Tag Archives: kickstarter

Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 4: Promoting Your Campaign

Now that you’ve done your research,  brainstormed rewards, and created the campaign page (video and all), you’re ready to start doing the most fun part of the Kickstarter: begging people for money. That’s right, I’m talking about promoting your campaign to anyone willing to support you, which is always barrels of fun. It’s not quite the hoot that soliciting for reviews is, but it’s pretty close.

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In all seriousness, though, most creators view this as the worst part about running a Kickstarter, and I can’t really blame them: it’s practically impossible to stand out in the midst of so many other campaigns being advertised online. And if you’re even able to stand out, you have to make the pitch and possible rewards memorable enough for people to click on that link to your Kickstarter page. And even if all this aligns perfectly, you’ll probably still feel a little shady to be hitting up friends, family and strangers for money. But, despite the drawbacks to this stage, you can still have fun with it and–most importantly–use it to to reach that end goal: campaign completion.

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Building that Base

The first step of promoting a campaign starts before you’ve even created it. Essentially, you need to build a base for you and your work first, and you also need to preview the Kickstarter for at least the month leading up to the actual campaign. Building a base–and connections–helps make it more likely that others will promote your campaign; after all, if they already like what you’ve been doing, chances are they’re going to want to help you even more. I did this in many ways: writing guest posts on others’ sites, getting reviewed, giving the first issue away for free, getting on podcasts (shout-out to This Freakin’ Show, my first and most faithful podcast so far!), and more.

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And as far as previewing the Kickstarter before it even launches, it helps to give people a heads up to plan for a possible budget item. You don’t want to have a friend who would’ve donated a few hundred dollars donate five bucks simply because they didn’t have enough notice to make that cash available. Even better, announcing the Kickstarter in advance and giving away a free excerpt/issue is one way to make sure that possible backers have the needed knowledge and excitement to support you when the Kickstarter launches.

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Should I Pay (for tweet splashes/PR from an agency) or No?

The next step on this seemingly endless journey is to decide if you want to shell out money to an agency for their expertise and PR machine. Before I dove in, I dipped my toe in the water and just ordered a 24-hour tweet splash to coincide with the first week of launching the campaign for Rebirth of the Gangster. I got some retweets, but to be quite honest, it was a waste of my money. That doesn’t mean a big agency would be a waste of money, but it does heavily suggest that tweet splashes are a waste of money. Yeah, they might have more followers than you, but (being a follower of those accounts myself), those followers won’t actually pay close attention to their tweets.  So the question remains: should you enlist the aid of an expert agency in the hopes of either completing your goal or even exceeding it?

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Initially I decided not to, but a few things happened that made me start to reconsider that position. First, after a week of the campaign being live, I wasn’t receiving the level of response I’d hoped for (or in other words, I wasn’t getting enough of that cash money!). Secondly, I started to get a lot of emails from agencies like the one above, telling me that my Kickstarter had strong appeal and only needed the boost of an agency to propel it in the atmosphere.

funding progress and pledge sources Kickstarterpic

I was really close to giving in and signing with one of these agencies about halfway through the campaign when the miraculous happened: I started getting more and more donations, and it looked pretty feasible that I was going to reach my goal. Seeing that, I started re-evaluating how much I was leaning towards these companies.  

Given that I didn’t have a big goal ($1000, which isn’t that high of a goal compared to other Kickstarter campaigns), I didn’t think that paying hundreds of dollars to maybe hit that goal and maybe exceed it was worth it.  If I had a bigger goal (like the $3000+ I was thinking of to print the graphic novel of the first story arc), it would make sense to me to enlist their help, but with such a small goal, it didn’t seem worth it to me. And to make that decision even easier, I saw that a lot of my friends and family were donating and donating big (I’m lucky in that I have friends and family who are pretty affluent), so it didn’t seem like I needed even more support. There is no right answer, just a careful consideration of all these variables and costs. And besides, I found another, cheaper way to garner support from others versed in Kickstarter: other campaign creators like myself.

