Kickstarter is having a bit of a moment, with every one from Holly actors to established pros taking new comics projects to the crowdfunding platform, and one of those established pros is writer Scott Snyder.
Scott Snyder launched his first Kickstarter project, Nocterra 1 Collector’s Edition about a month ago. It’s slated to wrap tonight at midnight, and regardless of what happens in the next few hours, it will finish up as an unmitigated success, having made more than five times its initial funding goal. In the final days of the campaign, Snyder made time to talk to us about his experience with Kickstarter, the state of the industry, and upcoming plans for the new creator-owned imprint he launched along with Nocterra.
You can check out our conversation with Scott Snyder below…
ZACK QUAINTANCE: So, your first Kickstarter campaign for Nocterra ends tonight at midnight, and I’ve been wanting to ask about one of the wilder things fans can buy within it — the option to have yourself or your friends drawn in the book having a really grizzly death…
SCOTT SNYDER: [Laughs] Yeah, that was Tony [Daniel’s] idea. You get drawn into the book, have a speaking roll, and get killed by one of the Shades, which are the monsters that things turn into when they stay dark too long. You’ll even be able to weigh in on a certain number of choices how you die. You get the original page of art signed by Tony also. There’s a couple of other bells and whistles. You get an extra-long virtual chat with me and Tony.
It’s a really fun tier, and the whole campaign is something we built around the idea of connection. The idea was to give the fans a look at how the book’s being made, and all the tiers are along those same lines. Nothing against it, but we don’t have pins or shirts or stuff like that. It’s more you can take a class with me about first issue writing, or get a craft lesson by watching Tony drawing. Stuff like that. That tier is the pinnacle of the different options. You’re actually in the book — you live and die within its pages — and you get the actual artifact by getting the page from Tony.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Very cool. So, in general what has your experience with Kickstarter been like? Like you said, you’ve had backers participating actively in your campaign. How’s that been on your end?
SCOTT SNYDER: It’s been really fascinating, Zack. Honestly, it’s been way more work than I expected, and it’s been really invigorating work at a time when things have been scary and frustrating and challenging in other areas of comics. It’s been a real godsend. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously and I’m sad to see the campaign to end.
The thing I’ve loved most about it is discovering the community on Kickstarter. I’ve backed a number of projects before, but I really wasn’t aware how interactive the process of doing a Kickstarter is with your fans. We wanted it to be something that was really connective, but the whole duration of the campaign, you’re interacting and responding to comments. On top of that, you’re adapting your campaign to fit what they want and what the demand is on their end. You’re learning the things they like and the things they’re not responding to.
That interactivity I think will play a huge part in the wave of what comics is going to become. I’ve felt that for a while, but looking at Kickstarter itself as a kind of pure expression of what people really are looking for in the relationship between fans and creators. It’s been really inspiring. Also, I’ve just loved the community: the way people reach out and make you aware of other projects happening, other creators making really exciting books. It’s just so much more inclusive and non-competitive and supportive than I expected.
I’m not saying Kickstarter is the future of comics — I don’t think any one method or delivery system is the key to it — but what it speaks to is this relationship between fans and creators, where fans now more than ever want something that makes them feel connected and feels like a passion project. Every circumstance in the world is driving us apart and making us feel disconnected. Not just the pandemic but how divisive things are politically, how ugly the world is getting — all of this.
With comics in particular right now with the corporatization of superhero comics — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s seismic shift and you see it with DC and AT&T, and Disney with Marvel — there’s twin desires. There’s a desire for those comics to be really strong and to feel like you’re participating in generation stories with these characters, but what I think that also engenders is an equally-strong desire on the part of fans to find something organically-made by creators outside that matrix of corporate sponsorship. They want something mainlined from the creator to them that they can be part of from its inception to its production and distribution.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Having recently done my own campaign, I kind of came away from it newly aware of just how many great books there are being made on the platform right now. I don’t think I’ve ever backed so many books in a month. How involved have you gotten with other projects on the platform during your own campaign?
SCOTT SNYDER: Really involved. The projects I became aware of that were running around the same time — like Okemus and David Pepose’s The O.Z. — I backed them and they backed us. It also made me more aware of projects that weren’t Kickstarter, but were by up and comers. People start directing you to books that are in production or coming out soon, books like Giga — which I wouldn’t have read otherwise — were brought to me. It just gets you in the mindset of work that might be flying under the radar for you otherwise for somebody like me, who has to read so much DC stuff while doing an event like Death Metal.
This year doing Best Jackett I’ve really made an effort to reconnect with friends who are really just starting their careers in comics, people I met through other friends or students. We’re having regular conversations about the state of things, books that are really exciting, and creators to be aware of. I’m trying to be plugged in in a way that’s honest and not performative, just trying to be more aware of the great work happening in all corners of comics and celebrating it as much as I can without getting too sucked in to social media.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: There’s one last stretch goal incentive for your campaign I wanted to ask about too. It’s a prose short story set in the world of Nocterra, and it looks inevitable you’re going to hit it (editor’s note: between the time this interview was done and publication, they did indeed hit it). How are you feeling about that?
