For comic book writer Curtis Clow, seeing his dog suffer as he helped her recover from an accident was a heart-wrenching experience. Yet, it also brought the pair closer than ever before.
“I thought I was already very close with her, being my first very own adult dog. But after the accident it took our bond to another level,” says Clow of his beagle, Ellie, who was struck by a car after a day at the park. “Her recovery took many months and was a lot of extra care. Things like having to carry her to go use the bathroom and such. I had to keep an eye on her every moment I could.”
A few years later, Clow has turned some emotions behind that experience into the fantasy comic Beastlands, which explores the bond between humans and animals. The series takes place in a medieval fantasy world in which some people have beasts known as Keepers. It follows three teenage friends in search of one of their fathers, and takes place amid a backdrop of a tyrannical king wanting to outlaw Keepers.
“That whole experience is very much the heart of the story,” says Clow of his time helping Ellie recover. “The themes of a human and pet bond that were inspired by those experiences.”
Clow has built a small but dedicated following that allows him to crowdfund some of his creations. Beastlands raised more than $53,000 on Kickstarter, and eventually was picked up by Dark Horse Comics, which is collecting the first five issues for comic book shops starting June 29 and at traditional book stores July 29. Beastlands, which has art from Jo Mi-Gyeong and lettering work from Toben Racicot, remains a creator-owned title through the deal with Dark Horse.
While Clow believes Beastlands could have successfully landed at a publisher without his Kickstarter campaign proving there was an audience, he notes it would have been a challenge.
“We were no name creators at the time, this being my second ever comic series and Jo’s first series,” says Clow, whose other credits include the fantasy treasure hunt Slightly Exaggerated and sci-fi The Wild Cosmos. “It’s really hard to get a start in the comic industry, so the chances of someone picking up and publishing Beastlands were very small. No matter how good of a pitch you have, a good track record and some experience helps a ton.”
The creator notes that Kickstarter comes with extra pressure, even more than having a book released by a traditional publisher.
“If anything goes wrong or a package goes missing, I’m always available for contact. You have to build trust with your backers, and I think I’ve done that over my 15 launches,” says Clow.
As for the future, he is planning Beastlands issues six and seven, and still takes inspiration from Ellie, who is now six and in good health. Says Clow: “I make sure she’s getting the most out of life and living it to the fullest. But more importantly, she’s always teaching me new things on how to be a better owner — more caring, compassionate and more.”