Former Kickstarter Junkie VIII: The Final Reward

Fight for Space!

Me explaining to people why crowdfunding is no longer my thing.

Hi, My name is Randy. It’s been five years and two months since the last time I pledged money to a Kickstarter campaign. This week I achieved closure on that chapter in my hobbyist life at last.

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Former Kickstarter Junkie VII: An Oscar Would’ve Been Nice

Anomalisa!

Belated news for the record: the long-awaited code for my digital download of Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated drama Anomalisa hit my email on March 15, 2016, forty-four months after its Kickstarter campaign was launched and thirty-four months after the original promised delivery date to backers who pledged at my level. Part of the delay was due to its expansion from the original proposed short to a full-length feature film. Part of it was because stop-motion is just really hard, probably. Part of it was because the subsequent, unexpected distribution deal with Paramount Pictures threw in a contractual complication that meant many of us had to wait till closer to the home video release date before our technically preordered goods would be distributed.

But it happened at last, and the thing really exists. They followed the wording of the pledge to the letter and delivered on their promises on their schedule. Unfortunately for me, the reward came with a catch. That’s why this follow-up was delayed.

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Former Kickstarter Junkie VI: Reboot MST3K? You Do It, I’m Bitter

Bring Back MST3K!

If you’ve never seen an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I’m really sorry that you’ve been deprived of the pleasure. I missed the first several seasons of its basic-cable run, but the Rhino Home Video releases began in May 1996 at exactly the right moment in my life when, more than any other, I needed powerful reasons to laugh, to overlook emotional pain, and to appreciate sci-fi puppetry. Joel, Mike, Crow, Tom Servo, and the rest of their motley crew were like a shining, snarky beacon through so much real-world darkness. I snapped up every episode as it was released and filled up a few shelves. When I could afford basic cable again circa 1998, I caught up to speed with the Sci-Fi Channel reruns, and the rest is a great time in history for this latecomer MSTie.

Some of its funniest fans were among the first online citizens I met when I discovered the wild world of Internets. My wife and I met several of those odd-fellows in person and quite a few cast members over the past fifteen years — at a St. Louis convention on our 2000 road trip, at Indy Pop Con 2014, and at C2E2 2015. It’s been kind of a wild ride.

Today news broke out across my social circles that MST3K creator Joel Hodgson, with the assistance of the good Samaritans at Shout! Factory (the show’s home-video distributor for the last several years), has obtained the rights clearance to pursue a full-on revival with the same puppets but probably an all-new cast — a bit like the Sci-Fi years in a sense, so some of us are bound to fret and complain till we get used to Tom Servo’s new voice. Rather than rely on modern studio executives to come to their senses and right the wrongs committed by their soulless ancestors, Hodgson has launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign that will allow fans, newcomers, and hopefully kindhearted deep-pocketed investors to determine whether or not the world’s greatest Cowtown puppet show deserves another chance to live and riff.

As a fan, I hope it succeeds and I wish I could help. I also wish there were a way to do it without Kickstarter.

Right this way for more MST3K info! And for an update on this regretful ongoing MCC series!

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…

Please Crowdfund My Awesome New Project So I Can Pretend to Make Cool Stuff

Napkins Begone, Ultracausal Hygiene Science

Every good campaign has a catchy slogan. Pretend this is one.

Finally, after minutes of brainstorming ways to make a difference in this broken world, leave a lasting legacy, and accept money from strangers in exchange for pleasant-sounding promises, something has popped into my head that’s hopefully the magic bullet everyone needs, and by “everyone” I mean my bill collectors and I. I hope you’ll hear me out and then shower me with gifts so I can make my brand new dream come true if I work hard enough, the stars align, miracles happen, and no one stops to think anything through.

The Premise:

We can be certain of few things in life, but three of those things are these:

1. People want to kill fewer trees.
2. People will always be sloppy eaters.
3. People want phone apps to do everything for them.

The man who figures out how to combine those three arbitrarily chosen certainties will be the next man to rule the world. I agree with the puzzled look on your face that my path to world domination and self-esteem is littered with several obstacles, including but not limited to the laws of physics.

Intrigued so far? What do you mean no? Click here and learn more about it anyway!

