Category Archives: Crowdfunding

Creator’s Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 3: Creating the Campaign Page and Video

Now that you’ve done your research and brainstormed rewards, you’re ready to create the campaign page, considering all of these attributes: clarity, concise writing, transparency, and an engaging video.

If you’re a potential backer, looking for a project to support, you have a lot of options to sift through, which is why clarity and being concise is so important. After all, why should you expect a backer to spend extra time trying to understand a project or read unnecessary details when they can easily click on one of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other options? The only people who would spend time trying to understand a project that is unclear and overly lengthy in its description are friends and family. But they’re not the ones you want to design this page for, since they’ll probably support you anyway.

Next, to avoid seeming like you’re trying to con people out of their hard-earned money, strive to be as transparent as possible, both in the initial page and any subsequent updates. You need to be honest about costs, both financial and time (to produce content, ship it, etc..), so that backers know you’re not asking for more money than you need. Kickstarters aren’t designed to pocket the money after all; they’re supposed to funnel the money into a product and experience for passionate supporters.

This is also true of updates: if you’re running behind or if you got an unexpected discount/rebate, let your backers know and pass those savings onto them or give them the new timetable. Chances are, if you’re running a Kickstarter, you need audience support for later projects (on Kickstarter or just further issues/books/etc…), and an audience is more likely to return to a project that continually shines a light into all the corners instead of a project that pushes imperfect things into the corner shadows. Those shadows won’t cover them up for ever, so you might as well beat some investigative internet troller to the punch. And don’t just take it from me; look at this advice from a writer for Backer Kit:

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Image/Quote from Backer Kit

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to design an engaging video to sell your project to potential backers. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: But I just described it in the campaign details, so why should I do that again? It’s a reasonable and understandable question, and the simple answer is that most people–because of time, possible entertainment value, and ease of effort–prefer to get their information from a video source rather than a text-based one (I know, the English teacher and writer in me rebels at this idea, but ideals sometimes have to be set aside to deal with reality).

With that in mind, I looked at what a lot of other Kickstarters had done, and then pretty much preceded to ignore most of what I found, simply because I didn’t want to learn how to use video editing software on more than the most basic level. I knew a little–because I had to create some really bare bones videos for my students, especially the ones who had been absent and missed a lesson. But creating a video that delivers information clearly and creating a video that does that and does so engagingly are two different things. (Yeah, I probably should’ve tried to make them engaging for my students too, but time was an issue). After a few takes and some minor editing, this is the video I created:

Yeah, really impressive right? With a video like this I’m surprised I still raised enough funds. If I hadn’t had so much support from family and friends, I probably wouldn’t have. And this isn’t just something I subjectively feel: my video was played 118 times, but only 11% of people completed watching the whole video. (I found this out from yet another handy graphic/report available on Kickstarter after a project’s completion–see it below):

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I have no other campaigns to compare this to, so I don’t know for sure, but that seems like a very low number. Even if it’s not that low (relatively speaking, compared to other campaigns), there’s clearly a lot of room to improve. So take it from me, don’t learn the lesson the hard way, and instead, devote more time to actually making a creative, engaging video. Because, ultimately, this is your audience’s first chance to see what products you’re capable of making, and if you get off on your worst foot, how will you expect others to finish that journey with you?

You can also take advantage of something I completely ignored–well…actually didn’t know about, so it looks like I ignored it. Kickstarter Live is a way to interact–wait for it–live in video chats with backers.

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Images from Kickstarter Live

But, since we’ve got quite the journey ahead of us, it’s time for another break. I’ll see you on the trail shortly, for our next stage in that journey: promoting the Kickstarter for maximum return.

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It’s Alive! to Publish Family Man by Jerome Charyn and Joe Staton

Many years ago, DC Comics launched a non-superhero, non-science fiction, and non-fantasy imprint called Paradox Press, which produced such popular titles as Road to Perdition and A History of Violence.

One of the titles published by Paradox Press was an almost 300 page graphic novel (originally published as a three issue mini-series), entitled Family Man by Jerome Charyn and Joe Staton.

Family Man is set in the near future, when New York is a ruined city, the police are out of control and the Mafia families have all been wiped out. THE FAMILY MAN is Alonzo, haunted by the murder of his wife and children. His brother Charles is the leader of the police force and is coming ever closer to total power in the city. When Charles orders a round-up of all “criminal” elements into a makeshift prison camp, the various plots start to come apart and only Alonzo can save the city.

With the help of Eisner award-winning editor and designer Jon B. Cooke, It’s Alive! will take what was originally published in three digest-sized square bound comic books, and transform it all into a 300+ page, black and white, 8.25″ x 11″, hard cover graphic novel, with well researched historical essays about the creators, the imprint the comics originally came from, and the story itself.  A Kickstarter to help them raise the funds to publish this epic tale will be announced very soon!  Along with the ability to pick up a copy of the book itself, fans will have a shot at obtaining a page of Family Man original art, from the small handful of pages that Joe Staton will be making available. There will also be more original artwork and sketch rewards, donated by several incredible artists, including: Larry Hama, Paul Gulacy, Jamal Igle, Mark Wheatley, Timothy Truman, Batton Lash, Alex Saviuk, Scott Kolins, Rick Burchett, Ron Frenz, and many more!

Tee Franklin Talks Bingo Love

Tee Franklin discusses passion project Bingo Love, a graphic novella she created with artists Jenn St-Onge and Joy San. The project was posted on Kickstarter in mid-March and quickly reached its funding goal. Among other unique aspects, Bingo Love is a type of story that doesn’t exist anywhere else in comics–find out why you should check it out.

Graphic Policy: First, thank you for taking the time to speak to me! Would you mind introducing yourself?

Tee Franklin: Thanks so much for having me. I’m Tee Franklin, a writer with story in a few books, maybe you’ve heard of Image Comics’ Nailbiter and IDW/DC Comics Love is Love. I’m also the creator of #BlackComicsMonth.

GP: Your new comic, Bingo Love, is debuting on Kickstarter. Can you describe the project?

TF: Bingo Love is Black Mirror’s San Junipero meets Academy Award winning Moonlight. It’s got love, heartbreak, tragedy, and a honeymoon to Iceland.

GP: Based on the previews, the art and writing mesh beautifully. How did this creative team come together?

TF: The art and colors are absolutely a match made in heaven. I actually put out a tweet looking for LGBTQ women artists and colorists and Joy dropped her link in the tweet. Jenn and I have been trying to find the perfect project for us to work together on and Bingo Love worked out perfectly. After seeing the first page by both women, I knew this was going to be huge.

Editor Erica Schultz has been a great friend for years and she knows I have a phobia of the red ink, so she edits with various colors. Erica knew of Cardinal Rae’s lettering work and vouched for them.

We are The A-Team!

GP: You also have some great stretch rewards. Could you tell us about them?

TF: Oh goodness, we have skype sessions with Kelly Sue, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone and Steve Orlando. Script and portfolio reviews from Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, Patrick Thorpe, Shawn Pryor, Bryan Edward Hill and Erica Schultz, Of course variants from Nilah Magruder, Genevieve Eft, and Carla McNeil.

I’m truly blessed that there are so many creators who were willing to donate their time to help Bingo Love come to fruition.

