Kickstart From The Heart – Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Bleeding Cool’s Kickstarter Correspondent, Shawn Demumbrum has lead three Kickstarter campaigns to launch comic books, two successfully funded and one that wasn’t.  Each week he will point out some of the unique Kickstarter projects that wouldn’t normally be published by the big comic book companies, but deserve your attention.  Shawn is the Manager of Comic Book Programming for the Phoenix Comicon.  He is currently working on the fourth “Inspired by” book based upon the Songs of Nine Inch Nails.

k1Today, I talk to the creative team behind the Iron King Kickstarter campaignIron King is the first book in a series of books written by New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa and published by Harlequin Teen.  The book series follows half-human, half-faery Meghan Chase as she fights to claim her magical birthright.  It incorporates elements of fantasy and romance.  Darren Davis of Bluewater Productions read them and reached out to Julie to see if see would she would consider having her work adapted into comic book form.  While Bluewater doesn’t have the best reputation among creators, running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a project to be able to ensure that the artists get paid makes sense especially if they want to attract talented artists.  My interview with Darren Davis of Bluewater Productions focused on a comment he made regarding Top Cow and Kickstarter in an interview with while talking about the Iron King Kickstarter campaign.

k2In your interview with, you state you don’t understand why a full funded comic book company like Top Cow would turn to Kickstarter.  Bluewater is hardly a tiny comic book company.  I would argue that in terms of production and organization that Bluewater is comparable to Top Cow as a separate company.  I think you brushed off what could have been a serious question about the business of comic books.

Do you top comic companies squeezing out small press creators on Kickstarter or is Kickstarter the great equalizer?

100% – I think it is odd for big companies to do this. I think that Bluewater is on the verge of it not being okay.  It is really meant for passion projects to support the arts.  The only reason we are doing this project, is because it is a huge project for Bluewater to tackle and could not do it justice without doing Kickstarter.

Do you see Kickstarter replacing the pitch process?

With the world changing and publishers are not needed as much – look at 50 Shades of Grey being an ebook without a publisher.  Then it got a publishing deal.  The world is not the same anymore.  It will give talented people a fair advantage in the mainstream market.  Amazon, iTunes and print on demand have made it easy for people to self publish. My only advice – have a good logo!

Is Kickstarter going to be part of Bluewater’s ongoing business plan to be able to attract creative talent and be able to pay for that talent?

Not at all.  I do not see Bluewater doing a lot of campaigns.  Not only are they hard work (which people do not realize) but also they should be more for the independent creators.

A lot of Kickstarter creators don’t have knowledge or experience to distribute a comic nationally.  Have or to you plan to recruit proven Kickstarter projects under your Bluewater label?

Nope!  We only do our own creator owned projects, unless the people work with us and then we do theirs.  We are not looking to get into that world. That is more what Image Comics is for – they are a great place for good projects like this.

Next, I spoke with spoke with Julie Kagawa about he involved in the Kickstarter campaign.  She is featured in the Kickstarter campaign video, provides some unique rewards to the campaign and has called on her fanbase to spread the word about the campaign.

In the Kickstarter video, you mentioned that you always wanted to see Iron King in comic book form.  What about the story lends itself to sequential art?  

That’s an easy one :) The vibrant fantastical world lends itself to such a visually stimulating backdrop that comic books are a perfect medium for adaptations. Unlike films, which can be amazing, there are no budget differences between a fantastical comic story and a small grounded story, so we can operate on a grand scale.

k3What has been the level of collaboration between you and Bluewater?  Have you had a lot of control over how the novel was translated into comic book form and artistic choices made?

Bluewater has been great. They’ve brought an amazing artist on board in Frederico DeLuca and I can’t wait to see the pages he’ll be turning in issue by issue. I love being involved in the process and seeing all of my characters come to life in a whole new way.

Translating novels has been done for a long time since at least Classic Illustrated in the 1940s.  They always seemed like abridged versions of the original versions.  Were there any portions of Iron King that had to be edited out for the sake of brevity that you wished could have been kept n?  Were there things that you were able to add or change in the comic that allowed it to be it’s own separate work?

That will undoubtedly happen, but in some cases things may be expanded upon more if it makes sense. I’m not opposed to making tweaks necessary to fit the medium, but they’re staying extremely faithful to the material.

For the books, you’ve used an illustrator with a Manga style, but the comic book version has more of a more traditional comic book art style. Was that an artistic choice or a marketing choice?

To be honest, both. I love Manga but it’s a small sect of the comic book reading public. So we made the decision to go with a style that is still graceful and retains the energy of Manga, but also appeals to a wider audience.

I’ve seen lots of mention of your Kickstarter through blogs, but very little in more traditional press including comic book press.  Has it been a challenge to get the word out?  Do you think your traditional readers will follow the story into the comic book world or are they a separate and distinct audience?

That’s the eternal question, eh? Perhaps the tricky part is that the comic book press is derived from the more superhero type of fair. We’ve sent out press to the comic book press big and small, to the book industry press, private blogs, social media, and major PR newswires.

The Iron King has a large female, and younger audience. Despite the comic book industry making huge leaps in gaining more female readers, maybe there’s a stigma with teen novel fair? I don’t know. I love comics and think that this is one of the most diverse times in the industry with some of the best material, so we’ll never know for sure.

I had a reader comment last week that he will not pledge to a Kickstarter campaign that doesn’t seem to have a chance of succeeding.  With less than 7 days to go you have raised less than 20% in pledges, which seems like a huge challenge.  I’ve seen lesser know creators raise more money than that in a smaller amount of time though.  What would you tell comic book fans who are sitting on the fence about your project to get them to back your Kickstarter campaign?

That we’re very serious about this project and if you’re a fan of the Iron King, or most any kind of fantasy genre, you’re going to love it. At least we’ll make darn sure that we try our best that you do!

Finally, I was able to talk to Iron King artist Federico DeLuca.  My questions focused on the art side of the project and what he would bring to the project.  His Iron King cover and character designs can be seen in the Kickstarter campaign project description.

How closely did you work with the author Julie Kagawa to bring her characters to life?

So far we’ve been working mainly on the character design and each working step was subject to indications and approval from Julie. It was really nice because, even though it’s important to be faithful to the characters, she’s always open to confrontation with new points of view.

What artistic influences are you bringing to Iron Fey?

I love the great classics of the fantasy literature, and for this reason my visual imagery is inspired by that world. I will certainly try to work on the visual impact in order to recreate the epic and fabulous world of Iron Fey. There are so many strong visual suggestions, and it will be fun to translate them into images.

What are the challenges of translating the details of a novel into a comic book from an artistic perspective?

It’s always an enjoyable challenge. From my point of view, the difficult part is finding the right balance between maintaining the original feelings of the text and the need to adapt it to an appropriate language for a graphic novel, which is obviously different from a book. We have to draw for fans who already have their own visual ideas of the story… We oughtn’t avoid this confrontation.

How is your artistic approach on Iron Fey different from your work on Dorian Gray?

I was lucky to be involved in these two projects. With Dorian I had the chance to approach the world of the great classics of the gothic literature, and with Iron Fey now I can dive into the world of fantasy. I couldn’t ask for more!

Since the beginning of Dorian I introduced noticeable changes to my style and I believe they adapt very well to this project too. Of course here I had to add some other minor modifications, to meet different needs, but as I said before we ought to confront with the idea fans have of these characters… so I didn’t start from nothing. It’s a nice challenge!

I want to thank Darren, Julie and Federico for taking the time to answer my questions, while $32,000 is a lot to raise in less than a week; lots of projects have done more in less time.  I wish them well.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

twitter   facebook square   globe