Yes, There’s a Scene (and an Easter Egg) During the “Veronica Mars” End Credits

Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars

Just think: those poor, carefully cultivated flowers would’ve had no screen time at all if this had been shot as a made-for-TV movie.

My wife and I were impressed by the first two seasons of Veronica Mars and jilted into a mutual depression spiral by season three. When creator/writer/director Rob Thomas launched the famous Kickstarter project to bring back the infamous detective for an unlikely feature film, I had mixed emotions. Surprise that yet another well-written but mercilessly treated series was taking the Firefly route to a post-cancellation revival. Disappointment that the campaign occurred during my still-in-effect Kickstarter moratorium and would therefore receive no pre-production dollars from me, through no fault of its own. Good cheer when the campaign succeeded without me. Skepticism at some of the clunky lines in the trailer. A tinge of geek entitlement because someone still owed me reparations for season three.

Unlike five other Kickstarter campaigns that have yet to keep their promises to me, the Veronica Mars project has borne fruit within a month of its original stated deadline, resulting in a finished product that opened in nearly 300 theaters this past weekend and is simultaneously available for rental via Google Play. At last the lingering question was answered: did anything positive ever happen in Veronica’s life again after that dreary series finale?

A long time ago, we used to be friends…

Former Kickstarter Junkie II: Even Formerer

Smoke/Ashes, Alex DeCampi, Tomer Hanuka

The Smoke/Ashes two-in-one limited hardcover edition was made possible through Kickstarter and conscientious perseverance. Art by Tomer Hanuka.

My copy of the new hardcover graphic novel Ashes arrived in my mailbox this week. When I first put up my money for the project, it was a sequel to a well-received IDW miniseries called Smoke. During the production process, creator Alex DeCampi announced it wouldn’t be a stretch for her to include both stories in a single volume. I’m certainly not one to turn down a value-added bonus.

This fabulous package was the result of a Kickstarter campaign that was launched in October 2011, successfully funded in December 2011, announced with a delivery date of December 2012, and plagued by setbacks too numerous to recount. Through frequent updates composed with above-and-beyond personal candor, DeCampi kept in touch throughout the process, provided backers with access to a digital version months ago, and generally gave the impression that she had every intention of fulfilling her commitments, no matter how much it would end up costing her in the long run, all without passing the budget overruns on to us. Congress should be so conscientious.

More than a few Kickstarter projects out there can’t say the same.

The following entry is a sequel to a previous entry…

My Former Life as a Kickstarter Junkie

Kickstarter sampler

Top to bottom: Ashes (art by Richard Pace); Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger; Neil DeGrasse Tyson, interviewee from Fight for Space; and Great Pacific (art by Martin Morazzo).

When Kickstarter was relatively new and not yet a household name, it took a while before I warmed up to the concept. Once I dipped my toe into the pool, I had a hard time convincing myself to come up for air.

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.

At the end of 2012 I drew a line because I realized I’d gone overboard. I have disposable income set aside each month for doing fun things such as comics and movies, but Kickstarter was devouring more than its fair share and compromising my hobbies. With my son preparing to start college this coming fall, the time has come to batten down the hatches, tighten the belts, and find ways to slash our budget, unless some wealthy benefactor wants to start donating enormous sums in care of this humble blog.

Consequently, one of the first extravagances on the chopping block was my Kickstarter patronage. I like philanthropy. I like helping creators create. I like watching success stories in action. 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.

Thus I bid farewell-for-now to my active Kickstarter status with a look back at our history together thus far. The following are past campaigns about which I’ve posted here previously, with updates about their subsequent progress:

* Rich Burlew’s phenomenal Order of the Stick reprint drive. A year after the fact, Burlew is still working hard to fulfill the remaining supporter perks that were delayed due to a severe hand injury. I’ve already received everything I was expecting and then some. (The OotS notepad used for a previous MCC entry was made possible by Kickstarter.)

* The Fight for Space documentary, about mankind’s retreat from the stars. Project mastermind Paul Hildebrandt wisely set a distant but realistic delivery date of December 2013; as of January 2013 his team was still conducting interviews with relevant parties in Washington D.C., making the most of their surplus funding.

* Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger graphic novel. Counting down to the release date later this year, Igle has provided backers with frequent updates and exclusive preview materials, including a heads-up that an eleven-page preview that will appear in Action Lab’s Free Comic Book Day 2013 sampler.

