Behold two panels from the cool thing that landed in my mailbox last week: Jamal Igle’s graphic novel Molly Danger. This forty-eight page tale about the responsibilities and hardships of a government-allied teen super-hero is spunky, dynamic, written from the heart, suitable for all ages, and highly recommended for anyone who could use a break from comics about white guys by white guys.
This first volume was made possible through a Kickstarter project that was launched in August 2012. My local comic shop had a copy on the shelf in November 2013. As one of the 1,240 backers whose pledges helped make the project possible, my copy just now arrived, seven months after retailers could sell it and nine months after the original, estimated delivery date of September 2013. Unfortunately for everyone, U.S. Postal Service rates skyrocketed sometime between project launch and project completion, which means shipping/handling costs exceeded what he’d expected. Once the books were printed, Igle mailed out backers’ copies a few at a time whenever he could afford to do so.
It’s a great book and I look forward to seeing future Molly Danger projects, but this aspect of the experience didn’t turn out quite like anyone had hoped.
Igle’s story is ultimately understandable and pretty benign compared to others I’ve faced. Am still facing, in fact.
Hang out at any geek-news site, wait a week or two, and you’re likely to see the latest headline about a Kickstarter fiasco whose broken commitments ended in teeth-gnashing and garment-rending. Here’s a link to a recent one in which things have turned so grim and sour that the Washington State Attorney General’s Office is involved. Since Kickstarter assumes no accountability or liability for its users’ inaction or delinquency, it was only a matter of time before someone began channeling consumer rage into legal threats.
Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been eighteen months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
I loved the idea of artists, writer, musicians, inventors, designers, and other makers of stuff bypassing the corporate processes that normally rule their respective fields and obtaining the necessary funding to self-publish, self-release, or otherwise bring their works to life through the magic of crowdfunding, which in most cases works a lot like pre-ordering an item except you’re also adding a generous tip.
…But other priorities have come a-callin’. My last pledge was in December 2012 (a Bob Mould tribute concert film); I can’t swear it’ll be my final use of the site, but any future contributions will have to be severely limited, judiciously selected, frugally committed, and wildly recompensed with endless freebies.
Six months later came my most recent update:
I’m not backing anything else on their website until and unless I receive the rewards I’m owed from all other projects I’ve previously backed first. And I mean all of them.
That was October 2013, eight months ago. Of the six overdue projects I listed in “Former Kickstarter Junkie II”, I’ve since received backer rewards for two.
Besides Molly Danger, in November 2013 I received my copy of Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore’s Leaving Megalopolis, Vol. 1. Thanks to generous contributions the winning team behind DC’s Secret Six were able to add additional story pages and upgrade to hardcover format, all without passing new costs on to us backers. They kept up a steady communication stream through dozens of updates during the production process — concept art, preview pages, you-are-there status reports, and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. Even after deadline they maintained a professional, generous transparency and made sure we never once thought that they were hiding out from us or wasting our money on designer drugs. I was elated to meet Simone at this year’s C2E2 and ask her to autograph my copy.
As for those other four perpetually pending projects…
Kickstarter projects that have yet to deliver:
Project: the spaceflight documentary Fight for Space
Launch date: July 2012
Estimated delivery date: December 2013
Last update to backers: April 20, 2014
Status as far as we’ve been told: We’ve received four updates in eight months from director Paul Hildebrandt, each one revealing a broader, more ambitious scope than the last. The production ended up recording triple the number of planned interviews, attending more relevant conferences than expected, and encountered numerous barriers along the way, from scheduling issues to unreachable key sources to flat-out quasi-conspiratorial stonewalling on several upper-level fronts. In other news (as of April 9, 2014), if anyone out there in all Internetland has the preexisting high-end connections to arrange an on-the-record interview with any single living human of interest at Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Hildebrandt would dearly love to hear from you and possibly offer you his firstborn in exchange for a good word in edgewise. For all their highly publicized importance in the current commercial-spaceflight scene, SpaceX had thus far given Hildebrandt’s team the full J.D. Salinger treatment.
If you’d like to know more about this documentary, Fight for Space has an official site where you can view a trailer, a few extras, and, curiously, a PayPal button accepting additional donations. Apparently our Kickstarter funding wasn’t enough.
Project: Dan Harmon and Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion short film Anomalisa
Launch date: July 2012
Estimated delivery date: May 2013
Last update to backers: June 2, 2014
Status as far as we’ve been told: Through five updates in eight months from Community creator Harmon and his trusty sidekick Dino “Starburns” Stamatopoulos, we’ve seen limited glimpses into the production (they’re scrupulously avoiding spoiler images) and been informed that the planned forty-minute project has been officially expanded into an eighty-minute feature, thanks to additional funding they obtained from sources other than the Kickstarter campaign because apparently our funding wasn’t enough. Understandably, this expansion means twice the stop-motion animation and therefore zillions of unplanned extra man-hours and jillions of extra months until our original deal is fulfilled.
