Leaping into Asian Myth with ‘Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales’ [Back Pages]
The Cautionary Fables and FairyTales project has been running for several years now; an anthology series that tells stories based around the fairy tales, myths and legends of a different continent each time, starting with Europe, then Africa, and now Asia. The anthology is the work of editors and cartoonists Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin, and features work from a number of creators both new and established --- including Gene Luen Yang, Meredith McClaren, Nilah Magruder and Carla Speed McNeil.
As with the previous volumes, the team has to Kickstarter to fund the 200-page, black and white Asia anthology. Asia is a particularly wide topic to handle, so ComicsAlliance spoke to both Ashwin and McDonald about how the series has grown over time, what stories will be featured in their latest collection, and how Kickstarter has helped bring the whole thing together.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of the anthology?
Kel McDonald: Cautionary Fables and FairyTales is a collection of old tales of magic and adventure, with each volume drawing from a different continent around the world.
Kate Ashwin: It also acts as a showcase of some of the best indie and webcomic artists out there right now!
CA: What was the genesis of the project, way back when? How did it first start?
KM: I made a comic version of the French werewolf folktale Bisclarvet to draw something different from my urban fantasy webcomic Sorcery 101. While working on it, I showed it to a few other webcomic folks who told me it sounded like a fun/neat exercise. So I thought it would be a good idea to put them all in a book together and sorta informally got the wheels moving. Then as things firmed I started asking people if they were serious. And I approached Kate cause we got into and came up in webcomics at the same time.
KA: I jumped at the chance to be involved, since the idea was really interesting, and Kel's always a pleasure to work with, and now I help out with editing and shipping!
CA: The theme this time round is Asia, which is quite a wide net! What can readers expect from the stories?
KM: Well, we wanted to be sure to cover all of Asia. Like the story I contributed, "The Legend of Asena," is from Turkey.
KA: And I've gone for one from India, "The Demon With The Matted Hair." We've got stories in there from Japan, China, Tibet, and all sorts of other places. Having a nice wide theme has given us a really great variation of stories and art styles, and it all comes together beautifully.
KM: There's way more people in this book than the past ones. We have a great mix of folks from both print comics and webcomics. Carla Speed McNeil, Nina Matsumoto, Meredith McClaren, Nicole Chartrand, and Jose Pimenta are returning after being in the Africa edition. But we also are excited to add some new people like Gene Luen Yang and Nilah Magruder.
KA: There's also some surprise contributors we'll be announcing as the project continues, and if we manage to hit the stretchgoals, there's some great stuff we can add in by Jason Caffoe, and a few others!
CA: What's the experience been like for you, as editors? Getting all these writers and artists to live within the same worlds?
KA: Kel's been doing the lion's share of the work in corralling the contributors, mostly I'm there to be professionally picky about grammar and spelling! Luckily, fairy tales from any country seem to have a similar quality to them despite the varied content and tone, so keeping things consistent hasn't been too tough.
KM : Right now, both of us have our own ongoing comics running, so when it comes to editing we take our time. It's two years for each book. Mostly our editing consists of me sending a monthly email asking artists to check in. Everyone works at a different pace or has different workloads. So the stories trickle in at fairly manageable rates. Then when putting the book together we organize them by tone mostly. So no one feels out of place since the shift from goofy stories to more serious ones is a slow progression.
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
KM: Well, I was an early Kickstarter adopter. My first one was in 2009. And I usually have them end at the beginning of January so all the paying people and shipping to folks is in the same tax year. I've done seven Kickstarters before this.
KA: And I've done four! Kickstarter's been an amazing resource for both of us, and between us we're confident in our ability to deliver a really nice book at the end of the project.
CA: How've you found Kickstarter as a way to make and spread awareness of your comics?
KM: Kickstarter is fantastic. Most of the Kickstarter backers I've gotten in the past have come from my established fanbase, or in the case of Cautionary Fables and FairyTales, the fan bases of everyone involved. Kickstarter gives backend stats that told me like 20% are from people browsing. So Kickstarter is helping spread the word a little, but mostly I think Kickstarter just makes reaching your own fans much easier.
KA: Like Kel, I've found that a lot of the backers are existing fans, but doing the extra press to promote the projects tends to bring in new readers too! It's just a wonderful way to get the books made, though, I know for a fact that I couldn't have had half of my own books printed without it, and projects like this would be close to impossible!
KM: It's especially helpful with big expensive projects like this one.
CA: If you reach your target, when do you expect delivery of the final book to your backers?
KM: We will definitely have it at Emerald City Comic Con in April.
KA: Which we'll both be attending, along with a few other contributors too! We hope to have Kickstarter copies of the book shipped out around July, so we won't keep people waiting too long.
Cautionary Fables and FairyTales will run on Kickstarter until 15 January 2015, seeking a target of $29,000. To find out more, you can find the project here!