Nothing Sucks Like Success – The Side-Kicked Problem

Comic book author of the Side-Kicked comic books, Russell Brettholtz writes about what happens when you get everything you thought you wanted.

Sick and tired of being taken for granted by the citizens of Chicago, ignored by the media, and disrespected by the super-heroes they worked with, the sidekicks of Chicago WENT ON STRIKE. That is the story detailed in Side-Kicked Volume 1 (Chapters 1-4), which was successfully funded on Kickstarter in two separate campaigns in 2014. Since then, Side-Kicked has sold out its first two print runs and has nearly sold through its third printing.

Side-Kicked Volume 2 (Chapters 5-9) is a 5-issue comic book mini-series created by me, its series writer, Russell Brettholtz. Its story picks up right where Side-Kicked Chapter 4 left off. The strike is over. fThe sidekicks have teamed up with some of the heroes they formerly worked with creating Chicago's first super-team. But will an alien threat destroy the new status quo the sidekicks fought so hard for? And all the while, the former sidekicks to Chicago's greatest super-villains are consolidating their own power, filling the vacuum left by the imprisonment of their former bosses.

If I'm perfectly honest, I never thought I would be developing a sequel to Side-Kicked. The idea for the series came after I was fired from my job as the assistant to a financial planner. I knew I had a story that would resonate with readers if I just found the right angle, and the relationships between superheroes and sidekicks seemed to be a perfect fit.

The first four issues just flowed out of me. It was some of the easiest writing I have ever done. When I finished the scripts, I thought they would just collect dust since I don't have an ounce of artistic talent. But the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, made it possible to raise the money needed to hire an art team to complete the book (not to mention selling huge chunks of my personal comic book collection which I had amassed over the prior 25 years).

I assumed those four issues of Side-Kicked would be my only opportunity to realize my dream of creating a comic book. I also assumed that once those four issues were completed and delivered to Kickstarter backers, I would be done with making my own comic books.

But you know what the same about when you "assume." I couldn't have been more wrong. The Kickstarter campaigns were more successful than I could have imagined. They brought the attention of publishers, including Darby Pop Publishing. Side-Kicked was released as a trade paperback by Darby Pop Publishing in October of 2015. More specifically, it debuted at New York Comic Con of that year. I had been to New York Comic Con before. Several times, in fact. But only as a fan. But in 2015, standing behind a booth for the first time, stopping excited comic book fans as they walked by and asking them if they would be interested in trying a brand new series… It was an experience unlike any I had ever had before.

Side-Kicked
A cover of Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.

By Saturday night of the convention, we had sold out of every copy of Side-Kicked Darby Pop had brought. We followed up New York with Rhode Island Comic Con and had similar results. A couple more conventions with similar results later, and my publisher were asking me if I had any ideas for a sequel. And my answer was simple: No. Comic books are EXPENSIVE to make. I can easily spend between $4000 and $5000 on the artwork for a single issue. And the stories I wanted to tell would need four or five issues. I knew it was going to be difficult enough to raise the initial money I needed for the first four issues, and the idea of doing it a second time seemed laughable. So I didn't pepper the first four issues with foreshadowing for the future. No seeds that could develop in future issues into massive payoffs. No dangling plot threads or cliffhangers that would have readers frothing at the mouth to get their hands on the next issue. I delivered a complete story that readers could put down after reading and sigh with the satisfaction of a finished tale.

Side-Kicked
A cover of Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.

But in 2016, as I started doing the same conventions that I had done the previous year, people would come up to the booth and ask if I had any new issues. That they had bought the book at the previous year's convention and really liked it, and wanted more. What was I supposed to do? I wrote another five issues.

It was a much different process than the first time. The first time around, I was fresh from being fired and had a lot of raw feelings begging for an outlet. But in 2016, I was overjoyed, basking in the success of my comic book. I was in much the same situation as my sidekicks were at the end of their story. And that's when it hit me. The story for the second volume would be about what happens when you achieve your goal. What happens when you succeed? What happens when you're finally happy and content? What happens when something threatens that peace you worked so hard to achieve? Side-Kicked Chapter 5 launched on Kickstarter in June 2019. It was the first issue in the second volume of the series and began a brand new storyline. The campaign was successful, and I was able to print 500 copies of the issue to bring to conventions. And then the pandemic hit.

Side-Kicked
A preview image from Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.
Side-Kicked
A preview image from Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.

Conventions are a HUGE source of income for the creation of my comic books. Thankfully, I had built up enough of a war chest that I was able to pay my art team to finish Chapter 6. And for the first time ever, I was able to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a book that was 100% complete. No worries about not being able to deliver the book (or delays because my penciler broke his arm – true story). Side-Kicked Chapter 5 launched on Kickstarter on July 14th. We're over 75% funded and closing in on our funding goal of $3000. This money will be used toward printing the newest issue of the book and paying my art team to continue the series (of which Chapter 7 is already in production – though I did have to resume sales of my comics from my personal collection, once again). And if you missed out on the first five issues, DON'T WORRY, you can get copies of the first five chapters of the series through catch-up tiers in the campaign.

The Kickstarter campaign is also offering some great rewards beyond digital and physical copies of the issues. Penciler, Andrey Portilla, has sent me some of his original penciled pages to be sold through the campaign. Jeff Bonesteel, who is the concept artist for nearly all of the characters in the book, is offering commissions and sketch covers. And you can even get the original pencils for the covers of Chapters 5 and 6 drawn by Nikkol Jelenic.

Side-Kicked
A preview image from Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.

Side-Kicked has been an incredible journey for me so far, and I can't wait to get more of this series into your hands. I hope you'll consider checking out the campaign page and supporting the project. The Kickstarter campaign for Side-Kicked Chapters 1-6: Heroes, Sidekicks, Aliens, and More can be found here.

Side-Kicked
A preview image from Side-Kicked. Image used with permission.

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About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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