By: Nicole D’Andria
Caleb Thusat (Supercats) has another ambitious project being featured on “Kickstart the Week.” The Neverland is a sequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan novel that can stand on its own. This first issue immediately undertakes a unique approach as the events unraveling are sparked during the global pandemic.
The creator and writer of The Neverland is Caleb Thusat, who has been featured a record number of times on “Kickstart the Week”. I’ve previously talked to him about his time travel story Flytrap, his mind-bending science-fiction series Alter-Life, his zombie superhero comic ZED, and his WWII ghost story Nook. His inspiration for this project began to emerge during the pandemic as he watched children growing up in this environment. Combined with reading Peter Pan to his son, Caleb embarked on a journey to create The Neverland.
This fantasy adventure story sees a young boy whose mother becomes sick during a global pandemic. To escape the situation, he journeys to the dreamland from his bedtime stories, only to be met with a darker fantasy world. The series takes a similar approach to dark fantasy movies from the 80s and 90s such as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
But the world of The Neverland would not be the same without the rest of the creative team bringing it all together. The artist and letterer of the series is Marcelo Biott, who previously worked with Caleb on Nook and Flytrap. He’s joined by colorist Robert Nugent, who has worked for numerous publishers, from Boom! to Dynamite Entertainment. There is also a Neverending Story homage variant created by cover artist Stan Yak, the artist of Source Point Press comics Broken Gargoyles and Monstrous.
The Neverland Issue 1 Kickstarter is seeking to raise $4,500 by 11:00 PM EDT on March 22, 2022. Reward tiers include digital ($5) and physical ($10) copies of The Neverland #1 and several of Caleb’s other comics are available in digital ($10) and physical bundles ($30). There’s a variety of different packs available for backers, which they can check out in full on The Neverland Issue 1 Kickstarter campaign page.
For a deeper look at this dark fantasy of epic proportions, I’m talking with the storyteller behind it all, Caleb Thusat.
Nicole D’Andria (ND): What role does the global pandemic play in The Neverland and what inspired you to include it alongside a sequel story to Peter Pan?
Caleb Thusat (CT): In the early part of the pandemic, my son was obsessed with everything Peter Pan. I decided to read the original novel with him and its dark tone inspired this series. I saw kids growing up too early because of all the craziness happening in the world and thought, what if these kids could escape to a world like Neverland and hold on to their childhood just a little longer?
ND: Who is Percy and what can you tell us about the importance of the relationship he shares with his mother and father?
CT: Percy is the lost boy we follow to Neverland. In Barrie’s original book, Neverland was different for each child. They would bring their own magic to the island, and I loved that idea. Percy’s mother gets sick and he is terrified of losing her. In his desperation, he escapes to Neverland.
ND: You mentioned how “Neverland was different for each child. They would bring their own magic to the island,” and I was curious, how do you picture your own Neverland and the type of magic you would bring to it? Your son is welcome to answer this one too!
CT: I think my Neverland would be a lot tamer than what you see in these stories. Lots of food, beaches, and plenty of places to just sit and read or write.
My son said he’d want it to be just like Peter Pan… I’m not sure he knows what he’s signing up for… ruthless pirates, scalping, and hungry children. He thinks it’s just all flying around and causing mischief!
ND: If you could escape to any fantasy world of your choosing for a while, which one would you pick and what would you do?
CT: After writing this story, I’m not sure I’d want to. Just like Percy, you could get there and everything could be much different than you had imagined in your dreams.
If I had to choose though, it would probably be Star Wars. I mean, the force, lightsabers… come on.
ND: What are some of the dark fantasy films of the 80s and 90s that inspired The Neverland and what specific aspects of the series did they inspire?
CT: The movies I watched over and over as a kid were: Labyrinth, Willow, The Neverending Story, Legend, Hook, and the old Lord of the Rings cartoon movie. I loved magic, fantastic creatures, and unlikely heroes. The Neverland follows their storytelling. You follow an unlikely hero who meets a crazy cast of characters along his journey. And while the adventure is the story we follow, there is a deeper purpose and meaning behind everything.
ND: There is also a Neverending Story homage variant for The Neverland available through the Kickstarter. Why did you pick this property in particular to pay homage to in relation to your comic?
CT: I wanted to make something special. Something that when you see it as a kid you just get wrapped up in the adventure but as you grow older you realize how deep and meaningful this story actually is. The Neverending Story was that for me. I often take the parts I love from movies and comics and stir them in a pot. I add my own crazy dreams and voice, and a story is born.
ND: When reading the original Peter Pan novel to your son, which part of the story was your favorite to share with him and why?
CT: Honestly, the book is so much different from any other version. It’s dark. Peter Pan is kind of awful to everyone, and I felt like it was much more tragic than any scree version. My son loves the crocodile. So, I would probably say the parts where Hook is being pursued by the croc was the most fun to read to him. And just seeing his eyes light up when a recognizable character did something magical was a treat.
ND: Several of the Kickstarter reward tiers include current Village Comics titles. What can you tell us about these additional comics that are available?
CT: I have a tone. Mostly it’s dark, YA sci-fi or fantasy. You can pick up Alter-Life, a sci-fi exploration of depression, or Nook, a WWII ghost story. I also have a crazy time travel one-shot featuring the same art team as The Neverland.
ND: What is the number one reason (besides the five very strong ones you already listed on the Kickstarter page) why people should pledge money to your Kickstarter campaign?
CT: I would say magic. Coming to what feels like the end of this pandemic mess, wouldn’t it be great to go on a magic journey to Neverland with a relatable, unlikely hero? You can share this story with your kids or just enjoy it yourself, but I think we all could use a little magic in our lives.
ND: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
CT: Don’t stop. It took me five years to get published. Before that I self-published everything. Now I have a series on Scout Comics AND one coming to Source Point Press this summer. It takes time and there are no shortcuts, but you can get there.
ND: Promote yourself! What other projects in addition to this one do you have planned for us to look forward to in the near future?
CT: Nook will be coming out as three issues with Source Point Press this summer! I’ll also be releasing two new Supercats books with Scout Comics and writing more short comic strips for their kids magazine, Frontiers. The Neverland is really my main focus right now though. It’s going to be five issues total, and I want to release all of them as quickly as possible.
ND: Thank you for taking the time to share a part of your Neverland with us, Caleb! Readers can check out The Neverland #1 Kickstarter campaign here.
Do you have a crowdfunding project? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on “Kickstart/IndieGogo/GoFundMe/etc. the Week?” Then message me on my website. Also considering checking out the official Kickstart the Week: Interviews with Comic Book Kickstarter Creators Volume 1 on Kindle.
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