THE KICKSTAND: From Mars to the Weird West

Successfully funding a Kickstarter project is only half the battle. Then the creator has to follow through with the project and deliver the goods. This week, Aarti Shahani investigated what happens when creators don't complete their side of the bargain, and the answer wasn't as clear as many people would like: Creators who fail to deliver the finished product, whether it be a comic, a game console, or an iPhone case, are supposed to give the money back, but Kickstarter doesn't seem to have any mechanism for enforcing that. In response, the Kickstarter blog posted information about how the crowdfunding mechanism works; the bottom line is that they can't issue refunds themselves because they never actually have the money.

Meanwhile, this week's big success story -- and it does seem like there is one every week -- is Homestuck, which is a phenomenon unto itself. The Kickstarter campaign was to raise money for a game based on the comic, which is ironic because the comic itself is a parody of games, but plenty of folks lined up to be part of it: The campaign brought in $500,000 on its first day and has already exceeded its goal; the final tally should be well over $1 million. Let's just hope they can deliver, because that would be painful to pay back.

Here's a roundup of some of the more interesting projects that might have flown under your radar this week.

What's the Big Idea? An improv comic that turns the wackiness up to eleven. Creator Ryan Brown drew a page a day with no premeditation: "Every work day, I would sit down with little to no idea what was going to happen on the page, I'd start the clock, and just start making it up. An hour later, I had a finished page of the story." The comic is already available online; the Kickstarter is to fund a print edition.

Moving force: Browne is the creator of the webcomic God Hates Astronauts and has just completed "Smoke and Mirrors" for IDW.

Selling Point: Browne's well-stocked imagination. Blast Furnace is a super-thief with a flaming tie, and his encounters include factory where ostriches produce golden ostrich eggs and a mad scientist who has assembled a giant robot businessman out of smaller robot businessmen. While each page may be improvised, Browne did plan out a structure for the comic, so it hangs together as a whole while keeping the reader wondering what the next page will bring.

Premiums: The price of the book is pretty reasonable: $5 for a PDF, $15 for a signed print copy. Browne has designed a Mustache T-shirt, featuring the face of Blast Furnace, which comes with a digital copy of the comic for $25 or a print copy for $35. So far, 27 backers have signed up for the $50 pledge, which includes a piece of original art from the book. Commissioned drawings start at $100.

This caught my eye: The $125 premium is a copy of the print edition on which Browne has hand drawn a mustache on every single character.

Goal: $2,000. So far, pledges are over $6,000, and Browne has set up a series of stretch goals that to up to $8,000.

Deadline to pledge: September 28.

What's the Big Idea? As with many Kickstarters, the title says it all. This is a princess story about a sweet, lovable princess in a world where the ruler is chosen in a mixed martial arts tournament. So it's really about a sweet, lovable, badass princess who knocks out the prince of a rival kingdom, which causes all sorts of complications.

Moving force: Artist John Pading is a graphic designer and the creator of the webcomic "Crazy Buffet." Writer Shigeharu Kobayashi manages a Japanese restaurant and was a speaker at TEDxColumbiaSC 2012. For a taste of their earlier work, check out their webcomic "Mr. Waffles."

Selling Point: The quirky humor of the premise, which the creators seem to be more than capable of carrying through. Even their pitch videos are a cut above the Kickstarter standard.

Premiums: Good value for the money here, partly because the comic is complete and they are just looking for printing costs. The price of a digital copy is $3 and a print comic (68 pages, full color), plus two trading cards and two buttons, is $15. At the $20 level, they throw in some exclusive Kickstarter editions of their earlier mini-comics. For $40 and up, there's the T-shirt that Princess Calabretta wears in the fight scene -- and it's blue, not pink. Would-be creators take note: At several pledge levels, Pading will draw and letter a comic from the pledger's script. It starts at $125 for a one-page black-and-white comic and goes to $1,500 for 20 pages in full color. And for $125, a lucky backer can have lunch and workshop a project with Kobayashi.

