Fantagraphics, publisher of some of the greatest comics ever, hopes to publish more of them in next year’s line, but the death of co-founder Kim Thompson in June has left some problems, both with managing the line and cash flow; the books Kim was working on as publisher and translator had to be delayed and that has left them with a budget shortfall. Even though the books weren’t huge earners, they must have all added to the bottom line. And so, publisher Gary Groth has gone where no major indie publisher has gone before: a $150,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund 39 books by everyone from Dan Clowes to Eleanor Davis.
While it is sad that a Complete Eightball can’t be profitable on its own terms, on the Kickstarter page Groth goes into more of what the company is up against:
We have always managed to weather the lean times. Sometimes wealthy patrons have loaned us money and on one or two occasions we have campaigned directly to you, our readers, pre-Kickstarter, and asked you to buy books when we were on the edge. We have throughout our history flirted with the idea of looking for an investor, but rejected it on principle: unless someone invested in us in the spirit of being a patron of the arts —highly unlikely— that way leads not only to madness but to the slow erosion of the core principles the company was founded on. (Does everyone remember what happened to Kitchen Sink Press when investors got their claws into them?).
We’ve has never existed comfortably within the traditional capitalist model— ruthlessly competitive, obsessed with growth and the endless accumulation of surplus money. Our artistic values have always tempered our profitability. Fantagraphics has always managed to scrape by, but we realized that with the advent of crowd sourcing, we are in a position to make an end-run around the most brutish strictures of the marketplace and appeal directly to our readers. We now live in a world where artists as diverse as Spike Lee and Amanda Palmer can ask their fans to help finance their art and, in that same spirit, we are asking you to help us continue this quixotic enterprise.
GIven the skepticism with with crowdfunding has been approached by many of comics old guard, this move has to be seen as a total vindication of the model — indeed a few of our DMs suggested that other publishers may be moving to this goal as well.
As this is written, a few hours after posting, the campaign is already nearly 1/3rd of the way there with $44,050 raised; it’s pretty certain to hit or go over target at this pace
Many of the rewards are signed books, making this as much a pre-order as a crowdfunder. Here’s more info on the books that are being funded.
OUR NEXT SEASON: APRIL-AUGUST 2014
Fantagraphics’ Spring-Summer season is comprised of 39 books by a stellar line-up of cartoonists. There are a number of books from names familiar to longtime comics readers — Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco, Drew Friedman, Michael Kupperman, Jim Woodring, Don Rosa, Tony Millionaire, and The Hernandez Brothers. Not to mention any number of other names that could anchor a comics Hall of Fame: Charles Schulz, Steve Ditko, Simon & Kirby, Hal Foster, Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, L.B. Cole, Jacques Tardi, John Severin, S. Clay Wilson, Wally Wood, and more. We also have one of our strongest seasons of original graphic novels ever, including new books from Olivier Schrauwen, Simon Hanselmann, Esther Pearl Watson, Conor Stechschulte, Carol Swain, Lane Milburn, Eleanor Davis, and Ed Piskor.
From The Complete witzend to The Complete Eightball, Buddy Bradley to Megg & Mogg, and Don Rosa’s Ducks to S. Clay Wilson’s pirates, plus new Peanuts, Donald Duck, EC Comics and Love and Rockets books, our 2014 lineup truly features The World’s Greatest Cartoonists.
It isn’t the first time that Fatagraphics has turned to crowdsourcing — when a distributor went out of business over a decade ago, they put on a warehouse sale to save the company. In 2007 the company raised money to help pay for a legal battle with Harlan Ellison. Depsite being known as one of the best and most established literary comics publisher sin the world, making money at it is still a dicey thing, and the loss of a key man can cause turmoil on many levels. Despite anything I wrote early this afternoon about one FBI publication, these are great books, and everyone should consider finding a way to help out.
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.