Toban Racicot talks Crown and Anchor!

Today on the show, Melissa is joined by comic book creator, Toben Racicot. They chatted all about his new kickstarter for his beloved series, Crown and Anchor, being a Dungeon Master, and more!

Website: Racicot.art

Twitter: @tobenracicot

Kickstarter info: crownanchor.com

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Toben Racicot

Toben Racicot: [00:00:00] 1990s,

Melissa: right? Totally. This is spoiler country. And I’m Melissa surgeon today on the show. I am joined by a comic book creator here to talk about his new kickstart. Crown and anchor, please. Welcome Tobin. Rustico to the show. Did I get

Toben Racicot: that right? You got it. A hundred percent. Yep. Awesome.

Melissa: Awesome. Thanks for having you’re welcome.

Yeah. Thanks for being here. I know, I love when I I’ve done that before, when I’ve asked them well, how do you pronounce your name? And I hit record. I like completely forgot.

Toben Racicot: Yeah. There’s some, I think that’s like when you love LA a few times as a podcast or journalist, whatever, where you can like, remember it, but I mean, you spelled it phonetically, so you have your tactic down.

That’s right.

Melissa: That’s very detail. Well, um, welcome to the show. I’m happy to have you on, uh, so we’re here to talk about, um, your Kickstarter, which, and I, I mentioned in the. Um, that the title is the same as, uh, the [00:01:00] local pub in my town, which is hilarious. So that drew my eye right away. It was like the common anchor.

Why are they emailing me? But, um, so, um, but you were saying that a lot of people have said the same thing to you.

Toben Racicot: Yeah, we got it a lot. When, so we launched the series, it would have been back in 2018. So we did a. I’ve run a quick run of the first three issues in single issue format. We took that to some local conventions, but the way that we really want to tell the story is through collections like trade paperbacks.

And so it was around that time we were going to conventions and stuff, and we were posting on Twitter and Reddit and tons of people were. I dunno if it was trolling, I imagined, you know, it’s, it’s a pretty common experience that we’ve had that you’ve explained as well, where, you know, the local pub is called this.

We had a lot literally for almost a whole month. Every comment was, oh, that’s the gay bar in our town or something like that. And then we were. I think we’re, we were at Windsor, [00:02:00] Ontario. It might’ve been Windsor somewhere around there, but I was walking around cause we had to go find an ATM and I saw a crown and anchor and I was like, oh my goodness.

Yeah, they’re just out there everywhere.

Melissa: I guess that’s just a common, um, I guess British pub or Irish pub name, I’m guessing because of the whole nautical theme.

Toben Racicot: Yeah, I would say so it’s again. I mean, I don’t frequent pubs very often in the pubs that I’m familiar with are very much like the lions house.

You know, it’s kind of more, I don’t know, it’s a, it’s a different style of thing. It’s not really Seafarer oriented, but you know, we roll with it. It’s always fun

Melissa: conversation. Now I’m guessing you thought of the title for your book because it’s about pirates, right? Yeah.

Toben Racicot: Yeah. To get into the, the metaphor, the imagery of the title we kind of, so when we first put it together, we had.

Title called captain. That’s what we, we did a short story of it called that. And it was, that was kind of hearkening back to just kind of have a little bit more lighthearted [00:03:00] attitude, a little more jokey thing like that of, of just, you know, something kind of easier to follow. And then when we were getting ready to.

Actually do the single issues and put together the trade. I thought, ah, I don’t, I don’t think this is working. We need to come up with something else. And usually titles come pretty quickly. It’s not something that I lose sleep over, but this one we had, you know, spreadsheets and the thesaurus was out and all this kind of stuff.

And we were going through all these. Iterations. And I really liked the, you know, blank and blank style. There’s a bunch of other stuff that I’m working on that has that kind of thing. But I kept coming back to crown. First of all, because in the, in the world, the money is called echo, which is French for crown.

And of course I’m probably butchering how that’s pronounced. So my wife chose that and I was like, oh, that’s great. Cause you know, it pirates. It’s like shillings, you know, they use kind of old British style, but then in, in some fantasy. Uh, like the Witcher, I think one of the currencies is [00:04:00] his crowns and florins and stuff like that.

So it’s, it’s kind of a trope that’s used, but then it also has to do a lot. The discussion that we have in the book and the themes that we talk about of, you know, different class systems and governmental systems. And when there, where those things fail. So the, the leaders, whether elected or, you know, through bloodline or whatever, that’s kind of where the crown part comes from.

Okay. Um, the kind of more societal commentary that we give and then the anchor has to do with either, um, it’s kind of a, uh, internal binary of if your anchor is lowered, you’re with family you’re with people that you. Or you’re kind of stalled or you’re stuck and you’re not really making progress. So there’s kind of two systems in that.

But then if you look at it from the anchor is raised, then you’re making progress and you’re searching and you’re seeking, and you’re trying to find where you belong, which is another really big theme of it. So it really does encompass what we’re doing. It’s just [00:05:00] very ironic. That phrase is so attributed or so common among, you know, other recreational alcohol.

Yeah.

Melissa: Well, it’ll make the title memorable, you know? Cause I hope so if people are like, oh yeah, the crown and anchor, you know, they won’t forget it, I guess. Um, and it, it sounds like there’s a, a lot of symbolism in the story. Um, and just reference to the title, um, from what you described, what’s the, um, what’s the premise for those who, who don’t know.

