THE KICKSTAND: Horror in Black and White

The numbers are up again: There was a big dip in the number of comics Kickstarters over the holidays, from about 120 to around 60, but they seem to be bouncing back: As of this writing, there are 100 comics projects on Kickstarter and 27 on Indiegogo -- and yes, we're going there.

But first, let's kick it off with an interview with Tim Lattie, who is on Kickstarter raising funds to finance the first issue of his creator-owned comic, "Night Stars," the story of three children who travel back in time to save the world. Tim, who is based in New Orleans, has done some work for Ape Entertainment, including "White Picket Fences."

CBR News: Let's start with the elevator pitch: What's this comic about, and what inspired it?

Tim Lattie: At the end of time, three adolescents are given living spacesuits and taken aboard a flying saucer that takes them back in time 66 years in the past to Roswell, New Mexico, where there mistaken for "little green men." Now they travel through history trying not to become it.

It started as a Hurricane Katrina story; I'm from New Orleans, and so the basic premise revolves around some of my experiences with that. Forced away from your everyday life, you wake up one day with nothing like it was before. The same thing happens to the kids in the story, after being taken back in time, All they're really trying to do is make their way back home, but they aren't really sure what that is anymore. The name, however, came from Van Gogh's painting, "Night stars."

The Kickstarter is for a single-issue comic that is the first of a series. How many issues will it run, and do you plan on publishing this as a graphic novel as well?

This is issue one of four in the first arc, and that's certainly the goal to collect them as complete works when all the issues of the first adventure are done. I have about seven or eight different arcs or chapters planned out, with a definitive ending to the story, but it all starts in Roswell.

What's the timeline for the series as a whole?

Once the Kickstarter is finished I plan on drawing all of the first four issues at once, prepping it to be a monthly book.

You are looking to raise $8,000. How did you arrive at that figure, and how do the costs break down?

The money will go towards everything that goes into the production of making a comic book. The artwork, coloring, lettering, and the actual printing of the book using a paper stock above industry standard, creating a really high class product. The remainder will be used for the extras that come with the various packages, the shipping, and Kickstarter fees.

Are you self-publishing this comic or going through a publisher?

Once funded, Ape Entertainment agreed to publish the book. I've been working with them for a few years now and know their goal is to put out the best product possible.

What about distribution? Will it be available outside this Kickstarter?

Yes, Kickstarter really is just to get the project rolling and off the ground. After this all issues will be available through Previews, the internet and digital platforms.

I know you have done some other comics. Can you tell me a bit about them?

I've been working in comics since about 2005 or so, mostly at Ape Entertainment. My first gig was on "Return to Point Pleasant," a story about the legendary Moth Man of the West Virginia area. That was followed by some stories in Ape Entertainment's "Cartoonapalooza," which led to a run on "White Picket Fences," about a boy named Charlie Hobson and his strange adventures in 1950s suburbia.

Why did you decide to go with Kickstarter rather than pitching this comic to other publishers?

Kickstarter seemed like a great opportunity to fund the project while retaining the rights to the property. So the plan is to use the website for its name sake and get things kick started.

A lot of people produce extras for the premium, such as trading cards and magnets. You're keeping it simple with the comic plus drawings and sketch covers. Why did you decide to go that route?

I'm a fan of art and as much as I love little extras and prizes, I thought it would be even cooler to get actual exclusive artwork that's yours to keep, rather than mass produced. Almost every pledge level comes with a way to get something completely unique, whether it's the print with a drawing on the back, the sketch cover with a one of a kind image or an actual page from the book, some of which feature an appearance by actual backers of the project, which they get to keep. So the idea behind it was more of giving backers something that only they will have, completely original.

You have backed two other Kickstarters. What did you learn from being a backer that is helping you with this campaign?

One of the projects was done by a good friend of mine, Vernon Smith for his comic book "Hide," where I saw firsthand how you need to work to get the word out for your book. The second book was "Flesh of White." I randomly discovered it and thought the idea and art were something different, and only later did I discover that the art was by my buddy, Amanda Rachels. Both are unique books with fresh ideas that I think fans of sequential art are craving more of.

And have there been any surprises so far?

I would say the biggest surprise is how far reaching Kickstarter can be. It's so awesome to have people from across the world backing your project. I've got some pledges from Canada, England, and even France and Australia, I love that.

