Robot 6

James Stokoe, Mark Andrew Smith clash over ‘Sullivan’s Sluggers’

sullivanssluggersAs a second Kickstarter campaign winds down for Sullivan’s Sluggers, this time to help cover international shipping costs for the oversized hardcover, artist James Stokoe has spoken out against the effort and requested that his name be removed from the graphic novel. Writer Mark Andrew Smith quickly responded with a statement to ROBOT 6.

Although the baseball-horror comic was originally solicited through Image, Smith turned to Kickstarter in May 2012 and surpassed his original $6,000 goal by a staggering $91,626, leading to the book’s metamorphosis into a “200-page Deluxe Omnibus-Sized Hardcover.” That success brought with it a little controversy, however, as Smith drew criticism for his decision to also offer the “Kickstarter-exclusive” Sullivan’s Sluggers through Amazon.com and other outlets. The growth of the graphic novel to 3.5 pounds also led to a miscalculation in shipping rates, sending Smith back to the Kickstarter well last month (that effort has generated $5,265 in pledges to date).

But on Wednesday, Stokoe took to his blog to distance himself from both Kickstarter campaigns, saying, “the writer and myself had briefly talked about working together on the KS, but due to some disagreements, I decided to remove myself from it completely.”

“There’s been talk on my behalf about fair compensation from the KS earnings, but I have to say that it personally doesn’t bother me,” he continued. “I have been paid what I was contracted for, and I’ve been very content to keep my nose out of anything involving the book post-Kickstarter. In other words, there’s really no reason to be offended on my behalf. I’m doing fine. I understand that some backers may feel mislead in that they were supporting me financially by backing the book, and for that I apologize. There was very little I could do once the ball started rolling in that regard, shy of shitting on the whole parade.”

He said he’s also asked Smith to remove his name from Sullivan’s Sluggers, explaining, “It’s not a book that I feel good about endorsing, and I’d prefer not to be associated with it any longer.”

Contacted this morning by ROBOT 6, Smith issued a statement saying, “I hired James Stokoe for Sullivan’s years ago starting in 2009, and then he’d go missing for months and months at a time, one year turning in about 8 pages total. 8 pages in one year! That said, I was foolish enough to bet the house on Sullivan’s Sluggers with Stokoe and things didn’t go at all to plan with the schedule. [...] Stokoe was a grown man, he agreed to do a job for a certain amount like many of you do every day, and took three years to finish that job which was only to deliver art for the book. He was paid for the job in full. I offered to pay more but he declined. I don’t look at him like a brilliant artist but more as someone that built a house for me, finished, and moved on to what’s next. If things went smoother on the book that wouldn’t be the case but they didn’t.”

“Any project that takes three years to get turned in is going to have its amount of bad blood,” he continued. “It was absolute hell for me on my end, and it’s a shame that people continue to make it a hell for me saying that I ripped him off and by spreading the story and other stories that aren’t true. I paid on the front end for two years of hell, and now his camp has been stirring the pot and causing so much commotion and trouble posting every story of story, most of which aren’t true or have been warped again and again. Really, it’s like having an ex and they’re not happy and are going to say all of the worst things about you, and get people worked up to try to take sides.”

Smith also included a detail of their original contracted, signed by Stokoe and dated Sept. 17, 2009. Read his full statement below:

I hired James Stokoe for Sullivan’s years ago starting in 2009, and then he’d go missing for months and months at a time, one year turning in about 8 pages total. 8 pages in one year! That said, I was foolish enough to bet the house on Sullivan’s Sluggers with Stokoe and things didn’t go at all to plan with the schedule. That said, I’ve been trying to make the tastiest lemonade from three years of James Stokoe lemons.

My life fell apart and took all kinds of turns because of Stokoe’s pace with the book. It was fuel for the fire of me getting divorced in Korea because of money and trying to turn comics into a career and having prospects other than being an English teacher forever in South Korea. So I’ve suffered enough.

Stokoe was a grown man, he agreed to do a job for a certain amount like many of you do every day, and took three years to finish that job which was only to deliver art for the book. He was paid for the job in full. I offered to pay more but he declined. I don’t look at him like a brilliant artist but more as someone that built a house for me, finished, and moved on to what’s next. If things went smoother on the book that wouldn’t be the case but they didn’t.

