Kickstarter gains another unbelievable success story with Jonathan Coulton comic books
Add songwriter Jonathan Coulton and author Greg Pak to the growing list of Kickstarter creative success stories. “Code Monkey Save World,” a comic book based on characters and scenes found in some of the independent folk-rock god’s most popular songs, went live on Kickstarter three weeks ago and quickly blew past not only its original $39,000 goal, but all of its successive stretch goals.
Today, the pair announced a new $250,000 stretch goal… and the payoff is a whole new children’s book. This one’s based on “The Princess Who Saved Herself,” a track Coulton composed for a Haitian relief charity album. Coulton says he wrote the song “because my daughter is obsessed with princesses, so I am forced to think and talk about them a lot. None of them really kick ass as much as I hope my daughter kicks ass when she’s all grown up, so I made up one that does (she ate a whole cake!).”
Visit the project page to hear the original song and read more details about the project. If “Code Monkey Save World” reaches its new $250,000 goal, “The Princess Who Saved Herself” comic will be a free download to everyone who pledged at the $15 level or higher.
I interviewed Coulton and Pak at the launch of their Kickstarter for TechHive.com. I spoke to them again last night about this new stretch goal.
Andy: Congratulations on the successful campaign! There seems to be, um, considerable support for “Code Monkey Save World.” Like, the campaign has nine days left, and the only way your project won’t reach its $39,000 goal is if more than $176,139 of your pledges turns out to have been made sarcastically. So I imagine the pressure’s off.
Greg: Yeah, it’s been a little nuts. Jonathan and I had some serious conversations before we launched about how thrilled we’d be if in the 30 days of the campaign, we got just a little over our initial goal so we could expand the page count a bit. We hit that in our first twelve hours. We are incredibly grateful to all of our amazing backers and thrilled by the way this crazy Kickstarter thing works — as the backing increases, we’re able to keep making the whole package better and better for everyone. Rising tide, lifting boats, et cetera. It’s a beautiful thing.
Jonathan: Yeah, pressure’s off, we’re just going to take all this money to Mexico probably. Of course it’s wonderful to feel this incredible level of support, but there’s quite a bit of work ahead of us, so it’s actually a little scary at the same time. The spreadsheet I’ve been using to keep track of our fulfillment budget is a wonder, and I’m hopeful that it’s accurate, ha ha ha. I sure hope we’re scalable!
AI: How would you and JoCo have proceeded with this whole idea if crowdfunding weren’t possible?
GP: Great question. I honestly don’t know! The glory of crowdfunding is that we can go directly to the people who already on their own have decided to keep track of us by following us on Twitter or signing up for our newsletters. And that enables us to raise enough of the money up front to pay our creative team what they’re worth.
That’s hugely important because a project of this scale is a full time job for the artist. Without crowdfunding, we’d have needed to find another way to scrounge up the dollars for the art team, which would probably have involved trying to cut a deal with a publisher and secure an advance. That’s a great way to proceed for some projects. But crowdfunding was absolutely the right plan for “Code Monkey Save World.” THANK YOU, FOUNDERS AND MAINTAINERS OF KICKSTARTER! Seriously, I’m kind of in love with all of them right now. They’re make dreams come true every day.
And most importantly, thank you to all of our backers! We’ve been blown away by their warmth and enthusiasm and are doing all we can to make the project better and better every step of the way.
JC: We would have put up some of our own money and printed a small number. Maybe we would have convinced someone to distribute it digitally for us, or we could have made PDFs. But more likely, we wouldn’t have done it. The great thing about this is we know exactly what the demand is before we’ve had to invest any of our own money. The whole process becomes extremely efficient.
AI: What convinced you and JoCo to put the stretch goal money into a new project instead of improving the existing offering? You could have added pages, produced special editions, motion comics…
GP: Aha, but we DID improve the main book first! Originally, the “Code Monkey Save World” graphic novel was going to be 60 pages, with 48 story pages. Now it’s 96 pages, with 80 story pages. We’ve also added a two page story by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (of “Action Philosophers” fame) that riffs on Jonathan’s “Mandelbrot Set” song. And our backers hit a crazy stretch goal that’ll allow Jonathan to go back into the studio to record an all new acoustic album featuring the songs that inspired the graphic novel.
