MATT CHATS: Jim Zub on Joining the Crowdfunding Game with Patreon

MATT CHATS: Jim Zub on Joining the Crowdfunding Game with Patreon

I first became a fan of Jim Zub’s because his tutorials on the comics making process, so it’s fitting that my next interview with him is about a platform that lets people who have enjoyed that content support him financially. His Patreon account has already amassed a sizable contribution from others who’ve enjoyed his comics or his writing about his comics as much as I have, and offers scripts and pitches to backers interested in the comic making process. I interviewed Zub about his new crowdfunding campaign and also the comics he writes, including the recently announced Glitterbomb for Image and upcoming Thunderbolts for Marvel Comics.

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What encouraged you to start a Patreon?

It’s really more a matter of who inspired me rather than what. I’ve heard from a slew of people online and in person that they wished they could buy me a beer or show their support for the writing and economics tutorial articles I’ve put together over the past few years. At the same time I’ve seen quite a few friends (many of them webcomic creators) who have been able to use Patreon as a way to connect with a really tight fan base.

Showing a behind the scenes look at the writing process – scripts, pitches, character briefs – seemed like something people might be interested in seeing. The idea had been rolling around in my head for a while and then, at Emerald City Comicon, it came up in multiple conversations so I decided to just give it a shot and see how it goes.

Have you been inspired by others’ crowdfunding campaigns for your Patreon?

Absolutely. People like Ryan North (Squirrel Girl, Dinosaur Comics), Kate Leth (Hellcat, Kate Or Die), Chris Hastings (Gwenpool, Dr. McNinja) and Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary, Writing Excuses) keyed me on to it so I’d been watching what they’d done, but other people like Grek Pak (Action Comics, Code Monkey) and LeSean Thomas (Cannon Busters) have also been really inspirational.

It’s a changing creative world and everyone’s trying to figure out the best way to connect with an audience. When I first started in comics many traditional publishers thought webcomics was vanity publishing and couldn’t hold a candle to ‘real’ publishing, but the digital tide proved them wrong and great content rose to the top. When Patreon launched I kept a close eye on it and I think it’s settled into being a viable platform.

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What’s your reaction been to the initial interest in your campaign?

I honestly had no idea what to expect and I still don’t know how it’s going to grow. At the time of this interview there are 33 people on board, which isn’t a ton but, considering the focused nature of what I’m doing there, I also think that’s also pretty damn good for the first 24 hours.

I know there are hundreds of aspiring comic writers who might like seeing the pitching and scripting process up close but I don’t know how many of them will decide that $3 or $5 a month is a worthy investment to read the scripts I’ve put together. I guess I’ll find out as this continues.

What excites you the most about Patreon?

So many people lament that the internet is a constant source of frustration and abuse, myself included. Putting up the Patreon page and getting such a positive response from friends, readers, and aspiring creators reminds me that the majority of people are amazing and they’re willing to show their support for content they believe is worthwhile. It’s a much needed injection of positivity.

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Conversely, is there anything that scares you about joining the platform?

The two things that kept me from starting a Patreon page sooner was the fear that it would be a pain to take care of and that people would look at it like some kind of desperate digital panhandling.

My site is still around. There are 40+ free articles about making comics on there and I’ll continue to add to that when I have time. I’ll still be answering industry questions on Tumblr and Twitter. The Patreon site is a way for people to drill down a bit deeper and see the work itself if they want to. It’s a resource people can take advantage of and a way for me to put a bit extra into my creator-owned warchest for new projects.

Thankfully, the Patreon interface is extremely intuitive. I haven’t had any difficulties getting rolling with it and everything is easy to find in the creator tools. It’s a way for me to offer value without needing to build a whole digital storefront. The whole thing is simple, organized, and easy to understand.

What’s your strategy for ensuring valuable content each and every month?

Well, with over 6 years worth of scripts and dozens of project pitches under my belt I already have a deep well worth of material I can post up and an archive people will be able to dig through over time.

Right now, if people pledge $5 or more a month they can read the original pitch document and first script for the Samurai Jack comic series and the outline and first issue script for Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki. By the time this interview is up I’m planning to add material from Figment and, once the issue is published, the script for the first issue of the new Thunderbolts series.