GP: You’re also curating the Mental Health Anthology, which is set for crowdfunding later this year. I’ve noticed you’re using two different crowdfunding platforms. Is there a difference in how each platform allows you to fund and market these projects?

TF: The Mental Health Anthology will be happening later this year or possibly next year, depending on how things go. I will say that I was not mentally prepared to read a lot of these stories that many have shared and I have to practice self-care. This anthology is still happening as it means a lot to me.

The reason for Indiegogo is because Kickstarter doesn’t allow funds to go to charity and this project’s funds are going straight to charity after printing and shipping expenses.

GP: Your works have also covered a number of different genres. How do these allow you to explore different types of storytelling? Is there a genre you haven’t gotten to write or draw yet that you’d like to?

TF: I’ve built several worlds in my head. I had a very rough childhood, young adulthood and adulthood, so for me, my escape was the worlds that I created. I’m blessed that I can write different genres and not just known as the “horror” writer or the “all-ages” fantasy writer.

As far as what I’d like to write, it would just be DC Comics Vixen. I’m not a huge cape fan, but boy oh boy would I love to get a chance to write Vixen. I even have the pitch ready to go upstairs in my head.

GP: What drew you to comics as opposed to other forms of storytelling?

TF: Comics are just so damn cool. I got into comics as a child and even though it was all superheroes, there was something that grabbed my interest. As an adult, I’m over the capes. I want murder, mayhem, horror, dragons, romance, mystery, robbery, etc.

Just give me anything besides capes and make sure that there’s representation in the book!

GP: What freedoms does crowdfunding allow you as opposed to traditional publishing?

TF: I wouldn’t consider it freedom, it’s just me writing from my soul. These stories aren’t stories that traditional publishers wants, because they believe it won’t sell. The problem is they don’t know how to market these books and truly believe that POC won’t buy any books that tell vital stories. Judging by the Kickstarter being funded in 5 days, I beg to differ.

Do better publishers, the people want these stories by creators of color. Representation Matters.

GP: I remember reading you saying during Oscar season that there were no comics out that reflected the themes or experiences of the characters in Hidden Figures, Fences, or Moonlight. What were some of the thematic influences for Bingo Love?

TF: Yep. I definitely did say that. There are books out there, but they’re written by white creators and it doesn’t have the same narrative as these Oscar-nominated books. A few days before the Oscars, I watched Moonlight, (I heard about it, but never got a chance to catch it until it came out OnDemand.) and realized that the movie reminded me of Bingo Love.

These stories are needed, not just for film and tv, but also in books.

GP: What are you most excited for readers to see with this comic?

TF: Everything! This love story is one for the ages, it spans across a lifetime so there’s a wedding, a honeymoon, and DRAMA! We want to tell this vital story and hope that it resonates with everyone. I’d be over the moon if a senior citizen reached out to tell me that they lived this story.

GP: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I didn’t ask you about?

TF: Thanks so much for interviewing us for Graphic Policy. I know this is a different type of comic, but sometimes you need to embrace something that’s not the norm. Love is Love is Love is Love and this comic has so much love in it. We want everyone to be open and respectful to those who love differently than they do. We need more love and kindness in the world.

GP: Thank you again!

Frank Gogol Talks Comics, Kickstarter, and Grief

GriefIt’s not likely that Frank Gogol (The Comic Jam) is very different than you. He loves comic books, he’s known his share of tragedy in life. Like many of us, he has a love for writing, too. However, unlike many of us, Gogol has taken the numerous sorrows of his past and put them into comics. His new book Grief deals with the tragedy and loss he’s experienced in a relatively short life in ways that are fresh, varied and engaging.

In an effort to further pursue his dream, he launched a Kickstarter this week that you can view by click here. He took a moment to discuss the writing process, his inspiration and what has guided him during this time.

Graphic Policy: Grief draws a great deal from your personal tragedies in life. How long have you been writing these stories?

Frank Gogol: I feel like I’ve been writing these stories all my life, but the truth is I finished the first script, which was for the story “Embrace” in March of last year. I’ve always wanted to write comics, and had a few false starts over the years, but at the end of the 2015 I had to tell myself to commit or move on. So, I committed and signed up for the Intro to Comic Book Writing course with Comics Experience under the guidance of former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt. And it was like that class unlocked something in me. After that, the stories started to pour out and I wrote all of the stories in Grief in about six months.

grief 002GP: The stories in Grief are extremely varied in their content. Would you say this is a reflection of dealing with your singular emotional conflict in various ways? Or are each of these a catharsis of their own memories?

FG: The variety of the stories is both by design and by accident. Let me explain. When I had begun writing these stories, they were never meant to share space in any kind of collection. I had talked with Steve Orlando (Justice League of America, Supergirl) about breaking into comics, and his advice was to finish some stories, show some range, and get a portfolio in front of some editors, and so that’s what I tried to do. And it was about the time I had five or six of the stories that I started to see that, while they were incredibly different in terms of content, they did share a thematic link in that they were all about characters that were grieving. So, I ran with that and started crafting the next few stories to fit that thematic through-line.

The stories themselves, for the most part, deal with things that have happened in my or around my life. Some of them, like “Prayer” are essentially autobiographical, while others like “Cassandra” were inspired by events I witnessed and tied to stuff that was going on in my life. All of these stories, though, are cathartic. Stories and storytelling are how I’ve coped with and moved passed (mostly) my traumas.

GP: Drawing so much from experiences that are so tragic and yet unique to you, what do you think will appeal most to the average reader?

FG: What I think is so great about anthology-style books is that because there are a variety of stories, even if one story doesn’t speak to you, another might. There’s something for everyone. And I think that’s one of the virtues of Grief. If you don’t like stories that are dramas, there’s a couple of sci-fi stories in there for you. If you don’t like superhero stories, maybe the horror stories will be more your speed.

Grief is something that is universally experienced, so even if a reader doesn’t know first-hand what it’s like to raise an autistic son, they will understand how it feels to be frustrated or to feel like a failure.

grief 005GP: How has your life been changed as product of working through these stories?

FG: Truthfully, I think I’m in a much better place than I was before writing the stories. I had thought I had worked through a lot of the traumas in my life, but writing these stories really showed me how much further I had/have to go. I think certain terrible things we carry with us for the rest of our lives, but there’s definitely a healthy way to carry them, and I think that’s where I am now.

GP: Working with a wide variety of artists in this anthology series, how decide you assign them to each story? How much of the artist’s own personal trauma and tragedy were considered?

FG: One of the best and worst things about being a comic creator in the internet age is that you can work with virtually anyone anywhere on Earth. It’s great because you can find collaborators from different places and with different backgrounds. The downside is that it’s tougher to build relationships with your collaborators when you only ever communicate with them via email.

So, I don’t know for a fact that any of my collaborators incorporated any of what they’ve been through into their art, colors, or letters. But I am a firm believer that life experiences, good and bad, influence how creators make their art, so I’m sure that my collaborators’ experiences are there on the page.

GP: In the Kickstarter, Grief is an exclusively digital book. As a creator, where do you think the future of comics lies? Is a peaceful co-existence between physical and digital or will be left behind?

