THE KICKSTAND: Celebrating Office Romance

Jamie Noguchi's workplace-comedy webcomic "Yellow Peril" has been running since early 2010; I reviewed it early on at Robot 6, and fellow webcomicker Kevin Church had some nice things to say about in the What Are You Reading feature last year, calling it a "funny, beautifully drawn webcomic" with a "unique voice" and a notable love of geek culture.

Noguchi funded the publication of the first volume of "Yellow Peril" with his own money, but he turned to Kickstarter for the second volume -- and he has some interesting premiums. I asked him about how Kickstarter fits into his strategy and how he came up with the structure of the current campaign.

CBR News: Can you give us a quick idea of what "Yellow Peril" is about and how you envision it? What stage are you at in the story, and how long will it be when complete?

Jamie Noguchi: "Yellow Peril" is an Asian American office romance comedy starring three friends, Kane, Bodie and Ally, who work at a heartless design firm. It's sort of a slice of life story that follows them as they try to balance the pedantic tedium of their work lives with the uncertain craziness of their love lives. Volume 2 follows the three as they contemplate striking out on their own as a startup company.

It's an ongoing comic with no real end in sight. I've got some major landmarks that I want to hit, but the goal is to keep going as long as I can keep up with the three-a-week update schedule.
 Did you originally think of "Yellow Peril" as something that would eventually be published as a collected edition, or was it to be purely a webcomic?

I always hoped that I could build a large enough following to justify a print collection, so I produced the comic with that in mind. I draw on paper and scan at print resolution so I have all the files ready to go for printing.
 This is the second collected edition -- how did you fund the first?

Self funded. Somehow, I saved up enough money between day job and freelance gigs to get the first book printed. The headaches from that experience convinced me that it's okay to ask for help when it comes to funding these projects. So I turned to Kickstarter for the second edition.
 I always think it's interesting when someone who is publishing something as a free webcomic then publishes it as a digital collected edition. Why do you think the PDF adds value for the reader?

It gives the reader ultimate flexibility in how they consume media. I have a few friends who are going digital-only with their comics because it's easier for them to keep their collections organized. Also helps them save shelf space. There's also a generation of readers who are more comfortable with digital devices whether it be a tablet, phone, or laptop.

Giving them both versions puts the choice in their hands. They can lend out their print versions and still read their digital versions. Or they can share the digital versions and keep the print ones on the shelf. Whatever they want to do, it's up to them. They've spent their hard earned money to support me. The least I can do is give them the most flexibility when it comes to reading something they bought.

How did you determine the prices/pledge levels for the digital and printed editions?

I turned to fellow webcartoonists for pricing help. Retail on the books is $20. The extra $5 is in there to help out with shipping. For the digital versions, the general consensus amongst my friends what that $10 was reasonable for two collections worth of comic. 
 Your first Kickstarter was for a plush toy, Puppy Cow. What did you learn from that experience that you are applying to this Kickstarter? Is there anything you are doing differently?

One of the big problems I ran into with the Puppy Cow Kick Funder was the amount of original artwork I promised. Fortunately, my backers were all very forgiving, but it took entirely too long for me to do the ink sketches, water color pieces, and acrylic paintings.

This time around, I cut down on the original artwork I'd have to produce. Most of the rewards are things that I can design once and order a whole bunch of, like stickers, prints, guitar picks and so on.
 What exactly is the money going for? Are you paying yourself as a creator?

The money is going to be used for an initial order of books. This will be all the books ordered through the Book Kicker plus a good number to stock for me to take to conventions and sell online. A good chunk will be set aside for taxes. Anything left over will most likely go back into the comic buying supplies, promotional materials, web hosting, backup storage (actually, I really need to come up with a backup system), con expenses.
 Will the book be available outside Kickstarter?

Yup! I'm going to get my online store back up and running once I deliver all the rewards. And I'll be taking it with me to shows.
 You have a really unusual top-level reward: A custom-painted Stratocaster body. How did you come up with this idea, and how does it tie in to the comic?

The dragon theme definitely has its roots in Asian culture, so in that way it's sort of tied to themes presented in the comic. But really, I'm a huge guitar freak. The guitar body has more to do with my personal desire to customize guitars than anything else. I also thought it would be a unique way to promote my artwork. I'm also painting some pickguards for some of the tiers.