 

Kickstarter Creator Solidarity

Once I launched my Kickstarter campaign, my inbox started piling up with messages from other Kickstarter creators, asking if I was interested in backing their project in return for them backing mine. Now, we’re only talking about a $1-$5 pledge, so it’s not that much money for either of us, which might make it seem like it wouldn’t be worth it.  

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However, Kickstarter–like so much of the internet and life in general–favors the popular, which in the Kickstarter world means that projects with more money donated will appear higher on searches and be more likely to get pledges (it’s kind of like that old cliche when applying for a job: “You don’t have enough experience” to get the job so those who already have the experience will be more likely to be hired instead). So, that’s one benefit of donating to other campaigns and getting others to donate to you, all for the temporary cost of a few bucks that will be “rebated” to you when they donate to your pledge too. Even better, those creators I backed were more likely to publicize my Kickstarter on Twitter, Facebook, etc…!  

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So, after being contacted myself, I started contacting others for this support: after all indie authors love sticking together. And even though, I only had about 5% of creators I contacted agree to this support, that’s still better than nothing and still free publicity.

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(above, a pic shared with me by someone I backed)

Stretch Goals

Even with all of these supports and keys to success, you might see your Kickstarter lagging after a few weeks, and that’s when you need to think of greater incentives to meet the goal and keep your campaign in the public eye (after all, according to recent studies, humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s). Some of these stretch goals can be expanding a reward you already have, but since it had a limited number of pledges it’s already full. I did this by adding one more cameo to my project–at first I’d had 2 cameos in the campaign, but since those were snatched pretty quickly, I added another one.  

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It also makes sense to add goals similar to ones that have been successful: since the cameo was so successful, but since I wanted it to still be special and since I wanted to save Juan time looking at photos to add new characters, I added something kind of like a cameo: naming a character after the backer or anyone they wanted.  This isn’t quite the same as a cameo, so I made it less expensive, but like the cameo, it was very popular. That’s how I got the Lil’ Jimbo name, and that’s why I sent out the following tweet of appreciation:

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And that brings me to something I’ve almost overlooked, something that is actually incredibly important for every step of the process: publicizing your thanks, both for your backers and for those spreading the word. People pledge support for a Kickstarter for two reasons:

  1. They want to support art
  2. They want others to know they’re the type of person to support art.

So, you should be tweeting, Facebook-ing, and spreading your thanks anywhere you can, even in the work itself.  I could post a bunch of pics of me doing that, but you don’t need to see 100+ messages of me thanking my supporters (I know that’s more than I had backers, but I would thank backers multiple times and thank people who spread the word about my campaign).

If you do all these things, you should be able to get a variety of backers who found your campaign in a variety of ways, like mine did:

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But there’s still one last thing to consider, and that’s the final push.

 

Last Call and the Big Finish

In the last week–whether you’ve hit your goal or not–it’s still important to keep getting the word out, especially to family and friends. I know it seems weird that you have to remind those closest to you to support you quickly in this campaign, but this campaign isn’t nearly as big of a deal to them as it is to you.  

Perhaps surprisingly, many of them might have forgotten about it (yes, even those who are true friends), so continuing to put it on their radar makes it much more likely they’ll offer a pledge.  In fact, the pledge that made it so I met my goal was from a friend in the last week and a half, something he only did because I texted him a reminder.  As this post has no doubt shown, your job as a promoter for the Kickstarter is never done, and your audience for this promotion only continues to widen. If you keep these ideas in mind, you should be on your way to Kickstarter success!

After that, the only step left is finishing the dang project and fulfilling the pledges, which I’ll cover in my next–and last–installment on running a successful Kickstarter.

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Retail Shops in The Age of the Direct Market: Visionary Comics New Kickstarter

by Jazmine Joyner
Co-Owner
Visionary Comics, LLC

Running a small comic shop in the age of the Direct Market is not an easy task. It’s especially challenging as a Black disabled woman in the white-male-dominated world of comics.

