It's starting to become a trend on Kickstarter, with former "superhero" writers turning to the public to get their dream projects published outside the world of capes and tights.
The latest is Earthward, a new space-based, all-ages graphic novel by Bryan Q. Miller, the current writer on Smallville Season 11 and former Batgirl scribe. To fund the full-color, 110-page graphic novel, Miller and artist Marcio Takara are turning to Kickstarter.
"The appeal of Kickstarter for most people is that it offers creative freedom," Miller explained. "I've played with toys in other people's sandboxes for a very long time. But for me, there's an appeal to creating your own toys to play with in your own sandbox."
Newsarama is debuting the fully colored cover for Earthward today, featuring colors by Space Goat's Rainer Petter. And Miller has also announced several new incentives today for donors to the project (see a sampling below).
Although Miller said the scripting and art were funded for Earthward before the Kickstarter campaign started, the additional funds will cover the cost of production — including lettering, coloring and design work — as well as the physical printing of the book.
The story in Earthward takes place several hundred years in the future. "It's about six kids and their families who live on a working science spaceship that explores the cosmos," Miller explained. "Earth, as far anyone knows, is just a fairy tale. It's just a legend. No one's ever seen it. People have only heard of it. No one takes it seriously.
"The kids on the ship are sent by their respective parents on a supply run, and when they come back to the ship — to the Mercury — their parents are nowhere to be found, and the ship is adrift," Miller explained.
The children are thrust into a space adventure when they find out that their parents have been working on a secret project, and everyone from the Science Council to the military to pirates are after them. "The kids come to find out the big secret their parents have been hiding from everyone is that they know where Earth is and they've found it. And everyone wants it," he said.
"So it's very much a space adventure as they search for their parents. And to find their parents, they have to retrace their steps and try to find Earth," Miller said.
The writer said his idea for Earthward was born from his love for space epics, but was also influenced by the 1985 adventure move The Goonies.
"Earthward is my love letter to all space-related stories, from Explorers to The Last Starfighter to the Star Wars films, to Titan A.E. to Aliens. They've all lent to the DNA of this story," Miller said.
"And what I loved about Goonies — and there's a lot of Goonies at the heart of this story — was that there's a surrogate for a lot of levels of age. There are older kids and younger kids and different kinds of kids and teenagers for everyone to access. It gave the audience options — it gave everybody someone to latch onto," he said. "With [Earthward], what I aimed to do was not just give a range of ages, with these kids ranging from age 6 all the way up to 20, but also to make them ethnically diverse as well."
The writer said he's been tweaking the idea of Earthward for awhile, but he emphasized that it wasn't created to be just for kids. The goal was to create a piece of graphic fiction that can be enjoyed by both children and adults, while pandering to neither."The idea came first. It wasn't that I was trying to find an all-ages story," Miller said. "By default — which was how I ended up approaching my Batgirl run — I default to an all-ages, accessible approach. And I think sometimes all-ages can get confused with 'only for kids' when it's more about 'OK for anyone to consume.' If you look at the Star Wars movies, they weren't engineered with kids in mind. But they were just traditional, openly accessible kind of adventure serial stories with that space opera feel. And it still works for adults and for kids."
Miller said the art on the story also lends itself to a wide range of audiences. "There is a very Don Bluth animation style to what Marcio does, and it just fits with this story and how it unfolds," he said. "It very much has that Space Ace kind of feel to it, but with that American heart in the middle of it."
The production and printing costs for Earthward are currently more than halfway funded through the Kickstarter campaign, but Miller said the project can't succeed without achieving its entire goal of $30,000. The creators are hoping today's new incentives will entice the additional support they need to get the project fully funded.
"We've got some cool stuff on the lower end, and then we've got some really cool opportunities on the higher end, from the chance to get drawn in the book to getting commissions done to getting into some workshops with me and other writers on Skype," he said.
The campaign even has funding opportunities for people who just want to give one dollar. "I'm conscious to the fact that not a lot of people have a lot that they can give, but every little bit helps," Miller said. "And with Kickstarter projects like this, it really does take a little bit from a lot of people. So I don't want to turn away anyone that wants to help."
The new incentives being offered to donors includes:
THE BENEFACTOR – Includes one copy of Earthward and lots of other goodies for the backer, plus the donation of five copies of Earthward (donated in the backer’s name) to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
THE WORKSHOP 2: WRITIN’ BOOGALOO — Aspiring comic book writers who are looking for advice or feedback can fund at this level to receive a notes/workshopping group Skype session with Miller, Adam Beechen (Batman Beyond, Robin) and Eisner Award-winning writer Jim McCann (Mind the Gap, Return of the Dapper Men. Plus lots of other extras related to Earthward.
THE GALLERY – Own a page of Marcio Takara’s original inked art from Earthward, as well as other goodies.
To see more information on the project or to check out the full list of backer incentives, go to the Earthward Kickstarter page. The campaign continues through Feb. 17th.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!