You know, Jan Duursema and John Ostrander are names from the heady days of my youthful comic reading. Titles like Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Wonder Woman, Hawkworld, and then there are the Star Wars titles from Dark Horse Comics: Star Wars: Legacy or Star Wars: Republic. The high quality collaboration this pair has done makes you stop, catch your breath and take a moment. Now they get to delve into that wonderful history of shared talent and do it all over again on their new project: Hexer Dusk.
Hexer Dusk is the wildly fantastic story of a galaxy in the grips of post-apocalypse. Five years after the Chaos War, the Sky Cities have fallen from their lofty heights and extra-dimensional rifts have torn the Obsidian Galaxy asunder. Creatures called the Weird have invaded the galaxy, possessing the innocent and it is up to one of the last of the Hexers, Xane Dusk, to stop them.
Yeah … I’m giggling in insane anticipation of this story too. I love sci-fi comics and I think it’s a genre that really doesn’t receive enough attention from a lot of mainstream publishers. The few that are being done are great but to have talent like Ostrander and Duursema creating one is more excitement than I can handle.
It was all I could do to refrain from giggling when I sat down with Jan Duursema to talk about Hexer Dusk.
Successfully backed on Kickstarter, this project is definitely a go. Originally asking for just over $17,000, the fundraiser has managed to reach over $32,000. But when you have talent like Ostrander and Duursema on this, is it any surprise? When you consider the pedigree and achievements this team supreme have managed in the past, then it should be no shock.
“The response to the project has been really awesome,” Jan says. “You hear from people all around the world – and that’s really amazing to me, you know? I guess these are fans who have read Star Wars: Legacy or John’s Grimjack, and people have said to me ‘I’ve been your fan since Arion, Lord of Atlantis’, so, it’s amazing that stuff you did back in the 1980’s is still relevant to a lot of folks. I think that’s so cool.”
I’m one of those fans. I still have every single issue of Arion, Lord of Atlantis in my comic den and Duursema and Ostrander still have such a big fan following. Their work has entertained thousands of comic-readers for the last thirty years. They have an established history of successful titles and have a great deal of ease working with each other. Their collaborative process is well-established and bears the hallmarks of a highly intuitive team that have a close appreciation for each other’s strengths and talent.
“John and I have worked together for a long time, she continues. “We first started working together on the Star Wars books. We worked Marvel-style, which is, the artist gets a plot – a page description or a panel description and the artist gets to add their contribution. You know, Kirby-Stan Lee style. But then, at a certain point, Lucasfilm didn’t want to read the plot and the script so we streamlined it. John did a full script and allowed me the autonomy to create an extra page or scene. He’d give me the plot, I’d do the lay-outs and then he would write the script. So I’d be able to add a new idea, expand or compress some scenes and he’d say ‘Yeah – yeah, let’s run with that!’”
In Coleridge-like style of inspiration, the idea for Hexer Dusk comes from a vivid dream. Duursema had this image of cities in the sky exploding in mid-air and the concept stuck with her.
“I have crazy dreams all the time, because I think all artists do! But I woke up and thought that would be a great story! How can I make it into one? I started thinking about characters I’d like to see and the history, what the cities were. I really thought about it in 2013, then I talked to John about it – the characters, the setting and we gathered it all together and said let’s launch it.”
It’s the originality of this story that really stands out. Ostrander’s experiences in the world of Cynosure and Duursema’s gift at making science-fiction come to life have more than prepared them to tell this this type of tale. Not that there is any similarity to these works, but the ability of these creators to portray this genre in such a resonating and meaningful way stays with their readers and is a promise of how good Hexer Dusk will be.
“Science-Fiction isn’t something you can get a lot of companies interested in. They have their own worlds, agendas, their own universes and this is so out-of-universe that I didn’t think it would really appeal to any companies.”
The story’s originality and the nature of Ostrander and Duursema’s long-familiar working relationship completely justify the decision to crowdfund this book. The fact that their project was funded with such overwhelming support shows that this is a story that not only has a high amount of anticipation but a great deal of optimism.
And understandably so. In fact, there is a lot of successful proof of concept behind the book. In my opinion, the level of support behind Hexer Dusk demonstrates a viable fan base and the potential opportunity for a comic publisher with a strong focus on creator-owned properties to consider distributing the story further under its banner. However, there is nothing that can replace that sense of ownership over an artist’s creation. This is something that really belongs to Ostrander and Duursema and fully reflects their artistic capability and vision.
“We wanted to create something that we totally owned, because we’ve worked on a lot of the franchises over the years – and everything that I’ve ever done was for somebody else. So, at the end of it, I really owned nothing. When the Star Wars stuff went from Dark Horse to Marvel, I had nothing left and it left me wondering, what do I do now? So it was just time to try something independent. But we really wanted to be our own creative team and do something exactly the way we really wanted do it. So I think Kickstarter gives you the way to … kickstart a project; something a little off-genre that you want to control and create the way the book comes out. We’re going to make this book something really special and that people will want to read and be a part of.”
However, with the first book published, would partnering with a major company be an option that they would consider? Duursema responded positively.
“I would love for Hexer Dusk to be an ongoing project. I would love to draw this for the next 10 – 15 years, that’d be great! John and I have so many ideas right now of the kind of stories we could do. We could have a lot of fun for a very long time!”
There’s a great deal of passion behind this story. It’s one that’s definitely worthy of getting a major company with infrastructure and distribution capacity to pay it some attention and picking it up. But for now, it belongs to an incredibly talented and prolific comic-creating team. They have the freedom to make this weird dream a reality.
Hexer Dusk is successfully funded, but there is still about a day left at the time of this article. If you want to add a little sauce for savour, visit the Kickstarter page and help them achieve their stretch goals. Make this book every bit of the dream this incredibly talented team have shared with us so we can see those cities explode and light up the sky with every detail that Duursema can muster.