By: Nicole D’Andria
In the latest “Kickstart the Week(end)”, I’m interviewing the creative team behind Assault on Fortress Doom. This 172 page, full color graphic novel is a WWII based action adventure. This tense but still humorous adventure is “THE BASTARD OFFSPRING OF STAR WARS AND WHERE EAGLES DARE”.
The greatest secret mission in history, Assault on Fortress Doom takes place on May 7th, 1945 after the death of Adolf Hitler. The world plans to celebrate their victory in Europe… except the war isn’t really over yet. A band of commandos have two hours to stop the rogue Nazi General Wolfgang Von Khan from launching a titanic doomsday device called Goliath.
Assault on Fortress Doom is the first title written by London writer Lex McDonald. He is a former script reader for Working Title films and, according to Lex himself, “a day-dreaming IT project manager/writer.” The illustrations are by Uruguayan artist Edgard Machiavello. The two found each other on DeviantArt and Kickstarter and have never spoken a word to each other. Instead, McDonald and Machiavello worked on the entire comic through 2033 emails.
The project was actually successfully funded on its very first day, with over $6,944 (converted from £4,500) being raised. The Kickstarter ends on December 3rd, 2015 6:50 AM EST for any additional backers interested in the project. For £12 ($19) you can get a digital copy of the book and the physical version for £20 ($31). The rewards continue up until £120 ($180) and include a personalized avatar of yourself or getting to be a background character in the book. You can view the Kickstarer here and visit their official website here.
For more information about Assault on Fortress Doom, I interviewed writer Lex McDonald and artist Edgard Machiavello.
Me: Of all the possible wars, why did you choose to focus on World War II?
Lex McDonald: War is inherently dramatic subject matter, but I think WW2 presents a giant canvas with the biggest stakes. It’s also an exceptionally well-documented conflict, which means when you tell a story about the ultimate secret mission, you can have a lot of fun weaving a fictional narrative around the actual events we all know took place.
Me: Can you talk a bit about the main antagonist, Nazi General Wolfgang Von Khan?
McDonald: Hitler is already dead when the story begins, but Churchill describes rogue general Von Khan as a “nasty piece of work, even by the Nazi’s standards”. He’s basically a distillation of fascist ideology into a Bogeyman figure…and has an extremely nasty surprise up his sleeve for the Allies. Much as I’d love to tell you the ultimate reason why he’s doing what he’s doing, you’ll have to read the book to find that out!
Me: Who are some of the protagonists in the story and can you talk a little bit about each of them?
McDonald: At the heart of the story is a squad of five strangers, thrown together at the last minute and charged with saving the world. It’s the story of their relationships as much as anything else. Naturally, they are led by an unflappable Brit, Major Frederick Raleigh. The story celebrates (and pokes fun at) the Major’s stiff upper lip and his relationship with the American member of the team, “Ace” Montana, is pivotal. Ace is the world’s greatest living aviator (at least in his own mind) and a serial womanizer who delights in winding up both the Major and the only woman on the team – Astra Rougeau. She’s an utterly badass French resistance operative and an alpha female in an era with little time for equality. The heart of the team is Sgt Samson “Tank” Tangaroa, a giant Anzac inspired by the All Black rugby star Sonny Bill Williams (who to me seems like a real life action hero). And the final member of the team is Professor Aquinas, an old German scientist in search of redemption who is completely unsuited to a suicide mission…but absolutely key to thwarting Von Khan’s plans.
Me: How did you and Edgard Machiavello find each other on DeviantArt?
McDonald: The story for Assault on Fortress Doom had been in my head for a long time when I joined the site. I was looking for someone with a flair for WW2-style action and vehicles. Some work Ed had done on a previous project immediately stood out to me and we got chatting via email. It was soon apparent we had similar personalities and a great rapport: my wife said this phase of the project was like watching two people internet dating!
Me: What was the process like of never speaking to Edgard in any way besides e-mail? Why did you only contact each other through e-mail?
McDonald: There’s no real reason we couldn’t chat on Skype – but I think not talking became a bit of a superstition for us. We’re both quite meticulous – initially, email offered the best way to make sure we captured all our ideas and any differing thoughts. It worked so well, it kind of became like postal chess….and I guess we just didn’t want to jinx it. Plus, if we chatted, we might distract ourselves talking about the X-Men, Breaking Bad or any of our other shared interests. We’re hoping we’ll get to discuss those things over a beer one day soon.
Me: Did you do a lot of research on WWII and Nazis for this book? Were there any particular books and movies that you used to research it?
