Published on February 9th, 2012 | by Stu.Art7
Why Comics Don’t Need Kickstarter
I’m going to come right out and say it. This isn’t going to be an objective article on the pros and con of Kickstarter and it’s role as a financial and creative catalyst in the world of comics. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s needed and actually think it may even be detrimental to indie and small press comics and pisses me off in general.
A large percentage of people reading this won’t know or care who I am. I often work by the pseudonym Stu.Art and I am an artist working in comics, illustration and t-shirt design. I also write, edit and self publish 10thology the Welsh Anthology. My work is a mixture of paid commissions, collaborative and self published projects. Those that need it, I fund myself. I am not a wealthy individual and I cannot afford to lose any amount of money on a project, but I am willing to take that chance because I believe in the worth, value and quality of the book and work I put into it. Quite simply put, I put my money where my mouth is.
First of all, I am going to be honest and say indie and small-press comics should be punk rock. Do it yourself. Show the ‘dinosaurs’ how it can be done, how you don’t need inflated budgets, over the top production values. How you and your mates can get together in your ‘garage’ and bang out your masterpiece with passion and energy. It might be a bit rough around the edges but the core of the intention is there and it rocks with people digging it.
Kickstarter gives creators the chance to generate cash for your project, using a crowd funding method. I have no objection to this process as an option for high cost projects, such as films, TV etc. Kickstarter did not invent this concept. Cost intensive, collaborative productions (however I still have to mention films such as Colin, made by a group of friends with the tools available to them in their spare time) have used this method for decades, offering a return on the investment when the project succeeds. Comics don’t need this.
If you have a good story, worth telling then you work to present that story to the best of your ability. If you’ve chosen comics for that platform, then all you really need to get your story out there is home computer and an internet connection. Web comics are hugely successful and popular and bypass the expensive part of publishing, printing and in fact, based on popularity, usually lead to a print run and interest from publishers such as Penny Arcade or The Loneliest Astronauts. You do not need $10,000+
Kickstarter has created a trend with some comics projects, that the money is being generated to either pay the artist (usually an unknown or unpublished artist) for the project or pay for an established or pro artist to do the cover to help sales of the finished book.
As an artist/illustrator I do not endorse the expectation of artists to work for free and/or for a portfolio piece or a fictional ‘back-end’ payments. Comics are a collaborative entity between writer and artist with the bulk of time consumption being on the artists side. Nobody would ever make the suggestion to a carpenter that they should build a cabinet for no payment, but they can show it as an example of their work in their portfolio, however the internet is full of writers, companies all expecting this and unfortunately, artists will do this and I have been guilty of this in the past.
Getting back to the point, the bulk of the indie projects and associated creators are made up of writer and artist teams that are clearly friends.
Am I being too old school in my approach to producing small-press work? Is my DIY punk rock ethic an out dated approach to making an indie book? The answer is “Fuck you. No I am not.” Assuming the path of success as a creator is still to self publish, gain success and notoriety by building a fan-base and following, by getting your books out there at conventions, using this success to get work from a small publisher before moving on to one of the big publishers (this approach to success in comics is out dated and antiquated, but that’s another article) going straight to Kickstarter is nothing more than ego stroking in my honest opinion. Pay your dues. The lessons learned working within the restrictions (yes restrictions, it takes skill to produce a stand out story in just 5 pages in an anthology collection with other creators) are invaluable to the progression of both writer and artist.
So far I’ve only covered small press/indie creators. There are ‘Pro’s’ who are using Kickstarter to fund creator owned projects.
Somebody [Ed - This was me, Gav, I brought this rant down upon you] said to me to me jokingly today that Pro’s using Kickstarter “create books for the people by the people”. My considered response was ‘Bull shit!”.
There are quite simply 2 core reasons why a Pro would use Kickstarter as far as I can see. Creator owned projects are quite simply put, potentially more lucrative for the creators, especially when it comes to that all important movie deal! Alternatively, it’s a labour of love and despite publishers not leaping on or wanting to take the book, the creators want it to live regardless.
Garth Ennis, the man behind Preacher and many other Vertigo titles is currently using Kickstarter to raise $12000 for ‘ERF’ a Children’s book…How many Ennis fans give a shit about a kids book illustrated by the guy who did Flanimals with Rick Gervais? Exactly! I struggle to believe claims of “We have had some interest from publishers, but decided to self publish to keep control of the story”. Pig shit! None of Ennis’ previous work will help him sell a family friendly kids book and I bet every publisher approached felt exactly the same way.
Pro creators using Kickstarter raises further questions. Crowd funding of projects traditionally has the potential for investors to see a return on their investment. The only possible financial winners of a Kickstarter project will be the creators. You donate your cash for them to get paid and make their book, which then gets a movie deal for $XXXXX. You as an investor see none of that, simply a copy of the book, a hug at a convention and a polite fuck off? Yet without you, the book would not have existed?
Horse shit! Of course it would, as web comic or as a self funded project, because if the creators really wanted to get their story out there, they will.
Enough about the creators using Kickstarter. Let’s look at Kickstarter itself.
Kickstarter is flawed in more ways than one. A recent example of this was Alex De Campi’s project ‘Ashes’, written by De Campi and illustrated by Jimmy Broxton. Many of you will have read on-line how one of the greatest success stories of Kickstarter, raising over $30,000, De Campi and Broxton split over ‘creative differences’.
This has gone on to be, in all honesty, a massively entertaining soap opera of back and forth “he said she said”. Make your own mind up on this, it does however raise a couple of interesting questions, that forced answers. What happens to those who pledged just for Broxton’s art? As far as I can tell, there is now escrow system to hold the money. In her defence, De Campi did openly speak with her investors and offer a refund to those who wanted it based on Broxton’s departure, but it could have easily gone the other way. What process does Kickstarter have in this event to protect you as an investor? After the money has been paid?
I wonder whether this is the first example of this creative spilt on Kickstarter, or is it just the most high profile split?
If you want to generate funds to help with a print run, if you absolutely HAVE to put your work into print, take pre-order payments to help fund the print run. Use Kickstarter for that as a recognized, safe and trusted (?) vehicle for your customers to use.
The costs of making a comic book are just paper, ink and time, You can do it yourself, and you know what? People, me included will respect you more for it.
Stuart Tipples is currently working hard on a new Kickstarter project to generate £50,000 to sit on his ass and quit the day job to write and draw a graphic novel about all things awesome and pretend he is a full time comics professional.