Recently, Mike Salsbury, the Florida-based creator of the webcomic “Boundless!” reached out to me to check out his work.
Boundless! is the beguiling story of an enigmatic talking fox leaving his bird friend behind and embarking on a journey from his home in the alpine woods for reasons that are slowly being unravelled over the course of the story.
So far, he’s already picked up one companion, Emily, and who knows where else the story may lead, and to whom?…
In a first for Unsung Superheroes, here’s a Q&A where I asked Mike about himself and the Boundless! comic.
Unsung Superheroes: Hello Mike! I’ve just finished reading the 15 currently available episodes of Boundless! and loved them. You are revealing tidbits of information in a really fascinating way that keeps me wanting to read more.
So how did the idea of Boundless! come to you? Were you hit by a flash of inspiration and decided to make the comic from there, or did you decide to make a comic first, and then work out what that would be? Or something else?
Mike Salsbury: I actually was sitting at my desk job sketching out some goofy characters. It was in our slow season. I kind of fell for the characters. I wanted to see more of them, and I would lay in bed at night getting a clear understanding of where they were going. That same year I went back to art school to become a “cool concept artist.” I was also in a leadership program with my company at the time. Between my new leadership role and night school, I had to stop the comic. It wasn’t until two years later that someone read it and messaged me about how much they liked it. It motivated me to bring the sketches back out, and I started implementing my new obtained art ability to reveal the story better. It felt natural.
US: Emily takes to calling the mysterious fox as “Rudy”, but something I’ve been wondering is; is that actually his name?
MS: Yes I’m glad you picked up on that. His name was so ingrained in me that I just assumed everyone would know and go with it. The funny thing is that everyone sort of did. I do have plans to fill in that poor writing gap though.
US: With a name like “Boundless!”, and with the characters having taken off for India at the end of the most recent episode (number 15 at the time of the interview), is it safe to say Rudy and Emily will be visiting more than just one country?
MS: Definitely. It will be a global series. I have lived all over the world and one of my biggest joys is in recognizing the connection we all have regardless of our cultural differences. I hope that Rudy and Emily are a meeting ground for many different cultures.
US: I’m sensing a love of travel in everything from the story to the website design. Is travel something that is important to you, Mike?
MS: Very. Travel became second nature to me since I lived in and visited so many different counties throughout my life. I am recognizing now that I probably could not tell the story without those experiences.
US: Emily’s references to anxiety and being a Millennial seem curiously specific. Do you put a lot of yourself into the characters you’re writing?
MS: I would say so. It’s also an observational joke I felt worth noting. I think all age demographics have anxiety, but it seems millennials have a lot of morbid humor about it. Maybe a coping mechanism.
US: The website has several images that do not feature in any of the published episodes (such as a pair of men on a motorcycle with guns!) Are these indicators of what’s to come, or are they non-sequitors for set-dressing?
MS: Yea that’s actually a small peek. I have a lot in store for the story. I really look forward to some of the action scenes.
US: Following on from the last question; how planned out is the rest of the story?
MS: I have the general idea and direction of the story until the end of the first couple of books. I keep it relatively vague though, just so I can enjoy the ride along with the readers. It seems to work well that way, the story might become rigid if I write everything out in advance.
US: Tell me about your workflow? How do you create each episode from start to finish and what tools are you using?
MS: Currently I use a physical piece of paper to sloppily block out the frames, then write in the text, potential ideas, and setting as if it were a screenplay. After that, I start working on the final illustration and text in photoshop. I used to have to work over my old sketches, but episode 14 was the last pre-sketched content. Now I have way more freedom to push my creativity.
US: Do you ever find you have a creative block, and what do you do when that happens?
MS: I only seem to have blocks when I‘m not inspired. This happens when I do freelance work. I feel like I have to walk down to a well to fill up my bucket of inspiration. With Boundless!, it just rains for me. I forget I’m the creator. It exceeds my own expectations in a really lucky sort of way.
US: How do you find having set yourself a weekly release schedule?
MS: Really difficult right now. Until I get enough supporters and re-route some financial strategies around Boundless!, I have to keep working my other jobs to make ends meet. This means that late nights are a standard and I don’t always make the deadline I set for myself. I know we will get there though, it’s just a matter of patience.
US: I love that the website is multimedia and quite evocative of cinema in some ways. Have you created the website yourself? The interactive globe is a really nice touch. You also have music to accompany areas of the story. How did that come about – has it been created specifically for Boundless!, and if so, by whom?
MS: The music was also my creation. I love making soundtracks and grand pieces. Once Boundless! started taking off, it came to me that I could just write music for my own story. It’s another way for me to not only express myself but again emphasize how grand the story is.
US: What led to your decision to release Boundless! as a webcomic as opposed to a form of print release?
MS: With the right contract I actually plan on getting signed with a major publisher. It is the easiest place to build readers right now. I am going to do both print and digital though. Digital came first because of the low barrier to entry.
US: What do you see as the future for Boundless!? What would be your ideal outcome for the project?
I see a lot coming out of it, but here are some of the ideas I had in mind. A volume of large adventure comics (graphic novel format) sold in major book stores. A steady amount of patrons to survive while creating comics full time. Potentially a film, and also an online store (which will be remodeled and open soon.)
US: Do you have a time when you aim to have the whole of the story completed by?
Not so much. I have some significant turning points and potential end points, but nothing set in stone at this time.
US: I see that, like Unsung Superheroes, you have a Patreon for Boundless!. How important is it to the future of Boundless!?
MS: It is the lifeline to Boundless!. I’m super fortunate that people are signing up and joining. It is vital to making this story truly something special. I could always hack away at this till I’m keeling over, but once I can commit more hours towards the story people will start to understand how much of a movement we are creating here.
US: Tell us a little more about yourself. Is Boundless! your first comic project? Is comic creation full-time for you, or do you have other irons in the fire so to speak? How easy is it for you to fit time spent creating Boundless into your life?
MS: I currently work a corporate leadership role while also doing a lot of freelance art. I am cutting out all additional freelance work starting December 2020. In 2021 I plan to commit a lot of time and energy into Boundless, but will not be doing it full time just yet. The Boundless! income stream is not large enough to support my lifestyle yet. I usually stay up until about 2am working on it, but I have also been doing this for a while now. It’s not so bad once you get used to it.
My first comic project was when I was in college. I created a strip called “Henry.” It was really bad, both the jokes and the drawings, but still just as important as anything I do now. It gave me the first experience of being a cartoonist and a clear understanding that I was not good at drawing yet.
US: Yes – I’m familiar with the late nights working on the comic after a day at work! What influences do you think are present in Boundless! – be they from other comics, or anywhere else such as films, music, or anything else.
MS: I would say music and character development comes from Pixar. I drive a lot of inspiration from those storytelling masters. As far as comics go, I got my original inspiration to pick up a pencil and draw after I read Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson.
US: Finally, as an independent comic creator, are there any other fellow independent creators or projects that you would like to recommend people check out?
MS: I would say that people should check out David Revoy of Pepper and Carrot. He has a great story and he has it available to the public on his website in chapters.
US: Thanks Mike. I look forward to seeing what’s next for Rudy and Emily.
You can read “Boundless!”, listen to the soundtrack, play with the interactive globe and more at https://boundlessthecomic.squarespace.com
Boundless! has an Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/boundlessthecomic/
You can check out its Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Rudy_fox_
You can help support the project at: https://www.patreon.com/BoundlessTheComic
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