Almost a year ago, Courtney Crumrin creator Ted Naifeh announced he was finally diving into creator-owned superheroes with the release of Heroines through Space Goat Publishing. Newsarama spoke with Naifeh the following month, before the release of the title in May of this year. However along the way he learned doing superheroes when your name is not Marvel or DC, it becomes harder - leading to the launching of a Kickstarter campaign for $25,000.
“All my life, I've been a fan of superheroes in one form or another,” Naifeh said. “And I've always wanted to explore the genre, to see if I could tease out something new. Working outside the mainstream and with readers directly on Kickstarter gives me the creative freedom to do just that.”
Newsarama spoke with Naifeh at his home in San Francisco to get more info about the Heroines Kickstarter, the learning curve behind doing your first campaign, as well as working with Space Goat and feeling almost hypocritical with that decision, and of course the fate of Heroines after the campaign closes.
Newsarama: Ted, last we talked back in February, Heroines was an ongoing series, but now you've switched over to Kickstarter. What was the cause here?
Ted Naifeh: Quite simply, issue sales numbers. People wait for the trade these days. The whole comic system by which we snatch up indie books from stores the day they come out, and they stay on the shelves for a month or so before going to the back issue bins, that system is antiquated. It works okay for popular series, but not for small indie books like the kind I do. Once, issues paid for themselves plus the artist’s page rate. Essentially, they kickstarted a series. Courtney Crumrin started out that way. So did everything else I’ve done.
Now, they don’t even cover printing costs. So we’re trying a different method to kickstart a series. I need to make rent while I’m producing a book. Hopefully, Kickstarter can raise enough funds for me to do that, plus the cost of printing.
Nrama: Whose idea was it to take it to Kickstarter?
Naifeh: Space Goat Productions has lots of experience with Kickstarter, developing games. And I’ve always wanted to get my feet wet in that new frontier, so I happily dove in.
Nrama: How has the experience been for you so far since this is your first campaign?
Naifeh: It’s nerve-wracking. I’m not sure if it’s going to work out, to be frank. We’ll see. But that said, I’m getting into the habit of online promotion, learning habits that will hopefully serve me in other areas.
So whether Heroines gets funded or not, it’s a good experience.
Nrama: I think we've talked about that before, you're not good at promoting yourself. Why do you think that is?
Naifeh: I’m not much of a multi-tasker. I’m writing and drawing books all the time, and I love getting subsumed into that process, getting lost in my stories and the worlds they create. So It’s hard to switch gears from that into social-media mode every day.
Nrama: What was your initial thought after Space Goat decided not to fund the book?
Naifeh: We actually came to the decision together. The issues were taking a bath. Printing them was a waste of resources I’d have rather spent on the trade. I remember over a decade ago, Frank Miller waving a comic issue at the Eisner Awards, scowling his trademark scowl, declaring comic issues to be dinosaurs. I’m surprised they’ve hung on this long. But they have, mainly because the industry hasn’t found a better way yet. So we’re trailblazing. But that’s a tough route. It can lead to getting lost, cannibalism, dying of dysentery.
Nrama: That sounds...pretty rough indeed. How has your relationship been with Space Goat going into the Kickstarter and now with it launched last week?
Naifeh: They’re 100% behind the book. They’re giving this campaign everything they’ve got. That’s all I can ask for.
Nrama: You've started doing these livestreams with fans, including one last Thursday. How's that going for you?
Naifeh: I don’t know. Of course, I get to blather on, so that’s nice. And you know me, I can blather on at the least provocation. I’m not getting a ton of fans tuning in, but I got three times as many as last time.
Maybe next week will be even more. I’m thinking of staging it at a comic shop, and having a shop-owner ask questions. A Q&A thing. That might be cool. And maybe an MC will keep me focused.
Nrama: So with the campaign, where are you taking Heroines now? Are you starting over with reprinting the first issues and then going from there?
Naifeh: We’re trying to put together a collection of the whole thing. So it’s a TPB, or possibly a hardcover, of the entire 8-chapter run.
Nrama: How many issues made it to shelves?
Naifeh: Only three, but the first one was a double-size. So half the story.
Nrama: Why do you feel your fans should support something like Heroines?
Naifeh: The same reason they should support anything else. It's a good, solid book that I believe is worth reading. Plus, it's coming from an indy creator, as opposed to mainstream superhero books. This means that it leans into subjects and themes that mainstream books have to tiptoe around. I think that's worth something.
Nrama: This might not make it in the final piece but I want to talk about the situation with founder and president Shon Bury of Space Goat who was recently accused of abusive behavior.
Naifeh: Yeah, I think it’s worth discussing.
Nrama: I mean, how do you feel about it? Especially with recent other comics scandals making major headlines, this has kind of flown under the radar.
Naifeh: It's a reminder that the subject matter of my book is extremely relevant. At the same time, it does render the book, and me, somewhat hypocritical. The book tackles the tendency of men to create boy's clubs and leave women out. But here I am working on a book about women with a production team that's all male.
I can be a cheerleader for equality, but in the long run, it's not my future that's at stake. I'm just a supporting player in that particular story. So the best I can do is be an ally, and be supportive. And not just supportive of women, but of men who want to be their best selves, but don't always know how.
I think men often look around these days and wonder if they're next, if they're going to end up the bad guy because of behavior they didn't even realize was toxic. Shon learned business in a very rough, blue-collar, mostly male environment. And he realized too late that the stuff men say to one another in that context isn't okay for women. Believe me, he knows he's the one at fault here, and he feels bad about the whole thing, and he's trying to make amends.
But here's the thing. I don't think this stuff is okay among men either. When men are always "breaking one another's balls," thinking that we're all tough enough to take it, something in us dies by degrees. We don't check in with one another's feelings, and so we end up neglecting our own feelings. And that makes us hard, cold people. I've avoided workplaces for the most part to keep away from that stuff. When I worked in video games, even for a good friend who I figured should know better, that stuff crept in and poisoned the environment. In the end, the toxic stuff women object to poisons us as well.
Nrama: Going back to the book itself... If Heroines doesn't get funded with Kickstarter, where does that leave it?
Naifeh: Not sure. But that's the point of Kickstarter. If no one wants it, I would be wasting my time doing it. I might try again in a year or two, maybe after doing another popular project. I may just need to raise my profile. But art is communication. If no one is listening, maybe I should rephrase my thoughts in a way people can better understand.
Nrama: Lastly, you say you're not a great multitasker but you always seem to be juggling a few projects at once. Is Heroines your top priority now or do you have something on the backburner?
Naifeh: I'm still producing Night's Dominion Season 2. Once that's done, I'm going to take a break from superhero stuff and get back to all-ages material. I love it, I'm pretty good at it, and my fans seem to like it better. So stay tuned for that.