FG: I know that some people are concerned about digital coming in and replacing paper comics, but I don’t think that’s something to worry about. For me, each serves a similar, but different purpose. Paper comics are for reading, but also collecting and bagging and boarding. Digital comics, though, are for reading and re-reading. Over the last few years, especially as I’ve been studying comic writing craft, digital comics have just made more sense for me. I read comics, but I revisit the stories and study the art, so having them larger and on my computer screen really helps with that. I do still buy some paper comics, but it’s mostly writers I follow and my friends who are getting books printed. Otherwise, I stick to digital.

grief 001GP: Your Kickstarter looks amazing, by the way. Being your first, what help did you receive or what insight helped you to forge something as impressive as this?

FG: Thanks! I really was a labor of love.

If there is one person I am most indebted to for how the campaign page turned out, it’d have to be Tyler James from the ComixLaunch podcast. I started listening to ComixLaunch about a year ago, thinking that someday I’d run a Kickstarter, and the knowledge Tyler offers how Kickstarter is invaluable.

That said, many, many people helped me with getting this page right. I’m a part of a couple of online communities, and I reached out to the members of those communities often for feedback, and that was really helpful, too.

And, on top of all of that, it certainly didn’t hurt that by day I worked in marketing and have a background in graphic design.

GP: In terms of being promotion and getting the word out, as a new writer leading indie talent, I imagine it’s difficult to really get your project out there. What have been the keys to your success in that regard?

FG: That’s probably the biggest hurdle in front of any new creator. Those online communities I mentioned have been a big help with starting to build a following, though. Reddit communities and Facebook groups geared toward comic books are really great spots to share indie comics because they are extremely targeted to begin with. I think, for me, the key to getting people excited about my work has been interacting with them. It’s one thing to write a story and share it. It’s another, more powerful thing, to connect with a reader through a story.

GP: What advice would you offer to other people who are looking to get their own comic book project funded and developed?

FG: I’m not sure I have anything thing revelatory to offer that hasn’t been said before and often, but the piece of advice that really helped me was to start and finish a project. I started with very manageable 5-page stories, which allowed me to start and finish a project easily and learn the process. It’s got a domino-like effect. You finish one, and then you finish a second, and then a third, and it gets easier each time.

grief 003GP: Moving forward, do you feel Grief has helped you leave some of the heartache and pain behind you?

FG: Yes, definitely. I don’t hold it as an absolute truth, but I do think that a lot of people write because they have stuff to work through. It’s definitely true for me. Like I said earlier, some stuff we carry with us forever, but we can learn to carry it in a healthy way, and writing Grief helped me to do that with some of my traumas.

GP: What story are you working on next?

FG: I’ve got a couple of scripts ready to go right now. I’m always trying to do or learn something new when I write, so no two are the same, either. One story is Silence of the Lambs meets superheroes. Another is an all-ages story that deals with what it’s like to be adopted. There’s a third script about artificial intelligence and guilt. I’m not sure which will be next just yet, but I do know I have a lot of stories to tell still. Right now, I’m focusing on making sure the Grief Kickstarter campaign is a success and offers backers a lot of value.

 

You can check out the Grief Kickstarter here.

Patrick Healy is a writer/artist who makes pins and chews bubble gum. He has ample amounts of both. But you can find his pins here.

Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 2: Rewards

Now, that I’d done my research (see my first post, located here), I started creating the project: first focusing on rewards. I followed the lead of Kickstarter and other advice found in my research, and I asked my artist Juan Romera what he could offer.  He offered a few things, but the winners mainly consisted of sketches of varying sizes.

Other than getting Juan’s suggestions, I had to consider a few more things. First, I had to be realistic about what Juan and I could do in a reasonable amount of time following the Kickstarter’s completion. While I might want to write a 50 page short story for every backer that gave me $100, it’s not realistic to do so.

In connection to this, I had to be realistic with the cost of rewards. It might be cool to print copies of the book for every backer that donated $1, but with a $3 cost per printed issue, that would only leave me in a worse financial position than I was in before the Kickstarter.

I also had to consider a fan perspective: while some behind the scenes stuff is cool, if I go too in-depth with those types of rewards, I would only entice creators, not fans.

After all this thought, I came up with what I believed were the best variety of rewards, balancing costs at the same time (for all of us: myself, Juan, and the Kickstarter backers)

I started with some basic rewards (pdfs of the first comic for $1, pdfs of the first two issues for $2, I’d follow you on Twitter or friend you on Facebook for $5, rewards that didn’t cost me much), and mentioning the backer in a closing acknowledgment or opening dedication for $10 or $20 respectively. Then I started jumping prices on the rewards more: $25 for a look at my first comic script ever, for an unpublished comic called The Eye of the Beholder, and a behind the scenes look at Rebirth of the Gangster–on sale at Amazon as “First Shot: The Making of Rebirth of the Gangster.

I followed these with my high tier rewards: popular ones like original sketches by Juan for $35 and $55 depending on the size (as limited offers, which made it realistic to ask this of Juan) and some other rewards that didn’t work so well, like naming Marcus’s grandpa, and feedback from me on a script the backer wrote. But my most popular and lucrative rewards were making a cameo for $100 and getting an interview with me for $125; the cameo was limited to three backers, so it also was realistic to add a few new roles in a 22 page script, and the interviews are things I would do to promote the comic anyway, so I wasn’t really hurting with a time-commitment on that one, even though it wasn’t a limited offer.

As a last note, all of my rewards were cumulative–if you paid $10, you’d get that reward and the ones below that. The only exception to this were the limited offer rewards that only let a few people purchase them; those limited offer rewards received everything below it, but rewards above them couldn’t get the limited offer reward.

One of the handy features of Kickstarter is that you can see how the rewards break down, both in terms of how many were purchased and in the context of how much that reward contributed to your overall goal. See below for some of my key results after my campaign succeeded:

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Piccameoreward-page-001

Picsketchreward-page-001

 

The above rewards didn’t have many backers–partly because they were limited offer rewards, only letting 2 or 3 people receive them–but clearly they helped my campaign the most, contributing to 62% of my total money raised.

 

Pic2reward-page-001

Pic1reward-page-001

The smallest donations for rewards–seen above–didn’t help my overall campaign fund much (only 3% of total funds raised), but I like to think they’re still useful, because they get more people reading my comic than would otherwise.

Reflections on my rewards, post-campaign

The success of my rewards hinged on a few things:

  1. Low cost rewards offer little risk to backers with the large reward of backers feeling like they made a project happen.
  2. High cost rewards were most attractive when backers were directly involved–and readers could see their involvement–in some component of the creation, like having a cameo. This was my most successful reward; many asked if I could add another cameo reward (and I added one, but stopped at that, because I wanted to save Juan’s sanity).
  3. High cost rewards were also attractive when they backers were delivered some unique product, like an original sketch from Juan
  4. Some high cost rewards–like the interview–didn’t attract people for the reward, just for the chance to feel good about supporting my project in a big way. I actually didn’t have requests from interviews for these backers–they were friends and family that supported in a big way.

