ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH: DECEMBER 2015
Kevin Costner, Jon Baird, and Rick Ross offer a splendidly designed, action-packed, globe-trotting adventure in “The Explorers Guild.”
By Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher
Behind the staid, public rooms of an old-world gentlemen’s club operates a more mysterious organization: The Explorers Guild, a clandestine group of adventurers who bravely journey to places in which light gives way to shadow and reason is usurped by myth.
The secrets they seek are hidden in mountain ranges and lost in deserts, buried in the ocean floor, and lodged deep in polar ice. The aim of The Explorers Guild: to discover the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of the known world.
Set against the backdrop of World War I, with Western civilization on the edge of calamity, the first installment in “The Explorers Guild” series, “A Passage to Shambhala,” concerns the Guild’s quest to find the golden city of Buddhist myth.
The search will take them from the Polar North to the Mongolian deserts, through the underground canals of Asia to deep inside the Himalayas, before the fabled city finally divulges its secrets and the globe-spanning journey plays out to its startling conclusion.
What inspired Kevin Costner, and co-author Jon Baird and illustrator Rick Ross, to write this 784-page epic tale that they describe as “graphic fiction” — a marriage of text and images?
On the East Coast leg of their book tour, Costner, Baird, and Ross sat before a packed room at the National Press Club last month, explaining how the journey of the book began eight years ago.
While the story was originally conceived as an animated movie, after the big studios turned down their 22-minute clip, Baird went to Plan B and began turning the tale into a book.
Initially, Costner acted as his guide in the adventurous project, but “at a certain point, it ceased to be something that was mine,” Baird said. It was something that “he was giving input on and it became something we were working on together.”
A masterful storyteller himself, Costner explained: “It was very important to me that this be what it wanted to be. It wanted to be a novel. Let’s let it exist as that and I’ll go carve the movie out of it someday” if Hollywood decides that it now likes the idea.
Adding the graphic illustrations to the book was Baird’s idea, because he had written books using this engaging technique to hook readers and advance the story. So he went hunting for an illustrator on Craigslist, of all places.
It didn’t take long for artist and filmmaker Rick Ross to see the ad and respond. The gig was right up his alley.
As the publisher of the online, graphic fiction anthology Agitainment Comics, Ross was the lead artist for the graphic novelization of Spike TV’s “1000 Ways to Die,” and he created artwork for numerous animated-motion comics, including for the Cinemax television series “Femme Fatales.”
Together, the three-man team gives us a wonderful way to end 2015. Here’s their message to us: Gentle Reader — It is the boast of modernity that Man has mapped and measured, claimed and contested this Earth down to its last inch. He has tamed its moods and subdued its monsters, and lit it from end to end with the fires of his ingenuity. So we are assured. Yet we who have been canvassing this same Earth through the centuries — who have been every place in it that you would care to go, and many more that you would not — we incline to a different view.”
What is Costner’s big dream for this giant adventure story? “My lofty goal is that 150 years from now, ‘The Explorers Guild’ will be held in the same regard as the novels penned by Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad,” he says. “And my greatest hope is that it could be an heirloom. Thank God for storytelling. It helped me find my place in the world.”
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