Toben Racicot: Right. So the premise is it’s an adventure comic that hearkens back to, you know, old school adventures. Uh, treasure island or, uh, there’s some Arthur and legend in that kind of stuff. But the, the plot of it, I guess, is there’s these three bounty hunters that stumble upon an ancient artifact that dates back to the creation of the world, where this relationship between the gods and men was much more.

Okay. [00:06:00] And we of course take it a little bit into like the scifi fantasy realm. So you have some technology, things like that. So very kind of treasure planet. We pulled more into it than, than typical, you know, hoist the main sail it’s, it’s a lot more like solar panels and that kind of thing. Um, but yeah, I really just wanted to, to have an adventure comic.

I feel like with the superhero genre and that kind of stuff, it’s much more. I don’t know, I guess shortsighted would be too, too narrow. Cause I know some of those stories are very well planned out, but just to go on an adventure and go on a journey and I guess to explore a world and explore different.

And so when, when we say what it’s similar to, we would say things like one piece or full metal Alchemist or cowboy bebop, things that are self-contained, but you still see a lot of the world and you get a really good sense of, you know, a fictional place. That’s fun to explore.

Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. You’re right.

There is. Um, [00:07:00] well, like in the mainstream, I guess, you know, when we want to say like the big traditional comic book companies, there is a lot of. Just superhero stuff, right? I mean, that’s, it’s got its own lane and all those, you know, they’re making movies and, you know, it’s got its own fan base or whatever, but I think a lot of the times when you have more like use of the adventure-based or kind of just off the beaten path type of stuff, you see that more with indie comics, you know?

Toben Racicot: Right. Cause I feel like they have the freedom to, I mean, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, but I think that that, uh, in the NDC. These types of adventure comics, I think are just more in demand. Like you, you go to Marvel and DC, cause you know what you’re going to get there, but you go to indie comics because it really is, you know, you just want something new, you want something fresh.

And I just had the thought come to mind talking about adventure comics. This, this is the first time I’ve ever thought of this. So maybe it’s because we were talking about the seafaring bars and pubs and [00:08:00] stuff like that. But I used to watch a lot of Tintin when I was a kid. And I think that some of that sense of like early sense of adventure is definitely present in this as well, where it’s not so much like a, you know, an Indiana Jones kind of thing.

Oh, I guess it kind of is a little bit with that same sensibilities, but very much the kind of humor of Tintin and the. Um, innocence, I guess. I mean, we do get into some, some heavier themes, but there is still this kind of childlike wonder that the characters have and stuff like that. So I think that’s part of it.

Melissa: So is it, would you say that it’s a family all ages or are there things that are really violent and it is the language more adults? Like how would you what’s the.

Toben Racicot: That’s always tricky. So when I, because it was one of the earlier things that I started writing and it’s, it’s finished the big beginning, middle and end is all written and we just kind of edit it as we go through creative.

But I came out of a university. I have a degree, a [00:09:00] bachelor’s degree in creative writing. And, you know, I was like, I’m going to be really edgy. And, you know, I feel like probably most people feel that when they, they get that kind of freedom. And so the first trade, the first five issues, there’s some language, you know, no F bombs, anything like that.

I do keep it reigned in, but actually had a conversation with a gentleman who wanted to show it to his kids. And he said, well, why is this stuff in. And I thought, oh, that’s a, that’s a great question. Is it, does it actually serve the purpose? I think about this a lot. Like I have lots of conversations with my wife about using language and comics and I harken back to what Stephen King talks about in his novel on writing, where he basically says, you know, if an effort is the only word that will work, then that’s the one.

But if it’s, if it’s not going to actually serve the scene or the sentence or characterize. To something else.

Melissa: Yeah. A hundred percent agree with that because it has to drive the story forward and serve a purpose. And I did something similar with my books early on, too. When I was writing urban fantasy adventure stuff.

I really didn’t want [00:10:00] them to be. Foul language. Now there was some violence of four years because there’s battles. But, um, but I didn’t feel the need to do that the language. And then some of my newer stuff is darker and, and it requires it. So I think that’s important for you as a creator to definitely like analyze and look at and figure out like, okay, who am I marketing this to?

And also does it really need to be in the story?

Toben Racicot: That’s right. Yeah. And I think like finding that synergy between. The tone. And then of course the dialogue is, is tricky. Cause you could, you could read something like, um, mark Molarz work and there’s a lot of F-bombs and I’m like, I don’t, I don’t think this actually helps.

I think it’s just there to maybe get, you know, the age rating that he needs or something like that. And so when I was talking with this gentleman, I, I explained that the lead character, the one who typically uses most of the language. Does so because he’s not in a good place in his life. And so we planned it so that, you know, he’s very rough around the edges [00:11:00] for a lot of reasons, but as.

Develops and becomes a little bit more tame and kind of finds his place. He loses that use of language as a way to show progression. Yeah, exactly. And so what’s ironic is like book two, the language is better, but it’s more violent because of the situation they’re in and it’s, it’s weird. I look at violence, not as something, again, that’s very gratuitous, but.

The, yeah, the, the plot in book two, necessitates the need for blood to be shed, which sounds kind of weird, but you’ll have to read to find out why. Um, but when I write fight scenes, it’s not just, you know, here’s a bunch of people let’s cut them in half for cut off their heads or whatever. It’s very much I’m trying to write.