Well, I guess that’s Hollywood for you! Hyuk! *slide-whistle* *canned laughter*
Project: The animated short Atomic Robo: Last Stop, based on the excellent all-ages comic series
Launch date: February 2012
Estimated delivery date: January 2013
Last update to backers: May 14, 2014
Status as far as we’ve been told: In September 2013 we were told some items would begin shipping shortly. On May 4, 2014, the animation studio uploaded the complete short was uploaded to YouTube so we backers could look for our names in the end credits. I eventually located mine toward the end after several erroneously duplicated rows. We were also told discs were being pressed “next week”. As of today, six weeks later, none of us has received a single tangible item. The May 14th update was simply a link to corrected credits, no product news.
Other than those end credits, I refuse to watch the short itself until and unless I receive the physical copy we were promised. And to be honest, my irritation with the short is killing my enthusiasm for the comics themselves.
Project: folk-rocker Mary Lou Lord’s next album
Launch date: September 2011
Estimated delivery date: December 2011
Last update to backers: June 14, 2014
Status as far as we’ve been told: Follow the complete comedy of errors, now updated:
* February 2012: we received a digital download of one (1) song.
* June 2012: it was “coming along nicely”.
* September 2012: it was “almost done”.
* February 2013: it was “pretty much finished”, but was being held back to coincide with an album release by some other solo musician, so that they can go on a shared tour and sell records together and it’ll be just like any other new-album release except for the part where promises were kind of made.
* May 7, 2013: The other guy’s album is released.
* June 4, 2013: Album release postponed to coincide with a planned Fall 2013 tour. If this tour ever happened, I never caught wind of it.
* November 25, 2013: Recording delayed due to hospitalization after a nasty ladder accident. Some mastering had been done, leaving “three songs yet to be done.”
* June 14, 2014: We’re told the album will be sixteen tracks in all, and those last three songs will feature guest contributions from some other singer, a new 20-year-old named Matt whom she just met this past year and she’s really excited about working with him and he’s totally gonna be huge someday and the album is gonna be worth it now even though it was “pretty much finished” back in February 2013. Also, did she mention her brother died at some point? Plus she moved? Uh, yeah, so those happened, too. And retroactively undid everything that was “pretty much finished” back in February 2013, I guess?
Now we’re told the album will be “done this week (Godwilling)”. I’m afraid to make any idealistic assumptions about what “done” is supposed to mean anymore. Direct quote as of June 14th, regarding her scant, infrequent updates:
“I also want to you know that I have not been avoiding you guys. I’ve just been totally freaked out thinking you want to throw me in jail or something as a kickstarter avoider b.s artist….Thank you for all you’ve done again, your patience, and for believing in me….”
Patience and belief rode a stagecoach out of town months ago. After the first year had passed, I felt as if my money had been kidnapped. It’s now been TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS since estimated delivery date, and the project itself will celebrate its third birthday in September. The hostages are now effectively dead, there’s no SWAT team going in to round up the shooter, there’s no media surrounding the house and providing fruitless live updates, and there’s no Nancy Grace to shriek at everyone about grave injustice or to make up inappropriate hashtags like #Lordscam or #LordHathForsakenUs or #MaryLouEvilOverLord.
If and when the CD is willed into existence, the quality of its music will be irrelevant. The CD will be, at best, a souvenir coaster to remind me to think twice before I indulge any more creators on Kickstarter ever again.
To be continued. Hopefully someday with endings.
Anyone interested in a bonus appendix? Here’s a list I’ve kept of Kickstarter campaigns I’ve viewed and considered over the past eighteen months but declined specifically and solely because of my moratorium:
* Brian Augustyn’s graphic novel Dead Ringer
* Five Year Mission’s latest album, Year Three (I bought a copy at Indy PopCon. It truly rocks.)
* The Veronica Mars movie (which I rented via Google Play last March)
* The first solo kid’s album from Danny Weinkauf, bassist for the great They Might Be Giants
* Save Fantagraphics Books after the passing of co-founder Kim Thompson
* Fantasy anthology graphic novel Cartozia Tales
* New album Dimetrodon from the Doubleclicks, whose geek-girl anthem “Nothing to Prove” remains one of the best songs of 2013
* Jackie Estrada’s coffee-table book Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s
* Varney the Vampire digital/print comic by Scott Massimo and DC Comics artist Scott Kolins
* Nexus co-creator Steve Rude’s 2014 Sketchbook
* Seqaurt Research’s documentary She Makes Comics
* The indie film Enemy of Man starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, Charles Dance, Jason Flemyng, et al. (successfully funded by a narrow margin)
* The sci-fi short film “The Sandstorm“, co-starring incendiary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei
* The Rifftrax guys doing a one-night Fathom Events double-feature mocking both Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla and the Ice Cube/Jennifer Lopez vehicle Anaconda
* Van Jensen and Jose Pimienta’s bizarre graphic novel The Leg
* Levar Burton reboots Reading Rainbow!
…and those are just campaigns I ran across through social media by chance. I haven’t used the Kickstarter “Discover” function to seek out viable donation opportunities for myself in a very, very long while. Sure, nearly all these campaigns did fine without my participation. The mightiest of them all, Reading Rainbow, has nine days to go and nearly four million in pledges, so they’re probably gonna be okay. I wish I could’ve helped.