I can understand the sting on his end from the perception that this Kickstarter made a billion dollars and that people think I should write him a check for half of it but this guy ruined my life. No one cares when books don’t make any money which most of mine haven’t for the past ten years under Image.

Any project that takes three years to get turned in is going to have it’s amount of bad blood. It was absolute hell for me on my end, and it’s a shame that people continue to make it a hell for me saying that I ripped him off and by spreading the story and other stories that aren’t true. I paid on the front end for two years of hell, and now his camp has been stirring the pot and causing so much commotion and trouble posting every story of story, most of which aren’t true or have been warped again and again.

Really, it’s like having an ex and they’re not happy and are going to say all of the worst things about you, and get people worked up to try to take sides.

It’s a shame that this laundry had to be aired, because it’s really no one’s business but they’ve done a good job of doing that. Personally, I want the book to be wrapped and over with.

In the past few months have just been nonstop bullying, targeted harassment from his camp, comics alliance doing hit articles (And I’m the only one they’ve done for their Kickstarted reviews to date, 3 of them), and people anonymously on 4Chan posting the worst things that aren’t true and reposting and re spreading misinformation.

stokoe signature

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25 Comments

Wow, it’s Aqua Leung: The Sequel. (Scroll to near the bottom of http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=18264 if you don’t remember that last dust-up.)

I always hate running across stuff like this. I read comics for escape, entertainment, and sometimes enlightenment, not for creator soap opera crap. How is this anybody’s business except Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe’s? One hundred percent of everybody who isn’t the two of them need to keep their noses out of it.

How is it anyone’s business? I bought Sullivan’s Sluggers under pretenses I am no longer comfortable with.

Stokoe has been civil in pretty much all of this and Smith blames him for his divorce. Yeah, sorry, I’ve got an interest because I don’t want one of my favorite artists, arguably one of the best working in comics right now, being slandered by someone who asks a graphic designer to do work for free after making nearly $100k on a kickstarter.

“[A]nd took three years to finish that job which was only to deliver art for the book.”

“I don’t look at him like a brilliant artist but more as someone that built a house for me, finished, and moved on to what’s next.”

I hate to break it to you Mark, but I bet if you posted a survey of people who bought the book, you’d find the majority bought it for Stokoe’s artwork. Also, did you just say Stokoe turning in the art at his own pace caused you to get a divorce?? What??? LOL! I wish there was some way to return this book and get my money back.

Blargh…I was thinking of picking this up, because I enjoy Stokoe’s art, and I liked The Amazing Joy Buzzards back in the day. Now I’ll pass. The hazards of knowing how the sausage is made is that you find out how many assholes are included in the process.
That Aqua Leung link GM posted above was a good example of how fast Smith seems to turn on anyone who has issues with him.

It doesn’t look to me like Stokoe is being asked to work, “for free.” Even he seems to agree that he was paid what he expected for the work he was contracted to do. The rest is, as has been pointed out, nobody’s business but Stokoe’s and Smith’s, though I can understand anyone being apprehensive about having purchased the book given the drama.

Eh, doesn’t bother me. I’m still gonna read Smith’s work. I find it funny how people take someone’s attitude or mentality into account on whether they should check out their work or not.

There are a lot of assholes in this biz and a lot of nice people, but unless one of these people happens to be a murderer, racist, rapist, molester or criminal then it really shouldnt matter when taking into account whether to buy their work or not.

While Smith definitely carries blame for his shipping issues, sometimes overzealous readers need to learn to chill.

Stokoe only made a statement because people were jumping to his defense about royalties for a property he has no ownership claim to.

Smith was silly to air his dirty laundry the way he did. I get that he may have been trying to paint Stokoe as unprofessional, but he ended up getting more dirt on himself than anyone else.

