Everything I’ve Learned About Producing an Independent Comic (and what I still have to learn)

Two years ago, I had a dream to produce a comic called Edgewater. The story centered around a a society… ugh… beginning a synopsis with the word “society” is the most pretentious sci-fi cliche. I can already hear you snoring.

Edgewater is a small town. Robotic companions are not only the norm, but have infiltrated the sex market (because: of course they would). Sexbots, they are.

The conflict of Edgewater arises when somebody begins “killing” off the sexbots. At the time of writing, I was really interested in how technology affects intimacy and the age-old “body-as-commodity” theme.

It’s touchy subject matter for sure, and really not for everyone’s taste. Combine that with my non-existent experience in comics, the only way to get it produced was for us to put up the money myself. Luckily, I had an artist: Zandria Sturgill. We had worked together on a grotesque children’s book Christmas Follies of the Half Jewish Lobster, so I knew that she had the skills to produce something great, something that didn’t turn away from the subject matter. She agreed to illustrate Edgewater with the proper funding.

Back then, there was a new, invite-only site called Kickstarter, and I decided to give it a try. I made a video, wrote some goofy text and put it up. I hadn’t even written a script yet.

Through some very strange, very serendipitous events, we received all the funding and then some. I can only describe the feeling as “magical”. It was the first time I’ve ever been funded to create anything.

But a lot can change in two years.

(The part where I offer a lot of scatter-brained, sometimes contradictory statements and pass it off as advice)

Beware the Kickstarter

On the whole, I think Kickstarter is a really fantastic site. Incentive-based crowd funding is genius (no matter what the haters say).

But Kickstarter projects require no due dates. This is good for artists, bad for pledgers. Over two years, your priorities shift: you find a real job, you take-on projects with due dates. You lose family members, you gain some. You get married. You change careers. All of these have happened during the course of Edgewater.

The whole idea of strangers funding your work is also a bit daunting and I would probably not do it again. Family and friends are privy to your struggles/victories in life, which only sound like excuses to strangers. It’s an uncomfortable position that creates a lot of anxiety.

It seems really irresponsible to blame kickstarter for not setting stricter boundaries for due dates and artists. I really just want present the mindset/parameters that allow a project to drag on.

Obvious Advice: Don’t take 2 years to complete a project

I love Zandria. She is one of the most talented, outgoing, thoughtful and thoughtful people I’ve met. But we’re different people than we were two years ago. Even if her art says otherwise, Edgewater does not interest her anymore. She’s tired of monochrome. Sexy robots were my thing, not hers…

Were. Even my writing has changed/improved immensely. I’m afraid to look at the original script, fearing that it will be too schlocky, angsty or overtly genre. Robots just don’t hold the appeal that they did for me two years ago.

It’s easy to go back and trace the project’s erosion. Our emails when the project was funded are long, full of numerous links, clips, inspirations and excited language. Now, we communicate through clipped text messages.

Treat your artistic collaborations as professionally as possible.

It’s sad that our friendship has suffered during this whole process, which I know could be alleviated if I was a bigger asshole through the beginning stages of this project, if I took charge as more of a “boss”. People are paying us, after all.

In my opinion, the let’s have a good time attitude rarely produces good art. Negative reinforcement is not productive, but I think conflict can produce some truly impressive stuff.

The part where I mention the comic is nearly done.
After all that: Yes, Edgewater is close to being done. I’m not going to say when, because making promises is another lesson I’ve learned not to do. Despite the bitching, the pressure, the passive-aggressive, bickering emails, I couldn’t be happier to tell you that Zandria is sending me ready-to-print pages. It’s the kind of stuff that makes your hair stand on end. In every panel, I can see her conflict with the art, which (to me at least) holds a very abrasive, kinetic energy which is very fun to look at. We’ve been wallowing in the dark for so long, these images feel like rockets that shoot us into the sun.

I’m excited about Edgewater again.

