Funded! This project was successfully funded on December 18, 2011.

Update #17 - For backers only

And This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

Hullo all. I feel like you're tired of hearing from me. Heck, *I'm* tired of hearing from me. I just wanted to let you know that James made a statement to The Beat, which you can read here.

The Beat very kindly let me know in advance, and offered me a chance to rebut. I've sent them the statement that I am reproducing below. It's not up yet. This is the last thing I will say about the split.

The future of Ashes is very much in doubt. I have reached out to two artists and am waiting to hear back, but both are stars and are likely too busy. I'm also leaving Saturday morning for a 10-day film shoot, so will be incommunicado until February 2nd.

At this point I am so tired of everything. I just want to give you all your money back and end it. But if I do, that's the end for the book, and probably for Valentine and any future work by me. It will never be published. I will never be published. There is nobody to step in and fund a book like this other than you all, and though the Kickstarter was a wonderful experience it was also an incredibly gruelling, all-consuming one, and I don't think I have it in me to do it again. 

Anyway. My statement in rebuttal of James', below. Warning: it's quite long.

****

I am sad that James continues to seek attention for being asked to leave my book. I cannot see how this will benefit him, me, or the book.

James completed 10 pages of finished art for the book, and 10 pages of sketch inks. Even as he turned in pages in bits and pieces, he was extremely resistant to notes on them or discussion of revision... or even showing me pencils before delivering a final piece. This became worse rather than better as the Kickstarter funding rose and publicity around the book grew. James' tone in emails became actively aggressive and abusive towards me. It was almost like dealing with a schizophrenic or a bipolar person. Any polite request to look again at something was furiously turned down.

It got to the point where, after a particularly bad disagreement in late November, about 85% of the way through the Kickstarter, I had resigned myself to not saying a single thing about pages he turned in, and I would just let my book be drawn however he wanted it to be drawn, even if it meant the book I had worked so long to bring to life became a disappointment to me. At the same time he was sending these aggressive emails (and not drawing more of the book), I was working 4-6 hours a day on the Kickstarter by myself to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support him -- a condition he required in order to take the book on.

So, aside from interacting with backers, the Kickstarter generally for me was a complete misery. Did I express to Jimmy my unhappiness? Yes, but -- and maybe this is part of being a female -- when a man shouts at you whenever you say "um, I'd like some say in the way the script I wrote is drawn" or "hm, the way you've changed this from the script isn't really going to work in the context of the scene", you stop saying the thing that gets you shouted at.

Everything came to a head a week after the Kickstarter ended, when something delightful happened -- I was contacted by a large US business magazine, who wanted to commission James and I to do a two-page comic about our Kickstarter experience. What an opportunity! First, it paid well. REALLY well. And as James had said he was very short on cash and had no other work on the horizon, this news was well received by him. (James at this point was also pressuring me to send him all the Kickstarter money in advance, rather than in tranches as he finished chapters. This made me very nervous, but I agreed and began the process of withdrawing the Kickstarter money from Amazon Payments. Luckily, he never got round to invoicing me).

So, the business magazine commission. It paid GREAT, wasn't much work, and was going to get copied and cross posted to the moon. Great exposure for our book! And potentially leading to a lot more work for both of us. I turned around a script quickly, and it was approved by the magazine's editor. They loved it! I sent the script to James. Unfortunately by this point his ego or whatever had gotten so out of hand he was completely unable to listen to and/or respect anything I said. James took a long time to draw the two pages, causing worried queries from the editor, and the sketch he finally turned in took a lot of liberties with the script (as he had been doing with Ashes). The editor was displeased. I was forced into an intermediary role, as furthermore the editor did not hit it off with James and basically didn't want to speak to him. I consulted with the editor at length about what he wanted (basically, he wanted the script drawn as written) and I worked out some notes to give James so he could quickly turn around an amended sketch for approval.

James ignores the notes and several days later sends a sketch which departs even more radically from the script. The client hates it and emails me, basically going "WTF?!"... print deadline was mere days away at this point. I have long email conversations with Jimmy, basically guiding him through taking his first sketch, changing some transitional elements, and making it work. Basically, I am trying to make it fast and easy for James to get a new sketch in as I can see this gig evaporating before my eyes. James is like OK GREAT! and then sends in a third pencil sketch, on the day of print deadline, that ignores all the notes. All he had to do to make this client happy was just to draw the script they approved. A client who had already said they loved what I do and wanted to give me (and therefore James) more work. When I point this out to him, he becomes extraordinairily aggressive, telling me he is 100% in charge of all visuals for my projects and I have no say whatsoever in what he draws or how he draws it.

Folks, I cried. I'm a girl. I do that sometimes. I completely broke down in front of the laptop. Not only was James making the execution of a book I had gone to Herculean lengths to get off the ground into a living nightmare of abuse where I felt afraid to email him about pages, he had just totally destroyed an easy gig with a major, major client because he would not draw the approved script. And then he abuses me via email about it, after I say I am finding a new artist for the 2-pager so I can try to save it. I cried, poured myself a glass of wine, went and found my big girl pants, and told James I would need to find someone else for Ashes.

As for the contract, we did take an investment from an outside source. James was asked about this and approved it before the investment was finalised. I then drew up a contract addressing the division of ownership in the completed book, not the script, which remains 100% copyright me. If James does not complete the book, he does not come into his share of it. The finished graphic novel's ownership was always meant to be shared with the artist, in recognition of the tremendous amount of work and commitment the artist would have to provide to complete the book. This is only fair. What Jimmy seems to think he has -- something for no work -- is not fair, nor in the spirit or letter of the contract.

James says that the $3k to Valentine was a surprise. If so, he hasn't read our Kickstarter project's own project page, which has said as follows since launch: "If in some crazy world we manage to raise more than our minimum, the first thing that will happen is Jimmy will get a raise, so he can go from Sainsbury's Value Meals to Taste the Difference. Then any excess money beyond that will go towards publishing the long-awaited trade of Alex's webcomic Valentine ".

As for the big business magazine gig, thanks to some really lovely people helping me out on Twitter, I got in touch with Pia Guerra who worked all night and nailed the sketch on the first go -- she drew a wonderful sketch that the client loved. However after all the drama with James they had decided to drop the piece from the magazine as we had missed the first print deadline. We may still have it in their digital edition; I am waiting to hear.

Once again, I'd like to apologise to our backers for all this drama. I had hoped that the creative split could be handled quietly and professionally but it appears that will not be the case now. I hope you will forgive me and understand why I had to find a way out of a situation where I felt bullied.

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