Finally I’ve had to succumb, and the reason is that Leo Hartas and I needed to set up a Facebook page for our comics saga Mirabilis: Year of Wonders (If you need a this-meets-that, try Tintin hunts Fantastic Beasts with a soundtrack by Danny Elfman).
This is part of our big push to get the Mirabilis project moving again. The story was originally serialized in weekly British anthology comic The DFC, published by Random House. When The DFC folded, our story was left unfinished but our rights were tied up in a complicated contractual tangle. It took me months of increasingly desperate negotiation to find a way out of that limbo, made all the more fraught by the fact that none of the people involved in the mess would even return my calls. Luckily I knew Philippa Dickinson, the original publisher of Dragon Warriors and one of the truly nicest people you could hope to work with, who by now had risen to be the head of RH’s children’s publishing division. She pulled strings with the powers that be and got me and Leo our rights back.
Thus unfettered I could stop chewing my nails, but it was still far from plain sailing. We secured a publisher for Mirabilis, but though they did a beautiful job of the production they failed to get copies into any shops. I had to lug a couple of bags stuffed with copies to the Gosh! Comics store in London – if you bought one of those, hang onto it like a Penny Black with Queen Vic in a hipster beard, because they were almost the only copies that ever saw the light of day. The rest, I hear, went astray between the printer (in Bosnia) and the distribution warehouse (in Lancashire) and may now be propping up wobbly café tables somewhere in Germany.
So, back to the drawing board. A comics publisher reached out, but the deal they offered was like a handshake from Don Corleone. We were expected to sign over all rights in perpetuity to them, even though there was no obligation for them to keep the book in print. After the epic struggle with Random House there’s no way Leo and I could accept terms like that. As a creator, all you have is your work. You can't let other people lock you out of it.
What about Random House themselves? Well, Philippa had retired by this point, and the mildest way to put it is that having escaped the clutches of the contract we didn’t really have a lot of friends there. We were in our gulag and, at any other time in history, there we might have stayed. But this is the 21st century, right - with social media and crowdfunding and shit. So Leo and I have spent the last few weeks getting ready for a full and concerted relaunch of this mighty fantasy saga. Our plans include:
- a Patreon page where aficionados can come and pledge as little as $1 a month to help fund new instalments. Pages of the comic go up there Mondays and Fridays with higher-level backers getting access to backstage blog pieces and other goodies.
- a new website where everyone can read the comic absolutely free – just a little way behind the paid-up supporters on Patreon, who also get higher-res versions of the art.
- the aforementioned Facebook page where you can get updates on Mirabilis and any other books, comics, movies or games that we thing might interest you.
- a Twitter account with daily instalments of the comic.
Here’s the thing. We could really use your support – which is, after all, the whole point and rationale of what we’re trying to do now. We’re bypassing the publishers and distributors and going straight to the people whose opinion and backing count most. That’s you, we hope. The readers. Already we've got backing from Jason Arnopp, the 21st century's Stephen King, from the Jedi Master of gamebooks Stuart Lloyd, and from musician, artist & game designer Frazer Payne, among others. Good company to be in, and an absolutely priceless vote of confidence when we're starting a new venture like this. Thanks, guys.
If you can spring for a few dollars to actually fund the work, then you’re our BFFs till the sun dies – but even if not, a like on Facebook costs nothing and can really help boost interest. You never know, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.