The comic book direct market is dying.
However, that doesn’t mean that comics creators can’t make a sustainable living working outside of the mainstream comic book industry.
There’s been an explosion in six-figure crowdfunded comic book projects on Indiegogo, but you wouldn’t know it from visiting most of the news outlets that cover comics.
Sure, much has been made about Kickstarter’s comic book campaigns lately, even by the mainstream press. But you hardly ever hear anything about rival Indiegogo campaigns, even though on average they seem to be raising more per campaign.
Why not? I blame politics and mainstream publishing’s grip on comics media.
And it’s personal and political bias that is (in my opinion) keeping mainstream comic book news outlets from covering a boom in independent comic book funding and creation. Most (but not all) of the campaign creators lean conservative, and some creators openly identify as “comicsgate.”
In today’s divisive political climate, being openly conservative is likely an undesirable trait for freelancers to have in an industry that is dominated mostly by progressives. There’s some debate as to whether or not there’s actually a “blacklist” of conservatives in comics. But given how hostile many comics creators are to conservatives on social media it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that many of these people wouldn’t want to share comics credits with a political “enemy.”
I’ve noticed some “high strangeness” around how comics treats some conservative and “free-thinking” creators, and I’m a liberal.
Ethan Van Sciver’s CYBERFROG has made over $800,000 on Indiegogo… but no one is talking about it.
Former DC Comics artist turned YouTube commentator Ethan Van Sciver has raised over $800,000 in total for three different campaigns of his self-published title Cyberfrog. This includes the initial run as well as two variant runs. His initial campaign (at over $538K) would have landed him in the Top 5 most-funded campaigns of all-time had he been on Kickstarter.
Add to this that Van Sciver was also the only Marvel or DC pro that had generated over $500K in crowdfunding at the time. (The rest were webcomics creators, and Gabriel Picolo has since beaten Van Sciver’s initial campaign total.)
Yet none of the major comics news outlets seemed to cover the success of Cyberfrog as it was happening. I searched Newsarama, ComicBook.com Bleeding Cool, CBR, Comics Beat — nada.
When Van Sciver’s project was mentioned, he was usually mentioned in conjunction with some kind of controversy or snarky commentary.
In a recent livestream, Van Sciver stated that both Bleeding Cool and Newsarama reached out to him to do an interview, but both had backpeddled for various nebulous reasons.
Speaking of Gabriel Picolo…
While his Indiegogo campaign also went largely ignored by comics media, Bleeding Cool did at least give him a shoutout.
Had his campaign been on Kickstarter, it probably would have been all over the place. (Kickstarter definitely has the better PR machine in the comics space, that’s for sure.)
Richard Meyer’s JAWBREAKERS made over $450,000, placing him in the Top 10 of Crowdfunded Comics Campaigns… but you can’t talk about HIM.
Love him or hate him, YouTube comics critic turned comics creator Richard C. Meyer (formerly known as Diversity & Comics) made bank on his Jawbreakers campaign. Over the course of two campaigns (one for a “remaster”), he raised over $450,000 with the first doing $400K.
And the comic book industry lost its bleepin’ mind. Things got so bad that Meyer is now in the middle of a lawsuit with Mark Waid, who he alleges interfered in a publishing deal with Antarctic Press.
The campaign seemingly got little to no mainstream coverage outside of admonishing Meyer’s “hot takes” on YouTube and his lawsuit with Waid. That $450,000 was generated almost entirely by his YouTube presence and word of mouth.
As I understand it, Meyer’s original plan was to bring Jawbreakers to Kickstarter, but the story is that Kickstarter wouldn’t allow him to run the campaign on their platform. Not because of the content of the book, but because someone there didn’t like his YouTube videos.
‘Earthworm Jim’ made $100,000 in a single day on Indiegogo, and the mainstream comics (and gaming) media didn’t touch it.
Eisner-winning creator Doug TenNapel is bringing back 16-bit gaming icon Earthworm Jim in graphic novel form. And you would think that alone would be newsworthy for comics media outlets, right?
Well, what if it raked in over $100,000 in a single day?
How about major gaming sites like IGN, Kotaku and Polygon?
Nope, nope and nope.
Aside from a handful of blogs that cover Indiegogo campaigns and some smaller gaming sites, nobody talked about the runaway success of Earthworm Jim: Launch the Cow.
TenNapel is an outspoken conservative, but stressed that this project wasn’t “comicsgate.”
Doesn’t matter. The campaign is absolutely newsworthy for a variety of reasons, but media won’t touch it because they don’t like him.
