Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Kickstarter Conundrum

I've struggled with the idea of Kickstarter for a while now.  Kickstarter is a website that brings creative projects to a public forum - if you'd like to work on an artistic project but don't have the funding, you can pitch your idea to the Internet community at large, set a proposed monetary goal, and if enough people like your idea (and are willing to pledge cash money to back it up), your project gets a cash infusion, allowing you to create while having the money to not starve while doing so.

I'm a very large proponent of "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is", but seeing some of the projects that have far exceeded individual goals, it's hard to keep a decent perspective.  I've been involved, in a tangential way, at least, with projects that have fallen into this category, which makes it even more tantalizing.

To give an example, the second volume of FUBAR had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, raising an eye-popping $6015 in efforts to cover publishing and distribution costs.  Several guys involved with FUBAR are working on putting together an animated short for the small press Atomic Robo series, and if you thought the FUBAR numbers were impressive, wait until you read this: as of March 8th, and with 34 days to go, the project has raised over $48,000 and shows no signs of slowing down.

This is, of course, almost fairytale in the sense that I can't really comprehend what just short of 50 grand would mean to any number of projects I would like to take on.

And there are further, even more unbelievable examples to note.  A quick search on the Kickstarter home page reveals that a video game project named "Double Fine Adventure", with five days to go, has raised over two million dollars toward its goal.  Kickstarter is literally making millionaires out of creators.  This is unreal.

These projects owe their success, of course, to high quality pitches and reward structures that give interesting, unique "gifts" to those who fund them, and the above examples are all well conceived and created by talented individuals.  I don't want my astonishment to be misconstrued as resentment.  I'm sure all of the creators involved in these projects deserver their success.

In the field of comics, I stumbled upon a proposed comic titled "Screws Loose", which recently reached its funding goal of $3200.  The comic is set to be published by first-time author and college student Jeremy Melloul from Portland.  While the money certainly pales in comparison to the two million and change the video game proposal received, we're talking about an unknown comic book property by an unknown, unpublished author.  That's impressive in its own right.

This brings me to my current dilemma.  I love making comics.  It's just as rewarding as I always thought it would be, if not more so.  The constant struggle with making comics as a small press guy has nothing to do with the creative aspect of it - it is, of course, money.  It takes a lot of money to pay artists, print and distribute comic books, as it does for anyone in a similar situation.  And now along comes a website that gives daily examples of comic projects being fully funded before the pencil even hits the page.

The question then becomes, "why don't I do this with Teddy and the Yeti?"  Duane Redhead is a hard working sonofagun, and he really puts his heart into every single page, and you are going to be knocked on your butt when you see issue #4, but the fact is that there would be more Teddy and the Yeti to read if Duane could make more than the pittance he's getting from working on this book.  And Kickstarter allows for the possibility that we could not only have fun doing what we're doing, but have enough cash to do it on a regular basis.

It seems like this would be a no-brainer, but I find several stumbling blocks on the way to this proposal.  Perhaps most importantly, I don't want money to come before creativity.  I realize that the two aren't mutually exclusive, and that it's not a perfect analogy, but I don't want be beholden to who pays the bills the way newspapers or network television stations are to advertisers.  I want to create and have that creative process unimpeded by questions of who I have to make happy beyond myself and those I'm working with.  I don't want to "sell out", which I suppose is the rallying cry of plenty of unsuccessful people who try to cling to a sense that what they do is important.

If I'm being honest with myself, I'll admit that I also don't want to fail at a Kickstarter campaign in case it'd burst the illusion that what I do actually does matter.  If I handle everything myself, I can go about things the way I've always done, selling at conventions and book signings and holding out hope that people are actually warming up to the things I'm doing, where a Kickstarter campaign that falls through carries with it a certain mark against not only the project, but the person behind that as well.  I don't want to seek validity through attention or sales, but it is there, one way or the other.

And not all worthy projects are funded.  Jeff Lafferty, friend of the blog and guy who at one time drew Doom 2099 for Marvel (I can't emphasize how awesome I think this is) had a campaign to fund his stop motion movie, Curse of the Wolf's Heart, fall short of its goal.  I realize that what he's doing doesn't appeal to everyone, but how does something like this fall through the cracks when so much else out there is getting thousands and thousands of dollars in pledges?

I suppose that what I'm looking for is some honest feedback from those in the know.  Ultimately, if I do something like this, it's going to be because I have a project that I believe in (Teddy and the Yeti, of course, falls into this category) and I think I can put together a good enough pitch as to not embarrass myself, up there on a virtual stage in front of the world.  What will come of this?  I honestly don't know.