Dan Dieckmann

March 7, 2013 at 9:58 am

I feel that as a writer by trade, Smith should not have written any of the things he did, both in past instances regarding Aqua Leung, or in this case, for Sullivan’s Sluggers. Saying all the things he did about what “James’ ‘camp'” was doing/saying, implies that James himself has some hand in those posts, of which he does not. James himself never made mention of royalties or WANTING any more money that he was paid for the work he did, so implying that he in some way did is not cool. James himself posted to say that he did NOT request nor want anything further, to try and clear the air and get people OFF of Smith’s back. However it is Smith’s handling of this whole project, the way he communicates (or doesn’t), and the reactions he posted online that are the true issue here, all of which he tries to cover up by saying James worked slow and “caused his divorce,” which is complete and utter madness, and only a further attempt to get the spotlight off of the mistakes that Smith himself ADMITTEDLY made.

If you want work done by a certain date, and you provide the contract…. shouldn’t said contract have something like a due date in it? For someone who is so quick to wave contracts around, Mr. Smith certainly doesn’t appear to make sure that they include all of the details he seems to want to enforce at later dates after it has been signed (though it sounds like, from the Aqua disaster, that he doesn’t really seem to care about what contracts say anyways, even if they are signed, unless he feels it works in his favor in an online arguement). If you have such dire money issues that your spouse is threatening to leave you…. maybe depending on ONE kickstarter comic to save your whole marriage is not James’ problem, but your own? Maybe a more steady career should have been in order? Maybe someone who has worked in comics for YEARS should have realized that comics is usually NOT the way to go when money is seemingly such a HUGE concern for you?

I expect in a day or two he posts on here “I apologize for airing my dirty laundry and I apologize for everything I said. While I don’t agree with James, I decided it’s time to move on, but thanks to everyone for all the support on the book.”

@Marco Lopez – it’s more than just a bad attitude. Smith’s actions in this case (outside of the personal bashing of James Stokoe) are really detrimental to the Kickstarter business model for independent publishers. Lying about the exclusivity of an item, shipping items to retailers before KS backers, grossly miscalculating his shipping costs and then starting a second Kickstarter with a goal of $1 to just sell more books all put the KS model in jeopardy. Kickstarter was not created to be a personal book store for you to sell goods.

I bought Sullivan’s Sluggers for one reason: James Stokoe’s art. Not the writer, not the story. Just the artist. Were it not for Stokoe’s name, I would not have purchased the book. IIt crush it’s Kickstarter goal, and I don’t see how that would have happened without Stokoe’s involvement. Smith’s name alone would not have done it.

Boy, I re-read my initial comment above. Sheesh. I just let fly with the invective, didn’t I? I probably wouldn’t have done in person. My apologies for the tone!

Seeing as this is the second publicized fallout between Smith and a collaborator, it’s safe to say that working with him is poison. After all this, he may only get unknown artists desperate to get published to work with him.

Ugh, I hate this kind of thing. Unlike (it seems) the majority of people, I backed this project because I’m a fan of both creators, having enjoyed books they’d worked on separately.

I wasn’t aware of the way in which MAS had conducted himself in the past, although I was disappointed to learn the KickStarter exclusive wasn’t in fact a Kickstarter exclusive – that I thought it was the only opportunity to get the book was a part of the reason I parted with the money even though I probably shouldn’t have been as free with my spending at the time. I WAS aware that Stokoe takes his sweet time with everything, and thought that was just understood by everyone that worked with him. I think the whole thing reflects poorly on both of them, honestly, but I wish other creators didn’t see fit to involve themselves.

This –
http://whoisrico.deviantart.com/art/CampStokoe-358213391
http://whoisrico.deviantart.com/art/PaulWasRight-358214215
– helps no one.

Can’t gloss over that this inflates an existing problem with Kickstarter — overfunding (or, on the other hand, underestimating). I’ve yet to see anyone write extensively on how this can sometimes ruin creator-creator or creator-audience relations; it seems to be a problem no one wants to talk about unless it’s their favorite creator who gets uppity.

How fair is it for him to comment on Stokoe when he has deadline problems himself. Here’s a link to a Kickstarter project funded in May of 2011. Those people will be waiting until June or July… Of 2013!
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1940696606/the-new-brighton-archeological-society-book-two

Dan Dieckmann

March 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

@Jason, I believe that deadline will be met as much as I believe up is actually down.

What’s bothering me is that Smith is throwing up all this bull about his problems with Stokoe and his divorce and all this other stuff and he doesn’t ever address the main complaints: books being shipped to stores before funders, the lack of exclusivity, and the second Kickstarter campaign.

