Kickstarter Club: 321 Fast Comics from Felipe Cagno

Felipe Cagno got in touch with me recently to tell me about a comics project he brought to Brazil a little while back, and has now taken to Kickstarter to create an English version. Called 321: Fast Comics, this is an anthology of three-page comics which range wildly in tone, genre and character – the only rules being that each comic must have 3 pages, 2 characters, and 1 twist ending.

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After finding out about the anthology – a preview of which you can find on ComiXology – I promptly had a mild brain collapse and forgot to follow up with Felipe about the book. So! You won’t find an interview with him here, not yet. But what you will find is a big old preview at the project, a look at some of the stories, and a few paragraphs of me saying “HEY GUYS LET’S HELP FELIPE MAKE HIS GOAL EH”

What most strikes me about the anthology is the range of artists within it. Cagno writes many of the stories, but he’s joined by a massive group of writers and artists from Brazil, all of whom offer something really different and fascinating. Brazil is one of the forgotten centres for comics, a country which has a long comics tradition and has brought some of the best artists of all time. Here, within twenty or so stories, the anthology provides a reminder of that talent.

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I don’t have a way to pair up comics to the artists as yet, but what I can do is share a full list of the writers and artists involved in the anthology, some of whom will be names you’ve heard before:

Lucas Leibholz, Geraldo Borges, Guilherme Balbi, Rodney Buchemi, Thony Silas, Carlos Ruas, Rafael De Latorre, Fabiano Neves, Ig Guara, Felipe Watanabe, Cris Bolson, Vitor Cafaggi, Romi Carlos, Cris Peter, Wilton Santos, Gustavo Borges, Matias Streib, Luciano Salles, Mario Cau, Marcelo Maiolo, Zork Marinero, Adriano Augusto, Caio Yo, Clonerh Kimura, Ander Zarate, Omar Viñole, Mat Lopes, Teo Deffectx, Ivan Nunes, Carlos Estefan, Marcos Botelho, Renato Almeida, Guilherme Bon, Fábio Bueno & Pietro Progetti.

And I can share images at random, taken from the Kickstarter, as below:

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The aim of the Kickstarter is to take the already-finished anthology (which was completed in Brazil last year and has been pretty well-acclaimed over there) and translate the stories into English. As you can see in the above strip, there are a few little things like “misterious” rather than “mysterious” to be ironed out, as Cagno takes the book and ships it across to English-reading fans.

The original book, I should point out, is available to pick up too. Just under a hundred pages, this seems like one of those projects bourne properly out of love for the medium. The stories I’ve read are all completely different from one another, playing with some of the most loved tropes in comics – superheroes, dinosaurs, robots, outer space, everything you might think, and then a few surprises too.

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I don’t do a lot of these sorts of ‘Kickstarter Club’ posts, but the enthusiasm from the introduction Felipe made was pretty hard to resist. It’s one of those projects that feels properly worthy of coming to crowdfunding, and I’m excited to see the completed comic reach an audience in the US and beyond.

Brimming with talented artists and with a neat premise, 321: Fast Comics has one week left on Kickstarter, and only a few hundred more dollars to go to reach the target. I urge you to go have a look!

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Interview! Paul Duffield on Launching ‘Small Tales and Fairy Fails’ on Kickstarter

Paul Duffield’s been working with The Phoenix for a while now, as a writer, artist, and primarily as a designer. Over the years he’s had several different comics appear in the weekly all-ages anthology, ranging from space dramas through to haunted house stories – and now he’s set up a Kickstarter to take those stories and print them into a new collection.

‘Small Tales and Fairy Fails’ will collect four comics originally published in The Phoenix, and has already been funded on Kickstarter. But, with plenty more time left on the project, I reached out to Paul and he kindly agreed to do an interview on how the project came together, how things have been going so far, and his plans for comics going forward. Hurrah!

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How did you first start making comics for The Phoenix?

Originally, I was approached by The Phoenix‘s predecessor, The DFC, a very long time ago and asked to pitch! At the time my workload prevented me from taking it any further than an idea. When The Phoenix launched, I was a lot freer, so I pitched again with new material, and it went from there!

