Two years ago, Newsarama started reporting on some of the independent, relatively small self-publishers who had turned toward the new website Kickstarter to fund their comic books.
But currently, a new campaign on Kickstarter has attracted attention of a different sort, because the writer and artist are two higher-profile comic creators: British writer Paul Jenkins (The Sentry) and Mexican artist Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man), who are hoping to open the door for more well-known creators to use the site to fund comics.
The two are hoping to raise at least $60,000 by May 26th to fund the printing costs for a 56-page, hardcover graphic novel called Fairy Quest, and they hope to be able to continue the story in future hardcover books by utilizing the same funding method.
According to Jenkins, he and Ramos are taking a risk by putting the funding of their book in the hands of fans instead of just selling it to a publisher. But they believe Kickstarter could be the wave of the future for comics, as fans are able to fund projects that might otherwise have to be handed over to publisher control or the whim of retailers.Kickstarter began in 2009 as a site where anyone with a creative idea could ask the public to back the endeavor. Used by filmmakers, journalists, inventors and explorers, Kickstarter has also become a haven for comic book creators who couldn't find a publisher for their projects. But lately, it's been looking more and more like the site could also raise major funding for comic projects that fans want to see, whether or not they're "small" or "large." The site has produced some particularly noteworthy successes, like Womanthology, which raised more than $100,000 even though the creators only asked for $25,000. It also recently raised money for the Image Comics graphic novel Queen Crab before it was solicited in Previews. Jenkins, who helped launch two titles for DC for the New 52, is hoping to tap into his fans' enthusiasm with the campaign for Fairy Quest, which has already raised more than half its goal. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about the comic and the fundraising approach.
Newsarama: Paul, with the success you and Humberto had with Revelations, which you did through an established publisher, what made you want to use Kickstarter for this next series?
Jenkins: It just made sense for the project. Humberto and I did Revelations, through Dark Horse, and it was really popular in Europe. When Humberto was living in Paris, he said there wasn't a day that went by that someone didn't run up to him talking about how great Revelations was. Even though we'd done what we thought were high-profile things like Spectacular Spider-Man, in Europe, a book like Revelations was really important. It was a murder mystery set in the Vatican.So the time came around that we were doing our next book together, and that became Fairy Quest. And we had a number of offers to publish the book. But we decided to go with a foreign publisher, and that became a mistake. They didn't pay their bills. And suddenly we were without a publisher, and we had a really sour taste in our mouth. We almost canceled the project, and we were just miserable.
That's why we decided to publish it ourselves. But then after we made 1,000 copies for conventions, they sold out immediately. People were just so excited about this story. We realized we could print it on a larger scale. But something like that takes funding.
So when we were ready to go back to print, we realized that if it was going to stay true to the way we had always expected it to be, and that we weren't going to run the risk of having difficulty with another publisher, we needed to take a different approach. We love our relationships with Marvel and DC, and we've been in mainstream for a long time, but this book needs to belong to us and stay with us.That's why Kickstarter was perfect for it. These 56- to 48-page, hardcover books are extremely expensive for us to print ourselves. These are very high quality, and we want to make sure they turn out the way we want.
So what we've decided to do is do the editorial content ourselves, and then raise the money for printing through pledges. Then we can be hard at work on the second graphic novel. So by the time this first one is printed, we'll be most of the way through , and then we'll raise the money for that one.
Nrama: Let's talk about the series itself. How did the idea come about for you and Humberto to do this story in particular?Jenkins: It's something that's been in the works for a long time, actually. After we had such a great time together on Revelations, we started talking about what we were going to do next. He had this idea about fairy stories, and I had this idea about a world where all of the stories lived together. And we decided to mix the stories together.
Nrama: So what can you tell fans about the story they'll see in fairy Quest?
