Heathen, a Kickstarter Graphic Novel You Need To See

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Heathen by Natasha Alterici -- Back it on Kickstarter!

I love to browse Kickstarter for cool new inventions, clever board games and exciting graphic novels. Recently I came across Heathena new graphic novel project from Oklahoma-based artist Natasha Alterici. After reading the synopsis, I immediately backed her project. I then contacted Natasha to learn more about the project, her interest in comic books, and herself. 

Tell me a little about yourself and how you came to be doing a Kickstarter for this graphic novel project? What drew you, no pun intended, to the comic medium? And who are done of your artistic influences? Your style on Heathen reminds me of Ashley Wood, which isn't a bad thing!

Well, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember and sort of always knew I'd want to make a career out of it. It was in college that I was introduced to comics really, was assigned Maus in freshman Composition and it was the first time I realized comics were just medium, a combination of art and literature, and that sort of settled it for me. I love being compared to Ashley Wood because he has been a huge influence on my work. When I began exploring comics his were some of the first ones that really grabbed my attention, and I spent a lot of time studying his style. I also really love the work of Jim Mahfood and Fiona Staples.

Heathen is the story of a Viking woman who stands up to Odin and the macho Norse pantheon. That's a neat juxtaposition of modern feminism set against the extremely male dominated society of antiquity. What was the seed of this story? Was it always a Norse tale or did it evolve from a different idea? 

Heathen actually started out as nothing more than a costume design for Ren Fair. I wanted to be a Viking warrior woman. After that I just kept sketching the costume and other characters and it kind of snowballed from there. I started reading up on Norse Mythology and history and began putting a story together. Heathen is the first series that I've worked on as both writer and artist, a labor of love that I crafted a little bit at a time in between part time jobs and other comics and illustration work. It was really important to me to not only to make the art unique and expressive, but to make sure the story was strong too. I wanted to see the Old Norse world through the eyes of someone history would have looked over, the warriors would have resented, the gods may have laughed at. 

We seem to be experiencing something of a paradigm shift lately, with the promotion of Sana Amanat to Director of Content & Character Development at Marvel, the popularity of Ms. Marvel, and more female characters and creators in the independent ranks. What is your take on women empowerment vs objectification in the industry today? 

I am thrilled to see all these positive changes. There's still a lot of work to do, but there are definitely steps being taken in the right direction. I think while social media at times can be an out of control monster, it does manage to bring to light the issues which are most important to this generation. And the old guard are learning that this new generation loves to fight the power, and they are feisty and socially conscientious. 

What's the long term plan for Heathen? I'm not asking for a spoiler because I really do want to read it, but do you envision this story to be a series of graphic novels or is there a clear ending in this first volume?

I always envisioned Heathen as a miniseries, so I've got 12 issues planned, to be collected into 3 volumes. So this Kickstarter will fund the first volume. I don't want to give away too much, but I can say we'll be meeting quite a few characters from the Norse Mythos, including Brynhild the Valkyrie, Freyja goddess of love and sex, Ruadan a trickster demigod, a pair of demon wolf brothers, and more. 

Your just a little over $1,500 short of your relatively modest goal on Kickstarter. What has the Kickstarter experience been like?

I did a Kickstarter campaign a couple years ago with another writer, and while we were funded and I learned a lot, the whole experience was awful and it almost made me want to give up on crowdfunding as an option. BUT thankfully I did not. This time around has been really amazing, I am so much better prepared, and knowing how to navigate the social media aspect of it makes me feel really confident that we're on track to succeed. 

I've seen some of your sketches on your artist page and I was very impressed with your dinosaur pieces. Any plans for a dinosaur-centric story in the near future? Or are you locked into Heathen for the long haul?

I've loved drawing dinosaurs since I saw "Jurassic Park" as a kid, still my favorite movie of all time. I will be working on Heathen for at least another year, and I am already working on my next solo project. Despite this, I will always be sketching dinosaurs, and with the demand for a dino comic so high amongst my friends and fans, it's definitely not something I will rule out. 

Are you on the comic convention circuit? If so, where might folks find you to check out pages of Heathen or your other artwork for themselves?

I have not done many conventions, and don't have many planned. Any that I do are Oklahoma-based. I do art shows as well, the next one I'll be doing is at the Blue Dome Arts Festival in Tulsa, on May 15-17th. Folks can check out my Facebook page for info on upcoming appearances, I like doing cheap sketch requests at those, so come prepared to challenge me. Last time I was asked to draw a vampire mermaid. 

I'm a big fan of comic book movies. When Heathen becomes the huge hit that it should be, who would you hope to see direct the film version, and whom would you cast in the leading roles?

Let's see, I would probably want it to be co-directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and Jodie Foster, with maybe Emma Watson as Aydis? Definitely need Rosamund Pike to play Brynhild.

Let's finish with a little quiz of sorts: Favorite Comic? At the moment it's Lumberjanes. So much fun!

Favorite Artist or writer? (Need not necessarily be from the comic book world.) Rick Berry.

The character at either Marvel or DC that you'd most like to tackle someday? I'd be happy working on any solo title for a leading lady, Captain Marvel, Catwoman, Black Widow, even Kitty Pryde, she should have a solo comic. She's earned it.

Personal hero? Harper is the daughter of a friend of mine, a young fan of Heathen, and an all-around amazing person. True feminist at heart. I'm convinced that in twenty years she's going to be one of the most influential women in the world.

I'd like to thank Natasha Alterici for taking the time to chat about her project. Please check out the Heathen Kickstarter page and help bring Natasha project to fruition!