THE KICKSTAND: Message in a Bottle

The most interesting Kickstarter campaign of recent days is one that failed: Lea Hernandez's attempt to fund The Garlicks, an all-ages vampire tale, which ultimately raised only $16,926, far short of its goal of $40,000 -- despite fellow creator Kurt Busiek's pledge to eat a bug if people donated. Johanna Draper Carlson highlighted this project as an example of the sort of Kickstarter she doesn't like, because the project isn't complete and it will be a long time before she sees a tangible reward. Several creators chimed in on both sides of the argument in her comments section.

Another lively discussion is took place at The Beat, where creators and pledgers weighed in on the appropriate uses of Kickstarter as well as Hernandez's marketing techniques. One issue that keeps popping up is whether it is appropriate to use Kickstarter to pay the creator directly, so he or she can work exclusively on the project without the distractions of other work. Hernandez planned to pay herself a page rate of $125 per page, payable only when the pages were completed; some commenters took exception to that, while others pointed out that other Kickstarters include payment to a third-party artist and wonder if there is a difference.

Also Seth Godin has a thought-provoking piece on why Kickstarters fail. He gives it all away in the opening sentence -- "Kickstarter campaigns fail when the tribe of people who believe in the idea is too small" -- but then he parses that out in interesting ways. The take-away point is that Kickstarter is the last step in the process of building a following, not the first.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting new Kickstarters that have achieved varying levels of success.

Publish Osamu Tezuka's "Unico" in English in Full Color

What's the big idea: To publish a full-color edition of Osamu Tezuka's graphic novel "Unico," a children's manga that is rare even in Japan.

Moving force: Digital Manga, Inc., a California-based manga publisher that has come up with a number of innovative ways to bring niche manga to English-speaking readers. They have already had one successful Kickstarter, for Tezuka's adult manga "Barbara."

Selling point: "Think 'Quantum Leap' meets classic Disney, with a dose of Tezuka's unique, humane spiritual sensibility." Stepping away from the high concept for a moment, Digital plans to make this book very accessible to kids. The original was printed left to right, so it won't read "backwards" to English-speakers, and their plan is for a full-color, single-volume edition with a translation that is appropriate for young readers -- who were the original audience in Japan. Of course, it's going to be of interest to adult Tezuka fans as well.

Premiums: The premiums are all good value for the money. The $5 premium is $10 worth of digital manga from Digital's eManga website, which costs the publisher essentially nothing but is a great value for the reader. For $35 you get that plus a copy of the finished book, which will retail for $34.94 -- an appropriate price for a 400-page full-color graphic novel. At the higher level, Digital offers a couple of Kickstarter exclusives, a companion book and a T-shirt, which are great incentives for folks to pledge now rather than wait for the book to come out. The top-level pledge of $165 gets the pledger the book and a ton of extras, plus a tour of the Digital Manga offices if the pledger happens to be in LA.

This caught my eye: If the project makes goal before deadline, Digital will add a second print license that will also be available to pledgers.

Goal: $20,500

Deadline to pledge: Saturday, July 21

The Dylan Meconis Library 2012

What's the big idea: Print editions of "Bite Me," Meconis's vampire comic set in the French Revolution, "Outfoxed," her Eisner-nominated short story, and "Danse Macabre 2.0," a book of drawings that updates the ancient medieval meme of ordinary people dancing with corpses that represent their own mortality.

Moving force: Dylan Meconis is a Portland-based creator and a member of Periscope Studios; in addition to the Kickstarter works, she is also the creator of the long-form webcomic "Family Man."

Selling point: Meconis is an up-and-coming artist with a lot of talent. What's more, the comics are already complete -- and available to read online for the skeptical would-be pledger.

Premiums: Meconis has set up a number of low-priced premiums geared toward different audiences -- fans of one book or another -- with PDFs of all the books, prints, and hard copies of one or more of the books. A $55 pledge nets the print editions of all three books, plus some extras. And she has a bit of fun at the higher levels: For $1,488, the pledger can be drawn into a "danse macabre" image, and for $1,789, he or she will become a character in a special "Bite Me" side story.

This caught my eye: The art book features an introduction by an actual mortician.