The failure of some rewards popped up because of a few other reasons:

  1. Most people don’t want to pay money for social media connections. They probably realize that I would want to connect with them anyway, so I can have more options of getting the word out. This reward was mainly self-serving on reflection, and many backers saw that.
  2. The smaller sketch artwork was too small (I even had one or two backers change from that reward to the bigger one because they didn’t think about that size closely enough). Essentially, backers want a sketch that’s around a typical comic book size (8×11).
  3. Maybe because I wasn’t established enough, but the reward promising feedback didn’t work at all. I’m sure for established greats like Neil Gaiman and Alison Bechdel, that’d work. But then again, they probably wouldn’t be using Kickstarter.
  4. Although people were interested in the behind the scenes stuff, I didn’t get a lot of positive feedback about that: just positivity about the comic and the opportunity to support it in a more meaningful way than a few bucks.

 

Ideas for reward in next campaign, based on reflection (and assuming I’d do another campaign)

A few months back–about two issues away from being done with my first story arc and graphic novel–I started thinking about another Kickstarter campaign, only this time funding a printed copy instead of digital copy of the series. I always planned on releasing individual issues as digital copies only and then releasing graphic novels as both printed and digital copies, partly to save costs and partly because as a comic reader I really only buy trades.

I brainstormed a new list of Kickstarter rewards, keeping the oldies but goodies and adding some new ideas for a wider reach and better fan appreciation. While I eventually decided to just go with Amazon’s print on demand service (since it saves me the financial commitment of purchasing a specific print run; it also saves me the time and cost of a Kickstarter campaign; and it ultimately avoids the issues of purchasing a specific print run–namely, buying too many or not enough copies of the graphic novel).

kickstarter rewards next campaign

 

Really, I decided that running another Kickstarter wasn’t worth the headache at this point in the graphic novel’s publication (and at this point of the school year–as a teacher, I know that the end of the school year is always the most hectic, so it wasn’t worth it to me to stretch myself so thin with another Kickstarter). I wanted any extra work done on my comic to affect my comic itself–the story and the art–not the publication of it. Despite this conclusion, I thought it would be useful to share with you my list of possible rewards and my reasons for keeping some rewards, jettisoning others, and adding some new stars.

Here they are:

  1. I wanted to keep the Twitter/Facebook rewards but with a twist. In my first campaign, I promised to follow/friend people, but it seems like people were more interested in a shout out of appreciation. I would change it to the shout out and reduce the price, since that would be a good small investment–others like the idea in my first campaign but not the price.
  2. I’d still keep pdf copies as rewards for small-time investors, although making them more expensive than the Twitter/Facebook rewards.
  3. Since people liked the cameo, I decided to add a “Suggest a Character” reward for about $10; that way I wouldn’t have to commit to a lot of characters if I only have room in the outline of a certain issue for a few, but it still gives backers a feeling of contributing to the project financially and creatively.
  4. I’d also keep the Acknowledgments reward, since I think people deserve a shout out on the graphic novel.
  5. I’d add a printed copy, since that’s the reward, and I’d price it at retail price, about $20-25. That way, I wouldn’t be losing money and backers would still feel it’s a deal, because they’d get the printed copy and the rewards leading up to it.
  6. For about $10 more, I’d offer a signed printed copy with either just me or just Juan signing it. Promising both would lead to big mailing fees and time concerns that wouldn’t be worth it to me.
  7. Although the interview reward worked well, I’d change it by lowering its price and offering a guest blog post as an alternative to the interview/podcast appearance. Some smaller websites prefer that since it adds to their site without too much time commitment from them. And, as I think I’ve mentioned, most people who backed this didn’t even request an interview, so I wanted to give another option to widen its appeal.
  8. I’d keep the cameos and sketches from Juan, unchanged, since those were the most successful.
  9. I’d add two videos: a director’s cut video for a specific issue and a director’s cut on how to create a comic in general. Stay tuned to later posts for some video analysis: it helps, but the one video I had on my campaign needed improvement, something I’d hope to do here too.
  10. My last two additions would be new rewards: I’d write something that looked like fan-fiction, creating a 5 page story of the backer in the Rebirth of the Gangster universe. I’d also offer a 2-page short story, unconnected to this universe. Because of the length, I’d ask for more for the Rebirth of the Gangster fan fiction style story. Both are short, because I wanted to balance reward with the time commitment on my part.

Eventually, I might use these rewards for a campaign later in the publication of Rebirth of the Gangster, or even in the publication of one of my other story ideas (The Others Behind the Wall, a mix between Lovecraftian horror and Stranger Things sci-fi, and A Story for Kari, a fantasy that uses my own long-term relationship as the basis for the romance). But before that day, there is still more from my first Kickstarter campaign to reflect on and use for future planning. But I’ll cover that in later posts in this series, so stay tuned!

Ryan K. Lindsay Talks the All-Ages Comic Ink Island

Ryan K. Lindsay is an Australian writer who has written the EIR all ages one-shot he Kickstarted with Alfie Gallagher, the critically acclaimed Negative Space miniseries at Dark Horse with Owen Gieni on art, the upcoming Beautiful Canvas from Black Mask with Sami Kivelä, the CHUM mini with Sami Kiveä, and he also made Headspace at Monkeybrain Comics/IDW with Eric Zawadzki + Sebastian Piriz/Marissa Louise/Dee Cunniffe on art. He wrote a short story for the Vertigo CMYK anthology and was blessed to see Tommy Lee Edwards illustrate it, his Fatherhood one-shot was once one of the top selling ComiXology Submit titles, and he once sold out to write a My Little Pony Rainbow Dash one-shot.

He has a brand new project, Ink Island, currently running on Kickstarter. I got a chance to talk to him about the all-ages comic.

Graphic Policy: Ink Island just went live on Kickstarter. Could you describe the project a bit?

Ryan K Lindsay: INK ISLAND is an all ages one shot comic that’s about two children – my own two children – who are the caretakers of a lighthouse whose function is to keep the monsters in the dark away. So when the globe breaks, they have to scramble to fix it, and in that moment, my daughter is kidnapped.

From there we have a story that’s about conquering fear, and gender roles, and sibling relationships. The book has some beautifully funny moments, mostly because my co-creator/artist Craig Bruyn brings an extremely expressive and cheeky art style to this book, but we also want to drop some real emotion in when we can.

Our campaign is allowing us to fund a print run of the book, and get Craig paid, and get a set of teaching resources into the hands of people who want to read and then analyse this comic.

GP: Craig Bruyn’s art is great! I know you’ve referenced Skottie Young when talking about the art, but it also reminds me of Justin Bleep, who has this really dynamic style. Besides gorgeous art, what does Craig bring to the story?

RKL: Craig brought a lot of heart to the story. The way he brings out the character moments, whether they be human or Inky, was such a delight to unfold. And then there’s his story capabilities, his knack for being able to take a page of story/information and tell it in a coherent and dynamic way. Craig knows from page layouts, and you can see he’s always working to get the right angle or showcase the best panel.

He’s also just the biggest gentleman to work with. He’s stupidly humble, he’s insanely reliable, and I love that the final beat of the issue was actually all his idea.

GP: In addition to the plot, what sets this story apart from other books aimed at a similar audience? In other words, are there things missing from the genre that you wanted to include?

RKL: I’d feel arrogant to say I’m crushing the all ages funk in a totally new way and better than others, but the things I wanted to focus on in this book were the ideas of overcoming fears, and what gender roles look like as presented to small children.

