By: Nicole D’Andria
All four volumes of the genre-mashing Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter are now available on the latest USA Today bestselling author Russell Nohelty’s latest Kickstarter campaign. This dark fantasy horror-comedy is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands and Cthulhu mythos. However, the twist is that it takes place in a Christian Apocalypse.
The titular Ichabod Jones is about an escaped mental patient who becomes a monster hunter during the Christian Apocalypse. The series asks whether the protagonist, who was shunned by humanity, can become a hero. The series takes inspiration from the likes of In the Mouth of Madness, Event Horizon, and Jacob’s Ladder, with a dash of Gravity Falls, Frankenweenie, and Army of Darkness.
The creator and writer of Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter is no stranger to Kickstarter campaigns, having previously raised $350,000 from 23 different projects. He’s the publisher of Wannabe Press, which brought to life titles like Katrina Hates Dead Shit and Pixie Dust. The artist for the series is Renzo Podesta, who previously worked with Charles Soule on 27 for Image Comics and with Jeremy Holt on Skip to the End for Heavy Metal.
The Kickstarter is seeking to raise $10,666 by September 22, 2022, at 9:08 PM EDT. Starting with the $10 tier, you have the option of choosing between an ebook or audio commentary. An interesting and unique element of this Kickstarter is that anyone who pledges $50+ will get a VIP invitation to a hang-out with Russell in 2023 to discuss Ichabod as well as get access to special previews and ask him questions. Check out the details of the available reward tiers on their official Kickstarter page.
Let’s take a deep dive into Russell Nohelty’s mind on Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter below!
Nicole D’Andria (ND): What is it about H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands and Cthulhu mythos that inspired you to write Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter?
Russell Nohelty (RH): Even though people often consider me a horror writer, the genre I resonate with most, as both a writer and reader, is fantasy. And the Dreamlands is H.P. Lovecraft’s best attempt at portal fantasy, which is the subgenre for most of my books.
While most portal fantasy from that era is filled with whimsy, like Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, what set Lovecraft’s vision apart was the sheer brutality of it. Things were odd and off-kilter, yes, just like they were with many portal fantasy books of the time, but in his world, the weird could kill you without thinking about it.
On top of that, there was a lot of psychological horror happening in the Dreamlands, and it was those things that I really leaned into with Ichabod. Even though it is, at its core, a portal fantasy book, things are not whimsical. They are horrific, with terrible choices lurking around every turn.
Then, I layered in the psychological stuff that’s so prevalent in the Mythos not just on the character, but on the reader as well, as their perception of reality is always in flux. Is Ichabod in the Apocalypse? Is this all in his head? Is he having a psychotic break and killing people thinking they are monsters?
Balancing all of that makes Ichabod my toughest writing challenge, but also one of the most rewarding.
ND: Who is the titular Ichabod Jones, this “broken man” (as you describe him in the campaign), and why do you feel his journey is important for readers to see?
RN: The question I’ve been asking since 2010 is whether somebody like that, who society has cast off as worthless, can redeem themselves to become a hero, not despite their brokenness, but because of their brokenness.
Ichabod is objectively evil in the eyes of society. Not only is he disabled, having mental issues that prevent him from carrying out even simple tasks, but he’s a murderer, condemned by the justice system to live out his life in an asylum.
But he’s not evil. He is perceived as evil by society, though. In his mind, he was doing the right thing, even though he knew it would be seen as horrific if his illicit deeds were ever discovered. He sacrificed because he wanted to do good, and that good was seen as horrific, which it was, objectively. He killed a bunch of people, don’t get me wrong. That is bad, but in his heart, he was the good guy.
The things that make Ichabod a pariah in the “real world” are the exact things that make him a hero in the Apocalypse. This should be enough to give readers a second thought about whether this is all real, but it was a real challenge to create a world where Ichabod was the hero.
I’ve seen a lot of books about mental illness in my day, and they are almost always bleak and nihilistic, but Ichabod is not that. It’s a story about hope; it’s a story about finding your place in the world, and of using the gifts you have been given to create a better world.
I think Ichabod resonates because, even though this is a fantastical world, we have all felt like outcasts one time or another. We have all strived to do good in a world gone mad, and we have all wondered if we will be accepted not despite our flaws but because of them.
Ichabod is the embodiment of that. I absolutely stretch that to the nth degree, but that’s the core of what I’m trying to do.
ND: This is the fourth and final volume of Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. Why did you decide to end the series here?
RN: Well, first, I think things should end. I think everything should end while people still want more of it, instead of dragging it out forever. But the truth is that I reached the climax I have envisioned in my head for years.
