Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing About Comics, Writing About Life

The Longbox Project is a site that asks folks to share memories tied to specific issues in their comic book collections. This technically means "Amazing Spider-Man #258 makes me think of...", but it's just as likely to mean "For 25 years I've carried some low-level guilt around about the time I stole something from my big brother, and I finally have an excuse to confess it."

You don't have to be a writer or a writer-about-comics to take part. It's not a comics criticism site so much as a memory project, and the posts tend to be conversational and honest. I wrote a new one that's up today called I Own This about the fairly traumatic period of my life when I moved from Los Angeles to Vermont to Baltimore in the span of 7 months.

What I said about it on Facebook, and what I wrote down on a legal pad as soon as I'd written the first draft of this piece, is "Sometimes you write something and say it's embarrassing because of how cool it makes you look and you want to seem humble. Sometimes you say it's embarrassing because it reveals the kind of asshole you can be. This is the second kind."

So, it feels very revealing to share this story with my friends and the internet-at-large. Kate and I sat on the couch last night before I officially submitted it so she could read and we could talk about it before I showed it to the world. I'd told Kate parts of the story before, but not the version that's presented there. And there are other parts that aren't in the Longbox version (sorry gang, I was already over the word count, but I'm happy to go on about it in person), and I told Kate those parts too.

I was nervous she'd think less of me. But what she said was, "I don't think learning more could make me think less."

So if you like comics, gossip, cross-country moves, Vermont, or confessionals, go read I Own This on the Longbox Project. I wrote it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Not the Kickstarter You're Looking For

I found this Kickstarter via io9, which found it via Superpunch, which listed it with little comments aside from "Pathetic kickstarter a from major artists."

It's a proposed illustrated novel by Bill Willingham & Frank Cho, of Fables & various comics featuring cavewomen, respectively. I'm not an active follower of either man's work, but I've got nothing against them either -- Cho draws a wonderfully glamorous She-Hulk, in my personal opinion -- but this is a dreadful Kickstarter.

The project itself makes me think of the Veronica Mars kickstarter from a few weeks back. It sounds perfectly interesting -- in this case, an illustrated novel about the last descendent of Norse gods, and the primate detective she's teamed up with -- but the rewards involved here are pretty paltry. Post cards and thank yous at the lower levels, and 5-minute phone calls as you get up to $100. If you kick in $10k, you can be served dinner by Cho & Willingham. There's no low-level option to donate and get the book, presumably because Willingham & Cho are going to sell this project to a big-name publisher (and get rightfully paid for doing so), but that no doubt introduces complications with regard to giving actual copies of the actual book away.

The specifics of the Veronica Mars project were different, but essentially it was a film being backed by a major studio who didn't want to pay for it. So they asked fans to pay for it, upfront. There's nothing immoral about that, but to me the spirit of Kickstarter is that it allows people to make something they otherwise couldn't, without crowdfunding. With Veronica Mars, the studio could foot the bill upfront -- they just don't want to.

But where they do deliver above and beyond Willingham & Cho is that backers who pledge $35 actually get a digital copy of the movie. With Bifrost, the proposed illustrated novel, the closest equivalent is for backers who pledge $125 -- they get a signed copy of the book. There's no unsigned or digital equivalent for someone who pledges a lower amount. Willingham & Cho are trying to get paid twice for the same book: once now, from fans who want to donate ahead of time in order to win the chance to buy the book on the shelves later, and again from whoever agrees to publish it.

Like the Veronica Mars project, there's nothing immoral or wrong about going about the process this way. This would be a several-years-long process, and as they say on their  page, "this is a Kickstarter project for selecting out the inordinately patient from the rest." But it doesn't sound like it's a project they're especially passionate about, either. Aside from the dreadfully boring video of Willingham describing the project and the process it would involve, the underlying message of this Kickstarter is, here's a project we would do if no other paying gig came up in the meantime, and if fans were willing to throw $30k at us to inspire us give up our downtime to work on it.

There's nothing wrong with asking. But I prefer to back projects that are inspiring, from creators who are willing to put a finished project in their backers' hands.