For over a decade Bill Blankenship has been making art. We at What’cha Reading first saw his work in 2012 with the Action Lab book Double Jumpers and over the course of years his name pops up on many titles, sometimes as penciler, inker, colorist, or cover artist. And he always knocks it out of the park, most recently in fact we took notice of his coloring on Raven: The Pirate Princess, but none of these projects were truly his own. There was one though…
Originally conceived as a comic to pitch to Zuda in 2010 it lay dormant for years until Bill, after some very big personal hurdles came his way, realized that he needed to get this thing done!
Thunderchickens is the story of a superhero family. Scratch, our adolescent hero in training loves his family and their legacy but wants more from the superhero life. He wants to be relevant, a modern hero. Maybe someday his father, Spaceray, will give him the chance to show what kind of hero he wants to be? Ray, or as he’s officially known Spaceray, grew up under the tutelage of his own superhero father. Bill gave us some insight into Ray’s character.
Ray’s story is about me being and Artist, a storyteller. For years I’ve said “I’m an illustrator, not an artist.” Well I am an artist and that’s okay. It’s not pretentious or self-serving, I wanna tell people stories because I want to entertain them. Ray says he “works in security” because he doesn’t want to take on the responsibilities of being a Superhero. All that emotional stuff that gets mixed up in there. I felt the same way about being an artist for a long time.
He loves being a “true superhero” defending the weak, doing what’s right and just. It’s the accolades, attitude of the “modern hero” that’s just something he can’t get his beak around. And we can’t forget about Gramps, the original family hero. Gramps may be on in years, he may need looking after, but his powers are still there and he isn’t afraid to use them (even if he’s not quite sure who he’s using them on.)
Can Spaceray and Scratch be real heroes in a world where superhero teams go big and take on exclusive clients? A world that thinks Spaceray should hang up his cape?
Bill is due to begin work on the next stage of The Thunderchickens in April and he’s got a super team in place. He’ll be joined on the project by long time friend and collaborator Dave Dwonch (Double Jumpers, Cyrus Perkins & the Haunted Taxi Cab) with Steve Musgrave (Lil’ Titans Attack, Penguins of Madagascar) assisting on art duties!
Now if this were just a preview of a new creator owned series that would be cool enough but Bill has decided to go a little further. He’s started a patreon to fund the creation of Thunderchickens and as a thank you for signing on he’s giving away his most recent book The Madcap Sketchbook, a sneak peek at The Thunderchickens, and a 50+ page project called Special Edition.
Special Edition is a 52 page graphic novel, 6 stories, each with Bill and other people all exploring different aspects of super heroes and the world they live in. It’s funny, disturbing, and graphic, a definite must read!
The Thunderchickens press kit is an 8 page excerpt from the original story, along with character sketches and bios, as well as commentary from original collaborator Chad Boudreau.
The Madcap Sketchbook is a very personal book for Bill. During a brief stay in a mental ward the only art supplies Bill had was a ball point pen and a composition notebook. He found that those limitations gave him the freedom to truly explore some of the things he saw in his mind. The result is a peek inside an artist’s process, a peek at how those thoughts and inspirations become art.
And the really cool part is while he is using those books as his patreon reward he has also decided to offer them to you, our readers, for free. You can download all three and check them out for absolutely no charge using the links at the end of this piece.
Here’s what Bill had to say about the project,
Beginning in April I’m going to be finishing the preliminary work necessary to start work on The Thunderchickens, a project that I have had shelved for 6 years now. But I’m ready to tell that story and I believe there’s an audience for it. I’ve created a Patreon for people to donate a few bucks if they like what they see and want to see more, and a Kickstarter campaign is being planned as we speak…I’m actually at a point where I’ve decided to start turning down work in order to make this book, because I love these characters and I want to share them with the world. The property has already proven once that it’s marketable, it just took me being in a position to do it justice.
Now before we get to those links here’s some art from The Thunderchickens I think you’re going to love.
Want to see more Thunderchickens? Head over to Bill’s patreon page, he’s got a few more pages of pencils and the promise of more to come. Now as for those links I mentioned. You can check out those three books in high-res pdf, or cbr files. For free. I’d ask that whether you or not you do go to Bill’s patreon and kick in a few bucks, campaigns like this are truly how indie books get made.