Patreon supporters will be some of the first people to read my new Image creator-owned comic Glitterbomb. Giving those direct supporters a sneak peek is a fun little way for me to add extra incentive to the site.

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Has the attention you’ve amassed in comics inspired Glitterbomb in any way?

Glitterbomb is fueled by our obsession with celebrities. It’s a dark and sarcastic look at the way we prioritize fame and believe the Hollywood-ism of success and the chosen one. I haven’t had anywhere near enough attention to claim that I’ve felt that fame bubble to that great a degree but, even watching from the sidelines you can see how messed up it all is. It’s a fascinating subject to explore.

How similar (or different) is the entertainment industry in Glitterbomb to life in comics?

Comic creators have tiny isolated moments of fame or recognition but the vast majority of time they can go out in public and have a normal life. Unless you’re Stan Lee or Neil Gaiman, you can eat at a restaurant 99.9% of the time and no one will know (or care) who you are.

Compared to that, movies and television are insane. If things are going well then you’re under a microscope and everyone watches everything you do but, if your star fades, it’s worse because no one pays attention or they’re hoping you make an ass of yourself. It’s some of the worst aspects of human nature – greed, fear, delusion, selfishness – all rolled up in a nasty beautiful package.

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In an industry obsessed with the next new thing, how do you keep people’s attention on Wayward now that you’re fifteen issues in?

More interviews! *laughs a bit, then starts to cry*

Honestly? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out. Everyone is, even Marvel and DC. All I know is we’re pushing like hell to make sure Wayward is beautiful and on time. Our trades are doing well and that gives me hope we’re building an audience in that collected format over the long haul even as the monthly issues settle in to relatively steady sales number. The single issues has added content that doesn’t make it into the TPBs and I hope that continues to keep people reading month to month.

We’re having some great talks about Wayward in other media, but I’ve learned not to assume anything on that front. If something happens – great. If it doesn’t then you just keep plugging away making the best comic you can and see where it goes.

How has your experience on Thunderbolts compared to the independent nature of working on an Image series?

I genuinely enjoy juggling both work-for-hire and creator-owned projects. It’s like exercising different creative muscles. Work-for-hire pushes you to create within a framework, to fit the overall shape of the thing while injecting little bits of yourself into the process. It’s a great challenge that forces you to move outside your comfort zone. Creator-owned, especially at Image, is engaging a pure passion project and seeing if you can stick the landing. It’s exhilarating in a totally different way. Having both on the go teaches me a lot about storytelling, business, and what I’m capable of.

Thunderbolts is my first in-continuity superhero work at Marvel and I went in unsure what that was going to be like. I kind of expected I was going to have really strict marching orders but, honestly, it hasn’t been like that at all. Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith have been great. They’re very supportive and excited about me building the story and evolving the cast issue by issue. A couple weeks ago I pitched a few possible future plotlines and Tom responded with “whatever makes for the best story” and that really put a button on it for me. I hope it keeps going this way because I’m having a blast.

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How do you blend comics you’ve written like Dungeons & Dragons and Thunderbolts that are ultimately controlled by a larger company with ones like Wayward and Glitterbomb that are of your own design and implementation?

I don’t think it’s a blend, actually. The comic projects I’ve collaborated on have been pretty disparate – sword & sorcery, video game tie-ins, all ages adventure, teen drama, R-rated horror, superhero action, all kinds of stuff – but they’re all projects I’m excited about. That’s the through line on practically every comic I’ve worked on – I’m excited to tell you this story.

I know that sounds overly simple and idealistic, but that’s what drives me. When I pitch on a commercial project I try to find an angle I’m excited about exploring. I’m terrible at faking enthusiasm. I don’t want to phone it in and cash a paycheck.

I do everything I can to make a comic that’s worth the cover price. I hope you’ll be thoroughly entertained and look for other comics with my name on it because you feel confident it’s going to be a good time. If it delivers the goods for you, please tell other people about it because that’s how I get to keep telling stories.

Do Zub, yourself and me a favor by supporting his Patreon.

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