Sometimes, Kickstarter campaigns fund a brand new comic or graphic novel, but more and more often, creators are using them to bring an older work into a new format. That's what Tom Bancroft's "Opposite Forces" Kickstarter is about.
Bancroft is a former Disney animator who worked on The "Lion King," "Aladdin" and "Mulan," among others. In the mid-2000s, he published a four-comic miniseries, "Opposite Forces" as a personal side project. It was released in two different formats, but now he wants to collect all four issues in a new graphic novel edition. We asked him why that was important, and what he has learned about Kickstarter.
CBR News: "Opposite Forces" looks like a different type of story from the ones you worked on at Disney. What is the concept, and what interested you about it?
Tom Bancroft: I've been a comic reader/geek since I was very young, and I have many longboxes of comics from the '70s and '80s to prove it. I can even say that I have the ENTIRE run of the '70s "Ms. Marvel" series for some reason! (That's hardcore.) I have always wanted to create a comic series of my own. Though I made animation my career, I knew that the story I wanted to tell would be a superhero story. That said, I wanted to create a story that had an animated feel in style, comedy, and lots of character development rather than just a slugfest. I always loved the Chris Claremont/ John Byrne run of "X-Men," but the issues that stand out to me where when the X-Men would take a break and play softball. It was pure character development and interaction. "Opposite Forces" is that kind of fun story. It's the story of two very different characters, Marty and Alexis, that are thrown together when the local, not so nice superhero (Captain Dynamo) is attacked. His powers are stripped from him and put into Marty and Alexis by accident. But, those powers don't work correctly unless they are within 100 feet of each other. This literally makes them opposites FORCED to attract! They discover that they have indirectly created an evil that they need to fight and at the same time, Captain Dynamo is in a drunken haze trying to figure out what happened to him! Things get humorously worse and worse for the Captain.
The comics have been published in two different formats, once in color and also in black and white. Why is it important to you to create a collected edition?
I self-published the original four-issue series in black and white. I had asked many of my comic book and animation friends to do pin ups and covers for those four issues and got great artwork by artists like J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Mike Wieringo, Humberto Ramos, Mike Kunkel, Phil Noto, and more. Later, the short-lived Alias Comics asked if they could reprint the issues in COLOR with all new covers by me. While it was a dream come true to see the series in color, that version did NOT include the pinups and covers from all the other great artists. This new KICKSTARTER version is all four issues in color, all the pin ups and all the covers by the "celebrity" artists and myself -- many of them in color for the first time! In addition, I am adding a never before seen sketchbook section to the book that will include all the character designs, page layouts, and other concept artwork I created for the series. Lastly, I am adding a final section of development artwork for a TV PITCH version of "Opposite Forces" that I have created recently to pitch it as an animated TV series. This version is radically different from the comic series in the way that I have made the characters younger and set it in high school. It is a simplified style also, so I think people will enjoy seeing how you develop a TV show from a comic series. To me, the Kickstarter version of "Opposite Forces" is the ultimate compilation of the story with about half of the book featuring never before seen artwork!
Would you consider continuing the story if this Kickstarter is a success?
The short answer is yes. I would LOVE to do more comic stories with these characters. There is a chance of that, but it may be that the next story of these characters is a told via film or TV. As I mentioned, I already have a TV series version, but I am also presently pitching a live action film version (closer to the comic book series) of the story.
Most Kickstarter creators offer a digital edition of the comic as one of the lower-level premiums. Can you explain why you chose not to do that?
I have gone back and forth on this quite a bit. In the end, I decided to NOT offer a PDF version of the book because I feel that this Kickstarter is a print project. That's my goal, to have it published. I have told people that I will most likely release a PDF version down the road via my website and that they may choose to wait for that and not back this project right now. To be honest, I'm not sure if my not offering a digital version is a good idea. As I said, I go back and forth. I hope people will drop me a comment on the Kickstarter if they feel strongly that they want the PDF now. If it helps the Kickstarter, then I may add that option.
I'm always interested in why people back Kickstarter projects. You have backed nine -- what made you interested enough in these projects to put money into them, and did they influence this Kickstarter in any way?
I have many artist/creator friends in the animation and comic book industry that have had Kickstarter dream projects that I really wanted to support. I have a few more that are on Kickstarter now that I will back before they are done. I really believe in Kickstarter as a great place to try and have a dream project realized. I want to support that in any way I can. The fact that you get something cool in the mail a few months later makes it even cooler! Yes, I have learned a lot from the Kickstarters I have supported and I have asked many of my friends about how they did it.
How do you think your experience as a professional animator is helping this Kickstarter?
I'm hoping the animation drawing style combined with the classic superheroes mythos will be appealing and fresh to a lot of people. That's the creative heart of this series. Also, I'm hoping I can attract not only comic book fans but animation fans to back this Kickstarter. I hope.
What have you learned from it? Has anything surprised you so far?
