Nina Miloš writes,
Imagine Incredible is a newly founded comic book studio from Novi Sad, Serbia, dedicated to the creation of original comic books. In March 2017 the studio took its flagship comic book Lightstep Chronicles to Kickstarter, meant as an introduction to a broader overarching narrative. This is the story of an anonymous up-and-coming studio and its attempt to bring an entire new universe to life.
Every single one of us had a brilliant idea for a story once. It doesn’t matter if you’re a comic book fan, a professional writer, an amateur, or just a dreamer. We’ve all felt the spark, the illumination, and we have seen a new story unwrapping before our very own eyes.
So did we, a gang of comic fans, writers and artists, friends and colleagues at Imagine Incredible. We also thought our idea is good, but we encountered a major problem… The story was so big to tell, a narrative so rich that we immediately realized we could never pack it into one comic or one novel.
Makings of a universe
As lifelong comic book fans and general geeks, we always had a soft spot for expansive, ambitious stories that didn’t go for a one punch knockout, but rather built entire worlds to inhabit and explore, worlds in which single puzzle pieces fit into a broader canvas, where everything was connected and every event impacted others.
With the current state of the comic book industry, we felt that the world desperately needed some ambition and flare, some good old-fashioned grandeur.
We started with an old idea our artist friend Miloš Slavković had. Imagine a world where the elites control the time itself, a world where time relativity isn’t just a theory, a fact of nature, but rather a powerful weapon of control. Then enrich this world with unique and outlandish Sci-Fi design, add a few interesting characters, plot their destinies and personal stories, and you get a backbone of what will become Lightstep Chronicles.
Our baby is growing
After giving our baby a name and a few faces, we started sketching a plot for one short comic series. It didn’t work out! We realized we don’t have just one story to tell, we got an entire Universe! We envisioned a world filled with parallel and intertwined narratives, joining together to form a full blown space epic. Many of these narratives, even in their earliest stages, clearly didn’t fit a single storyline, some not even the same medium.
It was easy to see these stories weaving their way into comics, novels, video games, or cartoons. In fact, it was the only right way to do this universe justice.
As luck would have it, we knew people with the skills and the desire to make this crazy, ambitious idea of a cross-media universe. The seductive power of its stories was so great that you just had to dream big, to imagine incredible.
Still, there were some minor obstacles to overcome. For all our plans and vision, there was no escaping the fact that we were just no name geeks from a weird country, with no contacts, no experience, no distribution, and no major financial resources necessary for such an endeavor.
Obviously, we couldn’t do it all at once, but we had to start somewhere. Aside from being our primary and preferred medium, comic books are also, quite conveniently, the least demanding to produce. Therefore, Lightstep Chronicles: the comic book became the focal point of the future universe.
The introduction to our universe needed to be spectacular, and Miloš Slavković rose to the challenge. The first look at his Art Deco inspired settings nearly took our breath away, and his unique combination of European style artwork combined with the American sense of dynamics and action was unlike anything we have ever seen, which was precisely what we wanted.
Once the first episode was completed, we printed out a few copies and took them to the New York Comic Con, which we visited in full guerilla mode. The goal was to hopefully generate some interest for our work, but, more importantly, to gather some feedback and see whether this crazy idea had any legs.
We managed to showcase Lightstep Chronicles to a number of well established comic book creators, and the overall response was positive enough that we got back home and convinced another friend, writer Ivan Branković, to write a prequel novel!
We even got a few big names to publicly endorse our comic book, people like Steven Erikson, the author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Artem Gabrelyanov, the founder of Bubble Comics, Russia’s biggest comic book publisher.
Reaffirmed by the reception, we went back to working on the comic book, while simultaneously plotting a way to get it to the public. The initial comic book was designed as a five-episode story arc, which we wanted to put out in its integral version. For a variety of reasons, Kickstarter presented itself as the most logical option.
The public court
Obviously, the chance to directly fund the production played a big part in our choice, but it was also a platform that allowed us to introduce our work to our people – comic book enthusiasts and story lovers. Kickstarter provided us with instant feedback and market validation, as well as the opportunity to generate some buzz and hopefully draw some attention to the broader picture.
The publication of the Lightstep Chronicles was never the ultimate goal, but only the first chapter in the story of our universe. And while we do feel that it is a brilliant work of art that can stand on its own regardless of the broader context, it was essentially meant as a hook to lure readers into this entire world we wanted to create.
Kickstarter, to continue the analogy, was our fishing pond, and if our idea was truly as good as we thought it was, and if we did our job well, the end result would not just be a successful campaign, but also a significant base of readers hungry for more.
How did it turn out?
As we’re writing this, our campaign is down to its final 48 hours. It is fully funded, but not as comfortably as we hoped it would be. The stats show that a high percentage of people who came to our page eventually chose to back the project, and the commentary has been overwhelmingly positive. All of this leads us to believe that our product is good.
On the other hand, we have failed to bring a truly significant number of people to the project. Battling for the media coverage and the public’s attention is a grueling task, doubly so if you’re an absolute beginner without any major references in your resume. Mind you, we did our legwork. We did extensive research, contacted every relevant media outlet (and many irrelevant ones), posted in every Facebook group, every forum thread and every dark and obscure corner of the internet that ever uttered the word “comics”, and reached out to anyone with even the slightest sphere of influence. We also made a highly unconventional promo video which we thought would draw a few pairs of eyes to our campaign. Still, attracting publicity turned out to be an uphill battle where rejection is the norm and successes are few and far between.
With our campaign ticking down to its final hours, it’s safe to say that our universe wasn’t exactly welcomed with a red carpet and rose petals. We are forced to face the fact that the Big Bang won’t happen overnight.
We will take this victory, however, and we will do our best to build on it. The first chapter of the story is almost wrapped up, but there are many more to come. Other episodes, other comics, other media.
In the coming months we will focus on finishing the comic book and bringing it to the readers. The prequel novel, Uncommoner’s Gene, is already completed (you can read the first two chapters on the link), and we feel that there are a few more exciting novels in the story. We have also done some early development of a video game based on the comic book with our friends and partners at Eipix Entertainment, an established Serbian game development company that firmly believes in our project, and we will continue to explore other ways of expanding the story of our universe.
The first battle has been won. We have made the first step and got the ball rolling, and now it is up to us to keep it going. We will continue to chip away at the walls of the media fortress and spread the gospel of the Lightstep worlds to anyone willing to listen. Most importantly, we will continue to imagine incredible.
Stay tuned! The best is yet to come, especially if we can count on your support!
The Imagine Incredible team