Monty Nero and Yishan Li launched their innovative Kickstarter for their new Frenemies – The Lost Planet project last week, a campaign blending an appeal for financial support with a storytelling experience. Here, Death Sentence and X-Men writer Monty Nero explains what the team are hoping to achieve with the approach…
The Frenemies – The Lost Planet is finished and the Kickstarter is pretty innovative. It’s more of a storytelling experience than a traditional fundraiser. We’ve hi-jacked the platform to just tell a story for a month, with cliffhangers and new installments each weekday.
Of course, you get a brilliant comic at the end of it and some lovely rewards, but all the content on the Kickstarter probably exceeds the amount of narrative in the comic.
Storytelling has always been driven by the latest tech. Charles Dickens, for instance, didn’t originally publish books. He wrote serial fiction printed in installments using the latest printing techniques. Sometimes these installments were standalone pamphlets, sometimes he grouped them into magazines or manuscripts with other serialised stories and illustrations.
These were only collected in books later, and one reason Dickens books are so long is he got paid for each installment. This method also made buying the work affordable for more readers, and even though he was a smash success the initial print runs were anything from 500 to 6000 copies only. That’s why those first editions sell for hundreds of thousands today. (You can pick up a first edition of a Dickens book for hundreds, but it’s these first serialisations with the original bookplates and woodcuts that go for half a million dollars).
It’s a similar audience to a good Kickstarter these days, with similar numbers printed. Is there a Dickens among us? If so, some wise investor is going to find their rare Kickstarter comics worth similar sums in the distant future. Who that will be, though, is anyone’s guess.
So where Dickens used the printed form for serialised fiction we’re using comics and Kickstarter updates to get the blood pumping. It’s thrilling to create a sci-fi world in this new way, with cliffhangers and revelations and exclusive artwork every day. I can’t wait for you to experience it.
Obviously, you have to back the comic to see the updates, but beyond that every backer gets to access the daily content as soon as the Kickstarter begins. Both Frenemies 1 and 2 thrill readers as a stand-alone read, and the online updates add more excitement and expand the world. It beats doomscrolling any day.
Part of the reason for doing this is I need to be creative – it gets me out of bed every morning. This is an opportunity to tell cool stories for a whole month – and who wouldn’t love that?
The whole point of doing Frenemies: The Lost Planet was to have somewhere to develop my science fiction and character ideas. I wanted to make a really wild and interesting sci-fi world, and then explore that through character. I had a lot of ideas about generating conflict and character dynamics which I wanted to use, and there was an art style I was developing that didn’t suit Death Sentence. I was dying to mix the best of old school sci-fi, like the black and white Flash Gordon cliffhanger film serials, with progressive new ideas. The Lost Planet was the answer. I see it continuing for about 20 years at least.
Creator owner comics have really changed the storytelling situation for readers. As an avid buyer of comics I’m not willing to put up with the cynicism a lot of work-for-hire publishers embrace: stories stalling or stopping half-way though, changing artist and tone every other issue, or getting ruined because some company-wide event takes precedence and knocks over the board. There are still some great comics from big publishers, but if you’re talking about lovingly crafting a consistent experience over twenty years, exploring three-dimensional characters in heart-rending depth, then the Frenemies route is the way to go. Creators can lovingly expand their fictional universes for decades now, and deliver seriously rewarding experiences for readers without selling out.
Working with Yishan Li was a no-brainer, we already got on well and she’s ten times the character comic artist I am. I described the characters to her and she came back with her customary brilliance. I’ve been very lucky to work with artists of her caliber throughout my career, Mike Dowling and Martin Simmonds for instance, and I never take it for granted.
Exciting times ahead!
Monty Nero has written the X-Men, X-Men Gold and Hulk for Marvel, as well as the Death Sentence series for Titan and Delcourt, and short comics for 2000AD and DC, among others.
Yishan Li has drawn Buffy and Hellboy for Dark Horse, Blue Beetlefor DC, Swing, Sugar and Paradox Girl for Top Cow/Image, plus numerous books and short comics for leading publishers.