So when it came time to decide on our next stretch goal, we figured it was time to go super big.
AI: In retrospect, I suppose you couldn’t have added more enhancements to the original book. Not without binding it in the skins of the last known breeding pair of something.
GP: We discussed sending a capuchin monkey to every backer, but apparently there are laws against that.
JC: Also, I eat the last known breeding pairs of things whenever I can, and the skin is usually the best part. (These kinds of comments are going to move all sorts of comic books. Marketing.)
AI: I was pretty thrilled to hear about the subject of the stretch project: “The Princess Who Saved Herself.” It’s another great character and the title alone provokes a lot of thought. Was she always one of Coul-Pak’s “if only we get the chance…” characters?
GP: You bet. “The Princess Who Saved Herself” is a fantastic song with a great story — it follows a tomboy princess who encounters a scary dragon and a creepy witch — and ends up recruiting them to play in her rock band. It’s really perfect for adaptation into a book of some kind. But when Jonathan and I talked about it months ago, we realized that “Code Monkey Save World” was really a buddy story with Code Monkey and Skullcrusher and was going to take place in a very specific world. The Princess has her own world, and she really should be the heroine rather than a supporting character in whatever story she’s in. So we kind of regretfully let her go for a while.
But when we were talking about stretch goals and I mentioned a children’s book, all the pieces suddenly clicked into place. OF COURSE “The Princess Who Saved Herself” should be a children’s book! And of course Tak[eshi Miyazawa] should draw it and Jessica [Kholinne] should color it and Simon should letter it! So here we are, fingers crossed, launching this new stretch goal.
JC: I think a big part of the reason why we’re adding this Princess book is that Greg and I would both really like to have a copy for ourselves. I’m proud of this song – I wrote it for this “Many Hands” family CD which has raised a ton of money for charity, and I get positive comments from parents and kids all the time. Little girls rule.
AI: It feels like the stakes are higher with “The Princess Who Saved Herself” than with “Code Monkey.” It’s the sort of story that parents are going to want their daughters to read, and maybe even discuss afterward.
GP: We hope! I mean, we want to write a ridiculously fun and silly story, too. But there’s something really powerful in that song about this little girl who fully embraces the princess thing but who remains strong and confident and the genuinely pro-active hero of her own story.
JC: My favorite aspect of it is the way this character has re-appropriated princess culture (if that’s a thing) and made it her own. I felt weird when my daughter insisted that she VASTLY preferred tutus and the color pink, in spite of me trying to get her to play with trucks or whatever. But she was just like “shut up, pink is awesome.” Leggings with pink and purple hearts, torn at the knees, dirt all over – that’s a kid totally owning her own style and sense of self, and it’s great to see. That’s what I was trying to capture in this song.
AI: What form will this new book take? What will backers be getting? This sounds like a great book to give a little girl as a gift.
GP: If we hit the stretch goal, everyone who backs the project at the $15 level and above will get a free digital download of “The Princess Who Saved Herself.” If we go far enough over the stretch goal, we’ll consider the possibility of printing actual physical copies as well. I KNOW, CRAZY, RIGHT?
JC: You can give this to a little girl as a gift, but you’ll also have to buy her an iPad. You could raise money for that on Kickstarter.
AI: It’s like you guys gone mad with power and you won’t be satisfied until Amanda Palmer is coming to you for crowdfunding advice.
GP: CAPUCHIN MONKEYS FOR EVERYONE!
AI: Well, congratulations again. Now that you’re formally branching out, do you have a submissions editor? Because I have an idea for an ongoing “Mr. Fancy Pants Team-Up” comic that’s gonna blow your socks off. First issue, he fights Redshirt before realizing that they make more sense as an ensemble than as enemies.
GP: Ha! You have no idea how much I love Mr. Fancy Pants. But if we give him a red shirt, he has to die. I don’t know if I can handle that, Andy!
JC: Believe me, Mr. Fancy Pants is HIGH on my list of characters to explore. What a weirdo.
[I'm confident that JoCo was referring to Mr. Fancy Pants and not me. But I'm not so confident that I asked him to clarify. – Andy]