CBR TV @ NYCC 2014: Paul Jenkins on Publishing with Kickstarter, Marvel's Inhumans Resurgence

Writer Paul Jenkins visited Jonah Weiland in the CBR Tiki Lounge during New York Comic Con, but unlike past visits he didn't come alone, nor did he bring one of his collaborators. As part of his recent Kickstarter campaign for "Fiction Squad," Jenkins was joined by Seth Dueben, who won the opportunity to hang out with the writer for a day. Jenkins talks about the success he's had financing "Fairy Quest" and "Fiction Squad" via the crowdfunding site, whether that trend can continue for more creators, and why having a Kickstarter and a publisher isn't double dipping. He also spoke about his time writing the Inhumans for Marvel Knights and how he feels about the publisher's renewed push for the fan-favorite characters.

Jawing with Jenkins on "Deathmatch," "Fairy Quest" & Beyond

On his tremendous success using Kickstarter to fund projects: It's probably something to do with the fact that Humberto [Ramos] and I went out on a limb first, perhaps. I don't think that would be fair to somebody like Jimmy Palmiotti, 'cause Jimmy had been doing it as well. But I will say that when we did "Fairy Quest" a few years ago we didn't have a guide, and Kickstarter was much newer. We built up a lot of cache with the fans because we were willing to just go out there and be really, really communicative, to be friends with the fans. The first statement that we made was that we felt that fans were our publishers. This is one of my publishers right here which I think is really special.

When we did "Fairy Quest" we weren't sure if asking for such a big number was a good idea -- because that was the reality of it, it was gonna cost us that amount -- but we asked for it anyway and we hit our number and then it kept going up and kept going up. Probably the biggest reason it kept going up was because we maintained the communication; we maintained the real friendship with the fans. We kept everything open and continually reminded them that we weren't able to do this without them. We asked for help as well, we weren't shy about it. We didn't say 'We're prominent comic creators and you're just gonna give us money,' that's not true. We thought that "Fairy Quest," specifically, was a book that as beautiful as it is, and as much as people love it, was going to be a difficult sale to the mainstream. And then it became way less difficult because of the financing that was done by the fans.

On those who criticize the Kickstarter-to-publisher production model: There's a couple of things that I would like people to understand, because the first time that we did it, we did not do the Kickstarter-to-publisher model. Humberto and I did "Fairy Quest" by ourselves, it was extremely difficult to do, and so we found ourselves in fulfillment hell. And the best laid plans of mice and men. I brought people on specifically to avoid fulfillment hell and they created it. We looked at the relationship and we said, "What do we do next?" We still need people to help us with fulfillment because people would rather that Humberto and I made the books, not try to lick envelopes. Although I licked thousands of envelopes. It was horrible.

The thing was that we loved doing it, but people have to understand that you can't expect the artist to completely do the fulfillment. I've gotta get some help. So the help that I got was that BOOM! [Studios] loved the book. BOOM! was so into it, and we made the book to persuade BOOM! to love it. We didn't pitch BOOM! that book -- we licensed BOOM! that book. BOOM! loved it, they wanted to do it. They did the first two softcover issues, they did a softcover trade. We did the hardcover, but that was the book that we wanted. It was beautiful, it was spot UV coated and all that. Then when it came time to do the second book I just called BOOM! up and said, "Let's do that the other way around now, okay? We know we're gonna license it to you, we know we wanna finish out the series of 'Fairy Quest,' so why don't you help me with the fulfillment from the beginning?" So they're not publishing us, they're helping us with fulfillment. But at the same time, we're giving them the license to publish, [and we] move on to the next Fablewood book, which is "Fiction Squad."

"Fiction Squad" is exactly mine with Ramon Bachs. "Fairy Quest" is mine with Humberto. And the whole Fablewood world is something that I get to make exactly the way that I want to with my covers, my artwork, the stuff that I want to do, and BOOM! are sold on it 100%. And they should be because it's done really well.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Jenkins Goes All BOOM!

On his history with the Inhumans and Marvel's big push for the characters: At the time [I wrote it], it wasn't that "Inhumans" was a hard sell. Everything at Marvel was a hard sell. They were in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, everything had fallen down at Marvel. "Daredevil" couldn't be done. It could be by Kevin Smith -- so if you look at Marvel Knights, they had, I always want to say, two and a half to three successes. I realize "The Punisher" didn't do so well, "The Inhumans" was a success because we won an Eisner and they just hadn't won an Eisner in so long that company culture wise I think it really helped Marvel to look at themselves and go, "Wait a minute, we do have great stuff here. We can do great creators." And the stuff that Kevin Smith and Joe [Quesada] and Jimmy [Palmiotti] did on "Daredevil" was amazing and it made a lot of money. So here was a book that hadn't made money suddenly making a lot of money in sales. That's not a bad formula. And I say the half a book, it didn't get a lot of attention but I still think it's a great success was "Black Panther" 'cause it went for fifty issues. Fifty issues! And it was good.

When I see the Inhumans now being prominent, I think it's for different reasons than the obvious one. I think it's the fact that Marvel Entertainment require a group that are like the X-Men. But they don't have the X-Men. They sold the rights to that from underneath themselves years ago -- as they did with Spider-Man -- Sony have Spider-Man, Fox have the X-Men. These are things that Marvel Entertainment should be in control of but to get to where they are now with the great "Iron Man" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" films they had to build up, and so they had to sell off -- not completely sell off, but make Spider-Man films with somebody else.

Well they want to make their own X-Men films, and what's the best way for them to do that is call them Inhumans. So that's what they want to do. I hope that they will follow what Jae [Lee] and I did on "Inhumans" because I think that we had the take that worked. The reason I say that is back in the day when we took over "Inhumans," everybody said, "You cannot do that book. That book is a failure. We've tried it fifteen times, it always fails." And the one thing that I noticed is that every time somebody wrote the Inhumans they always had Black Bolt say something. So here is a character that cannot speak by virtue of the nature of his power and his life, and everybody would have him say something so everything would blow up. And I always thought that was the anti-writer instinct which is, "Why have him speak when the whole point of the character is he's not allowed to speak?"

Another issue was the up until I wrote the Inhumans he had never been defeated in battle. So I thought, "Great, that's the only character that can say that." And right after we made it popular the very first thing that they did was have him beaten in battle for the first time. That's a real big mistake because you can only do it once and then you can never say he's been undefeated. So they've got characters with an awful lot of integrity in there, and they've got this pantheon of characters -- these characters are so cool, and the new ones that we made had anything that you wanted. So if we said we want a power, we want it to do this, we could do it and that power could be a metaphor for a life experience. ... I thought, that's what it should be about. It should be about society, about privilege -- about lack of privelege -- about how it feels to be a hero and give up your life for your country. Any number of stuff, and it was all sitting right there in the Inhumans.

Starman feature header
A Constellation of Starmen: DC's Weirdest Superhero Legacy, Explained

More in Comics