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INTERVIEW: Kat Calamia and Phil Falco Talk Lifeline Comics Hairology

CBR 2/7/2023 Caitlin Chappell
© Provided by CBR

The world of comics is so much more than superheroes and villains. The medium is full of genre-blending stories and deeply personal, grounded narratives. As the medium becomes more diverse, many creators are turning to crowdfunding platforms to make bring their creations to life. Lifeline Comics has found its footing in the Kickstarter community, as evidenced by the immense support it's seen for several past anthologies.

Now Lifeline Comics' latest anthology, Hairology, is beginning its crowdfunding journey as its campaign goes live this week. Edited by Kat Calamia, Phil Falco, and Jamila Rowser, with a foreword by Gail Simone, Hairology is a 56-page comic book featuring 12 stories about people's relationships with hair. The anthology features work from numerous creators, some of whom have also worked on Supergirl, The Flash, Teen Titans Go!, Webtoon, Nubia, and more. Calamia and Falco chatted with CBR about putting Hairology together.

CBR: What prompted you to create an anthology like this?

Phil Falco: After having such a blast working on two volumes of Bi Visibility, we knew two things for certain. One, we wanted to do more comic anthologies, and two, we wanted our next one to be something completely different. Creators showed such ingenuity in crafting their Bi Visibility stories -- everything from autobiographical stories to some of the most creative genre stories I've had the pleasure of reading -- that we really wanted to see the kinds of stories we would see for other topics.

Kat and I tossed around a few different ideas before landing on hair. Everybody has a relationship with their hair, and there are so many different lenses with which to talk about hair. We knew that we would see a lot of variety in the types of stories that could be told, and we were not disappointed!

For each of you, what does hair mean to you? Why is it so important?

Kat Calamia: I have really curly hair, and all my life I've been defined by it -- for better or worse. I love the way I style my hair, but throughout my life, I've had a lot of people wanting to inject their opinions on how I should look. My relationship with my hair is complicated, to say the least, but I've learned I'm not the only person who feels this way. Everyone has a complicated relationship with their hair, and I thought a comic anthology would be the perfect place to explore that.

Falco: Hair is such an integral part of identity. It's one of the first things anybody notices about you. There are so many different emotions wrapped up in hair -- everything from self-image issues to "politics" of hair to cultural identities linked to or expressed through hair. Everybody has such a layered and unique relationship with their hair.

With this anthology covering such a wide range of genres and stories, what were some of the biggest surprises that came from the 12 featured comics?

Falco: We went into the submission process expecting to be blown away by the creative genre takes, yet we still somehow managed to be surprised. Creators brought their A-game not only in the submitting of creative genre stories but also in their skill and nuance with grounding the genre-heavy takes in real-world issues and concepts. We expected a couple of great genre stories to balance out the more grounded personal stories, but we didn't expect such an even split.

I would love to hear a little more about some of the stories featured. Can you give us a teaser into some of your favorite comics in Hairology?

Falco: It's so difficult to pick favorites! We truly feel that every story included is amazing in its own right. To spotlight some stand-outs, we have an anime-inspired action story about a young woman taming her "hair monster" before her first day at a new job, a dystopian thriller about being forced to conform to strict appearance guidelines, an incredibly personal autobiography about a trans woman growing out her hair for the first time, and a completely silent comic following a young couple after a cancer diagnosis.

You also have a wide variety of creators on board. How did you find the creators featured in Hairology?

Falco: The vast majority of contributors were found through our submission form. We allowed for open submissions for both writers and artists so that anybody could have the chance to participate in the anthology. Unlike many anthologies, we asked that writers submit completed scripts as part of their submissions. We wanted to get a sense of the writing style, so it was important that we get complete stories rather than just pitches. Artists were asked to submit their portfolios and were paired up with writers once scripts were finalized.

What were some of the challenges with piecing this together? How did you overcome them?

Falco: Honestly, the biggest challenge [was] narrowing down all the wonderful submissions. We received so many amazing scripts and portfolios that it was truly difficult to curate the book. Time management was especially critical, reading through hundreds of scripts and portfolios and coordinating several meetings between the three editors to review the submissions. It was a lot of work, but in the end, we arrived at a final list of twelve stories that we all loved and were proud of.

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What can fans anticipate from backing this campaign?

Falco: Kat and I are seasoned Kickstarter creators, having fulfilled over twenty campaigns, so we expect this campaign and the fulfillment to be pretty seamless.

Expect to see some awesome variant covers, access to our entire library of comics via rewards and add-ons, a whole bundle of indie comics (hundreds of pages) that every backer will get just for supporting the campaign for as low as one dollar, and if we -- depending on how far we pass our funding goal -- some exciting stretch goal bonus rewards.

Y'all also worked together on Bi Visibility. What's your collaboration process usually like?

Calamia: Phil and I own a comic publishing company together, Lifeline Comics. We're constantly texting or chatting on the phone about our ongoing projects and new ideas to expand our company. From a creative standpoint, we'll usually have an in-person meeting about our concepts, beat out a script, and then go in our separate corners to write out scenes. Usually, we'll give comments on a Google doc, but depending on the scene, we may read it together again to inject both our voices into that scene.

This time you're also bringing on Jamila Rowser to your team. What made y'all want to collaborate with Jamila, and what makes Jamila stand out as a storyteller?

Calamia: We were lucky enough to have a third editor on Bi Visibility: Still Bi (Dan Falco) and found it very helpful to have an extra voice on our anthologies. Jamila has done previous work in comic books about hair with her series Wash Day Diaries. We had a meeting and instantly clicked. Jamila was great at shining a light on stories and pinpointing what makes those voices unique. She was able to help sharpen dialogue for final drafts and help create the perfect final products.

What's the collaboration process like between the editors and contributors?

Calamia: We give notes for first draft scripts, which were submitted during the entry process. After a few passes, we get into the art process. Artists, writers, and editors are in the same email chain, so we all have our voices in there as pages are being turned in (roughs, inks, and colors). We want all contributors' voices to be heard.

What's your favorite part of the crowdfunding process?

Calamia: The first day! It's a roller coaster of emotions getting all those supporters (new and old) coming in so quickly.

As for my overall experience with Kickstarter, there is no other platform that allows you to interact with your readers like Kickstarter. It's so gratifying packing comics for familiar names.

Falco: Going the opposite direction of Kat, I love the last day. It's so exciting to bring a successful campaign to a close and to see just how high we can reach in those final hours as the last-minute supporters come in.

Any advice for comic creators who would want to be part of an anthology like the ones Lifeline has published over the years?

Calamia: I can only speak to what we look for at Lifeline Comics. What makes a submission stand out is either a personal story or an idea that thinks outside the box. An example from Hairology of a personal story that we quickly gravitated to was "My Hair is the Only Good Looking Thing on Me." It's an extremely intimate story that had humor and a distinct voice to talk about self-love. Then there were other stories that played with genre, giving a unique look at hair. For example, "Hair Wars" tackles the very serious topic of natural hair in the workplace through action sequences and anime references.

Any crowdfunding advice for creators turning to Kickstarter to get their stories off the ground?

Calamia: I do Kickstarter consulting, and I've noticed that a lot of creators worry about getting a post to go viral on social media or trying to get big-name news outlets to cover their book, but honestly, a lot of new supporters are going to come from the Kickstarter platform itself, so be sure to have a killer thumbnail, title, and sub-header. That's half the battle. You want people to click on your project.

With the campaign kicking off soon, anything you'd like to say to those checking out Hairology for the first time?

Calamia: Thank you for giving our book a chance. We truly wouldn't be able to do this witho

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