There’s all kinds of different stories which’ll be included in this collection – space stories, knights in armour, even a horror story. When working on stories for The Phoenix, do you actively try to switches genres a lot, and try new types of story?

One of the things that The Phoenix team were really looking for at the beginning of its life were stand-alone, 4-page shorts, which I love doing! I used it as an opportunity to experiment, and indulge in some of my favourite genres, whilst also providing the comic with a range of material that wouldn’t get repetitive.

Where do you like to start with a new story? Do you come at them with a character first, or a concept? Do you tend to start with an image in mind, or with a story to script? Or! Does it tend to vary?

For short stories, I usually start with a concept. For example, Starborn started with an idea that I’d like to turn into a longer story at some point, which is that an accidental pregnancy occurs during a deep-space mission, and the baby is brought to term as the first human born in space. The short was an offshoot of the idea.

On the other hand, sometimes inspiration comes from completely unexpected places! The Heart Tree began life as a story that was told collaboratively during a round of a storytelling card game that I play with my friends called Once Upon a Time. I took some of the core ideas from the original telling, and worked them into a sort of fable about rulership. In general when putting these ideas onto paper, I don’t bother with a script, I just fold an A4 piece of paper in half and go straight to thumbnails!

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Is it difficult to contain a story, once you have it, into a relatively short space? Do you like that challenge of economy?

Four of the stories are 4-pagers, and one of them is a 12-pager. Actually, I find that short stories come quite easily to me in a more-or-less fully formed state. Most of the writing I’ve done in comics has been this kind of thing (short stories, 20 pages or less). Perhaps the reason for this is that I studied animation at university, and one of the disciplines that was really pushed there was creating shorts of 3-mins or less (perfect for advertising or personal projects), so I spent a lot of time watching and pondering the creation of little self-contained narratives with a satisfying ending.

The lettering, in particular, often dominates the way you tell stories. At what stage in the artistic do you start planning out how you’ll lay out the lettering? Does it come out fairly on in your process?

The lettering and design of the page is integrated from the get-go, since I work straight into thumbnails. I personally see comics less as a series of panels that tell a story, and more as a series of pages that tell a story. The individual nature of the panel is subservient to the page and the page-turn, and the page-as-a-whole, and so I use lettering to bridge panels and reinforce the flow of reading. I think about this kind of theory a lot, and I’ve written a blog entry that touches on the subject a little! https://www.paulduffield.co.uk/firelight-isle/making-ribbons

You write and draw all the stories here, aside from Scaredy Cat, which was written by Morag Lewis. How did Morag come to be involved in that story?

Morag is a fantastic writer whose work I’ve always respected and read as fast as I can get my hands on it! Although she’s relatively unsung, she’s actually one of the most prolific writer-artists in UK comics in terms of original output (I count 6 of her original graphic novels on my shelf by her at a quick glance, and they’re all at least 200 pages long). I’ve wanted to work on something with her for a long time, and thought her writing sensibilities would be perfect for The Phoenix, so I asked if she wanted to collaborate on something.

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The story was her idea – she developed the script for it, and we both developed the thumbnails together and tweaked the story as a result of that process.

Are there any stories here which you’d like to continue on at some point? Have you got any sequels in mind, maybe?

I mentioned earlier that I’d like to continue with the core concept from Starborn, although probably starting again and without the same characters. However, at one point I had a whole universe planned out that continued straight on from Starborn, in which a league of Starborn (the first of each race to be born in space) explored the galaxy. It was an expansive story and the editors at The Phoenix were interested, but I just ended up with no time to work on it!

As a designer, I’m going to expect you have some pretty specific plans for the printing of the collection. How carefully do you go about the process of actually designing and putting out the physical book?

Very carefully! I love book design, and I’ve been heavily involved in the creation and design of all the Phoenix Presents collections so far. I’ve used everything I’ve picked up working on those to make sure it’s a smooth read and a well-balanced book, and I’ve also passed it by the editors at DFB and The Phoenix for feedback. I’m focussing on everything I can, from the end-papers to the order of the stories, the pagination to the proofreading! The book has already been through a number of versions, and I’m still tweaking it.