My name is Jazmine Joyner, and I am co-owner of Visionary Comics in Downtown Riverside, California.

We set out to open this shop in 2016. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, filled with hope and purpose. Mine and my partner’s dream is to have a comic shop that is an all inclusive accessible community space. Where people can feel welcome and feel like they are apart of a community and not just in a retail space.

The harsh reality of opening a business hit us quickly. The fact that we are both minorities (my fiance and co-owner Nestor Gomez is Mexican) and in our mid-twenties, made it almost impossible to find realtors willing to take us seriously. Armed with a business plan and good credit we were still unable to have our find someone willing to respect our vision.

The building we are in now took us two months to lock down. With our realtor going back and forth with us coming up with arbitrary forms and proof of income to prove that we could afford the space. Going far enough as to losing all our paperwork making us have to resend everything. We were told the only available space was a 200 sq ft store.  We later found out that there was in fact a 500+sq ft space available that they had never mentioned. Though that slight stung we had our space finally, and we were determined to make it work.

Opening a comic shop is no easy task. In no other business do you have to spend tons of money on inventory weekly to survive? And at times you’re taking a gamble by ordering titles you’re not sure are going to sell. That’s why most shops take out a business loan. We didn’t have this luxury. After finding our live/work space, we went out and tried to find a loan for our business. To no avail, we couldn’t find the backing.

We are in a prime location with no immediate competition, have a strong business plan, and already acquired the retail space. Yet not one bank wanted to invest in our dream. So we did what everybody tells you not too when you start a business. We dove into our own personal capital to fund our business. Every penny we have has gone into to Visionary Comics. We bought books, furniture, all the bells and whistles you need when setting up a comic book shop, we made sure we had it.

The direct market is a fickle beast. With the one defining part of comics retail being that the books are non returnable so every order is at risk of becoming essentially dead stock. One week we can have books flying off the shelves, orders flooding in, and people coming in for all the events. Then the next week we will be lucky to make our quota and be able to afford next weeks books. It’s the nature of the beast, and with the rising prices of Marvel’s single issues and the lackluster storylines coming out of the big two, the waning interest of customers is visible. Particularly with the rise of digital comics.  It’s up to us to fill in those gaps and find stories they not only want to invest in but love enough to read the next issue.

Being a woman in this business is difficult. I have to regularly pass strange quizzes on obscure comic characters, deal with the nuances of mansplaining topics like “Batman and The Jokers symbiotic relationship.” Or my favorite “The who would beat Superman in a fight game” Pro-tip: If you don’t pick Superman every time during this game, you’re a noob. No matter how logical your reasoning is.

I get talked down to, asked to speak with “the manager” (and that’s code for can I talk to the man in charge), or completely ignored. The reverse is I get called “Sweetheart,” “Baby,” “Beautiful,” and had men trying to flex their comics knowledge out like an awkward mating dance. Hoping their expansive knowledge of the Watchmen Universe would woo me off my feet.

But once all the problematic people are weeded out we are left with the fantastic loyal customer base we have now. They have made it possible for us to consider expanding our shop into a larger space.

We have succeeded in making a completely inclusive space where people feel comfortable hanging out, buying and talking about their favorite books. We have movie nights where the all the kids and their parents can come and watch family friendly movies for free. We often hold gaming nights on weekends. Tabletop games, video games, and card games, all games are welcome on our game nights.This close connection with the community and positive impact has been one of the best parts of opening visionary and now we want to expand so we can do even more for our customers and our shop.

To move our store we needed to have some extra funding. We of course once again were denied backing by the banks after having more experience and breaking even our first year. We decided to go to the people we serve, our customers. So we created a Kickstarter in hopes to reach our goal of $6,000 to fund our move to a larger retail space. So we could have the shop we dreamt of when we opened in May of 2016.