SCOTT SNYDER: So, I’ve written half of it already, just as kind of a fun experiment for myself. I had this idea that for every issue I’d write a flash fiction as well, and we’d include it in the back matter. I started playing around with it, and I ended up writing a piece that’s already a handful of pages. It’s about our main character’s family, and the story takes place the first night after the whole first day of darkness in Nocterra. So the whole world has spent one day in darkness. It’s almost dawn of the second day, and they’re hoping the whole thing is some kind of bizarre anomaly. They’re waiting for the sun to come up. It was a lot of fun. I hope people enjoy it. I still have the second half to finish, but I like it quite a bit.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Had it been a while since you’d worked in prose?
SCOTT SNYDER: Oh yeah, it’d been a long time. The last time I did it in any real way was when I did After Death with Jeff Lemire. I’ve done little things, like an issue of All-Star Batman that was part prose, but not any real kind of writing a short story. It’s intimidating, it always is, but you get into it and once you get over your fear, you get swept up in it. I’m really having a good time with it and hope to continue with every issue of Nocterra.
I know it sounds hokey, but with Best Jackett I really hope the projects and collaborations are new and exciting and challenging, even when they fall in genres I’ve done before, like horror or superheroes. Here I haven’t done high-octane horror where you can’t take a breath, where there’s no refuge and it’s all propulsive suspense, but also, I just want the book to be more than that. We’re looking at all kinds of fun stuff. I want to make sure people are getting more than they expect. That’s the goal with Best Jackett: to be a more exciting writer to myself and put out books we can be proud of.
ZACK QUAINTANE: Best Jackett sounds really interesting. My impression of it from having heard you discuss it on podcasts is that there’s a real experimental spirit to what you want to do with Best Jackett.
SCOTT SNYDER: There is. I’m not sure where a bunch of the projects will land yet. I don’t know if we’ll do digital-first with some of them. One of them with Jock is part prose as well, and I’m not sure if we’re going to go with a book publisher. They have different tracts.
With Francis Manapul I’m working on a science fiction book, and Francesco Francavilla and I have been teasing a book for over a year that we’ve been tinkering with. The books are in all different stages of production. Some of them I was able to put money together myself so far, some of them we’ve been working on good faith together, some of them we were able to sell film rights to fund — each one has its own different system we’re working with because I never want anyone to work without knowing we’re going to be able to actually do the book and finish it.
We announced Chain today, and it’s a book we’re funding with the Nocterra support. It’s with Ariela Kristantina, and it’s a lock box mystery at the end of the world.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: So, you’re in for a really busy 2021.
SCOTT SNYDER: Yeah, with Chain we’ve been talking about for a while, but because it’s going straight to the direct market, it’s one we want to do traditionally, paying a page rate and having it come out through the direct market. It’s lined up behind Nocterra, and Ariela is a tremendous talent. I became aware of her work through Will Dennis and Mark Doyle a while ago, and I started talking to her about working on something the better part of a year ago. When I pitched her this story, she really liked it, and we decided to give it a shot.
I started working on it for fun, and we figured that if we could get the funds from the Nocterra campaign, we could start on it right away. Fans have been so incredible with the Nocterra campaign that’s it allowed me to absolutely fund the book, and to fund it in a way where we can be really aggressive with how we go out with it. We can do extra publicity, we can get variant covers, all that kind of stuff.
Some of the other books are with people I’ve worked with before, but we’re trying to do things we’ve never done. The other aspect of Best Jackett for me, though, is working with people I never have or have worked with minimally, people who will elevate my work and make me raise my game. Ariela is definitely one of those people. Her visual storytelling is incredible and I’m really excited she signed up to work on this one with me.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Anything else you can tell us about that book?
SCOTT SNYDER: Yeah, it’s a mystery. It’s sort of fun. It images that for reasons unknown, the different levels of the food chain have started turning on mankind from the bottom up, and nobody knows why. It takes place in a very claustrophobic setting in a research center in the arctic, and it begins with a murder there. It’s almost like a murder mystery happening in this facility where the key to why everything happening with the world might be hidden. It’s like a whodunnit, but it’s a whodunnit in the context of an end of the world cataclysm.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Very cool. Any closing thoughts about the Kickstarter as the campaign winds down?
SCOTT SNYDER: I’d just like to say thank you one more time. It’s so far past anything I’d hoped for. We had to invent stretch goals to reward people. On top of that, I’m so incredibly grateful to anybody who participated in it in any capacity because it’s opened up a whole new world of creators and projects to me through Kickstarter. I’m also grateful for the spirit comics on Kickstarter embody right now, which is support each other and everything is non-competitive.
There’s a real sense of a rising tide raises all ships, and it’s been wonderful to see at a time that’s really scary in the market. After the spring we had with Diamond closing for a while, indie publishers stopping, major publishers stopping — finding a community that’s rabid for good projects and connection has been hugely inspiring. I think it speaks to the resilience and dedication of fans wanting great comics made by people who care about what they’re creating.
You see it too with DC and Marvel. There’s a huge response to the books they’re putting out right now. One of the ironies with the firings at DC is that even with COVID, it’s actually been a banner year, especially for Black Label and the departments hit hardest. It’s a really weird time, and it feels like even in the darkest of moments with things so terrifying, people still really show up for comics. They’re out there, they want good comics, and the more you can connect on them one-on-one and explain about why you care about the projects you’re making, the more they’ll show up.