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Friday, May 24, 2024

Bobby Campbell on 'Tales of Illuminatus'


Bobby Campbell (with a statue of Merlin at Medieval Fantasy Mini Golf in Ocean City, N.J.)

Yesterday's big announcement about the new Tales of Illuminatus! comic adaptation of the Illuminatus! trilogy naturally left me wanting to know more, and despite the fact that he's a busy guy, comic creator Bobby Campbell immediately agreed to an interview. (Please see the blog post for a link to what's available so far, and see Bobby's comment in the post). 

For more on Bobby, see his official website and  his X/Twitter account. Please see also my big interview with Mr. Campbell that ran in November last year.  Of course, Bobby is the force behind the annual Maybe Day celebration that takes place on July 23. I met him at the ConFluence SF convention in Pittsburgh a few years ago when Bobby and Gregory Arnott and I organized RAW-related events there, and both of those guys were great to hang out with. Go meet Bobby in September at the Small Press Expo if you can! 

In the interview, Bobby mentions that he is waiting to find out what the audience is for his big new project. This is where you come in, gentle reader! I will do my best to publicize the project, but if you have a social media account, a blog or some other platform, please spread the word, both now and when regular episodes start to appear. And please preorder/buy the print editions. Bobby is generous to a fault, and he would not ask anyone to spend food money on his project, but if you can, please provide support. You'll hear more about the Kickstarter here when I know more. 

I did my best to cover the basics in their interview and I will share more news about this project as it becomes available.

-- Tom Jackson

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: How did the new "Tales of Illuminatus!" webcomic come about?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Simply enough, Nick Helweg-Larsen, who I've known for 20 years, as an old school Maybe Logic Academy alumni, revealed himself as the media rights holder for the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and reached out just to talk about various possibilities, from which Tales of Illuminatus! slowly but surely emerged.

I was very hesitant to get involved at first, worried about working on a non creator-owned property, and intimidated by the sheer magnitude of the overall project, but once that little spark of potential worked its way into my imagination, it spread like wildfire. "And then we could do this! And this! OH! AND THIS!"

RAWILLUMINATION: This is billed as the "official" adaptation, does it have the blessing of the RAW and Robert Shea estates?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Since I had a pre-existing relationship with the RAW estate, the first thing I did after talking with Nick was run to Christina and Rasa and make sure I had their blessing, which I indeed do :))) TBH I don't think I've ever interacted with the Shea estate, even when I did the Shike covers that was done through New Falcon, though I have a very favorable opinion of Mike Shea!

I know that contractually/legally we are all good with everyone, and that the RAW & Shea estates will share in the profits, thus "official" in that sense, but I don't think I can claim that anyone necessarily sanctions the full extent of my buffoonery!

RAWILLUMINATION: Who will the main artist be, and who will write the webcomic? Is that you for both, or are you bringing other folks in?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I will be the main writer and artist for the series, but I also have the titanic Todd Purse joining me for at least the first issue, and ideally for the whole run. I also have Dan "The Man" Robinson from The Headies recording some music for us.

If I'm planning for success, I'd say my intentions are to bring in the entire luminous cavalcade of visionary geniuses that comprise my rolodex, in one way or another. I'd love for this thing to be a circus, but! I'm the only one I can ask to work for free, so you may be stuck with mostly me for a bit, while the thing grows into something beyond my great expectations.

RAWILLUMINATION:  How large will the July 23 episode be? What is the timetable to complete the project?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I'd rather underpromise and overdeliver, so I'll say the Maybe Day episode will be a few decidedly info-rich pages! Followed the next week by a few more, and the next week by a few more, and so on, and so on! This is definitely going to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

The timetable for the first issue is pretty locked in though.

The weekly episodes begin on July 23rd and will run until around mid October.

Pre-orders for the first print issue will be open from July 23rd - August 23rd.

The first issue will be sent to the printer on the last week of August and pre-orders will ship by the second week of September.

Tales of Illuminatus! #1 will debut on Sept 14-15 at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland and will then be available for sale everywhere in print and digital editions :)))

After the first set of weekly episodes run out there will most likely be a production break.

Depending on the success of the first issue and various other pending opportunities, we'll have to play things somewhat by ear, but my goal would be to start back up with new episodes and the second issue pre-order campaign by no later than Dec 21st, AKA MAYBE NIGHT.

There is absolutely a chance that things work out such that we don't require a production break at all, and the series continues to grow in leaps and bounds until we complete all 23 issues over the course of five years, but it's likely to be more messy than that.

The great, soon-to-be-answered, question is...

Is there an audience for this???

RAWILLUMINATION: Will the webcomic be free, or will there eventually be a subscription? What are the plans for publication in other forms?

BOBBYCAMPBELL: The plan is for the webcomic to be free and supported by pre-sales of the print issues done via Kickstarter. Ideally growing a large enough back catalog that the series becomes self-sustaining.

I'm not crazy about the subscription model, I don't like being a part of someone's monthly bills, I'd rather sell a real, high quality, physical object!

The print issues should look magnificent. We're doing them oversized, like magazine size, rather than comic book size. Giving the pages some space to breathe. Like a 1970's issue of Conan the Barbarian. 

The end goal would be three graphic novel collections, recreating the trilogy of books in comic book form, and then ultimately a giant-sized omnibus edition collecting the whole darn thing.

RAWILLUMINATION: How far did the previous comic book adaptation get? Is it still available in some form?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: The original comic book adaptation made it completely through three issues, which covered the first three "trips" of the novel, and I believe they had enough of the fourth issue to publish an ashcan edition (like a preview or demo), but I've never actually seen it.

The first three issues are absolute treasures and can be easily and affordably ordered from a number of places online.

I know Mark Philip Steele popped up a while ago and was offering a free PDF download of the first issue, but the official link has gone private and requires permission to access it.

From my own time in the trenches, I can only tip my cap to Mark Philip Steele and company for their brilliant compressing of Illuminatus! down into the comic book medium. The whole first trip in 32 pages!? It's ultimately an exercise in problem solving and there is so much truly great work in those comics.


Spookah said...

Bobby talks about having music being recorded for this comic book. The idea of Tales of Illuminatus! being a multimedia project makes a lot of sense to me!

If Mike Gathers happens to be reading this, what about trying to bring in Mike Shea to a future Hilaritas podcast?

quackenbush said...

Hi. I assume Mike is Bob Shea's son? I think TJ has a contact for him? Always looking for guest ideas.