The main act change of the book revolves around Parker realising his sister, Elliot, has been kidnapped and then having to step up to mount a rescue mission. But we never see what Elliot is doing so we can’t confirm whether she really needs rescuing at all. It’s a big aspect of the comic I wanted to unpack in general, but also very specifically between my two children. My son is very thoughtful and empathetic whereas my daughter is a UFC-level weapon. But they both crossover in that they’d each help the other whenever they thought it was needed.

But I think, for me, it wasn’t about bringing something incredibly new to the genre because it was more about proving I can also play in this genre. Most of my other work is so dark and brutal, I wanted something my kids could read. Something my class could read.

GP: You’re also no stranger to Kickstarter–this is your fifth! For you, what is the draw of a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter?

RKL: I love Kickstarter. That ability to connect with your readership directly is amazing. I specifically love it because for one month you can offer a slew of special items that will only ever be available for that month. I’m doing an Audio Commentary for this comic, and have done so on previous comics, and those have never been available again.

You could sell the comic on your site forever and a day, but there’s no excitement, there’s no necessity. With Kickstarter, you create the excitement and immediacy through a well-run campaign, and readers respond fantastically well.

GP: How does your experience as someone who teaches comics influence how you create them?

RKL: It influenced me many years ago because I didn’t just try to write comics, I studied them first. I studied, I learned by doing through dozens of unpublished [and unpublishable] scripts, and then I started branching out from there.

Now that I’ve written a few things, I do try to write with an eye for the things I like to analyse in the works of others, but I try not to be too obvious about what I’m aiming for. You want it to feel natural, not forced. And I don’t want to be didactic in my narrative approach or explanations. My stories better not read as lessons, they should grab an emotion before they then slip up into your brain.

GP: That’s really fascinating–the balance between writing comics that can be used as a teaching tool and comics that are interesting and gripping, plot-wise. On the flip-side of this, why do you think comics make such a great teaching tool?

RKL: Comics are exceptionally great tools for teaching reading because there’s so much reader engagement required. It’s a great medium to have story/information presented – through text and images, and how they interact – but then there’s the subtle stuff that’s there, so it’s not blindly inferred, but it’s still up to the reader to analyse, such as colours or how much is skipped over in the gutters. There are so many elements to a comic that you can spend a long long time pulling the threads apart.

I also think there’s the aspect that comics don’t feel confrontational. They are inviting, they’re pretty, and people mistake that for meaning they are for struggling readers, and while you can see why they’d appeal to someone who doesn’t want to stare down a wall of text in a novel, that does not necessarily equate to comics having easy or simple stories.

GP: Do you have favorite comics to teach?

RKL: I teach young kids, so I love using books like HILDA, because man-oh-man do I love Hilda. That book is phenomenal, and so easy, and yet so textured and layered. I also dig BONE, and THE SMURFS and certain superhero books if they aren’t too violent.

If I’m teaching adults, you can’t go past BATMAN: YEAR ONE. I’d love to teach THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST, or PAPER GIRLS.

GP: I took a class in college where BATMAN: YEAR ONE was on the book list, but not required, and I always find it interesting to see which books people choose to teach because it varies so much. Are there certain things you think we can learn from superhero books versus creator-owned books?

RKL: I believe the only thing you learn from comics is how to makenglod comics, so cape or by shouldn’t matter – however, having just completed the DC Writers’ Workshop with Scott Snyder, there is one big difference.

Superhero books can play more operatic, the stakes can be elevated. There’s nothing like the literal fate of the world to make a comic sing, whereas sometimes you don’t need that and you just need a personal take.

Consider THE VISION against DAYTRIPPER. Themes crossover but one book gets to play against the might of every Marvel hero, whereas the other is real that it can better grind your heart up.

GP: What’s the biggest challenge of creating an all-ages comic?

RKL: Not killing a bunch of characters off at the end. I love noir, and my mind skews to warped endings, so that’s a big one. Then there’s the matter of making it engaging, having some big “Oh, cool!” moments, because I never feel like I do that part all that well.

I want to use rich language, and I’m happy if kids have to pause to ask a parent what a word means, but I don’t want the verbosity to drive anyone away. There’ a balance, and I’m sure I’ll find it one day.

GP: Ink Island is also a huge departure from many of your other comics. Do you have a preferred genre? Do these different genres allow you to experiment with different types of storytelling?

RKL: My preferred genre is a sci fi/crime blend. It allows me to play with broken noir characters, but in a world that incorporates the fantastic. I love shattered endings and I love creating my own tech that I can explain however I want without being tethered to actual real world limitations or research.

I try to experiment with my storytelling all the time. I’ve used first person narration captions, omniscient third person, and no captions. All are different muscles for me. I like fracturing timelines, or using unreliable narrators. It often truly depends on the lead character and the tone I want to set. Those are the two keystones to lock in that inform all choices beyond that.

The Goon and Fear Agent Come to RPGs

Pinnacle Entertainment Group has launched two Kickstarters running simultaneously for the pulp scifi setting Fear Agent and “zombie Noir” The Goon comics. Both were funded in less than 90 minutes and have already passed numerous stretch goals!

The Goon RPG for Savage Worlds

Multiple Eisner-award winning comic The Goon pulls no punches when Goon starts swingin’—usually at the chug-heads, changelings, and snake-riddled rival gangs what get in his way. Now your strangers, weirdos, and ne’er do wells can join his crew, make Lonely Street a bit less zombified, and even save the Town in the dramatic Plot Point Campaign “From Hell’s Heart We Bite at Thee!”

The Goon was created by Eric Powell and published by Dark Horse Comics.

Fear Agent RPG for Savage Worlds

The Earth is decimated in an alien invasion—then the “backwards” survivors are invited to join the United Systems as a sort of half-hearted apology. Just like the star of the comics, the “Last Fear Agent” Heath Huston, your heroes are stuck cleaning up the mess in a planet-hopping, time-traveling, conundrum-unravelling journey against the strangest and weirdest aliens the Deep has to offer. And all with a few twists worthy of this phenomenal series!

Fear Agent was created by Rick Remender, Tony Moore, and Jerome Opeña, and published by Dark Horse Comics.

The Goon RPG and the Fear Agent RPG for Savage Worlds Kickstarters each offer a core book, GM Screen with adventure, Bennies, dice, and amazing miniatures sculpted by Bronze Age Miniatures. A copy of the Savage Worlds core rules is required to play ($10 at www.peginc.com).

If you are new to Savage Worlds, Pinnacle announced an Un-Stretch Goal: PDFs for Deadlands, Rippers Resurrected, The Last Parsec, and East Texas University. Digital or higher level backers on either Goon RPG or Fear Agent RPG Kickstarter get these PDFs for FREE after the Kickstarter. That’s a terrific way to get a feel for the variety of genres Savage Worlds can handle.

Interview: Mike Carey, Rori!, and Robin Furth of Femme Magnifique

After interviewing Shelly Bond, Brian Miller, and Kristy Miller about the big picture aspects of the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, I had the opportunity to talk with several of the anthology’s creators about the specifics of their stories. I chatted with writer Mike Carey, writer/artist Rori!, and writer Robin Furth via email about their comics featuring Rosalind Franklin, Shirley Chisholm, and Ursula K. Le Guin respectively.

