Editor Taneka Stotts Brings the Fire to ‘Elements’ [Back Pages]
Crowdfunding has become an important part of how comics get made, allowing creators to pitch their work directly to readers, and providing opportunities for comics that traditional publishers may not consider. With Back Pages, ComicsAlliance hopes to provide a spotlight for some of the best comics crowdfunding projects we can find.
The Elements Anthology is the latest comics anthology spearheaded by editor Taneka Stotts, who you should know as one of the fine folks who brought Beyond to life last year. A collection of comics by people of color, Elements is planned to be the first in a series of books --- each one of which, no surprise, will focus on an element. First up? Fire.
That should gives you an idea of just how hard the series plans to hit straight out the gate; the emphasis is on passion, rage, emotion, raw power. You should expect to find all of that in the pages of Elements if it reaches it's Kickstarter goal. ComicsAlliance spoke to Stotts about her role as editor, why she wanted to strike the match and start the anthology up, and what people can expect when the Fire hits this year.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of the anthology?
Taneka Stotts: Elements is a comics anthology with 33 creators taking on the theme of fire. In the current climate of the comic industry, it's easy to see that not only do we need more diverse books, but we also need more diverse creators.
CA: What was the genesis of the project? How long have you wanted to get this up and running?
TS: The genesis of this project was actually while I was working on Beyond in 2014, but I didn't set anything in motion until 2015, because I wanted to make sure I didn't fail in delivering my first book. I had a sort of lightbulb moment that begged me to answer why I felt like there was something missing in the projects I was invited to or had a hand in. I noticed an unfortunate trend of being one of the few minorities writing for a book even when I paired with a creator of color as my artist. Be it about fairy tales or fantasy worlds, I was kind of alone. While I was also grateful for the opportunities, I couldn't help but wonder where everyone else was. With that on my mind I decided it was time, not just for diverse stories, but also for diverse creators to take a stand.
Invitations for the project went out June 26th, and I opened for submissions in July of 2015. The start of the Kickstarter [is actually] the one-year anniversary of this project. I’m looking forward to seeing everything I dreamed of that we all worked so hard for to finally come to fruition.
CA: The theme of the first anthology is "Fire". What made you choose that as the underlying theme for the book?
TS: I wanted to start with a theme that would let people know I was serious. I feel a passion inside every day that cannot be quelled. It feels like if I'm not creating, I'm doing something wrong. It consumes me a little bit too much and sometimes my partner has to rein me in.
Elements is meant to also be more than just one book, it's book one of five, but with the first I wanted to come out with my 'A' game. Starting with such a passionate theme made for a lot of different conversations as all my contributors interpreted the theme of fire through their own unique points of view.
CA: How did you find people to join you for the anthology? Who are some of the people involved with the project?
TS: I asked a few friends, who were immediately excited about the project and told me to expect them even if they hadn't been invited, so that was great. However, I also sent out blind invites to people like Der-shing Helmer, Yasmin Liang, and Chrystin Garland. Having them say yes and ultimately join the project really nailed home that this was definitely going to happen.
When it came to open submissions, I found amazing people from all over the world submitting. Artists from South Africa, creators from the U.A.E., and finally gems like Deshan Tennekoon and Sri Lankan artist Isuri Merenchi Hewage.
My desire to work with people, to help them grow and watch them blossom into their own creator, was also something I made very clear and it helped creators like Tee Franklin of #BlackComicsMonth reach out to me too. The list goes on and is full of creators of color from as far as the UK, to neighbors just north of me in Seattle. For every contributor, I'm utterly grateful, because the book does not exist without their time, their stories, and their talent.
CA: Did you find that it was difficult to get people to submit pitches to you, or was it actually the opposite, that you had way more submissions than you were expecting?
TS: I definitely had way more submissions than I was expecting. I invited a lot of people up front, because I actually was expecting to get maybe 50 total. I instead received over 100, and was floored by the response. Even with Shing Yin Khor as my amazing assistant editor, I was prepared for a lot of backlash (and got a little), but ultimately I found creators of color to be very supportive.
CA: We're still at a place where people of color seem to exist on the periphery of the discussion about comics, and on the outside of most major publishers. How important do you see projects like Elements even simply as a spotlight, a way for people to get their work seen and talked about?
TS: Elements is very important. Not just to signal boost or showcase diverse creators, but to give them a further foot in the door. If a future publisher wants to see they're already in print, well here you go. If they need a published short work that can be referenced, this book is for them and more. However, if publishers also want to keep coming up with excuses when asked why no diverse creators, then we're ready for them.
I hope that this was a learning experience for everyone involved that what publishers do is not out of their grasp. That this is something that with just a little ambition and know-how they can do as well. However, that doesn't mean we stop requesting change from the industry. Instead I hope it makes us louder and harder to ignore.
CA: Why take the Elements anthology to Kickstarter?
TS: Much like my previous Kickstarter for Beyond, I believe in it existing, I believe in paying those involved, and I will ensure the book is delivered. I love Kickstarter. It has blown open the gates for those who are and aren't published. It has made massive changes in the publishing world that cannot be reversed and it's an amazing structure that I am grateful for.
CA: You mention your work on the Beyond anthology and Kickstarter campaign, with Sfé Monster. What do you think you've changed about your approach to crowdfunding since that project, and what advice would you give to anybody considering the process for themselves?
TS: With Beyond, I literally did not think the response would have been as massive as it was. Even with Elements, I'm ready to fight tooth and nail to make it successful. If anything the changes this time around are just in my preparation level, communication to my contributors, and to those assisting me with finalizing the book.
I would urge anyone looking to start a Kickstarter to really look at the time it takes and the numbers of what it takes to make a book, basically have their math down because something will pop up. There are many valuable tools to utilize online, and many members of the community who will answer questions.
Heck you can still check out C. Spike Trotman's Let's Kickstart A Comic (And Not Screw It Up) mini that is available!
CA: What stage are you at with the book? How much has already been completed?
TS: Artists are literally finalising tones on their comics. That means we're at the end. We'll be compiling the book in InDesign after doing some color checks and giving ourselves a bit of down time to let the proofers do their job before it goes to the printer!
The Elements anthology will run on Kickstarter from today until Monday 1st April 2016, seeking a funding target of $30,000. You can find the campaign here!