Today I wanted to introduce you to Tavis Maiden and his upcoming project Tenko King!
Tavis is a web cartoonist with two separate strips already under his belt: The Konamis and Stranger Danger. Both of which can be found at his site Thunderskull Press. He was also a contestant on Penny-Arcade’s hit reality web show Strip Search. A show that took 12 artists and pitted them against one another in a series of challenges to determine who would be the next big thing.
As with every other artist, Tavis is constantly looking to expand his horizons and test his talent. To that end, Tavis is currently engaged in a Kickstarter to fund his new comic Tenko King. A fantasy epic featuring the exploits of 10-year-old Flip and his magic frog Kuma.
Tenko King is Tavis’ grand project, the one that is very near to his heart and is epic in scale. As of this writing it has been funded on Kickstarter. Although more donations mean more content and a better experience for the reader. (Not to mention the sweet merch you get as a backer) It’s hard to describe my excitement for this series and after interviewing Tavis I can safely say that this man is truly a man of the Fantasy Genre, and needs to be wached for the great things he will do and bring to our community.
That being said, I’ll turn things over to the man himself for a series of questions I asked him recently about Tenko King.
One of the biggest expenses that the Kickstarter will cover is the website. I’ve got big plans for this comic and I want to develop a website that can add to the overall atmosphere and reader experience. That’s what I’m looking to create, an experience. Within the comic there is a mysterious group called “the Watchers” they see what must be seen, and keep the world in balance. As a reader, you are a “Watcher”. You peer into this world and see what must be seen, hints of what was and hidden messages of what will be.
To be able to create this experience takes a lot of planning, and a good chunk of change. I’ll also be using the funds to create a first round of merchandise, as well as being able to fly out and attend different conventions and meet new fans I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise.
As your magnum opus, Tenko King must obviously draw inspiration from all aspects of your life. What were some of the standout inspirations for crafting this fantasy epic?
This comic is the culmination of my childhood. It is everything from my love of old NES and SNES games, to my love of Mythology and cartooning. It’s also every bully, bump in the road and challenge I’ve had to overcome. Beyond that its a letter to my kids. Life can be wonderful, exciting, grueling, and dangerous all at the same time. All we can do is try and meet each challenge as best we can and keep moving forward.
Why did you choose Kickstarter to help fund Tenko King instead of more traditional methods? Are there certain benefits of using Kickstarter?
To me Kickstarter seemed like a no brainer. I want to cultivate a community of readers, so what better way to get it funded then by asking my community of readers for help. I want this to be something you feel invested in and be a part of the characters lives. It was very scary to put myself out there and say, “ok, here I am. Be gentle.” I’m all about reader experience. Even a few of my high end reward tiers bring the reader into the comic. I’m very excited to draw those readers as characters in the comic.
How has your work on the Konamis and Stranger Danger prepared you for taking on Tenko King?
Time management, consistency, and commitment. Working a full time job and raising two kids is tough enough, but then you throw two comics into the mix as well, and it becomes a huge juggling act. Working on the Konamis, helped me hone my style as an artist and prepared me to commit to a consistent schedule. I’ve got close to 1,000 full pages of the Konamis under my belt, it was basically comic boot camp. Stranger Danger has helped me hone my observation, writing, and editing eye (as well as my coloring).
What sets Tenko King apart from other webcomics?
The characters age in real time, so the older the comic gets the older the characters get. Their choices have impact, and sometimes their actions have consequences. As a Watcher you’ll experience their triumphs and failures as you watch them grow up.
What drew you to the fantasy genre rather than science fiction, mystery, horror, or any other genre?
I’ve always loved Mythology, it rooted in me deep at a young age. It’s what I’m drawn to. I like the idea of magic and monsters, sword and sorcery, it just fits. Again with Tenko King being the culmination of my childhood, one of my favorite series of games was/is the Legend of Zelda series. Being a part of that fantasy world, the exploration, the danger, it was so engrossing. To this day Link to the Past is one of my favorite games. You weren’t just playing for the destination, you were playing for the journey. That makes sense to me, and seems like such a positive metaphor for life. Life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.
What are the benefits to writing in a fantasy universe compared to anything else?
Creating a world from scratch. With Tenko King I’ve written out previous generations and how they’ve molded the world as it is today. I’ve written creationist mythologies to explain the existence of the world and how it came to be. The characters are shaped by their history. It gives me, as a writer, a better understanding of how they would act to a situation when it arises.
One of the things that caught my eye was your statement “One year in the life of the reader, and one year in the life of the character.” What made you decide to go this route and how does that affect your narrative decisions and update schedule?
I think that narrative comes more naturally to me. For me it’s just an extension of being a parent and watching your children grow up. That’s an experience I want to share with my readers. Currently my update schedule is set for twice a week (maybe a little more during certain months…shhhh secrets) at that rate it will give the reader over 100 pages a year to get to know these characters.
I know the land of Tenko King is called the Kingdom of Foxes and the lapel pin you offer is of the King of Foxes. Can you give us any more information (non-spoiler of course) about these enigmatic creatures?
The world of Tenko King is a scary and segregated place, with warring factions of monsters and man carving out niches for themselves. The King of Foxes will do whatever it takes to bring the world together under one banner. I can’t reveal too much right now, but be sure to keep a close eye on the King of Foxes, and the order of the Watchers.
I’ve noticed you use coded messages in some of your updates for Tenko King. What inspired this and can we expect more hidden secrets such as this when Tenko King launches?
nclnvtyr esp nzop td slwq esp qfy. The coded messages reveal hints to the past, and hidden messages about the future. They aren’t necessary to enjoy the comic, but they do provide a bit more insight into the world. I love coded messages, and hidden meanings in the background. I have a blast with brain teasers. So this is my way of bringing an element of that to the comic.
I really enjoyed the Kickstarter intro video for Tenko King, especially the classic video game opening. Does that type of video game aesthetic inform your art while you work on Tenko King?
Absolutely. Growing up, NES and SNES RPGs were a big part of how I would spend my nights and weekends. Being a kid, stuck in the house because 120 degree heat doesn’t really make you want to go outside, you find ways to occupy your time. The first time I played games like Link to the Past or Chrono Trigger, I was hooked. You’ll definitely see nods to video games throughout the comic because that’s a huge part of my childhood.
Lastly, I want to thank you for agreeing to this interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the readers?
I appreciate the time and support that everyone has given. Getting the word out, backing the project, taking the time to contact me about Tenko King; I am really touched and grateful for all of it. I am constantly working towards making comics my life long career, and look forward to making Tenko King a part of your lives. Thank you again.
As you can see Tavis is passionate about this project and it is shaping up to be one of the great webcomics of the upcoming generation. Despite the project already being funded and Tenko King being a certainty I implore you to go and donate whatever you think is best. It only means a better experience for us the readers.