I knew this going in, but its still surprising how much work is involved in a Kickstarter project! (And I haven't even done the hard part -- fulfillment of all the incentives!) I did a ton of research to figure out how to launch my own Kickstarter, from listening to podcasts from successful Kickstarter creators, reading everything on the site, emailing printers for pricing information, and talking to friends that have done one also. I think we all go into this hoping that YOUR Kickstarter will be the one that meets its goal in two days and goes 5 times higher than you ever expected. I think you never know what will happen till you jump in and that is the exciting/scary part. As of now, I am at the half way mark for time and I have gotten 50% of my funding. I'm happy with that, but I know I still have a long way to go to hit it, so I'm feeling the pressure now. I made my Kickstarter last for 30 days and have noticed that other creators do them for 45 or more, so that makes me wonder if I made it too short. These are all the things you think about at the halfway mark, I guess.
Here's a quick look at three of the more interesting projects from this week's array of comics Kickstarters.
What's the big idea? "Sorako" is a slice-of-life manga about a young woman who lives with her family and is on that cusp between being a teenager and an adult. It has been running in the digital manga GEN Manga, and the Kickstarter will fund a print edition.
Moving force: GEN Manga has been publishing manga digitally and in print for about two years. They recently announced that their monthly anthology magazine is going on hiatus, but they have begun publishing serialized manhwa (Korean comics).
Selling point: If you like slice-of-life indy comics, this is the book for you. Creator Fujimura Takayuki's linear, expressive style is reminiscent of Inio Asano ("Solanin"), and like Asano, Takayuki explores the ups and downs of young adulthood. This book is a collection of short stories crystallizing particular moments in the title character's life. It's not really a "manga about nothing," despite the title; the stories are actually rather clever. With its straightforward style and careful storytelling, this is a manga that even non-manga fans can enjoy.
Premiums: The starting pledge is $3, which gets you a PDF of the book, a special wallpaper, and acknowledgement. Since you can simply buy it from the GEN website for $2.99, that's pretty good added value for a penny. For $15 you can add on the first 16 digital issues of GEN, which is a lot of reading for the money. A $40 pledge is required to get a print copy. There's also a sake cup (these guys know their audience) and a T-shirt, ad for $375, a pass to New York Comic Con. For big spenders, the $1,500 pledge is a visit with the editor and an unnamed Japanese creator at NYCC, plus various other perks (original art, credit in the book, etc.).
This caught my eye: The pitch video for this project lets the comic sell itself. It's short, laid-back, and totally about the work, an approach that I wish more Kickstarter creators would use.
Deadline: March 21.
What's the big idea? Allegedly a collected edition of a 1960s adventure comic strip that was canned for being too sensational, Goldtiger is a sexy adventure story told in a retro comic strip format, with supplementary "background material" about its fictional creator, Antonio Barretti.
Moving force: UK-based artist Jimmy Broxton, whose credits include work on "The Unwritten" and Paul Cornell's "Knight and Squire"; "Jimmy Broxton" is apparently a pen name for artist James Hodgkin. So we have an artist impersonating an artist impersonating an artist -- it's a regular hall of mirrors down here.
Selling point: If you think the James Bond movies would be better if there was more sex in them, this is the book for you.
Premiums: This is a UK-based operation, so prices are in pounds (and readers outside the UK can expect to pay extra for shipping. The price of a PDF is £8, and a print copy (plus the PDF) is £25. There's a lot of swag, too -- a T-shirt, buttons, a carrier bag, iPad skin -- but my favorite is that for £50 you can get the book and the font the creators used. There's also a lavish limited edition, the Treasury Edition, available for £275. For £700 you can get a drawing of yourself in bed with the heroes Jack and Lily, or you can be drawn into the strip.
This caught my eye: This is another Kickstarter where the art totally carries the pitch video; it's done very much in the James Bond style and really conveys the spirit of the book.
Deadline: March 17.
Hatter M: Zen of Wonder
What's the big idea? This is the fourth volume of Frank Beddor's "Hatter M" graphic novel, a spinoff of his "Looking Glass Wars" novels, which purport to tell the real story behind Alice in Wonderland.
Moving force: Writer Frank Beddor, who wrote the "Looking Glass Wars" trilogy as well as the "Hatter M" graphic novel series. Liz Cavalier and Sami Makkonen complete the creative team.
Selling point: If you're already a fan of the series, this fourth volume is a no-brainer. For newcomers, the award tiers include the previous volumes, so you can catch up. The art is stunning, and Beddor's take on Alice in Wonderland does seem to be truly original.
Premiums: There doesn't seem to be a digital edition, but a paperback copy of the book is available for a $21 pledge, and a hardback is $30. Ben Templesmith, who was the artist for the first volume, has created a deck of playing cards that tie in with the story, and you can get those for $20. There are bundles of the earlier volumes, and a special limited-edition print of the alternate cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, and original art. The higher level prizes include being drawn into the story, an author visit, and the opportunity to have Beddor and his team edit, draw, and color a story you write. For $7,500 e will even go skiing with you. Plus you get the book.
This caught my eye: The $450 pledge is a top hat with retractable blades, just like Hatter Madigan's. This may be the single coolest premium I have ever seen in a Kickstarter.
Goal: $20,000, which has already been exceeded.
Deadline: March 22.