Bohemians: A Graphic History of American Bohemia

What's the big idea? A graphic novel telling the story of American Bohemia, from the 1840s to the 1950s, illustrated by a variety of artists. Editor Paul Buhle was also responsible for "The Beats," and this project looks very similar.

Moving force: Writer David Berger, who really knows how to wear a beret, and Buhle, who has edited a number of nonfiction graphic novels, including the comic adaptation of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of American Empire."

Selling point: The list of artists includes Peter Kuper, Mark Crilley, Lance Tooks, and Spain Rodriguez, who was working on his contribution when he died (it was finished by Jay Kinney). The book looks pretty solid, and the subject matter has a certain cachet, but I think I'd go in for Spain Rodriguez alone.

Premiums: For a dollar, you can get a thank-you on the website and an invitation to the book launch party in New York, which is a nice touch. A copy of the book will set you back $30; lower pledges get downloaded pictures and 60s-style buttons. At the $60 level they throw in a T-shirt with an image of Billie Holiday or Thelonious Monk by Lance Tooks, which is pretty cool. For $90 they will round up the artists to autograph your book, and for $290 Tooks will draw your caricature. Interestingly, the thing most Kickstarters throw in for $5 or less costs $1,000 in this campaign: A mention in the acknowledgements section of the printed book.

This caught my eye: The book is complete, and it is scheduled to be published later this year by Verso Books, but something fell through with the funding (as they point out, in a project like this the editors, not the publishers, pay the artists), so the Kickstarter is strictly to raise money to pay the artists.

Goal: $10,000.

Deadline: February 27

And now let's jump over to IndieGoGo to look at two interesting projects over there.


What's the big idea? An anthology of short stories, each of which is told as a conversation between two people. "It attempts to break the 'third wall' by directing portions of the conversation directly at the reader.  The intention is to make the reader feel like they are eavesdropping on a conversation between characters they are seated beside." The book will be a 52-page hardcover graphic novel, and every copy will be autographed.

Moving force: Stephen Burger, a Toronto-based artist and writer. This is his first solo comic.

Selling point: The premise is interesting, and the art is dynamic; Burger avoids a rookie crowdfunding mistake and includes plenty of samples, including a gallery page. Art is often the weak point of these projects, so it's reassuring to see that the artist can produce consistent sequential art, as opposed to a couple of character designs.

Premiums: For $5, Burger will send a thank-you e-mail; a digital copy costs $10 and a hard copy, $25. For another $25 he will add a limited-edition print of a splash page from the book, Talkin Bout the Bomb, which would make a pretty impressive piece of wall art. For $40 he will include a likeness of the pledger in the book, and there are a couple of sketch premiums as well. For $2,000, Burger will illustrate the pledger's comic script. (Note: All prices are in Canadian dollars.)

This caught my eye: "I have always found that creating a story through the non-verbal elements of a conversation to be just as critical as the dialogue itself.  TALK! attempts to highlight the changing facial expressions and body language to convey the conversation visually as much as through the text."

Goal: $4,000.

Deadline: February 17

What You Don't Get

What's the big idea? An autobiographical comic about dealing with death and loss, but also about surviving. The author was a student at Simon's Rock College of Bard when a classmate went on a shooting rampage on campus, killing two students and injuring many more. She started keeping a journal shortly after the shootings and has been reflecting on them, and the larger questions that were raised, ever since.

Moving force: Anne Thalheimer, who has been self-publishing the autobiographical mini-comic "booty" since 1995. This is her first long-form comic.

Selling point: Thalheimer has a compelling story to tell, and she is taking a thoughtful approach.

Premiums: For $5 she will send a thank-you card via snail mail, which is a nice touch, and for $15 she will throw in a sketch. A print copy of the book costs $25. For $75, you can send in three words and she will do a drawing based on them.

This caught my eye: There is no digital option yet, but a $400 pledge will cover the cost of digital conversion. Ironically, the reward Thalheimer offers for this is a handmade, one-of-a-kind hard copy of the book -- the very opposite of a digital version. I also liked the $100 pledge, which is a minicomic and a tutorial so you can make your own minicomics.

Goal: $2,000; she has already raised over twice that.

Deadline: February 17

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