Hi, I’m John Johnson, and I’m a poet and a writer, mostly doing science fiction and fantasy. I write poems like little Twilight Zone episodes. I’m working with some really talented artists to bring out our second collection of graphic poetry. The purpose is to bring you joy – and help advance the cause of poetry!
These collaborations combine poems that I’ve been fortunate to publish in top venues, along with some fantastic artists' interpretations. The resulting work is not just an illustration of a poem; it is a partnership that combines both talents into one singular experience.
Collaborating with me this time are DC and Marvel Comics legend Bob Hall (Spiderman, Batman), Nate Hamel, J. M. Lewis, Julian Peters, Brie Underhill, Mike Lawlor, Adam Martin, Seth Goepel, Bernadette Johnson, and Sue Kouma Johnson. All solid professionals. Plus, we have a guest appearance from science fiction scion Kendall Evans, co-writing the poem, “Lament of the Four Moons.”
Our first collection, Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town, was a big hit. We reached over 500% of our Kickstarter goal! After that, it sold well, got good reviews, garnered some nominations (and two second place finishes!), and was enjoyed by people from late elementary school to PhD students to octogenarians, in over twenty countries around the world!
The publication venues include Rattle, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, F&SF: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry,” the Poetry Foundation’s website, and elsewhere.
We’re hoping this new comic book will continue to win friends for poetry and be a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that while they usually don’t like poetry, they like mine. Most Americans, when they’re done with high school, they’re done with poetry. Why is that? They still like other art forms, like music, paintings, movies – so why not poetry? Because they don’t know poetry can be enjoyable. Instead, it's like Billy Collins says: we're taught to strap a poem to a chair and beat the meaning out of it with a rubber hose. Tough on everybody. But reading poetry can be like going to a toy store! That's why we're making a comic book!
NOTE FOR TEACHERS: Free Lesson Plans coming out September 30!
So, if someone likes poetry or a good read, I think they'll at least enjoy this collection, if not love it, and if they like Twilight Zone-type shows or comics or science fiction and fantasy, they'll probably LOVE this. Hint: We’ll be shipping in October, so you will receive it in plenty of time for Christmas!
By helping with this Kickstarter, you can get a discounted price, get a cool gift for your cool friends, be on the cutting edge of something pretty much new, and help make friends for poetry, which needs them. Which deserves them. And you can have a good time, too.
Thanks for your support.
With our first Kickstarter, we had a goal of $500. Thanks to126 backers, we reached $2,625! We printed 1350 copies, most of which have sold. For this comic, we’re setting a minimum goal of $1750. We are hoping for a lot more, but that would be enough to print about 1000 copies.
If we can reach $2500, then most of our patrons will get an EXTRA COMIC BOOK, and we’ll be able to print about 1500 copies. If we can get to $3000, then we plan to take a leap of faith and print around 3000 comics. If we hit $4000, we can afford to put more money into the classroom side of this project. If we hit $5000, we can bring the retail selling price to UNDER $3 each!!! That will help make a lot of friends for poetry!
MY OVERALL GOAL isn’t to make money on this, but to break even with as many copies as possible distributed! For me, this is not just a project – it’s a mission! I do it for the love of the game and the love of poetry!
NOTE FOR TEACHERS:
CLASSROOM USE: The first comic was used in classrooms from middle school to college and got favorable reactions from curriculum directors. We are currently contracting lesson plans to be delivered by September 30, weeks before the October publication date. In a previous life, I sold curriculum products (and school supplies) for about twenty years, and now I teach English, and based on my experience, I believe this comic will work in a lot of classrooms. Pearson Education Publishing is already using one of our comic poems in an English textbook.
CLASSROOM USE, PART 2: If you’re an English teacher, you probably like poetry, but your students probably don’t. This comic book is a great way to get your students liking poetry! My high school English teacher, Kerstin VanDervoort, tricked me into liking poetry, and it changed my whole life!
OUR COSMIC MISSION IS ...
Even if we get to 3000 copies, I know that isn’t a hill of beans in this big world. But I completely believe that however many copies we print, they will have a small but true impact on the poetry world. Yeah, I know. Crazy. But I can feel it in my gut. I really believe we are going to nudge the poetry world just a bit, and the comics world, too. And all it takes is a couple of bucks from you, my friend, to make it happen. Thank you for joining me on this mission!
A fully illustrated sample can be seen here, the Rattle poetry magazine website. It is Julian Peter’s fantastic version of the poem, “There Have Come Soft Rains." It’s about Annette, my kindergarten crush, during a bomb drill, and that’s actually what she looked like. We’re still friends, and she sent me the photo Julian drew from. This poem has been widely quoted around the internet and used in student projects across the country, and it’s the one Pearson Education is using in their textbooks. (https://www.rattle.com/there-have-come-soft-rains-by-john-philip-johnson-and-julian-peters/)
John Philip Johnson lives with his wife and their five pretty much grown-up children. His work has been in many journals and reviews, including Rattle, Southern Poetry Review, Asimov’s, F&SF, Strange Horizons, Apex, Mythic Delirium, Dreams & Nightmares, The Pedestal, Phantom Drift, Mithilia Review, Daily Science Fiction, Word Riot, and elsewhere, including former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry,” and at the Poetry Foundation’s website. He has had Pushcart, Best-of-Web, and Rhysling noms. He would love to go to Mars if he could, but only if his wife went with him.