Here’s a problem. How do they solve it? Okay. Now that solves. So here’s, what’s the next problem and, and do it that way. Um, but still [00:12:00] make it engaging to read, make it unique and the way that my wife Hilaire illustrates it definitely succeeds in that matter. It’s not something that we’re ever thinking. You know, we need to push this further.

We need to do more. It’s very much, again, this needs to tell a story. It needs to develop characters, even during fight scenes to show how they think, how they solve problems, how they are creative in these situations. But it’s never, it’s never intended to make people go, oh, this is too much or anything like that.

So the that’s the long answer to say. It’s now kind of probably intended for 13, 14 year olds, something around there. Cause that’s kind of the age I was at when I started reading manga and it opened up this new world to me. And I think that that age is kind of, you know, you’re starting to get into the process of discovering yourself if not already there for a little bit.

And I think that fiction of that kind, um, meaning. Following characters who transform and change and grow and develop, and whatnot is very helpful at that age. And [00:13:00] so that’s always kind of where I target now is, you know, I might be talking about things that are more relevant to me and as a, as an adult, but I’m trying to show the hero’s journey and all my characters and then make it so that that readership age is able to benefit.

Melissa: Yeah. Plus I think, you know, I think kids actually read stuff that, you know, obviously they’re not supposed to, to in a sense, you know what I mean? I know I read things when I was younger about like, you know, my parents were like, what’s that? I’m like, oh, don’t worry about it. You know, different times different era

Toben Racicot: too.

But it reminds me of, I would go to video games. And I’d be looking through the stacks and, you know, some kid would walk up with his, his copy of grand theft auto or red dead or something. And, you know, you need a parent to purchase it because it’s rated M and the shop owner would say, okay, this has drug use, foul language, nudity, sexual content, extreme violence.

Are you, are you okay with this? And the kid will look at his mom and she’s like, yeah, yeah, whatever. It’s not like he hasn’t seen it before. Right. So it’s like, you know, I was [00:14:00] watching CSI when I was 10. And I remember reading this. Kids by the age of 12, I’ve seen over 6 million simulated deaths on. Oh, my gosh.

So it’s not like it’s anything, anything new for us. Um, I just think that, you know, the different mediums are programmed to kind of hit you in different ways. Right. You know, you can watch Lord of the rings. There’s a lot of violence in that, but it’s because it’s CG and because it’s so distant from humans that you’re like, oh, this is great.

And then you watch something like the boys and you’re like, holy cow, this is way too much because of. That much more visceral and realistic, relatable.

Melissa: Yeah. More like too close to home. And plus there’s also like I’ve noticed double standards on like sexuality versus violence. Like, you know, the, the violence stuff, you know, like the fast and furious cars blowing up, things like that.

Um, you know, people are like, yeah, yeah, it’s fine. It’s an action movie. But if it’s like too sexual or too risque, then it’s like, oh no, no, no, you can’t watch that. It’s just interesting how our society, you know, is open [00:15:00] to. Certain things and not others

Toben Racicot: find that whole episode of a

Melissa: podcast for totally, absolutely.

So I was looking through your website and you have a lot of issues or books in the crown and at your series, how many total do you have?

Toben Racicot: So we are launching our second volumes. I can trade. Each volume contains essentially five, what would be five single issues. Okay. And we have it planned to have eight books total.

Melissa: Okay. So there will be like a finale then it’s not going to just be ongoing.

Toben Racicot: Nope. It’s yeah, like I said, it’s, it’s written. It’s done. Wow. Okay. We just have to. Do the work and you know, the reason why there was a three-year gap between book one and book two is cause we had our first child. So that slowed things down considerably.

And then it’s just so hard to say no. When other people come up and say, Hey, we want you to work on this thing. Like a layer is drawing [00:16:00] two or three other books on top of crown and anchor because just the opportunities are too good. And I do what I can to speed things up, but you know, there’s only so much I can do to actually get it out there, but we’re rolling now.

Um, but yeah, it’ll be. Who knows maybe another 10 years before we’re done it all with all the other things that we want to do before then, but it’s kind of just one of these things where. We’re happy to take it at our own pace. And we know that the readership is there. And so we ask for their patients and so far it seems to be working out.

But yeah, so it’ll be eight bucks total the equivalent of 40 issues. Um, I don’t know what the actual page count works out to when we’re done, but it’ll be, it’ll be a good chunk of, of story. That’s cool.

Melissa: And I noticed the Kickstarter is really unique too. Um, I was poking around on there and. It’s interesting.

So you have just one tier, like, that’s it like just one price and you got X amount of things in that [00:17:00] package. Um, we can explain to me a little bit about your kind of reasoning behind that and what that all entails.

Toben Racicot: So it’s mostly a layers genius that puts these together. I don’t have patients to do, to organize them.

I did for the past two books that I’ve done emulator in Pilgrim’s dirge, and it’s very tedious and I don’t make it look as pretty as she does, but what we, what we want to do is always give our readers as much value as they can. And so that’s why typically we just like load in as much as we can. So book one and two, and then we have, uh, an, an anthology called transmute, which was the first thing that we self-published.

We have these pins that we printed from the first book. And then with other stretch goals, there’ll be other things like stickers and charms and et cetera, et cetera. And so the thinking is always. How can we make this appealing to new readers as well as continued readers? How can we price it as a way [00:18:00] that, you know, still helps us?

Well, yeah, we never go into it thinking we’re going to turn a profit. We always go into it thinking, how can we mitigate the cost as much as possible while still getting as much value, which usually works out to us, you know, paying 500, 600, usually it’s less than a thousand to, to actually make these things come to pass, which is pretty.

