Surfing the crowd
Jeff Smith has a crowdfund going to publish the complete run of his Thorn comic strips from his college days, which features his first attempt to tell the story he later told magnificently on Bone.
Being able to see the early days of Jeff’s career is fascinating. I often imagine what would I do if I picked up any early story idea I worked on in my college years (a very short story, or an unfinished bigger one) and worked it over again nowadays, so being able to look at early versions of the characters of the Bone saga in its early stages, and see how they changed, evolved, and how Jeff’s style as an artist and storyteller changed and evolved along with his work is really inspiring.
The image below, for example, delights me because it shows a Jeff still trying to work his influences into his own work. The proportions, the rendering, the mood. When Bone started coming out in the early 90s, one of its main aspects that people noticed right away was how Jeff was already a fully formed artist from issue one. Now we can follow the adventurous journey of the artist while he was finding his path.
Crowdfunding your comics has shifted the entire comics industry into a much more diverse, creative space. Established authors and newcomers alike have benefited from creating this direct line to the audience, and finding in the readers the necessary support to create their new books.
I’ll confess that I was suspicious at first about crowdfunding, because it was a new thing and I was afraid of what it would add to the reputation of comics if it failed. I’m always a little nervous when I get paid for a project before finishing it, it takes some of the importance and responsibility of finishing writing and drawing, and I know many artists who need that goal to be at the finishing line to make sure they get to the end, so I was looking at the earlier crowdfunding campaigns and thinking how much they would damage the comics’ industry if they were delayed (which many were, while people learned how to do this new thing), or even never finished (which also happened).
Shelly Bond, long time Vertigo editor, was recently a guest at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, and she gave a presentation about crowdfunding her latest anthologies, and it covers a lot of the important information you need to consider when putting together your project.
Over time, I started to see the positive change crowdfunding was bringing to the medium. Many projects can now exist because the readers want to support the dreams of the artists, and the artists have found in the community of comics the faith in their work that goes beyond the economic concerns of the traditional comics’ market of the past.
Iván Brandon is crowdfunding his next story, The Roman Stars, with artist V. Gagnon, in an intriguing version of the story of Julius Caesar set in space. The project is already funded, and is written and drawn, so I’m looking forward to learning more and I recommend you back this project as well.
Steve Rude is also crowdfunding his next Nexus book, Nexus: The Coming of Gormando. This project is also already funded, and you have only three days to get into this train.
With a little support from your friends.
Crowdfunding is successful because of the support of the audience. It made clear how the reader can help making that book they want to read. It showed the authors that they have readers who will gladly support their work because they believe in it. The connection between artist and the public can be strong and meaningful, and in a way, it’s this strength that pushes me to write these letters: I see you out there, reflecting over the work I do, curious about what I’ll do next, and patient enough to wait until the story is ready..
I watched this other panel from this latest CXC about building your subscription base. It’s aimed at cartoonists who want to show their work, establish a connection with their audiences and maybe find an alternative to the never ending battle with algorithms of social media. (I really like that CXC makes their panels available online. SDCC, NYCC and other bigger shows could learn a thing of two with CXC)
Thanks you for your patience.
Be safe. Be kind. Be curious.
Moon Base, São Paulo
October 23rd, 2023