Inside the Mind of Kurtis J. Wiebe

Hail to the Queens!

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This Is Me Now

 

It was early 2012 when the core concept of Rat Queens came together. I’d been in contact with Roc Upchurch after meeting him randomly on a street corner over the weekend of NYCC in 2011. I’d seen his work on Vescell and was inspired by it. He was making art in a way I’d never seen in a comic series.

While he finished Vescell, we emailed several times, batting around ideas. We’d attempted a small pitch on a concept that I’d originally worked on with Owen Gieni (who, in a strange twist, became a later Rat Queens artist), it was called Goblinettes, and it ultimately didn’t float. Didn’t seem like there was much interest in a story about a three-piece all girl goblin punk band that sang about love and getting along.

We went back to the ideas phase. We both knew we wanted to work on fantasy. And we both knew we wanted to try something fresh with a genre we loved.betty

I sat and thought on it awhile. I asked myself all kinds of questions. What did I love about fantasy? What was ridiculous? What was annoying and outdated?

It wasn’t a new thing for me to have female leads in my stories; Debris, The Intrepids, Beautiful Creatures and even Peter Panzerfaust, while predominantly male, had women that are, to date, my favourite I’ve written.

Having four female leads wasn’t the novel idea, in my opinion. What I wanted to do was have a fantasy adventure story where being a woman wasn’t a thing. And in so many of the fantasy books I’d read, it almost always certainly was.

dee 2We did a call and I laid out the idea that I’d come up with in the worst way possible: It’s Lord of the Rings meets Sex in the City. We both laughed. It was a terrible mash, but we both knew what it meant.

That’s where it started. Where it would land, how it would end, we had no idea. Our best guess was five issues and a good looking trade collection.

Rat Queens #1 came out on September 25th, 2013. Five and a half years ago, now.

On that day, my life changed.

Within months, Rat Queens became the most successful project I’d ever worked on. Both in sales and in the acclaim it garnered from an industry, a community that had become so important to me. It was the highlight of success after years of personal struggles that had nearly sapped me of hope and strength.

I felt like I finally belonged.hannah

And it was good for a while. We always struggled to get the series out on its monthly schedule (I have many thoughts about the industry’s demand on artists, but that’s for another time), but we were creating something we loved and the fans loved in returned. It was the best a creator could ask for.

Since then, it’s been a long and difficult journey. The years following September 25th, 2013 have been a trail through the highest mountains and the darkest caves.

I had a daughter.

I moved seven times. (Yes. Seven.)

I began new comic series’.

I finished several others.

It’s no secret Rat Queens has had its share of controversies. They took a heavy toll, bringing me back to a dark place I thought I’d escaped when this Rat Queens journey began.

You can read about my brush with suicide in the summer of 2016 here: https://kurtiswiebe.com/2016/10/28/this-side-of-suicide/

Even then, I kept creating new stories with these four women throughout it all. But, I have to be honest, it was getting more difficult with each new iteration. Each new artistic team that came on.violet

At the end of the day, I had to step back and ask myself some familiar questions: What did I love about fantasy? What was ridiculous? What was annoying and outdated?

This past summer of 2018, I found that I didn’t have the answers I used to. Or maybe I’d already answered them and somehow lost myself along the way.

In that reflection I realized that I’d been burned out on the one thing that once gave me joy and provided for my family.

I was terrified.

And then I knew: it was time to move on.

That fear only grew, but it was the seed to plant a new foundation. I’d wrapped up so much of my identity in Rat Queens; my worth, my voice, and world-view.

Five years is a long time. We all grow and change, day to day, and over the span of five years, I’ve faced many shifts to my status quo.

Those changes excite me, I want to write about them. While that doesn’t mean the Rat Queens can’t be part of the equation, it means that I want to commit the next span of years to these new perspectives that have deeply informed my life.

So, I’m saying goodbye to Rat Queens. For now, and the foreseeable future.

 

The Next Chapter

 

Rat Queens is still popular. I know fans love these characters, and I’ve always been interested to see what other people would bring to the table with this large cast of characters. There are still a hundred stories that could be told with Betty, Hannah, Braga, Dee and Violet.

With that said, I’m passing on the torch to a new team, a group of amazing creators who will carry on the legacy of the Rat Queens in an exciting and new direction.

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Ryan Ferrier, who has lettered the series since we came back in 2017, will be taking over writing duties. He was absolutely the first choice for me. We share a similar sense of humour and he’s been living with these characters for over a year now. If you haven’t read any of Ryan’s work, I HIGHLY recommend D4ve. It was my first foray into his work, and it’s genius and funny and heartfelt and great.

Our new line artist, Priscilla Petraites, is someone I’ve been watching for years. She has emailed me every year since 2014, always sending me her new portfolio, to show her progress and growth as an artist. I’ve always had an interest in working with her, but could never find the right concept for the collaboration. When I decided to move on from Rat Queens, Priscilla was an obvious choice. And the heavens aligned, schedules collided and Rat Queens is now her baby.

Marco Lesko and Priscilla had worked together on several other projects as a team before coming on to Rat Queens. I’d seen their work together and bringing Marco onto Rat Queens as our colourist made absolute sense. They have an artistic chemistry that drips off the page, and I can’t wait to see them craft their take on the world of Rat Queens.

This new team will be taking over in April, 2019, with their one shot: Rat Queens Swamp Romp, before jumping into their full-time duties with issue 16 in June.

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So. What’s next? And what about current Rat Queens artist, Owen Gieni?