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“Veronica Mars: the Motion Picture”: My List of Demands

Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars, gamer

File Photos Guaranteed Not to be Used on Anyone Else’s Veronica Mars Article #49: the time she went undercover as a gamer.

Despite the grumpy tone of last night’s entry, I reiterate: I was a fan of Veronica Mars back in the day. I discovered it one day while flipping channels at random, catching the first-season episode “You Think You Know Somebody” (with guest star Aaron Ashmore!) and being shocked at the quality of what I’d written off as a standard WB teen drama, but what instead turned out to be a deceptively Californian detective drama with whip-smart dialogue — reminiscent of Buffy, but with a noir styling all its own.

I later caught up with the DVDs and stuck with the show to the bitter end, by which I mean I was bitter. Eventually I moved on, but I’m not opposed to revisiting Veronica’s world if the occasion warrants.

The March 22nd issue of Entertainment Weekly summarizes creator Rob Thomas’ planned premise:

Set a decade after the show’s third and final season, the plot has Veronica returning to her hometown of Neptune, Calif., after much schooling (a bachelor’s from Stanford; a Columbia Law School degree) when she gets a distress call from ex-boyfriend Logan: His pop-star girlfriend has been murdered, and he’s the prime suspect.

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“Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Success Raises Unreasonable Hopes in Fans of Every Canceled Series Ever

Kristen Bell, Veronica MarsJust as Star Wars fans spent weeks celebrating in the streets at the news that their beloved childhood franchise will return to theaters, so is another fan base breaking out the party hats this week…and, more importantly, their wallets.

In a first for a major-studio intellectual property, Warner Bros. has allowed producer/creator Rob Thomas to use the power of crowdfunding to extract Veronica Mars from mothballs and feature her in a major motion picture. Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign less than 48 hours ago with a lofty goal of $2,000,000.00. As Thomas describes the conditional deal with Warner Bros.:

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014.

Thomas worried for naught. Pledges from tens of thousands of fans reached that formidable goal in a record-setting, jaw-dropping twelve hours, leaving 29½ days for slower fans and curious bandwagon-jumpers to keep adding to the budget in hopes of upgrading the film from niche project to wide-release underdog, maybe even with action scenes and trained stuntmen. At the rate the pledges are accumulating, they’ll have enough money to set it in 2030 and equip Veronica and her dad with robot sidekicks.

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Jamal Igle’s “Molly Danger” Aims to Remind: Comics Aren’t Just for Adult Males

Jamal Igle's "Molly Danger"Older collectors can recall a time when fans of all ages could find comic books skillfully produced as entertainment and inspiration for any and all comers. In ye olden times of my own childhood, kids like me were more than welcome to read the adventures of the Marvel and DC mainstream universes, to participate in the stories that “mattered” in the lives of their favorite heroes.

Today, not so much. In recent decades, creators have taken considerable pains in expanding the boundaries of the medium, crafting ostensibly sophisticated stories for a self-described “mature” audience, and convincing themselves that the one true path to literary respectability requires copious bleeding and nonstop pandering to the hormones. Some comics from the Big Two comic are a few steps removed from the average issue of Maxim. In the prevailing sales theory of our times, adult males are the only audience that matters, and this is obviously what all adult males need. Kids who naively or accidentally wander into a comic shop are discouraged from roaming the store freely, instead shepherded over to one designated rack filled with tons of cartoon-based comics, Archie Comics that the regular shoppers have learned to ignore, and thirty-year-old back issues — in short, not much for their generation to call their own. (If your child is lucky and your retailer is magnanimous enough, you might see a lone shelf copy of Strawberry Shortcake. Big if.)

Jamal Igle has something different in mind. After two decades of working for Marvel, DC, and several major independents, Igle is working outside the corporate scene on his own creation, a four-part graphic novel series called Molly Danger, taking full advantage of the shocking truth that some girls like action, adventure, super-heroes, and sci-fi, but should have at least one viable option beyond androcentric pabulum. Several years in the making, Igle described the premise in a recent interview like so:

Molly Danger is the world’s most powerful 10 year old Superhero. The catch is, she’s been 10 years old for almost 20 years. The public and Molly herself believe she’s an immortal, superhumanly strong alien being form a planet called Gamma 7, a world on the edge of the Galactic rim. She protects her hometown from the Supermechs, a collection of cybernetically enhanced villains. She lives in her own museum, lovingly referred to as the Mollydome. She’s respected and loved by everyone.

