Unless you’re into the indie comic scene you’ve never heard of Siike Donnelly, Garcinia, Richard Caldwell and Gene Hoyle. However, despite their lack of big name allure these three are actually trying to change the world one comic panel at a time.
I’m really getting tired of Kickstarters, but as soon as I heard Siike’s story there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would cover what happened to him and his courageous fight to battle back through comics.
Burst blood vessels are like micro assassins in the body. I almost died two years ago when one ruptured in my intestine and sent my hemoglobin from a healthy 14 to a coma inducing 3 as the blood poured out of me in a river over the course of a week. I was on death’s doorstep. If the same thing happened in my head, I would have shuffled off this mortal coil at the tender age of 36.
Siike Donnelly, Arcana comics scribe and author wasn’t as lucky. His blood vessel burst in his brain. Yes, he lived, but the ass is more resilient than the brain. So while my fight back was simply a wonderful month of Vicodin sandwiches, video games and comics as my marrow achingly replaced my blood, Siike has had to relearn living; walking, talking and creating stories.
To raise awareness about this silent destroyer, Siike created the concept of SOLESTAR, the story of a superheroes last day on Earth and how he chooses to leave it.
Read on unless there’s just a stinky, sulfuric piece of coal where your heart should be.
Optimous Douche (OD): All right guys, let’s start with your street cred. Where in the wide wide world of comics do you come from?
Gene Hoyle (GH): Comics have always been a part of me. First as a collector, then as an employee of a comics store. My next step was founding the Nerd Nation podcast. When Siike became my cohost it was a short jump to helping him out on this dream project.
Richard Caldwell (RC): I have been an active comic book journalist hack since 2007 or so. And I sincerely believe the heroic ideal represented by what Siike put together is exactly of the sort that drew me into comics to begin with.
Siike (seek) Donnelly (SD): I’m what Frank Miller would call, “a lifer.” I’ve been reading since I was 8, getting my first comic in a hospital. I started writing the next day. My first novel “Rhino” came out in 2008, which is a crime story set in Atlanta, based loosely on my days as a snitch. Heaven’s Echo, my love letter to comics, is book one in a proposed 6 novel series, was released by Arcana after I got back on my feet from my most recent hospital visit. It’s basically my version of what a world of superpowered people would really be like. 100,000 people received superpowers overnight, bringing a lot of chaos, but following various groups of people that decide to do the right thing with their powers. It’s “Heroes” season 1 meets “Lost.” This year I’ve been dedicating my time to working with Gene, Richard Caldwell, and a number of artists on something far more personal in “SOLESTAR”.
Optimous Douche (OD): This is becoming a Lifetime movie with the way we’re dancing around infliction. Let’s talk brain aneurysms, who would like to start?
SD: I guess that’s my cue. Well, a subarachnoid hemorrhage is when the aneurysm ruptures, causing internal bleeding in the brain. Most don’t survive. Those who do usually experience disabilities after they recover. A small percentage are very fortunate to experience the few struggles that I go through. Still, I had to relearn to walk and talk, and I’m currently trying to relearn how to draw with this project. Through various social medias, and in person, I’ve met other survivors who have it far worse and wanted to do something that aims to help them, in any way. The only way that I personally knew to do that is through art, specifically the magic of a comic book.
RC: For my part, before I was old enough for school, being a lil comix fanboy in dirt poor south Texas at the start of the 1980s, my first two friends were a Native American named Christopher and a kid named Zebadiah, who is one of the few I’ll concede to having a more active imagination than mine. Their moms became super tight with my mom, and our families stayed close all through our school years, helping each other whenever possible while all of us were barely getting by. Christopher’s mom Marie died of a brain aneurysms a few years ago in Washington DC, and maybe a year after Zeb lost his mom to a brain aneurysms as well back in Texas. These women were closer to me than my own aunts. When I talked with Siike just before this year’s SDCC, hearing a fraction of his personal experience as a survivor just triggered so many memories for me. I try hard to hide my sentimentality, but I had to sign on, for Christopher and Zeb and everyone else who ever lost somebody to this.
