A few weeks ago, I met a really interesting creator at C2E2 named Travis Vengroff. We were neighbors at the show and I was blown away by his hustle.
I was so impressed that I decided to check out his work and that’s when Travis introduced me to the world that he’s building in his new graphic novel–LIBERTY: DECEPTION.
Be sure to check out his Kickstarter by clicking right HERE. He is in the home stretch and is SO close to reaching his goal! He could use a helping hand and he’s got a great book so be sure to check it out! He’s got 5 days left to go and less than $5000 left to raise out of $20,000.
Having read Travis’s outstanding Issue #0 which introduces readers to all the main characters and features a beautiful limited edition cover drawn by Dave Dorman, I have to say that not only am I fan but I am also a backer and that’s why I’ve decided to interview Travis today!
Everyone, say hi to Travis Vengroff!
ONRIE: Okay so we were booth neighbors at C2E2 and I noticed you were quite the hustler. Tell us a little bit about your background.
TRAVIS: Ha ha, thanks! I got that from being the front man for a video game inspired rock band. Over the last 10 years I attended 50+ conventions and festivals as ‘Random Encounter’ and in addition to the many amazing journeys we went on, it really helped me become more outgoing that I ever thought I could be.
My day career is in “work force” housing & apartment management; basically providing clean, affordable, safe housing. There’s a really sad lack of good places to live in my home town if you’re not middleclass and we always have a lengthy waiting list. My business also works to transition non-chronic homeless individuals and families back into a stable community. I consider myself extremely lucky because I happen to love what I do, it covers my bills, and it allows me the freedom needed to create my comic book series.
ONRIE: So is this your first comic?
TRAVIS: About five years before we released our Zero Issue at C2E2, I released a “prototype” issue. At least that’s what I call it to feel better about the experience. “Liberty: Defiance” was drawn/printed in the wrong dimensions, the art and story really weren’t that good, the cover art could not have been more dull, and it had a lot of other problems as well. But just taking the risk, finding an artist, and actually printing (far too many copies of) my first book taught me so much. For a long time I had wholly deemed the experience as a failure, nearly given up, but the feedback I got really helped me grow as a storyteller, and helped show me what I needed to improve upon to be successful.
ONRIE: How has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far?
TRAVIS: I’m extremely humbled by the support my team and I have received. It’s been a roller coaster ride of extreme highs (daily victories) and lows (self doubt), and a lot of trying to not be too awkward on social media when asking people to look at my project. This is my second run at a Kickstarter for Liberty and I’ve been working on my Kickstarter page, drafting it, for over a year. I spent months researching every element and waited until I almost had the first volume complete. Now that it’s live, and that the first 20 pages of it are online for people to look at, it’s suddenly strange for me to think that there are people who have not only read it, but who consider themselves fans. We’re at 76% of goal at the time of writing this, and Kickstarters tend to have a huge boost during the last 72 hours, so I’m feeling optimistic that we can close the gap!
ONRIE: What are some of your favorite comics and how did they help inspire your story?
TRAVIS: My favorite comics are generally ones with a lot of atmosphere and I find that it’s easy to be inspired to write when you’re reading something that excites you. Stories like Wytches, Mouseguard, or anything set in the Alien universe are probably my favorite mainstream stories.
Generally though, I think I get more inspiration from reading indie comics. Each creative team has a different hook or specialty, and because they don’t have to follow a mainstream formula there are some really amazing books out there that break the mold!
I’m extremely fond of Telikos Protocol, America’s Kingdom, Stabbity Bunny, The Souvenir, Gofu, and I’m a recent convert to Yi Soon Shin. If any book has influenced me the most though I’d have to say it’s the New 52 Batwoman series. The paneling is continuously redefining my opinion of “the best paneling I’ve ever seen.”
ONRIE: Dave Dorman did an incredible limited edition cover for you. How does that feel?
TRAVIS: Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Extreme Joy. Extreme Gratitude. Proud. I am extremely fortunate that Dave agreed to take on the cover, especially given the short timeframe and I can’t thank him enough. As a huge fan of his work I to try to curb my excitement whenever I talk to him. I usually fail, but I think he’s okay with it.
ONRIE: Tell us a little more about the cast of LIBERTY and what role we can expect these characters to be playing in your upcoming graphic novel.
TRAVIS: Liberty: Deception is primarily going to be told from the perspective of a television actor, Tertulius Justus (TJ). After being fired from his job, TJ uses his false reputation as a war hero to avoid execution at the hands of the military state of Atrius. He has absolutely no combat prowess and the only things he has going for him are his fictional reputation and his ability to lie.
The Conway Brothers from the Zero Issue are also going to be a pretty big part of the story as well. If you saw how trustworthy they were in the Zero Issue, you can probably guess that TJ is going to have a difficult time trying to keep their collective interests aligned long enough to avoid being betrayed. Hopefully in that order. There are a bunch of other really unique characters who will join TJ’s group, and a few of them might even be Kickstarter-backer created characters.
ONRIE: You seem to have had a lot of fun working with Claw. Is he your favorite character?
TRAVIS: It’s funny you should ask that. I think Claw started off as my absolute least favorite character but over the years he’s slowly grown on me. I think the Zero Issue (which was only thought up/written/drawn in late December or January) might have been the turning point for me. Casey Bailey did such a good job of capturing Claw’s smile, which is pretty infectious, and that’s about when I stopped hating him. In any other story Claw would be the bad guy, and including him as a part of the cast in the main story is a challenge because he and his half-brothers naturally want to betray/kill/eat the other protagonists. However, despite my feelings toward Claw himself he’s always been the most fun to write for. He basically writes himself.
ONRIE: The book has a very techno BLADE RUNNER like feel to it. Was that something you were inspired by?
TRAVIS: I greatly appreciate the complement! I saw Blade Runner when I was pretty young but I haven’t had a chance to see it as an adult and don’t remember much of it.
ONRIE: Are you planning to keep your series self-published? What are your future plans?
TRAVIS: I have no plans to ever give up creative control of my world but I’m open to having a publisher like Image or Dark Horse help me reach a larger audience. I don’t currently plan on approaching a publisher, and after the Kickstarter will focus all my effort into the successful launch of my first volume at NYCC in October. From there I’d like to release a new ~120 page volume every 6 months or so until my main story arc is complete. It should be 5 total volumes.
Kaitlin and I also have two more seasons of Liberty audio-drama podcasts planned, an illustrated history book, a Liberty-setting D20 pen & paper system, and maybe a choose-your-own adventure game in the works.
ONRIE: What Kickstarter perk would you recommend new backers choose and why?
TRAVIS: I’m really rooting for people to opt into being ‘Contact-Level’ Characters in the main story at the $1000 level. Money aside, I think it will be a lot of fun adding new characters to the story and seeing how they’ll interact with the current cast. The person who backed at one of the ‘Kill a Character’ levels mentioned some very specific ideas on who he doesn’t like and I’m excited to see how this death will shift my story. Maybe one of the backers will rise to replace the soon-to-be fallen protagonist!
However, if you’re just interested in reading the book, the $50 level gets you the 120+ page graphic novel, our 50+ page fully illustrated history book, the graffiti/iconography guide, and plus few other goodies shipped to your door.
Thanks for your time Travis! Finish strong!
ONWARD TO VICTORY!