Former Kickstarter Junkie V: Praise Lord and Gimme My Movies

Backstreet Angels!

Let it be known for the record that my copy of Mary Lou Lord’s long-delayed next album Backstreet Angels landed in my mailbox on April 23, 2015. This delivery came forty-five months after its Kickstarter campaign was launched and forty-one months after the original promised delivery date. Some of the delays in the last year or so were for totally understandable, disastrous reasons. Some of the delays in the first year or so, not really so much from our Peanut Gallery’s perspective.

But it’s here at last, it’s a thing that really exists, I can stop fuming about it, and it’s mostly kinda pretty if I skip the one song with the F-bomb on it. Sixteen tracks of pleasant jangle-pop that are a mixture of covers and collaborations, with song/writing credits including the likes of the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, Beat Happening, the Green Pajamas, Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond (with whom she was hoping to tour for this album at one point), and an ostensible up-‘n’-comer named Matt Minigell, with whom she was really, really excited to co-write and duet.

The first single, “My Buddy Valentine”, is up on YouTube and available on MP3 through Amazon, but I’m partial to her cover of Peter Bruntnell’s “By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix”. The album itself has no wide-release date and no Amazon listing of its own yet. One of Lord’s last Kickstarter memos indicated this may end up being her last album ever, but as of yet I’ve seen no concrete plans to offer it beyond the disgruntled Kickstarter base.

And that wasn’t the only pokey Kickstarter project to deliver since my last update. Relatively speaking, it’s been a generous half-year for their zero-accountability site.

Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been thirty months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project.

Former Kickstarter Junkie IV: Here, YOU Save Spaceflight

Fight for Space!

Moviemaking is like spaceflight. Dream big. Aim high. Don’t look down. Curse the budget issues.

Paul Hildebrandt needs your help. For over two years the director and his crew have been conducting dozens of interviews, sifting through countless hours of archival footage, knocking at closed D.C. backrooms, stumping for truth, analyzing the facts, looking for root causes, and working hard to bring you Fight for Space, an ambitious documentary about the sorry state of America’s position in the international space race, where things went wrong, why they’re still off track today, and what barriers still stand between humanity and our return to the stars.

I previously wrote about Hildebrandt’s project in July 2012 when I signed on as a backer to his official Kickstarter campaign. His quest succeeded and exceeded his formidable funding goal of $65,000.00, with pledges totaling over $105,000.00. For the next year-plus, Hildebrandt pursued more interviews, hit roadblocks in several areas (including any and all inquiries into Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, which availed him naught), wrapped filming, began post-production, and updated us once every few months when properly badgered.

Then the money ran out. Hildebrandt was taken aback and humbled by the process, but he means to finish what he started. To that end, he’s just launched a second Kickstarter campaign to raise more funds so he can afford to complete his work as he envisions it.

Hildebrandt needs your help, and so do I. You can make a difference and help this important project finish happening, in hopes that it could shed new light on a touchy subject and change minds nationwide. Also, if there aren’t enough backers in this second round of donations, I’m guessing the whole thing collapses and I’ll never see the rewards I’m still owed from his first Kickstarter campaign. I was kind of hoping to have those in hand before I die.

Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been 25 months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project…

Former Kickstarter Junkie III: the Former and the Furious

Molly Danger!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.

Right this way for never-ending status updates…

Free Comic Book Day Results, Part 1 of 2: the Better Half of the Stack

Avatar vs. Fantasy Dudebros

Even in the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender. some guys think they gotta dominate everything. Art by Faith Erin Hicks.

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2014 this past Saturday. Readers of multiple demographics, especially a heartening number of youngsters, flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and dozens of indie publishers.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

Of the nearly five dozen items offered to retailers nationwide, my wife and I carried away twenty-five in all, in addition to numerous other items I purchased using money instead of good will. My favorites from my FCBD 2014 reading pile were the following:

This way for this year’s Top 12!

Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 3 of 3: Worlds Beyond Marvel and DC

Atomic Robo, Red 5 Comics

Atomic Robo: an essential part of every Free Comic Book Day.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

And now the conclusion, focusing on smaller publishers that demand and/or deserve equal attention:

Marble Season (Drawn & Quarterly) — Celebrated Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez, sallies forth into all-ages territory with slice-of-life vignettes of a ’60s childhood in which marbles were a game option before “gaming” was a common verb, kids routinely spoke in benign non sequitur, secret clubs didn’t involve violent hazing, and super-hero role-playing required neither rulebooks nor electricity. Each scene free-flows into the next without need for an overall “story arc” driving the narrative — it’s just the life of kids bouncing each off each other and drifting from one activity to the next. If Peanuts had been less punchline-driven and maybe a tad edgier (we sure never saw Linus and Lucy trying to understand a celebrity suicide) but with the same skewed innocence and underlying heart, the result would’ve looked a lot like this. One of the year’s best FCBD offerings.

Continue reading

New Readers: Threat or Menace? (FCBD Results, Part 1 of 3)

Free Comic Book Day 2012 was hectic yet rewarding. My wife and I enjoyed our annual routine, purchasing items at three different stores and assembling a review pile to see if today’s publishers, old or upstart, like new readers. The second half of the day was Marvel’s The Avengers and subsequent family discussion group over dinner. And Sunday went as our Sundays go.

