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After about five years of slowly building momentum, the crowd-funding sector of comics may be nearly 2 percent the size of the direct market. Based on analysis of the past three months of campaigns, funds generated through Kickstarter and Indiegogo would be roughly the equivalent of the sixth- or seventh-largest publisher distributing to specialty shops in North America.
While crowd-funded comics haven’t seen as brisk of an increase as digital comics, it’s a sector of the industry that’s undeniably growing. As more established creators and publishers experiment with running campaigns, they have pulled in their readers, increasing the awareness, and even the legitimacy, of the platforms. I’ve found this area to be under-studied, and I was curious to see just how economically significant crowd-funding is becoming to the comics industry. So I have collected data on every campaign that successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and Indiegogo from October 2013 to December 2013. I’m actually going further back than that, but that data isn’t ready yet; I’m still digging through the numbers, as data collecting, sorting and number-crunching can be challenging due to the different platforms and currencies. But I wanted to make public what I have so far because as we head into 2014, following Fantagraphics’ amazing Kickstarter campaign (as just one example), I believe we’re going to be seeing the industry embrace crowd-funding more and more, and there’s a lot we can still learn about how it works and how it affects comics.
Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]
Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]
Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested last week on charges of sedition, held over the weekend, and released on S$10,000 bail. His cellphone and computer were also confiscated. The charges stem from two cartoons on Chew’s Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page. [Yahoo! News Singapore]
Crowdfunding | Chris Sims tells the truly bizarre tale of a crowdfunding scam: Someone copied Ken Lowery and Robert Wilson IV’s Kickstarter campaign for Like a Virus, including the video, and made it into an IndieGoGo campaign, presumably planning to pocket the money and run. [Comics Alliance]
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52’s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
The Canadian cartoonists who just completed a successful Indiegogo campaign to publish their homegrown superhero anthology True Patriot are back, but this time they aren’t in it for themselves: They’ve just launched a second Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the Red Cross.
As the text on the Indiegogo page explains:
Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]
Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]
J. Torres explains his newest project:
A number of my Canadian comic book pals and I grew up reading Alpha Flight, Captain Canuck, or Wolverine comics and we’ve always thought that there should be more Canadian superheroes out there. Over the years, we’d periodically get together and inevitably talk about the Canadian superheroes we’ve created (sometimes dating back to childhood) and always wanting to do “something” with them.
Well, we’re finally about to do something — something pretty big, and pretty cool. Kinda like Canada itself, eh?
That something is True Patriot, an anthology of short stories featuring homegrown Canadian superheroes, and Torres has announced a stellar roster that includes Scott Chantler (Two Generals), Ramon Perez (A Tale of Sand), Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare), Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The Adventures of Superhero Girl) and the team of Jack Briglio and Ron Salas. The anthology will be 100 pages, full color (or “colour,” as they say north of the border), and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Watch for the campaign to go live on IndieGoGo on Oct. 1, but in the meantime, check out Torres’ blog for some cool character designs.
Legal | The prosecution has laid out its case in the trial of former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins, who was charged with “grievous bodily harm with intent” following a January incident in which he allegedly stabbed a police officer responding to complaints about a man shouting throughout the night. Ewins, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years ago and is on medication for it, suffered cardiac arrest during the confrontation and was hospitalized for three weeks. He reportedly has no memory of the incident. The defense will contend that the blow to the head rendered him unconscious (like a sleepwalker) so he was not aware of what he was doing. [The Evening Standard]
Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con kicks off today with a guest list that includes Stan Lee, George Perez, Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Pacheco, Barry Kitson, David Mack and Chris Burnham. The convention continues through Sunday in Rosemont, Illinois. [Wizard World]
Creators | Cyriaque Lamar has a brief interview with Matt Kindt about Mind MGMT #0, which is being solicited now for a November release. (Issues 1-3 are already available.) Here’s Kindt on the look of the comic: “For this project, I wanted it to be less like you’re picking up a comic and more like you’re holding a story, right down to everything outside of the panels. I want it to feel interactive, something you don’t just drift into. I tend to read graphic novels over issues — I can’t remember thirty days ago from a bit of story. I wanted each issue something you’d go back to every month. My goal was give the book as much depth as possible to reward monthly readers.” [io9.com]
After this post went live, a representative from Kickstarter reached out to clarify some of the points made below. I don’t think it changes my basic conclusion, but when you’re working with statistics, it’s good to have all your caveats in a row, so I added a few more comments after the cut.
Simply put, I’d be wary of allowing my ability or inability to successfully fund the printing costs of a book to have any influence over whether or not I saw said project through to completion.
Pre-failing financially, would undoubtedly undermine any chances I have of succeeding creatively.
Allowing a kind of market to pre-determine if my project has value… that would alter my own perception about it’s worth, no matter how hard I tried to fight that.
Failing to raise funds would mean I’d scrap the story and try something else. And I think that’s a crappy outcome.
(Emphasis in the original.) It’s not the same as getting rejected by a publisher — that, he feels, could be written off as the opinion of one or two people. If the entire market rejects your work, it’s a lot harder to get up the enthusiasm to complete it.
But hold on a minute. After looking at the Kickstarter statistics presented by Jeanne Pi of AppsBlogger and Prof. Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t be so quick to scrap a project just because it didn’t get a lot of pledges. Pi and Mollick present their findings in a handy infographic, but here’s a quick summary:
Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]
Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]
Small comics publisher Alterna Comics is running what it calls a “reverse fundraiser” on the crowd-funding platform IndieGoGo. The term “reverse fundraiser” suggests the company will be giving the money to us, but alas, it’s not that good. What is reversed is actually the chronology of events: Alterna is looking for funding for comics that have already been published. Alterna founder Peter Simeti explains:
When these books originally went to print, fundraising sites like kickstarter and indie gogo weren’t super popular so we ended up putting print runs on credit cards. I’m still in a bit of debt because of this (about $30K) but it’s been getting better every year. I pay about $5K a year in interest fees though because of this, so it’s been a really hard upward battle to pay off the bills, pay creators, and produce new product. Especially on a substitute teacher’s salary… ($11K a year)
Compared to those numbers, the fund-raiser is quite modest; the goal is $2,500. And the rewards are pretty good: For $10, you can get a hard copy of any Alterna comic or a digital collection of 25 graphic novels in PDF format. But this does raise the question of what crowd-funding is really about. Johanna Draper Carlson recently commented that she prefers to donate to a project that is already complete and just needs funding for printing costs. This carries that to its logical extreme — the books are finished — but looked at another way, it is really just using IndieGoGo as a temporary storefront. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s definitely another wrinkle in the crowd-funding model.