the comic?

ML: It's honestly been really fun! A lot of it has been collecting references and inspiration annnnnnd... it's definitely been my favorite part! Building a personal library of inspiration is one of my favorite things to do for any comic project. It helps me get a much more clear vision of the direction I want things to go towards in the long run. The downside is that it also means I collect a lot of stuff for things that won't even be seen for a while but I guess that's part of the process!

CA: What do you think the ongoing, serialized format of webcomics changes about the way you tell a story? Does it change the way you think about your process?

ML: Honestly, it's still something I'm adjusting to! I'm personally used to getting a full issue of a comic in hand, so it's been a weird kind of torture putting the story out one page at a time. Over all though, it hasn't really changed my process. I always intended it to be a story that was read in one go or at least in large chunks, so probably the biggest shift is learning to be very, very patient.



CA: I first found out about your comic through the #blackcomicsmonth tag on Twitter. What's the communal aspect of making a webcomic like? Do you feel that people are noticing and supporting the work being done?

ML: Honestly, it's been fantastic. It's been a real comforting process because for so long before I even really got into comics, I didn't even really know of a lot of other black comic creators. Ever since getting into comics, however, I've been meeting so many, and learning about so many, and seeing so many enter the scene. I don't think I really realized how much not seeing other Black creators held me back in a lot of ways for so much of my creative career.

When you go a lot of your life without coming across that many, you start to feel like maybe that's not a space you're entitled to or even really allowed to be in. So it's honestly been a truly inspiring experience and I hope that my own work makes it easier for other Black creators to enter the scene as well. I think overall as a community, it's very clear we're looking to help foster a positive and supportive environment. We all know what it's like to feel shut out, and we're all working to make sure that doesn't keep happening.

CA: How important has Kickstarter been to you? Do you feel Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general, has changed the way comics get made?

ML: I've always been kind of intimidated by Kickstarter! It seems like such a big undertaking to really jump into but I'm honestly so grateful that it exists.

I've seen so many projects made by independent creators that have come into being because a service like Kickstarter exists. It's really helped expand the kinds of voices that are getting heard and has really allowed a lot of creators who may not want to sign up with big companies have a chance to really take control of their own projects and see them get produced the way they'd like for them to be done.



CA: What stage are you at with this project? How much have you already completed?

ML: It's actually all done and running! Barring any really big printing hiccups, the books should be shipping out around July!


Agents of the Realm will run on Kickstarter until 2 March 2016, seeking a funding target of $17,000. To find out more, check out the Kickstarter here!