Being part of a community
by Anthony Feinman
Kickstarter recently reached a milestone of being ten years old.
Ten years ago, I looked at crowdfunding and balked at the idea. People begging other people to fund their projects
or causes? How pathetic! I equated the notion to nothing short of panhandling. In fact, when I was freelancing, a client asked me to draw a strip about crowdfunding. My idea came from the notion of banks failing (this was during the financial crisis) and needing their customers to bail them out. (See comic to the right) Unless you’ve worked for a financial institution, you would understand that banks only function and exist from bank fees and the number of loans that they offer. Banks make their revenue from interest paid on loans that they offer to consumers. Of course, those of us old enough have lived through multiple government bailouts from the 90’s to recent times. Unfortunately, everyone needs help from time to time.
Case in point in 2013, Fantagraphics Books needed help. Kim Thompson, one of the founders, passed away due to lung cancer. It was quite a complication as Kim was the main drive behind the daily operations at this independent publishing house. Due to his passing, the company had no way of securing funds for their upcoming line of book publications. The solution, it seems, was crowdfunding through Kickstarter. Thankfully, it was successful (they secured over $120,000 in four days ultimately gaining an extra $70,000) and Fantagraphics is still around today printing many great compilations that I, myself, have enjoyed. Fans rallied due to their love of comics and saved the day. (Take a look at this Article) Only a community of devoted people could accomplish something like this. This is the big word that can be used to describe Kickstarter, Community.
For me, community has always been a hard word to stomach. I never really allowed myself to be part of a community growing up. Of course, I was part of community while attending my various schools or being a part of a business company. However, I find being associated with some “entity” is annoying. Even today, I am hesitant about posting pictures, words, and thoughts online as for me it’s akin to guilt. My guilt stems from the notion that instead of sharing, I should be working on projects instead of trying to satisfy some need for 15 second gratification from a family member, friend, or fan “liking” a post. I am the antithesis of most others in that I could care less about instant gratification. What I want is be immortalized. In fact, when I was applying to SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), these were my exact words when I was asked why I created art. My belief is recognition today is fleeting. But to be remembered in the future is forever.
If you are an artist, you are probably aware of how much time is spent alone in a room creating your work. Being an artist is a solitary endeavor that not everyone can endure. Even in college, I hated doing my projects in a classroom environment with other students as they were distracting. I always did my best work alone. I still do. It’s also the only way I can get things completed and done.
What does any of this have to do with Kickstarter? Glad you asked.
You may be a great artist, have a great product that you want to share with the world but if you live a solitary lifestyle (like myself) who’s ever going to see it? This is where community comes into play. ARTISTS NEED AN AUDIENCE.
I recently became that audience for two (now three as of 5/31/19) projects for comic creators on Kickstarter. Here’s the thing: If you are looking to be part of a community, what better way of seeing if you want to be a part of it is to join and participate.
I was first hesitate about putting in my credit card number on a site that I had little or no experience with. My research has brought up stories of projects never being funded, creators taking money and never producing their promised work, or creators freaking out over having to fill thousands of orders due to their project becoming extremely popular. (More on these subjects on later posts. I promise they are entertaining and a fascinating read!) I watched my two projects that I had pledge to until their final days when both were funded. Now for the past month, I have been again hesitate about whether I will ever see any finished products sent my way.
My first pledge paid off as I have recently received the rewards of contributing to a LIMITED release of a graphic novel by Mike Vosburg. (My geek alert hit the roof when I received this package on 06/01/19. He hand wrote MY NAME! “Giggle”)
Who is Mike Vosburg? For those that are not keen on your comic book history, he is a silver/bronze age comic book artist who was instrumental in the look and development of a MARVEL icon better know as THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK (Vosburg drew every issue from #2-25 of the original complete run). He was also the artist for a little known DC character STARFIRE (which I have almost a complete run in original issues and not to be confused with the Teen Titans character), the covers of the EC comic book covers for the HBO television series, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and has an Emmy for his work on HBO animated version of SPAWN. Strangely enough, I did not know that I was a fan of his until years after I illustrated Blitz Howser. I discovered that the SHE HULK art I referenced when I illustrated my short Sci-Fi adventure was based on his work. So when I discovered that he was printing a short run edition of a series originally published back in the day at Marvel, I was on board to pledge. I did not want to miss my chance to get a SIGNED book by a legend!
This is one pro I see in participating in crowdfunding. My chance, as a fan, to connect with an artist who I will never meet in person. I don’t foresee myself traveling anytime soon back to Cali for a comic book convention he may be attending. Nor him coming back to the Midwest (he’s originally from Michigan). Traveling is expensive these days!
Alright, getting away from my geeking out and focusing on Kickstarter once again.
Mike was able to post this project and discover (via the 100%+ success from fans like myself) that he still has a small market for his work. This venue, for small press creators, can help indicate whether or not your work will be accepted by the public. Of course there are many more factors that contribute to the success of a funded campaign which I will discuss at a later date. All in all, crowdfunding can help you see how much support a community feels that you have a viable product. But only if you put yourself out there and contribute.
I now have the benefit of the experience of being a contributor to a Kickstarter campaign from the pledger’s perspective. Unfortunately, as I write this blog, I am still feeling guilt as the hours I have put into writing this blog I could have spent drawing another page (or two) of my own multiple comic books. Why do I have to be part of a community?? Annoying.
Additionally, I cannot read this new graphic novel from one of my heroes for another month as I purchased it for myself as a birthday present. It came a month early… sheesh.
Part Two about the pros and cons of self publishing will be published in the future.
Until next time…