Kickstarter Spotlight: Asphodel

Today’s Kickstarter Spotlight is on Asphodel from Alex Kane. Alex is the managing editor of The Critical Press, a publisher of books on film and culture, as well as an executive producer of the Star Wars documentary The Prequels Strike Back. He’s here to tell us a little bit about his work on Asphodel: A Mythic Space Opera.

Can you briefly tell us what Asphodel is about?
Asphodel is an underworld myth in the context of science fiction. It’s working within the realm of what scientists believe to be one day possible, with asph1 copythe added caveat of Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The interstellar diaspora happened a couple thousand years before the start of my story, and when veteran Vic Delany escapes his alien captors and returns to the home system, he discovers a very different Earth—but most of the first issue takes place in a habitat orbiting Pluto.

How long have you been working on Asphodel?
Two years, essentially. The story began life as an unfinished work of short fiction at the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, where it was critiqued by Samuel Delany, and it seemed to be the best of the six stories I wrote there, so I spent a year developing the world of the story and trying to decide how best I might do justice to it. It needed to be a lot longer than a short story by the time I got done thinking about that stuff—a comic or a novel. And since I’ve been reading mostly comics and nonfiction for the past two years, I knew it was perfect for a visual medium.

Is this your first time crowdfunding a comic book?
It is! It’s been an awesome learning experience.

What led you to bring Asphodel to Kickstarter?
After searching for an artist to work on the book for about a year, I finally decided that the only way to get a collaboration going was to offer a fair page rate. When I posted the project in an online discussion group—this time marked “paid”—Gale Galligan contacted me saying she loved the story and was interested in working with me on it. But she’s really good, and I knew I wanted to pay her what she deserved, so crowdfunding became my only viable option for financing the book.

asph2 copyWhat role do you play in putting Asphodel together?
I’m the writer, creator, and producer of the thing. I devised the worldbuilding, wrote many, many drafts of the story between 2013 and now, and wrote the finished script at least eight or nine months ago. I manage the business side of things. Gale does all the illustration, the watercolor, the hand lettering. I’ve done all the typography and design work myself, so far.

Can you tell us a little bit about the others involved in Asphodel?
Gale’s in the second year of an MFA program in Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and she’s both created and illustrated a pretty amazing portfolio of comics. She’s worked as a production assistant and been published in a number of anthologies. Her background is in animation, and I think that comes across in her unconventional style. She’s a cartoonist, not just an inker or letterer or colorist—she can do it all. The first time I saw her initial concept sketches for Asphodel, I immediately thought of Genndy Tartakovsky.

Do you think Kickstarter is helping the independent creator, hurting them, or not doing anything at all?
Speaking from my personal experience only, it’s an invaluable resource for a professional writer looking to hire a professional artist and make something really special. Too many collaborations or projects fizzle because the writer, or whoever, can’t afford to pay a page rate and his or her artist necessarily has to seek work elsewhere.

If you had a choice would you rather keep on using Kickstarter or would you rather be in Previews catalog?
Kickstarter is not a business model. I don’t think I’d want to rely solely on crowdfunding to keep this series going, if I can help it—but it is a way to get startup cash and create something incredible. If profits slowed to a trickle but people were really demanding the second issue right away, I might consider doing another one in six months, but at this point I think I’d do anything to avoid having to do another campaign: It’s literally a full-time job!

Of all the rewards you have up on Asphodel, which is your favorite?
People have really gravitated toward the $15 reward tier, and I know that’s the one I’d probably go with if Asphodel was someone else’s book. For asph3 copyfifteen bucks, backers get a digital pre-release copy of the first issue as well as a signed, limited-edition physical copy, personalized upon request. Gale and I are both going to be signing these. This is the reward Neil Gaiman is getting, so you know it’s a safe bet!

What have you done so far to make Asphodel stand out from other crowdfunding projects?
It’s been named a Kickstarter Staff Pick and featured in The A.V. Club, so I think professionalism and presentation are to thank for most of that. I’ve given my all to this project, and so has Gale. The results are going to be pretty fantastic.

Once the Kickstarter is over, and you’ve shipped out all of your rewards, what is your next step? Do you wind down, work on something else, or feel satisfied and leave comic books alone?
I’m hoping a perfect storm of sales and word-of-mouth will allow us to keep the series going. The story we have planned is an epic space opera that spans the galaxy, so it’s definitely my main creative focus for the foreseeable future. I may write a novel; Gale will probably work on a bunch of other comics, including her web comic, Patbird & Galesaur. But my plan is to keep Asphodel in business. I hope folks really enjoy it!

Will you be hitting any conventions with Asphodel?
In 2016, I hope to attend Worldcon and a Comic-Con or two. There are some really cool local conventions here in the Midwest, as well, and I imagine I’ll be hitting some of those. It depends on the success of the first issue, really. Every bit of support for the Kickstarter will get us closer to making a second issue happen—there’s a stretch goal for that. Online reviews and so forth should keep the momentum going. Thanks so much for having me!

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