CCI EXCLUSIVE: Kickstarting "Cyber Force" At Top Cow

In many cases, technology breeds technology. As ideas and tech get better and faster, the public interacts regularly with devices we never imagined just a few years earlier. As nearly every bit of pop culture is heading towards digital these days, it comes as no surprise that comic books are doing the same, though at varying speeds. So, when Image Comics partner studio Top Cow announced last week that it is relaunching its once-flagship title "Cyber Force" not only as a print and digital comic, but also a free one funded by the online crowd sourcing money-raising website Kickstarter, it was a somewhat surprising but not baffling marriage of emerging technologies. Funding from the website will not just go to putting one or two issues of the series out for free, but the entire five-issue opening arc of the ongoing series co-written by Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins with art by Khoi Pham.

In 1992, Marc Silvestri's very first series as an Image co-founder was "Cyber Force." Initially produced through Homage Studios, which he shared with fellow co-founder Jim Lee, soon after the first miniseries wrapped, Silvestri launched his own imprint, named it Top Cow and the rest is history. The Cow's premiere super team last appeared in the universe-altering "Artifacts," but has not been seen since Top Cow's Rebirth.

While he was coy when we asked him just last week about whether or not Jackie Estacado's re-imagined Top Cow Universe left room for groups like Cyber Force, President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Hawkins spoke exclusively with CBR about exactly how the whole Kickstarter-funded project will work and how fitting it is that the Cow's tech-based heroes get a new spotlight thanks to recent real world technological advancements.

"Ultimately, the primary goal was to try and get as many lapsed or casual readers back into reading comics and trying to drive them into comic book stores," Hawkins told CBR before diving into the multiple "tiers" donators will be able to choose from, with more incentives the higher the amount you pledge. "We're doing a black and white variant of each issue of Marc's covers that is only available through Kickstarter," Hawkins explained. "Marc is using the original art for the cover to #1 as a higher tier incentive. The moneymaker will be the $50 tier, which will be the only way to ever get the hardcover of the first volume. Hardcovers seem to be what people collect now, and we only need to sell 1500 of those at the $50 tier -- where you also get all five sketch variants -- to raise the $75k we need."

Hawkins also explained how the process will work for comic shops, since they will still need to pay some money to get the books in stores."Similar to Free Comic Book Day, retailers are being asked to pay a very small fee for physical, printed copies. They will be given specialized variants and things to help them make money off of it," Hawkins said. "We are also offering a lot of the older 'Cyber Force' books as trade paperbacks, some of which have never actually been reprinted since they were first released -- including some of Dave Finch's work."

Similar to Free Comic Book Day, the event which helped spawn Top Cow's idea for crowd-sourced, free comic book content, Hawkins pointed out that the publisher's focus with "Cyber Force" is on getting non, lapsed and pirating comic readers on board in a different way.

"We've tried giving away free comics to induce people to start reading for almost 10 years now, with scattered results," Hawkins said. "We've participated in Free Comic Book Day every year as well. [Previous Top Cow Publisher] Filip [Sablik] and I spent a lot of time talking about how we needed to get people to get into the habit of reading comics, and how, specifically, to convert free to paid or free to continued reading through ad-based or however. Long story short is, we decided to try something new. [The Kickstarter campaign] came about as a series of discussions over a long period of time."

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