Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Complicated Kickstarters

Yeesh, it has been a week. It’s busy times in the SKTCHD Offices, with a double podcast week and a full slate of pieces to run. But it’s Friday, so let’s get to the main event in some people’s eyes: Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by a favorite getting Kickstarted…perhaps controversially?!?!

1. Giant Days, Getting Kickstarted

Whether or not comic book publishers belong on Kickstarter is quietly one of those questions that constantly gets relitigated on Twitter, along with Artists vs. Writers and Comic Book Piracy and an array of other subjects. The only difference here is instead of belonging to a timing-based cyclical loop, the publishers and Kickstarters topic simply comes up each time one goes down that path.

Like this week! When BOOM! Studios announced it is Kickstarting the “Complete Giant Days Library,” with brand new hardcovers and even completed versions of the previous iteration that they started but did not finish! It led to some interesting discussion – see: Tiffany Babb’s thoughtful piece at Popverse about BOOM! using Kickstarter as a pre-order system – and…less interesting discussion. But as per usual with these kinds of things, no one won the argument because there are no winners, just people talking. The good news is this: You can now get a complete set of Giant Days hardcovers!

Giant Days is an Eisner winning series, so it doesn’t need me talking it up. But this John Allison written, first Lissa Treiman and then Max Sarin drawn series about a trio of wondrous, British young women at college — Daisy, Esther (de Groot, because you can’t just say Esther), and Susan) and their journey from being freshmen to graduates is one of the finest, funniest comics from the past decade. If you’ve never read it, this is the perfect time to get onboard, because these editions look nice and ostensibly will help libraries in the process, as some level of proceeds go to support libraries. The take on these Giant Days editions is no take at all: they are good, and this is not a debatable subject. There’s a reason it devastated its goal immediately by a million miles.

There are two things I’d like to address, though, one of which is related to the previously mentioned controversial nature of publishers on Kickstarter and one that isn’t. We’ll start with the latter. That’s shipping costs. Now, let it be known that I 100% understand that shipping is a pain that often doesn’t have any happy answers. But shipping for the complete set of hardcovers goes from palatable (contiguous United States) to apocalyptic real fast. Take someone who lives in Alaska, like myself, as an example. For contiguous states, the first level – a single hardcover – is $13, while the complete set is $36. That’s fair. Shipping can be expensive.

For those in Alaska and Hawaii – two states within the United States that are served by USPS in the same way as all other states, the jump is $14 to $140. One. Hundred. And Forty. Dollars! Per BOOM!’s own chart, it costs less to ship to Syria than Alaska! What in the world! For that reason, I myself will not be backing this, as I have all of the trades already and I’m not going to spend the same amount on shipping as I do on the books themselves. I know these are estimated numbers — I messaged BOOM! about this but have yet to hear back — but that’s just bonkers, especially considering that flat rate is a thing that exists.

The other is the elephant in the room subject. Here’s my take on whether big projects that clearly can be funded in other ways should be okay to Kickstart: if Spike Trotman is fine with it, so am I. Beyond that, it makes sense as a general strategy, as Kickstarter audiences are not the same as direct market audiences which aren’t necessarily the same as book market audiences. It’s a way to go direct-to-consumer with people who might not otherwise go in a comic shop or bookstore to get these books. And as Babb noted, BOOM! had previously attempted to publish a complete Giant Days hardcover set but stopped after three of seven for reasons unknown, but logically speaking, likely had something to do with market support for these releases. If this is the way for this set to be completed and for it to find its audience, it’s hard to disagree with that as a method.

This obviously isn’t the last we’ll see of publishers on Kickstarters – heck, it’s the second this month after Vault went down that path – and it’s my belief we’ll see a lot more experimentation with other platforms and methods going forward. We’re in a remarkably unstable position right now in the direct market in particular, with predictability of behavior crumbling. Buttressing your releases with other channels of release – whether that’s Kickstarter, direct-to-consumer on your site, digital, or whatever – only makes sense, especially considering how splintered the readership is these days. The days of everyone being a Wednesday Warrior are dead and gone. New answers must be found, and those answers might be found in any number of places.

Vault’s Damian Wassel previously compared the comic industry to the tabletop games industry in a conversation I had with him, in that the latter has been launching major games on Kickstarter for years now while the former is just getting to it now. That’s a pretty apt comp, in that both are hobbies fueled by industry-specific retail stores that are eagerly looking for ways to expand beyond that welcome but naturally limited audience. RPGs have found it, and have surged at least in part because of that. I’m struggling to imagine that being a bad model to attempt to emulate, especially considering the audience for Power Rangers or Irredeemable lacks significant overlap with the bulk of projects on Kickstarter already. I’m fine with it…even if I really wish that shipping was a bit more affordable because those hardcovers are soooooo nice.

2. Carlos Pacheco, Finishing Strong

In genuinely awful news, veteran artist – and one of the lowkey defining voices of my childhood with all of his X-Men art – Carlos Pacheco revealed that he was diagnosed with ALS, or, as some know it better by, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I don’t likely need to explain it to you, but it’s a rare disease that comes with a progressive reduction of your ability to voluntarily use muscles, and one that there’s no cure for. Because of the physical nature of the disease and of Pacheco’s job, not only did we learn of the diagnosis this week, we also were given a look at what will prove to be Pacheco’s final piece. It’s an amusing cover for Damage Control #2 that emphasizes his gifts, a rare clarity of figures and dynamic character work, while perfectly fitting the characters he’s working with.

It’s funny. Pacheco’s one of those artists where you can say his name and I immediately have a vision of one specific piece. That’s X-Men #80, a cover to a comic he didn’t provide interiors to but did define for me, with this issue showcasing a classic team shot starring characters that felt like my X-Men in a lot of ways. Namely, Cecilia Reyes and Marrow, two characters that debuted during his time in the franchise, the former of whom he co-created. The guy always delivered dynamic art that stood out amongst his peers, and it was always fun to see his work turn up wherever it did — but particularly the X-Men, because he was always so good with them.

With Pacheco retiring for a very understandable reason, all I can say is this: I wish you the best possible path forward, Carlos, and one that allows you the most joy along the way.

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