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Rooting for the Underdog: A Kickstarter Story

Written by Christian Hoffer on Monday, November 12 2012 and posted in Features

Rooting for the Underdog: A Kickstarter Story

We profile indie comics extraordinaire Ken Eppstein!

Source: Ken's Kickstarter Link

The Kickstarter phenomenon has been going strong for nearly two years now. Whereas before, comics required either a substantial amount of capital to self-publish a book or a willing publisher to print and distribute the book, now all that's needed is a willing fanbase and a strong enough marketing hook to draw in outsiders.

Kickstarter has had a particularly big impact on the comics industry, allowing hundreds of comics to see print that would not otherwise had an opportunity.  While these comics cling to the periphary of the comic world (since they don't feature Wolverine and Batman duking it out in a flashy, substanceless fight), they have certainly added to the depth of the comic book community, allowing the small press scene to blossom and expand rapidly.  

It's not only the small press that's been enjoying the perks of Kickstarter.  In addition to big name creators like Eric Powell, Gail Simone or Paul Jenkins using Kickstarter to self-publish their books, we've even seen publishers like Zenescope and IDW use the platform to give some of their more ambitious projects a jump start on the way to success.

Kickstarter also helped introduce me to Ken Eppstein, a local creator and writer for the site.  I first met Ken about a year and a half ago, at the debut of his first self-published comic, Nix Comics Quarterly.  Nix, like many small press books, isn't like most of the comics you'd find in the local comic book store.  There's no superheroes, no tights, no super-stylized art in any of his books.  Ken's comics are gritty and a bit dark, with a subversive humor about them.  And that's exactly what Ken was going for.

Ken's not inexperienced in the comic book industry, he ran a comic book store in the 1990s, albeit one that doubled as a record store.  He's also not enamored with the way comics have boxed themselves into its current distributing model that only really pushes comics to one type of reader. 

That desire to break comics out of that box became one of the hallmarks of Nix Comics.  Ken set out to make comics that could be sold in both comic book stores and other local retailers, places like record stores, barber shops, niche retail stores and more.  And that's exactly what Ken's done.  

Over the last year and a half, Ken's produced six comics, four "garage rock horror" anthologies, a western, and a book for kids.  These comics can be found at over twenty locations around Columbus.  They're in coffee stores and delis, record stores and craft shops, barber shops and traditional booksellers.  They're also in more than a few comic books stores, too, ranging from Portland to New York to right here in Columbus.

Ken does more than put his comics in sympathetic stores.  Ken's a regular fixture at local art shows, bringing a pop up shop that includes his own comics as well as comics from other local artists and writers.  Ken's one of the biggest believers that Columbus's local scene is right on the cusp of becoming something huge, and he's willing to push the entire scene to get it there.  

Ken has successfully funded five of his projects through Kickstarter and has built up his brand into something special.  He's hired out a plethora of local artists and writers to appear in his books and has paid them all up front for working on his books, something that many small press books can't afford to do.  He's also looking to expand his brand even further and wants to experiment with romance, sci-fi, "true crime" (focusing on the antics of bumbling would-be shoplifters and the like) and tons more. 

Instead of running five or six Kickstarters over the next year to fund his 2013 projects, Ken has decided to make one big ask of $25,000.  Ken's reasoning is a sound one: getting funding out of the way now would allow him to spend more time making and promoting comics.  Kickstarters can be exhausting work, filled with countless emails and pestering friends and family on social media.  While it's an admittedly ambitious goal, Ken's always been ambitious.  After all, he's turned a desire to write comics he'd like to read into a multi-pronged business with a presence in multiple cities.

Ken's still got a long way to go to reach his goal.  As of today, he's about 20% there with just 23 days to go.  In order to succeed, Ken would have to bring in a lot of new followers and fans.  For whatever reason, some of the extended social media support hasn't been there.  Outside of a few, much appreciated tweets by some creators and a blurb on a few news sites, the kickstarter hasn't really been able to find its way to people who are willing to support this. In many ways, this is a swing for the fences. Ken's been met with some half-hearted support and some pessimism that this Kickstarter will not succeed.  

However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.  If you're a fan of homegrown comics, you should support this Kickstarter.  If you think that comics are more than a home for tired superheroes, you should support this Kickstarter.  If you want to see comics appear in more than just niche retail outlets, you should support this Kickstarter. 

If you agree with the things that Ken represents, be sure to spread this article and the link to Ken's Kickstarter campaign. At the very least, give the page a look, he's got all of his past work available to view for free.  Luckily, this isn't a "do or die" sort of thing.  Ken will keep on publishing comics, even if this particular campaign doesn't succeed, and he's always in need of new fans.  With a big enough push, Ken can get back to what he does best: making fun, different comics.  




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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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