John Campbell, creator of the webcomic “Pictures For Sad Children,” raised over $51,615 via Kickstarter for a print collection of his work in 2012. Since the campaign’s completion, he claims to have shipped “75% of Kickstarter rewards to backers” — but he won’t be shipping out any more. In a recent update to his Kickstarter campaign, Campbell posted a video of himself burning 127 of the remaining books — one for each of the messages via social media he has received so far about the late-shipping books, and he’ll burn another one every time he gets another message about a backer not getting their rewards.
Accompanying the video update is a lengthy essay that maligns capitalism and outlines Campbell’s current financial situation (going so far to post screencaps of his online bank balance and PayPal account balance), and passes judgement on the Kickstarter model. Campbell further states that he will not be sending any refunds for those who have not yet received their rewards, telling those seeking a refund to “please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man.”
“The backers who gave me the most money received the least ‘reward’ from me,” Campbell wrote. “After shipping costs, I ‘lost money’ on most of the books I sold at the $25 level so, backers at the higher levels, you could perceive of yourselves as having ‘paid for’ the books that the ‘lower’ backers currently have, and you could try to get those books that you ‘paid for’ somehow.”
Since the update, all comics and content from Campbell’s website, PicturesForSadChildren.com have been expunged, taking over 10 years of work offline.
The “Sad Pictures for Children” (the second printed collection of the strip) Kickstarter far surpassed its goal of $8,000, with no stretch goals publicly posted. Although Campbell’s campaign isn’t the first to experience issues with reward fulfillment, the response is certainly one of the most extreme. Also of note are Campbell’s higher tiers of pledge rewards from the initial campaign, which consisted more of experiences rather than higher-end items — for example, at the $100 pledge level, Campbell would send a signed and sketched copy of the book and would “take a homeless person out to eat somewhere and ask them about their life. I will then give them $100 and make a comic about them or about the experience. Then I will send you the original pages of the comic.”
Reward fulfillment is occasionally a problem for Kickstarter campaigns. An early Kickstarter graphic novel facing hardship was “Sullivan’s Sluggers,” which experienced major issues when is $90,000 backer funds ran out due to a miscalculation in shipping rates, and writer Mark Andrew Smith had to launch a second Kickstarter campaign in order to help cover international shipping.