In the diminishing wake of Dan Nadel’s comments about the SP7 anthology and the use of Kickstarter for comics projects, Tom Spurgeon is asking people to share their thoughts about crowdfunded comics. Here are mine.
I might be forgetting something, but I’m pretty sure I’ve donated to three comics-related crowdfunding campaigns. I gave to the Ulule campaing for Leah Wishnia’s Happiness #2 anthology, the Indiegogo campaign for Sparkplug Comic Books following the death of its founder Dylan Williams, and the Kickstarter campaign for Dave Kiersh’s After School Special graphic novel.
Each project had something going for it beyond “I’d like to read this comic.” In the case of Sparkplug, I felt awful about Dylan’s passing, particularly as it affected my friend and incoming Sparkplug co-publisher Tom Neely, and wanted to do something to help. In Kiersh’s case, I’m not just a big fan of his comics, I’m something of an evangelist about them — they just seem like something a lot of people would be over the moon for if they saw them, so I wanted to do my part to help that happen. Happiness is the one project of the three I had the least of a brief with prior to contributing — in fact I actually flipped through the anthology at BCGF last year but passed on buying it — but it seemed important to me that the young cartoonists in that anthology, many of whom I hadn’t seen or heard of before, have an outlet. I considered that one an investment in comics’ infrastructure.
But what it came down to in all three cases was that I believed that these were comics that deserved to be published, but wouldn’t be in any other way. That’s why this Twin Peaks fanzine project has become my Kickstarter Kronstadt.
It’s not that I dislike the idea of the zine. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the same Twin Peaks zine I inquired about contributing to before finding out it already had a set contributor list. I love Twin Peaks, and I enjoy fanzines that pay tribute to stuff I love. Everyone involved seems nobly intentioned, including the editor, Andrea Kalfas, who’s never done this sort of thing before. I’m sure it will be gorgeous, too. So that’s not the problem.
The problem is, well, why on earth do you need to Kickstart a project in which 60 illustrators who (judging from the samples) draw in lush, inviting, commercial-friendly styles make pin-ups from someone else’s intellectual property, drawn from a show that’s so hugely popular with the project’s target audience that it could make its money back and then some during the first hour of SPX without breaking a sweat? If the project’s publisher had asked its 60 contributors to paypal her twelve bucks, that would have covered the $700 goal of the kickstarter right there. Indeed the modest amount being requested makes it more baffling, not less, since it’s undeniable that the zine could have been independently funded with a modicum of self-sacrifice, which again would no doubt be handsomely rewarded the moment the book went on sale. Instead, what we have is a project that’s made three times its goal amount with 18 days to go.
I’m always happy to see artists make a little scratch and don’t begrudge that — in this country, the deck is so stacked against creative-field freelancers in terms of health insurance alone that anything that mitigates against that is worth celebrating. But I think that in some cases, such as when you and your friends think (correctly!) that it’d be neat to draw a bunch of spooky sexy fanart* for one of the most influential television shows of all time, I’d be happier to see this treated as the indulgence it is, rather than an act deserving the recompense of charity.
* I suspect that that is indeed what will comprise the bulk of the book — pretty drawings of the girls and women, square-jawed drawings of Coop, spooky drawings of the Black Lodge and its denizens — and that a more thoroughgoing interrogation of Lynch and Frost’s multifaceted and challenging work will not be forthcoming. I obviously could be wrong, and hope I am.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, the “Kronstadt” thing is hyperbole. I wrote that headline because I love alliteration and I thought the phrase “Kickstarter Kronstadt” was funny and thought people would think it was funny too and maybe read the post because of it. I definitely deserve to be dinged for that if you’re so inclined. I haven’t soured on Kickstarter/crowdfunding in general like the term implies, nor do I intend to make a grand sweeping statement about anything other than this specific project. What I meant by it was that when Dan wrote his anti-SP7 thing the other week and I responded to it, my assumption was that the only crowdfunding campaigns I would have a problem with were a) campaigns for stuff I dislike, in which case the problem’s just an aesthetic one and I’d simply not give to it; b) campaigns that seem hinky in some way, like asking for waaaaay more money than seems reasonable; c) campaigns by successful, wealthy artists with established inroads to traditional publishing, or by successful traditional publishers themselves. It had never occurred to me before now that there could be a campaign run by working artists asking for a reasonable amount of money to fund a book I’d like to read that wasn’t an obvious boondoggle but that I would still have a problem with, for whatever reason. This specific project made me realize that such a phenomenon was possible.