Mike Carey is a British comic book writer and novelist, who is best known for his work on Vertigo’s Lucifer, Unwritten, and Hellblazer, which he wrote for 40 issues taking over from Brian Azzarello. Carey has also written Marvel comics, like X-Men Legacy and Ultimate Fantastic Four, and a film adaptation of his novel The Girl with All the Gifts starring Gemma Arterton was recently released in February 2017.

Rosalind Franklin

Carey is writing a story about the British chemist Rosalind Franklin, who was involved in the discovery of the DNA double helix. James Watson and Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize after her death in 1958 and were “informed by some of Franklin’s work which they had obtained without her permission”. He says that Franklin’s life “illustrates very poignantly how the scientific establishment of that time was saturated with institutional biases and unacknowledged power politics” and basically “operated like a boys’ club”. Carey and Eugenia Komaki’s Femme Magnifique comic will “present a vignette from this sad story – and reflect on the Nobel Prize’s history in the process.”

Carey is collaborating on the comic with Eugenia Koumaki (Womanthology) with whom he says he has never worked with before. He “met her at a comics convention in Athens… and admired her art-especially her wonderful figure work”, which he describes as “simple, but immensively expressive”. Carey was also her sponsor when Koumaki applied for DC Comics’ New Talent Program.

The next creator I talked to was the writer/artist Rori! She is the creator of the autobiographical, slice of life webcomic Tiny Pink Robots, and one of her most recent projects was #100days100women where she drew a portrait of a great woman from history every day and posted it on Twitter. Rori! is co-writing (with her husband Gibston Twist) and drawing a story about Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and be a major party U.S. presidential candidate in 1972.

Graphic Policy: Why did you decide to write and draw about Shirley Chisholm for Femme Magnifique, and how has she inspired you?

Rori!: I think some of it was admiring her personality, she was very caring, but also no-nonsense, she didn’t let people push her around, and she had guts, lots of guts. She didn’t “wait her turn” for opportunities people were trying to keep from her, she confronted that head-on. She was a dynamo! I also loved her politics, she saw and thought deeply about the world around her, about the systems of oppression, and how to disrupt those. She cared so much for the disenfranchised, the voiceless. She was a champion of the people, and in the 1970s, she was well-known as this. That her story has faded is a true shame, you read her speeches and she was so ahead of her time that she was ahead of ours.

GP: What have been some of the challenges and/or reward from doing a comic in an anthology format versus a webcomic, like Tiny Pink Robots?

R!: Well, it’s a delight having a professional editor, for one (and Shelly is amazing!). Which is good, because it’s been a huge challenge to distill Shirley Chisholm’s story into three pages! Of course on a strip-style webcomic, your storyline is generally completely open-ended, especially on an autobiographical one like mine. I like that, though it’s also nice to create something finite. More long-form, story-style comics are my first love (I’m currently working on an adaptation of the Snow Queen). I do enjoy anthologies, though, the opportunity to share a book with other amazing creators is fantastic.

GP: Shirley Chisholm is best known as the first African-American woman to be a major party U.S. presidential candidate. What do you think has to change in the United States for us to have our first female president?

R!: Ah! This took me a bit. Short answer: the Electoral College. Straight-up, Hillary received significantly more votes than her opponent. Millions more, tens of millions of Americans WERE ready for a female president, but the system in place denied that. In many ways, the Electoral College, a relic created by landed white men to placate slave-owning landed white men, is an embodiment of the systems that are made to keep disenfranchised people out of power, and a small, homogeneous minority IN power. Those systems must be recognized, resisted and dismantled so that we see not just the first female president, but the SECOND, and so on, as well as more women and marginalized people in all positions of authority. In addition, we have to continue to work on the hearts and minds of Americans, to dispel bigoted notions. (And that includes ourselves.)

I think there are more Americans that are on their way to accepting diverse leaders, especially when it comes to women and some people of color. (We still have a long way to go as far as different religions, recent immigrants, and trans/non-binary people go among other things.) But it’s not enough to educate toward openness and acceptance. It’s not enough to dismantle the exclusionary systems. We have to do both. That’s what we need. And we need to internalize that getting that milestone of “first” is amazing, but it’s just the beginning. Unless we create a system where the “first” can truly unleash a flood of diversity, they just becomes a token, or trivia, and their influence is diminished. It’s like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quote about the Supreme Court having “enough” women when there are nine on it. There’s a lot of history to catch up to; a lot of lost time and talent to make up for.

Finally, I got to interview Robin Furth and discuss about her comic about legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin that she is doing with artist Devaki Neogi (Skeptics) for Femme Magnifique. Furth was a research assistant for Stephen King and wrote The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (2006) that was nominated for a Locus Award for Non-Fiction. As far as comics, she has worked as a co-writer on Marvel’s Dark Tower adaptations, wrote the one-shot Legion of Monsters: Satana, and has been published in anthologies, like Girl ComicsWomanthology, and Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.

Graphic Policy: How does Ursula LeGuin inspire you, and why did you decide to write about her for Femme Magnifique?

Robin Furth: Ursula Le Guin has been a hero of mine since I read The Wizard of Earthsea when I was thirteen years old. I’d always been an obsessive reader, especially of fantasy (The Chronicles of Narnia were my favorite books when I was a child.), but the profound themes of the Earthsea novels were a revelation. I identified with Ged, the protagonist of the story, and the tale of him summoning a shadow from the netherworld, and then being relentlessly pursued by it, chilled me to the bone.

In the years since that initial reading, I’ve returned to the Earthsea books many times and have sought out all of Le Guin’s other work. In my opinion, Le Guin is one of the finest living American authors.  Few people can pen novels, criticism, and poetry with an equally masterful hand, but Le Guin accomplishes this with fluidity and grace. Many of Le Guin’s books are classed as young adult fiction, but the ideas explored within her novels are very mature. She writes about alienation, the search for self-knowledge, power abuse, inequality, and environmental destruction.

Another reason that Le Guin’s writing is so perfect for Femme Magnifique is that gender is such an important topic in her work. Le Guin was born in 1929, and over the course of her life, she has witnessed tremendous social upheaval, both good and bad. But one of the subjects she returns to over and over is what it means to be a human being, whether male or female. When she published the first Earthsea book in the late 1960s, the women’s movement was just getting underway. The hero of that novel was a magically talented young man from a world where women’s enchantment was considered base. To learn his craft, Ged journeyed to the island of Roke and to the wizard’s school, where the mages were celibate, and women were forbidden from becoming students.  However, in one of the short stories recounted in Tales from Earthsea, we learn that Roke’s original mages were both male and female, and that their powers were equal.  The division of the sexes and repression of women’s magic came later.

The acclaimed novel The Left Hand of Darkness is an even more stunning examination of gender. In that book, the inhabitants of the planet Gethen are androgynous, and only become male or female during the short fertile period of kemmer.  To make matters more intriguing, a Gethenian never knows whether he will play the female or the male role, and so any Gethenian can father a child or become pregnant.

GP: How did your background as Stephen King’s research assistant and the author of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance influence your work on Femme Magnifique?

