Comics, Comics, and Art that Speaks Directly to the Audience

Brendan Wright writes:

Cover art from SBI’s Starburns Presents FCBD issue by Troy Nixey and Mike Spicer

Comics has been incredibly good to me.

Next weekend, I’ll have been being paid to make comics for 10 years, and in a business that’s as hard to stay in as it is to break into, I’ve had the good fortune to be hired by a few publishers and make a living as a freelancer in between.

But as unlikely as it is to get paid to have your dream job, it requires an even greater threading of the needle to fund your own dream project, which is why Starburns Industries Press and I have turned to Kickstarter to make one of the most ambitious projects of my career come to life.

I’ve been talking to people about Comics Comics in some form or another for years.

The germ of it came from the years when I’d attend both Portland’s Stumptown Comics Fest and Bridgetown Comedy Fest on the same weekend, sneaking away from the con afterparties to spots like Bar of the Gods, where I sat on a cigarette machine at a standing-room-only performance by Marc Maron, the stage covered with umbrellas as the roof leaked water dangerously close to the amp setup.

Afterwards, there were late-night open mics at Tanker, where comedians in town for the festival were coaxed on stage one by one and talked about whatever was on their minds. After several told stories about things that had happened with other comedians that weekend, often people they’d just met, I realized that this was the stand-up world’s version of a convention.

Take away the stage, and the scene in and around the bar wasn’t all that different from any after a comic con. Like comic books, stand-up is an outsider form made by misfit artists who pull joy out of the messed-up parts of themselves. Unlike when you go to a multiplex or turn on the TV or even attend live theater, stand-up comedy is direct, real, and unpredictable. Live stand-up is essentially the indie comics of the entertainment industry: people speaking directly to an audience with no outside filter.

Panels from “Real Life World’s Finest,” by Patton Oswalt, Troy Nixey, and Michelle Madsen

Comics Comics comes from wondering, if stand-up can remind me of comics, maybe the opposite could be possible: comics that give readers an experience like stand-up comedy, offering talented comedians the chance to talk in the same unfiltered way they might on stage, without the development hell or studio notes of writing for TV, movies, or even corporate superhero comics.

One of the amazing things about Kickstarter is that it allows you to keep that no-gatekeeper ethos and still raise the budget you need to bring in a lot of great talent and get it to the world. For an upstart publisher like SBI Press, Kickstarter is turning Comics Comics from a dream into a real book.

Issue #1’s Patton Oswalt and Jackie Kashian, issue #2’s Quinta Brunson and Paul Scheer

We’ve also tried to recreate the mix of familiarity and discovery an audience gets from a night out at the comedy club, where a favorite headliner is accompanied by a sort-of familiar opening act and a new-to-you local host. And so we approached Netflix special headliners like Patton Oswald (Annihilation, MST3K), nerd heroes like Jackie Kashian (The Dork Forest), festival favorites like Rose Matafeo (whose Horndog is, as I write this, up for Best Show at Edinburgh’s Fringe Fest), stand-up escapees who still live the life like Sara Benincasa (Real Artists Have Day Jobs) and Eliot Rahal (New Comic Book Day), and cartoonists-turned-comedians like Carolyn Main (Pitch, Please!).

They had free reign to write anything — Patton’s wanted to do his story for 20 years! Kickstarter makes that possible.

On the other side of the equation, comics have a long tradition with humor, but that’s been deemphasized in the mainstream, much to the dismay of very funny cartoonists everywhere. As I talked with artists about comedy, many revealed themselves as comedy nerds, and several were friends with household-name comedians.

As the project came together, comedians had artists they wanted to work with, but just as often, cartoonists had stand-up friends they wanted to bring onto the series. We have all-time funny cartoonists like Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese) and Troy Nixey (Vinegar Teeth), versatile master draftsmen who move in the comedy world like Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), world-class caricaturists like Richard P. Clark (HBO), and the vanguard of the next generation of funny comickers, online and off, like Sarah Burrini (Nerd Girl) and Tania Del Rio (Marvel: What Now?!).

Panel from “Unlikely Patriot,” by Jackie Kashian, Sarah Burrini, M. Victoria Robado, and Sal Cipriano

Kickstarter makes that possible too. And it lets us make not just a regular comic but also some beautiful objects, the sort of things a traditional publisher would say no to, but readers can say yes to:

A gorgeous hardcover edition, homaging Fantastic Four #1 with our featured comedians. I want to do a slipcase for these once we hit issue #4.

An underground “Comix Comix” edition, honoring our alternative comics roots with a black-and-white cover and a Tijuana Bible written by Starburns’ own Dino Stamatopoulos (Community).

Not to mention prints, a sampler pack of our other comics, custom drawings and Funko Pops of our comedians, and the chance to get drawn into a story, plus retailer tiers for the standard edition and hardcover.

This truly is a dream project, and I can’t wait to share our little comedy club on paper with you, but we need just a little more help from you to make it happen.

The Comics Comics #1 Kickstarter runs through midnight September 20. Please consider backing us, and you can follow the book’s progress on Facebook.

Kickstarter-exclusive hardcover art by Richard P. Clark
“Real-Life World’s Finest,” by Patton Oswalt, Troy Nixey, and Michelle Madsen
“Unlikely Patriot,” by Jackie Kashian, Sarah Burrini, M. Victoria Robado, and Sal Cipriano
“Poop Knife”, by Carolyn Main and Crank!

About Rich Johnston

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

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