Welcome to the first installment of SYFY WIRE's Crowdfunding Creators, a series that highlights original work by artists looking to make their way in the world on sheer talent and the kindness of strangers. The creators you read about here are in the midst of running campaigns via Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding sites to finance their original work — whether that be a comic, a TV series, a movie, or whatever else they can dream up.
For 13 years, Edison Creative has been telling stories for other people. Owner Luke Bolin and his crew in Omaha, Nebraska, would like to change that. But they can't do it alone.
"About three years ago, Dillon [Wheelock], our lead illustrator, came in with his sketchbook and had these characters drawn," Bolin tells SYFY WIRE. "And we looked at those and were like, 'Man, this is pretty awesome.'"
Through the pages of his sketchbook, Wheelock introduced the Edison Creative team — a crew of video production professionals — to Rake, a young man with a fake robotic leg and a cable lasso that labeled him as a sort of sci-fi western hero. Or, in Rake's case, an anti-hero. Rake was a thief, an augmented "organic" in a world ruled by robots.
The Axiom Chronicles developed from there.
"The story is set in outer space on a planet in the far reaches of the cosmos, where an ancient and mysterious crystalline power source has been discovered," series co-creator Coban Rudish tells SYFY WIRE. Through a scientific mishap, this crystalline power source, the Axiom, gave power to a group of robots. Fast-forward a few hundred years and the robots have named themselves the "Mechno-Hive" and have taken control of the planet and enslaved the "organic races" — aka, the humans and animals — to do their bidding and act as a labor force.
"Inside the organic races, a lot of underground crime rings have sprung up, and there is a very seedy underbelly lifestyle that the organics are subjugated to live in," Rudish says. "Our main character, Rake, he's an agent of one of these crime rings. He starts out as kind of anti-hero type character… a criminal or thief... and, throughout a series of events, learns that destiny has a different path for him. He learns to harness the power of the Axiom crystal. And through that, of course, hopefully, he will overthrow the Mechno-Hive by the end of Season 5 or 6 or 7."
Edison Creative launched a Kickstarter campaign on January 18, looking to raise $20,000 to make its series a reality. As of February 8, the group had raised about $6,500; it has until March 1st to get fully funded. If it were to raise the money, Edison Creative would be able to focus its efforts on the series.
"What [Kickstarter] allows us to do is actually take the budget and put [The Axiom Chronicles] into our production schedule and get it done in a timely fashion," Bolin explains. "We're hoping for two to three months to finish the episode completely, and then [we want to] roll out the other ones as we get funding for those. But honestly, if we do get funded for Episode 1, we'll probably get another Kickstarter [started] immediately for Episode 2."
The $20,000 that Edison Creative is requesting to work on the series essentially keeps the lights on and allows the company to keep running despite its working on an in-house project. If the team weren't "bootstrapping" the series themselves, as Bolin says, and went for a more complicated, full-blown animated series, then the budget would be much bigger.
The series' animation style has the dual benefit of keeping the budget down and inspiring a sort of nostalgia, especially for the 20- and 30-somethings who grew up with their eyes glued to Cartoon Network.
"Stylistically, we definitely wanted to go for a bit more of a late '90s, early 2000s, kind of 2D Cartoon Network look," Rudish says. Specifically, Wheelock's illustrations take inspiration from the stylings of Samurai Jack. And it just so happened that Rudish's brother, Paul, worked on the original Samurai Jack series.
"We've kind of been looking to [Paul] for some mentorship, too," Bolin says. "It's been really cool to have the team assembled that we have. For some reason, we're all here… in Omaha, Nebraska."
Rudish jumps in to add that, "I always joke that I'm kind of hell-bent on proving to Hollywood that you can make television anywhere; you don't have to be in Hollywood to make television. I would love to prove that point with this whole thing. It's just my own secret agenda. You can live in the middle of a cow pasture and make cartoons."
The series' style isn't the only familiar part. The Axiom Chronicles tells a pretty familiar story, too. Wheelock compares it to Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings in that the series is an epic hero's journey; our hero, Rake, goes on a life-altering adventure and picks up a ragtag crew along the way. One member of his crew, Dunebot, becomes Rake's best friend and sidekick. That is, he becomes Rake's best friend once Rake overcomes his robot prejudice.
"Rake has to deal with the fact that all robots that he has ever encountered are part of the Mechno-Hive. And Dunebot, his buddy, is not," Rudish adds. "So there will be nice little vignettes in there about, y'know, Rake's essentially gotta deal with his racism towards robots."
But that won't come to fruition until later in the series. The team already has the overall plot of the first five seasons mapped out and has broken the first season into 12 distinct episodes. After working during some free time every Friday for the past year and a half, the seven-person team behind The Axiom Chronicles has finished the first half of the pilot episode. It's a lot of work, but it's a labor of love.
If their fellow organics are generous enough, maybe Edison Creative's lovable outlaw will be able to harness the power of the Axiom after all.