We made our goal!! ALSO: History of the Wondermark Calendar!
BIG NEWS, EVERYONE: Thanks to all your kind support, we have BLOWN PAST our original goal and now stand at over 65,000% FUNDED!!!
This is astonishing! Especially when you consider this goal is FIVE TIMES the goal of my last campaign (for greeting cards) and TEN TIMES the goal of my coloring book project.
Here's our progress as of this moment:
(Kickstarter no longer shows the original goal amounts of completed projects, but rest assured that my last project had a $2 goal and the coloring book had a $1 goal. These are all very good jokes that build on themselves, I assure you; thanks for coming on this ride with me.)
WHAT EVEN IS the Wondermark Calendar
Some of you are here because you're intrigued by this calendar project, and to you, I say, welcome! I am the author of the comic strip Wondermark, which I make using illustrations from Victorian-era books and newspapers.
Some of you are longtime supporters or Wondermark and/or previous patrons of my calendars, and to you I say, hello, it's very nice to see you again!!
I thought I'd take this time to talk more about the Wondermark Calendar and its long history (OLDER THAN SOME HUMANS I KNOW). Since this is – I still can't quite believe it – the TENTH YEAR of the calendar project, what better time to go down memory lane?
You saw, if you watched this project's pitch video, some footage of the very first Wondermark calendar, offered in late 2007 for the year of 2008. (Here is the full original video.)
The notion of a loose-leaf desk calendar, in which a stack of individual cards rest in an easel, is one I'm surprised we don't see more often. I stole the concept from a calendar a co-worker had on her desk, back when I worked at an advertising agency.
At the time I'd also been recently introduced to the Japanese Print Gocco screenprinting system, which was (before risographs became popular) one way that cool people made hand-crafted indie comics, and which is still popular among the Etsy set.
It's an actual little printing press, in which you use special light bulbs to burn your design into a printing screen, and then squeeze ink through the screen onto your paper.
Gocco was big in the eighties for crafting, and it's perfect for making cool little projects like this calendar – I wanted to make something handmade, limited-edition, but with a reason to exist, and the idea of a calendar ticked all those points nicely.
Each calendar page required three different prints from the Gocco (black ink on left side, black on right side, and gold title).
Making a calendar in a limited edition makes it special, but also in a practical sense it saves you from having unsold inventory that grows progressively more useless as the year marches on. I made 100 copies of this first calendar and managed to sell them all, thanks in part surely to the slick, persuasive video I linked above.
I continued in this manner the following year, careful to seek out and use artwork I hadn't already used in Wondermark, and composing dark little stories in verse for each month.
Here's some really terrible video I shot with a really terrible camera at the time:
By the time I sat down to make a 2010 edition, I wanted to make it more interesting somehow. I was already varying the visual style each time...
...But I was also beginning to do much more collage design with Wondermark the comic strip, by which I mean mixing up different source images to create something all-new. So I wanted to create new, very strange images for this edition of the calendar.
Here you can see how I combined various scanned source images into the characters and designs that populated the calendar:
Each of the images for that year's calendar (and this year's, I hasten to add) was created in precisely the same way.
By that year, we'd increased production to 150 copies – which, when taking into account three prints per page, added up to a lot of squeakin' the press up and down. My longsuffering wife contributed her share of elbow grease to the family business.
In the following years, I created artwork in much the same way for 2011's and 2012's editions – but we started to encounter a problem in 2011, which only got worse in 2012: Riso, the Japanese company that manufactured the Gocco, had discontinued manufacturing their supplies!
The bulbs, inks, and screens were becoming harder and harder to find. Since we used 38 screens (and therefore 38 bulbs to expose each screen) to print each calendar, this was a problem.
We sought out not-quite-right aftermarket supplies to fill the gaps – someone on the Internet figured out you could use something called a "thermofax" machine to create screens digitally, rather than having to expose them with bulbs – and with a process cobbled together from this and other ad-hoc solutions, so we pressed on, masking our increasing desperation with optimism.
I am proud of the content of the 2012 calendar, but I will be honest: the combination of not-quite-the-right screens and not-quite-the-right-inks created some problems in production. The replacement (non-Gocco) ink we'd gotten didn't print very cleanly:
At the end, running out of time and supplies, we decided – and I literally had forgotten about this until I looked back through these pictures just now – to press into service whatever correct Gocco-brand ink we had on hand, regardless of color.
Midway through the process, we realized we didn't have enough of any single color to print the artwork in a consistent way, so we mixed up all our remaining ink to create a "slurry" color to use for the rest of the prints – so at least it would be consistent!
It actually worked well – the resulting color was that sort of navy blue you see in the previous photo – but some of the other ink we used decided to do something bad for ink to do, which is not dry.
The black ink we used stayed sticky, and when the monthly cards were all stacked up, we found they tended to stick to one another. I included this note with each calendar:
It was clear that using the wrong materials wasn't a viable way forward, and with the right materials no longer available at all, it was time to change course entirely.
