One of the interesting things about Kickstarter is that it allows comics pros to bring their creator-owned work to a new audience. Inker Art Thibert has worked for Marvel, DC and Image at different times -- he is best known as the inker for many X-Men comics in the 1990s -- and his comic "Chrono Mechanics" was first published by Image in 2004. Now he's bringing it back as a graphic novel, hoping it will find a new audience.
CBR News: What is "Chrono Mechanics" about, and what makes it different from other time travel stories?
Art Thibert: "Chrono Mechanics" is about four time repairmen (Team 9.2 of Sector 7). They are: Oot, a prehistoric Donald Trump; Caravaggio, a Renaissance artist and inventor; Zyn, who is an intergalactic child deity; and our slacker from the 20th century, Doug, the rock star with crazy dumb luck. These guys are hired by Chrono, Inc. and given the responsibility to keep the big machine known as Time in good working order; otherwise, time will go kaflooey. Some hints that the machine is broken are when time lines begin to merge. Imagine cowboys fighting with medieval knights over the hand of a maiden who just ordered a frappuccino at Starbucks! On rare occasions there are even time stampedes. If the machine isn't fixed in a timely fashion then Chrono, Inc. will be forced to use the "go primal" protocol -- which is basically a "do over" button for time to reboot itself. Trust me, we don't want go through that again!
The difference is that Chrono Mechanics is not just a time travel story. It is a story of four highly skilled time repairmen recruited from their respective time lines and put together as a team that then commute through the time stream. There they encounter an adversarial repair company, race to repair sites, navigate through Chronomite turf wars, encounter merging time lines, and work their way through time-mine fields. They do all of this just to get to the machine itself. Then comes the knuckle-busting challenge of repairing the machine known as Time. I don't know, but that sounds pretty darned hilarious and different! I've never read a story like that.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of this comic, and how the Kickstarter graphic novel is related to the original comics?
I just had a crazy idea about time being a big machine, and a company that would be responsible for maintaining and repairing it and it just never went away. It just kept nagging and nagging at me until I finally did something about it -- which was creating Chrono Mechanics. It's an amalgamation of all the things that I'm really interested in. Ever since I was a kid I loved dinosaurs and anything to do with prehistoric times. Then there's the art side. I have a character who is an artist and inventor. And then there's a child philosopher, and I've been known to be a little childish when talking philosophy. And lastly, as a teen, after I heard my first rock song I was hooked and rock & roll was in my soul. So I think that's where my rocker came from. I guess in a nutshell, it's all the different places, different time lines and things I like wrapped up into one concept.
"Potholes in the Cosmic Road" is a collected trade. It will have the original 48 page graphic novel that was originally put out through Image, the four-issue series that came out through Alias Comics, and also, as an added bonus, the first Chrono Mechanics story I ever told. This last story is an 11-page alternate origin story of Doug and how he was recruited to be a Chrono Mechanic. So those stories will all be packaged together as a trade along with a pinup section with art by such greats as Sam Liu, Tom Bancroft and Fred Hembeck (just to name a few), original cover gallery, and if we can get our original pledge goal met soon enough, as push goals I would like to add a sketchbook section which would be called, "Under Construction." Also, I have an amazing colorist, Sean Ellery, who has graciously agreed to lend his amazing talents to recoloring the entire book.
Why does this seem like a good time to bring Chrono Mechanics back?
I just felt it was time to get it out in front of a new audience, and with Kickstarter, it seemed like a natural fit.
Kickstarter seems to be a place that supports this type of subject matter a little bit more readily than mainstream comics does. Humor books in the superhero comic book world traditionally don't do very well, but I noticed that on Kickstarter, some of the more crazy, fun humor projects were doing quite well.
Will you do more Chrono Mechanics stories if this Kickstarter succeeds?
I would love for the rest of my life just to tell Chrono stories. So if the Kickstarter audience supports this book, and let's just say, the pledges go through the roof -- then with any of that extra money, it would afford me the time to create more stories
Will the finished graphic novels be available outside Kickstarter -- in stores or at conventions?
Right now, they're just planned for the Kickstarter audience. If funded, though, I might overprint copies so I could sell them in stores and at conventions.
One thing I am noticing on a lot of Kickstarters is international shipping. Have you been getting pledges from around the world, or is your audience mainly in the US?
We've been real lucky. So far, we're getting pledges from everywhere in the world. That makes me feel good that I'm hitting a world audience. That's another thing that's really cool about Kickstarter is that it is a world audience.
What have you learned since starting this campaign?
What I've learned is that people are truly amazing! The amount of people who have come out to support this project blows me away! Even if this project isn't fully funded, I will still consider the project a success. My fan base and the Kickstarter audience are truly amazing, and I thank everyone who has supported and will support this project with their posts and pledges. I encourage anyone who is reading this interview that is a fan of Chrono Mechanics or my work to please get out & support and pledge to this project. It can't exist without you! Thanks!
The number of comics projects on Kickstarter has rebounded from a low of around 60 right after the holidays to about 120 right now; here are a few that look particularly interesting.
What's the big idea? A talking dog, an anthropomorphized turtle, and an attractive woman with a special ability find themselves on a remote, dinosaur-infested island. The Kickstarter will fund a 90-page, black and white graphic novel that will kick off a comic series.
Moving force: Jim Lawson, who is best known for his work as an artist and writer for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics -- he was the penciller for the main TMNT comic for Mirage Studios and wrote and drew a number of one-shots.
Selling point: Lawson knows what he's doing. The concept sounds like fun, it has a few original twists. The art is polished, professional, and lively. The samples make me want to read the whole book.