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You’ve come to Kickstarter for this collection – how’ve you found the process so far? A lot of people say that having a Kickstarter can be a lot like having a second job…

It’s absolutely like having a second job whilst it’s running! You can see a clear correlation between the number of people who pledge and the amount of time you’ve put into promotion, to the point where I can point at my progress graph and go “wow, the funding went up by 30% that day, that was the day I did the press release and spammed twitter all day long” and “wow, the funding only went up by 3% that day, that was on the weekend when I didn’t look at the project at all”. In general though, I’ve found it to be very smooth, and the mechanics behind it have improved a massive amount since I last did any time-limited crowd funding!

You’re also on Patreon at the moment, for ‘The Firelight Isle’. How has crowdfunding changed the way you’ve been able to make comics? Has it given you more freedom in your work – or, actually, does it ever feel like it constricts you a little?

Most definitely more freedom! The Firelight Isle wouldn’t exist without crowd funding, and I certainly couldn’t afford to print this book without it. Whilst crowd funding can be a time-drain, when it’s handled properly and carefully thought through it enables rather than restricts. The most consuming aspect of a Kickstarter is promoting it whilst it’s running, which is fair enough considering how effective it can be at raising funds. There’s a big difference between that and Patreon though, which exists less to distribute products and grant rewards, and more as a sustained form of support for an ongoing venture. Micro-philanthropy if you like!

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We spoke recently and you said you were going through a new proof of the story so far, hopefully ready to continue on with the series shortly. How is the series doing, as we speak? What’s current progress?

It’s doing very well! I’m past the point where I’m tearing big chunks of the story up and rearranging or rewriting them, and moved to more considered tweaking and refining. I’m really pleased with how the rewrite has improved the story, and I’m itching to get back to drawing it. I’ve got a meeting with the editor soon about the rewrites, and although I know he won’t let me rest until it’s just so, I have a feeling that we’re getting there soon! This is one of those cases where every day spent is both totally necessary and also a frustrating delay, but I’d rather make it the best story it can be than the quickest webcomic that it can be!

What else are you working on at the moment? Where can people find you online?

Well, other than working 3 days a week as a designer at The Phoenix to make my bread-and-butter, this Kickstarter and The Firelight Isle are mostly it. That being said, I very occasionally take on freelance projects, and I’ve been doing a bit of work here and there for someone who’s creating a really interesting sci-fi LCG (Living Card Game) that has just moved into Beta. I’ve also got the fragments of a new story that I want to work on after The Firelight Isle floating around in my head and on a couple of notebook pages, but that’s years away!

I’ve also been completely overhauling my website over the last few months, and you can visit the newly recreated page, read my blog, buy stuff from my store and read many of my comics here: https://www.paulduffield.co.uk

You can also back the kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paulduffield/small-tales-and-fairy-fails

And if you’d like to support my ongoing efforts to produce my webcomic, The Firelight Isle, you can catch me on Patreon too! https://www.patreon.com/paulduffield

Only a Few Hours Left for Nicholas Gurewitch’s Kickstarter

Nicholas Gurewitch, the man who brought The Perry Bible Followship to life – and actually brought it back to life fairly recently, too – will be counting down the last few hours of his Kickstarter today. “Notes on a Case of Melancholia” will be a rhyming picture-book, told from the perspective of a despairing Grim Reaper as he reflects on his son’s inability to carry on the family business.

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Planned for arrival in Summer of next year, Gurewitch states that his goal is to have the book be around 40-50 pages, told in rhyming meter. In it, Death visits his psychoanalyst to talk about his son, “Lil Death” – who is simply too nice and charming to be an appropriate harbinger of doom. Each page will be etched, to create a more gothic effect.

Graphic novel “frames” will be used on occasion, but this will really be more of a picture book – deliberately similar to the short books of Edward Gorey, but with a character-driven plot. Though it has a pretty high body count, it is in essence a family story.

There’s no chance you’re still reading this sentence, when I put a link to the Kickstarter right up in the first paragraph. But if you are still here for some reason, you can head across to the crowdfunder here.

T’Bubs’14: Jennie Gyllblad’s Webcomic ‘Skal’ Heads to Print

Another announcement for Thought Bubble – jeez, you’d think it’s only a day away, what with all these feature pieces running on the site today – is the news that Jennie Gyllblad’s Arabian fantasy series ‘Skal’ will be heading to print for the first time, collecting the first volume for Thought Bubble.

