Creator Q&A: Jamie Tanner
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One of the best parts about working for Kickstarter is that we’re put on a collision course with some of the most creative and ambitious people we’ve ever seen. Cue Jamie Tanner, a graphic novelist/very unhappy office worker who has all the talent (he’s an Eisner Award nominee for his graphic novel The Aviary — just sayin’) but was having trouble finding the time and the money to complete his next book. Not a totally uncommon story, but one that was quickly upended when Jamie turned to Kickstarter for help funding his project: within a matter of days he had cleared his goal amidst a landslide of support.
Jamie’s overwhelming success goes to show exactly what can happen when a dynamic idea is well-presented — he was able to both grow his fanbase and turn it into a committed group of investors. As a result, he’ll now be spending his time buried in comics instead of office meetings. As he said in our interview, “My unsatisfying day job seemed to eat away more and more of my time and energy, and I wanted to get back to doing the work I actually cared about. When I stumbled across Kickstarter, it seemed like just an amazing resource — if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, it actually seemed like it could help me change my life for the better.”
To hear more from Jamie, check out our Q&A with him below. Also, listen to him discuss his use of Kickstarter on Fanboy Radio here. Donate to his project here. And don’t forget to check back later today for an exclusive graphic-short that Jamie created especially for Kickstarter!
Tell me about yourself, first. What got you into comics? How did you start doing them?
Hmm, I couldn’t say exactly what it was that got me into comics in the first place - I’d have to imagine it was a stack of superhero comics that my parents gave me when I was very young. I’ve been reading comics ever since, from those superhero books I loved as a kid (Spider-man, Batman, X-Men, all of ‘em) to the first alternative comics I found as a teenager (like Cerebus or Evan Dorkin’s work) to the books that really blew my mind in college (Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Art Spiegelman, so many more) and made it seem like anything was possible in comics.
And as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a cartoonist (cue Ray Liotta Goodfellas voice-over). I’m sure there are some terribly embarrassing things buried in my folks’ basement - crudely drawn attempts at comics from when I was as young as 8 or 9 years old (maybe younger?). I guess I started “seriously” making comics in college when I discovered mini-comics and began making my own complete little comic books that I’d photocopy and give to friends. Eventually, “give to friends” turned into “sell or trade at small-press conventions”, which turned into “submit to publishers,” which turned into “Hey, I had a book published!” and there you go. Wanting to make comics is an odd inclination, maybe more like an addiction. It’s incredibly time-consuming and labor-intensive, and is an extremely hard way to earn a living (I’ve never even come close), yet it’s still what I aspire to do above all else. I’ve talked to lots of other cartoonists who feel the same way. Maybe we need a support group or something…
Where did the idea for your current project come from?
The idea grew out of my increasing frustration with how little time I could seem to find to make comics. My unsatisfying day job seemed to eat away more and more of my time and energy, and I wanted to get back to doing the work I actually cared about. When I stumbled across Kickstarter, it seemed like just an amazing resource - if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, it actually seemed like it could help me change my life for the better.
As there’s generally not much money in making comics, cartoonists have often sold their original art to help support themselves. So my initial idea for a project was to sell the art for a new comic book that hadn’t even been made yet - so the people pledging would be enabling its creation, would be able to watch as it gets made and would get a physical piece of the art they helped create. From that spark, the idea broadened to be a sort of general art sale, with some smaller, more immediate rewards like signed copies of my first book or little blank sketchbook/journals or art prints, and even more personalized rewards like commissioned drawings or cameos in the new book I’ll be making. So backers get to be patrons — by buying some art, they’re in effect giving me a sort of advance (almost like a bona-fide novelist — dare to dream!) that lets me make the work I’m passionate about.
How have people been responding to your use of Kickstarter? Any cool stories to share about that?
The response has been pretty amazing - people seem as taken with the whole Kickstarter idea as I am. Not only is it really encouraging to hear that people want to see more work from me, it’s also pretty great that people want to be a part of the whole process too. I was stunned that people went for my most ridiculously-priced rewards, like getting a cameo in the book-to-be. One backer — actually two people splitting it — even pledged $500 to have a character in the book named after them! Definitely a thrill that people want to be such a part of it. The pressure’s on to make something awesome, but it’s the best possible kind of pressure.
What has been your most successful reward so far?
Well, the single reward that people have gone for the most is a signed copy of my first book The Aviary. But a close second is a page of original art from either my first book or the new book. And of all the rewards chosen, more than half are some sort of artwork, whether it’s a print, an original page, or a commissioned drawing or painting. So I’m pretty excited that people are responding to the whole idea. And that response has already started inspiring me, too. For the backer whose pledge put me over my funding goal, I made a bonus reward for him - a drawing of a giant squid high-fiving my Quiet Bird-man character. So when you asked if I’d like to draw a comic for the Kickstarter blog, that drawing popped into my head and inspired the little story I sent along with these answers…