What you can do to help.

– Write a comment. We’re always fishing for compliments–they make our engine work faster.

– I’m still unsure of how this will get printed. I’ve looked at Ka-Blam and have read pretty mixed reviews. Anyone know of a better printer that will cater to comics?

– In the same vein, what platform do people use now to put comics on tablets? I’ve been impressed with how comics look on tablets and really want to push that. Any info about that would be awesome.

– If you’re a comic publisher, you could buy Edgewater, pay us lots of money for it, and print it on golden plates. I’m not really asking for too much here.


16 thoughts on “Everything I’ve Learned About Producing an Independent Comic (and what I still have to learn)

  1. Been looking forward to this for a long time! I can’t wait to get my copy. Good luck getting it totally completed.

  2. ComiXology is the largest digital comics distributor, but as far as your needs I’d guess Graphic.ly is probably what you want. For print, there’s also Comixpress.

    Better lettering would also go a long way towards making the end product look professional. Crammed-in text screams amateur hour.

    1. Thanks Aaron! Any idea where one finds a letterer? Is that the type of thing people do anymore, or is it done with ‘puters?

  3. I don’t know if you would be interested or not, but when you are finished, I’m sure I can get you into a local comic book shop here and get the book some exposure. I did this for another friend of mine who put out a comic. I happen to be really good friends with the owner of Black Cat Comics and know that he would love what you have to offer.

  4. Despite the hardship, it’s been really interesting to read your updates and watch the project unfold. Edgewater was the first Kickstarter I ever pledged to. I’ve given money to about a dozen projects so far, and I’ve received about 2-3 incentives that were promised since. While it’s made me think twice about giving to projects in the future, I’m still optimistic that one of these days it will rain Christmas on my mailbox with some really awesome works that would never have existed otherwise.

    The pages look awesome, and I have to say I like reading Zandria’s lettering more than a faux computer comic book font. But I don’t know the first thing about lettering, or comics. Can’t wait to see the final product, whenever that may be!

    1. Thanks Jay! I’m with you on the handwritten font… it just looks more dynamic than a standard computer font. I guess I’ll wait until all the pages are in to make a decision.

      I really love the disembodied, floating text on the x-ray-boy page though.

  5. Thanks for the update, and can totally see how delays like this can occur in REAL LIFE. It has been educational to read a little about your journey. Well worth my investment. I love what you have shared here, and look forward to completion whenever it happens. My address has changed since this all started. Please let me know how to best update your records. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Angelica! I can understand how investors (with any project) really care about the end product, but this process-documentation has been a very cathartic extension of my part in the project (even though Zandria’s still doing the brunt of the work).

      And yes! I will certainly get everybody’s updated address when things are ready for shipping. Like us, I assume a lot of our backers have had major changes in their lives over the last two years as well.

      Thanks for keeping in touch!

  6. DUDE. I always love hearing about Edgewater. It’s like a mysterious, alluring experience. I have no idea what the experience will be like, but I’m excited to have it. The hints and little exposures you’ve dropped over the past two years have been like teaser trailers for a movie. And you keep leaking more and more content into the new teasers. It’s awesome.

    If I were a comic publisher, I would totally buy and publish Edgewater. I’d LOVE to make an Edgewater-universe game, with Zas’ handpainted scenes. (Though it sounds like she might not be into it)

    Ryan – thanks for putting it together, and thanks for treating us to info about the project.

    Zas – love you, and your art! Thanks for putting in the time to create it. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

  7. Thanks Nathan! Always great to hear from people who are fans of the process. Thanks for the support!

  8. Ryan do you know Randall Christopher? He is an art teacher in the SD Community colleges and has some comics published (the latest i think was funded by kickstarter). He is super friendly and helpful and frequents Influx. If you know him, talk to him about publishing comics (if you haven’t already). If you don’t, I will suggest (both literally and technologically) you two to become FB friends.

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