I got the opportunity to sit down with Josh Dahl (Rapid City Below Zero) and Johnny C (Sartana, Surrounded by Death) last week. Both of these indie comic creators were gracious enough to let me ask them questions about their craft and about the work they do to get their stories out there. One of the big messages I took away from our chat was that being an indie comic creator is a constant grind. It’s crucial to get your name out there and have your story available for readers. These guys work so hard and are doing a great job creating a Boston area indie comics scene. I’m excited to see what they do next and make sure to check out some of our conversation below!
Christopher Moore/Screening Club (SC)
Johnny C (JC)
Josh Dahl (JD)
SC: Thank you both for coming out to meet me.
JC: Well thanks for giving us indie guys some attention!
JD: We really appreciate it.
SC: Let’s actually start off with a question for you (JD). I know that you had worked with Kickstarter, can you give some of your general thoughts on working with them?
JD: Kickstarer has been really great. Kickstarter absolutely works, it is a benefit to the fans and creators but it is really, really hard. It’s not free money, it’s not easy money, and as the money gets bigger the works gets bigger. So a lot of people crash a burn because they kinda think they can step in and grab a bunch of money. That’s theoretically possible. If you had a super great concept that was super easy to sell and you didn’t need to do much to deliver, you could cash out pretty big. As it is, it’s a great way to built an audience; it’s a great way to reward your audience for being your audience.
Apart from, no fault of their own, seeming simple but being deceptively challenging, I have no complaint about Kickstarter. They way they run it is great, it’s super easy. You could launch a Kickstarter from this table right now if you had the right idea. The only negatives that come out of it is when people don’t put the work into it or understand how it works.
SC: Ya because your backers really trust you to deliver on what you’re promising.
JD: Yes, and you have to go get those backers. When I did my last Kickstarter, I purposefully set it to end at 8pm on a Thursday. Which is a time when everyone is home and in those last two hours I just sat on my Facebook. People would come up to me and I’d be like “no, no, no, get away!” I’d be on messenger like “45 minutes left, can I get another dollar?” I got a lot of money doing that. Its fun getting involved in something and people see how hard I’m working, its not just begging for money from my friends. There is a little bit of robo-text I have copy and pasted, but they know my ass is on the other end of that computer.
JC: He actually did something innovative for his Kickstarter too. He kickstarted for a single page of his book.
SC: Oh wow.
JC: Most people when they have their project they go for the full book. “I need 8 grand for this story all said and done.” What he ended up doing was over exceeding each one. He can describe it better than I could but he blew all expectations out of the water.
JD: Right well that was sort of the plan, to have really low goals and really low rewards. I didn’t quite get burned the last time I did it but having big complicated rewards was a lot more work than I had planned and it makes it all less rewarding. So I thought really small goals and really small rewards. Keep it micro. The only thing I ran up against is that Kickstarter isn’t really built for that. It’s built for one goal and stretch goals, so I make each additional page a stretch goals. But it didn’t quite launch, so I had the bad idea to do a separate launch for each additional page, but that would just piss people off. It didn’t work 100 percent but it was pretty good. I got a lot of pages funded.
SC: It’s also uncharted territory.
JD: People talk about it, so stuff gets out there.
JC: If you’re going to do it for every page you get into this weird cycle of being beholden to Kickstarter for each page you do. You also have to think about your backers as a good percentage of them being family and friends who really don’t care about the project; they care about you as the individual. He’s got this project he’s working on and I’m going to support him, you know? So there is a good portion of that and you want to make sure you offset that with people that are genuinely interested in the project. That’s where you find your new fan base.
SC: (To Johnny) You seem like you know a lot about Kickstarter but I know you’ve gone down different directions with your books. Have you ever thought about doing a Kickstarter?
JC: So I’ve gone different ways before personally, I’ve launched t-shirt campaigns before.
SC: Oh wow, that’s awesome.
JC: Ya so completely unrelated t-shirts to fund lettering or different portions of the book. That way, if you really like the t-shirt then you’re getting a cool product that is also funding an independent comic book. So it’s not like asking for money for the book in advance, you’re selling a product in support of another product. I have a few designs online, one you may have seen is the old 60’s Adam West Batman logo but it says “Batfleck”. There is a generic one floating around that is literally just a copy and paste of the Batman face. The one that I designed that’s mine actually has Ben Affleck’s features. So its got the douchy smirk, the butt-chin and the 5 o’clock shadow that makes Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck. Hence, the “Batfleck”. I also have another mashup shirt that is Nux from Mad Max. You know the “Valhalla!”
SC: Ya (Chris does the mouth spray-paint motion)
JC: Ya the spray-paint. It’s him mixed with curly from the three stooges. So it says “we live, we die, and we do it all over again! Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!” And his two tumors are Moe and Larry. That’s a great shirt and people who buy that will know that they are funding an indie comic book.
SC: And you are also tapping into a whole audience of people that just like that shirt and might not even care about the comic.
JC: Exactly, so I don’t have to worry about them buying the book.