Ashley Neuhaus With the ever growing popularity of steampunk, creators Austin Harrison and Mike Raicht (STUFF OF LEGEND) teamed with artist Zach Howard (THE CAPE) to bring WILD BLUE YONDER, a five-issue series, to Kickstarter.  This great series caught the attention of Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief at IDW.  So what was it that Ryall loves about WILD BLUE YONDER?

…flying machines and old-fashioned weaponry and fortresses and battles and interesting characters in a post-apocalyptic world is literally one of the best-sounding comic-book projects I could ever imagine seeing, so it’s a special thrill that I get to help them bring it to life and not just enjoy the hell out of it as a fan.” -CR

The Judge

In a post-apocalyptic world, people are fleeing the land and taking to the sky to seek refuge.  But the inevitable happens and war breaks out among the clouds.  Cola, a teen pilot, fights to save her ship, The Dawn, and her family from all those that seek the ship.  The villain of the series is The Judge and he doesn’t like to p lay by the rules.  He’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on The Dawn because it is such a special ship.  It runs on solar power, hydrogen and magnetic energy and will run forever it seems.  Will Cola be able to save her home and family?  Or will The Judge stand at the helm?

The campaign for this project ends on August 9, 2012 and has a goal of $12,000.  The crew behind it have come up with some fantastic rewards for backers that include a signed copy of issue one, a digital pack of all five issues, signed copies of Raicht and Howard’s previous work, script review by Raicht, portfolio review by Howard, and advertisement for you comic shop.  You can see some sample pages of the comic on the campaign’s page.

Below is an interview with the team.

AN: Where did the idea for WILD BLUE YONDER come from?
MR: This is just the germ of an idea I had been toying with for a few years. After I worked on an EXILES one-shot with Zach we started talking about doing stuff. I mentioned WILD BLUE YONDER and he had a lot of great ideas for the world, its look, and how everything worked in it. It was something we were both hugely passionate about. Then, when Austin, who Zach had worked with before on another story, and I started to work on the script, characters, and the universe some more, everything just kind of clicked. Zach’s sketches would come in and start pushing us even father down different roads. It was really becoming a living breathing world between. I feel like it has been a huge group effort. Every step of the way we’ve added another layer and it has been a great process to be a part of.

AN: Why did you make Cola a teen pilot instead of a bit older, say in her 20s?

MR: I think it had a lot to do with immersing the reader in this world from the beginning. The old rules of society no longer apply. If you are living on one of these sky barges then you have to have a role. There’s no room for skating by in this world. If you are the best pilot, whether you are 15 or 45, boy or girl, you are going to be in that pilot’s seat defending your craft. It is the most important role on the ship. You are responsible for keeping everyone else alive. To give that responsibility to a teen girl seemed like the best, and most interesting, place to start.

It also speaks to how roles are given. Cola’s dad was a pilot and he trained his only daughter to follow in his footsteps. It’s a lot like medieval times. It’s a skill passed down generation to generation. If her dad was a farmer the odds are much higher she would have become that, but it didn’t work out that way for her. She gets to have dog fights and dodge gunfire on a daily basis.

AN: If this series is received well, would you consider another limited series or perhaps an ongoing now that IDW has picked it up?

MR: This first story is a complete tale, but the world is one that I think we would all love to do more with. It’s a fun place to visit.
ZH: Countless stories could take place in this universe. So who knows? We’d love to revisit it.

AN: What went through your head(s) when you received the news from IDW that wanted to help publish your book?

MR: It was pretty cool. I thought of all of the other amazing books they publish and that we would be on the shelf right next to them. It also helped increase our focus on making sure we hit our Kickstarter goal. It would be such a lost opportunity to publish with IDW if we didn’t.
ZH: My favorite person working in comics runs the show over at IDW, so I was quite happy that they were interested.

AN: Post-apocalyptic stories are huge these days so what sets yours apart so much from everything else out there?

MR: I think the big thing that sets us apart is how our world works. The people of this world have been forced to become more technological to get into the cleaner skies above. The lack of manufacturing, farms, and anything produced, forces the people in these societies to take on almost tribal roles. Each of these sky barges is its own city or community. Each one is striving to keep themselves alive. Each has to be willing to kill for their next meal, or shelter, or to protect what is theirs. They have become huge floating towns.

Meanwhile, everyone on the ground wants to escape the sickness and decay of the ground They will do whatever it takes to get into the sky. They work themselves almost to death for the promise of escaping their station in life. It’s a nice separation of living and societal conditions that gives us a lot of space to tell cool stories.

ZH: Most people are just rehashing warmed over turds. We like to think that we are telling a very interesting coming of age story about a girl. It just happens to take place in a post-apocalyptic world.

AN: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when creating the world for WILD BLUE YONDER?

ZH: Actually just creating a new universe that feels real. I hate to read stories where tech and armor and weapons look foolish. Usually worlds are created to look cool and little thought is given to the practicality of the details. So I spend quite a bit of time researching current and future technologies and try to weave that into my designs. Another thing is that I try to make clothing that looks like something that humans would wear. These things aren’t difficult, just time consuming – and I have no problem with that. I want things to always feel like they belong. It would break my heart to have someone read a book of mine and think that it looks stupid.

AN: How did you team up with Mike and Austin?

ZH: Austin and I have been working on another book for years. We just are constantly being pulled in other directions. However, after Mike and I did a Marvel book together, he pitched me on WBY. After toying with it for some time, I asked Austin if he’d want to jump on board to help flesh it out. Soon we were firing on all gears and ready to go live with this thing. They are both quite refreshing to work with – I’ve worked on so many projects in my career where I was the only person that gave a crap how the book worked as a whole. It’s taken a while, but I finally feel like I’m with a team. That means quite a bit to me.

AN: You’ve done work on all different kinds of books. What’s your favorite subject matter/genre to draw?

ZH: At the risk of sounding nebulous, I like working on anything with a good story. I don’t care what it is. Since I’ve walked away from big gigs for the big two, people often think I have something against superheroes. I don’t at all. I just find that when I do indie stuff, the people involved are usually closer to the product and have more control with how it looks and reads. I’m not a big fan of being a cog in a wheel.

AN: Chris Ryall, editor-in-cheif of IDW, gave you such great praise for your work. When you heard of this, did you start to sweat a little and feel more pressure to live up to his standard?

ZH Nope. He’s good friend of mine and we enjoy working together.

AN: SDCC came and went, what conventions are on the schedule for this year?

MR: I’m planning on hitting Baltimore and New York. I’m sure I’ll hit more as they get closer.
ZH: No more for me. I have a series to draw. =)
AH: I’ll plan to join Mike in Baltimore and New York and try and convince to Zach to go!

AN: Where can people find you on the Internet and learn more about your work?

MR: I’m on Facebook and twitter (@MikeRaicht)almost every day. Feel free to follow along. I try to be interesting from time to time.
ZH: I poke around on DA. Come say “Hi”.
AH: I’m on Facebook and Twitter (@MAustinHarrison) as well.