GH: All I knew of Aneurysms was what I had seen in movies. A guy gets one, falls over and dies. hearing Siikes story online made me seek out his company and learn more.
It amazes me how little is known about Aneurysms. SOLESTAR is all about changing that.
OD: Siike, tell us a little bit about the road to recovery particularly with drawing. Where were you before the aneurysm, right after, and now?
SD: I don’t think much about my early days, or some of my recovery. It was hard and it’s tethered to some painful and tough times, dark even.
My memory as a whole is a mess as well, and there were times, around my own family, when I honestly couldn’t conjure a single memory of them. It’s gotten better since, but still far from really knowing. Walking and talking was tough at first, but then it just became something that I had to do. I didn’t want to give up because I knew eventually I’d be on a mission, like the one I’m currently on with my friends here.
The drawing is just another obstacle. My ability to picture things in my head is almost non-existent. We still can’t figure out the barrier that my brain has created there. As you can imagine, without being able to picture Superman or Spider-Man in my head, makes it really difficult to draw them. I look at pictures others have drawn at times, but it still doesn’t seem to help. I’m drawing a page for SOLESTAR, putting myself through some really tough migraines, in order to contribute alongside these other great talents.
It’s not easy, and it’s not the prettiest page as I’ve been working on it for over 6 weeks, but I do a tiny bit every few days and use a lightbox to put it all together. My faith rests in my inker to make it look like it at least belongs in the book.
OD: Godspeed Siike, but let’s change tempo before Sarah McLaughlin and Sally Struthers chime in. We know SOLESTAR is for aneurysm research, but what’s it about?
GH: Siike’s answer will no doubt cover this better than I can. I will say this much. Beyond being a story about a superhero, SOLESTAR is about making the most of everyday.
Our hero has been around for over 150 years. That all ends here. SOLESTAR is well aware that today is the last day he will be alive. What can one man do to change the world in a day? Find out in SOLESTAR.
SD: Sorry. I told those ladies to be here. They’re with me. As for the book, it’s about SOLESTAR’S last day on Earth. In this story, he was one of the first superheroes created in Japan back in World War II. The story begins in the year 2099 (my nod to a certain series of books), as SOLESTAR reaches nearly 175 years of age. He has outlived all of his loved ones, including his wife Ashley, who passed away from an aneurysm almost 50 years prior to page 1 of the book. Knowing that his body is about to give up on him, SOLESTAR embarks on one final adventure to do what every superhero does best… teach us how to save ourselves.
This journey takes him all over Japan, to space, through his fragmented memories, saving various civilians, and face to face with some of his most powerful enemies, in which he aims to change their perspectives on the world, knowing that they’re the only ones with superpowers left. He figures if he can inspire some bad people to do a few things that are good, then he’s leaving the world a better place than it was before.
In short, the story is about doing the right thing. It’s about how one small act can make a world of difference. And not only will it help raise awareness, while also telling a (hopefully) cool superhero story, but we have aspirations to do something good down the line with some of the profits. We’re trying to figure it all out, and still stay within the guidelines we agreed to with Kickstarter, but it’s my hope that this book, or profits from it in the future, will actually save an aneurysm victims life.
It’s my legacy, and I want it to be a selfless one.
RC: Yea, it’s basically a futuristic superhero story, with SOLESTAR being the Japanese ubermensch and the most powerful hero of his world. But Brain Aneurysms can affect ANYBODY. The shifting and fading memories, the exhaustion, the frustratingly awkward embarrassment of it all, it really adds a big dose of humanity to the perspective of somebody who once had to reignite the sun. Siike’s plot has elements that are rarely, if ever, utilized in superhero fare.
OD: Richard please say more about a few of those “rarely, if ever used” elements in the story.
RC: Well, without giving too much away, like Gene said this is Solestar’s last hurrah, his last ride. In the story he’s been a savior and inspiration to millions for many decades, but now he’s having to face the endgame of something more complicated than just finding a Doctor Bad-Guy to beat the tar out of.