Unfortunately, Molly is a bird in a gilded cage. She doesn’t have any friends or family, she doesn’t have a secret identity or a life outside of being Molly. She’s kept sequestered from the public because she’s a target for her enemies and a danger to others because of her strength. She longs for a normal life.

Molly Danger should address a few lamentable shortcomings in today’s field: the lack of reading options for young but literate fans; the preponderance of sex toys pretending to be actual characters; and the derivative nature of so many heroines who are basically sidekicks or female versions of preexisting male heroes. (The underlying message therein: the best ways for a woman to succeed are to work for a great man, or to copy him Single White Female style. Plan C, of course, would be to settle for marrying a great man, leaving your five-year plan at that, and hoping really hard not to meet the same grisly fate as countless other wives and girlfriends in comics.)

Igle has a Kickstarter campaign in progress as of this writing, with three days and several dollars to go. The publishing plan is a four-issue miniseries of oversized hardcovers to be released by Action Lab Entertainment, purveyors of the excellent, award-nominated Princeless (fit for the same audience and pretty high-quality, judging by the first issue I read). Setting aside the mild language in the Maya Angelou quote that prefaces the Kickstarter video, this looks to be a winner on an all-ages level, in the sense of Pixar “quality for all fans at all levels” instead of the sense of “innocuous twaddle for ages four and under”. Igle has drawn comparisons to the likes of Astro Boy or The Powerpuff Girls in that sense.

The Kickstarter page offers plenty more art samples, typically top-notch from the artist whose favorite work of mine was an underrated run on Firestorm some years ago. Igle’s own blog also contains a recent press release with more details about supporting characters and other assorted tidbits.

For the jaded comic readers among you, consider the competitive advantages of Molly Danger for your reading dollar:

* Guaranteed not to be just one long, soulless ad for a corporate cartoon!
* Guaranteed not to be ruined by short-sighted editorial meddling halfway through!
* Guaranteed not to be wrested from Igle’s control and assigned to some hack writer who’s unclear on the concept, decides the series needs to be more “modern”, and has half the cast butchered!
* Guaranteed not to be interrupted ten pages from the end by a three-month-long crossover that requires you to buy twelve other Action Lab series!

I would like to say “fun” is also guaranteed, but fun is in the eye of the beholder and may vary by user. If Molly Danger isn’t fun after all, then Igle totally misrepresented and we should all sue him to death. But I’m betting fun will win out.

* * * * *

Department of Full Disclosure:

1. I’ve been an official Supporter of Molly Danger for a few weeks now. I’m not a paid shill here, just a happy reader who likes seeing nifty things published.

2. My only experience with Igle in person was watching him at a 2011 fan-awards presentation at C2E2, where he had the privilege of accepting several different awards. They were mostly accepted on behalf of other no-show winners, but still, I’m sure there’s a certain prestige to being Award Acceptor Jamal Igle, even if all our photos of that presentation turned out dismal beyond belief.

“Fight for Space” Documentary to Ask: Whatever Happened to the Final Frontier?

At the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS, this sign looms over you as you descend the steps into the main exhibit hall in their basement, where rests a comprehensive collection of rockets, spaceships, and aeronautical paraphernalia from various countries that share an active or tangential history with space travel. Man’s quest for space has been fraught with skepticism, debate, setbacks, and major disasters. “Difficulties” is an understatement.

That basement location is an apt metaphor for the state of American spaceflight today, compared to other agendas and priorities that garner larger headlines and weigh on us more heavily in the moment. What once seemed like a top-shelf objective for purposes of scientific research and frontier exploration is now a set of mostly forgotten toys boxed up and forgotten in some dark corner. A few weird kids still cherish them and try to make the most of them, but no one else is interested in watching them play or buying them better toys.

The Cosmosphere has one small section dedicated to the current state of space travel aspiration, including photos of several independent companies and programs (not just American) dedicated to continuing the work that NASA started but now seems too crippled to pursue alone. I had passing familiarity with Virgin Galactic and SpaceX before we visited the Cosmosphere on this year’s road trip, but I was surprised to see that several other would-be pioneers have tossed their hat into the ring to see what they can make happen.

