What started off as an inspirational example of the power of crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter now seems to have devolved into a cautionary tale.
Back in 2009, comic book writer Mark Andrew Smith—who garnered recognition for his well-received Image Comics series Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors—enlisted artist James Stokoe to illustrate his newest venture. Titled Sullivan’s Sluggers, the original horror graphic novel centers on a group of baseball players forced into battle against mammoth, otherworldly monsters.
Eschewing the traditional route, Smith turned to Kickstarter to help fund his project. With a $6,000 goal, the campaign went on to earn more than $91,000 in donations. This phenomenal success lead Smith to develop his book into a “200-page Deluxe Omnibus-Sized Hardcover.”
But despite the promise that the book would be available exclusively to Kickstarter backers, it later appeared on sale via outlets such as Amazon. Smith says this was due to miscalculation regarding shipping costs. Many of the donations from Kickstarter came from overseas backers, which made the bulky book expensive to send out.
In an attempt to raise the additional revenue, Smith printed up more copies and sold them to these other outlets.
Still needing more funds, however, Smith launched a second Kickstarter offering copies of the book to those “that missed it the first time.” This move drew heavy criticism from certain fans, especially amidst reports that Stokoe was being short-shifted for the extra sales.
In response, Stokoe addressed the situation on his blog, stating that he’d been paid “what [he] was contracted for” and that after some “disagreements” with Smith, he’d decided to remove himself from the project early on.
Stokoe added that Sullivan’s Sluggers is “not a book that I feel good about endorsing and I’d prefer not to be associated with it any longer.”
Shortly after, Smith posted his own response, accusing Stokoe of disappearing for long periods of time and only turning in “8 pages in one year.” Smith stated the stress from Stokoe’s delays contributed to the end of his marriage.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, Smith’s controversial second Kickstarter was taken down. Neither Smith nor Stokoe has yet to comment on the reasons for the campaign’s suspension.