Everyone has always depended on him and his abilities, but now who can he turn to when said abilities are as useless as a case of hotpockets for Sandy survivors with no electricity to power their microwaves. There is action in the tale, but it’s more of a look into the cause and effect of the ideal of legacy.
OD: So who is doing what exactly on SOLESTAR?
GH: Siike wrote the entire story. Each page will be by a different artist (over 50 in all) in a different style. Pros like Kevin Eastman and Sean “Cheeks” Galloway are part of this as well as Indy sensations like Kate Carleton, Renzo Ventrella, and Monica and Graven Ravenwolf. Colors, Inks and letters are all done by volunteers as well.
Each artist is drawing in their own style. We have tattoo artists, manga inspired art and many other styles all in this one story. This is truly a unique project.
Richard and I are SOLESTAR’S pit crew. Our job is to help Siike get more artists for the book, coordinate the work being done, and managing publicity such as this interview. We also help get the word out through Richard’s website (www.thelotteryparty.com) as well as my podcast (www.nerdnation.co)
SD: What Gene said. It’s just a huge collaboration. The fun part for me is the changes I make to the script when an artist picks their page.
For example, an artist on Chapter 3, Neil Kapit, loves cats. So I tweaked the story a bit and added cats to a scene for him to draw. It’s a lot of fun. I want every page of this to feel personal, and I understand that it can’t just be a personal thing for me, but must be for those on board with us as well.
This project has to be bigger than all of us if it’s going to do what we need it to do. And as Gene said, he and Richard are the pit crew. They are editing the book, helping me find artists, helping us spread the word. I don’t make a decision without their input. They’re my brothers and I respect their opinions immensely.
RC: I don’t think any of us have actually done anything quite like this before, so we are learning as we go, building the house as we design it. I know I’m learning a lot in the doing. But like Siike said, working with so many awesome talents is the best part. Like M. Rasheed, who took time from his ten issue (and 150 page each) graphic novel series Monsters 101 to knock out a couple of pages for us. Pairing him with Greg Harms, who has inked a lot for BlueWater and Arcana but who I happen to know is also an under-utilized coloring powerhouse, was really neat. Peter Palmiotti knocked out several great pieces for us as well, and having webcomicker Anna Fitzpatrick come in to color a page was incredible. She’s never colored over other artists before, but hers I think is one of the stronger pages, and largely for her efforts. And Matt Bergin, who runs the Comic Blog Elite- he’s been a supporter since the start, and will actually be contributing alongside Siike. We have indie artists and Kubert School alum alike. And amazingly, there is consistency to the pages irregardless of so many fantastic styles in play. The fact they are all contributing great work for free makes them heroes by me.
OD: All right guys, let’s close with the pitch. Tell us about the Kickstarter, the wonderful prizes for contributing, and how and when the book will be delivered.
SD: Every Kickstarter is personal, no doubt about that. Every project on there is someone’s baby. Ours is a lot more than that. It’s my legacy. This will be here in my place should my health give out, or the pain become too much, or if I have another aneurysm and don’t survive it. Every artist on board isn’t just interpreting their own version of the story, but interpreting a part of me as well. They are bringing my mission to life, and helping me make a difference in someone’s life down the road. We can’t use the Kickstarter earnings for charity, but once the book is released and distributed worldwide next year, a portion of that could. Solestar could actually save a life, so by donating to our Kickstarter, you give him the power to do just that. No other Kickstarter can say that.
As for the prizes, we have original art pages, PDFs, wristbands, t-shirts, printed copies of the book, printed thank you’s in the book, six variant covers by some very diverse and talented artists, an original page of art by Kevin Eastman, and the chance to be drawn into the book as the main villain.
If we reach our Kickstarter goal, the book will be ready by March 6th, 2013. We’re planning two release parties. One will be at Golden Apple Comics in LA, where I work, on March 6th. The other will be at A Comic Shop on March 13th in Orlando, FL, followed by a table and a panel at MegaCon the 15th-17th.
SOLESTAR is about doing something selfless. I just hope others will agree.
Well I know I do guys, thank you for your time and using your talents to make a difference.