The Wondermark Calendar – Generation Two
I wanted to keep making calendars, but no longer did I feel confident that the Gocco could meet our needs – I didn't want to rely on having to hunt down supplies that were becoming increasingly rare and expensive. (We had also introduced a whole host of new holidays in 2012, so maintaining calendrial accuracy was more important than ever.)
So for 2013, I re-thought the calendar premise entirely. I still liked the desk easel concept, but I wanted to have the cards professionally printed. Yet, I didn't want to just print versions of the same old monthly cards I had done before, because where was the special value in that?
My solution was to invent the progressive calendar.
If you are a past calendar patron, you've heard this spiel many times before, so I'll make it quick.
The premise of a progressive calendar is that you can always see two weeks ahead of where you are – because the calendar moves with you, rather than breaking arbitrarily each month (often in the middle of weeks). After all, if it's the 30th of the month, you don't need to still see the month behind you; you need to see the days to come.
The progressive calendar doesn't break into months; it breaks into 2-week chunks (regardless of month), and whenever you pass the second week on the top card, you move the bottom card to the top, to reveal the next two weeks on a new bottom card.
Now we had a calendar format that could provide the user with twice as much art (more than that, actually), thus making it an excellent value for the same price.
For the content of the 2013 calendar, I drew a series of Gaxian aliens (well-known to readers of Wondermark), and my friend Max Shepard painted them in watercolor! The entire calendar became THE GAXIAN ALMANAC, and featured important factoids about famous Gaxians, and Gaxian history and culture.
We also provided everyone with the necessary backboard and hooks (Max is seen here drilling the pilot holes so the user can install the hooks). This original backboard has the same dimensions that we use today – I'm sure there are people still using that original 2013 stand for each new calendar!
The new calendar concept suggested the development of specific themes for each calendar. So as the 2013 calendar had been the Gaxian Almanac, 2014 went on to become the ROLL-A-SKETCH YEARBOOK, full of drawings of weird animals (again, colored by Max):
After the trouble of having to source and cut wood for backboards (as a separate from the metal easels) in 2013, our innovation in 2014 was the introduction of self-contained stands, created custom for us by my new pal with a laser cutter!
(That exact same stand persists today as the "Classic", and you can get one with this year's calendar if you like.)
The following year, 2015's calendar was the CONCERT OF CONSCIENCE, which started as a really weird Twitter game where we tried to come up with creepy instruments. (I collected the best entries from it here – some of which later became part of the calendar.)
The calendar took the form of a historical document, describing a mysterious concert and all the strange and frightening instruments that played. Since there were 28 different cards, I decided to make each card feature an instrument that represented a letter from the alphabet (plus two of of the conductor).
I had to come up with a different instrument for each letter, which sounds easy until you try it.
Once again, the drawings were my own, with watercolors provided by Max.
I went to a convention at some point in mid-2015, and I met a lovely lady who said she'd been a fan of the calendars. "But let me ask you," she said, "is next year's going to be...funny?"
She had me dead to rights! The Concert of Conscience was weird, and matched the darkness of the early calendars, but on the balance scale of entertainment, it weighed a bit more toward "strange story" than "collection of jokes", as the Gaxian Almanac and Roll-a-Sketch Yearbook had been.
Did I correct course for 2016? Well, I wrote another story! And I hope it was KIND of funny, in parts at least!
UN-NAMED BEASTS OF THE FORGOTTEN WILDS (the 2016 calendar) was the diary of Dr. Priscilla Dustbin, an explorer from days of yore who discovered many strange beasts on a voyage around the world, and gave them all proper names.
It marked a return to the Wondermark-style collage artwork of the earlier years, a technique I'm using for this year's calendar as well!
The Absurd Sports League All-Stars
I was all set to do another calendar this year about death and darkness. I had a bunch of images pulled for it already, from the annals of the Illustrated Police News.
But after the events of this month nationally, I found I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to put more grim and dismal stuff into the world – even funny-grim. I didn't want to ask people to stare at that sort of thing for an entire year.
So I tabled that idea, and pulled out this other concept about weird sports, which is one that's been rattling around in the back of my mind for a while.
The Absurd Sports League calendar is a collection of highlights, stats, key players, and stirring moments from a very strange sport that...probably shouldn't exist.
I'll share more about these folks and their many odd colleagues in the next few days. I'll also share more about this year's new Deluxe Edition Stand, which is also made with the help of lasers, but which is (I think) a pretty cool upgrade to the existing stands, and which will be unique to this year!
Suffice it to say, I'm pleased to introduce these fine athletes to the distinguished fellowship of the Wondermark Calendar, and hope they will find their surroundings comfortable!
(BY THAT I MEAN...YOUR HOUSE OR OFFICE)
Thanks for being a part of our tradition!!