Premiums: A digital copy of Dragonfly is $15, which is honestly, kind of pricy for a PDF. A hard copy is $25. At the $45 level Lawson will sign the book and throw in a signed trade paperback of his dinosaur graphic novel Paleo. For $200 you can choose the subject for a pin-up drawing to appear in the book, and you get to keep the original, for $500 you can choose three pages of original art, and for $750 you can be eaten by a dinosaur in a special five-page backup story.
This caught my eye: The art for the book has been completed, so the Kickstarter is just for production costs, and the next two issues have been written.
Deadline: February 24.
What's the big idea? A manga-style graphic novel with a dreamlike feel, described by the creator as "in the tradition of House of Leaves, with inspiration from Alice in Wonderland."
Moving force: Montreal-based artist Dan Kim.
Selling point: The graphic novel was the winner of the Bronze Award in the Japanese International Manga Award, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. This competition is open to creators around the world, and the quality of the winners is uniformly high. In addition, in 2007 Kim won two Joe Shuster Awards, as best webcomic creator (for his webcomics "April & May & June," "Kanami," and "Penny Tribute," and as Favourite Creator -- English-Language Publications.
Premiums: Kim has a nice array of premiums that maximize both his audience: a digital copy is $1, a hardcover edition for $29, and deluxe, hand-crafted leatherbound editions for $165 and up; at each level, he allows readers to toss in a few bucks more and get some nice extras. It's a measure of the fact that he has found his audience on Kickstarter that he has had over 40 backers on those deluxe levels. The highest-level premiums are personal appearances, including tea party/drawing sessions on Skype and drawstream as well as a live tea party at TCAF and, for $2,000, a personal appearance at a comics shop. The $500 premium stands out among all these high-value items: It's a drawing of a magical girl's butt. Nothing else. Just a butt.
This caught my eye: In his video, Kim remarks that despite winning several awards, he has never been able to find an audience -- or a publisher, presumably because the publisher couldn't find an audience. That's a fairly dramatic admission, but it also rings very true given the realities of the market at the moment. The fact is that he does seem to have found his audience on Kickstarter, as his pledges far exceed the original goal.
Goal: $6,000; as of this writing, over $27,000 has been pledged.
Deadline: March 7.
What's the big idea? It's the latest issue of a folded-and-stapled, photocopied, fanzine about Steve Ditko.
Moving force: Rob Imes, publisher of "Ditkomania" and the old-time radio fanzine "Tune In," as well as the chairman of the United Fanzine Organization.
Selling point: A photocopied fanzine has a certain old-fashioned appeal to it, in this day of blogs and Tumblrs and Facebook. Kickstarter is a great platform to reach the fairly narrow audience of Steve Ditko fans who will appreciate this zine.
Premiums: Nothing here will break the bank: A digital copy is $2, a print copy is $4. The top-level premium includes print and digital copies, a mention in the editorial, and a print of Ditko and his characters by artist Larry Blake.
This caught my eye: The bulk of this issue is taken up with a 30-page article by Ron Franz about working with Ditko and other creators, as well as why the planned "Ooky & Zooky" comic was never published.
Deadline: March 3.
What's the big idea? Bluewater Comics takes to Kickstarter to fund a four-issue miniseries based on Julie Kagawa's "The Iron King," one of her "The Iron Fey" fantasy novels. This fairly ambitious Kickstarter aims to fund the complete production of the comic, including interior and cover artists, an editor, printing, shipping, and project management.
Moving force: Bluewater Comics, which is well known for their bio-comics of politicians and celebrities and has been criticized by some commentators for their contracts. Their inclusion of up-front money for creators in this Kickstarter would seem to indicate a different approach.
Selling point: If you're a fan of Kagawa's books (they are New York Times best-sellers), or of this particular genre of fantasy, this looks like a good bet. The illustrations are slick, and Kagawa is working with Bluewater on the project, so presumably the comics will be in the spirit of the novels.
Premiums: The print edition of the first issue, with a Kickstarter-exclusive cover, is $10 (there was an early bird special, but it sold out). A digital copy of the four-issue miniseries is $15; confusingly, it's also listed as a $30 pledge, but according to the "Updates" section, this was an error, although it's not clear whether it was a typo or an error in judgment. The full miniseries in print goes for $40. Additional premiums include prints on paper and on wooden boards, hoodies with the characters, clay sculptures of the characters made by Kagawa herself, framed comics, the opportunity to be drawn into the book, and, for a cool grand, dinner with Julie herself (you provide transportation to Louisville, Kentucky).
This caught my eye: For $1,500 you can get your own custom-made variant cover. Which I guess would be worth a lot, because it would be unique.
Deadline: March 12.
What's the big idea? A comic about a pro wrestler coming to terms with his doubts, "The Legend of Ricky Thunder" already exists as a webcomic; this Kickstarter will fund a print version to be sold not only to backers but also at conventions.
Moving force: Kyle Starks lives in Evansville, Indiana, and creates webcomics in his spare time.
Selling point: Sheer craziness. If professional wrestling isn't weird enough on its own, the comic features appearances by Benjamin Franklin, Chuck Norris, Teddy Roosevelt, and space aliens, all drawn in a fluid, faux-naïve style. Also, Chris Sims of Comics Alliance says it's the best wrestling comic ever, and he should know.
Premiums: A digital copy is $5, print is $20. Pledgers have the opportunity to be drawn into a mini-comic or a trading card set, and the $200 premium is the opportunity to have your comic edited by award-winning editor Adam P. Knave, who will also do a two-hour consultation via Skype. The $5,000 premium is a trip to Starks's home to watch Wrestlemania with him and Chris Sims.
This caught my eye: The pitch video ends with Starks getting whacked with a chair. You have to admire that kind of dedication.
Goal: $2,500, which has been surpassed; Starks has a number of stretch goals as well.
Deadline: February 23.