The comic book industry has been on a decline over the last few years and people that are well-informed about the industry will understand why: the decline in sales, multiple comic shops across the United States closing and the decrease in quality in Marvel, DC and Image Comics are just some of the distinctive factors that have led a lot of longtime fans to worry about the future of one of their favorite hobbies and interests.
There’s a perception within a section of the industry that this decline was and is inevitable and that comic books have become an outdated business that can no longer be commercially viable for professionals that want to make a career in it. But just like with any other business, if you don’t adapt, you’ll die and there’s certain reluctance by the big players in the industry (Marvel and DC) to make the changes necessary to succeed.
One of the biggest funding crazes in recent times has been the rise of crowdfunding, which has proven to be a very helpful tool for comic book creators to deliver independent comic books to their readers and having a more profitable business model.
Crowdfunding has been established as a request by the creator in question to finance his or her work and then the creator will deliver the finished work to those individuals that backed it. The creator sets a monetary (they can go well beyond that, of course) and they have a certain amount of time to accomplish that goal through a promotional campaign. The creator receives the money to make their project (in this case, a comic book) and they use these resources to finish the project and to deliver it their backers, with the possibility of making a profit in the process and even finance their next project or just enjoy their well-earned money.
This all may seem daunting at first–after all, you may want to start your own comic book through crowdfunding and think that this sounds too good to be true. Well, here we are going to show you a few successful comic books in the industry that were financed through crowdfunding so you can judge for yourself:
Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney by Ethan Van Sciver.
Credit to Ethan Van Sciver.
If you have been reading comic books for a decade or so, Ethan Van Sciver is a name you’re probably familiar with. He has drawn in some of DC’s best titles, such as Flash: Rebirth, Impulse, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, a Flash run with Geoff Johns and DC Rebirth, plus a great New X-Men run with writer Grant Morrison at Marvel in the early 2000s. He left DC in 2018, and has taken a central role as a YouTuber and started a crowdfunding campaign for a character he created and published in the mid-90s, Cyberfrog.
Van Sciver is part of the ComicsGate movement, which was created as a response to the dire situation in the comic book industry in the past few years and has been a big voice about how crowdfunding can be the next step for creators and comics to be commercially viable once again. He has the facts to prove it: his graphic novel with talented colorist Kyle Ritter, Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney, has raised over $840,000 in three campaigns in the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and it’s the comic that has amassed more money through this medium.
His reputation as one of DC’s finest artists in this century, plus a strong presence on YouTube and Twitter, has allowed for Van Sciver’s upcoming graphic novel to be a massive success.
Earthworm Jim: Launch the Cow by Doug TenNapel.
Credit to Doug TenNapel.
If you were a kid in the 90s, you probably played the Earthworm Jim videogame that was launched in 1994. So when his creator, Doug TenNapel, made a crowdfunding campaign for a comic book about this character, then you can imagine how it went: it made over $100,000 in a single day and, as we speak, it has over $240,000 with more than 40 days to go in his campaign.
It’s easy to understand TenNapel’s success: he has contributed to entertainment in multiple platforms and he already has the success of his past comic book crowdfunding campaign, Bigfoot Bill, so Earthworm Jim: Launch the Cow is poised to become a major hit in this particular medium.
Jawbreakers by Richard C. Meyer.
Credit to Richard C. Meyer
If by this point in this article you think that you need more than 20 years of experience at DC like Van Sciver or a videogame hit like TenNapel to succeed with crowdfunding, then Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers comic is the success story that you need to read.
Meyer was a longtime comic book reader that started his own YouTube channel, which started as Diversity and Comics and later on became Comics Matter With Ya Boi Zack, where he reviews multiple different styles of comics and where he has been quite critical of the current state of the industry.
Aligned with ComicsGate, Meyer built a following on YouTube and this became his platform to promote his own comic, an action blockbuster called Jawbreakers: Lost Souls. While he has done other successful crowdfunding campaigns for other books of his such as Iron Sights, Jawbreakers: Lost Souls is his biggest hit, amassing more than $400,000, combined with $50,000 he made through a second reprint of the title, which he called “Remastered”.
Meyer hasn’t been without opposition, as he has been part of a controversy following his lawsuit to writer Mark Waid, who, according to Meyer, blocked his contract with Antarctic Press to promote his comics. The lawsuit is yet to be concluded.
Lonestar by Mike S. Miller.
Credit to Mike S. Miller.
Mike S. Miller is an interesting case because he falls a bit in between of Van Sciver and TenNapel’s success and Meyer’s. While he has been working in the comic book industry since 1992, the Hawaii-born artist wasn’t as well-known as Van Sciver, so the success of his creation Lonestar, a patriotic soldier in the vein of the best era of Captain America, has been a very pleasant surprise for the industry.
Miller worked his way to a successful campaign by multiple marketing strategies, such as having a very active YouTube channel, positive interactions on social media, email marketing, promotion through conventions and also using some of the connections he made throughout his years in the industry, thus making Lonestar a very solid title that already had a few successful campaigns on Indiegogo and even got the support of political commentator Ben Shapiro.
You can do this!
I just mentioned four examples, but there are many creators out there that have been able to make their work much more commercially viable through crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and they have enjoyed the creative freedom of doing creator-owned work. For some of you that may want to break into the industry, much like Meyer, this is a pretty good opportunity for you: you can build your audience from the ground up through constant promotion, creating a following and overall getting your work out there by following the examples of some of these creators.
Yes, the comic book industry as we know it is very likely to change forever if the big companies don’t want to make the necessary changes, but if you want to work in this business, you cannot wait for others and if you work hard and you put your heart into it, then you’re going to show how bright this new path can be for the industry.
Regardless of your background, regardless of your beliefs, if you love this art form and want to make a living off this, then this might be the best choice for you in the long run.