Looking for a kick-ass Kickstarter to sink your dollars into? Then look no further: SIX SWORDS #1 is a comic you should jump on. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino wrote a revamp of THE WILD BUNCH set in the future — that is how insane SIX SWORDS is. Because it’s launching this month in May, we decided to catch up with the writers of this new series — Chris Massari, Melchor Sapiandante, and Matthew Perez — to talk how SIX SWORDS came about. 

Full disclosure: Chris Massari is a ComicsVerse writer, and this interview was condensed for space.

ComicsVerse (CV): First and foremost, could you give everyone a breakdown of what SIX SWORDS is about?

Chris Massari (CM): The professional, elevator pitch is SIX SWORDS is a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western set in what’s left of a post-WW4 United States. The more fun, in-depth version is it’s basically the story of a bunch of shitty people with swords, coming together through happenstance and needing to work together to meet an end goal. Some of the characters are seeking redemption, some revenge, some a place in the world, and some just cause they have nothing better to do. There is no ultimate good the Six must reach or are fighting towards. They just work together cause they kind of have to or they’d end up dead.

I think it needs to be stated the Six Swords are not heroes and, more times than not, they cause more problems than they do good, even if at the moment their intentions might be somewhat altruistic. Good stories aren’t black and white, at least, most of the time. They are very grey involving distinct, deep and complex characters. What can make for a better story than six very, very distinct characters with their own motivations moving towards a very basic centric goal?

Melchor Sapiandante (MS): Yeah we want to make a light hearted story about themes central to American life, particularly in the spaghetti westerns (the pointlessness of murder and revenge, redemption) with fucking swords.

Art by Ryan Cody, Colors by Elaina Unger, Letters by Renato Guerra

CV: How did that collaboration come about? What is it like to co-write together?

CM: We all went to high school together. Went to the same college, Rowan University, which is in our hometown. So, we’ve been friends for awhile.

MS: Yeah the story really came about during the height of the 2012 apocalypse furor (spoilers: didn’t happen) as one of our best-est friends, Kevin X., was living in California at the time. I was discussing with the group what eventually became templates for the Six Swords about how we could rescue Kevin were the predictions true, and the logistics of such a venture. I was a heavy drinker before, and I discovered that night when you mix Apple Cider and fireball it tastes delicious, so I got a bit knackered. I also have a fascination with bladed weapons, so when we talked about defending ourselves, I said I could provide everyone with machetes, which quickly evolved into calling our group the Six Machetes, which then, in my drunken mind, turned into the idea of six people wielding swords roaming a post-apocalyptic land. I’m very imaginative as anyone who has ever communicated with me can tell you, so I quickly whipped up satires of each of my friends based on personality quirks and in jokes. I was just shooting off the hip with the story being a comic book because I was wasted, but Chris and Matt really loved the idea and thought it could actually work, so we basically met up once and just brainstormed a megaton of ideas and stories we could tell through the medium and setting.

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Matthew Perez (MP): I think in elementary school, I played on the same soccer team as Chris. We come from a small town, so we all knew each other for quite a while. I’m sure someone famous once said writing is editing or what have you. Each of us signs off on the idea, then the major beats of the issue, then the step-by-step outline, then the meat of the story arc, then dialogue, and finally the full script itself, including description and panel design. That process entails many debates and arguments and brainstorming sessions. When an idea fails to fit the puzzle of our story, we motivate each other to figure out a way to make it work instead of tossing it away or looking for a simple solution. We put our stories through the paces and hold each other accountable to not let lazy decisions make it through. We want the dirt in our world to make sense.

CV: Ryan Cody and Elaina Unger, as artist and colorist, did a phenomenal job. How far into the project were you when they came on board and what do they bring to SIX SWORDS?

CM: Ryan and Elaina have both done a tremendous job and if you are looking to get your own book done, look them up and hire them. They are both talented people who you won’t be able to hire in the future cause they’ll be booked solid. I can’t express how happy and excited I am with what they’ve created. I know we all feel that way.

They were both here from the start. Mel actually sought out Elaina, another hometown alumni, and Ryan found us on a Zwol forum where we were seeking artists. We all felt his artwork was the most distinct and unique, that what he would bring essentially is something people would notice and remember. He has such a cool style. Then there’s Elaina’s skills as our color artist. It may be bold and a little premature, but with the coloring work she’s done on the books and the different promo art, I think we have the next Jordie Bellaire on our team.

MS: Yeah, Elaina was actually within my CCD community (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, aka Catholic boot camp) although I don’t remember her entirely from that fun time. I saw that she was a colorist, so when we got our initial work up of the characters, we commissioned her for the coloring and it came out fan-fucking-tastic. So when the comic proper was being developed, we had her in mind from the start to color the series.

MP: Ryan’s art felt right from the start. Seeing him illustrate this world I had been imagining for so long in my head felt surreal. Elaina helped out early on concept art and we loved her work. I oddly never imagined the world in color, so when I saw she made it deeply vibrant, I was floored. I can’t imagine the project without them.

Art by Ryan Cody, Colors by Elaina Unger, Letters by Renato Guerra

CV: Lettering on a comic can sometimes make or break the storytelling. Renato Guerra seems to be able to get the voices of each character across distinctly. How did he get involved?

MS: He does great work and I want to shamelessly plug him because he really does capture each character as we think of them to be. Renato has great talent, but I also think it helps that he loves the story and especially the characters, so skill plus personal investment means that you get lettering that is artful, not by the numbers brick-laying you see with a-lot of comics.

