[column] Funding Comic Book Projects on eBay

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the Maestro

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Nov 29, 2002, 2:12:45 PM11/29/02
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Look What My Wretched Brain Made Me Do
by Maestro Takatak, the Cosmic Buffalo

"Funding Comics Book Projects on eBay"

I'm a huge "Nexus" fan. It's my all-time favorite comic book series.
Moreover, it's on the short list of my all-time favorite stories from
any storytelling medium. Created by Mike Baron (writer) and Steve
"the Dude" Rude (artist), it is a masterpiece of fiction.
Unfortunately, it's a masterpiece that's been without a publisher
since 1997.

The impression that I get from various interviews (and occasional
emails) from either Baron or Rude is that they're both more than
willing to jump back into work on the Nexus comic at a moment's notice
. . . just as soon as they've got a publisher willing to pay the
bills.

Well, . . . a couple of weeks ago I found the newest installment of
DUDE NEWS (the e-mail newsletter of Steve "the Dude" Rude) when I went
to check my e-mail. The newsletter talks about upcoming art projects,
it talks about original art he's getting back from various publishers
soon which he'll then put on eBay, and so on and so forth. The
newsletter also includes these horrible, horrible words. "He has no
plans at this time to start up Nexus again."

That information did nothing to brighten my day.

I'd already been toying around with ideas for alternate means of
getting comic books published. In fact, this topic was among the
first to go on the "must write" list when I first decided to start up
the column. I wanted to find a good way to get a comic published
without the need for a traditional publisher, and I wanted to then
shove that idea in the faces of Baron and Rude and say, "Here, do
this!" And, I suppose that now is as good a time as any.

First off, we need to look at a few of the elements that have guided
my thinking in this area.

The Dude, like most comic artists nowadays, sells the original art he
draws for the comic page to collectors after the comic has been
printed. He also does sketches for fans at cons for a small fee. (I
myself am the proud owner of an original Steve "the Dude" Rude sketch
of Otis, the plush aardvark Nexus.)

There's been talk of a Nexus animated series for quite some time now.
So far, none of the interested studios have pursued the project all
the way to completion. Recently, the Dude instigated a fundraiser on
eBay to put together an animated Nexus clip that can then be shopped
around to studios, in the hopes of getting the animated project
rolling again. The fundraiser consisted of the Dude putting up 50
sketches-to-be for auction. The 50 winning bidders then sent in their
payment, along with the name of the Nexus character they wanted to be
in that sketch.

And the non-comic element of inspiration that stuck in my mind . . .
there are currently about a zillion people in the role-playing game
industry (some of whom were laid-off from industry giant Wizards of
the Coast) who are producing Dungeons & Dragons compatible product
available online in PDF (portable document file) format as a form of
electronic self-publishing without all those nasty printing costs.

So here's my bright idea: Baron and Rude should go the electronic
self-publishing route, and put Nexus out as an internet comic. Fans
of Nexus who read the previous sentence are no doubt thinking, "Hey,
that's a great idea!" Baron and Rude, reading that same line, are
probably thinking, "Hey, we have to work for a living! We can't
afford to produce Nexus for free." But I never said anything about
them working for free.

When it was published by Dark Horse, Nexus primarily existed as a
series of individual four issue mini-serieses. 24 pages an issue, or
96 pages per series. Published online, you don't really need to
conform to the standard size for printed comics, but let's figure a
new Nexus story will run 100 pages. So, Baron and Rude figure out
what story they want to tell, and then Baron writes up a script (or
scripts) for 100 comic pages. (Broken up into four 25-page chapters,
or ten 10-page chapters, or one long breakless story, or whatever.)
Call it the equivalent of four normal comic book scripts. Then they
do a little math. Take a dollar amount equal to what Baron usually
gets paid for a full length comic book script, multiply by four
(issues), divide by 100 (pages). Then add a dollar amount equal to
the Dude's page rate to that number, and here's our starting bid.
That's right - we fund the production of the comic in another eBay
auction.

When the comic is eventually finished, and published on the web, each
page will have a "Sponsored by" tag at the bottom of the page, bearing
the name of the winning bidder for that page. Anytime I read anything
on "the making of Nexus" it mentions the Dude producing "thumbnail"
breakdowns of each page before moving onto drawing the finished page.
But for this project, he'd need to have his usual thumbnails a little
bit bigger . . . say, a sketch of the page-to-be on 8.5 x 11 paper
(giant thumbnail!). So every die-hard Nexus fan places his or her bid
to sponsor a page from the new series, and to own the giant thumbnail
for the page he or she sponsored. The 100 winning bids are arranged
in chronological order of bidding, with the earliest-placed winning
bid sponsoring page #1, the next earliest sponsoring page #2, and so
on.

Now we come to the incentive for bidding high dollar amounts. If the
winning bids go high enough, each successful bidder also wins the
actual finished art page that their bid sponsored. It's the ultimate
package for a die-hard Nexus fan. Sponsorship of a new Nexus story,
and a piece of original Steve "the Dude" Rude comic art, suitable for
framing.

And, if I were Baron and Rude, in addition to putting the comic up on
a website, I'd also produce a limited edition CD-ROM of the comic,
loaded with extras. Like a copy of Baron's script for the book, along
with sketchbook pages of character design and whatnot that the Dude
used to fine-tune the look of the story. Maybe even a
DVD-commentary-like discussion between Baron and Rude about how the
story progressed from concept to finished product. Burn 1100 copies
of the thing, giving a copy each to the 100 sponsors, and selling the
remaining 1000 on the website. (1101 copies - since I'm too poor to
sponsor a page, they should send me a copy, just because.)

It would be great if this actually happened. Not just because it
would finally give us a new Nexus story (although, that's reason
enough in my book), but because it's something unusual for the comic
book industry to chew on. The comic press can discuss the project
(thus advertising the fundraiser, or sponsorship drive, or whatever
they call it) for a couple of months before the auction. The fans on
the net can talk about how the project will save or ruin the industry.
Having a solid property like Nexus go the electronic
self-published/webcomic route will help to further legitimize the
concept of online comics. Plus, it will help to expose Nexus to a
larger audience, which is always a good thing. It might even attract
an ink-on-paper publisher. (Which can reprint the electronic comic as
a trade paperback, then move on to publishing more Nexus in regular
comic book format.)

So, that's today's column. Here's me, sending it out to my normal
audience. Here's me sending it out also to (and/or shoving it in the
faces of) Baron and Rude. "Here. Do this."

Until my wretched brain makes me do this again,

the Maestro
November 29th, 2002

[This has been "Look What My Wretched Brain Made Me Do", Column #5]

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copyright 2002, MADMAN e-Press

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