Marc Alan Fishman: Crowdfunding Fist To Your Face
Bereft of much else on my mind this week, I turned to my social media outlets. I asked the world to inspire me, and seconds later, the world responded. “Monkey Fist”! It shouted at me. Well world, what about it?
“Monkey Fist” is in fact a crowdfunded project being thrown by fellow indie-in-arms studio, the Sun Bros. I myself am proud to proclaim myself a backer. Perhaps you should too. The Sun Bros, Wesley and Brad, are two hard-working dudes I’ve seen successfully launch now their third project, by way of crowd-funding. They hit the scene (which given the fact that Wesley knows Kung Fu means the pavement is now dead) with the apropos “Chinatown” in 2012, followed it up a year later with “Apocalypse Man”, and are now amidst their campaign to fund the fist. Suffice to say, they are making their way in the industry 1 great fan at a time. Not unlike Unshaven Comics. But given a look at their crowd-funded kitty, perhaps we should be asking them questions and taking serious notes… instead of shaving.
When Unshaven launched its first (and only…) Kickstarter campaign, we asked for $1,100. To us, it was (and still is) a small fortune. We scrapped, and fought, and spread the message as hard as we could. We were elated to raise $1,500. With that money, we purchased a great cosplay suit, custom-designed for our live Blue Samurnaut model. And for the next few years? It served us well. The Sun Bros to date have trumped that number by several magnitudes. Magnitudes mind you that have me sitting here glad I have a safe and secure day-job. But enough proverbial smoke up their keesters. What we need to pay close attention to here is how they are thriving, and in turn, how it reflects on our industry.
Even half a decade ago, crowd-funding was, at best, just a novel term hipsters in crappy bands bandied about in order to secure enough money to buy the pot necessary to be inspired enough to write their masterpiece EP about the degradation of society in a world built on post-consumerism. Today? It’s a damn-fine business model for creatives in every industry you can think of. In effect, it’s become a way to home-grow a small business, test the market for your product, and raise the capital needed without ever having to walk into a bank, or buy a pair of kneepads.
The Sun Bros are shining examples, specially, on how the independent comic book scene is slowly becoming the unsung juggernaut Robert Kirkman dreamed about years ago. Another case in point? Last week, on MichaelDavisWorld, I reviewed a book, “R.E.M.” The book itself has not adorned any shelf at a comic shop near me. The authors and studios behind the book hired a PR firm to reach out to reviewers to get the book some attention. How did a small indie group afford that? Well, I’d say netting $17,000 in funding certainly makes it easier. With their successful campaign, the boys put out a stellar looking product (if not per say, the actual story or art itself, should you read my review…) that speaks to their 500+ backers. With Kickstarter, Indie Go-Go, and a handful of other crowdfunding sites available, there has simply never been a safer time to start a new project.
With the right talent, a well-made(ish) video plea, and a plethora of NPR worthy backer-gifts… any one worth their salt has the chance now to reach directly into the direct market, and pluck those people who would be their fan base. And with a successful campaign comes the funding necessary to turn those dreams on the drawing board into real books in the hands of real fans. The artist alley that has given Unshaven Comics any success thus far “on the circuit” pales in comparison to the near limitless audience that exists out in cyberspace. Should I figure out how to digitally reproduce Kyle’s dulcimer tones, and amazing pitch skills into our next crowd-funded effort… perhaps Unshaven Comics will be able to sit at the kids table next to the Suns, and their well-backed brethren.
As my interest continues to wane at the continual decline in quality with Marvel and DC’s weekly fare… Projects like “Monkey Fist” speak to me on the level I’ve been seeking more and more– decidedly different, artistically unique, and truly independently produced work that speaks more to the passion of its creators than the pockets of profit to be earned. And given the hundreds of people that hold up their hands for not only the actual books, but the other schwag as well? It proves that breaking into our industry no longer requires an 8 hour wait in the portfolio review line… it just requires a degree in cloud-based marketing, a big extended family you can guilt, and commitment to actually put your drawings where your backers’ money is.