The Beat has now received Alex de Campi’s rebuttal to James Hodgkin’s statement on being fired from ASHES, the graphic novel project they got funded on Kickstarter for $32,000.
I said I would have my comments, and they are sad ones. I’m an admirer of both creators involved here — professionally and personally. But if there was ever a case of he said/she said this is it. “Creative differences” indeed. The whole thing reminds me (for the old timers out there) of D’arc Tangent, a long ago collaboration between Phil Foglio and Freff which dissolved into “creative differences,” never to be seen again.
Since that strip was created, Foglio has gone on to pioneer to print-to-web publishing model, win a shelf full of Hugo Awards and develop a devoted following. Freff (Aka Connor Cochran) — didn’t do quite as much, although he pops up now and again with this and that. I guess he wasn’t cut out for the cartoonist freelance life.
The saddest part is that this project still looks great—Hodgkins pages look stunning, even if they didn’t follow the script, and it would be great to see de Campi’s writing unleashed again.
De Campi and Hodgkins are both incredibly talented people who will be heard from again–hopefully they’ll be able to let their work do the talking in the future.
Here’s Alex De Campi’s response to James Hodgkin’s statement which we ran yesterday—these comments have also been posted on the private Kickstarter page for backers.
I am sad that James continues to seek attention for being asked to leave my book. I cannot see how this will benefit him, me, or the book.
James completed 10 pages of finished art for the book, and 10 pages of sketch inks. Even as he turned in pages in bits and pieces, he was extremely resistant to notes on them or discussion of revision… or even showing me pencils before delivering a final piece. This became worse rather than better as the Kickstarter funding rose and publicity around the book grew. James’ tone in emails became actively aggressive and abusive towards me. It was almost like dealing with a schizophrenic or a bipolar person. Any polite request to look again at something was furiously turned down.
It got to the point where, after a particularly bad disagreement in late November, about 85% of the way through the Kickstarter, I had resigned myself to not saying a single thing about pages he had turned in, and I would just let my book be drawn however he wanted it to be drawn, even if it meant the script I had worked so long to bring to life became a disappointment to me. At the same time he was sending these aggressive emails (and not drawing more of the book), I was working 4-6 hours a day on the Kickstarter by myself to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support him — a condition he required in order to take the book on.
So, aside from interacting with backers, the Kickstarter generally for me was a complete misery. Did I express to Jimmy my unhappiness? Yes, but — and maybe this is part of being a female — when a man shouts at you whenever you say “um, I’d like some say in the way the script I wrote is drawn” or “hm, the way you’ve changed this from the script isn’t really going to work in the context of the scene”, you stop saying the thing that gets you shouted at.
Everything came to a head a week after the Kickstarter ended, when something delightful happened — I was contacted by a large US business magazine, who wanted to commission James and I to do a two-page comic about our Kickstarter experience. What an opportunity! First, it paid well. REALLY well. And as James had said he was very short on cash and had no other work on the horizon, this news was well received by him. (James at this point was also pressuring me to send him all the Kickstater money in advance, rather than in tranches as he finished chapters. This made me very nervous, but I agreed and began the process of withdrawing the Kickstarter money from Amazon Payments. Luckily, he never got round to invoicing me).
So, the business magazine commission. It paid GREAT, wasn’t much work, and was going to get copied and cross posted to the moon. Great exposure for our book! And potentially leading to a lot more work for both of us. I turned around a script quickly, and it was approved by the magazine’s editor. They loved it! I sent the script to James. Unfortunately by this point his ego or whatever had gotten so out of hand he was completely unable to listen to and/or respect anything I said. James took a long time to draw the two pages, causing worried queries from the editor, and the sketch he finally turned in took a lot of liberties with the script (as he had been doing with Ashes). The editor was displeased. I was forced into an intermediary role, as furthermore the editor did not hit it off with James and basically didn’t want to speak to him. I consulted with the editor at length about what he wanted (basically, he wanted the script drawn as written) and I worked out some notes to give James so he could quickly turn around an amended sketch for approval.
James ignores the notes and several days later sends a sketch which departs even more radically from the script. The client hates it and emails me, basically going “WTF?!”… print deadline was mere days away at this point. I have long email conversations with Jimmy, basically guiding him through taking his first sketch, changing some transitional elements, and making it work. Basically, I am trying to make it fast and easy for James to get a new sketch in as I can see this gig evaporating before my eyes. James is like OK GREAT! and then sends in a third pencil sketch, on the day of print deadline, that ignores all the notes. All he had to do to make this client happy was just to draw the script they approved. A client who had already said they loved what I do and wanted to give me (and therefore James) more work. When I point this out to him, he becomes extraordinairily aggressive, telling me he is 100% in charge of all visuals for my projects and I have no say whatsoever in what he draws or how he draws it.
Folks, I cried. I’m a girl. I do that sometimes. I completely broke down in front of the laptop. Not only was James making the execution of a book I had gone to Herculean lengths to get off the ground into a living nightmare of abuse where I felt afraid to email him about pages, he had just totally destroyed an easy gig with a major, major client because he would not draw the approved script. And then he abuses me via email about it, after I say I am finding a new artist for the 2-pager so I can try to save it. I cried, poured myself a glass of wine, went and found my big girl pants, and told James I would need to find someone else for Ashes.
As for the contract, we did take an investment from an outside source. James was asked about this and approved it before the investment was finalised. I then drew up a contract addressing the division of ownership in the completed book, not the script, which remains 100% copyright me. If James does not complete the book, he does not come into his share of it. The finished graphic novel’s ownership was always meant to be shared with the artist, in recognition of the tremendous amount of work and commitment the artist would have to provide to complete the book. This is only fair. What Jimmy seems to think he has — something for no work — is not fair, nor in the spirit or letter of the contract.
James says that the $3k to Valentine was a surprise. If so, he hasn’t read our Kickstarter project’s own project page, which has said as follows since launch: “If in some crazy world we manage to raise more than our minimum, the first thing that will happen is Jimmy will get a raise, so he can go from Sainsbury’s Value Meals to Taste the Difference. Then any excess money beyond that will go towards publishing the long-awaited trade of Alex’s webcomic Valentine “.
As for the big business magazine gig, thanks to some really lovely people helping me out on Twitter, I got in touch with Pia Guerra who worked all night and nailed the sketch on the first go — she drew a wonderful sketch that the client loved. However after all the drama with James they had decided to drop the piece from the magazine as we had missed the first print deadline. We may still have it in their digital edition; I am waiting to hear.
Once again, I’d like to apologise to our backers for all this drama. I had hoped that the creative split could be handled quietly and professionally but it appears that will not be the case now. I hope you will forgive me and understand why I had to find a way out of a situation where I felt bullied.
We sent the above to Hodgkins, who responded:
I have made my position clear and outlined the facts of this unfortunate situation. Alex has a wildly different interpretation of events, and says some very harsh things about me, things I naturally dispute. I have attempted to be calm, reasonable and professional, to draw a line under this, I’m accused of being abusive and of being a bully, I’m neither of those things, you will be the judge of who is telling the truth, if anybody cares enough, I will gladly make available all of the correspondence between myself and Alex. It speaks for itself. For now, I’m walking away from this, I have learnt a valuable lesson, I want to move on, and hopefully start work on new projects. I want to thank all who have shown support for the project, I sincerely hope you get to see Ashes at some point in the future, please keep your faith in Kickstarter, Alex and I dropped the ball here, not them, it remains a wonderful platform for supporting and funding creativity.
And there let it lie.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.