MP: I love the idea of our story being translated into different languages, and that’s thanks to Renato.

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CV: How much time has gone into producing SIX SWORDS so far, and what are the plans for the future of the series?

CM: Shit, umm, four years I think? The art itself didn’t get started till this summer and the third issue is finishing up now. Not that we haven’t spent or put a lot of work in. We definitely have. But this isn’t our full time job, at least not yet, so it’s taken a lot longer than things would have needed to. Plus, we’ve had to adhere to some of our publishers scheduling.

This will be limited run, with a beginning and end. I think we’re thinking around 50 issues, which is probably high…

As far as the future, it’s definitely bright. It was very serendipitous, as Matt likes to say, how we found our publisher and how things worked out. We can’t talk too much about certain things, contracts and just general legal shit. There are some “streaming options” that are in a pitch process right now and I don’t mean “we’d like to” kind of process. Not just us, but the AHR Visions studio has some options that are in a process right now, we’ll just say. This weekend we actually just confirmed two BIG conventions we’ll be at this year. We just have to work out our flights and studio obligations at the events, which include panels. We’re very excited and very lucky.

MS: Yeah as I mentioned before, we spent a lot of time in development hell as it were from the time we laid out the basics of SIX SWORDS in a sushi bar (2012) to just wrangling everything together so we could actually tell the damn story (2016). We’ll be sticking within just the Divided States of America, which doesn’t make for a long story as we will tell it. We’ve all talked about it, but I really feel that for the story to be great it must have a clear ending, which we vaguely have set in stone.

MP: For a bit, it felt like an idea kicked around for fun during post-graduation ennui, but it soon took a more serious turn. We want to ensure every decision by the characters builds towards these major junctures. There’s purpose in each step — we don’t want to veer off course.

Art by Ryan Cody, Colors by Elaina Unger, Letters by Renato Guerra

CV: There’s a great comedic tone throughout, peppered with some fun cartoonish violence. Was that always the intention or was that something you built on as you developed the series?

MS: Yeah, our brand of humor within the group is deathly dark, so naturally when we’re writing the story we put in humor that will be off putting, to say the least, although in the way we could only hope is comparable to SOUTH PARK. Going back to the original post, it was very light-hearted and satirical as to it is now, but I’m embarrassed at how I wanted to pitch the story. It straight up reads like a 12 year old’s FanFiction.Net material.

MP: I believe the idea began as a straight comedy and evolved into a western with absurdist characters. With the SOUTH PARK influence, the humor derives from character decisions and conflicting personalities as opposed to throwaway gags. The SIX SWORDS butt heads, act selfishly, and often can be blamed for the peril they find themselves in. As for the violence, I think we wanted to parody spaghetti westerns in the over-the-top gore — thinking specifically of a certain scene in DJANGO [the 60’s movie].

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CV: You have a Kickstarter planned for the series in May, could you tell us a bit about that and what kind of treats do you have in store for your backers?

CM: Basically, we’re broke and need monies to make the comic. That’s a joke, but also not a joke. We’ve all invested a lot into the art and our first three issues and printing is super expensive. Could we do it? Yeah, but it would rack up our growing debt. Ron Swanson’s sandwich analogy never felt so real when we got our accounting done: “Taxation is theft.”

I made a joke to our friend and all-around-best-guy ever Dirk Manning about being in the hole and wanting to climb out, where he responded he’s been doing it successfully for ten years and is still climbing. We’re here for the long haul and will see this story get printed no matter what, but we feel Kickstarter is our best bet to do that right now for financial reason, as well as helping to build our fan base and exposure.

MS: If society still had debtor’s prisons, all three of us would be very afraid right now with the finances. So money is a prime reason for our Kickstarter, but it’s also a way to show our idea outside of social media, given that Kickstarter is a platform from which many people discover cool and brewing new content. I’ve found a couple of great stories from just randomly browsing Kickstarter that I would have never otherwise found out about.

Art by Ryan Cody, Colors by Elaina Unger, Letters by Renato Guerra

CV: Why should people back the Kickstarter and SIX SWORDS?

CM: It’s a fun series. It has great art. It has some killer covers. Objectively speaking and as a former comic reviewer, it’s exciting, well structured, and has a lot of potential. It’s nothing preachy or up its own asshole. Subjectively speaking, it’s better than crack cocaine and will fulfill all of your wildest and most personal dreams.

We’ve also gotten positive feedback from Mark Mallouk, who did us a huge solid to look at the material, as well as from other creators in comics I’ve sent PDFs, if that helps.

MS: If you like violence, social commentary on American values and dreams, and crude humor, SIX SWORDS will right up your alley way.

MP: I’d try out the first issue and see how it fits.

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Art by Abdul H. Rashid

CV: Are there any other projects you have on the horizon you’d like to tell our readers about?

CM: After this single issue Kickstarter, we’ll be doing another in the fall for the full three issue graphic novel, before we hopefully Kickstarter the 4th issue next March.

Want to find out more about SIX SWORDS? The SIX SWORDS Kickstarter will be launched in mid May. You can follow the progress of the series on their Facebook page here. If you want to keep up to date with the writers, you can follow them on Twitter@AKATheKidMarvel @meltron5000 and @MattRyanPerez. SIX SWORDS will be reviewed by ComicsVerse at a later date. The featured image, by Plaid Claus, is a Kickstarter exclusive cover.

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