Last summer, writer David Pepose launched a massively successful Kickstarter for The O.Z., a comic described as “a combination of the world from The Wizard of Oz and the subject matter of The Hurt Locker.” Now that we’ve seen this Mad Max-type universe, Pepose and his team (artist Ruben Rojas, colorist Whitney Cogar, and letterer DC Hopkins) have launched their second double-sized Kickstarter campaign to see what else lurks in the war-torn Occupied Zone. Covers are from Rojas, Maan House, Farid Karami, and Cem Iroz.
We chatted with Pepose to celebrate the launch and find out what fans can expect from this next installment.
Deanna Destito: I love reimaginings of OZ, especially when the darker elements of the tale are exposed. What inspired you to do your own version of the classic story?
David Pepose: I’d originally come up with the concept for The O.Z. following my breakout series Spencer & Locke — when I was thinking of what other genres I wanted to pursue beyond crime fiction, fantasy was one of the first things that came to mind. So I wound up writing down a number of inspirations from the fantasy genre — Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Wizard of Oz — and when I typed the word “Oz,” my cursor flashed on it. It made me think, what if the word Oz was an acronym for something? When I thought of the words “Occupied Zone,” the image of Dorothy as a combat soldier and the Tin Man as a metal-plated juggernaut immediately hit me — this wasn’t just a fantasy series, but a war story.
Deanna Destito: We see a lot of familiar characters in the first arc. Can you hint at some others in this next one?
Pepose: Sure — we’re going to be expanding the cast in our second Kickstarter in a big way. Not only will we get to see more of the Scarecrow and Toto in action, but we’ll get to meet Jack Pumpkinhead and the Prince of Lions. The Prince of Lions in particular is one of my favorite characters in the entire series, and one who I think will have a lot in common with Dorothy — he’s someone who’s also seen more than his fair share of bloodshed and loss, and carries a heavy burden of responsibility as the king of the Animal Kingdom. What does the calculus of courage look like when you’re not just fighting for yourself, but have an entire nation to think about? His arc is a fun one, and it’ll only escalate as the series progresses.
Deanna Destito: How does Kickstarter benefit a project like this?
Pepose: Kickstarter is such an empowering platform for independent comic creators, because not only does it allow us to sell our work directly to a passionate and vocal set of readers — and in a way that makes our work financially viable — but it also teaches writers and artists all the ins and outs of the comics business beyond just the creative elements. I’d already learned how to write and edit my work just by making a comic, and I’ve learned the ropes of publicity by pounding the pavement on my other series — but before The O.Z., I’d never worked with a printer before, or learned distribution or fulfillment. Now if I have an idea for a comic, I know how to release it on my own steam — I don’t have to wait for permission anymore. It’s a really freeing thing to experience.
Deanna Destito: After this book, are there more pieces to the story that you plan on doing?
Pepose: Definitely — we’re planning on doing a third Kickstarter to wrap up The O.Z. sometime next year. We didn’t want to drag out The O.Z. past its welcome, and I think by keeping the Kickstarter campaigns for this series relatively limited, it ensures that we don’t confuse our readership, and can make sure that everyone stays up to speed with the series as it unfolds.
Deanna Destito: If you could pick another world to rewrite or add your own flavor to, what would you pick?
Pepose: If you’re talking about a gritty or off-kilter remix to an established property… I’d say The Jetsons could be pretty fun. I have an idea for James Bond that could be pretty cool, too. And there are some properties I’d love to take a chance at, just to play it straight — like Captain Planet, my white whale of comics. (Laughs) Call me, publishers — we’ll have a lot of fun together!
To back the Kickstarter for The O.Z., click here. Check out a preview below!