Kickstart It: Joey Groah on DRY SEASONS

I only want to make a habit of evangelizing the Kickstarter projects I’d personally fund myself. That’s just what I’ll be doing today with Dry Seasons, a project by Joey Groah and artist Ryan Cody, edited by that indomitable rogue Paul Allor. Joey shot me an email the other day to ask if I’d be interested in covering it. I admired his pluck, the finished pages and the evocative Kickstarter video. It’s a book I want to read, partly due to my weird fetish for all things Dust Bowl (did you see that new Ken Burns doc the other night?), but also because this post-apocalypse yarn has a romantic flair I think you’ll agree is quite compelling.

Let’s have a look at the video and then we’ll have a sit down with Joey where we can talk story, themes, Kickstarter incentives and maybe (definitely) have a peek at some pages!

iFanboy: Just how dry are these dry seasons, Joey? Are we talking new American Dust Bowl?

Joey Groah: The way I’ve thought about the setup is there was a crippling Dust Bowl-like event at some point, which set in motion a lot of the conditions the characters are facing. I’m looking at more of the after effects than the “what happened before.” Resources are scarce. Characters are coming out of a brutal winter, supplies are low, the growing season has to pay off, they have to have food now and for later.

After the story and plot started forming, I went back and read up on the Dust Bowl. We happened to have a client in my day job that was putting on a water conference, that was an unexpected bonus bit of research and exposure. The real-world non-fiction aspects in thinking about the plot have been good for the story too, helping fill in some backstory and motivations.

From "I Met Someone." Art by Ryan Cody

iF: You’ve described this one as Romeo & Juliet meets Mad Max. Is this a kissing book? Am I going to cry? Remember, I’m a very sensitive soul.

JG: There IS kissing. There might be more than kissing, like… deep kissing.

Originally the love story with the two main characters, Ann and Paul, was a little more slow burn, more ‘Moonlighting.’ The more I thought about the relationships, the stakes, the way the characters might change. Things go from zero to “What did I DO?” pretty fast. There’s a lust sparked by a shared antagonism and attraction to a “…oh no, I think I might actually LIKE this person that I thought I hated,” and progresses from there. A little backwards from the slow burn.

I’m also trying to remember that summer camp crush. That feeling when time moves slower, colors got more vivid, the cosmic tumblers start to align for quick glimpses of “Oh, I get it, this could be a thing.” I don’t want to paint a picture that the relationship is all about lust, but there is a ticking clock element to their lives. I’m hoping that there’s some amount of rediscovered innocence in there too, it’s not super-serious doom-and-gloom. I’m a fan of dark and dry humor (don’t hold that pun against the comic, blame me), lighter moments come from the characters and situations.

The world is dirty, it feels like what you feel like when you’ve been doing yard work all day or some kind of outdoor obstacle course. Stuff is under your nails, there’s a lot of patching together your gear with chicken wire. The daily complaints aren’t of the “Ugh, I’m waiting in line for the new phone” kind of challenges, it’s “those people with the machine gun mounted to the Dodge Challenger want our to take our food” kind.

And the ending of the mini series, the ending makes me frustrated in a way that I like as a reader. I tried to put everyone in the worst spots, to take motivations to logical conclusions, and what came out was a surprise, but made sense. The characters are impacted in a way i did not expect, which turned out to be a big part of the fun of writing.

And all the kissing happens around high action and funny moments. And the supernatural. More of a supernatural romance. Without the supernatural.

Cover by lumazark

iF: You mention shades of Steinbeck as opposed to the typical post apocalypse tropes. Will this stomp on my heart like The Red Pony? I’m still smarting from that one. More seriously, what themes do you hope to explore?

JG: I wish I remembered The Red Pony! Or maybe I don’t, that sounds brutal.

Not too Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck, the families that are the leaders of each town aren’t running things with an iron fist or trying to get ahead, but they do face internal and externals challenges. Small town themes where the people leading start to get questioned and an unease sets in. Plus one side isn’t as bad off as the other side, there could be more of a sharing of resources.

In a way the setup is a filtered memory of reading about the Dust Bowl and watching “The Grapes of Wrath.” There’s as an omnipresent force, maybe menace you can’t escape, you can’t outrun. Not raging against the howling wind exactly, but the idea that “Maybe this thing is bad and destroys everybody else, but I’ll beat it. I’ll figure this out, I’m different.” And over time in a world that’s got harshness to it, you get numb to some feelings. What happens when you start to grow up, regain feeling, and you’ve got more to deal with than before? How do you act when there are more stakes?

