Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Adventures in Kickstarter

A few days ago I posted about some comics that you might like to go and read, but today I'd like to talk about a few that you can't read just yet. Soon, though! Maybe. But only if you get involved. That's right, friends, I'm talking about Kickstarter.

There are a lot of opinions about Kickstarter floating around out there. This is the internet, after all, and passionately arguing about things that you don't properly understand is what it's for. For my part, while it's true that there have been a few notable disasters, unfulfilled promises and straight up nightmares, I still believe that it is on the whole a noble, democratising endeavour. There is a vast wealth of untapped talent in the world, people with things worth reading, playing, or listening to that don't have the means to get it out of their heads and into your hands. As a consumer, I am very much in favour of using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter (or IndieGoGo or what have you) to make sure that the things that I want to see in the world come to fruition. You should too - provided that you do a little research before handing over the cash, don't donate more money than you can afford to lose, and accept that every now and then campaigns just aren't going to turn out the way that you want.

Anyway, onto the recommendations! These are all current comics projects that I'm excited about, all of which I've either already donated money to or plan to in the near future. I haven't been approached by any of them, I'm not involved in any of them, they're just cool projects that I think you'll be interested in, one fan to another. I also haven't done any special research, so if one of them does steal your money and flee to the Bahamas, you can at least rest assured that they have some of my cash as well.


First up we have the one that I'm most intrigued by - MUTE. It's a crime story with a unique twist - the protagonist is deaf - and it follows this through to the logical conclusion by having neither speech bubbles nor sound effects throughout. This is a very cool concept, and one which I anticipate will work better in comics than any other medium. A movie without sound would be strange and distracting, and a novel without dialogue would be indistinguishable from any other postmodern "experiment". In a comic, though, with the visual element front and center, it has the potential to be deeply and effectively immersive.

The writer, Frank Cvetkovic, has been around in comics for a while, having lettered Artful Daggers, Department O and Kung Fu Skratch! The artist Michael Lee Harris is experienced as well, having illustrated a wide range of indie books including The Black Wraith and Spectre Spectrum. They're both definitely pros, so if it does get funded, concerns about the product not being completed should be pretty much zero.

A final note about Mute - it has just a few days to go and is struggling to hit the mark, so if you like what you see, don't wait, get moving!


I enjoy comics anthologies a lot, and Kickstarter has seen quite a few good ones come out, and has provided a great model for collections that would have had a difficult time being picked up by a mainstream publisher. Game Boss: The Final Form Anthology is a great example of this sort of thing, bringing together a wide range of creators and setting them the task of writing stories on the theme of 'antagonists', just the sort of broad-but-clear remit which has the potential to lead to some great work. They describe their range as being "from digital to traditional, realistic to fantastical...mainstream, Manga, and European comics". Sounds good to you? Sounds good to me.

I haven't previously heard of any of the people involved in the project, but isn't that the whole point of Kickstarter? There's quite a bit of near-finished work on display on the project page, in just as many styles as promised, and all looking very professional indeed.


This one is a little different, in that it's not new material but rather a repackaging of a classic, the relaunching of The Winsor McCay Project. McCay was one of the greats of the early 20th century Sunday newspaper strips, best known as the creator of Little Nemo, a deeply surreal and perpetually imaginative strip that was crucial to the development of the entire form. Comics of this period are a particular fascination of mine, mostly because the medium was so unformed that creators were basically learning what worked as they went along, and produced some entirely unique work along the way, none so much as Little Nemo.

This Kickstarter project is taking on the worthy task of collecting and republishing the entire run of Little Nemo across two softcover volumes. There have been a few collections put together in the past, one of which I gave to my girlfriend as a Christmas present a few years back, but to my knowledge none have been as complete as this. Devil's Due have already produced a few smaller Winsor Smith collections, so the quality and completion of this one should be a slam dunk.


21st Century Tank Girl is the project that I'm most excited about, and the one that I probably need to talk about the least. It's Tank Girl - 'nuff said. If you haven't actually read the comic before, you probably know the film. If you somehow missed the key dystopian riot grrrl flick of the 90s, you've almost certainly seen Jamie Hewlett's amazing artwork for rock/hip hop outfit Gorillaz. If you've never been exposed to any of those things, please let me know what it was like being homeschooled on Mars at the bottom of a well; I'm a writer and I always need stories to steal.

Anyway. These are ALL NEW Tank Girl stories, from the original creative team, to be presented in a glorious hardback edition with a wonderfully phallic cover. It's almost guaranteed to get funded, but come on - you know you want a piece of that action. Get on it, folks.


SEXCASTLE! How can you not love a comic called Sexcastle!? This is an action packed homage to the wondrous excesses of 80s action films, featuring the adventures of former Worlds Greatest Hitman Shane Sexcastle. I have a great deal of affection for the hypermasculine fever dreams of the dying empire that is America, and this looks to plug straight into zetgeist with just the right amount of affectionate homage and parody. The only named inspiration is Road House, but it's pretty clear that there's a lot of Big Trouble in Little China in its veins as well, not to mention Escape from New York and the rest of the John Carpenter / Kurt Russell collaborations. If that doesn't get you on board, then I don't even know who you are.

In terms of project risks - it's done. It's so done that a few bloggers, most notably Chris Sims, have already read it. The creator has a proven record as well, having already produced wrestling comic The Legend of Ricky Thunder. If you like the look of it, and you want a book called Sexcastle in your house, there's no reason not to back this sucker.


 Finally, we have an all new anthology from Dirty Diamonds. If you're not familiar, Dirty Diamonds (not to be confused with the Alice Cooper album) is a series of all-female comics anthologies aimed at giving new styles and voices a forum to tell semi-autobiographical tales. There are more than a few collectives like that kicking around, but Diamonds is one of the best. They've put out four books already, and clearly know what they're doing, because number five looks great. It's a comic about comics, with the contributors detailing their best and worst experiences as fans, creators, and people who generally live and breathe paper and ink. There are already 32 creators from all around the world signed up, so the range and creativity of this collection should be epic. It's over a hundred pages long as well, so don't let the "#5" in the corner fool you, this is a more-than-decently sized chunk of emerging comics culture.

Whew. That's a lot of Kickstarter. You know, when I started writing this article, I decided that four projects would be enough. I figured that I could cover a decent cross section of Kickstarter Comics, advocate for a few good projects, and call it a day. Clearly, that did not come to pass. There's just too much good stuff out there. Don't get me wrong, most of what you'll find on Kickstarter is garbage, as is the case with anything that any Jane or Joe off the street can contribute too, but once I started looking I realised that there was far more quality out there than I expected. I also discovered more than a few projects which I just had to back myself, so if this article makes you poorer, don't worry - I'm right there with you.

Have I missed any great projects that you want to talk about? Do you have any comments, complaints or non sequitors about any of these projects? Do you have any hilarious or terrifying Kickstarter tales to tell? Let me know in the comments!

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