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One thing I noticed when reading the series is that Gyllblad likes experimenting with her style. She does a few pages in watercolour, then just in pen and inkwash (it looks like, anyway!) and then goes off in another new direction again. She’s always changing things up and trying new perspectives in the story, which creates a sense of the epic within her tale. There’re blood feuds, word fights, unique bits of magic – all sorts going on.

The press release sayeth:

The reader is introduced to Mushirah, a diviner on the receiving end of uncontrolled visions who has spent most of her life behind the high walls of a monastery. Believing that a person’s fate is decided the moment they are born, and that her uncaring and indifferent world runs exactly to prophecy, it is only when she is forced to flee – thrust into an unknown environment – that her own rigid perceptions of the world begin to be challenged.

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I’d like to point out that this is a rather naughty story, filled with bits that our Victorian betters would’ve been shocked by. There’s violence, nudity, and assorted other not-for-all-ages things going on, so just be aware.

But! If that doesn’t put you off, then you can find both the prologue and first chapter on the site at the moment, should you want to read a little more. I’ve stuck just to the first few pages, because the series does come across as quite the saga – and I wouldn’t want to spoil even the start of it.

Jennie also sent across a link to her Patreon, and I’d be remiss not to share it with you here.

Journalism! Alex Hoffman Questions DMP’s $589000 Tezuka Manga Kickstarter

Last week saw a really interesting exchange pick up some speed, as Sequential State’s Alex Hoffman picked up on the news that publisher Digital Manga Publishing (DMP) have set up a Kickstarter asking for $589000. For that money, their plan is to spend the next year putting out 31 volumes of manga from creator Osamu Tezuka, and people can pledge something around $700 dollars to receive every one of those 31 books.

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That’s a remarkably high amount of money to ask for, but Hoffman noted that the rest of the Kickstarter also made some rather hefty claims. DMP say that they want to spend the next few decades printing Tezuka books, as they have the rights for over 400 of his books at this point in time. That means, Hoffman calculates, that they’ll be setting up repeated half-million Kickstarters roughly eleven or twelve times over the next few years – coming to a total of almost $8 million asked for.

In his first post on the subject, he looks at the costs and value offered to readers should they pledge for the Kickstarter. His second post looks at the production values and context for the Kickstarter project as a whole. A third post examines how things could be altered to provide a fairer crowdfunding project for readers.

It’s a fairly exhaustive look at the project – something you don’t see much of online. Kickstarters tend to get away with everything – they pick their own targets, spend as long as they want getting the product out to people, and generally get little analysis or criticism of their techniques or projections. So seeing Hoffman take this project to task – from the perspective of a fan of Tezuka who wants this to succeed – is not only fascinating, but important as well.

And what’s been even better is that he’s forced a response from DMP regarding the Kickstarter. CEO Hikaru Sasahara posted a video to the Kickstarter last week in response to concerns that the Kickstarter was asking for too much too quickly, and was rushing a long-term project by trying to do more than it could handle. He explains the long-term plans for the Tezuka library, but in doing so raised even more concerns for Hoffman, who responded in a subsequent fourth post.

So first let’s talk about how costs meet up. First and foremost, it seems that Sasahara is paying himself out of this Kickstarter cash pool. This isn’t what Kickstarter is for – certainly I don’t mind DMP making a profit, in fact, I want them to continue to be able to publish and pay their employees. But I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation for Kickstarter backers to pay for the costs that DMP has accrued to make this licensing deal on top of MSRP.

Throughout, Hoffman systematically goes through the aspirations of DMP and analyses how effective and practical they actually would be to implement, and that fourth post is absolutely the place to start reading about the Kickstarter as a whole. It’s a fantastic piece which has since been picked up by Comics Reporter, amongst others. It’s so important to keep pushing back against publishers who make these grand, expansive plans which might not ever be possible to finish through, and Sequential State has done a fantastic job so far of keeping things in check. Keep an eye on that site over the next few weeks, because I think there’s a lot more to come.