Brad Rapstars

March 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm

They both look pretty dishonorable in this. Getting paid up front, and then taking three years to turn in some pages, well, Stokoe might be a nice guy in general and a fine artist, but that’s a jackass move anyway you slice it.

It's Complicated

March 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm

James got paid in installments. It wasn’t all up front. Also the book was only supposed to be 75 pages long, but Mark kept expanding it. This conflicted with other books in James’ schedule and contributed to the lateness.

James should have gotten the book done faster, but it’s more complicated than people know. A guy who airs dirty laundry and blames his personal problems on others is surprisingly not the easiest person to work with!

It also may seem that Mark Andrew Smith is bi-polar and in all seriousness he should have that checked. Based on this situation and the Aqua Leung one. Some of the responses and such aren’t of a person in their right mind. As someone who is bi-polar sometimes you don’t realize the shit you say and the extremes you take.

Dan Dieckmann

March 8, 2013 at 7:09 am

…or the bridges you burn, whether you really mean to or not. Sounds like Mr. Smith changed the original deal yet again (something he now seems to be famous for doing, even if a contract is already signed, as he always likes to point out). If HE changed the deal mid-stream, changed the work-load, changed the expected output of work, then Mr. Smith then has to cater to what Stokoe can get done around OTHER projects he is working on, and is ALSO likely under contract for. Smith always leaves out all of those details, as he knows they will paint him int he light he currently deserves to be seen in. ALL of these problems stem from ONE main root-cause, and that is POOR PLANNING on the part of Mr. Smith. Poor planning in the writing process which extends work far more than was originally intended, poor planning on the kickstarter, poor planning on shipping, poor planning on writing contracts….. Poor planning leads to poor results. It sucks they are both involved in this, yes…. but until Smith actually addresses the issues that people ACTUALLY have a problem with, I have no sympathy for him or his personal life.

Just Another Artist

March 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Mark creates an absolutely toxic environment to work in. He bashes every creator he’s currently working with to the others, prides himself on hiring colorists at the cheapest rates possible, at one point hiring one for exposure and a Wacom tablet (note: the artists in most cases are working for free — James Stokoe was the first I’d heard he ever paid up front). He even alluded to the fact that Slugger’s would be popular due to James involvement. His only real concern seems to be in selling his properties as movies. He relies on things like free letterers, and uses other aspiring writers as editors (for free — see a theme?).
When an artist decides to bow out of this arrangement after having had enough, Mr. Smith derides and belittles them never once realizing that he’s the issue.

I think James’ post was a very professional way to address the issues at hand, not an attack on Mark. Mark will be put upon for the rest of his life and never feel as though something is his fault.

I’ve just gotten through reading all the related links about this fiasco

Firstly, it appears Kickstarter has (rightly so) suspended the new Sullivan’s Slugger campaign. Regardless of the shipping mistake that Mark claims cost him $15k, this is clearly a very dishonest way to go about ‘fixing’ that error. The original campaign generated almost $100k in revenue, so even with fees etc. there should be plenty of money to cover this mistake, and learn from it for next time like any normal person would do. Instead, Mark has been found out and will now pay the ultimate price with what will be a very tarnished reputation. But as the old adage goes — “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it”.

Secondly, Mark’s response and his history of bad blood with fellow collaborators clearly indicates someone with psychological problems. Victim playing is an unfortunately prevalent condition in our society today, and Mark exhibits all the signs: trying to divert attention away from his unprofessional behaviour, and soliciting sympathy from others in order to gain their assistance in supporting his behaviour. Most of all though, it provides justification to himself – as a way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance that results from inconsistencies between the way they he treats others, and what he believes about himself (it wasn’t my fault I miss calculated the shipping).

Thirdly, its unacceptable behaviour like this which will ultimately turn people away from Kickstarter, which is the biggest shame in all this.

Smith claims to be an “Eisner & Harvey Award-winning writer” on the KIckstarter and his Pirate Bay ad but according to his Wikipedia entry the awards were actually Best Anthology for a book he co-edited and had a few stories in.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Andrew_Smith

I think that says everything I need to know about him.

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