Aaron Whitaker is an Austin-based cartoonist and screenwriter whose upcoming self-published graphic novel The City Troll's printing costs were paid for by the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com.
Kickstarter and websites like it allow creators to publicly ask for financial assistance in seeing the completion of a project that the creators themselves would not have the funds to realize. Whitaker, for instance, asked initally for $2000 to finance a print run of The City Troll. The creator then has one month to rally up support for the project— if the project gets enough supporters, all the money offered is pocketed by the creator (and Kickstarter gets a small cut). But if the fundrasing goal isn't met, the creator gets nothing.
This model has come under fire recently, as one comic whose publication was funded by donors for over $32,000 dissapeared in a puff of smoke— due to creative differences the comic's creators split, leaving the comic in a murky hiatus as the comic's writer scrambles to find a replacement artist.
Whitaker's The City Troll, by merit or sheer luck, was chosen as a Featured Project by the staff at Kickstarter, and the project's page was pushed to the front page of the website. With this exposure, Whitaker attracted enough donors to amass all $2000 of the requested funds overnight.
Whitaker's current Kickstarter funds rest just south of a cool $5,000, with 12 days to go before the fundrasing deadline. He's using the additonal funds to increase the printrun of City Troll and fund a book tour. We caught up with Whitaker to talk about the book, where it's from, and where it goes from here.
DT Comics: How has the process been for you since the Kickstarter campaign took off like a rocket? Does it make your job a bit easier now, as you finish the comic, that there's this larger audience waiting for it?
Aaron Whitaker: It has been very motivating as I finish my comic to watch my Kickstarter unfold. Raising more than double my intended goal means I can print a bigger run. I also will be able to purchase an ISBN number (which is basically a barcode) and enter it into Diamond (which is a comic distributor) so book and comic stores all over the country can have the option to order my book.
DTC: I definitely get a Gondry-esque vibe from the book's previews, so I was not surprised to learn that the book was initially a movie script. Can you talk about the evolution from a filmic script to a comic narrative?
Whitaker: I enjoy telling stories whether it's through comics or film. Last year I decided I wanted to work on something bigger than the mini-comics I had been creating. I sat down with a handful of screenplays and decided which one would be best told in comic form. I chose The City Troll because there was a surreal aspect to it. The main character Paul sometimes visualizes himself as a troll creature and the inside of his mind like a log cabin. I'm not sure how most cartoonists write for their comics, but screenwriting lends itself very well to my comics.
DTC: You collaborated with your girlfriend Melinda Tracy Boyceon many of your previous comic outings. Can you talk about your process with her, and with collaboration in general? How much does that affect what went into City Troll?
Whitaker: Melinda and I have collaborated on two comics so far. The first, "Okay? Okay!" was an autobiographical comic about the beginning of our relationship from our two different perspectives in our two different art styles. Since we were telling the same story but wanted to see how each of us remembered it, we didn't communicate (besides a few details). So it was almost an anti-collaboration.
The second comic, "Batcave Beach", is a fictional comic that Melinda draws and I write. The process is pretty simple. I write whatever I want and she draws it however she wants. Our vision must be telepathically in sync because it always turns out better than I originally intended.
The City Troll is a sole venture of mine, but Melinda has helped me a great deal by proof-reading the script for it.
DTC: How has the drawing process of City Troll been for you? A graphic novel is something that is incredibly time consuming to plan, but the actual drawing takes magnitudes longer to execute.
Whitaker: I agree. It's a big commitment and a couple times I needed to take a break for a week or so. Also, six months and 100 pages in I realized my drawing had improved and was worried it would be noticeable to the reader. Overall I really enjoyed the experience and plan on producing a new long-form comic every couple years.
Below are two preview pages from The City Troll,which is on course to launch at STAPLE! Expo in March. Aaron Whitacre's personal website and blog can be found at http://www.aaronwhitaker.com/.