This caught my eye: Chris Sim bought the comic at HeroesCon and gave it a rave review.

Goal: $500, which has already been exceeded, so they are moving on to the stretch goals.

Deadline to pledge: September 17.

What's the Big Idea? A graphic novel about a boy who is raised in a colony on the Moon and comes to doubt the structure of the society he lives in.

Moving force: Trevor Charles, an English teacher in New York who wrote Sea Breeze Lane as a short story when he was in college.

Selling Point: There isn't any one thing that sells this book; it's just an intriguing premise wrapped in some nice art. Sometimes that's all you need.

Premiums: The plan is to publish the story as five separate chapters and then gather them into a trade, so the initial buy-in is pretty reasonable: $3 for a digital copy of the first chapter or $5 for a hard copy. Variant covers rear their head at the $7 level. A copy of the finished book, plus a digital copy and various other premiums, costs $30. A donor can be drawn into the book for $200.

This caught my eye: Charles gets extra karma points for his support of others' projects; he has backed 39 Kickstarter campaigns and his page features a photo of his Kickstarter comics. Also, this is a small thing, but the chapter numbers for the individual comics are done in a weird, runic typeface that echoes the design of the rest of the comic. This sort of attention to detail bodes well for the quality of the project as a whole.

Goal: $10,000

Deadline to pledge: October 6

What's the Big Idea? It's a full-color, all-ages steampunk fantasy graphic novel with a difference: "Creature Academy honors and subverts the tropes we expect in coming-of-age fantasy and super-hero stories. The young hero is no 'Chosen One', and the mentors he finds may not be wise or good at all."

Moving force: Kevin Hanna, the co-creator of "The Clockwork Girl," which was published by Arcana, won silver awards in the Moonbeam Awards and ForeWord magazine's book of the year awards, and is now being made into a movie.

Selling Point: The pitch video totally sells this book, using just art from the comic, a few captions and thundering movie-style music. It works because the art is so good.

Premiums: It's a little on the pricy side: $10 for a digital copy, $25 for print. Original sketches start at $50, and you can be drawn into the comic once (standing in awe) for $400 or twice (standing in awe and fleeing in terror) for $750. Hanna and co-creator Dave Fagan will be your mentors for $4,500, but the Fantasy Comics Creator special is at the $4,500 level, where one lucky pledger will get to go to Emerald City Comic-Con, have lunch and hang out at the booth with Hanna and Fagan, and create a custom comic with them.

This caught my eye: Artist Erich Owen was a winner of the Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga contest and illustrated Mail Order Ninja, one of my nephew's favorite books.

Goal: $10,000

Deadline to pledge: September 29

What's the Big Idea? Deadlands is a role-playing game set in the Weird West, an alternate version of the Old West populated by all sorts of monsters. This graphic novel is the story of Raven, the Sioux shaman who brought the evil Reckoners into the world, thus creating the alt-universe of Deadlands.

Moving force: Charles Edward Sellner, Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Comics, is co-writing the story with Matthew Cutter, the brand manager for Deadlands at parent company Pinnacle Entertainment. Shane Hensley, the creator of the game, is also consulting on the project, so the pedigree is pretty solid.

Selling Point: For fans of the game, the book promises a look inside the head of its chief villain. For those who are new to the franchise, the graphic novel will stand on its own as a horror-western comic with a pretty interesting premise.

Premiums: The magic number is $25, which is the price for either the graphic novel or an eight-pack of digital comics: the four issues of "Raven" plus the first four Deadlands comics (which were published by Image). The creators plan to release a Kickstarter-exclusive edition of the print book, with bonus content, several months before it goes on the market to the general public. Then it's signed copies, sketches, trades... oh, and for $300 they will draw the donor into the comic as one of Raven's victims; for an additional $200, the donor can die a featured death rather than just being killed.

This caught my eye: There's even a reward for just reading the pitch: A downloadable PDF of the first issue of "Deadlands: The Kid," the earlier comics series.

Goal: $15,000. The goal has already been reached.

Deadline to pledge: September 13.

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