So rarely in life do we get to end a story on our terms, and when I wrote the exact ending I had always dreamed of for this story, I knew it was time to let it go.
That said, fans were so dogged that they brought Ichabod back from the dead once. I can’t say it won’t happen again, but to me, this is the story of Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter I always wanted to tell. It ended exactly the way I always envisioned.
ND: As a character, how has Ichabod developed over the course of each volume?
RN: The question I asked in the first volume of the book was about whether Ichabod would accept the mantle of hero or cower in fear. Once he accepted that responsibility, the rest of the book was about him growing into his confidence. Ichabod was a weak-willed character in the first book, as many of us would be given the circumstances thrust upon him. But over the course of the series, he grows in his own power as he grows to trust the friends around him, and his own skills.
ND: Piggybacking off of that question, how have you developed as a writer over the course of each volume?
RN: I wrote the first book back in 2010, during one of the worst periods of my life. I had finally moved to Los Angeles, fulfilling a dream I had since I was a kid. But in two years, I hadn’t gotten anywhere, and I was quite sure I would never make it as a writer.
Ichabod was written from a place of nihilism, and the bleakness oozes off the page in those first issues. I wrote the second volume in 2019, after having success, and realizing that I wasn’t a nihilist. I was, in fact, an absurdist, and all my work since 2010 rung through with at least a glimmer of hope.
One of the hardest things for me in this series was keeping the story consistent when the overarching throughline changed from one of oppressive nihilism to one of optimistic hopefulness.
ND: For Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter fans who are considering trying out your other series as well, you’ve included some of those titles as part of the Kickstarter’s Add-Ons. What elements that people enjoy in Ichabod Jones do you think fans will also enjoy in your other works?
RN: My works tend to be filled with lots of action, maybe even bombastic action, and humor. Those elements can be found in Pixie Dust, Katrina Hates the Dead, and Black Market Heroine for sure, along with our anthologies.
I think the ethos of all my work is that even the most insignificant person in the universe can change the world. I write mostly noblebright fantasy, which means good, or nebulously good, characters doing the right thing and changing things for the better in the end. There is a hopefulness in all my work, but it’s not a naïve hopefulness. It’s just that I want a world where the good guys win because you find that so rarely in life.
ND: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your project?
RN: Cuz it’s a really fun, exciting, and thought-provoking ride that I think you’ll love. Renzo drew the heck of this book, and it’s worth it just to see his art and how it mixes with the horrific and hilarious moments of the story.
If you want to think deeply about stuff then that is in there too. But really, it’s just a fun, bloody, brutal, exciting ride from beginning to end.
ND: You have had plenty of success on Kickstarter, creating over 20 projects to date and raising a total of over $250,000. How did your Kickstarter process evolve over the course of your 20+ campaigns?
RN: It’s definitely become more systematized over time, and I’ve gotten much more skilled at designing pages in very little time. I can look at a campaign and in seconds see the “code” behind it, what works, what doesn’t, and how to get the most while conserving my energy.
When you run 4-5 campaigns a year, you have to become very good at conserving your energy and not doing big, labor-intensive stretch goals or rewards because you have another one coming in a few weeks.
I also teach Kickstarter through our Kickstarter Accelerator (www.kickstartyournovel.com) and through our podcast Kickstarter Your Book Sales (https://kickstartyourbooksales.buzzsprout.com), so I’ve been able to watch hundreds of campaigns and figure out what works across industries, and what really doesn’t.
ND: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
RN: When I wrote Ichabod, I was suicidal. I had just spent a ton of money trying to break into comics and absolutely failed at every level. Honestly, I thought there was nothing worth living for, and I would never be successful. That was in 2010. In 2014, I launched the book and raised $5,000+, which changed my life. In 2015, I went full-time, and by 2017, I was one of the most successful creators on Kickstarter.
No matter where you are right now, there is always a chance to turn it around. Five years might seem like forever, but it’s nothing in the grand scheme. One project can turn it all around for you. I’ve seen it so many times in my life, struggling creators who find a hit their fifth or tenth time out, and suddenly, they are off to the races.
I know it happened to me. I’m not that smart. I’m not that attractive. I’m not that talented. I happen to possess marketing skills built from sheer force of will. If I can do it, so can you. I believe in you.
Look forward to seeing your book on Kickstarter. Let it rip.
ND: Thank you for taking the time to share your world with us and offer some inspirational and deeply personal words. Best of luck with your campaign, which interested readers can check out 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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