Yeah. Yeah. And how it all works. Um, and then the trickiest part is just always shipping. So this one, especially we thought, you know, where can we. Where can we maximize how much we can send people for paying however much for shipping and stuff like that. So it’s always a conversation about, you know, if somebody is new, maybe your best bet is to get like a digital tier, just to see what this is all about.

If you’re a returning reader, you know, we have physical tiers and we always do early birds with these two early bird. You know, the first 24 hours, things will be a little bit cheaper just to get that extra right off the bat. But it’s really, again, like when I started reading comics, I had to drive an hour and a [00:19:00] half to get to a comic shop.

Oh my gosh. And every issue was about. Probably about $5. I guess the things back then were a lot cheaper too. Everything was still kind of 2 99. Everything’s gone up now. So I would go, you know, with 50 bucks and drive home and go, I, I didn’t really get that much from, for 50 bucks. And so being able to, you know, have that same sentiment of, if somebody comes in and gives us 50 bucks, how much are they going to get?

Well, they’re going to get as much as we can give them. And that’s one of the reasons why. We don’t talk about this very often, but this is one of the reasons why the book is in black and white, because therefore it’s cheaper to make both by not having to pay a colors, but then also cheaper to print because you’re not printing color.

And we typically, we typically talk about how black and white was used to maintain kind of a longest static to really highlight Alaris art. But the other reason is it’s just, it allows us to print really massive. Books, you know, that typically they’re 140, 160 pages of [00:20:00] story each time and you don’t have to pay usually more than like 25 bucks typically to get one.

That’s awesome. Yeah, we’re really just trying to give our readers value because we do, we do put it online for free. We publish it as a web comic as well, to help build readership and get new readers there. But of course, lots of people who read comics want a physical thing to flip through, to put on their shelf, you know, to add.

Melissa: Absolutely. I’d always prefer. Um, well, especially with comics. With novels. I don’t, you know, I don’t mind, I do read a lot on Kindle now. I’ve gotten used to it. I was very resistant at first, but you know, I’ve just changed with the times, but comics specifically, I find it hard to read them online. You know, it’s just kind of a pain I have to scroll up and down and I don’t know, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

So I prefer actually having a physical comic in my hand. And they’re just, especially with the artwork, you know, you just want to display.

Toben Racicot: Well, we could get really deep into the weeds about how web comics aren’t [00:21:00] necessarily comics because of how you have to read them. But I don’t know if you want to spend the next three hours talking about comics theory and, and get into the really nitty gritty of like how the grid works and how our eyes travel and stuff

Melissa: like that.

No, I would love. I would love to want to, yeah, we could do a whole other episode where we just talk about that. And the diehard comic book fans will listen. People that are like aspiring. Um, no, I do find it interesting though. And just briefly, you know, why do you think, you know, without going into too many just sticks that I probably won’t even understand, but, um, what do you think that.

Toben Racicot: Why do I think that web comics are weird?

So I remember working with this one guy, so I’m a, I’m a letter as well. So I, I put in the word balloons and sound effects and stuff. And I remember this one guy was like, comics are a vertical medium, because typically, you know, everything is in portrait, right. And I remember lettering his, his pages and he would have vertical [00:22:00] panels.

And I thought, well, first of all, this is tricky because it’s really hard to let her conversations vertically. You want the horizontal to be able to make it flow because that’s your eyes read. Right. We’re trained to read left to right top to bottom. And so that’s, that’s the first reason. So like you said, when you were, when you read web comics and you have to scroll up and then down, right.

Depending on how the page is laid out or how the lettering is laid out, that process doesn’t create immersion or flow of reading. So that’s kind of the first thing. Um, but then like how, or how comics are made. Isn’t just necessarily panel by panel. Right? When you turn a page, you see a two page splash and then you start to break down the components.

And that doesn’t happen with web comics. I’ve seen web comics where literally it’s just panels like stacked on top of one another. Like Jenga blocks.

Melissa: I have, yeah, it’s distracting. And we

Toben Racicot: always get complaints from people saying, you know, oh, your pages are so beautiful, [00:23:00] but they’re so hard to read on your phone and that’s because we don’t want to chop them up and make it into that vertical thing.

We refuse to allow for that. And so, yeah, that’s kind of the main thing is, is it just, you know, how phones work by going. Up and down. Isn’t how our brains are trained to read, which is side to side. So, yeah, I mean, I wonder if instead of going up and down a different format is just to, instead of going up and down, you scroll like left to right.

To transition some of that and turn the scroll the other way.

Melissa: Yeah. Inverted or something. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. You know, it’s funny as I’ve actually suggested to a couple higher ups in the comic book industry that I’ve talked to and I’m like, you just need to design a tablet. That’s like specifically geared for comic books, you know, like Kindle has it’s novel books and it’s specifically structured to [00:24:00] accommodate like novel reading.

I’m like, why isn’t there some kind of cool, fancy, I mean, we’ve got X boxes and, you know, virtual reality. Now we could think we can do it tablet. Right. But then they all kind of just like, go, okay,

Toben Racicot: well, what was it? What was it? Is it Marvel? Marvel thing, what is it called? Is it called guided assistance or reading assistance?

They have some, some, do you know what I’m talking about?

Melissa: Oh, yes. Where they giving like suggestions or something or they do some, I don’t think I’ve ever actually clicked.

