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Interview: Carl Jackson, Creator of Victorian Bareknuckle League

Posted by Sian, June 2016. Carl Jackson owns rights to cartoon imagery on this page.

Victorian Bareknuckle League has recently been launched @Kickstarter ! This comic is about a woman, whose lover is killed before her eyes, when a bet on a bareknuckle fighting match goes wrong. Her intrigue and frustration leads her down a path of revenge as "The Red Doll", as she takes up her mantle in the Victorian Bareknuckle League.

Carl Jackson, Creator of Victorin Bareknuckle League, has brought together cover artist Maria Sanapo, who has recently worked on a DC Bombshells project, as well as Jake Bilbao, who has produced artwork for a Wolverine comic. Romanian artist, Pika, is colourist for this project.  

This comic merges Victoriana and Steampunk themes and can be described as a story where 'Pride and Prejudice' meets 'Kill Bill'. Based on reading the first 6 pages for this comic, the story may start gently with a love story but this fast turns dark and gritty. The atmosphere of the fairground and underground bareknuckle fighting scene is conveyed very well and I really admire the detail and depth of colours in these pages. 

Interviewing Carl Jackson has been a great opportunity to discover more about this project. Make sure to check out the Kickstarter page for this 


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What would you say are 'the roots' of the story behind the 'Victorian Bareknuckle League'?

Carl: I always tell people that it is influenced by three major factors;
comics, pro wrestling and Street Fighter 2. The book actually started as an idea for a videogame, a Steampunk Mortal Combat where the characters would all be Victorians. At the time I had been watching a lot of shows like Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful and I think all of this just came together.

I started drawing all these crazy characters then realized I had absolutely no idea how to make a game or get someone to start making one for me. What I did know however was comics, so it was the logical step.

On your Kickstarter page, you've highlighted 'life is too short'.
Would you tell us more about your turn around moment for producing this comic?

Carl: Yea life is too short. You actually don't know what is around the
corner. So I had all the drawings and ideas for Victorian Bareknuckle
League that I was doing in my spare time and one day I had a bereavement.

It was a close friend, went out to work, blink of an eye and that was it.
It really does put things in perspective and it was a kick up the arse for
me. Do something with your life, make something you are proud of. Stop
staring at phone screens, turn off youtube and do something.

Preview: Victorian Bareknuckle League

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What has it been like developing skills as a letterist and writing your own comic for the first time?

Carl: The lettering thing was hard. Much harder than anyone ever gives letterers credit for. I did my research, looked at different styles and just practiced on a Judge Dredd sample I found on the net. One thing about the lettering is that I use lowercase which is becoming more common in comics but is still pretty rare. I also use quite a strange font for a comic. This is again to tie it in with that Victorian feel. 

A few people have asked me about it and I have tried other fonts but a standard comic font just does not look right on the book. Its the one piece of the book in which I totally, for better or worse, ignored peoples advice on, because to me it fits the theme. As for writing, I have really enjoyed it. Every day is a learning curve and you learn from everything, not just reading or watching movies and T.V. For example, I started learning how to put a match together at a pro wrestling class I attend. It made me totally re write all the fight scenes in the book.

Would you share a little about the team behind Victorian Bareknuckle League?

Carl: I found both Jake and Pika on a freelance website called upwork. I have never actually met any of them in person, Jake lives in the Philippines and Pika in Romania. Jake has previously worked for Marvel on a Wolverine comic and worked for Dynamite. This was not the only reason I asked him to work on the book though. His artwork is genuinely what I was looking for. I wanted detail, lush backgrounds and settings and his portfolio showed that.

Pika is actually a children's book illustrator. When I set about making the comic I knew I did not want it digitally coloured. I find digital colouring a little cold. It works for some things, like an Iron Man comic or something like that but when you are colouring Victorians you need that old world feel. I imagined the backgrounds to be almost like an old disney cartoon, real depth and tone. I actually think if you removed me and Jake, Victorian Bareknuckle League could carry on as a concept with other writers and artists but I am really not sure it would have the same feel at all if Pika was not there.

Our cover is drawn by superstar DC comics artist Maria Sanapo. About 2 weeks before the launch of the project I realised I did not have a cover. I mailed all the current comicbook people who I love and Maria was the only one who got back to me. She basically said 'yea, looks great, I will do it.' She has just completed the DC bombshells comic and as the first fight in my book is two female protagonists she was such a great fit to draw the book.

How did you decide on the artistic style for the comic?

Carl: As I touched upon previously with regard to digital colouring, I think
certain art styles suit certain comics. At one point I actually wanted the
comic to be done in lines, like the pictures from an old Victorian
newspaper. But then it is hard to convey movement and action in that style
so I decided I would attempt a hybrid. I would use standard comics drawing
and panels, but with a level of detail you would get in a European style
comic. Then I would use colour to add the depth.

Would you tell us more about your interests in Victoriana/ Steampunk themes?

Carl: I have never classified myself as someone who follows Steampunk or embraces it as a lifestyle. I have never dressed up for a con or anything but I have always had this interest in steampunk without actually knowing the term for it. My father had this old magazine called the unknown. It must have been from the seventies or something, and he had the whole run of like 60 issues. It was about occult and paranormal goings on and always had articles about Victorian occultism. As a kid I would read them and scare myself witless and after that I kept the interest in this dark side of Victorian history. As i got older I consumed literature from that time, Jules Verne, Conan Doyle etc and it just grew from there.

Support Victorian Bareknuckle League on Kickstarter  ^^

What should Kickstarter backers look forward to, should they back this project?

Carl: Kickstarter backers should of course support my book, not just because I believe that the artwork is high quality by artists of calibre plus the fact its a great concept, but because I am taking this story on one hell of a journey.

I have 12 issues already written. We have fights on top of the
Flying Scotsman, some horrific torture scenes in a Scottish castle that
flips the story on its axis game of thrones style, people lose everything
they have while others gain the world.

We have a Spring Heeled Jack, we have a boxing brothel madame, we have an LGBT fishing vessel named the rainbow trout, we have a circus coming to town! Support Victorian Bareknuckle League!