I’m not surprised at my relative lack of awareness. I first learned about the 2010 mothballing of the Space Shuttle program from a 2009 exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum. I couldn’t believe that such a declaration of retreat hadn’t somehow caught my attention before. A tiny shuttle diorama had to break the news to me. When events and successes occur in or about space, they tend to be reported in the back section of your few remaining local newspapers (the same section containing “news” such as “College Study Shows Eating Causes Fat”), or in an easily overlooked article link buried among two dozen other such links in the “Stories with Ten Hits or Less” section of your favorite news site. If we’re not actively hunting for space news, our odds of keeping tabs on it by casual happenstance are nil.

Filmmaker Paul Hildebrandt is working on a new feature-length documentary called Fight for Space that aims to update us all on just what happened to the space race, where it is now, who does or doesn’t care, and why America’s support for it has all but withered away. Hildebrandt and his crew have already conducted numerous interviews with scientists and non-scientists alike, with plans and hopes to keep adding more diverse viewpoints to the mix that would push the movie even closer to fairness and balance.

To that end, Hildebrandt launched his Fight for Space Kickstarter campaign last week to fund his efforts beyond the initial investments. At their current rate of acceleration the project should be fully funded by Monday, so a desperate call to arms and wheedling for more money is hardly necessary. Regardless, pledges are still accepted, the reward packages are generous, and I’m curious to see if extra support would make the movie even snazzier.

The Kickstarter page has a short video with excerpts from some of the interviewees already in the can — the likes of Neil Degrasse Tyson, the inimitable Bill Nye the Science Guy, Star Trek: Voyager‘s Robert Picardo, and several studious-looking science guys that some of you probably know and love. (I wasn’t kidding about my ignorance.) The same page also informs us of PBS’ officially piqued interest; shows us a 2013 US government budget projection that would provide NASA with just enough lunch money for half its staff; and links to an hour-long speech from Tyson, who I’m told may be the coolest astrophysicist of all time.

I’m not sure I foresee the Fight for Space campaign becoming another Order of the Stick, but I look forward to seeing this movie, and I wouldn’t mind if they had the chance and the resources to make it even bigger and better. At the very least, maybe they can use the extra petty cash to buy NASA the largest Christmas turkey in the shopkeeper’s window.

Today’s Unrelated Things: the Stalker and the Stick

Basic-cable true-crime melodrama is my wife’s thing, not mine, but she noticed the description of one of tonight’s reruns of the Investigation Discovery docuseries Stalked: Someone’s Watching mentioned “a comic book author”. I’m easily excitable whenever our interests converge, so I dropped what I was doing and joined her for quality TV time that ended up disturbing me instead. The December 2011 episode titled “Signed, your Deadliest Fan” was a half-hour run-through of the experience of Colleen Doran, creator of A Distant Soil and artist of various commendable works (Sandman, Orbiter, the underrated Zodiac), who spent years at the mercy of a “fan” who subjected her to no small amount of devious psychological Hell.

As Doran recounted her story to the offscreen interviewer, I felt sure I wasn’t the only comics reader reminded of Harlan Ellison’s classic essay, “Xenogenesis”, about the real-life horror stories endured by science fiction writers at the hands of poorly raised readers oblivious to the pain caused by their own reprehensible actions toward their ostensible idols. I’m glad that Ellison was forthright enough to set “Xenogenesis” down in print, but I really don’t like to be reminded of it. I hate knowing that I share a hobby or a fandom with extremist malcontents who failed at paying attention to the good-is-better-than-evil motif portrayed in 90% of all comics ever. Understanding that other humans are not your toys shouldn’t be a challenging lesson to learn.

“Xenogenesis” doesn’t appear to be online in any reputable downloadable form. I think I still have the copy I clipped out when it was reprinted in Comics Buyer’s Guide many a moon ago. The Stalked episode is available to view via tvguide.com; alas, it costs money. Doran also wrote an even more distressing follow-up about the episode with links to her past writings about the ordeal, covering details that the producers omitted or glossed over, such as the part where the offender in question is now out and about on his own recognizance. I can see how this non-minor detail would interfere with the show’s need for closure.

