Saturday, 23 August 2014

Funding Friday: The Saturday Edition! Comics & Crowdfunding News

Having skipped one week of this Funding Friday blog (I was busy, and it was going to be hard to follow that Twitter conversation with Neil Gaiman), I am pleased to announce that Johnny Canuck: The Return of a Lost Golden Age Hero, by Rachel Richey, is fully funded!

Thanks to you lot the campaign hit its goal of $23,000 four days ago, and the money hasn't stopped. Four hours ago we hit a stretch goal of $25K, ensuring that the reprinted volume will credit the names of all its backers, immortalizing you in print as someone who helped bring the Canadian Whites back to life. Rachel and Johnny have their sights set on the next goal, $30K, which will upgrade the entire print run to hardcover! This bodes well, as my hardcover Nelvana volume is truly a thing of beauty.

I've also had the absolute pleasure of watching art in progress. Following Scott Chantler on Instagram is a treat; you can see some of his work progress from thumbnails, to pencils, to inks, and it's pretty damn cool. With the last Kickstarter update in my inbox came the news that Scott's piece of original art for the campaign is FINISHED, though sadly already scooped up. I promptly fist-pumped in the air, because YES! it is scooped me! I could not be more excited to have this stunning piece of comics Canadiana proudly displayed on my wall.

And now, without further pumping of my own tires, and with no more ado, I present...

Concrete Martians Part Two 
by Keith Grachow and Mitch Cook

Those radio people, man...
Let us set the stage.

October 30, 1938. It was a dark and stormy night in Concrete, WA, a fitting prelude to Halloween. Much of America was sitting around their radios, listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his famous doll, Charlie McCarthy. Anxious to skip over the musical interlude and return to the show they impatiently twiddled their dials...and found a news bulletin. It seemed innocuous at first, a discussion of weather and meteorological intricacies, until a Chicago astronomer reported observing "several explosions of incandescent gas occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars". Then reports came in of an unidentified object crashing into a field outside Grover's Mill, NJ. Tension built, exacerbated by the thrashing winds and flashing lightning outside, culminating in a tortured declaration issued from radio speakers across America...


And then the power went out.

It was, of course, the night of Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, an ingenious radio drama adapted from H.G. Wells' novel by the same name. Tuning in late on that fateful night, the residents of Concrete missed hearing Welles' opening disclaimer. When the power quit and the phones went down, cutting them off from the rest of the country, panic set in. This is approximately where Mitch Cook and Keith Grachow's first issue of Concrete Martians left us back in March when the book premiered at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, 96 miles from the story's setting. The story follows sheriff Ted "Teddy" Wilson in his struggle to maintain order as bedlam overtakes this small northwestern industry town. As the promotion video for their campaign states,
See what happens when a harmless radio play conspires with mother nature to bring a small town to the edge. 
The broadcast was and is an iconic moment in America's history. The nation was poised on the brink of a second world war. Hitler's Germany was a brooding force on the other side of the world, the threat of invasion heavy on the minds of the Western world. Radio was the only non-print news and entertainment source available. In print, it was a golden age of Science Fiction; pulps in the Gernsbackian tradition were in full swing, fan zines were sweeping the nation, and the first superhero had appeared earlier that year. Welles' timing was impeccable; the War of the Worlds broadcast was his Halloween prank on America, the equivalent "of dressing up in a sheet, jumping out of a bush and saying, 'Boo!'" (in the words of the master dramatist himself). As the campaign page states, "The power that radio displayed in those early days of mass media showed us that, even without meaning to, the theatre of the mind can and often does wreak havoc amongst the masses." Would that we were still so new to media that we could find ourselves awash with that kind of wonder.

Sucker for nostalgia that I am (you may or may not have noticed, I don't know), this campaign is right up my alley. I thoroughly enjoy seeing projects form around historical events, finding the lesser-known facts, the neglected areas of coverage, and offering a newly crafted perspective on it. Good historical fiction, I think, ought to be both entertaining and informative, and Concrete Martians has pulled together a solid combination of those elements. it!

The rewards are a little steep; the lowest perk on the list sits at $20 (UPDATE! This situation has been remedied; backer rewards are now available at $5 and $10 intervals). The most interesting backer rewards, by far, are the cleverly named original art options: "Alien Andy" (Andy Stanleigh), "Mike Rooth Martian Madness", and "The Crippen Crater" (Jacob Crippen), among others. I'll always advocate for buying original art; it's a superb way to support an artist's career, and it carries the distinct appeal of being something that nobody else will ever have. This campaign's got some sweet art available. Jump on it.

Dan Holst Soelberg's martian art

Friday, 8 August 2014

"A Hope in Hell" UPDATE - Neil Himself Weighs In

I asked Neil Gaiman on Twitter what his thoughts were on the aforementioned Kickstarter for a Sandman fan film. His response was wonderfully straightforward.

