Andres Salazar: Journey to the Weird West

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

Andres Salazar describes his Kickstarter project and series of graphic novels Pariah, Missouri as an "Occult-Western set in antebellum Missouri. Huckleberry Finn meets Buffy the vampire slayer." Andres sat down with CB Publisher Jason Sacks to discuss his project - which is already fully funded and heading towards its ambitious stretch goals.

Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: What is Pariah about?

Salazar: Pariah, Missouri is about the people living in a frontier boomtown.  The main character is the setting.  It features compelling characters trying to survive in 1857, 4 years prior to the American Civil War.  This first volume sets up the town, the main characters and establishes the look and tone of the book.  There are supernatural elements to the town and folk magic is being practiced here, but ultimately it's about deception and the relationships --true and false -- that people have with each other. 

CB: What made you decide to create a Western comic? You don't see any of them available anywhere anymore, so why did you choose this genre?

Salazar: Well for one I love Westerns.  Plus I feel that westerns are actually very popular and commercial, shows like Supernatural, Justified, Longmire, Firefly, Deadwood, even Breaking Bad has western elements to them, so there's a market for it.  Third I'd say that Pariah is a western by name, but in many ways it's not a traditional western because of the setting.  Most westerns are post-Civil War, like 1870 and set in the plains, or towns like Tombstone, Arizona.  The fact that Pariah is in Missouri, not really considered the west, and in 1857, actually makes a big difference in the types of stories I'm planning on telling.  I will be dealing with issues around slavery and religious movements like the Second Great Awakening, which will be unique to my stories.

CB: Do you think the supernatural element of the comic brings out different tropes in the Western genre?

Salazar: Weird West as a genre has existed for decades, so there's nothing groundbreaking in that regard.  I think supernatural stories and ideas are very popular now, and if you throw some spooky angle on any type of story, people seem to be drawn to it.  Personally, I have always been attracted to folk magic and religion.  So for me, researching religions of the times and how people thought about ghosts for instance and how common of an occurrence it was for someone to see a ghost or have a spiritual experience is very interesting for me.  I think there are some new and fresh stories that can be told from that point of view. 

Pariah, MO

CB: "Pariah - it brings something out of your soul." What is it about Pariah that wrings out the people who live there?

Salazar: Ahh, great question, and it would be a total spoiler if I told you the answer.  I'm going for the long haul here, I have plotted out to volume 3 of the book, and finished volume 2 script.  By the end of vol. 2 we will know more about what that means.  I think one  way to think to interpret that line is that these are tough times for these people.  This is the farther point west on the Missouri river, which means a harsh environment with little civilization.  People had very little in the way of support, protection and community.  You had dangers on all fronts, surrounded in their minds by enemies.  Most people put in situations like that will break, or their survival instincts take over and lose their humanity and charity.  

CB: How did you connect with artist Jose Pescador?

Salazar: I met him through an associate I met at San Diego Comic Con.  I tell people all the time, if you want to find a collaborator, go to cons and start talking to people.  I went to the portfolio reviews and started stalking the artists there and met some great people and got connected to Jose.

Pariah, MO

CB: You must have some good stories about working with Howard Chaykin. Can you share one?

Salazar: Howard Chaykin is amazing.  He has a wealth of knowledge about crime fiction, Jazz, American illustrators and TV.  I gained a huge appreciation for American illustrators of the 1950s through '70s.  Everyone talks about Rockwell, but he is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many greats that Howard turned me on to, go look up Harry Anderson, Robert Fawcett, Coby Whitmore just for starters, it will blow you away.  Howard worked for Gene Colan, he has history and not only is a huge talent himself but knows art like the back of his hand.  As we would work, he would be playing CDs of some amazing jazz and talk about TV shows.  He turned me on to Downton Abbey, and I will always be grateful for that!  I love that show.

CB: What made you decide to go to Kickstarter?

Salazar: I am addicted to Kickstarter.  I think I've backed 23 projects and I adore the concept of helping out someone who is trying to build his dream.  Man, if I was a kid when this was going on, I would have made so many projects and films.  I think crowdfunding is the way of the future and I love it.

CB: What do you think of the reaction to the book on Kickstarter?

Salazar: I'm getting some great responses.  Honestly, the only negative I've ever heard is that someone didn't care for the coloring, and if that's the worst I get, I can live with that!  Most of that is due to the amazing work that Jose is doing, and hopefully after they read the book they also feel the story is compelling.  So far, tons of positive emails.  I love it.

Andres and Jose from Pariah MO

CB: How have you been pushing the book on Kickstarter?

Salazar: I have been trying to do a "multi-pronged attack formation mode".  Basically it consists of blasting it online through my own social media channels, asking people to do likewise and talking to everyone I see in person about it.  I have bookmarks and flyers printed I never leave home without them, I go to signings at comic shops, events, conventions.  Wherever I can find people I tell them about my book.  I've done the Central Coast Comic Convention, and will be at the Las Vegas Comic Expo and APE, I will have a booth and be promoting and selling the book there as well. This is about selling myself as much as it is Pariah, so no one will be better at it than me.

CB: What kinds of premiums do you offer?

Salazar: As a backer, you can get rewards such as the trade paperback signed, or the oversized deluxe hardcover signed, also a 11x17 painted page and an opportunity to be a member of the cast in the book for vol 2.  I am neck deep in Stretch goals now.  I'm hoping we will get far and I get to have fun and make lots of fun stuff, including a new card game.

CB: Did I see you're creating a radio drama based on this book if it funds?

Salazar: Yes sir, that's correct.  If we reach a stretch goal I hope to make the radio-drama. It's kinda crazy and ambitious, but I know some production and I have access to professional VO actors, so it's something I've been wanting to do for over a year now.  If I get to make this, I will be so stoked!  The more I get to bring this to life and more excited I get!

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