Neal Bailey is the author of the webcomic Cura Te Ipsum, the story of one young man’s journey of self discovery through infinite universes of melancholy and adventure. Recently, I took the opportunity to ask him about his work as Cura Te Ipsum’s latest Kickstarter campaign gathers speed, (don’t forget to read Part 1 of the interview here)…
Cura Te Ipsum appears to use a nascent model for grassroots comics, serializing online, a page at a time like the strips of old, but also connecting with fans for print runs through Kickstarter. How do you view the strengths of the web-comic model today?
I think the strengths are most definitely in the readership. The people who read Cura are honestly the best audience I’ve ever had. I used to write essays on comics, and I’d get the nastiest, most homophobic and awful letters you can imagine. Someone threatened to kill me over my opinion about a movie. Cura readers tend to bring up their beefs with the story in terms of questions about what’s intended as opposed to criticism, and it’s never ad hominem. That makes all the work and sacrifice worth it, even if the comic never makes a dime (and it has a good way to go yet to break even). It is such that even if I lose money out my nose for this, I believe in it, and it’s been an amazing labor of love.
I also think, and have to believe, that over time, with hard work and good storytelling, people will gravitate to your webcomic and support you in the way that a traditional publisher would. If that makes it so that talent doesn’t have to fight the transom or the perils of big publishers, it may just change the form from a work-for-hire wasteland with a ton of angry creators having their properties changed from their originally intended paths to a new renaissance of the form.
That’s not to say if they said “Hey, Neal, wanna write X-Men?” I’d be like, “NO! BROCCOLI!” But it does mean that if, for whatever reason, Charles Xavier never comes knocking, I can still tell my stories, and own them, and that is fantastic. If I ever get to be as lucky as, say, Greg Rucka, who has always done marvelous work that has quite naturally thereby attracted a huge following, I might have a chance at doing something as ambitious and cool as Lady Sabre and get the response he’s more than earned. If I can find that place someday simply by telling good stories I believe in and doing the hard work, that’s my ambition for this webcomic form. If not with Cura, with the next story, or maybe both combined. I won’t give up. I’m trying to come up with a way to save enough money/a scheme to start another comic all the time. Mwu ha ha ha! So many ideas. Know any crazy bohemian artists who want to get nuts?
As Cura’s artist, Dexter Wee has proven versatile and prolific, producing a constant flow of big battle scenes, inter-dimensional escapades, with even some Hitler and dinosaurs. As a writer, what do you look for in an artist and what’s it like working with Dex?
I look for an artist I believe I can tailor my script or concept to, an artist that is as fanatical about working every day as hard as I am, and someone that I can respect personally. Dex is all three. He is a work machine, working on Cura and other comics, and he cares very much about the concept, and we work to make it fit what he does. He is also an insanely nice person, committed to his craft in every way, and a great dad. I’m proud to have a friend in the Philippines and a comrade in arms.
Writing comics isn’t all scotch and pipes and signing autographs at cons. In the past you’ve written about the demands of funding an indie comic, literally digging trenches in order to ‘keep the lights on’. How far have you gone over the years to bring projects to light?
I have some pretty disgusting stories. I’ve been a caregiver, a bus boy, a host, a waiter, a dishwasher, a paperboy, a construction worker, a day laborer, and I worked at the Gamestop for about three days until they failed to pay me for four and a half hours of work. I thought about making a big deal out of it and said screw it, I’ll just make some snarky comment in an interview some time… It may not be over. What I do is, I set goals for myself. Financial goals. Personal goals. Save X every week for Cura, save X every week so you can get out of the apartment you live in, save X so you can pay the medical bills. I haven’t had personal spending cash, really, since Cura began.
BUT, and this is important, I have CURA. So really, what’s all that compared to what I have now? And anyway, the time I drilled myself with a paddle bit, the time I had to take care of some strange gastric problems for a quadriplegic, the crackhead I gave a ride living in a gang neighborhood, the man who tried to sell me steaks from his windbreaker, the guy who got tazed on my lawn… these make GREAT stories, Anthony, and it is my hope one day to tell them all, one by one!
Finally, where to next for Cura Te Ipsum? You’ve suggested there’s years worth of story arcs in your back pocket, so any hints as to where Charlie Everett may find himself in future?
As of this interview I have written through page 40 of Year Four. In about twenty or so pages we are going to start telling the origin of the Dark Everett, which will involve Charlie and Charlene and the Multifarious Charlie, a new villain who will make his first appearance soon. We will also be exploring the origin of Weapons Everett, and take a look at what will be happening to Billie, ultimately. His cancer hasn’t been forgotten, and it certainly must be addressed.
The end of Year Four, as outlined, will really change the face of the comic in a big way. It will probably shock the hell out of everyone, but as I’ve always said, I do have a plan, and an answer for everything, and the big shock will be the start down that final road to the end, though there’s still a whole lot of story left to tell…
And on that note, if you haven’t already, head now to the Kickstarter campaign where you can give a little, or a lot, and help Charlie Everett’s continuing adventures see the light of day…