Kendall Evans’ stories and poems have appeared in nearly all the major science fiction and fantasy magazines, including Asimov’s SF, Analog, Abyss & Apex, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Weirdbook, Mythic Delirium, Amazing, Fantastic, Nebula Award Showcase 2012, and many others. He is the author of the novel The Rings of Ganymede and a number of chapbooks, and he has won two Rhysling Awards, so far.
Bob Hall is a legend. For over thirty years, he worked for Marvel and DC as a comics illustrator, doing such titles as Spiderman, Batman, and many others. That was just his day job, because what he loved even more than comics was directing plays, doing many Shakespeare and other productions. This Shakespeare–Spidey combination was the perfect blend of serious–fun for this project. He recently finished his Master of Fine Arts degree and is extremely popular at Comic Cons all over the country. He is providing TWO YES TWO of the poems in this new book, the first and the last!
Julian Peters’ graphic treatment of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” went viral and captured poetry lovers all over the world, and it was the original inspiration for our first collection. When I saw his manga version of Yeats’s “When You Are Old,” I knew I would be a fan for life. Although not quite the first person to do poetry comics in recent decades, in my opinion, he is the leader, the one who is responsible for the current uptake in this art form. His work has been featured in many venues, such as Slate, University Bookman, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere.
Nate Hamel has worked for many comics and games publishers, spoken at many Comic Cons, and has delighted his large and growing fandom by delivering a full-contact style of art, especially with his treatment of monsters and zombies and such. His goal with his art is to create an "immersive" setting for the viewer, drawing his reader deep into the story. We are delighted he brings his gusto and expertise to the project, giving us a six page treatment of the Asimov’s published poem, “The Lament of the Four Moons.”
Brie Underhill is an illustrator, comic, and installation artist, focusing on the details, both internal and external. She is interested in the beauty and sadness that the mind creates and the dialogue and images that are born from it. His first collection, EXPERGEFACIPHOBIA, came out in July, 2018, composed of short comics with poetic texts and occasional narrative frames.
Mike Lawlor is an architect and a fine artist in Salt Lake City, and earlier in his life he had a subversive comic strip called Leisureman, which satirized American life through the eyes of an unemployed philosopher who traveled the world in his brown bathrobe. Unfortunately, the movie version of “Our man of the terrycloth” fell through, but Mike abides, along with his comic chops, and he has done some beautiful watercolors and ink work to create a vision for “Mothsong,” about a moth’s epic battle.
J.M. Lewis sprang from the depths of Omaha, Nebraska and got as far as Lincoln before deciding this would be the place where they could do the most harm. Formative inspiration came from 80’s indie comics, Doctor Who, new wave sci-fi, cosmic horror and a whole lot of 90’s ambivalence. Over the years they have attended many cons in the region and have won numerous awards for their artwork. Their longest running projects include the webcomics Eye-Eighty and Outpost Zeta, their blog dedicated to B- and Z-grade film. Horror and the uncanny dominate their aesthetic, with shadow and vivid color acting as antipodes between which dark things play. – with thanks to Joshua Sterns
Adam Martin is an artist from south west England who specialises in exploring and adapting stories in creative artwork, with a deep interest in folklore and mythology. Experienced in a variety of projects in design and illustration and who believes in the power that creativity has to change the world and whom is working on independent publishing projects alongside freelance activities to help form an abundant life of creativity
Seth Goepel is a self-taught artist living off-grid in the woods of Western Maine. Inspired by traditional Iconography (particularly Russian and Ethiopian), as well as folk motifs from various cultures, his work is an attempt to create a new aesthetic from various sources; to serve as both its own insight into beauty as well as an introduction to these rich and respected traditions.
Bernadette Johnson has done many spoken word performances of her poetry at venues across the Midwest and has been involved in many art projects. She studies art at various colleges. She brings us Solon-Fly, The Lawgiver, and many incidentals, including Martian barcoding.
Sue Kouma Johnson earns her living as a fine-arts painter. She is also the love of John Johnson’s life and the subject of the Rhysling-nominated poem, “Martian Garden,” which is about a couple homesteading Mars. She contributes several beautiful Martian landscapes to this book, which are implicit in the meaning of the poem in a cool way, as well as helping shape the overall spirit and tone. She does not really want to go to Mars but holds out the ever-ever-so-slight possibility.
Risks and challenges
There're not too many risks. We pulled off the first comic books smoothly, delivering a quality product on time. We learned from the mistakes we did make and hope this time it will go even smoother. We've got all the artwork done and paid for, we've got the printer lined up, and unless some kind of disaster strikes, we should be okay.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)