The list goes on and on…
There have been dozens and dozens of other successful campaigns on Indiegogo in the past year, but you’re not hearing about them. And it is newsworthy. Especially at a time when the comic book industry is in “crisis mode.”
Comic Industry news is Comic Industry news, and it needs to be reported on.
But regardless of how you feel about the creators of these comic books, the fact that there are Indiegogo campaigns that would easily rank in the Top 10 most funded comics projects of all time on Kickstarter that are deliberately not being covered by most comic book “news” outlets is complete failure of “comics journalism.”
Personal bias and vendettas should have no place when there is legitimate, factual news about the comic book industry to be reported. People are making good money in comics on Indiegogo. Many of those comics are apolitical. And in a time when comic shops are closing at at alarming rate and mainstream publishers and laying off, this news does need to be reported.
It’s like the entire comic book “industry” and the journalists that cover it all decided to turn a blind eye to a massive opportunity for creators of all kinds.
Look, you don’t have to like the politics of the people behind the campaigns. But as an advocate for independent comics and for creators finding a better way to get paid to do the things they love, I’m legitimately angry that this isn’t being covered. It’s doing a huge disservice to displaced creators and up-and-comers to deliberately not tell them that there are other options out there.
The situation with these Indiegogo campaigns confirms to me what I’ve suspected for years.
Comics is no longer an industry, it’s a club.
Video Killed the Comic Book Blog
Beyond politics, I personally think some of the animosity toward these campaigns is that most have a connection to creators who’ve become popular on YouTube. Comic book blogs are quickly losing relevance in the age of YouTube, and the dance that publishers and comics journalists did for the past couple of years just isn’t working as well as it used to.
I really have to wonder if sites like Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, etc. view YouTubers as competition. It does seem like they’re going to insane lengths to avoid talking about these campaigns in anything other than a negative light. CBR even forbids discussion of the Jawbreakers / Antarctic Press situation on its forums — despite it being one of the biggest stories in comics in 2018.
Even Neutrals and OG Comics Creators are getting caught in the crossfire of this bullshit.
There seems to be a “secret war” between comics media outlets and their supporters, and YouTubers and their supporters these days, with neutral parties and even oldschool comics creators being caught in the crossfire on social media.
Alterna Comics has seen a massive uptick in sales of their newsprint comics over the past year. They’ve also faced a lot of backlash from Twitter outrage mobs because they won’t take a “side.”
Alterna Comics came under attack by “Twitter outrage mobs” because publisher Peter Simeti didn’t want people working with Alterna to use blockbots and wouldn’t publicly denounce readers who identified as “comicsgate.”
Alterna has seen a massive uptick in sales over the past year, but again you wouldn’t know that as the mainstream comics press seemingly refuses to cover it.
More recently, legendary comics creator Billy Tucci also got a taste of what it’s like to go up against “Club Comics” on Twitter. However, he had some choice words for them…
Again. I don't ever recall hitching my wagon to anyone. I'm Billy Fucking Tucci. Comic books about heroes, antiheroes and the journey will prevail over such strange and unwarranted toxicity. It always does.
— Billy Tucci SDCC Booth #1801 (@BillyTucci) May 22, 2019
Billy “Fucking” Tucci had some thoughts on the crazy censorship and collusion going on in the comic book industry on his own YouTube channel, Crowdfunding Comics. He was joined by Gemstone Publishing’s J.C. Vaughn and co-host Nile Scala.
Another legendary comics creator, Christopher Priest, was seemingly attacked by Newsarama who took his comments about there being “two genders” out of context.
Here’s a bit from that interview…
Other veteran creators that have “called out” by comics media and Twitter outrage mobs for weighing in on the current state of the comic book industry include Chuck Dixon, Mike Baron and others.
What is the future of the comic book industry?
Even mainstream media is calling the time of death on the direct market.
The doomsday clock is ticking on the careers of many people working in comics right now.
Crowdfunding might be one of the only viable life rafts for a lot of comics creators, and to ignore the success of these campaigns, comics is acting like Denethor in Lord of the Rings — burning not just himself alive, but even those who can’t speak for themselves like Faramir.
The choice to burn yourself down with the rest of a dying industry or not should be yours and yours alone to make.
Real journalists lay out all the facts and options. And there are options for creators who want to escape the dying mainstream industry.
You just won’t hear about all of them from Club Comics and the blogs that support it.
EDIT: Catch our recent livestream talking about the subject here.
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