Jill Thompson is an award-winning fan-favorite creator for her work on Sandman (and multiple-spin-offs with those characters), Beasts of Burden at Dark Horse, and of course the Scary Godmother series of comics and CGI specials, which are rebroadcast yearly on Cartoon Network.
Now, Thompson is taking her creation into her own hands with a new Kickstarter to create a Scary Godmother fashion doll she’s designed. A $50 pledge will get supporters the doll, along with a new Scary Godmother comic and more – with additional gifts including a DVD of a Scary Godmother play, original color artwork, appearing in a new Scary Godmother story included with the doll and more.
Though the Kickstarter has a very high goal at $150,000, Thompson had already achieved $51,000 after just a few days as of August 20. We did a quick interview with her about her Kickstarter, her plans for more Scary Godmother merchandise, creepy dolls and more.
Newsarama: Jill, give us the lowdown on this Scary Godmother doll.
Jill Thompson: The Scary Godmother fashion doll is a 15-point articulated fashion doll, akin to Barbie, but taller, redder, pointier, curlier, magicky-er... and with a more ample booty.
She's not super expensive like those higher-end limited editions dolls that I love, but she shares many of the same joints and features. I wanted her to be accessible to families as well as serious doll collectors. I want her to be loved and displayed and played with and other good stuff.
Her wings are removable so she can be easily dressed, and her clothes are designed with wing slots to accommodate the pegs. She comes in her signature outfit of stripey hat, tights, tutu and bodysuit. She has a cool Jack O' Lantern purse and fun shoes. She also comes with the Boozle, her ghost cat.
Nrama: What led to your deciding to use Kickstarter to fund the production of this doll?
Thompson: Kickstarter is the best platform for me to get the doll directly to people who want it. There is no middle man, as it were. The three principal players in the equation are me, the people who want it, and the factory that makes it. Kickstarter enables me to do that.
Yes, there are shipping companies involved and stuff, but there is not a giant corporation telling us how Scary Godmother should look, or what should come with her, or anything like that. Nor is there anyone telling me that we cannot include something because it is cost prohibitive, or they do not have any funds to make a doll like this.
And, as any freelance artist or musician can tell you, it's really difficult to get a loan from a bank because no matter how hard-working you might be, your job is more often than not considered unstable and unsuitable for taking out a major loan.
I can bring my vision for the Scary Godmother fashion doll exactly how she is supposed to be, right to the world! I’m really excited!
Nrama: So your goal is $150k -- what will this fund if you reach this goal?
Thompson: That is the price necessary to make the minimum amount of dolls the factory that requires to start production – which might be a minimum for them, but is really lots to me...several thousand— cover the fees from Amazon and Kickstarter, and ship dolls from the factory to the U.S., and then out to the backers.
It seems like a daunting amount, but that's what is my research has found, so I need to make the goal just to get the doll into production. The factory requires half of the money to start, and the other half to ship. You can't just say, “Oh, I’ll pay you for the ones we make.” The factory has a set minimum. The tooling of the steel mold alone is close to forty thousand dollars! And after that, the costs add up quickly.
Nrama: Any plans to make any of the other Scary Godmother characters as dolls if this is successful?
Thompson: You bet I do! I’ve been wanting to do this for years and years! I have a sketchbook filled with product ideas that I have had since I created the Scary Godmother.
I would love to do dolls of all the characters in the series, with Bug-A-Boo being a plush that also would be a backpack, but proportionate to the other dolls in the series. The vampire family, Hannah, Harry and his mom, and of course, Mr. Pettibone would be subsequent dolls that I want to do. I have all of those drawn out, too!
Nrama: For that matter, you mention on the page wanting to do some different types of Scary Godmother merchandise -- what all would you like to create the most?
Thompson: I would move on to the Halloween costumes and decorations, playhouses, clothes, dishes, and multiple Bug-A-Boo products that I have drawn out!
Bug-A-Boo has pages and pages devoted to his merchandise! He lends himself well to being made into things! So next up would be a Bug-A-Boo something.
I’m really hoping that Kickstarter works as its name implies...it kickstarts a whole new area of business for me!
Nrama: What were some of the biggest challenges in figuring out how to put this doll and this Kickstarter together -- i.e., materials, estimates, etc.?
Thompson: Once I had all my rights back the first obstacle was really, where does one begin? How do you go about getting a doll made? Who do you talk to? How do you get estimates?
Luckily I have a friend named Mark Huckabone who has created his own line of toys called Presidential Monsters. I have known him for years and years.We ran into each other at a con a few years ago, and because he's a toy guy, he asked me why no merchandise had ever been made for the Scary Godmother.
I said, “The merchandise rights had always been tied up with my publisher or the animation company that made the animated specials, and I know that Sirius didn't make dolls because they were a tiny company.” And as we all know from the quotes, it's super expensive to make a doll, there was no way they could swing something like that...and the animation company was focusing on making the specials, I guess...
