Steven Andrews Offers a Tour Of Toronto In ‘Yonge at Heart’ Anthology [Back Pages]
There are many cities which could be considered a "home" for comics, and Toronto is right up there as one of the biggest creative communities in the medium today. With a number of the most famous writers and artists in comics today hailing from Canada, and a rising number of conventions and events taking place across Toronto itself, there's a real sense of activity coming from the city these days.
And with Toronto itself also having a fascinating history of its own, why not explore that a little? With Toronto Comics, editor Steven Andrews has been able to bring a sense of that spirited community to comics, and currently has a Kickstarter running to help fund the latest in the series of anthologies themed around Toronto --- and featuring comics creators from the city --- to life. To find out more about the project, ComicsAlliance spoke to Andrews about his work on the series, and what readers can expect should the latest volume be funded.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the premise of Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart?
Steven Andrews: Toronto Comics is about showcasing the next generation of comics coming out of our little city. Toronto has an enormous but often overlooked influence in the mainstream comics industry, with Jeff Lemire, Cameron Stewart, Jim Zub, Francis Manapul, and dozens of other big-name creators all living in one place. The city we love is a boiling hive of talent constantly reinventing the medium, and our book aims to give newcomers their first exposure to the world!
CA: What kinds of stories do we have here? Is this all historical/biographical work, or are there stories included here which are fictional?
SA: We chose stories from a variety of genres, so we have a mix of the absurd, true histories, and the deeply personal. We have a story of one of our trans creators just trying to safely use a bathroom at the Pride parade, as well as more outlandish tales of giant robots feuding over a one-bedroom condo.
We also have the true tale of our city’s first gangland murder (never solved!), and the impossibly absurd (but 100% true) tale of the Great Clown Brothel Riot --- an actual thing that happened in our city.
CA: This isn’t the first anthology you’ve funded through Kickstarter, so what was the initial inspiration to create an anthology based around Toronto? What’s the comics scene like there?
SA: Back in 2014, three students from Ty Templeton’s comics bootcamp got together and decided to put his lessons into practice by building a book. It was an incredibly stressful project and a deeply rewarding one.
We couldn’t have succeeded without the incredible support of the local comics scene! When we needed advice or support, there was always someone willing to go out of their way to help complete strangers. Iconic comic stores like The Beguiling, the Silver Snail and others were happy to stock and support our books, and conventions like TCAF, FanExpo and Word on the Street helped connect us to a hungry audience eager to try new things.
In the spirit of that community, we publish our finances --- down to how many books we sell at each convention --- as well as our suppliers and printing process. We want to teach new creators everything we know about self-publishing, so that they can launch their own amazing books. We also do a monthly hangout at the Sidekick Cafe to help new creators network with more established folks.
If you’re creating comics, Toronto is the city to do it in. You won’t find a more enthusiastic or supportive community anywhere.
CA: How did you find people to take part in this anthology? What were you looking for from contributors?
SA: Every August, we put out an open call for writers and artists to submit pitches and portfolios. We’re looking for stories that feature tasteful product placement of Toronto, and that have an empathy and human connection to them. We’re not looking for edgy, gritty or cruel.
We want undeserved genres and unusual protagonists. Living in Toronto isn’t mandatory, but having some life experience with the city definitely helps!
CA: As editor, how involved are you with the stories? Do you prefer to be hands-on or hands-off, or does it vary from story to story?
SA: I would say we’re very involved in the development from start to finish. We have check-in stages for drafts, script, character designs, thumbnails, pencils, inks, letters and colors. Fore every milestone, the editor assigned to that story reviews the work, and encourages and challenges the creator to make the best story possible.
Most of the time we’re only doing minor tweaks, but since each book has a rapid nine-month development cycle, we’ve found regular check-ins help make sure everything’s on track.
CA: What made you want to bring the project to Kickstarter?
SA: For us, Kickstarter is about building marketing hype for the book, and offering pre-orders through a trusted hub. If we sold pre-orders on our own site, new customers would be less likely to trust it with their credit card. With Kickstarter, everyone’s already familiar with how the process works, and their platform allows folks to easily discover our work.
Also, I’m poor and need money! This book is projected to cost about $20,000 in total to get to market. You may note that the Kickstarter is only for $14,000 --- the remaining amount is every drop of my personal savings. The Kickstarter provides seed money that lets us get a great book out the door, and then it’ll be up to me to hustle and sell it at conventions to break even.
CA: What stage are your currently at with production of the comic? How much has already been completed?
SA: We have inks and letters in for every story, and the last of the colors should be coming on in March 19. We’re going to be sending the files to the printer during the Kickstarter’s run-time, so we are very close to done!
CA: Do you have any stretch goals planned for the comic?
SA: At $15,000, all our digital rewards will be upgraded with PDFs of our previous anthologies --- over 600 pages of comics!
At $16,000, we’re going to include tiny adorable character buttons with all physical orders.
At $17,000, we’re also going to include little stickers with the characters on ‘em! If we get beyond that stage, we’ve got a few surprises planned. We live in hope!
CA: What’s your estimated delivery on the final product?
SA: Barring accident or injury, Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart will launch at TCAF on May 13, 2017. We’ll be sending out PDFs that weekend, and mailing out books shortly after! We’ve fulfilled two successful Kickstarters before, and I’m confident we’ll do it again with our best book yet.
Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart will run on Kickstarter until March 31, 2017, and is seeking a funding target of $14,000. To find out more, check out the Kickstarter page here!