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Crowd Funding Watch: Political Cartoonist Matt Bors’ ‘Life Begins At Incorporation’ [Interview]

With the growing appeal of crowd funded projects through platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, ComicsAlliance has decided to dedicate a weekly column highlighting some of the more promising projects that deserve to be funded.

Having worked on several Kickstarter projects over the last couple of years — all of which have been successfully funded, and all have delivered final products or are continuing to deliver assets to backers as the final product is completed — I use this space every week to spotlight a new project that appears to have what it takes to deliver a professional product by giving readers the run down on What It Is, How Much It Will Cost, What You Will Get, When You Will Get It, and Why You Should Care.

In this week’s column, War Is Boring artist and political cartoonist Matt Bors talks with ComicsAlliance about his Kickstarter project Life Begins at Incorporation.

What It Is: A 225-page, full-color collection of previously released editorial cartoons and yet-to-be-written essays by political cartoonist Matt Bors.

How Much It Will Cost: $20,000 — more than what it would cost to simply print previously unreleased material, but Bors notes that he’ll be hiring an editor, copywriter, and designer to help with the finished project, in addition to taking some time off to focus on writing the essays contained within.

What You Will Get: Starting at $10 for a PDF all the way to $2,000 if you’d like to have Bors teach a class or speak at your event. Most readers will probably opt for the reasonably priced $25 collection.

When You Will Get It: April 2013, a respectable goal and time frame considering that much of the material has already been created.

Why You Should Care: Political cartoonists are arguably more important in today’s sound bite and picture-centric news media than ever before, but are getting laid-off at papers around the country as print circulation folds. Unfortunately, even though there are exceptions like Susie Cagle being hired on full-time at Grist, most hardworking cartoonists are unable to find decent, paying work from online publishers. ComicsAlliance’s sister site, The Huffington Post, does run work from Jeff Danziger and Paul Szep, but such circulation is rare.

We reached out to Bors for more insight into his decision to use crowd funding in order to create an anthology of work.

ComicsAlliance: Why did you decided to use a crowd-funding platform over going through a traditional publisher for Life Begins at Incorporation?

Matt Bors: Publishers aren’t interested in anthologies as much these days, especially political cartoons, and advances in the comic industry are notoriously low. I thought that with my online readership I could make something happen that would probably exceed the money I could get from a traditional publisher. With that comes more work, of course. I’ve got to print and ship all these, but I like being responsible for the whole project.

CA: You note that you’ll be paying an editor, copywriter, and a designer. Why do you think that’s necessary?

MB: I want this to be a professional project. Publishers used to pay for these things for a reason –- so your book doesn’t turn out to be a a poorly written piece of s***. I know a lot of writers and journalists, and over the next week or two I’m going to hire one to oversee the writing on this project. Nothing can be half-assed on this. I want the prose section of this book to be as strong as possible, so it’s going to be a worthwhile expense for me. You can get into a little bubble with your creative projects, especially something like comics where you work in solitude. It helps to have another set of eyes on your work. I wouldn’t think about doing it any other way.

CA: You mention the book will include essays about the topics of your cartoons. Do you often write essays, in addition to your illustrations? And will these be humor essays or more serious discussions about the topics?

MB: I’ve written at my blog for years; often short, sometimes long posts that expand on the topics I’m covering in my work. The writing is going to be humorous, but get into serious political issues like drone attacks, the Occupy Movement, and vaginas being things that aren’t regulated by government. I’m writing about a trip I took to Afghanisant in 2010, which was more enlightening than hilarious, and even a chapter on editorial cartoons themselves, which will be critical of the weird, old traditional cartoons that used to dominate. It’ll cover a lot, basically a tour of my life’s work and all the issues I care about.

CA: In the introduction text, you say that you’ve been creating political cartoons since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. Was that what inspired you to start creating these cartoons?

MB: Yes. I’ve always had comics as a career goal, but America went cray cray after 9/11, which was the time I started college and became more politically aware. I started drawing political cartoons for the school newspaper in March 2003, right before the Freedom was unleashed on Baghdad. I saw it in print and that was it, I’ve drawn political cartoons every week since. I can’t believe that happened ten years ago. I’m going to be 30 soon and lose all my street cred.

CA: The expected delivery of Life Begins at Incorporation is May 2013. How confident are you in hitting that target date? And will the book be available in stores next year, or is this an online only collection?

MB: If I hit my goal, I plan to take on little to no freelance work in the coming months in order to fast track this book. That’s part of what hiring an editor and production assistant will do, cut down the time. With most of the comics drawn, I only have the writing part to worry about. My hope is to work out a distribution deal with a publisher so it will be available in stores and make the convention debut at Stumptown Comics Festival here in Portland on April 27, 2013.

So, there you have it — a passionate creator who’s taking the time and effort to deliver a polished book of material already available to review. You can read much more about Life Begins at Incorporation at the Kickstarter page. And, hey, if you’re not down with this liberal propaganda, you can always wait for the delivery of Frank Miller vs. Occupy Wall Street vs. Zombies.

In other Kickstarter news, if you didn’t see the successful funding of Cyber Force, you’ll still be able to read the first issue of the series for free, with four more free issues on the way. Plus, Eric Powell has taken to Kickstarter to try and drum-up funds for a longer, more elaborate pitch of an animated film for The Goon. As a lover of the series, I hope the film makes it into production, but as some commenters have pointed out, even if the project is successfully funded and delivers, that doesn’t mean a studio will follow through on creating a full-length release.

One final note: there’s still some time to contribute to the project I featured last week, Home of the Brave, which deals with the issue of human trafficking. And, although I didn’t have time to cover it properly, a book called Downfall looks like it could be promising and is short of its funding goal with time running out.

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