Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter PBC has announced that 2018 was a record-breaking year in its Comics category, with $16 million (over £12 million) pledged to projects from independent creators around the globe, including some great UK- based projects – and many artists of colour and LGBTQ creators who have traditionally been under represented in the industry.
That amount was a 26% increase from 2017, with creators successfully funding 1,457 comics projects in 2018, 14% more than in 2017, which was the category’s previous best year, and nearly triple the amount in 2012. Those funded projects drew a record $15.3 million in pledges.
Projects from UK creators alone brought in £1.3 million from backers around the world in 2018, and the company is upping their outreach work here in 2019.
They will, for example, be offering coaching to female and non-binary comics creators ahead of the Laydeez Do Comics annual awards ceremony, taking place this April.
A Public Benefit Corporation based in Brooklyn, New York employing 150 staff, Kickstarter (kickstarter.com) is where creative projects come to life – everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Since its launch in 2009, 15 million people have pledged $4 billion on Kickstarter, funding more than 156,000 projects.
Thousands of comics makers launch new work on Kickstarter’s platform because of its robust community and the level of creative freedom it enables. And it’s thanks to that community of enthusiastic creators and backers that nearly 70 per cent of Kickstarter comics projects reached or exceeded their funding goal last year.
Kickstarter renewed its commitment to the comics world in 2018 by hiring industry veteran Camilla Zhang, who had previously worked at Marvel and DC. As the dedicated Kickstarter Comics Outreach Lead, her mission is to nurture new creators. Zhang is particularly committed to putting a spotlight on creators from marginalized communities.
“Mainstream publishers and media tend to treat diversity like a trend,” says Zhang. “But at Kickstarter, we know it’s not a buzzword; it’s a set of actions. To break the cycle of oppression and inequity, marginalized creators must reap the rewards, both financially and creatively.”
Kickstarter says it has become a place where creators from marginalised communities come to create work their own way, build and engage with their communities, and bypass gatekeepers.
For both old-school comic illustrators and the entrepreneurial, self-publishing creators alike, Kickstarter offers a worldwide network of support and visibility. It serves as a platform for underrepresented comic artists to tell their unique stories in a changing industry.
Successful UK-based projects reflecting its diversity include the publication of a collection of the Young Adult web comic Heartstopper from Alice Oseman, which tells the story of a romance between two young men. Alice is in her early 20s, raised £58,925 from 1,576 backers last summer and now has a publishing deal for her second book.
The Pride Adventures, an LGBTQ superhero anthology from UK creator Joe Glass, exceeded its funding goal last spring and Ani Wild, an all-ages comic about a young girl with the ability to transform into animals, with created by up and coming Yorkshire-based writer Archie Dait, illustrated by P.S. Brooks and edited by Jamie Me, raised £1900 to publish.
Globally, the site helped fund Singapore’s first-ever Queer Zine Fest, which started just with local outreach and grew to rally and unite supporters around the world.
“What’s amazing about these projects is that they don’t need mass appeal to be successful or make an impact in the creator’s community,” said Zhang. “With comic projects like (Be)Loved and Burn Man, independent creators can make something unconventional and niche with 100 backers or less.
That kind of intimate and direct connection between creator and backer is way more meaningful than followers or likes.”
Zhang is also leading Kickstarter’s efforts to foster and further those connections. To help readers discover projects they’ll love by creators they don’t know yet, she’s working on making Kickstarter Comics a content destination, starting with the introduction of genre sections.
For comic creators wanting to get a head start, Zhang suggests: “Start building your community before you even think about raising money.”
• Kickstarter is at www.kickstarter.com