This one is like one of those baseball games that goes into the 17th inning, long and murky with no real payoff.

SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS by Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe has a rather interesting history. An irresistible tale of a baseball team that has to go up against a team of monsters, it’s drawn in Stokoe’s choice style, and since the first images started circulating, it’s looked great. In 2010 it was to be published by Image Comics, and a big round of promo for this followed. However, that book never came out—although it was released digitally as a creator-owned comic—and instead it bounced back as a Kickstarter last year. With over $97,000 raised, surely this was a big success. Although the book was long drawn, copies only started shipping recently, after a bit of complaining over the delays. However it was worth the wait, as a super deluxe edition was declared to be worth the international postage:

The real unsung hero in this entire project is Sullivan’s Sluggers creator Mark Andrew Smith for the constant communication with the backers, and making sure everyone is still in the loop after all this time. Who could have possibly foreseen how massively successful this project would have been? Smith has remained professional throughout, delaying his other projects such as Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors and the eventual Sullivan’s Sluggers sequel, Pele’s Pounders. Has he learned a thing or two for the next Kickstarter project he starts? Absolutely.

Although this sounds a little like one of those mysterious new poster “I plan to go there again!” restaurant reviews on Yelp, it’s written by an actual person, Cameron Hatheway of Cammy’s Comics Corner.

As someone who desired to read SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS but didn’t get in on the Kickstarter thing, I was happy to find you could now purchase it again…on Kickstarter. Smith started a campaign with a $1 goal, so people who want various levels can just pledge and get the package they want.

The new Kickstarter is, in part to pay for postage, says Smith. Part of the delay was what is becoming more and more common with Kickstarters: not figuring out how much it is really going to cost. As Smith wrote on his tumblr

Yes, there will be another opportunity for those that missed Sullivan’s Sluggers to pick it up this next month.  I was a bone head and hugely underestimated international shipping because I saw another Kickstarter that was doing huge numbers at the time, and it said “International Orders Please Add $10”, and I said to myself “They know what they’re doing” and copied it FOOLISHLY. So lesson to be learned, look up the shipping costs by weight for international next time if you’re doing a Kickstarter.  I’m going to do an adjustment Kickstarter to help out with international costs, so that I can eat the difference and not ask for more money from international backers, but to ship for the low low original price of $10 per book.  But it’s only for the US, and the other books are going to post first. 

This whole situation led to some snarking on Twitter—you can follow along with the various conversations in these tweets. Basically people felt that Smith was just using Kickstarter to sell copies of the comic.

While I understand the ire, for those who want a copy of the book it seems like a simple transaction. But Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to just sell things that are lying around your house.

And now more clarification: it turns out Stokoe, whose always spectacular art is the draw on the books, is not involved in ANY of this. He drew the book for a page rate and has now publicly distanced himself from it.

First off, I want to make abundantly clear that I’m in no way involved with the direction of either of the Kickstarters, or any other other outlet where that book is sold. The Writer and myself had briefly talked about working together on the KS, but due to some disagreements, I decided to remove myself from it completely.

There’s been talk on my behalf about fair compensation from the KS earnings, but I have to say that it personally doesn’t bother me. I have been paid what I was contracted for, and I’ve been very content to keep my nose out of anything involving the book post-Kickstarter. In other words, there’s really no reason to be offended on my behalf. I’m doing fine. I understand that some backers may feel mislead in that they were supporting me financially by backing the book, and for that I apologize. There was very little I could do once the ball started rolling in that regard, shy of shitting on the whole parade.

Blogger David Brothers has long been critical of the whole way this was handled, and I understand he has another post on the subject coming out today.

Complicating matters even more, SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS is in development as a movie, billed as “Major League meets Zombieland”—although that was last year and we know how these things tend to fade away.

We haven’t yet seen crowdfunding turn into an angry mob in the comics sphere, and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact smoking gun here, but selling backstock on Kickstarter does seem to be against the spirit of the thing at the very least. And backers are beginning to feel annoyed.

Jankiness in the form of this entire kickstarter. I funded the original and still haven't received my copy and now there is another kickstarter to enable me to get my copy. I could have ordered it on Amazon instead.

And as Stokoe’s statement makes clear, the “creator owned” comics world is often not what it seems.

If you don’t want to bother with the whole mess, for a short while you can just download the first two digital “issues” for free.


  1. This is by far one of the least biased articles I’ve read about this subject. Thank you ComicsBeat. You do journalism the right way. I would also like to mention that the 2nd kickstarter has been suspended by kickstarter for reasons unknown. I’m pretty sure we can all guess why. As someone who missed the first and jumped on the second kickstarter this SUCKS. It seems, I’m no expert this is just my oppinion, that the only people hurt by this are Mark Andrew Smith, people who ordered the book and live overseas, and people who ordered the 2nd kickstarter. Notice I didn’t mention James Stokoe because he got paid a flat rate and has zero interest tied into the sale of the book, again not an expert. I don’t know James Stokoe and don’t wish to comment on him as a person but it seems everyone is jumping to his defense, as though there are clear winners and losers, and it doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m a big fan of both creators and the fact that things have come to this is kind of sad. I’m not someone who’s been waiting for the book for months so I don’t know how that feels but it seems a lot like people, internet comment-ors included, are being douche’y for the sake of being douche’y

  2. this has become a tremendous case study in how NOT to run a kickstarter campaign. My takeaway, is that lack of communication and transparency with your backers really will kill you in the court of public opinion. Also underestimating production and shipping costs seems to be the root of the disaster.

  3. It’s the curse of the stretch goals.
    The original pitch and book was great and funded and the costs were calculated on that, but then it became successful and you start to enhance in a frenzy your product to keep the money rolling in, from, say, a regular softcover (not in this case) to in the end an oversized, slipcased monster of a book and your shipping costs start to balloon to the point you can’t handle it anymore.

    That’s the fallacy: your Kickstarter has become too big, so you fail.

    Plus, don’t forget your owed taxes of the income gained from the pledges, become larger and larger too.

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