RF: My Dark Tower Concordance has had an indirect but important influence on everything I’ve written since then. It was such an intensive training ground in the art of fiction and world building, and I had the honor of traversing that landscape with Stephen King himself. I learned a tremendous amount. It was because of my work in Mid-World that I became a consultant and a co-writer for Marvel’s Dark Tower comics. (I’m now a consultant for the upcoming Dark Tower film as well.)

Before the Concordance appeared in print, I was publishing mainly poetry.  But when Dark Tower moved to comics, I had the chance to explore another medium I loved. So, I suppose that my Concordance was my way into comics and ultimately into Femme Magnifique.

GP: What role do you think fantasy stories with a diverse cast of characters, like the Earthsea books, play in the sad, xenophobic political reality of 2017?

RF: Le Guin’s vision is unique in its poetry and its breadth, and she constantly makes us question what it means to be human and what it means to be humane. The protagonists of her novels are from many different races, and she constantly examines issues of gender equality (or inequality) and the horrors of power abuse. By writing about alternate societies and cultures, Le Guin creates mirrors in which we can examine our own world with a more critical eye. In The Word for World is Forest, she explores the utter destruction wreaked upon indigenous peoples and natural environments by so-called “advanced” cultures. In The Left Hand of Darkness, she asks what it would be like to live in a world where there is no gender. In the Annals of the Western Shore, she explores the injustice of slavery. Ursula Le Guin makes us think, and that is something we desperately need to do.

GP: And just for fun, what is your favorite Ursula Le Guin novel or short story, and why?

If you’d asked me this question ten years ago I would have said the Earthsea books, but now I must say that it is Le Guin’s vision that I love. If you stranded me on a desert island but gave me a library of Le Guin’s work to keep me company, I’d be happy.

The Femme Magnifique anthology is estimated to be released in September 2017, and you can find more information about it here. You can also follow it on Twitter.

Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 1: Getting Started

A product with no backer…yet

Congratulations! You–like me–are the proud producer of independent content, either because you didn’t produce something that interested Big Pubs, you’re too new as a producer of content (and need experience before you can get experience), or because you could get big publishers’ interest but prefer having complete creative control instead of having an editor murder your darlings, as they say.

And, by the way, no judgement on whatever your reasons are for producing independent content: in my case, my self-published comic Rebirth of the Gangster sparked some interest from publishers but not enough to get them interested in backing my project, partly because I was so new. In fact, if I’d trimmed Rebirth of the Gangster from a proposed 500ish page series to a 150ish page graphic novel, Dark Horse would’ve been interested. Because I have a day job (teaching, sometimes teaching comics in the classroom, as I’ve written about), I refused to neuter my story that way. My influences refused to compromise, so dammit, why would I? So, again, no judgement, because–like me–you probably have many reasons for entering the self-publishing game.

I’ll say it again: congratulations! But you still have a long way to go to get your product made and distributed on a larger level.

Now that you’ve decided to rely on yourself to publish this content, you need to figure out how to finance the whole thing, how to crowdfund something to get it out to an even bigger crowd. Having run a successful Kickstarter campaign myself a little under a year ago, I know the stresses of this process, along with the joys when someone donates even $1 to your cause. Throughout that journey, I had a lot of hills and valleys, but I learned a lot and could avoid some of those deep depressions if I were to run another Kickstarter.

And maybe more importantly, by sharing my reflections on that journey, I can help you create a Kickstarter that’s even more successful than mine was. After all, I was so successful, because I relied on the advice of others, so it only seems fair to pay it forward, a style of thinking heavily encouraged by all crowdfunding sites.

cropped kickstarter successful project graph

Research

And that advice of others was the first place I started. Because as any writer will tell you, research is the fun part of the job and the real reason we do this! In all seriousness, though, it’s indispensable, even if it’s occasionally boring. The first step in research was to look at Kickstarter’s requirements, including what is not OK to post on the site or offer as rewards (like a % stake of the profits on your projects–Kickstarter isn’t Wall Street people). One of the most important things to look at, though, are Kickstarter’s fees, both their general fee and their payment processing fee. Don’t ask me how those two things are separate, or why they don’t bundle them together, because I’m a writer, not a mathematician darnit! However, even if you don’t understand the logic behind some of these fees, you need to take them into account. Otherwise, you might set a goal without considering those fees, have the Kickstarter tax man come and skim a little off the top, and be left with not enough money to publish your comic, produce your movie, record songs, etc… Here’s a quick breakdown of how fees affected my total earnings once the campaign was complete.

cropped kickstarter fees and made money

cropped kickstarter suggestions for rewards

The next step in your research: sift through the many campaigns to look at the successful ones, especially focusing on the most successful ones. You want to mine 24 karat gold, not 2 karat gold. Yeah, they’re both gold, but one is definitely going to attract more eyes. When looking at other campaigns, I looked at

  • How a campaign presented the project, the creator(s), costs in a transparent way, and the timeline. Trust and sympathy are key in Kickstarter campaigns, so if they don’t find a hook to latch onto your product, if they don’t like you, if they don’t know how you’re going to use their money, or if they don’t see an end date in sight for this project, they’ll do the Kickstarter equivalent of swiping left.
  • How a campaign used a video to present their product in a clear, concise and engaging way. We live in a visual culture, so if you don’t have a strong video, many people won’t even read your gold standard writing mentioned in the first bullet point.
  • Most popular rewards, along with the best breakdown of reward price (How many rewards should you have? How much do you jump prices between rewards? How many limited offer rewards do you have?)
  • How others advertised their Kickstarter. One of the best pieces of advice: build a fanbase before running your campaign. I had about 500 Twitter followers, along with support of family and friends, which was a good start, but if I could go back in time, I’d focus a little more on connecting with fans earlier and finding fans earlier.

Congrats again!  You’ve finished the research, and now you just have to create your campaign, cajole others into supporting it, create the thing, and deliver those rewards!  That should be a breeze, right?  Well, don’t worry, because I’ll cover those steps in upcoming segments.

Mark Allard-Will and Elaine Will talk Årkade

Meet Mark Allard-Will and Elaine Will, creators of the retro-inspired comic Årkade, which debuts this year at Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The team is campaigning on GoFundMe, and I had the opportunity to talk to them about the campaign and the comic.

Graphic Policy: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you please tell us a little about yourselves?

Mark Allard-Will: No, thank you, Madison. It’s a real pleasure to be interviewed by you Crowdfund_Team_PNGand for Graphic Policy. My name is Mark Allard-Will and I am a Writer, specialising and focussing on Comic Books, Graphic Novels, etc. Although I now call Canada home and call myself a Canadian, I’m British born and raised. My previous project, and most successful project to-date, was Saskatch-A-Man; a Canadiana comedy comic book that focussed on the Province I live in, Saskatchewan.

Elaine Will: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Madison! I’m Elaine Will and I’m a cartoonist and illustrator also residing in Saskatchewan, Canada. My main claim to fame is the graphic novel Look Straight Ahead, a story about mental illness which was a 2012 Xeric Award winner, from the very last grant cycle (a fact I’m pretty proud of!) The book was very well received and can still be read online on my website blog.e2w-illustration.com (I admit, the site is in desperate need of a revamp – soon, I swear!)

GP: Your comic Årkade is currently up on GoFundMe. Can you describe the project?