Jenkins: There's this world called Fablewood, where every type of story — whether it's a romance novel or a detective story or science fiction — all of them live side-by-side inside this massive world called Fablewood. And our first story is set inside the world of children's stories.In the world of children's stories, there are these people called the Think Police, and it's run by this guy named Mr. Grimm. And they force all the kid stories to tell their stories, and to keep their stories straight. They get citations if they deviate from that story. And if they deviate too much, he puts them into a mind eraser and wipes their minds, and they have to start all over again. Grimm is the main villain, and he's obviously named after Grimm's Fairy Tales. He's the head of the Think Police, and he's trying to keep order. He's kind of a fascist. He's always talking about deviancy, and people keeping their stories straight. So it's dark, in the same way a children's fairy tale is dark. (After all, Hansel and Gretel is about cannibalism, so we're treading kind of lightly, to be honest.)
Within this environment, Red Riding Hood is called Red, and the wolf is called Mr. Woof. And they become friends. And they're sort of subversives, and they decide to get away so that they can be friends forever and stay together.
That's the basic premise of the first story. So at first, the story is centered on Red and Mr. Woof, but there are all kinds of characters within this world. For example, I don't know if you've ever noticed it, but all of the female characters in the children's fairy tale stories are always the most powerful. And so in Fablewood, there's a turf war going on between the witches of the north, south, east and west, and the Queen of Hearts is the head of the mob. And there are a lot of other characters we have yet to introduce that Humberto and I have already figured out their stories.
Nrama: With something like the Think Police, is this meant to be social commentary?Jenkins: No, I wouldn't describe it that way. It's really just a story about friendship. It shows the lengths to which two people will go, once they've found each other, to be together. How will they stand up against the factions of society that are working against them? So if it's a social commentary at all, it's a commentary about people staying friends when the world says they can't.
Nrama: A lot of self-publishers have used Kickstarter, but I haven't seen very many people who are quite as well-known among superhero fans as you two are. What's the feedback been for your choice to do this? What do other creators think about it?
Jenkins: To be kind of frank about it, I've seen different opinions about Kickstarter. I've seen a few creators that are not too positive about mainstream creators going to Kickstarter, with the idea being, "if we go to Kickstarter we're taking away somebody else's funding, because Kickstarter is about smaller projects." But that is a naive approach.As well as being a writer in comics, I also work in animation and video games. And it makes me a businessman. And I'm very aware that the SEC laws changed in January 1st to make Kickstarter an even more attractive way to sell. My business partners saw, earlier this year, that there were these new securities laws because there is a benefit to crowd funding. It's greasing the wheels of a type of economy, and there's no reason to not allow it. So for the first time in more than 80 years, securities laws have changed so that now, Kickstarter is a viable way to raise money. It's not just some type of hippie commune where people get a chance to raise some money. It's a business environment now.
Plus, I think that bringing better-known creators into Kickstart also brings extra fans in with them. And that money goes to other projects as well. Humberto and I have been promoting a few other cool projects that we've seen on Kickstarter so that we're part of the community -- so we're not detracting from it, but are adding to it.
Nrama: Do you think this is something more higher-profile creators might do to raise money for their creator-owned stuff? If Grant Morrison or Brian Bendis wanted to do something, they could use this, right? I mean, what's holding them back now?
Jenkins: What's holding them back is that it's perceived as a bit of a risk. You know? I mean, Humberto and I knew we were kind of taking a risk here, because it would be horrible if we had fallen on our face. But it's over the halfway mark now, and it's less than halfway through the pledge period. So it looks like we're on track for a pretty good number.I've already spoken to a few prominent creators, and they've told me, "We're looking very carefully at what happens with you right now. If you and Humberto do it and it works out, we will possibly follow suit." And I do think you'll see it.
Of course, it takes an up-front commitment, or at least, we're making a sacrifice to make this happen, and I think that's a necessity. To us, fairy Quest is very special, and we wanted to really guide it and own it and create. What we said to the fans is, you're like our printing and publishing partners. So we'll do all the work, and it will be a labor of love, but when you send us the money that we can print with, it may give us a little to put toward the editorial of the next issue, and over time, we'll think fairy Quest will pay us back for all this time we're putting into it.
For more information on the campaign for Fairy Quest by Jenkins and Ramos, visit the the creators' Kickstarter page.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!