Toben Racicot: Okay. So it’s, if I remember, and this is a long time ago, cause I can’t read stuff online like that, but it’s, it’s it loads in your browser and basically it’s like, here’s the panel and you read it and you click next and then it, the camera kind of shifts to a different panel.

So it’s almost like animating it. And I think that was their response was like, you can read, you can look at the page in its entirety or we’ll, we’ll guide you through where you’re [00:25:00] supposed to go. That’s so interesting.

Melissa: Distracting. Yeah. Well I’m sure. Yeah, we could go on and on about this. And, um, I do want to ask you, um, you know, you’ve mentioned your wife, I know you to, um, collaborate and design and create together.

I’m curious, did you two meet? Before hand, do you know what I mean? Or did, were you both just like, let’s do this, like after you’ve already been together, you know?

Toben Racicot: Oh, great question. Yeah, no, we are, our friendship definitely started with me saying, Hey, you need to create my stories because I wasn’t finding anybody.

So I’ll, I’ll give you the really quick version of all this. So I was in my third semester of university. She w she just finished her. Uh, what is it called? Associates degree at a community college. And she came to finish up to get her bachelor’s in illustration. And so we were at a conflict workshop every Wednesday there’ll be a compote workshop.

And we were going around introducing ourselves. And I [00:26:00] said, I’m a writer. I’m looking for an artist. And she said something snarky, like I’m an artist looking for a writer, but I didn’t understand what she said. That’s just me not paying attention, which is a, it’s a through line for all. Um, and part of it was, we had to illustrate ourselves to have kind of a class roster on the wall to take attendance.

And so we drew ourselves and we put them all on this piece of big piece of paper. And at the very end, we were all looking at each other’s art styles to get a sense of it. And I remember seeing hers and I went, oh man, that’s exactly what I want because you know, there’s a certain style I had in mind. I don’t know how I was going to go about finding somebody to do that or whatever.

And there, it was right in front of me and she had already left. It was really late. She’d put in a full day of class. She was lugging around her, you know, drawing board or something. I don’t remember what it was called. And I thought, well, I could wait for next week. And then this little voice in my head said, or she could not be here next week.

And you, you know, you’ll never see this person. And so I [00:27:00] literally just like raced down campus, trying to find. So it was tearing, tearing through all of the different quads and through the sidewalks and founder. And I run up to her panting out of breath and I was like, oh, your art. So great. I did my story, you know, just completely, um, desperate.

Oh yeah. We’ll sell the rights eventually. And she was like, yeah. Okay. That sounds great. And so after that, we had a couple of really awkward interactions where we were just trying to get to know one another. And it’s weird making friends as an adult. That’s probably a different topic for a podcast, but totally.

You know, cause I was, I was like really diehard into comics at that point. Like I lived in breathed them. It was what I read every day. It was what I did all of my assignments about, you know, whatever. And she was like, yeah, I guess, you know, So I kind of had to instill this desire and this, um, energy into her to, to get it started.

And so eventually my pitching a different, a bunch of [00:28:00] different stories. She’s selected a couple that she enjoyed the premise of, and we started doing these web comics. And they were horrible and we stopped quite quickly. There’s actually somebody dug them up. We did a video interview with someone and they took the trouble to dig through the archives of the internet and they found the links to them.

I didn’t think there was anything still in existence on the internet. And I saw them. I was like, oh no, I don’t want this to come back on me. Oh my

Melissa: gosh. It’s amazing what you can dig up on the internet. It’s like once it’s there it’s, it goes into the cloud or whatever, this magical existence of space.

Toben Racicot: And so from there, it was, it was pretty quick before we just kind of said, yeah, we want to do this full-time.

So that was fall of 2014 within two years. Um, well, within two years we were engaged, but we were working or not working. We were freelancing like still a students. Uh, I was lettering and she was [00:29:00] doing illustrations for covers and short comics and stuff. And so I guess, uh, yeah, we, we started working together and then I S I basically said, I need to get my act together.

Like, these stories are horrible, what we’re putting out. And, um, my last semester I wrote a bunch of short stories cause I was in. Capstone creative writing class and stuff. And so everybody’s really digging deeper, their poetry and I’m over here writing comics and stuff. It always felt weird to be that one kid in like the whole university that did that.

Right. And so I graduated and she had already graduated and I said, all right, is it, is it time to get back to our own stuff now that we’ve, you know, leveled up a little bit and got some more experience. And so that’s when we did transmute and transmute was intended to basically be. A really quick taste test of all these different kinds of things, different genres that we want to play around with so that readers can kind of get a sense of where we want to go.

And then we made the really bad business decision to, instead of do, you know, four or five [00:30:00] issues stories we said, yeah, let’s start with our 40 issue. That’s where we, that’s where we jumped in. So yeah, we weren’t, uh, we, yeah, we didn’t know each other before we started this. It literally was. Comics was what has started it.

And that’s what we’re still doing. And it’s, it’s fun because she, yeah, she’ll, she’ll have moments where she’s like, I did the math and it’s going to take me at least 12 years to get all this stuff done. And I was like, well, that’s because you don’t know all the other stories I’ve been writing, that’s going to take even longer to do so when we do our like five-year ten-year plan.

She gets really depressed and I get really excited cause I’m like, there’s going to be so much opportunity to do so much more. So

Melissa: too much work. Are you guys just like sitting at the dinner table with just spreads and layouts everywhere?