Also, in light of recent Kickstarter conversations, it's worth noting that Meconis has been unusually transparent about where the money will go. The first third goes to taxes, then there's Kickstarter fees, and finally printing and shipping costs, which she admits she lowballed a bit.

Goal: $15,000; the campaign has already exceeded the goal.

Deadline to pledge: Tuesday, July 17

DUSTER: The Graphic Novel by Micah Wright

What's the big idea: A 215-page, full-color, original graphic novel about a female cropduster pilot fighting escaped Nazi war criminals in the last days of World War II.

Moving force: Micah Wright is a writer who has scripted video games, movies, graphic novels, even the Korean anime "Sky Blue (Wonderful Days)." Jay Lender is the writer and director of "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Phineas and Ferb."

Selling point: "'Duster' isn't only about planes and Nazis, but also about forging the post-war American woman who can have a job, raise a family and make her own way in the world without any man's permission.  It's the story of a fundamental change in American life, illustrated through blood-and-guts action!"

Premiums: A digital copy of the book is available at the $20 level, the print edition at $30. Higher pledges include prints by "American Flagg" creator Howard Chaykin and "The Walking Dead" artist Charlie Adlard as well as the opportunity to be drawn into the book -- if you're a guy.

This caught my eye: "We have 4 minor roles for men to appear in the graphic novel, just send us a photo and we'll draw you into the book. All of these walk-on parts are for male Army Air Corps soldiers, so I'm sorry, ladies, you're not eligible... all our female roles are unique individuals with extensive speaking parts (unlike the disposable menfolk who die by the dozens)!"

Goal: $26,000

Deadline to pledge: Tuesday, July 24

The Silver Cord: A Techo-Epic Graphic Novel

What's the big idea: A fully-painted, full-color sci-fi graphic novel about an epic clash between angels and robots and the girl who must choose between them. The Kickstarter will fund the second volume; the first has just been released online and in print.

Moving force: Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired Magazine and one of the moving forces behind The WELL and The Whole Earth Catalog, among other things. There's also an interesting roster of creative contributors, some who have ties to Pixar and Lucasfilms, others who are relative unknowns.

Selling point: It's really a matter of taste, but if you like big, ambitious, painted sci-fi graphic novels, well, here's one with a spiritual spin.

Premiums: They keep it simple: $20 for a digital copy of the book, $35 for a hard copy and after that it's more books, autographs, etc., up to the $5,000 level, which includes lunch with the creators at Kelly's studio.

This caught my eye: This sounds like a labor of love for Kelly: "The Silver Cord stories grew out of a fantasy that Kevin Kelly nurtured of imagining an afterlife filled with as many species of intangible beings as there are tangible species on Earth. He had also had some out-of-the-body experiences as a kid that informed a possible entry into this fantasy angelic realm. Because Kevin had not written fiction before, he enrolled experienced screenwriters and artists from his rock-n-roll church in San Francisco to join in the project."

Goal: $40,000

Deadline to pledge: Thursday, July 19

Silber Bottle Comics

What's the big idea: Mini-comics in a bottle, set free for random people to find.

Moving force: Brian John Mitchell, an independent creator based in Raleigh, NC.

Selling point: This Kickstarter combines comics with a neat concept that was inspired by the "Twilight Zone" episode "A Saucer of Loneliness." As Mitchell says, "The idea of a sailor catching a bottle of comics in his net in a hundred years fascinates me.  Or someone finding them on the beach & leaving it on their mantle as a conversation piece.  Or someone breaking a bottle open & reading the stories & finding out comics aren't just for kids for the first time."

Premiums: In addition to getting credit on the comics, pledgers can get two mini-comics and two bottles for $10 and moving up the levels, more comics -- bottled, unbottled, and digital. In this way, the pledgers become a part of the project, as they can keep the comics or release them into the wild. At higher levels, Mitchell offers T-shirts, other comics in wooden boxes, and a Skype conversation on the topic of the pledger's choice. For $1,000, he will travel to any city in North America and release a dozen bottles together with the pledger.

This caught my eye: It looks like Mitchell has his own bottling machine. No screw tops here!

Goal: $300 (already surpassed)

Deadline to pledge: Friday, August 3

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