Never one to be satisfied with a straightforward and obvious reply, I prompted him further.
...which is hard to argue with.
And that was it, the extent of my conversation with Neil. But let's end this update with a sentiment from Andre Kirkman, the director of Hope in the Abyss.
And now it's all been said.

Funding Friday, "A Hope in Hell" - Comics & Crowdfunding News

I got a bit of a shock when I checked my inbox this morning. There was a message waiting for me that read,
Hi there,
This is a message from Kickstarter Support. We're writing to inform you that a project you backed, Hope in the Abyss (Sandman Fan Film), is the subject of an intellectual property dispute.
The message goes on to notify me that, while my pledge to the project remains active, the Kickstarter page itself has been hidden from public view for an indeterminate period of time. This is a shame as I was hoping to share an incredible-looking fan campaign with you, and I can't seem to find a cached version of the page. It's truly a beautiful-looking project. Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series has been well and widely loved for a couple of decades now. This film aims to follow the story set out in the title's fourth issue, "A Hope in Hell", in which Dream, the titular "Sandman", journeys to Hell to retrieve a possession lost during his centuries-long imprisonment. It's a great story, maybe my favourite from The Sandman.
Hope in the Abyss is being produced by Ben Dobyns who, along with Seattle-based production company Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, has fan-funded some of the greatest fantasy I've ever seen (correction: ZOE, however, is not connected to the Hope project). The list of professionals attached to the campaign is impressive, but one stuck out for me in particular: a puppeteer from Laika Studios. That detail alone (Dobyns' involvement aside) was enough to pique my interest. Laika is renowned for its luscious stop-motion work on the animated feature of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, the more recent children's zombie flick Paranorman, and the upcoming (and adorable) Boxtrolls. The studio has a way of telling great stories with great style, and the idea having one of their puppeteers helping bring Dream's descent into Hell to life send tingles down my spine. Standing in the way of that happening, though, is this message from Warner Bros....

...which I really want to be snarky about, but I suppose they are within their rights to do exactly this. Now, I don't know how much, if any, pull Gaiman has with his publishers and the licences they hold to his creations. But Neil, if you're reading this, I'd ask you and Amanda to put in a good word for the fans; if anyone understands the nature of crowdfunding and community coming together around art it's you guys, and I know many of us would love to see this project completed, to see a version of your world come alive through the work of people who have loved these stories for many, many years. 

And now, in other news...!

Brok Windsor - Lost WWII Comic Book Returns!
by Hope Nicholson

I shared the Brok Windsor campaign with you folks last week, and lo and behold you made it happen! The project reached its goal yesterday, officially propelling an iconic Canadian comics hero back into print. Congratulations; you guys officially rock.
And if you've been having doubts about the impending awesomeness of Brok Windsor, let this assuage those misgivings
Yeah. It's gonna be wicked great.

by Dustin Smith

I had a friend tweet this my direction last week when I neglected to mention it in my post, so allow me to rectify that oversight. Knightstalker is a classic "be careful what you wish for" story set in a world where superpowers exist as a terminal disease, giving you extraordinary abilities but killing you in the process. It's one of those concepts which sounds like old hat, but which fits the superhero genre so well that it really shouldn't be avoided. Sacrifice for the sake of power is a theme that's been around a lot longer than comics, a message that echoes back through may mythologies. King Midas desired wealth, and found himself sacrificing those he loved as he slaked his thirst for gold. Odin gave his eye to receive wisdom. It's an old story told many times, but it still resonates with us. Brandon Stanton, the man in charge of the photoblog Humans of New York, is currently overseas documenting people and their thoughts on life...
...which is kinda what he does best. The man has a gift. The words he receives from people are often profound, sometimes thrilling, joyous, sometimes sad. His tweet this morning hit me between the eyes:
There will always be things we would give to fix the word around us. And this is why stories like Knightstalker will always be worth telling. On a purely formal note, the art looks great, really clean lines and colours, and decent page layout. It's really quite an affordable campaign to back. The rewards are small and manageable: posters, digital comics, physical copies of the books, and variant covers. The $5000 goal is easily reachable with the right interest. So, share it around. Let's see if we can get another small comic off the ground.

In closing, the campaigns I mentioned last week are still going strong. Nick Bertozzi's Rubber Necker print run was successfully funded (and I can't wait to get my comics from that!). Rachel Richey's Johnny Canuck campaign is moving steadily forward; I give it another week to reach its goal. And the Stranger zombie comic campaign from AH Comics is still running...and nobody's scooped Adam Gorham's original cover art yet. It's still sitting there, mocking me.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Funding Friday - Comics & Crowdfunding News

Every Friday my Twitter feed exhibits a host of people hashtagging lists of follow-worthy people as part of the weekly internet trend "Follow Friday". I'm putting my own spin on that; today is FUNDING FRIDAY.

Well, Crowdfunding Friday, but for the sake of alliteration...