We have come up against many obstacles and faced so many challenges, but creating Visionary Comics and making it the inclusive fun community space, it has become is well worth any hardship we had to push through to bring it to fruition. We now hope that we can expand and become an even better shop.

House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang – It’s Kids vs Lovecraftian Horrors in a new, all-ages comic now on Kickstarter!

by Brandon Barrows
writer

THE House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths, published by Ten31 Publishing, is a comic I’m exceptionally proud of. You may have read my detective series Jack Hammer (Action Lab) or my horror graphic novel Mythos (Caliber Comics), or maybe not.  Those are, after all, both books targeted at specific audiences. But I’ve wanted to do something that appeals to the widest possible audience, something truly all-ages for a long time. Something anyone can pick up and enjoy, whether they’re long-time comics fans or just getting into them.

Why? Because I read a lot of all-ages comics myself, comics that are supposed to be fun and accessible to anyone. And while there are a lot of comics out there that claim to be just that, many aren’t. Too often, unfortunately, “all-ages” translates to “kids’ comics” in the minds of publishers and fans. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what’s out there is perfectly fine for beginning readers, but kids confident in their reading and adults won’t find much to enjoy in them.

Truly all-ages books like Spongebob Comics, Mouseguard, The Stuff of Legend, and the Adventure Time comic, when it was written by Ryan North, are all-ages books that are not only that, but series I really enjoy. They’re fun, action- and story-packed comics that work on multiple levels directed at multiple audience so well that it almost seems effortless. They are also stories that meant something. They aren’t just fluff meant to fill pages and be forgotten once you’ve finished reading.

And that’s what I wanted to create, too. Targeting audiences is perfectly fine, and often a smart thing to do, but I wanted to do something different with my next project – something everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. Something an adult or a kid can read and enjoy on their own or that they can enjoy together.

When Ten31’s publisher, James W. Powell, gave me the chance to do exactly that, I had an idea, but wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of creating something on the level of what I was hoping for. Despite those misgivings, I took the idea I had and wrote a comic from it and, while it was pretty decent, James then helped me tweak and refine that script until it truly became one of the best I’ve ever written.

James then did an amazing job (seriously, he’s a fantastic editor and publisher) of finding the best artistic talent to bring it to life.

The Grumpledowns Gang are kids, but theirs is a fun story that kids or adults or anyone in between can enjoy and get their fill of scary fun and action – and maybe even take note of a little life lesson tucked in there somewhere. And the art is just amazing. It’s beautiful, but more than that, it’s incredible to me that it’s virtually exactly what I saw in my head. Artists Rafael Loureiro and Josh Jensen make a powerful team on the interior art, James Hislope’s front- and back-cover pieces are creepily gorgeous and Matt Krotzer’s letters are some of my favorite in the business.

If you like comics, horror fiction or have a kid who likes either, if you’ve ever read any of my comics work or if you haven’t, but want to give it a shot, please check out the Kickstarter campaign Ten31 is currently running,  pledge your support and share the word. This is a very important book to me, with characters I care deeply about, and if it’s successful, I’ll do my best to bring even more of their stories into the world.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign here (including a fourteen page preview!)

And keep up with updates at www.ten31publishing.com and www.brandonbarrowscomics.com

Follow us on twitter @Ten31Publishing and @BrandonBarrows


House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths

Written by Brandon Barrows
Art by Rafael Loureiro and James Hislope
Colors by Josh Jensen
Letters by Matt Krotzer
Edited by James W. Powell
Kickstarter opened 5/16/17, closes 6/17/17. Expected to ship to backers July, 2017.

Fourth-grader Ben Grumpledowns has sent away for a package of grow-your-own monsters… just add water! But when his science teacher accidentally flushes them down the toilet, the school is overrun with huge, tentacled creatures! Ben and his friends must find a way to defeat the beasts before they destroy the school or worse – ruin the Halloween carnival! It’s kids vs. shoggoths in this all-new, all-ages, Lovecraftian horror comic!

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.

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:

Picinterviewreward-page-001.jpg

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.

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