And now, here's a look at some of the more interesting Kickstarter campaigns that are running this week.

What's the big idea: This Kickstarter funds the first volume of a two-volume graphic novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans. The hero is a Coast Guard veteran with PTSD; the villains are a cabal of corrupt disaster capitalists who are profiting from the suffering of others -- and prolonging their own lives by drinking human blood. Writer Mark Landry explains, "I wanted to tell a story that articulated the rage that many of us have felt in the wake of the financial crisis, which -- to me -- has its roots...no...its DNA in the exact brand of cronyism, greed, and classism that has plagued our country for generations." The story is a satire, in which the villains are based on the plutocrats who exert control in the real world.

Moving force: Landry has worked as a screenwriter for Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel, and did his internship at Lucasfilm, working at Skywalker Ranch during the filming of Episode II.

Selling point: The art is by Ashley Witter, who is also the artist for Yen Press's graphic novel adaptation of Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire."

Premiums: Ten bucks gets you the PDF, and a $20 pledge gets you the print edition. Higher-level premiums include original art, extra copies of the book, a personal appearance by the writer, and professional services such as script consulting. The most interesting premium, though, is a stencil like the one used by a character in the book to paint fleur-de-lis symbols on walls.

This caught my eye: Landry offers a special reward, a cover image for mobile phones, for supporters who don't pledge money but promote the Kickstarter on Twitter or Facebook.

Goal: $15,500.

Deadline: June 1.

What's the big idea: A full-color, all-ages graphic novel about a 12-year-old adventurer searching for a hidden treasure in Cairo, Egypt.

Moving force: Sean O'Neill, who has been working professionally as an illustrator and graphic designer of children's books for 15 years.

Selling point: It's a good old-fashioned adventure yarn, sort of like Indiana Jones but with a pre-teen protagonist. The story has been running online as a free webcomic, but O'Neill says he has planned all along to publish it as a single volume.

Premiums: A digital copy of the book is $10, a print copy is $28. A book plus a print is $35, and O'Neill will make a classroom visit (to a classroom within 90 minutes of Chicago) for $80, which is a great deal.

This caught my eye: More good old-fashioned fun: For a $60 pledge, backers get a signed copy of the book and membership in Rocket Robinson's Young Adventurer Club, which comes with an Adventurer Kit: A personalized membership card, a set of buttons, an activity book, a Screech the Monkey poster, a bookmark, and a souvenir mini flashlight.

Goal: $5,000, which has already been exceeded.

Deadline: May 19.

What's the big idea: An anthology of slice-of-life short stories by 21 artists from different areas.

Moving force: Marissa Mozek, a senior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), in Savannah, Georgia. Mozek decided to become a comics editor after she developed severe tendonitis in her dominant hand.

Selling point: Slice-of-life stories have a universal appeal because they tap into our common experience -- these are things that really happened and could plausibly happen to any of us.

Premiums: A PDF is $10; a physical copy of the book is $25. At higher levels a bookplate, a process book, and a concept PDF are added in, and original art becomes available at the $150 level.

This caught my eye: The stretch goals include better paper, more stories, and a modest payment for the artists.

Goal: $3,500, which has already been exceeded.

Deadline: May 30.

What's the big idea: A digital-first, six-issue comic series about a man who discovers Hell does not exist, so he creates it himself -- in Nebraska. The first four issues have been published digitally via comiXology; the Kickstarter will fund a collected edition in print as well as a con-exclusive print edition of the first two issues.

Moving force: Shaun Manning, a former writer for CBR and author of "Pizza Good Times."

Selling point: The issues that are up so far have a four-star rating on comiXology. Also, the first issue is available for free.

Premiums: A digital edition -- PDF, comiXology, or Comics Plus -- is $5, and the trade paperback is $15. Higher-level premiums include a T-shirt, an iPhone case, and a tablet cover featuring cover art from the series.

This caught my eye: For $50 (text only) or $100 (text plus art), the character Abaddon will consign the pledger to Hell, with the sentence delivered in verse in a special backmatter section of the book. Manning cautions, "this will be humorous/satirical, so your depiction will be... unflattering."

Goal: $2,500.

Deadline: June 6.

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