Comics: Eric R. Gignac on Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy Kickstarter Campaign

Reviving a past master for tomorrow's audience

By , Columnist

Every now and then a project comes along that captures not only your attention, but imagination, too. In my case, they’re often based upon something startlingly new, or a combination of known elements that offers intriguing possibilities or expanded horizons.

And then there are those instances which hit home with their obvious compatibility, what I typically think of as a Homer Simpson moment, where I mentally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand while uttering that now famous phrase, “D’oh!”

Combining Robert A. Heinlein’s work with comics represents one of those moments for me—and probably for quite a lot of other folks out there, too.

So it was all but inevitable that, as soon as I learned about Eric Gignac’s Kickstarter campaign to support a graphic novel adaption of Citizen of the Galaxy, one of Heinlein’s great all-ages novels, I knew I’d have to talk with him about it.

Heinlein image from Citizen FB page.jpg

Just so we’re all on the same page, who was Robert Heinlein, and what about the man and his work captured your imagination?

In our Kickstarter video we describe him as the "don of science fiction," which we truly believe. He wrote more than 150 stories of speculative fiction and although he is not as recognizable today as with previous generations, his influence can still be seen in many of today's science fiction movies, programs, books, etc. For example, spaceships in Battlestar Galactica were named from Heinlein stories, as well as many Star Trek plots.

Why adapt Citizen of the Galaxy to comics? What about this particular novel makes it particularly appropriate for a graphic novel adaptation?

It’s a perfect jumping-off point for re-imagining the universe of stories Heinlein wrote in his lifetime. Our hope is that this graphic novel adaptation will be the first of many stories that will connect and expand Heinlein's fictional universe by plot, setting or other detail into future stories.

Stranger in Strange Land cvr from Amazon.jpg

Why not adapt one of Heinlein’s perhaps better known books, such as Stranger in a Strange Land, or even the Lazarus Long tales?

We hope to do additional graphic novels in due time with the interest and support from the science fiction community.

So, when did this idea first occur to you, how long has it taken you to get to this point, and what were some of the roadblocks and detours you had to overcome and circumnavigate along the way?

Re-introducing Heinlein to new readers, particularly getting the graphic novel readers interested, is probably our single largest hurdle to overcome. Previous generations can attest to the quality and substance of Heinlein's work; now it’s a matter of getting younger generations to discover his stories to see if there is any relevance to their interest.

Eric R Gignac pic from FB'.jpg

What led to your decision to self-publish this project? Why not do this with the help of one of the established indie publishers instead?

We wanted to take a real hands-on approach to this project. Our thought was if we were going to re-introduce, re-popularize Heinlein to a new generation, we wanted it to be a grassroots effort. Self-publishing also allows us to maintain creative control of the project. There are examples out there where, in our opinion, Heinlein projects were mishandled by large, established commercial efforts.

Citizen working concept image from Kickstarter page.jpg

And why go the Kickstarter route? What does that route offer you that traditional approaches don’t?

We believe that Kickstarter not only provides crowdfunding, but it is also serves as a great test market for measuring community interest and demand. Any creative/business effort has inherent risk and knowing the extent of support a project such as this can generate in the Kickstarter community helps to minimize such risks.

Assuming that it’s a go, will you be distributing the book through some of the traditional comic shop and book store channels, or is this a “pledge if you really want a copy” sort of deal? And will it be available for order via the usual online outlets? And what about electronically—will it be available as an eBook?

Yes, all of the above. Our goal with this project is to achieve the widest distribution as possible to get more people reading Heinlein again. For this reason, we hope to work with as many different distributors and channels as possible.

Citizen interior 2.jpg

So who else—if anyone—is involved in this effort, what about their abilities and sensibilities mark them as the perfect foils for this project, and how are they contributing to the cause?

Before we began the project, we reached out to the comic book community to gauge interest in working on Citizen of the Galaxy and other Heinlein titles. The response from artists and writers was quite overwhelming. Of course we have comic industry veteran Steven Erwin lined up for this first graphic novel, but other talent we talked with who are interested in working on future titles include Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo) and Colleen Doran (Sandman, A Distant Soil). Both were interested in the Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love.

Time_Enough_For_Love_ cvr from wiki pg.jpg

What do you hope this campaign and graphic novel does for Heinlein and his work?

Heinlein's legacy pretty much speaks for itself. However, boosting his readership with the current generation of science fiction aficionados would be a great offshoot of this campaign. Then who knows? Aside from the potential of future graphic novel adaptations, perhaps additional expanded or spinoff projects from Heinlein stories could result.

What do you hope to get from all of your efforts to make this adaptation a reality?

The opportunity to adapt more stories.

What do you hope that your readers get from this project?

We don't want to oversell it, but our hope is that one day soon more Heinlein works are adapted into other graphic novels, TV shows, films, web series, and other contemporary mediums beyond the printed text. We hope that this project can serve as one of the first steps for such a movement.

Citizen interior art from Kickstarter page.jpg

Let’s say someone out there reading this isn’t quite convinced that the Citizen of the Galaxy adaptation is for them. What might you say to help sway them to back the project?

If you are a Heinlein fan or just a science fiction fan in general, you should support Citizen of the Galaxy because it can serve as a portal to other stories, one of which you are bound to enjoy. Supporting this project can help kickstart—pun intended—adaptations of other Heinlein works, which are as diverse as the individuals in the science fiction community.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, Citizen of the Galaxy is a great opportunity to get on the ground floor of something big. The 26K goal was set primarily to attract the best talent to convey Heinlein's work.

We also have a Citizen of the Galaxy blog site that features the current status of the graphic novel and interviews with the artists. Also the blog features a current and growing list of all our supporters. In the near future we will also post page updates and character concepts as they are completed.

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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