Graphic novel artist Gerry Kissell and "Sons of Anarchy" actor Kurt Yaeger aren't waiting for a greenlight from Hollywood to create a physically disabled action hero — they're teaming up to do it themselves through Kickstarter.
Kissell, best known for his work with IDW Publishing ("Code Word: Geronimo," "Iron Sky"), has turned to the crowdfunding website to raise $8,000 to produce and publish "Vindicated, Inc," a graphic novel about a double-amputee Delta Force soldier-turned-vigilante suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Kissell hopes to produce a movie adaptation as soon as next year.
"This is going to be a film. It's gonna happen," Kissell told TheWrap. "Even if we choose not to use Kickstarter, we've got the backers."
Kissell wouldn't unveil any specifics about partners who have already agreed to independently finance what he expects to be a $10 million film. But he said multiple directors are already interested in the project, including "Iron Sky" director Timo Vuorensola.
Yaeger (left) — a real-life amputee who is lending his likeness to the comic book character and is involved in the creative process — would star in the film adaptation as the elite soldier, who wages war against Seattle's criminal underworld with a pair of prosthetic limbs.
"I felt that Kurt would bring so much more believability to it, and I did not want to have a person with nothing but green screen on their legs playing the part," said Kissell, a former Army medic. "You're shortchanging the audience, and you're also letting down the disabled audience by having someone who has not experienced what they experienced, as well. And Kurt brings that. And I think he owns the character now."
Yaeger's physical appearance and experience as an amputee aren't his only similarities with the character. The actor also suffers from PTSD, but didn't always know it. He said he was traumatized by the motorcycle accident that cost him his left leg below the knee.
"Being an amputee has allowed me to work with a lot of military veterans and organizations," Yaeger said. "By helping them, I realized I was dealing with a little bit of PTSD from the motorcycle accident, which I didn't realize I fully had. I just thought it was me losing my mind a little bit."
"Vindicated" is carefully crafted by Kissell and his team of writers — all of whom are military veterans — to portray a disabled soldier living with PTSD as accurately and honestly as possible. Readers, and eventually viewers, will see the character go through therapy and military medical board evaluations as he progresses toward recovery.
"I wanted to show people, for the first time, what a character would be like who has it," Kissell said. "I really wanted to address what PTSD is and not treat it like it's something that is dark and foreboding, because it kind of has its funny moments in your life. But then there's a dark side of PTSD, too… we're going to show both sides of it."
Kissell also hopes to show just how his "Vindicated" characters — including two paraplegic veterans serving as the eyes and ears of the vigilante operation — would use their military skillset to take on criminals and evade authorities. Dale Dye, the senior military advisor on productions including "Platoon" and "Saving Private Ryan," is serving as the technical consultant on both the graphic novel and the film.
While Kissell compares his complex crime fighter to "a modern version" of Captain America, and cites Batman and The Punisher as inspirations, his biggest influences are not superheroes.
"The reason I created a disabled veteran super hero was because, in this world, the real world, the only real super heroes we have, no one really notices," Kissell wrote on his Kickstarter campaign page. "This was my attempt to shine a light on them."