Toben Racicot: Thankfully, not so much anymore. Definitely. When we were first married, we, we lived in her parent’s basement for a couple of months and she would work on one table [00:31:00] and I would work on another table and it literally was like, you know, we’d get up.

All right, we’ll see you at five for dinner. And we just work all day. Even though we were like side by side, we wouldn’t even talk to each other. Wow.

Melissa: But you can do that, you know, because you know, a lot of couples might bicker or bug each other, you know, interrupt the creative flow straight that you can just like sit and be quiet and then work on your individual stuff.

That’s, you know, especially, even if you’re collaborating, you know, you still have your own separate things you have to

Toben Racicot: do. Yep. And that has followed through, even to today, we basically kept the same setup sheet. Her desk on one side, about three feet over is where I work. And it’s really nice. Cause she’s working on crown and anchor.

She’s working on side quests, anything she can say, you know, I’m S I’m stumped. Give me your opinion. And then I can do the same thing for lettering. And then when we talk about scripts for crown and anchor or anything, It’s really nice because I can send it to her. She’ll have it up and we’ll read and we’ll read out loud, the dialogue and stuff like that.

And she’ll say, you know, this, this doesn’t sound right or [00:32:00] something like that. So it’s, it’s, it’s always been collaborative, but thankfully it’s not so overwhelming in the sense of like, it’s all we talk about anymore. Yeah. I think probably because we found a good groove of. Of, um, when we’re going to work versus when we have to kind of turn our brain off.

But it also helps now that a lot of these really big stories are written. And so now it’s kind of just falls on her. We don’t have to do a lot of the problem solving in terms of plot and whatnot. It’s mostly just

Melissa: polishing and editing and stuff. Yeah. For some reason I’m envisioning. You guys, didn’t like a basement with a big, you know, like detective style board with like the Moshe pans and the different, you know, the string.

Toben Racicot: Yeah. We have, we have a little bit of that. There’s actually one on my wall right now. Not, not with the strings and pins, but like I have a bunch of cue cards taped up to figure stuff out, different structures and whatnot. So yeah, you’re not, you’re not too far off from how things

Melissa: that sounds fun. Um, well, the other thing I wanted to ask you about, [00:33:00] um, before I let you go, is.

You know, I read that you, what’s your bio, that’s your, a dungeon master T and you know, it’s funny cause I played magic, the gathering. Um, I did for quite a while. Um, but I never got into D and D mainly because I had a bunch of. Jerky guy, friends that would refuse to play with women for whatever reason and well obvious reasons.

And so they wouldn’t let me join and we weren’t even young. Like we were in our twenties, like, um, you know, I’m like, I can go have a beer with you, but I can’t play a

Toben Racicot: D and D. Yeah. I was

Melissa: like, what? So that was one of the reasons why I never got into it. Um, but yeah, just tell me about that and, um, you know, explain, you know, for those who may not know, um, what a dungeon master is and does.

Toben Racicot: So dungeon master is essentially the, the rule. Keeper or the judge that determines the outcomes in a D and D game. [00:34:00] In addition to, in most cases, creating the world, creating the situations, that kind of stuff. Some, some use books. I never use books. I always do home-brew stuff because I find the book to be too constraining and too difficult to use, but they are, they are the, the game master, the dungeon master.

There’s tons of terms for it. So D and D. Kind of was the answer to what I was looking for my whole life and didn’t know, which just makes it sound really weird. But I remember being as a, as a kid, I was always very imaginative and I always was thinking up stories and stuff and it didn’t really click until I started playing D and D and I went, that’s what I’ve been wanting my whole life, like this kind of freedom and collaborative stuff.

Right. Cause I remember. And maybe you’ve had experiences like this as a kid where for me it was Lego that’s, that’s kind of where a lot of this stuff started playing Lego. And I could picture in my head a certain situation. And then my friends over there doing something and he’s doing something that contrasts and conflicts with the imagination that I have in my.

The imaginative scene. [00:35:00] And I, it was always frustrating cause I was like, well, why can’t, why can’t you just do what, what I want you to do? And, and, you know, in this make-believe narrative that I have going, and of course, as a kid, I didn’t understand what was going on. And then playing D and D and having all of us be in that imaginative space, I was like, whoa, this is really, really amazing.

And. It helped my storytelling by having that kind of improvisation and that kind of not being scared of things going off the rails. So, and it’s ironic. It’s really ironic that you said you have a bunch of guy friends that refuse to let you play the first game. That IDN was a group of four women. And this isn’t to be sexist.

It was actually one of my favorite things, but we would have hour and a half sessions of them just like shopping. I’ll make her for imaginative, you know, make believe jewelry and make believe clothes and stuff. And I was like, this is awesome. I didn’t think I would be spending two hours of my life coming up with shop names so that they can go and buy [00:36:00] different rings.

And I

Melissa: totally believe that I will play. For hours. And like, all I would do is like decorate the different houses that I had all over. I mean, of course I would loot and kill and steal as well, but for hours that’s I was like, oh, I got to make sure my houses are perfect and everything’s, you know, set up.

But like if I was really living there, so yeah, I totally believe that the shopping thing.

Toben Racicot: And so, yeah, so D and D really was the. The answer to a lot of, kind of the creative misunderstandings that I had about just how kind of worlds work, how creator, or how characters work, how situations work, and by playing with other people and being able to have that feedback, or, you know, I present something and you can see their eyes light up with excitement and you go, okay.