 

Interview: Vera Greentea on Comics, Creativity, and Cakes… Actually? Mostly Cakes

Vera Greentea is a name you may well have heard, especially if you’ve been on Kickstarter in the past few years. Having taken seven projects through the site – and successfully funded every single one – she’s been a rising star in the comics scene. From Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits through to PAPA and her most recent series ‘Recipes for the Dead’, she’s built a catalogue of great comics, marked by the unexpected and charming stories as much as they are by the fantastic, lush artwork from people like Allison Strom and Laura Muller.

I hear she’s also a great baker, but that’s neither here nor there.

With the third issue of Recipes for the Dead just about finished and planned to be launched later this month, now seemed like the perfect time to catch up with Vera and find out about her comics, only about her comics, and nothing apart from her comics work. Happily she agreed, and we certainly talked a lot about comics as a result!

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Vera! I hear you have a new comic! What’s it about?

Vera Greentea: Wow, news travels fast! You’re right, I’ve just completed my Kickstarter campaign for Recipes for the Dead Issue 3: Steam Minted Meringue. Recipes for the Dead is a Victorianpunk manga-style comic encrusted with a thick layer of baroque monsters, zero grams of airships (hence; not steampunk), with a core of romance, adventure and a little pinch of creepiness.

Veronica Wickfield is a baker who becomes an illegitimate owner of a magical cookbook that lures lurking shadows, attractive punky musicians and a furious gear-creature with intent to destroy her pastry shop – all in just this one issue. 

But enough of that, because I wanted to ask you about cake making for a bit. When did you first get the bug for cake making?

I was an eighteen-year old university student, living with ravenous roommates, a large bag of stale Doritos, and a very secret drawer of potato pancakes that came once a month from my grandmother. One day, while consuming an oversized styrofoam carton of French Toast Sticks from the dining hall, my roommate and I wondered if we should learn to make our own – but then, we proceeded to marathon through two seasons of Daria instead.

It was only after college and upon moving away from the dining hall, I finally decided to attempt making a Trés Leches cake out of a Goya packet – with poisonous results. Haven’t looked back since.

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Vera Greentea’s blueberry pie

Would you agree with the idea that baking is therapeutic? Do you find it calming, as a hobby?

Completing 7 Kickstarters as an introverted writer does demand a calming side-hobby, and yes, baking is mine. While funding of Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits – my creepy miniseries focused on the Day of the Dead – I was obsessed with making a Mexican flan from scratch. During the last Recipes for the Dead campaign, I finally perfected a black raspberry scone (and will probably never again). And while trying not to panic over whether PAPA would be funded last year, I baked a bunch of mini-Snickers into brownies.

What kind of things do you most like baking? Are you a cake person foremost, or have you been known to bake a biscuit from time to time?

Cake is my favorite thing to make for a holiday, birthday, or “I went to a comic con and now I just want some cake” day. However, for normal everyday baking, I actually go for simpler off-the-cuff type of recipes – things like pies and cobblers. Cobblers are especially easy – you just mix sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and milk in any pan; melt some butter into it; throw a bunch of slices of a fruit (peach works great here); add cinnamon on top and bake! It’s 30 minutes and suddenly everyone thinks you’re some sort of baking prodigy!

What’d you say is your absolute all-time favourite cake?

Carrot Cake! I grew up in a Russian household with its own brand of desserts: baked apples (which are really just apples steaming in an oven, no additions of any kind), sirniki (this is basically just cottage cheese and raisins fried on a pan, and poppy seed bread rolls (these are delicious).

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So, it was only in college when I had my first slice of carrot cake and boy, it was magic! I’ve since learned to make one out of scratch using freshly grated carrots, minced pineapple and cinnamon cheesecake frosting – and no, my Russian relatives won’t touch it.

Are there any types of cakes you’ve always wanted to try out, but never gotten round to or had the time for? Is there an ‘Everest of Cakes’ for you, perhaps?

That Green Tea Matcha cake is such a delicate, easily ruined thing. One day, I’ll make it, and it will be perfect. One day…

What’s one of those?

A Green Tea Matcha Cake! Matcha is basically the healthiest kind of green tea – you drink the tea with the leaf still in there, and it’s kind of this thick green liquid. It takes getting used to, but it’s awesome.

