By Gary Reed
It's amazing how the perception of Kickstarter has changed since it first started. When I first started hearing about it, I was like many in that I felt it was people asking for money to do what they wanted to do. It was a handout.
But as Kickstarter became more of a norm, I realized that as long as you provided the customers (those who pledge) with a product, it wasn't a handout at all…it was essential pre-selling. I think that's how most people view it now as well. There are a lot of well established and respected people using Kickstarter in a very efficient manner so my reservations vanished.
I decided to launch an original graphic novel, Storyville: The Prostitute Murders. It is the equivalent of 5-6 comic issues and I think Kickstarter is a great way to show it to people than just a cover blurb in Previews.
The genesis of the story goes far back to the early days of Caliber and for those with great memories, Storyville was even announced as an upcoming project. Well, it took a little while but I finally got to it. This mystery of a serial killer murdering prostitutes in the red light district of 1910 New Orleans was blended with another idea I had also about the same time and that was dealing with an insane asylum.
I was always fascinated with insane asylums as I had an aunt who spent some time in one getting the shock treatments and as a kid in Detroit, we use to visit an abandoned asylum (lots of abandoned buildings in Detroit, after all) and travel through the tunnels that connected the buildings.
So, the two ideas came together and I did this by having the detective on the case work with the director of Saint James Infirmary because the idea of a serial killer was a fairly new one at the time and in fact, no one had a name for them ("serial killer" came decades later). The emphasis is on Storyville, of course, but there's quite a bit of exploratory pages on life inside the asylum as well.
I really wanted Wayne Reid to do the art. I had worked with him on many titles before such as Zulunation, El Cid, and A Murder of Scarecrows. He takes the time to get the historical aspects right…in fact, sometimes he's a little dogmatic about it so I have to make sure to provide as much reference as I can as Wayne is one of the few people in the world that doesn't use a computer nor does he care to. Wayne also has the older classic style of art, the ones that you would see in the pages of Eerie and Creepy. And that's the mood I wanted. That's why I kept it in black and white as it gives a more realistic yet darker feel to it.
I also wanted to make sure the rewards were worth it to the supporters. There's a special print set of the "Girls" of Storyville which were common back then as the "hosts" of Storyville would advertise their specialties. This 8 card set is drawn by 8 different artists so each girl has a unique look. Instead of offering posters, key chains, trading cards, and the like, I decided to offer more reading material. I took the Sherlock Holmes story that Wayne and I had done for IDW (in Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes) and that will be available as a limited edition comic only through the kickstarter program. It tells the tale of the retired Holmes who now instead of solving crimes of the living, spends his nights digging through the dead to find answers to death and life. I also offered up other graphic novels from me and Wayne and additionally, some written by me with different artists.
Wayne has never sold his original art and he never does conventions…well, I think he's done two in his life, so we thought making his original art for this graphic novel available would be a good incentive. And they're reasonably priced too.
Wayne is joined by my friend, Mark Bloodworth, (artist on Marvel's Hellraiser) who does a guest section of about 10 pages on Jack the Ripper, who many consider (he wasn't) the first serial killer. There are also some additional pages using newspaper accounts and letters to cover other areas such as H.H. Holmes and his murders at the great Chicago Exposition.
I hope that readers will find it as interesting as I did and I think they will find this to be a complete story of beginning, middle, and end in the graphic novel yet also leave itself open to more tales of the streets of Storyville and inside the asylum.