You know, that’s the feeling I want to keep chasing when I come up with stories and it helped, it helped my [00:37:00] confidence. And being a storyteller, but what helped the most is kind of understanding why stories are so important and so needed, right? So you might’ve seen. Uh, there’s a couple of examples. So there’s the community.

If you’ve seen community, there’s an episode of community where they play D and D and it kind of helps the group.

Melissa: I don’t think I saw that

Toben Racicot: episode though. Okay. So it helps this one guy, um, you know, kind of a, a typical D and D players a little bit. It doesn’t really have a lot of friends, but it helps kind of get some of his grievances out in the air and, and stuff like that.

There’s another episode of the it crowd. And if you haven’t seen the it crowd, definitely go watch that T credits

Melissa: check it out.

Toben Racicot: So there’s an episode there where the, one of the main characters Roy, uh, is dumped and. His friend Moss puts together a D and D game. And he impersonates this like [00:38:00] goddess who.

Who had a relationship with Roy’s character and he’s able to reach this catharsis by talking out, you know, getting closure in that sense that he wasn’t able to get from this girl. And I think there’s some other shows that, that do certain things. And I remember watching those and going, wow, wouldn’t it be amazing.

You know, those kinds of situations could exist in my life. That’d be great. And then started, I started playing D and D and I don’t think I was ever going to D and D for therapy, but I started to realize that there is power in these kinds of imaginative spaces. And so therefore, as a DM, being able to create those spaces and allow players to dictate where they want their characters to go, what things they want to find, who they want to come in contact with was really helping.

Yeah. And then it spawned this huge wormhole of reading about the satanic panic, which is the, um, kind of anti D and D movement that happened in the eighties after some suicides and missing persons and things like that. And it’s, it’s very tied into, you know, religious people [00:39:00] who think that. The devil’s game and that’s, that’s actually one of the things I remember mentioning it to my mother.

This was after Alara and I were married and she’s like, not in my house. That’s the devil. And I was like, what are you kidding me? I’ve seen the things you watch on Netflix, mom. This isn’t too far

Melissa: off from that. Yeah. The religious groups will, we’ll find pretty much everything to be from the double, uh, you know, from music to video games.

Um, I, I had somebody comment on one of my Facebook. Years ago. Um, it was, it was a post about my book and, you know, I write about demons and stuff and she was like, Jesus is, you know, gonna save you or something like that. And I thought it’s not real lady it’s fiction.

Toben Racicot: Calm down. Yeah. Well, I mean, yeah, if you, if you want me to come back, we can talk about the grid and we can talk about.

The wonderful hypocrisy that is that kind of sentiment about all that stuff

Melissa: that, yes, we definitely need to do that.

Toben Racicot: And then the very last thread with all this DMV stuff is this term called pericardium. And so this is very academic, but [00:40:00] a pair of Kozum typically comes from. Psychology in the sense of it being it, being imaginary, it being an imaginary world that is intended to relay some kind of healing or understanding through exploration of that imaginative space.

So a very well-known simple example is Narnia. If you knew anything about CS Lewis and his life, I remember watching, um, while it was, it was the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. Yeah. The first live action. One is that, is that the only live action when they narrow? They know, I guess they did a really old BBC one.

Melissa: Right? They did the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. They did prince Caspian.

Toben Racicot: Uh, well, yeah. What was the other one that they did?

Melissa: The one I thought there were three, there was the word of the Dawn Treader.

Toben Racicot: Yeah. And so I remember watching that and it was the bonus features on DVDs. And remember when we bought DVDs and bonus [00:41:00] features, oh, I miss that time of

Melissa: mine in my house right now.

Toben Racicot: And there was this kind of history of CS Lewis and it talked about how, um, so his mother died when he was decently young. I don’t remember the specifics of.

But in the magician’s nephew. So the very first book, I believe his name is Douglas, the main, the main boy. So they go on their adventure and he find he gets these magic. And he comes back to London and he gives his mom some apple cause in the book, in the magician’s nephew, his mom is ill and it heals his mom.

And I remember the special feature being like, and in that, you know, in, in writing that scene, CS Lewis kind of retroactively right. Saved his mother’s life. Right. So he took him that long to do something like that to reach. And then you have what Tolken did with his, um, legendary, um, of middle earth and stuff like that.

And there’s a ton of examples. Right? [00:42:00] And so you, like, you talked about Skyrim, Skyrim is a perfect example of an interactive pair cause of them where people can go in, have these adventures and find something about themselves or realize something about themselves, social understanding, um, emotional understanding, all that kind of stuff.

And so that’s, that’s kind of what I’m fixated on now is figuring out how to do that. Kind of within a comic. And I think, I think that’s, again at the root of what superheroes do for us. We see ourselves in them and we go, you know, I can be brave, like Spider-Man, and I can be bold, like wonder woman. And, you know, I can find energy from them to go out into the world and be the person I want to be.

And then in role-playing games, it’s through imagination and, you know, making a dumb Bard characters who are very bombastic. And then we hopefully are a little bit more bombastic in our.

Melissa: Yeah, I like that a lot. And I think there’s a book called a story genius by Lisa Cron. It’s a, um, she’s like, I’m a writing coach and, uh, I read it a [00:43:00] lot every time.

I’m about to outline a new book and she kind of talks, you know, hits on those points too about storytelling and just how even with like, sort of like why some of the like books that have gotten really famous, for example, You know, like take 50 shades of gray, for example, it’s not, well-written, you know, there’s tons of errors, but the story resonates with people.