MAW: Sure can. Årkade, in a nutshell, is a metafiction comic book that fuses styles and genres; which, for us, is the old ham-fisted American and British produced Viking movies where the cast knowingly misused Middle English and late ‘80s, early ‘90s family adventure movies. Our medium to fuse the two is defunct Video Games (albeit fictional Video Games of our creation). This story is a one-shot, it’ll be perfect-bound like a graphic novel and we’ll be adding some goodies in there too, like a Pin-up/Tribute Art Gallery that features some Artwork by a diverse range of Canadian Cartoonists, Artists and even an American Comic Book Artist.Crowdfund_Story

So, the GoFundMe page acts just as any other Crowdfunding page would and does, people who help us pay off our printing bill by backing the project can get preorders of the physical Book, digital download and a plethora of other goodies, including some advertising opportunities, limited signed and numbered sketch cards and the chance to receive some art of yourself drawn as an Årkade character.  

EW: What Mark said – one thing I’ll add is that I wanted to do a comic that incorporated glitch art (as I have yet to see that – although, it may exist now) and asked Mark to write a story which might allow me to indulge in that.

GP: What were some of the movie and game influences for Årkade? What inspired the AxeMan character?

MAW: For me, when I writing the script, I absolutely wanted to throw some homage to, what in my mind is the pinnacle of adventure metafiction movies, The Neverending Story; and that’s certainly where the fiction-to-“reality” crossover and the race against impending doom narratives of Årkade take their base from. I think for many of us whom grew up before story-driven video gaming, we have a certain love affair held out for the old side-scrollers and Arcade house games and certainly a big motivator for how I envisioned the video game world of the Vikings was a Sega Genesis titled called Golden Axe.

EW: I was born in ’85 and pretty much only played side-scrolling platform games growing up – I was given a SNES for my 7th birthday with Super Mario World as the pack-in game. A couple of years later I got a Sega Genesis as well, because I was a rather spoiled only child. In fact, I never really grew into a next-gen gamer…at some point I just couldn’t keep up and I still enjoyed the old games enough I didn’t feel a need to upgrade. I definitely know that I’m missing out on some great modern games and I really want to find the time to play a few soon.

Sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent there – there’s a little bit of pixel art in the comic that’s definitely inspired by the graphics of the old 2D sidescrollers. I actually usually point to Sonic the Hedgehog as my biggest artistic inspiration, as it was the original comics published by Archie that instilled the desire in me to become a cartoonist!

GP: This isn’t the first comic you have done together, how has your storytelling evolved as your comics have progressed?

MAW: Well, I think that’s a really neat part of working together and furthering together as we do; as we’ve moved on to different projects together, Elaine will give me some ideas of what she’d like to see in the visuals of the World, etc, and I’ll see if I can make it work in plot development and later in scripting. We’re definitely very good at bouncing ideas off of each other, which I think helps to flesh out something really exciting.

EW: I think we definitely make a good team. Mark’s scripts are so easy for me to visualize. Due to his background in film, he’s able to nail down what he wants to see drawn in each panel and describes that in great detail, so much of the work is already done for me before I ever sit down to do thumbnails.

GP: Though there have been other comic adaptations of video games, Årkade is unique in that it incorporates the side-view angles and pixelated graphics of a side-scroll video game. What were the challenges of adapting the medium for print while staying faithful to the style?

Pixel_Panel2EW: When designing the pixel art I went so far as to make sure the character sprites didn’t contain more than 16 colours – the standard for a single “palette line” in a 16-bit game. Depending on the console, there could also be anywhere from 64-256 colours on screen at one time, so I stuck pretty firmly to that in the pixel art as well.

For the rest of the artwork I went for a pretty cartoony cel-shaded style.

GP: Elaine, Årkade is different from your other projects Look Straight Ahead and Dustship Glory. How do these different genres allow you to explore different forms of storytelling in comics?

EW: I decided to go for a much more straightforward storytelling style for Årkade. One of the hallmarks of my style is tilted, oddly-shaped or jagged panels corresponding to moments of tension in the story. I think I sometimes have a tendency to create odd page layouts or differently shaped panels just for the sake of it, and not always when it serves the story. So, I wanted to draw a comic that didn’t have any of that for once and then slowly start to bring it back in later on (you see a bit of it towards the end of Årkade, once the game world starts to fall apart).

GP: As an artist, what is your favorite part of telling different types of stories?

EW: I suppose, trying to figure out the best art and storytelling style to set the mood! And the challenges that presents. It can be frustrating sometimes, of course, when I’m sitting down to draw a new story and realize it’s full of things I don’t really know how to draw…but this always ends up being beneficial later on, even if I don’t realize it at the time. I think the horses in Årkade are pretty sweet looking, and that’s because I had plenty of practice drawing them in Dustship Glory! ;)

GP: Mark, were there challenges in capturing the spirit of a video game in a print medium?

MAW: That’s a really great question. For me personally, not so much; it’s introduced very early on in the story and falls in to place as AxeMan reminiscing about the days gone by when he and his game cartridge were played with routinely and beloved by players and continues with a Jay and Silent Bob-esque retro game collector and restorer in our modern timeline. Despite the story being metafiction (where you have at least some free reign to ham things up), the only real challenge was to make sure I didn’t get too quirky on any one particular element in those dynamics.  

GP: Nostalgia is kind of “in vogue” right now, with the return of 1980s and 1990s fashion and the popularity of movie and television show reboots. What role does nostalgia play in the comic? Was there a game or movie you were feeling particularly nostalgic for when developing the story?

MAW: Definitely. For me, it was movies such as Neverending Story, The Goonies, The Last Action Hero and ET. In terms of games, beyond the aforementioned Golden Axe, I’d have to say the Sonic The Hedgehog games and a great Sega Genesis title called Wiz ‘n’ Liz.

EW: As I mentioned above, Sonic the Hedgehog has always been a big influence (particularly the art direction of Sonic CD, as it’s just so different from the rest of the classic series and has a really interesting “technology bonded with nature” thing going on). I think that we were also inspired by the movie Wreck-It Ralph, its existentialist themes and the wonderful feeling of nostalgia it created from an entirely fictional arcade game – in fact, I usually Elevator Pitch Årkade as “Wreck-It Ralph With Vikings.”

GP: What are you most excited for readers to see in this comic?

MAW: For me, I’m really excited for readers to see my quirky, fun writing take on new legs outside of Canadiana into something that’s fun for all ages. I’m also really hoping this will just be a nice big blast of nostalgia for people too.

EW: Everything! We really gave it our all for this one and I think lots of folks will love it – not just for the nostalgia factor, but because I think it’s a really fun story.

GP: Congrats on being able to debut Årkade at Toronto Comic Arts Festival! Where will this comic be available after TCAF?

MAW: Thank you. After the show, the comic will be available in stores across Canada and from our online webstore, we’ll be updating people of the exact purchase link on our Social Media platforms when it goes live. The best place for people to keep up-to-date is on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CuckoosNestPress

GP: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I didn’t ask you about?

MAW: Just to say a huge thanks for having us and putting us up on Graphic Policy and to say a huge thank you to all the backers and sharers of the crowdfunding page, it really does mean a lot to us.

EW: Yes, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with us and for featuring us on Graphic Policy! The crowdfunding campaign is up until April 9th.

GP: Thank you so much for your time!

EW: Cheers! :)

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