I’m a Backer: Edge of the Unknown (Volume 2)
So after the last few weeks it would be a safe bet to assume that I like the following things: historical fiction, high weirdness, Lovecraft, and high contrast black and white art. It would also be a good guess that many of you like a couple of those things, because you are still here. In this week’s “I’m a Backer” column I’m going to discuss a project that really belongs on the same shelf as The Wardenclyffe Horror. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Edge of the Unknown is a twin separated at birth from our own project, it is a distant cousin at a minimum.
Edge of the Unknown (Volume 2) is a great looking project, and I think its similarity’s to our recent success go a bit deeper than the art style.
Let’s take a look shall we?
To really understand this book, I think it is necessary to take a look at it’s well reviewed predecessor: Edge of the unknown. According to the author:
An older Harry Houdini, past his prime, is dealing with one failure after another. Arthur Conan Doyle, known for creating “the world’s greatest detective”, sits in at a séance and believes every moment of it. They were friends once… Now, after a number of young girls have been found dead, Houdini is enlisted by an old friend to help find the killer. Knowing he won’t be able to do it alone, Houdini asks Doyle for assistance in solving the case. What they find will shock and disturb and leave a lasting impression on both of them. It’s a horrifying mystery tour through old Hollywood, starting at the La Brea Tar Pits, winding down Sunset Blvd., and ending up on the back-lot of Universal Studios. Guest starring a young writer by the name of H.P. Lovecraft!
The second volume continues in much the same vein:
We think there’s a lot of potential to the idea of Houdini and Doyle as supernatural investigators, and we’re just starting to scratch the surface. Each volume will present a complete story, while at the same time being a part of a larger story arc. EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN II is quite a bit different, in tone and texture, from the previous volume. The story takes place in a small, Southern town where tensions and divisions run high. It features a whole cast of “Circus Freaks” and even a guest appearance by Thomas Edison!
This story was obviously written for me. The rest of you can buy a copy if you want, but you just need to come to grips with that fact.
As great as the product is though, the project itself feels a little rough. This is his second graphic novel, and only his first Kickstarter, so that’s a good sign in my mind. He’s even backed a project already despite how new he is to the crowdfunding scene, but still there are problems. Specifically I take issue with the video, some of the reward levels, the website, and missed opportunities in general.
- At almost five minutes long, the video is too long and too unpolished for the information it gives it’s potential backers; it explains the product, but doesn’t really ‘sell’ the project.
- The reward levels are generally fine – I would argue that the digital single issue should be closer to $2 than five, but the $15 and $20 rewards are particularly well tuned. It might also be a good idea for the creator to put in a high end reward or two for backers of uncommon generosity.
- The website is this project’s biggest weakness; it doesn’t have one. A blog, or even a simple website would be a tremendous and powerful addition for this project, rather than the iTunes placeholder for its prequel. A website would allow them to collect positive reviews (of which there are many), and even offer a free teaser download of the first issue of their completed work. I really feel that this issue, if corrected would go the longest way toward making this project a success.
- As a point of clarity, I also think that the creator should decide on the length of his book, rather than offering an uncertain sounding range of “at least 120 pages, but probably more like 130-150 pages” and put this information into his first paragraph. A 150 page book for $20 is a steal and that is a selling point not a cautionary one.
I had a chance to down with Jon and discuss his project with him:
So why these characters, Jon?
About 6 years ago, I started work on a horror story about an old building in Hollywood where some bad, bad things happened. And how that was affecting the present day. In my research about Hollywood in the 1920’s, I learned Houdini was out here trying to start his film career. Then I found out about Houdini’s tumultuous friendship with Arthur Conan Doyle, and I was stunned that I had never heard anything about their relationship.
Both Houdini and Doyle are larger than life. And they are both just as much celebrities today as they were back in the day. I immediately figured out that I wanted to do a “buddy cop style” thriller, with these two as my leads. I threw out all the story elements I had set in the present day, and just made it about the 1920’s.
First Hollywood and then the south. Do the stories demand their settings, or is it the other way around?
In both volumes, the setting is something that I started with. In the first book, we weave a lot of Hollywood history into the story, like the building of the “Hollywoodland” sign, and Lon Chaney working on Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In our second book, I wanted to write about Louisiana. Maybe it’s because of Alan Moore’s classic run on Swamp Thing, or maybe it’s because of the HBO series, Treme, but I love all of the dramatic possibilities Louisiana presents. The history, the mix of cultures, all of that plays a part in my story.
Did you always envision your original project having a sequel, or is this a byproduct of its success?
Pretty early on in writing the first volume, I knew that I wanted to keep these guys together for more stories. I laid a little bit of groundwork near the end of the first volume, setting up a way for them to continue their adventures.
That is, if people wanted to see more.
Do you see the whole plot arc? How many volumes would it be in a perfect world?
I have some of the over-arching plot worked out, especially the ending, but I like a certain amount of freedom when I write, so I don’t outline far in advance. I do know some of the elements in the stories I want to do in the next few volumes. And I know what the story of the last volume will be about.
In a perfect world, EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN would run about 6 volumes, with a few “one-shots” scattered in there for spice.
Why Kickstarter? Why now?
I’ve been a huge comic geek for all my life, but I must admit, Kickstarter has been in my blind spot. Lately, I’ve heard about some cool projects, but never followed through on checking them out. As to why I didn’t want to put EDGE on Kickstarter earlier, part of me was maybe feeling a little too “proud” . After all, if I managed the first book by myself, why couldn’t I just do the same for the second?
I was just being stupid, really. But in the past few months, I’ve finally come around to what a great tool Kickstarter can be. It can help me grow my audience and expose my work to a lot more people. And that, to me, is even more important than the funding.