It, you know, so it’s sort of like this kind of like, you don’t have to be perfect technically as a writer, as long as you’re connecting with that, like innate, you know, desire that humans have for storytelling, which is interesting,

Toben Racicot: you know? Yeah. I agree. That’s exactly

Melissa: right. Yeah. Well, let me ask you this.

Have you ever thought about. Designing your own tabletop game

Toben Racicot: in terms of like from the ground up creating the engine and stuff like that.

Melissa: Add some things here.

Toben Racicot: Plate put to my, to do list. I mean, I I’m working [00:44:00] on a board game, so it’s, I guess that technically counts as a tabletop game in terms of like a role-playing engine.

I’ve thought about it. I do a lot of reading about. Yeah. Um, I don’t, I don’t think I would have the time, but yeah, like fifth edition is just so accessible. I know there’s people who complain about it. There’s people who complain about everything, but I look at it and I go, you know, this is so accessible.

It’s so easy to use. And so that’s why I just pull my own worlds into it. Yeah, I’ve. I have some ideas for video games. I am working on this board game, but a role-playing engine I think would be really tricky, but it would be really fun.

It’d

Melissa: be fun to plot. I think it’s a plan executing. It might be trickier, but yeah, but yeah, just stirs the imagination, I guess, some more.

Uh, well, awesome. Um, so your Kickstarter, how long has that going

Toben Racicot: for? So it’s a 30 day [00:45:00] Kickstarter. So it launched on October 12th. It goes until November 11th. We are, as of now, currently funded.

Melissa: Awesome. Yeah. I already saw that you, you were it’s called like the 100, right?

Toben Racicot: Uh, that’s that’s an older one. Oh yeah, we did it.

We didn’t make 100 for. Book one, you may, me, you might’ve went to the wrong crown and acre one. That’s

Melissa: one guy you’re fully funded. That’s awesome. And now everything is just for stretch goals, right?

Toben Racicot: Yeah. So yeah, we have the stickers and the charms and all the stuff that Alair loves to make, but we need a little bit more oomph to get there, but yeah, there’s, there’s lots of stuff.

So if you go to crown anchor comic.com that forwards you right to the. Uh, the campaign.

Melissa: Okay. Crown anchor comic.com. Perfect. I’ll put that in the show notes too, so people can just click on it. And then where can people find you as far as like, are you on, you know, your social media [00:46:00] platforms and things like that?

Toben Racicot: Right. So the easiest way to keep up to date with us is actually to go to rasa co.art. So R a C I C O t.art. That is a layer in my website and there should be a. At some point or at the very bottom to sign up for our newsletter Alara is really, really diligent sending out newsletters basically every three weeks I think, is this is the routine.

So you get free art, you get sneak previews, you get interviews, you know, lots of different kind of fun stuff like that. So that’s the go there for like actual, meaningful content. If you want a whole bunch of nonsense, go to Twitter and. At Tobin Roscoe. I don’t do a whole lot. Um, I never, I don’t know how to use social media very well, but it’s mostly us pointing fun at other creators who don’t like pineapple on pizza and getting into fights about that

this one person does not. And so it’s, we kind of had the comics indie comic [00:47:00] scene divided a couple months back where, you know, people were picking sides and stuff. And then my goal, my goal for my goal for next year is I want to watch. An episode of Frasier every day and put my favorite quote as a tweet and have a huge thread by the end of the year.

So

Melissa: I love Fraser. Um, I haven’t seen it in awhile, but I used to watch it like religiously. It’s just one of those sows that’s so comforting,

Toben Racicot: you know? Yeah. Yep. I have the box set. I haven’t watched it in a while. Mostly because we finally got Seinfeld on Netflix and stuff. Working through that and trying to get a layer to watch some of it.

We don’t really watch TV or movies or anything. So I can typically have something on when I’m lettering as a distraction, but we have a huge movie list that we have to get through, but no to that’s right?

Melissa: Oh, well you’re in Canada, right? That’s right. Yeah. I think I saw something. I don’t, if it was. That you wrote where you said that they don’t have Frazier on Netflix in Canada.

It’s so weird. I didn’t even realize there were different. I thought Netflix was just Netflix. Like, you know, that it just went everywhere. I didn’t realize they [00:48:00] had different content for different

Toben Racicot: countries. Yeah. It’s very different. So for example, we have all the studio, Ghibli movies, all the music movies, and the states does not.

So that is one, one benefit, but like you guys have Frazier and you have a bunch of other things, but yeah. Seinfeld and some other things, but you know, there’s other means to find this stuff beyond. That’s

Melissa: true. Yeah. There’s definitely even a YouTube now. I think you can watch like full episodes. Something like there’s content everywhere at our fingertips, which is sometimes a bad thing.

Well, um, thanks Tobin for coming on today. This has been really fun. I’ve enjoyed, uh, getting to know you and I definitely want to have you back on so we can tackle some of those other subjects. Yeah.

Toben Racicot: Let’s get into the theory of, I mean, yeah. I could talk about, um, the comic comic theory and then role-playing game studies and stuff like that’s, that’s what occupies a lot of my time, but yeah.

Thank you for having me. This was wonderful. Thank you

Melissa: for. Absolutely [00:49:00] everybody listening. Definitely go check out crown and anchor on Kickstarter and, uh, yeah, we’ll post all those links so everyone can just one click it and, and get right to it. Wonderful. Awesome.

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