This means I’m only through one-third of the pile. The results so far:

Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass (Red 5 Comics) — Atomic Robo is no stranger to FCBD, and here outdoes himself in a team-up with his arch-nemesis, the intelligent and stupid Dr. Dinosaur, in a tale of impossible biomechanical evolution, the Hadron Collider, and saving the day with spreadsheets. Full disclosure: any and all Atomic Robo comics are fun science adventure worth the admission fee.

Of the other two stories, I faintly recall Neozoic as another FCBD vet, but I don’t remember their previous installment(s). The sample resembles Terra Nova with a sword, some ESP, and unexplained backstory that kept the plot in the dark. I have no idea, for instance, why one character wallops another with a triceratops head. Bonnie Lass explains its pirate-based plot, but not its characters or an explanation for the inclusion of elevators and interrogation rooms in its settings. Extra points lost for misspelling “breach” as “breech” at a crucial moment, to considerable amusement on my part.

Bongo Comics Free-for-All 2012/Spongebob Squarepants Flipbook (Bongo Comics/United Plankton Pictures Comics) — Select reprints from Simpsons Comics are a FCBD staple, but this is their first time sharing their space with squatters. The just-okay lead story is Homer, Lenny, and Carl forming a bear patrol; its backup is a great non-Simpsons autobiographical Sergio Aragonés tale about his first earnings as an artist in third grade. On the other side of the flipbook, the inimitable Mr. SquarePants ably multitasks, reading an adventure of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (not the same without the voices of Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway) while annoying Squidward at the same time. Indie comics fans might also dig the single page of gags by the unique James Kochalka. In all, SpongeBob fans will be more content with this flipbook than Simpsons fans, but Aragonés fans are the true winners.

Top Shelf Kids Club (Top Shelf Publishing) — Six original black-‘n’-white done-in-one tales for kids by unusual talents. Best of show are Andy Runton’s whimsical Owly (whose volumes are a staple of the 741.5 kids’ section at my local library), James Kochalka (him again!), and Savage Dragon letter Chris Eliopolous, whose “Okie Dokie Donuts” finally gives kids the ultimate role model — a strong-willed woman who owns and defends a donut shop. Kids who like comics and don’t require super-heroes would do well to have a copy of this sampler in their li’l mitts, provided they don’t freak out at the lack of color. Invite them to add their own.

Star Wars/Serenity Flipbook (Dark Horse Comics) — Joss Whedon’s brother Zack writes one short story for each galaxy about spacefaring scalawags having deals go wrong on them — Han and Chewie in one, Mal and River in the other. Quick and simple enough for casual readers, and agreeable fluff for longtime fans of either, though the Serenity voices didn’t sound twangy enough to me.

Buffy/The Guild Flipbook (Dark Horse Comics) — The Buffy tale is set during Season 9 and will make no sense to any Buffy TV fans who’ve never picked up a Season 8 or 9 comic before now. (Why are they in space? Why is Spike commanding bugs? What’s a zompire? How the heck did that surprise guest-starring movie creature happen?) My dedication to Season 9 has been wavering of late, so I found this inessential. The Guild, on the other hand, was in top form as usual, failing hilariously at spending quality time together at the beach. I can totally relate to such anti-outdoors awkwardness. Again, though, if you’re not a preexisting fan, I’m not sure their reactions will mean much to you. (Tinkerballa is never even named in the story.)

As a reward to FCBD completists, picking up both Dark Horse FCBD offerings gave you a “complete” four-page story starring Caitlin Kiernan and Steve Lieber’s Alabaster. It’s complete in the sense that it has a beginning, middle, and end. After four pages of small talk with a bridge troll, I still know nothing about the main character except her name and skin tone.

Adventure Time/Peanuts Flipbook (KaBOOM!) — The Peanuts material was released months ago as a standalone one-dollar Peanuts #0 sampler, which I already tried and found to be dumbed-down recycling of Charles Schulz’ original strips by new hands, not unlike the latter-day cartoons. I’m not sure if the same is the case for the Adventure Time shorts. They read like the kind of cutesy, disturbing surrealism that usually finds a home at Fantagraphics. I’ve avoided the Cartoon Network series, but I confess I laughed at this more than once. It’s a rare comic that finds a context for concepts such as bacon-based microorganism housing and fart fairies.

Burt Ward, Boy Wonder/Wrath of the Titans Classic Flipbook (Bluewater Comics) — Side A stars the erstwhile TV Robin, living in peace with his wife and several dogs until he’s sucked into a zany black-and-white future world where Robin fashions are all the rage, newspapers still exist, and Ward’s dialogue keeps avoiding contractions like a formal book report. Side B is an excerpt from a comic-shaped illustrated kiddie prose novel starring Harry Hamlin’s Perseus and our old friend Bubo the chirpy robot owl. Eight-year-olds whose nostalgic parents forced them to watch the original Clash of the Titans will be most pleased to have a sequel to call their own. I don’t imagine that to be a large demographic.

To be continued.

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