(Less saddening aside about the show: I was jarred out of it for a moment during a dramatization in which “Colleen” apprehensively attended a New York comic con as a special guest circa 1987. In one brief shot, we see her cheerfully signing copies of The Unwritten. Anachronism and complete un-relation to Doran aside, the next time Peter Gross needs a month’s vacation, she would seem a great fit to me.)

* * * * *

On the brighter side of my day, the mailman finally delivered my tangible rewards for supporting Rich Burlew’s The Order of the Stick Kickstarter campaign. It still boggles the mind how a project that started as a quixotic quest to reprint a few old collections became a record-breaking runaway train of generosity gone wild. My pledge level permitted me a graphic novel I didn’t have, along with far too many additional stationery-section goodies that were added as prizes later in the campaign.

I’m especially tickled pink by the OotS coloring book, which includes coloring pages for each of the major stick-figure cast members, plus value-added puzzles and drawing challenges. I’m tempted to color a page and post an example for all to see, but then my coloring book wouldn’t be a mint-condition collectible anymore that I can use to fund my post-retirement world traveling.

(Caveat emptor: intense typo Nazis should think twice before purchasing a copy if the opportunity arises, because one section in the answer key misspells “situations”. I’ve seen your kind act as wet blankets in the name of proofreading in many a venue, but do realize Burlew is under tremendous pressure to fulfill his part of the deal and has a lot on his plate. It would be most gracious of you to forgive, forget, and refrain from insisting that the mere existence of “situtions” sullies his good name and ruins everything. Please do not declare the whole thing a sham or demand triple your money back and your next ten graphic novels free. As Stalked taught us, fan entitlement is an ugly, destructive force of evil.)

Help Fund “The Garlicks” on Kickstarter, and Famous Comics Writer Will Eat Bug

Not a joke headline! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Fans of entomophagy, lend me your ears!

The Garlicks: Pandora Orange, Fail Vampire promises to be yet another fun romp of a graphic novel/webcomic from writer/artist Lea Hernandez, previously seen on such past projects as Killer Princesses (with Gail Simone) and Clockwork Angels. The official Kickstarter campaign page describes the all-ages story much more lucidly than I could hope to, but it centers around a young girl named Pandora Orange who fails at vampirism and decides to create comics instead. Imagine the fame and fortune to be had if only she could learn to juggle both, but suffice it to say hijinks will ensue with a colorful cast of characters and none of the doom or gloom that permeate 90% of what’s on comic shop shelves today.

With only five frantic days until the Dreaded Deadline Doom, the campaign has amassed a little over 25% of its funding goal. To sweeten the pot above and beyond the generous rewards Hernandez has already offered, one of my longtime favorite comics writers, Kurt Busiek (creator of things I’ve really truly liked such as Astro City, Thunderbolts, and The Liberty Project, in addition to splendid Marvel works such as Marvels and Untold Tales of Spider-Man) has now stated for the record that if the reading public makes The Garlicks a reality, he will personally ingest one (1) bug. No details have been forthcoming regarding species, condiments, or broadcast rights to this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Here’s that link one more time if you’d love to see Kurt Busiek, co-creator of Marvel’s Triathlon and one-time writer of Night Thrasher, to ingest an insect for art’s sake. Better yet, if you have a friend of a friend who happens to be a trust-fund-raised one-percenter with a million dollars just lying around, do the medium a favor and persuade them to help bring Pandora Orange to life and give current Kickstarter comics-projects record-holder Rich Burlew a run for his title!

(Please be warned: if this project is unsuccessful, I hear Sarah McLachlan will record a depressing, doe-eyed new TV commercial in support of bug adoption charities. No one wants to see that, now do they?)

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Department of Full Disclosure:

1. I’ve been an official Supporter of The Garlicks since before the threat of bug-eating made it cool. I’ve become a modest Kickstarter junkie over the past several months, donating here and there to several different projects varying in quality from very-promising to obviously-awesome-even-before-completion. I could quit the habit anytime I wanted if talented people would stop using it.

2. I still cherish the warm memory of a 1999 Usenet incident in which Hernandez and I wound up on the same side in a heated debate over whether or not strollers should be permitted at conventions. Good times.

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