If people are still here after “Steinbeck” and “farming,” I’ll thrown in another touchstone that I don’t think I’ve shared with anybody: ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’ That’s right, another one of those Dostoyevsky ripoffs. I realized I was thinking about morality, family, mortality set to the tune of a changing world, sins of the parents… Dostoyevsky came to mind. I liked “epic survival” against small town politics and relationships, with character having to make hard choices.

I probably should’ve watched some old ‘Dallas’ re-runs too.

Did I mention the action? There’s action. Loads of action.

iF: Let’s talk about this film. For a Kickstarter video, this is incredibly cinematic. Well done.

JG: Thank you very much, glad you liked the video. I wanted to tease the plot more than talk about me and why I was doing the project in the video. I’m part of a small creative firm focusing on video production and motion design, and I was actually a bad client. Or bad project manager, I approached the project piecemeal instead of having a more fully-formed script from the get-go. I thought I was going to launch a little sooner than I did, so I wanted to have a video ready to go pretty fast, and was working on the edit during off hours.

The elements are mostly open sourced, with the end logo resolve and animation designed and animated by my co-worker Doug Stanford using some stock elements I licensed. I went to him with a basic logo resolve idea, he came back with “How about this kind of environmental pull back?” and built that element in about 90 minutes.

There’s a 1930s newsreel on the Dust Bowl in there, the Ann and Paul voice overs provided by a former intern who is a theater double major and one of her friends, the music was written for Lenin’s funeral… it’s a hodgepodge of “cheap” or “free” resources. I went around and around on the video, and realized I was going to “make it great” it to death and risk stalling out too long. Once the video was in a presentable state I got some feedback, made tweaks and then focused on finishing the Kickstarter.

Over the summer I had thought I was going to produce a five minute teaser to put out a couple weeks before the Kickstarter, kind of a technical and creative challenge to me, and involve my co-workers. I love working with a cast and crew on projects that mix in some practical and digital effects. I started putting together a production list and schedule and realized that there were just too many moving parts to pay for out of pocket, even with a short shooting schedule. Actors, costumes, vehicles…I would be calling in a lot of favors and spending money and time that could be spent on producing the comic. I’d still love to make a five-minute short, but that’s a couple thousand dollars to pay for people’s time and getting the right props.

iF: Brass tacks. What kind of incentives do you have planned for those pledging?

JG: There’re a number of incentives, including: the whole full-color mini series for $10 DRM-free digital, then $20 for print and digital. The print comics seem to be the sweat spot. There’s a black and white edition, a t-shirt. Right now there’s still a sketch left, a script critique by writer Paul Allor (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series Fugitoid, Orc Girl) who is editing the mini series. There’s a video reward where my company will produce a video for you for your Kickstarter video or your business or whatever fits into the scope.

I tried to give a variety of pledge rewards, I was surprised by how quickly the “name a character” rewards went. Oh, and the “Mistakes Were Made” edition is new, that includes the first two very limited proofing copy/show-around-at-convention runs of the short stories in the mix of print comics.

Additionally, everyone who pledges gets a digital copy “I Met Someone” the first five-page story with Ryan Cody, and a digital copy of Space Corps #0, a 32-page anthology by Gannon Beck, Bryan Richmond and myself with stories set in the Space Corps world.

If anyone has suggestions of what they’d like to see, please let me know!

From "Fences." Art by Matias Basla

iF: You’ve admitted that there’s no shortage of Post Apocalyptic stories out there. What sets Dry Seasons apart?

JG: From the fiction I’ve read and watched, I’ve not seen much Post Apocalyptic stories set with a farming kind of back drop. I hope the setting is seen as part of the character. I used to live in a pretty small town with farmland nearby, not a lot of sidewalks. The germ of the idea came while I was out running and passed an abandoned barn and silo. I imagined a mushroom cloud on the horizon, and wondered how a farming family would survive nuclear fallout. I started a text document titled “Mowers” because I kept seeing imagery of souped-up farming combines and threshers. Driving pasts farmers in bad weather like a snow storm or drought, especially from a road or the highway, you can see the physical things they have to overcome. Those challenges look daunting.

Another plot aspect that might be different is Ann and Paul are sharing the stage in the story. It’s their story, and their stories. I love the “lone, broken gunslinger has to take the wagon train through the Passage of Doom” stories, so I doubled down with TWO broken protagonists to get the wagon train through… There’re three sides in this conflict, the two towns that are trying to bury the past and survive by figuring out a way to work together, and the side that’s motivating this, the threat from “out there,” the group of raiders getting increasingly brazen and aggressive.

Also everyone is a vampire. So farming and vampires. Just no vampires.


You know what to do. Kickstart it!


  1. Nice write-up, Paul! The premise sounds intriguing and one I’ve not seen before. The coloring and art on these preview pages look great.