The Kickstand: Penny for Your Thoughts

It seems like every week there's a new twist to the discussion about what Kickstarter is for and who should be using it. The latest volley comes from Dan Nadel, co-editor of The Comics Journal, who swung a crowbar at Box Brown's Kickstarter for "SP 7," an anthology of comics inspired by the Japanese manga magazine "Garo." Nadel attacked the project on a number of terms, but the one that seemed to hit a nerve among commenters and on Twitter was his rejection of Kickstarter as a way to fund an otherwise viable project: "You don't get to call yourself underground if you're on Kickstarter. Guess what else? You don't get to call yourself a publisher either; you're just someone who pays a printing bill. Take pre-orders on your site. Sell your boots. Do what you have to do. But don't go begging for money so that you can then give 5% of it to Amazon.com, which is actively trying to put you (!), and the stores you hope to shove this shit into, out of business." This part of the post got a lot of pushback from commenters, most of whom see Kickstarter as one more way to get the word out and sell some books, one no more problematic than any other form of capitalism.

Nadel's point about Amazon is that Kickstarter processes payments through Amazon Payments, which takes a transaction fee of 3-5% over and above Kickstarter's 5% cut. The reason for this is simple: If a project does not meet its goal, the pledgers' credit cards will not be charged; if it does meet goal, all the cards are charged. According to the Kickstarter FAQ, Amazon Payments is the only system that can support this model.

SP7: Alt. Comics Tribute to GARO Manga

What's the big idea? An anthology of comics inspired by, and in the spirit of, the Japanese avant-garde manga magazine GARO.

Moving force: Box Brown, creator of the comics "Bellen" and "Everything Dies" and the publisher of the Retrofit Comics, which publishes alternative comics in print format.

Selling point: The anthology will include a mix of comics by young creators produced in manga format (read right to left) and printed on newsprint in an oversized format, reflecting the aesthetic of GARO.

Premiums: A PDF is offered for $10 and a print edition for $20, which is mighty reasonable.

This caught my eye: "If the funding of this project ends up going ABOVE our goal of $5000, the money will go DIRECTLY to the artists involved based on their contribution to the book." Amen to that. Creators should be paid, and there's no shame in saying so.

Goal: $5,000.

Deadline to pledge: August 23.

Misunderstanding Comics

What's the big idea? A parody of Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics"that highlights the dumber side of the comics world.

Moving force: Tim Heiderich, a self-taught cartoonist who has produced several animated web series, including Emergency 411 and Sarcastic Hulk.

Selling point: Insider humor for lit-comics fans, because Chris Ware isn't parodied enough. Check out the sample page-this could be "Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga" for the Fantagraphics crowd.

Premiums: Ha! $5 gets you a PDF; $10 gets you a PDF with a variant cover. If only there were some way to get holofoil on a PDF. A hard copy is $25, a hard copy sealed in a plastic bag is $50 (he throws in a T-shirt as well). Higher levels get you an autographed poster, a spot in the book or an original drawing, but the most expensive premium is $150, which is pretty good.

This caught my eye: Scott McCloud himself Tweeted about it.

Goal: $2,800.

Deadline to pledge: August 12.

The Adventures of the 19XX: Montezuma 1934 Graphic Novel

What's the big idea? An alt-history graphic novel about a secret organization whose mission is to stop World War II from happening. This is the second print volume of "The Adventures of the 19XX," which is also a webcomic, but this story stands alone.

Moving force: Paul Roman Martinez, a full-time comics creator who was nominated for the 2011 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award.

Selling point: As the author says on the webcomic site, "it's like history, but with all the remotely interesting parts turned up to 11!" This comic has a bit of a Mike Mignola feel to it, as a motley crew united by a common purpose travels to different places and time periods to complete their mission.

Premiums: Martinez has clearly had a good time creating an imagined world for his comic, and the premiums indicate that. The $15 premium a bookmark and a Mexico Expedition patch. At the $25 level, pledgers get the book plus "Secret Files Two," which gives some of the background to the story. At the higher levels Martinez throws in more ephemera, such as an airship ticket, and the swag all comes in a custom-made cigar box.

This caught my eye: The look. The 1930s were a high point for industrial and graphic design, and the design of the rewards (as well as the comic itself) hark back to that.

Goal: $6,000.

Deadline to pledge: August 22.

Pawn Shop: Life and Love in NYC

What's the big idea? A slice-of-life story set in a Manhattan pawn shop, where four characters' lives become intertwined.

Moving force: The writer is Joey Esposito, comics editor at IGN and the writer of "Grimm Fairy Tales: Bad Girls" (Zenescope) and a backup story for Image's "Grim Leaper" series. The illustrator is Sean Van Gorman, whose other job is as an escape artist. These two vocations come together in another comics project he is involved in, "Secret Adventures of Houdini."

Selling point: The story. The sample pages on the Kickstarter site are a great introduction to one of the characters and the creators throw out enough hints about what's going on to pique the reader's interest without saying too much.

Premiums: For $10 you get a PDF, for $25, a hard copy. After that, it gets interesting: For $50 you get a "homemade CD mix tape," which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but we all know what they mean. For $250, you can be drawn into the book as a New York bum, and who doesn't want that? For $500, if you live in New York ($2,500 for other locations), Van Gorman will come to the donor's place and do his escape act. (The donor chooses the constraints: Straitjacket, handcuffs, or chains.) And for $750, you can co-write a short story with the creators.

This caught my eye: Esposito recently did his escape act at a party hosted by Amanda Palmer, at the request of her husband, Neil Gaiman.

Goal: $7,000.

Deadline to pledge: August 22.

What's the big idea? Pay the Penny Arcade guys enough in advance that they can eliminate some or all of the ads from their site.

Moving force: Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, creators of one of the most successful and longest-lived webcomics in all of webcomic-dom.

Selling point: No ads. But beyond that, removing the ads could radically change the way the comic works. "Not only would you no longer have to look at advertising when browsing Penny Arcade, but not having ads would create a chain reaction that would lead to a bunch of other interesting stuff. Without the almighty 'pageview' to consider, why not populate the RSS with full comics and posts? Why not enable and even encourage apps, first and third party, for people to read it however they damn well please?"

Premiums: Ha ha, it's Penny Arcade, so the low-priced premiums are things like "Gabe will think about you during sex," with actual comics coming in at the $25 tier. The cool factor kicks in at the $150 level: The pledger can be a beta tester for the game "On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness 4." For $300, Gabe or Tycho (fictional characters) will follow you on twitter, and for $500 they will retweet one of your Tweets. As of this writing, five backers have pledged $2,500 to have Holkins read and critique their work, but if I had that kind of money, I'd go for the other pledge and have Robert Khoo analyze my business plan, because judging from this Kickstarter, the guy knows what he's doing.

This caught my eye: The stretch goals: At $900,000, Penny Arcade switches to a Creative Commons license; at $999,999 the site becomes totally ad-free.

Goal: The first goal is $250,000 to remove the leaderboard ad, and that has been attained. Stretch goals go up to $1,400,000.

Deadline to pledge: August 15.

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