Well, that didn’t take long. The SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS thing we reported on a little while ago has now blown up everywhere.
First off, Kickstarter has suspended the campaign, which seemed to be being used for selling new stock, which is against Kickstarter rules:
This is a message from Kickstarter Support. We’re writing to inform you that a project you backed, ‘Sullivan’s Sluggers’, Baseball Horror Graphic Novel Ext. KS, has been suspended by Kickstarter. Your $35.00 pledge has been automatically canceled and you will not be charged. No further action is necessary.
As a policy, Kickstarter does not comment on specific reasons for a project’s suspension to the creator or backers, but included below is information from our FAQ regarding suspensions. Project suspensions are not reversible.
But before that, writer Mark Andrew Smith released a statement rebutting artist James Stokoe’s distancing himself from the campaign, blaming Stokoe’s lateness for everything from ending Smith’s marriage to…kicking his cat.
I hired James Stokoe for Sullivan’s years ago starting in 2009, and then he’d go missing for months and months at a time, one year turning in about 8 pages total. 8 pages in one year! That said, I was foolish enough to bet the house on Sullivan’s Sluggers with Stokoe and things didn’t go at all to plan with the schedule. That said, I’ve been trying to make the tastiest lemonade from three years of James Stokoe lemons.
My life fell apart and took all kinds of turns because of Stokoe’s pace with the book. It was fuel for the fire of me getting divorced in Korea because of money and trying to turn comics into a career and having prospects other than being an English teacher forever in South Korea. So I’ve suffered enough.
Stokoe was a grown man, he agreed to do a job for a certain amount like many of you do every day, and took three years to finish that job which was only to deliver art for the book. He was paid for the job in full. I offered to pay more but he declined. I don’t look at him like a brilliant artist but more as someone that built a house for me, finished, and moved on to what’s next. If things went smoother on the book that wouldn’t be the case but they didn’t.
I can understand the sting on his end from the perception that this Kickstarter made a billion dollars and that people think I should write him a check for half of it but this guy ruined my life. No one cares when books don’t make any money which most of mine haven’t for the past ten years under Image.
Any project that takes three years to get turned in is going to have it’s amount of bad blood. It was absolute hell for me on my end, and it’s a shame that people continue to make it a hell for me saying that I ripped him off and by spreading the story and other stories that aren’t true. I paid on the front end for two years of hell, and now his camp has been stirring the pot and causing so much commotion and trouble posting every story of story, most of which aren’t true or have been warped again and again.
Really, it’s like having an ex and they’re not happy and are going to say all of the worst things about you, and get people worked up to try to take sides.
It’s a shame that this laundry had to be aired, because it’s really no one’s business but they’ve done a good job of doing that. Personally, I want the book to be wrapped and over with.
In the past few months have just been nonstop bullying, targeted harassment from his camp, comics alliance doing hit articles (And I’m the only one they’ve done for their Kickstarted reviews to date, 3 of them), and people anonymously on 4Chan posting the worst things that aren’t true and reposting and are spreading misinformation.
As promised, David Brothers weighed in with a long examination of the whole controversyand revealing a few things that I didn’t mention earlier, such as the way books were being sold in COMICS SHOPS when they hadn’t even been shipped to backers yet.
That smelled fishy to me, so I started paying more attention. The comments section on the Kickstarter are full of people who have yet to receive their books and people who are upset that comic shops have received copies of the book before backers, in addition to fulsome praise.”
[snip] This week, comics creator Dustin Harbin asked Smith about the problems with the Kickstarter on Facebook. Smith responded with vitriol first, saying that Harbin was a “HUGE bully” and decrying a “nonstop orchestrated online bullying campaign.” Harbin defends himself well in the thread, and Smith’s response is another thing that makes me question his behavior and motivations. He’s extremely defensive and paranoid every time someone asks him anything but a soft question, and that’s not good.
Finally, Kickstarter is not a store. It’s not meant to help someone sell backstock of pre-produced material. It’s meant to fund a project that will result in the production of a thing. Mark Andrew Smith has set the goal for this new Kickstarter at $1. That goal means that he has gamed the system and ensured that no matter what happens, he’s guaranteed to make money off the project.
That’s not how Kickstarter is supposed to work. You come to Kickstarter with a project and a firm goal in mind. Smith claims that he made a fifteen thousand dollar mistake by screwing up the shipping. Why isn’t the goal for this project $15,000, or $15,000 plus whatever is required for the shipping of the books that he’s selling on Kickstarter? Again: shady.
A couple of historic notes here. This isn’t the first time Smith has fallen out with an artistic collaborator. In 2008 he and Paul Maybury, artist on the fantasy AQUA LEUNG, also had a falling out over Maybury not being credited for writing. Although Maybury’s original complaints are gone to the sands of the internet, Smith’s rebuttal is still out there:
“Paul is a terrible thief and a huge backstabber and he shouldn’t be trusted at all. Working on Aqua Leung with him was the worst experience of my life and he did every single fucked up thing you could imagine on the book. There will never be anymore Aqua Leung. Paul owes me thousands of dollars as well that he just kept. Everyone you should not trust Paul at all and he’s a horrible human being.”
Hm, sounds familiar. Sounds like Smith hadn’t learned his “lesson” by the time he hired Stokoe for SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS.
Finally one more interesting piece of corroborative evidence from the internal annals. Last year after the successful Kickstarter for SULLIVAN’S, he wrote a much-quoted manifesto called “The Creator as Retailer.”
In order for comics to grow the creator has got to take the center stage as one of the retailers and we need to start cultivating a spirit of entrepreneurship among creators so that they take their own destiny in their hands. In 1988 a group of creators got together and came up with the ‘Creator’s Bill of Rights’, I think now with so many technological breakthroughs that it’s time to update that bill of rights to include a new right which is the right of the creator as retailer.
While this is sound advice, it seems Smith may have taken it a little too far by using Kickstarter as a retailing platform. As one of my comics pals put it: “That’s what Etsy is for.”
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.