About this project
Throughout 2014 and 2015, line artist Jerry Ordway (Superman, Crisis, Captain Marvel), colourist Marissa Louise, and writer Alex de Campi (Archie v Predator, Grindhouse, No Mercy) serialised a modern, techno/Lovecraftian horror series in Dark Horse Presents. That series is now being collected into a 104-page softcover graphic novel, but in the meantime we've got another three Semiautomagic stories we would like to include in a special, expanded edition of that graphic novel: a box set including a second, 80-page softcover of new stories.
Semiautomagic follows the highs and lows (mostly lows) of occult investigator Alice Creed, an average girl from a bad part of town who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A decade after the wrong turn that changed her life, she is who you call when magic ends up in murder.
But the magic of Alice's world isn't the cozy, familiar magic of Vertigo books: no myths and legends, no Bast and Queen Mab here. Just the void, and inexplicable, incomprehensible things coming through from other dimensions, other colours of space. Magic itself is a thing with barely understandable rules and many, many unforeseen results. There is a strong element of J-horror, too: one of the ways that predators and parasites come through into our world is via technology, and via places that have some profound impact on our cultural consciousness -- NATO nuclear test sites, for example. This is modern horror, set in the strange nooks and crannies of America, the forgotten places of shadow in our nation. Stay weird, America.
Alice is a character that Alex and Jerry developed together, and Jerry was crucial in so many aspects, from her design, to story ideas, to pushing for Alice to be based in New England, an area very familiar to both of us. The book is very scary and very disturbing, but is technically PG. While there is body horror, it is not sexual in nature, nor is there excessive gore or indeed any nudity. To be fair, we didn't need to resort to cheap thrills in Semiautomagic. It's more a book of creeping, unsettling horror that stays with you long after you're done.
Read the first eight pages of our first Semiautomagic story below! It was published in Dark Horse Presents #4, in 2014.
The 104-page softcover is 100% complete. Of the new stories, all are written, and Jerry is well into drawing the longer of his two stories, "Childhood's End". Lara has begun work on her story, "A Town Called Malice". The series' original editor, Brendan Wright, has joined us on a freelance basis, and Dark Horse is handling design and printing because they have fabulous deals with their printers that we can't even imagine (this means you get a much better quality book, and we get a much lower print bill!).
Dark Horse will be releasing just the 104-page softcover in June. (It's in February Previews right now). They will NOT be selling the box set, or the 80-page new book. The new book is only available as part of the box set in this Kickstarter, and we're only planning to print 1,000 of them. Our box set should be ready to send to backers in August.
What you're getting:
Printing, shipping, covers, kickstarter fees, plus art for "Childhood's End".
*Book 1: 104-page softcover collection of Jerry, Alex, and Marissa's two Semiautomagic arcs in Dark Horse Presents: The Bomb That Brings Us Together and Throne of Blood.
*Book 2: 28-page new Semiautomagic story, drawn by Jerry Ordway and coloured by Marissa Louise: "Childhood's End". Alice plunges into Seussian madness while investigating a Howard Hughes-esque recluse in a shuttered Maine mansion. See updates for Jerry's pages in progress!
*Hardcover case / box with cover by Jerry Ordway.
nb: printing, shipping and fees is most of this goal. Le sigh.
Art for "A Town Called Malice".
*Book 2 becomes 60 pages, adding a 32-page story drawn by Lara Margarida and coloured by Marissa Louise: "A Town Called Malice". Alice's friend Harriet, who is unstuck in time and falls into a different timestream every 24 hours, attempts to rescue a woman who made a wish while burning her wedding bouquet... and is now dealing with the horrifying consequences of that wish coming true. It's about what happens to manic pixie dreamgirls after they marry the damaged hero, and when the manic pixie-ness isn't enough any more to paper over that damage.
But why have Lara draw this and not Jerry? Lara is an amazing artist in her own right, and as this is a story about Harriet (not Alice, our usual main character) we thought it would be lovely to bring in a rising star alongside Jerry. Plus, with Jerry already providing almost 40 pages of new story, we wanted all three new stories to be drawn and the box set to be out within a reasonable time after the Dark Horse collection came out -- not practicable if we added another 32 pages to Jerry's workload. See updates for Lara's pages in progress!
Art for "The Hollow Man".
*Book 2 becomes 80 pages, adding a 12-page story drawn by Jerry Ordway and coloured by Marissa Louise: "The Hollow Man," as Alice goes to Los Angeles and finds out what is eating a famous actor.
A Tomer Hanuka cover.
*Hardcover case/box gets an exclusive Tomer Hanuka cover. Tomer Hanuka is a legendary Israeli illustrator who also provided the cover to Alex's Smoke/Ashes book, and Alex kinda has a thing about unifying design across her books.
* * *
I have questions! Course ya do, sunshine.
I love Jerry Ordway! Yeah, we do too :D. But I'm really sad you don't have more sketch or commission rewards! We don't have them because we love Jerry. He is already setting aside a massive chunk of time to draw the Semiautomagic pages, and frankly we don't want Kickstarter to eat his life. We also want any commission income to go straight to him. So, if you DO want a Jerry Ordway commission to go with your book, at his normal commission rates, please message us and we'll put you in touch to work that out directly with him!
Also where are the prints and posters and buttons and stuff? Do you dig those? For real? Because I've backed like 50 Kickstarter projects and all I really want is the darn book. I have whole drawers of cards and mini-prints and other kerfuffle that got sent along with the darn book that I just... ignore. But hey, you're the boss. If enough of you message us and are like "we will die if we all don't get buttons", heck, we'll do buttons.
