It’s no secret that Hollywood loves comic books. Motion picture studios have scheduled a flood of comic-inspired features into the far future. It’s really no surprise since the two mediums pair together so well. Both mesh engaging stories with exciting images to entertain audiences. And with film production storyboarding looking remarkably like comic book panels, it only makes sense that a former film student might gravitate toward the sequential art storytelling offered by graphic novels.
“I decided to make comics right around the time that I dropped out of film school, ” says Lee Milewski, creator of the new graphic novel Hunter’s Lore. “I wanted to be creatively driven, but didn’t have the money or resources to attend school. Comics are perfect for the budget-minded creator.”
Milewski is an illustrator from Southwest Florida who switched from aspiring to a career in film to breaking into comic books — a world he wasn’t really familiar with at first. Milewski mentions that he may have read through a Batman comic book at some point in his childhood, but otherwise was late to the party.
“I always knew I wanted to have a creative job, but never knew how to approach one,” explains Milewski. “I didn’t read many comics as a kid. I sorta’ found them in my early twenties and it took off.”
Milewski dove headfirst into indie comics by taking freelance work that sounded enjoyable. “I started doing a TON of odd jobs such as illustrating other writers’ work and trying to make my way in the industry,” he says. “Eventually, I found that I hated chasing that idea of a career and liked doing my own stories much more.”
So Milewski took a few ideas of his own to popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter. His first was Tangled Weeds, a horror themed graphic novel, which funded successfully and enjoyed a limited release. He then followed up with successful campaigns for two issues of The Somber Crown, a fantasy. Then came Hunter’s Lore.
“Hunter’s Lore is a story of personal redemption,” Lee explains. “A knight named Rowan Black is destined to a life of solitude within impenetrable walls. Once he realized his cause is unworthy and forfeiting of its purposes, he ventures out into the world to take on a quest.”
Hunter’s Lore is loaded with ideas that Milewski is passionate about. In the graphic novel, he edges toward cinema by way of video games. It blends the methodical pacing of a good fantasy RPG with the moral ambiguity of Game of Thrones and the horror touches of H.P. Lovecraft.
“I always felt that comics told TOO much – the exposition between characters would leave little to the imagination, and the reader was never without a guide through the pages of those books,” Milewski explained in an update on Kickstarter. “With film, and especially video games, story can be intentionally vague and almost non-existent. I wasn’t being dragged through by the hand, and because of that, I continue to seek these types of stories out.”
As he sits down to work, the comic creator digs out a Pentel Pocket Brush and begins inking a Conson comic board. His style has evolved since Tangled Weeds and has a painted beauty to it now, reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. “I began copying Mike Mignola’s stuff when I was starting out, but realized that I HATED using a tech pen to draw,” Milewski admits. “I switched to a brush and that’s sort of the evolution. They’re great and come highly recommended.”
“[Running a campaign] is a job within itself; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!” he exclaims. “It’s stressful and extremely time consuming, but I love it … it’s ultimately super satisfying to see your idea become something out of nothing.”
Milewski’s hard work paid off when Hunter’s Lore more than doubled its campaign goal. But instead of just printing enough copies for his 167 backers and moving on, Milewski wanted to get his work out beyond the popular crowdfunding website.
“Stache seemed like a great place to get ideas out into the world, especially on a broader spectrum than I could personally accomplish.” says Milewski. “I’ve debated with publishing Hunter’s Lore with a traditional publisher and Stache and the team won me over.”
Milewski, in turn, had also won Stache over. The boutique publisher is excited to team with indie creators on works that break from the regular mold of American comics. For Hunter’s Lore, it goes beyond the distinctive two-panel, square page format. While the graphic novel uses familiar elements like high-fantasy storytelling and RPG pacing, Milweski has constructed them in a way that is unique and compelling. “Hunter’s Lore is different than a lot of fantasy comics due to it being a smaller scale story – it’s not necessarily “save the world and achieve great things”, but rather a slow trudge through Rowan’s necessity to reclaim his life and pride,” he explains.
Those that missed the Kickstarter for Hunter’s Lore may order a copy of the book directly from Stache’s online store and online booksellers like Amazon. A digital version is currently available at Drive Thru Comics with a Comixology release forthcoming.
“Independent creators are truly the blood within the comics industry,” said Milewski. “When newer and upcoming creators receive support, they’re more inclined to stick around and make awesome art and create awesome stories. This is true for ANY independent creator, not just me. I hope that my stories gives creators a reason to pursue their own stories and comics.”
For South Florida’s Lee Milewski the passionate work and artistic exploration continues with a new crowdfunding campaign – this time for an exciting sci-fi graphic novella, Focus Shift.
Connect with Lee Milewski online: