Sometimes, the best ideas take time to mature. The little germ of a concept sticks in your mind, and won't let you forget about it.


For Josh Howard, the concept of T-Bird, the protagonist of his new project “T-Bird & Throttle,” began as a sketch, and attempt to find a new motif for a superhero costume. He chose a classic car, and what began as a fun toss-off sketch compelled him to keep drawing and refining his new hero. As he progressed, he started adding a story, villains, a sidekick and supporting cast.


The story of astronaut-turned-superhero Mitchell Maddox is one the Howard has wanted to tell for almost 20 years. The surprise success of his debut series “Dead@17,” led to the first delay for T-Bird's debut. The enthusiastic response to four-issue mini-series allowed Howard to develop it into an epic story that ran for 7 volumes over 12 years. While a #0 issue for “T-Bird & Throttle” did hit stands in 2008, the publisher ceased operations before the series could launch.


What was a setback at the time, may have been fate stepping in, allowing the story time to develop and mature. Howard now feels the time is right to jump in and tell the story of hope and heroism and regret and redemption that has been stewing in his mind for many years.


The Swerve Magazine: Where did this series originate?


Josh Howard: I was working in a comicbook store back in 1999, and around the same time as “Dead@17,” I was making characters and stories in my sketchbooks. I was looking around at all the different superheroes and what their motifs were, what made them iconic. I kind of, as a joke, made a character who had a car motif. He had a grill and headlights as a belt and a windshield T on his chest. It was kind of a joke at first, but then I thought that maybe there was something more to this.


Over the years, I kept drawing him and adding to his story—adding characters and villains. It is something that I just grew very passionate about. I actually tried to make it happen a couple times over the years, but obviously, it didn't work out. Now, I think the time is finally right.


SM: As you said, you have tried to get this out in the past. What makes now the right time to launch the series?


JH: For one thing, “Dead@17” is finally done, so I have that out of the way. Two, I have worked on the story for a lot of years now, and at certain points when it was going to come out, in hindsight it wasn't ready. I'm kind of glad it didn't work out. There were life experiences I needed to have, and growing as an artist and a writer. I think I finally nailed all of the aspects of it that I needed to get right, and I think I'm finally ready to dive in and tell this really big story.


SM: What can readers look forward to in the first book?


JH: It picks up roughly 10 years after what happens in the zero issue. T-Bird a.k.a. Mitch Maddox, is no longer a superhero—he's trying to hold onto that and trying to make a comeback, but the world's kind of moved on and forgotten about him after this incident. His daughter is in high school, so he's got that to deal with. He gets a call out of the blue, and an opportunity presents itself for him to reclaim some of his former glory. That's where the story kicks off.

SM: Beyond the reclaiming the glory, what is the tone of the story?


JH: Everything that has influenced me about comics growing up, everything that I love about comics, I've tried to put into this as well as a lot of life experience. There is a lot of me in it. It's not a 1:1 correlation, but the essence of things is very personal to me. Someone trying to make their way in changing times, trying to raise a daughter, and figure out what his place in the world is. It's a lot of things to try and sum up in a sentence or two. I've carried this around with me for a while, so it's tough to distill it down to one or two things.


SM: What led you to launch the series on Kickstarter?


JH: A couple of reasons. One, it's a very tough story to pitch in just a couple of sentences and not make it sound like just another superhero thing. People have told me that indie superheroes are suicide, and Marvel's got that market cornered, which to an extent, they're right. I didn't create this setting out to create my own superhero universe, that wasn't the impetus of this story.


Two, the reality of indie comics is that even if I found a publisher, they're not going to pay me up-front to work on this, so I would have to find my own time to create it, for free, until it could come out, and potentially, hopefully make some royalties and all that stuff. Knowing what is involved with this book, I knew I couldn't find the time on my own, and bring in money through freelance jobs, to make this work. For me, the best alternative was to Kickstart it so that I have the time to devote to it and get it done the right way, and maybe I can take it to a publisher down the line once it's done.

SM: You have done a couple of licensed projects since you wrapped “Dead@17.” What is it like getting back to a project where you have full control?


JH: I did “Monster High” and one issue of “Ghostbusters,” but when I finished “Dead@17,” I was hoping to actually get some more licensed work or get some work at DC or Marvel, but it seemed like I couldn't get any headway. “Dead@17” was never a big money maker in terms of sales because it was an indie book, so most of my money came in through art sales, commissions and freelance work, so I was hoping to get a steady paycheck from something. I realized it wasn't going to work out, and it wasn't really the career path I wanted anyway, so I thought why not continue on with what I do and find a way to make it happen.


SM: Shifting gears a bit, you did a series of “Twin Peaks” prints that got some great responses. I know you're a fan of the show, but what inspired you to take on doing a page reacting to each episode?


JH: One of the big inspirations for “Dead@17” was “Twin Peaks.” I've always been a huge fan, and I was super-excited about it coming back, and I wanted to do something. I thought, “Maybe I'll do a drawing or two” then I was like, “Well, maybe I'll try to do a sketch each week.” I wasn't sure what I was going to do, or to what extent.


I did the first one like a comic page, and the response was so amazing, that I thought, “Well, maybe I can do one of these a week.” I had no idea if I would be able to pull it off. I limited myself to 3 or 4 hours for each one, so it wouldn't take a big chunk of time away. The response was just incredible, more than anything I've ever done. I gained probably 1000-1500 followers within a month, and my followers had pretty much stayed at the same level for the past 10 years, I think (laughs).  It was crazy, and Showtime got wind of it, and they started retweeting it and promoting it. They were really cool to me and personally invited me to the screening they were having at Comic-Con.


SM: Also, since the end of “Dead@17,” the “Dead@17: Rebirth” short film was made, how did that come about?


JH: It was a couple of months after the series wrapped, I got an email out of the blue. At that point, I was kind of completely jaded by the whole experience of Hollywood because I've had so many deals fall through. So I was like, “OK, it's open, but prove to me that you're serious about it.” Within a month, they had an option deal for me, and a director lined up, and they were serious.


It was a new company called POPBOOM, and it was headed up by Jack Heller, who ended up writing and directing it. Within a few months, they had shot it as a proof of concept to shop around for a TV series, web series, just to see where it could go. They actually had a deal in place, and it was going to be a web series, but they got bought out by a larger company who only wanted works by their brand, so we were out of a deal, and back to square one. Right now, I think the plan is to pursue an independent feature, so we'll see.


The Kickstarter for “T-Bird & Throttle” and a link to the new #0 can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1499444798/t-bird-and-throttle-1-a-new-comic-from-creator-jos