So, I buy this matcha powder by the pound, and then there is sooo much… of course, I HAVE to use it to make a green tea cake. It’s supposed to be this super light and fluffy, spongy, green tea-scented cake, with maybe a light frosting – but because it’s so light, it’s easy to burn or overmix or screw up in a billion ways. But I am keeping the faith, haha.

Are you a fan of experimentation? In your baking, I mean, not your comics.

Experimentation is the main tenet of creative baking for beginners, along with Ambition (“I will make a great chocolate cake for my paleo-dieting, lactose-intolerant, nut-allergic in-laws”), a Calm Demeanor (most utilized when the hungry Better Half moseys into the kitchen and says passive aggressively, “well, are you healing the sick or following instructions on a Sara Lee box?”), and perhaps most importantly, the Powers of Persuasion (“taste this, baldy!”).

I can tell you this, Steve, I’m fairly sure that my first true experiment (a Green Tea Matcha sponge cake) killed the fly that sat on it. This is why Veronica Wickfield didn’t make the originally planned matcha cake in Recipes for the Dead Issue 3, and stuck to the much easier meringue cookies. Veronica only bakes things I’ve successfully made!

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This interviews marks the only time a comics article has ever been pro-cheesecake

What’ve been some of your greater successes as a baker, would you say?

Cake is serious business, and I like to attack all baking projects death or glory style. I wear my apron high like a breastplate and my Harry Potter Quidditch replica goggles over my glasses, ready for anything.

So, with great gravitas, I would say that my family’s favorite is the annual Christmas trifle (or Hanukah trifle, depending which side of the family you ask), which Better Half and I adopted from our trip to Ireland a few years ago. The trifle contains piping hot homemade custard, an awesome sour cream and pound cake baked early in the morning, and a cauldron-amount of different jams (usually strawberry, blueberry and IKEA lingonberry), as well as toasted almonds. The adults in my family gobble this out of ice cream bowls, and the younger kids usually dunk their hands into theirs and throw whipping cream missiles at our ever-suffering cat. So yes, I consider our trifle very successful; as a Christmas Eve dessert, as Christmas breakfast, and the perfect artillery in a food fight.

Do you watch any baking shows – Great British Bake Off, for example?

I truly enjoy baking shows, and especially like them on while I’m prepping my Kickstarter packages for shipping. The Great British Bake Off is a big favorite – mostly because of the serenity of the show in comparison to others but also because of the wonderful Mary Berry, who has a lot of great advice both for baking and life in general.

I do watch some others; Top Chef: Just Desserts is a fun one (I especially love it when they make grandiose cakes), and Cupcake Wars isn’t so bad in a pinch either.

Following on from that, do you have any thoughts on soggy bottoms? For? Against?

The only good soggy bottoms are the ones in the fictional band from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. Otherwise, I’m totally against any kind of soggy bottom – it means that the cake has been undercooked! Yuck. I’d most likely throw that sucker out and start over, though first I might munch on the frosting while watching 6 episodes of Dr. Who…

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Chocolate cake! Nice plate too

What’d be your top tips for bakers?

Let catastrophes happen – they make for entertaining stories to be used in your comics! (Like that one time when my cake recipe turned out to be a demon summoning spell… now I have a whole comic series about it!).

What advice would you give to anybody looking to get into cake making themselves? Do you have a particular recipe book you treat as a bible?

This is a little old school, I guess, but I kind of love Joy of Cooking for basic baking. It really gives you an idea of what the point is of each ingredient, which later helps you fix it if your cake gets a bit derailed, somehow ends up on the ceiling, and is screeching at your cat. Don’t be alarmed, read your Joy of Cooking for answers. It understands.

Oh, uh… speaking of books, this new one of yours. Recipes, is it? Where can people find it online?

Right! The series is called Recipes for the Dead, and Issue 3 is named Steam Minted Meringue. It will be available on my website this late October. The art by Allison Strom is truly a work of fine illustration, so I would take a look just for that!

Many thanks to Vera for her time, and photos! We may have spoken mostly about, uh, cakes – but her comics are faaaaaantastic too! You can also find Vera on Twitter right here.

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