Kickstarter has evolved from a simple fund-raising mechanism to a busy marketplace of comics, where good ideas get a giant push and bad ideas go to die -- although sometimes it happens the other way around. There are occasional bits of high drama, but the most interesting thing about Kickstarter is the work itself, and this column will highlight some of the more deserving projects, as well as some quirkier ones that might otherwise fall through the cracks. And we'll catch a bit of the drama as well. Here are my first picks!
Selling point: The story. Daisy, the lead character, is a retired bank robber who runs a dry-goods store. When she loses all her money in a poker game, she decides to go back for that one last score -- a train robbery. The catch is that the man putting her up to it is using her to demonstrate the effectiveness of his robotic security system. Kibuishi's art seals the deal.
Also, this book is pretty deluxe: Kibuishi is publishing the whole book in color, which adds richness to the black-and-white pages and allows him to add full-color extras, including the covers and a bonus story.
Premiums: Kibuishi offers good value for money. The basic pledge of $15 gets you a copy of the book, which is probably what you would pay for it in a store. Add ten bucks, and he will sign it and add a sketch. At the $150 level he throws in an original, custom-made piece of art, which is a good price for a drawing by such a well-known creator, and he offers a larger, more detailed drawing for $500.
This caught my eye: Pledge $777 and you have a one-in-seven chance of getting a $500-level drawing in addition to the standard premium, a page of original art from the book.
Made goal? Yes, and then some: The original goal was $2,000, and so far Kibuishi has raised over $32,000. This has allowed him to upgrade the printing to four-color throughout the whole book, and pledgers at the $25 level will get free bookmarks, too.
Deadline to pledge: Thursday, June 7, 5:49 p.m. EDT.
What's the big idea? A cute vampire story that leaves out the blood and gross stuff because it's pitched at middle-grade girls.
Moving force: Lea Hernandez, whose graphic novel credits include "Rumble Girls" and "Cathedral Child."
Selling point: Hernandez gives her vampires a bit of a bite without crossing over to the dark side, which makes them both suitable for and attractive to young readers. Her vampires eat pork rather than suck blood, and the lead character, Pandora, lacks the vampire powers that the rest of her family has, making her the odd one out. In the pilot episode, her baby sister, Ham, turns into a bat-fish hybrid, and to keep her from suffocating, Pandora has to plunge her into the toilet. That good-natured but slightly naughty humor goes over well with younger readers. Hernandez draws in a sweet style that is definitely manga-influenced but also somehow reminiscent of the classic Little Golden Books. It's lovely to look at and fun to read.
Also, Hernandez had the chops to get blurbs from Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, and Jim Lee.
Premiums: A PDF of "The Garlicks" is available for $10 and a signed hard copy for $25. Hernandez throws in lots of extras: For $15 you get a PDF plus mini-prints of the characters, and the hard copy includes a digital copy as well. The $55 premium includes a Garlicks sketchbook. For $175, Hernandez will name a character after the backer, and $235 is the price of a bit part.
This caught my eye: One of the premiums is Pandora's Kit, a set of the pencils Hernandez uses to draw the art, along with a pencil holder and a blank Moleskine notebook. There are several variations on this, including one that includes a custom-printed courier bag, an original drawing, and instant coffee.
Made goal? Not yet.
Deadline to pledge: Thursday, June 21, 4;02 p.m. EDT.
What's the big idea? A 265-page anthology of short comics about food and eating.
Moving force: J. T. Yost, who runs Birdcage Bottom Press. Yost was awarded a Xeric grant for his first book, "Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales."
Selling point: The quality of talent. Contributors include Berkeley Breathed, Box Brown, Renee French, James Kochalka, Dan Piraro, Noah Van Sciver and a host of other indy comics creators.
Premiums: Like most comics Kickstarters, this one offers a copy of the finished work as one of the early premiums. In this case, a $20 pledge will get you a copy of the finished book, which seems like pretty good value for money. Higher levels add on mini-comics, silkscreen prints, and customized drawings of the backer's favorite food by various contributors. Pledges of $500 or more net the donor a set of all the graphic novels published by Birdcage Bottom Books.
This caught my eye: For $250, you can get the book plus the original art from Adam Hines's short story. "Please note that Adam sketches on multiple sheets of paper, collages them and adds to them using a computer, so there may be more than 11 pages in various states of finish."
Made goal? Not yet.
Deadline to pledge: Friday, June 28, 1:12 p.m. EDT.
What's the big idea? Mathematical Girls is a series of manga (based on light novels) in which beautiful girls discuss advanced mathematical concepts such as Fibonacci numbers and Fermat's last theorem.
Moving force: Bento Books, a small publisher founded by Tony Gonzalez, Alexander O. Smith, and Joseph Reeder specifically to publish translated Japanese novels and manga that appeal to a niche audience.
Selling point: From all accounts, the books are well written and engaging. The math is high-level math of a sort that even math-haters could find interesting—number theory, logic puzzles, infinite series. In other words, this isn't an algebra textbook. The manga and novels have become something of a phenomenon, not only in Japan but also in China and Korea. There's more info, including a music video (in Japanese) on the creator's website. The novels have received positive reviews not only from readers on Amazon but also from Public Radio International's "The World" and the Mathematical Association of America's Math DL.
Premiums: For $10 you get a digital copy of the book, and for $25 you get both digital and print versions. That's a little pricy but not out of line for niche manga, and it looks like these books will have better production values than most niche manga.
At the $100 level, you get two copies each of the manga and the novel, as well as a T-shirt. That seems of questionable value—why would you want two copies of the same book? It would be nice to see an intermediate level where for just a bit less you could get single copies and the T-shirt. For $250 you get the $100-level awards, with one copy of the manga autographed by the author, and your name in the book, and for $500 you get a personalized sketch by the artist. While these pledges attracted some backers, they don't seem like great value for the money and most of the action was at the lower levels.
This caught my eye: The publishers' credentials include working on the Dr. Slump manga and the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game (for other companies, of course).
Made goal? Yes, so far the campaign has raised over $12,000, topping the goal by a third.
Deadline to pledge: Sunday, June 10, 12:03 a.m. EDT
What's the big idea? A wordless graphic novel about firefighters and other first responders in a society much like ours, but with transforming robots and other sci-fi technology.
Moving force: San Francisco art teacher Joko Budiono. In a recent interview, Budiono revealed that the book started with some rough thumbnails, turned into an introduction of the characters and evolved from there -- and that his wife talked him into changing the theme from war to emergency responders.
Selling point: That would be the art. This book is penciled, not inked, in a luminous style with careful modeling and strong light effects. It's detailed without being fussy or stiff, which is tough to pull off. Although he cites 1980s anime as his inspiration, and you can definitely see that, he renders the high-tech elements in a smooth, streamlined style that is reminiscent of Futurist paintings. Most of the book is black and white, but Budiono used watercolor washes to bring color to some pages.
Premiums: Budiono keeps it simple. Every premium is directly related to the book. The basic premium, for a $30 pledge, is a hardcover copy of the book. That's not a bad deal, especially when you consider that it includes shipping. It's even better when you realize how limited this edition is: Budiono hopes to raise enough to print 1,000 copies. Other premiums include retailers' packages of five books for $105 or ten for $160, and at the higher levels, original sketches and watercolors.
This caught my eye: The $60 pledge includes not only a copy of "Teddy-1" but also another book by Budiono, "The Thousandth Thumbnail," which looks interesting on its own -- it's all about the different ways an artist can develop a story.
Made goal? Not yet.
Deadline to pledge: Sunday, June 17, 10:37 p.m. EDT.