But why isn't Dark Horse just publishing this? Why do you have to Kickstart? Everyone involved in this project has families, and does comics as their full-time career. That means it's pretty hard to be like "I'm just gonna take three months off getting paid and do some pages for fun". Alas, our mortgage companies don't take "exposure". And graphic novels just don't make enough money that Dark Horse can hand us $30k and be like, "sure, you crazy kids run along and write/draw more horror stories!". For example: we are likely to sell as many copies of Semiautomagic in this Kickstarter as Dark Horse will in the first month of the 104-page collection's release. We are so, so thrilled that Dark Horse is being supportive of us and is already helping us so much with design and by letting us leverage the agreements they have with their printers... let's not be greedy, shall we?
Would you do more Semiautomagic stories after this? Heck yes. We have so many we want to do... but we're not cheap dates (we can't actually afford to live on the sort of indie-comic page rates projects like this usually get), and we're doing the book in an unfashionable format: short one- and two-issue stories that sometimes build into other things and sometimes don't, rather than six-issue arcs "for the trade" (and the option). I'm really hoping this Kickstarter is successful so we can come back and do another one for more new work after this... perhaps a "Semiautomagic Annual" that we could send separately? Oh the dreams we have! But let's get this baby funded first.
Are there zombies or vampires in Semiautomagic? No.
Why not hardcover editions? $$$$. Like, maybe if we hit all our stretch goals and then overfund, I'll upgrade everyone? But for us, more story content is a higher priority than hard covers. What do you think?
So what if you do crazy-overfund? Kinda just got a temptation to divide any overfunds around the entire creative team, rather than killing ourselves to do extra stuff. You don't make a lot of money in comics. We're all just scraping by, honestly, and a little bonus would be nice.
Why aren't you willing to suffer for your art? Because that's charming at 20 and truly tedious by 40.
Can I have just the new book? No.
How did you come up with the pricing for the books? (Cost of creation) / (Print Run) + (Error margin) = Book price. Yeah, we wish it was a bit cheaper too, but even with DH on our side, a box set print run for 180 pages of content ain't cheap.
I'm a retailer and I want to sell this set in my store. Do you have a retailer package? OKAY FINE I ADDED ONE JEEZ GUYS. Please bear in mind there is the $12.99 Dark Horse 104-pager (eg half our box set) that comes out in June, and our box set won't come out until August at earliest.
Is this your first time at the rodeo? Oh, heck no. I raised $32,000 in the early days of Kickstarter for my graphic novel Ashes. It proved a far more challenging project than expected, and we did deliver 9 months late. Hopefully making up for that, we delivered twice the book we promised (it became a collected edition of Ashes and its 2005 prequel Smoke), in a better format than promised (cased hardbacks for everyone!), and with a more exciting lineup of artists than promised (Sienkiewicz! Doran! McNeil! Guéra!). And we turned around every book to ship to backers in less than a week after they arrived. So, when life gives you lemons, punch them so hard you shatter the space-time continuum. Or something.
SEMIAUTOMAGIC: OPENING 8 PAGES
(Originally printed in Dark Horse Presents #4. These are my old lettering copies, so the magenta dotted line and crop marks obvs aren't there in the final version. You can see Harriet, the lead in "A Town Called Malice", on page 8!)
Alex de Campi is an Eisner-nominated comics writer. Her recent books No Mercy and Archie vs Predator have achieved both critical and commercial success, and her Grindhouse series at Dark Horse started the recent revival of exploitation-cinema comic books. Valentine, her groundbreaking fantasy-thriller digital comic with Christine Larsen, is widely credited as having established the digital-native storytelling techniques used by the flood of later digital-native graphic stories It's also been downloaded over half a million times. Alex lives in Northern New England with her daughter and a pair of rescue dogs.
Jerry Ordway is a legendary comics artist and writer, known mostly for his work at DC. He has famous runs on Superman, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Captain Marvel. He can draw anything, from the sweetest and most romantic Superman / Lois portrait to the most visceral horror. He lives in New England with his family.
Marissa Louise is a Portland-based illustrator, colourist and thinker who has brought her dazzling and modern touch to Semiautomagic from the beginning.
Lara Margarida is a comics and storyboard artist based in the UK. We all love her and she's gonna be the next big thing. You heard it here first.
Brendan Wright is a freelance editor with nearly a decade of experience in in the field, between Dark Horse Comics, Top Shelf Productions, and independent projects. He was the original, developing editor on Semiautomagic. He is based in Portland.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk with this project is it being late. Though one book (the 104-page Dark Horse Presents collection of Semiautomagic) is already complete and Jerry and Lara have already started on their pages for the 80-page second book, it is never beyond the realms of possibility that an artist could have something come up in their life that means a deadline needs to be missed.
We have a pretty good infrastructure in place to manage this: the series' original editor Brendan Wright is riding shotgun on everyone; we have Dark Horse itself managing the design and printing; and lord knows I've successfully managed and delivered on a comics Kickstarter before where a lot of unexpected issues came up. (Unlike Ashes, however, this project is: smaller, far more substantially complete, and involves a team I already know well and trust. In other words, maybe I learned my lesson.)
I also feel that the experience of Ashes taught me that backers should be able to ask for refunds at any time up until the book is in the mail, if they are unhappy with the way the project is going or any delays in it. Although we do not expect delays, I really loved the "anytime refund" policy we had at Ashes and will continue it with Semiautomagic.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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