That's all pretty standard stuff. Sirius was great to me. I love the specials I worked on with Mainframe. It makes me feel great to see them on Cartoon Network every year!
But I told Mark, and I’ll tell you all, I have all my rights back to everything Scary Godmother. Publishing, stage play, film, television, merchandise...everything one might think of! So I do want to make merchandise! I just don't know how or where to start.
And he said, “You're in luck. I just started my own line of toys, and I’m going to help you get that doll made exactly how you want it! I will walk you through all of the steps, and we will get this done!”
He's been great! He's introduced me to toy sculptors and clothing makers, and we worked to get quotes. I also was able to hit up friends who have worked for dc direct to ask advice and steer me in the right direction.
The other challenges have been juggling this whole process while still working on comics. Gotta pay the bills, and also pay to have the prototype sculpted and painted and clothes made. It's taken me two years of working on this to get it to this point, and I’m so excited to finally launch the campaign!
Nrama: And there's a new Scary Godmother comic with this! Any plans for more Scary Godmother stories in the future?
Thompson: Yes! I’ve been freelancing on other great things for the past…oh, decade or so...and it was easy to shove Scary Godmother off to the side, thinking, “Oh, when I finish this, I’ll do that Scary Godmother story I’ve been meaning to do.” But then other stuff would come up and it was always easiest to drop the Scary Godmother part... but I’m not going to do that anymore! I’m scheduling her in with the other things that I love, like Beasts of Burden! I’m working as fast as I can!
The new story will be fun and people can pledge to be in it! It all takes place at a convention on the Frightside, so I can add up to 50 backers into it and make them cool integral parts of the story! It makes me smile just to think about working on it!
Nrama: What do you think has made Scary Godmother such an enduring concept and character?
Thompson: She makes you feel good when she's around. Her friends are monsters. She loves you and has a great sense of humor and accepts everyone for who they are. And, she's mighty good lookin'!
Nrama: RANDOM, BLINDINGLY STUPID QUESTION THE FIRST: If the Scary Godmother doll fought the creepy doll from The Conjuring, who would win?
Thompson: I haven't seen The Conjuring yet, but the commercials scare me! I like a good suspenseful movie! I would hope that Scary Godmother could drop an elbow off the top rope on that doll or put it in the yes lock and make it tap out, ‘cuz I’m guessing it is evil!
Nrama: STUPID QUESTION THE SECOND: Also, who would win if the Scary Godmother doll fought the Misfits dolls from Jem?
Thompson: Scary Godmother could not fight the Misfits, they had the best outfits! However, she'd tell Pizzazz to stop being a dick to people!
Nrama: She was always keeping Stomer down…ANOTHER STUPID QUESTION: do you think she would be best friends with my Jack and Sally dolls?
Nrama: FINAL STUPID QUESTION: As a 33-year-old man, it's not creepy that I own or am thinking about these things, right?
Thompson: I find you to be delightfully well-rounded in your knowledge of these things and not creepy at all. Now, if you had one of those RealDolls...then...I might be worried...
Nrama: What do you feel has been the biggest advantage of Kickstarter and crowdsourcing, and what do you feel are the biggest risks with a program like this? See, this question was less stupid.
Thompson: The biggest advantage is that Kickstarter is now a verb. It's like Xerox. It defines what it is. Everyone has heard of it, so it gets more traffic than other crowdfunding sites.
So, I’m hoping it will help make the doll a success! I love the idea of crowdfunding as a way for artists and creators who haven't got the deep-pockets cash flow of a corporation to get their products made.
The biggest risks are not making your goal! And I know it's lots of work to do fulfilling all of the incentives. With my other comics projects, I know it will take me the better part of two years to fulfill the special stuff if all the incentives are chosen. I know it will be lots of work, but I can't wait to do it!
But, I’m hoping enough people who have seen Scary Godmother on TV will pass the link along to other people who loved the show, and they'll pledge for a doll and then pass it and so on and so on and so on...the other risks involve navigating unseen bumps in the road, that you cannot control but will have to weather. I plan on keeping everyone informed of every step along the way!
Nrama: What's next for you outside the Kickstarter?
Thompson: I’m juggling two big painted projects. I’ll be finishing those up so I can begin to schedule in my incentives starting in January 2014, nd that's not really so far away! I’m still designing gear for WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan. I’ve been doing that for the past two years, and I love it! He's a fantastic guy and such an amazing wrestler!
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Thompson: I’m hoping some people choose some of the larger priced rewards on the project, not only to keep things moving forward, but because I really want to bake cookies and make Xmas ornaments for people, or paint a mural or sing at their birthday bash dressed as a showgirl, or make lots of pizzas for their pizza party or illustrate their favorite fairy tale!
I wanted all of the rewards to not only be stuff that I thought people would like, but that would be creatively fulfilling and stimulating and fun for me!
And---support your local comic book shop, creator owned comics, local bands, restaurants, and your independent wrestlers! They are each artists in their own field, and the world needs more cool stuff in it!
Help bring the Scary Godmother doll to life by supporting the Kickstarter here.