McDonald: Although the story is fictional – and has some fantastical elements – it was really important to me to ground it in reality. There was a lot of online fact-checking and I watched the World at War, as well as countless History channel docs about supposed Alpine redoubts and secret Nazi technology. The British war comic Commando was definitely a visual reference point for us and an obvious source of inspiration is the brilliant war movie Where Eagles Dare. But in terms of story-telling, I found myself re-watching films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark because for me, their take on adventure and action is still the absolute tops.
Me: You reached your goal on Kickstarter in a day. To what do you owe this great success on Kickstarter?
McDonald: Being well prepared and understanding the importance of the first few days of a Kickstarter campaign. A story with (I hope) an exciting and easily understood premise. Putting Ed’s fantastic artwork front and center. A strong trailer (a lot of people have told me the trailer is one of the best they’ve seen for a comic, which is very flattering). And, of course, emotionally blackmailing friends and family to visit the Kickstarter page and pledge…
Me: What is the number one reason you think people should back Assault on Fortress Doom?
McDonald: I genuinely believe anyone who likes history, action and adventure will get a massive kick out of this story. It’s big, ambitious, looks great – and when you put it down at the end, I guarantee you’ll feel you’ve been on an incredible ride.
Me: What advice do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
McDonald: I still consider myself an aspiring comic book writer, so I’m not sure how well qualified I am to give advice! I suppose I would say three things. Stop putting it off and just do it. Make yourself write or draw even when the muse is not in your corner. Make sure other people’s negativity is water off a duck’s back to you. Oh, and a fourth thing: find a tolerant and supportive partner!
Me: How would you describe your art style in Assault on Fortress Doom?
Edgard Machiavello: I started reading American superhero comic books and was hooked by this. Never actually did superheroes comics, but I would really like to, some day.
My direct influences are Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri and Todd McFarlane.
I always read some manga stuff, really love the dynamic panels of it.
And I did some historical comics published here in Uruguay, so you could say that AOFD style is the result of all of this: mainly American superhero action with tiny bits of manga dynamics. Add some love for WW2 stories, a nice British accent, and you got AOFD.
Me: If you could do the artwork for any superhero story, which superhero would it be and why?
Machiavello: JSA. I really like those characters and the stories in their books. Old style characters, a “mature” version of the JLA with a big sense of justice, plus lots of action and humor. I really like that. Wildcat and The Flash are my favorite characters by far.
Me: What was your favorite page or panel to work on in this graphic novel?
Machiavello: Every new page was a real challenge. Lex sent bits of script to work with, 5 page sequences, each one better than the previous, and always came up with something amazing.
I could say my favorite pages are the car chase sequence. I love WW2 vehicles, and here I did action scenes with cars, trucks, and tanks shooting and drifting off-road. Lot of fun doing these pages.
Me: Who is your favorite character to draw in Assault on Fortress Doom?
Machiavello: Tank, since day one. I love that character.
Pure muscle but a big heart. He can gently lift a kid on his shoulder or smash your skull. Super versatile character.
Me: You were originally an architect. What made you decide to go from that profession to comic book artist?
Machiavello: I loved drawing since I was a kid, always drawing everywhere and crafting cardboard machines. My family thought I would become architect or engineer. So the closest thing to that was architecture.
During the time I was studying I bought some X-Men and Wolverine comic books, and I was so hooked, like “I want to do this!” Those books blew my mind. So I started to do some pages as a test in my spare time between classes… and here I am.
Me: What is the number one reason you think people should back Assault on Fortress Doom?
Machiavello: The story.
AOFD is great story. You have action, humor, mystery, car chases, aerial dogfights, super weapons, cool gadgets and above all else, really strong characters. Lex is an awesome writer and did a brilliant job. Every new page keeps you wanting to know what is going to happen next. Just brilliant.
Me: What advice do you have for aspiring comic book artists?
Machiavello: First of all, love what you do: If you don`t love it, that lack of love will be reflected in your art.
Preparation. Study the most you can: anatomy, perspective, shadows, everything. This way you will be ready for anything.
Practice. Just keep drawing: This way you will polish your skills and style.
And patience. You can draw just for fun, but if you want to make a career you have to know it is not easy, but not impossible. Try to get in contact with editors and show your stuff, don`t be afraid of the negative responses, opportunities will come.
Me: Thanks for your time Lex and Edgard. If you want to see a band of commandos with two hours to save the world from Nazis, check out and back the Kickstarter for Assault on Fortress Doom.
Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have it showcased on “Kickstart the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on my personal website www.comicmaven.com.
Other “Kickstart the Week” features:
100 Tears: The Comic