On the list today: comics, comics, comics, and, um, well yeah, it's mostly just comics. It's a wonderful thing, really. The amount of crowdfunding going into the comics industry these days is phenomenal. It builds community, closes the gap between the creator and consumer and helps each recognize the other is there. Which is important. It's something that's too damn easy to lose sight of. For me, it's provided a way for me to interact with and support people who are making things that I think are incredible. I was even recognized by someone at TCAF this year because I'd been vocal on Twitter in promoting their project, and that kinda blew my mind. So, without further ado (that was already quite a bit of ado), here are the projects on my radar this week.

There's a bunch of wicked exciting stuff happening in Canadian comics at the moment, and I'm bumping this to the top of the list because it's the latest release. Hope's Kickstarter went live yesterday, and support for the project is already well underway. A little bit of background: Brok Windsor is the latest in a string of Canadian Golden Age comics reprints, the initiative of historians Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey to pull these old stories out of obscurity. Many of them have simply been unavailable to readers for some fifty years, despite being an important piece of Canada's popular culture in the 20th century. Projects like this are my favourite answer to the rants I hear against our government for cutting arts and culture funding. It's evidence that the people still care about cultivating their country's arts and reinvigorating their cultural history, even when the government seems to have abandoned such causes. Last year Hope and Rachel Kickstarted a reprint of Adrian Dingle's iconic Nelvana of the Northern Lights, to enthusiastic public response. And these projects are gaining momentum online; Comics Alliance just published this interview with Hope, which sheds some light on the character, the matter of forgotten history, and the forward-looking goals for Canadian Golden Age comics. Hopefully, exposure like this brings more backers (like you!) on board with this project and many, many more to come.

You ever watch a Vancouver Canucks game and see their mascot, that goofy-looking lumberjack in plaid, with a hockey stick in his hand and pom-pom proudly bouncing on top of his toque? That's Johnny Canuck, or one rendition of him at any rate. He used to be part of Canada's stable of action-adventure heroes back in the 1940s, along with Brok Windsor. Rachel Richey, the other half of the Nelvana team, is Kickstarting the printing of a Johnny Canuck collection which will feature an introduction written by legendary Canadian cartoonist Seth and a short biography of Johnny Canuck creator Leo Bachle, written by Robert Pincombe. The campaign kicked off earlier this week and is in full swing. Among the backer rewards for this project (and for the Brok Windsor campaign) is a host of original artwork by various industry giants, providing a superb opportunity for you to support classic Canadian comics and build a collection of comic art! Ever wanted work by Ramon Perez, Francis Manapul, or Marcus To? Go get it! I snagged the Scott Chantler piece as soon as I could, and now I'm broke. But it was worth it.

"Sunswift", campaign art by Gary Shipman

I can't look at this campaign without feeling a twinge of guilt about how little I can actually expound on it. I'd never heard the name Dave Cockrum before this gem popped up in my Twitter feed, but looking at the attention this project has garnered and the artists who have jumped on board and contributed their work to commemorate his work it's clear that he was a giant of the Bronze Age. The project achieved its financial goals a while ago, soaring past its $6000 goal and on to stratospheric heights. It looks like the final book is gonna be a blast to read, a treat for anyone who appreciates the superhero classics and misses a time when comics were free of the expectations Hollywood blockbusters have now burdened them with. 

This project's a little more low-key than the previous ones. No superheroes or lumberjacks here (unless Betozzi surprises us; there could very well be lumberjacks). Just an alt cartoonist from New York pulling together printing costs for issue #6 of a snazzy looking comic. The goal is modest, and the backer rewards are nothing drastic: comics, posters, a bit of original art. The top end of the reward list, if you want to pitch $200 his way and happen to be in New York at the time, is a portfolio review, which I think is a stellar reward. Crowdfunding should build community, and Bertozzi seems to have a handle on that.

Let me preface everything else I'm going to say with this statement:

That cover is BADASS.

I've never read D.A. Bishop's webcomic Stranger, but I plan to remedy that shortly. This Kickstarter from Canadian publishing newcomer AH Comics Inc. looks sweet. I helped back their Jewish Comix Anthology Vol. 1 project a while back, a beautiful volume collecting some wonderful cultural treasures. Stranger looks equally promising, and decidedly less Jewish. The backer rewards are pretty cool, too: t-shirts (I'm snagging one of those), bookmarks, prints etc.
However, in my opinion, the crown jewel of the rewards list is down at the $500 dollar mark: Adam Gorham's original cover art, plus the book, t-shirt, stamps, bookmarks, and a digital edition. It's still open, and damned if I'm not tempted to scoop it before the rest of you. That is a gorgeous piece of artwork. If any of you readers end up getting it, let me know. I'll drool on my keyboard in jealousy on your behalf.

And that's all for now, folks! Of course, there's a host of other projects out there. My tastes may not be yours (in which case you're reading the wrong blog); head on over to Kickstarter's comics project page and see if anything there catches your fancy. Many, many creators are looking for funding, or looking to build a following as they start out on the long road that is a career in comics. You might be the addition they need to make that happen, you never really know. That is, quite simply, the beauty of crowdfunding.