In the past few years, Owen has become like a brother to me. He’s been around through the toughest of times and has always been an honest and stalwart friend. Through our long conversations over the years, we’ve discussed hundreds of theories and philosophies, and even more stories and worlds.

It’s time we did something with them.

2019 is about change. About taking a risk, in art and in life.

Together, Owen and I are founding a creative company; Beast and Bone Studios.

We’re going to be creating a pile of new art, comics and otherwise. We’re finally going to get a start on a series we’ve been talking about since summer of 2017. Plus a few others we’ve been hashing out in the last few months. I cannot wait.

First, I want to thank Jim Valentino, the man who saw something unique in this little series. He backed me through everything, and has supported my decisions, both creatively and professionally, and it’s been a fantastic journey. I call him my second dad for a reason!

And finally, I want to thank every single person out there who’s supported Rat Queens, and more directly, supported me through the past five years. It has never been unappreciated, and the kindness you’ve shown through emails and messages has saved me more than you can know. I will be forever grateful for the fans and to the five Queens who made my current life possible.

Here’s to you, Violet, Dee, Hannah, Braga and Betty.

Especially you, Betty. You know you’ve always been my favourite.

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Much love,

Kurtis Wiebe

PS: Here’s your first look at Ryan, Priscilla and Marco’s Rat Queens!

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Dungeons and Dragons – It’s True, Teenage Me.

Last year I was invited to participate as a player in the Misscliks Dungeons and Dragons Twitch stream of Tomb of Annihilation. I’m normally pretty hesitant to be involved in D&D as a player. I rarely take that role anymore, and to be honest, I find it less enjoyable than being the man behind the story. The vile master inflicting my narrative on poor, unsuspecting player characters.

I stumbled my way through it as King, a half-orc ranger, beast hunter type. He was pretty lame, if I’m being honest. But, I had fun and I really enjoyed having the chance to kill him when, in Season 2, I took over the reins of the story and DM’d 10 episodes.

I only wish I could go back to my teenage self and tell him that at some point in the future, he’ll be paid to run D&D.

Here’s the link to the first episode that I ran. There are 9 more if you enjoy the first.

Rat Queens #2 Available Now!

Rat Queens #2 hits stands today and we are super lucky to have a pretty hilarious backup story written by Pat Rothfuss and illustrated by Nate Taylor.

I’m very proud of this issue. I’m always very critical of my work, but this is one of those times where I can feel confident with the final product. Owen Gieni has given the series new life for me. The process we go through each issue is much more involved. Since this issue in particular, we’ve sat down on the phone and broke story from scene to scene until we have the whole thing plotted. In that way, we’ve been able to make jokes stronger and plan for a tighter long game as we plant early seeds now.

I’m thrilled to be back with Rat Queens. I love it again.

I hope you do, too!

Kurtis

PS: That issue 2 B cover is a tribute to Larry Elmore’s classic Dragonlance piece.

Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #11: Identity

A new webcomic by Linda Sejic and me, with letters by Ryan Ferrier. Rat Queens #2 comes out April 12th!

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Rat Queens #1 Relaunch Sells Out! (Plus ECCC Thoughts)

It’s hard to believe how fast the time as blown past since we announced the return of Rat Queens back in November. Owen and I had been quietly working away on the series for a long time before the announcement, we’d finished a full issue and most of the second issue by that time. It was really difficult to keep it under wraps because I was SO fucking proud of what we were building.

It was almost therapy to launch Rat Queens at Emerald City Comicon this year. ECCC has always been a Rat Queens kind of crowd. It’s the place where I first noticed how much the fans loved the series, and more than that, they loved Violet, Dee, Hannah and Betty.

I was nervous about the convention this year. Almost paranoid, if I’m being honest. What would people think of the relaunch? And, foremost on my mind, what would people think of me?

To see so many happy faces, so many people genuinely happy we brought the series back, it was a huge relief. A highlight of the entire show was when I received a hand written letter from a reader who couldn’t get me to sign in person, and her friend delivered it. It was first thing in the morning, I was just setting up. I read it and I had to hold back the tears. It was such a beautiful thought for someone to take time to send me. And, if you’re reading this right now, you know who you are, and it meant the world to me that morning.

I’ve been home since Tuesday. I’ve recovered from the show. And now I’m sharing the news that Rat Queens #1 sold out and that we’re going back to another printing. It’s all so surreal.

So, this is a thank you. To the retailers, for continued faith in Rat Queens, to the readers who have loved these characters through everything, and to my publisher, friends and family, for believing in me.

I can’t wait for you to see everything Rat Queens has in store.

PS: Pat Rothfuss has a backup story in Issue #2, out April 12th. It’s super great.

(Pictured: Rat Queens #1 Second Printing [Left] and Rat Queens #2 Cover B [Right])

Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #10: Bad Omen (Late Post)

Forgot to post this to my website on Wednesday! Here’s the tenth webcomic by Sedona Parnham, Ryan Ferrier and me! Rat Queens returns March 1st!RQ_BadOmens.jpg

Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #9: Girls’ Night Out

A new webcomic by Stjepan Sejic, Ryan Ferrier and me!rq_girlsnightout

Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #8: Bedtime Stories with Braga

New weekly webcomic, this comic written by me, art by Will Kirkby, letters by Ryan Ferrier.ratqueens_bedtimestories

Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #7: Rat Queens Inc.

A new comic by me, Kyle Charles, Sweeney Boo, and Ryan Ferrier!

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Rat Queens Wednesday Webcomic #6: The Absent King

A side character surprise by Ben Rankel, Ryan Ferrier and me!rq_absentking