Comic Books Flourish on Crowdfunding Sites, Drawing Big Names

Prominent arrivals include Boom Studios, which is working with Keanu Reeves on a Kickstarter project. But critics are questioning whether projects from established publishers are crowding out others.

BRZRKR is a comic book about a demigod written by Matt Kindt and the actor Keanu Reeves.Credit…Boom Studios

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By George Gene Gustines

Crowdfunding has long been a tool for aspiring comic book creators trying to break through, but lately some established names have taken to it.

Recent arrivals include the publisher Boom Studios, which is working with Keanu Reeves on a Kickstarter project, and Todd McFarlane, the creator of the Spawn comic books.

Part of the appeal of crowdfunding, they say, is that it allows them to connect directly with their audience, bypassing the industry’s traditional distribution model. Some critics argue, however, that heavyweights with deep pockets are muscling into a marketplace intended to help beginners introduce their creations.

But Kickstarter has evolved since it was established in 2009 to become more inclusive, said Greg Pak, a comic book writer and the author of “Kickstarter Secrets,” a book of crowdfunding tips. “There was a sense early on if you were an established person, you were stealing someone else’s opportunity,” he said. “There is an understanding now that Kickstarter is for anybody.”

The success of these big-name campaigns is notable given the disruptions and anxieties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After a decline in activity in March through May, “we’ve seen categories, comics one of them, recovering,” said Margot Atwell, the head of publishing and comics at Kickstarter. The number of prominent creators using the site has also risen.

Mr. McFarlane, who last year celebrated the arrival of the 300th issue of Spawn in comic stores, said crowdfunding was a chance to try a new business strategy. “It was an experiment,” he said. “Could this be an add-on to our business model or grow into something bigger?”

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