Wedged between towers of titles in a crammed corner of a Steveston book store, Darcy Van Poelgeest appears genuinely taken aback by the instant success of his arrival into the world of comic book writing.
A little more than eight months ago, Van Poelgeest was still directing TV commercials and harboured more hope than expectation for his debutant adult comic release – Little Bird – in March.
However, the Steveston-based author’s sci-fi creation – built around a 12-year-old Indigenous girl’s resistance against a theocratic North American empire – has been such a hit, his directing career has slid to the back burner.
After five issues, more than 100,000 copies of Little Bird have been sold, with the series now being compiled into a graphic novel and launched in hardback this week.
“I was very surprised,” smiled Van Poelgeest, while sipping coffee at Village Books on First Avenue, where he’s hosting a book-signing this Saturday, Nov. 23 from 6 to 9 p.m.
“I didn’t get into this with the intention of (doing it full-time). But Little Bird has been so successful and I got the green light from my publisher to do another book, so I’m now working on that. I guess I had to make a choice.”
Creative writing, added Van Poelgeest, was “always my passion.”
“About six years ago, when I started to write Little Bird, I really had the itch to get back to writing. (Little Bird) came from a lot of places.
“She’s within a pocket of resistance in the Rocky Mountains, amid a dystopian, theocratic American empire that has taken all of North America.
“At the beginning of my directing career, I did a lot of documentary work I did work for non-profits and the government and was interviewing elders.
“I spent a long time learning about the legacy of the residential schools.
“A lot of the time, at the forefront of these issues today, it’s Indigenous people and/or women.
“So it seemed like, if I was to project 2,000 years in the future, and someone was going to be leading a resistance in terms of defending and keeping land, this seemed like the right fit (for an Indigenous female).”
Van Poelgeest said an unusual aspect to the narrative, despite his obvious Canadian roots, is that it’s set in his homeland.
“A lot of Canadian writers feel the pressure to write American stories, due to financial success and the population outside of Canada,” he explained.
“People don’t want stories, generally, that they don’t relate to. But this is very much set in Canada. We have lots of great stories to tell and (telling American stories) was a trend I didn’t want to be part of.”
Van Poelgeest said around 10,000 copies of the hardcover are being published, with the distinct possibility of a sell-out.
The author and his five-strong team, including an artist and colourist, are now working on another book, called Precious Metal, which takes places in the same universe as Little Bird, but with a totally new story.
“In Little Bird, we managed to create a very big world, where there’s a lot of genetically modified beings and strange characters, so we wanted to develop that,” said Van Poelgeest, who was on the panel for the New York City Comic Con in October.
“The whole book is made by just the five of us. It’s like making a really small film with a small crew but creating big sci-fi stories.
“I’m not one to rest on any accolades. When I finish working on something, I don’t really think about it anymore.
“I treat every project like it’s my first. Any pressure I felt with the first one, I’m going to feel it again. (The pressure) is always there to create something new and interesting.”
And at Saturday’s signing in Steveston, $5 from every book sold is being donated to the Girls Club, a peer support group for girls on the autism spectrum.
Van Poelgeest’s daughter, Audrey, 11, is autistic and is part of the club.