The Pantheon Project, the story of a group of teenagers that find themselves mysteriously gifted with the powers they pretended to have as children, is a book that has been in the making for quite a long time. That’s how it is sometimes with these indie passion projects but nothing has been able to deter co-creator/writer Erik Taylor from getting this book out. Working from a concept by co-creator Kevin Caron, Taylor has been fortunate enough to assemble a creative team consisting of Leila del Duca (Shutter), Kit Seaton (Eve of All Saints), Rus Wooton (The Walking Dead), and even more. Taylor and co. went the crowdfunding route via Kickstarter to raise money for the production of the first two issues of The Pantheon Project before eventually being picked up for publication by Action Lab Entertainment. Not bad for being Erik Taylor’s debut as a comic book writer. On the heels of the first issue’s release, Erik Taylor took some time to answer several question about the creation of The Pantheon Project.
The Pantheon Project’s production was funded through Kickstarter but, before that, how did the creative team come together?
At first it was Kevin Caron (the co-creator) who started the project. During the initial stages of development, after the looks/designs of the characters were figured out, Kevin had to focus on other commitments. He recommended Leila del Duca so I reached out to her and we began to work together. When it came time for lettering and coloring, Leila recommended other Denver-local artists (Kit Seaton and Rus Wooton) to fill those roles. The other members of the creative team (Dailen Ogden, Lucas Schneider and Lonnie Allen) also came from Leila and Kit’s recommendations. A nice communal effort on everyone’s behalf.
The book’s origins date back as far as 2011. Without spoiling anything, is there anything about the book that has really changed since its original conception?
Oh man… yes! The Pantheon Project was initially supposed to be a 12-issue run. However, the cost and logistics of self-producing a comic quickly became a reality. It was time to focus on telling a tighter story without compromising what I wanted to achieve with my first comic. I will say the story’s core themes and characters stayed consistent all the way through… mostly.
Leila del Duca’s work on this book really captures the feeling of children’s fantasy and a lot of that has to do with the look of the costumes that the cast plays in as kids. Can you tell us a bit about the process you both went through designing those costumes in both their past and present iterations?
My first draft of the first issue was HUGE. It was very (very) detailed in regards to scenery, characters and even camera angles. Most of this was because I didn’t have an artist at the time and I’ve never written a script an artist had to draw. When the characters are kids, I suggested they use things laying around the house to fabricate their costumes. An upside-down sand pale as Firefly’s helmet, tin foil to represent Machina’s body, plastic fairy wings as Firefly’s insect wings… But Leila tied all of those random ideas together to make these kids come alive in a way that still makes me smile when I read that first issue.
When it comes to the teenage versions, the “superheroes”, Kevin Caron and I worked together to create practical costumes without losing the superhero fun of it all. I had some initial ideas but Kevin really drove it home by building the characters’ visual identity from the ground up. And, of course, when Leila came aboard she continued to evolve the characters and costumes in very cool ways.
The first issue’s opening has a really fun vibe to it before taking a darker turn that felt reminiscent to me of the writing of Stephen King. The whole aspect of childhood being interrupted by harsh realities only to be drudged up in the present is something you’d see in It or Dreamcatcher. Was that or anything similar an influence on the tone of the book?
I never did read Dreamcatcher… but Stephen King’s It had a very strong impact on me when I was younger. Scared the crap out of me! As for influences… movies like The Goonies, The People Under The Stairs, Empire of the Sun… anything that juxtaposes childhood adventures with (or against) the adult world. Some of my favorite comics as a kid were the Classic X-Men issues that introduced me to the Claremont era of X-Men. It was my gateway into the Marvel Universe and comics in general.
I was sort of struck by the decision not to include the inciting incident – how the cast develops the abilities they pretended to have as children – in the first issue. For me, it created a greater sense of mystery while giving the characters more time to make a lasting impression. Was this a conscious choice on your part?
The original first issue was written to the standard length of a printed comic. However, Action Lab wanted to split the issue into individual chapters to hit the $0.99 price point for each installment. I was a little weary since it wasn’t written that way… but it was definitely the right call since it felt organic and feedback has been so positive.
The first issue definitely came together in a round-about way. We wanted to use the prologue flashback to introduce our characters and the premise they would get the powers they made up as kids. That’s why the first issue’s timeline jumps around a little bit… Let’s just say the learning curve when writing and producing your first comic is HUGE.
Now, is The Pantheon Project book being written as an ongoing or is there a sort of finish line in view?
The Pantheon Project is a limited series run that will be collected in a trade paperback in early 2015. I’m currently working on some short stories that take place in the same world as I begin to plan a second volume.
And finally, when can readers expect the second issue to drop?
The next issue is scheduled to release towards the end of August. The digital release schedule is once a month until the volume is complete. Once that happens then Action Lab will begin to solicit the trade nation wide.