For years on Bleeding Cool, we have covered crowdfunded comic books, those that succeeded beyond people's wildest dreams, and those that crashed and burned. Every few years I run a Kickstopped column looking at new failures and those that still haven't been resolved from years past. One such project gained a lot more attention this week, Tales From The Quarantine.
Launched by Frazer Brown in August 2020, and first mentioned by Bleeding Cool back in April of that year, as well as a film and stage producer, Frazer Brown was also a former occasional reporter for Bleeding Cool. An anthology of comics work, provided free by creators, to raise money for the Hero Initiative to help other comic book creators especially those affected by the pandemic and lockdown, it was described thus:
400 CREATIVES. 60 COUNTRIES. 1 COMIC
"EVERYBODY HAS A TALE TO TELL. THESE ARE THEIRS"
'TALES FROM THE QUARANTINE' IS A WORLD FIRST ANTHOLOGY FROM RED CABIN COMICS FEATURING 400 COMIC CREATIVES from across the globe
Including OVER 100 EISNER, HUGO, EMMY AND RINGO NOMINEES AND WINNERS.
Created, Curated and Published by FRAZER BROWN – ENTIRELY IN LOCKDOWN
1. Lateness From The Quarantine
Tales From The Quarantine had a delivery date of March 2021 and – you can see where this is going – has yet to be published. This week, Rich Davids of Comic Printing UK took to Twitter to sum up some of the issues. "It's not that I like chaos or anything but at some point before the bird app dies we should probably talk about that Tales from the Quarantine kickstarter that everyone contributed to in good faith and never delivered. My experience was pretty light with it. I did a bunch of quotes, which take time and therefore have an associated cost, but I do that for a lot of things that don't pan out. Feel pretty bad for those who contributed art or writing (or money). Anyway it was 100% profit to charity. Having quoted on all of the options I can pretty much say that even with £37k of backing delivering on what was offered would make that a moot point. BUT also one of the listed charities was @LYRfund, a p2p project run by… you'll never guess… Yes, it is your friend and mine F. Brown."
"Now back when this project was only a little bit delayed you got a lot of tales of woe out of our man regarding worldwide paper shortages. And it's true, there were worldwide paper shortages. Affecting publishers about the size of Penguin. The KS generated ~850 backers (it's at 814 now but he cancelled a load of pledges from people questioning the delays). Let's be generous and assume backerkit brought in another 500. Let's continue being generous & assume all of those were for physical rewards. Need about 2k units"
"Getting the paper for 2k units is – I cannot overstate this – trivial. Thought Bubble week yr beloved CPUK shipped nearly 100k units & getting paper simply was not an issue. Like, not even a "ooh keep this on the radar" issue. You'd not send a job this size to China, it's not worth it. You might send it to Eastern Europe. Maybe. If you wanted to maximise your charitable contribution. Add in the fact you've got variant covers selling in single digits, a glow in the dark cover selling maybe half a dozen, packs of gum with trading cards… it's nonsense. You're talking about a six figure operation to break even. And the first figure needs to not be a one."
"Frazer's had a bunch of surgeries this (and last) year if you believe him. And I believe him, I'm a trusting sort of guy. It's not clear to me how that would slow down proof approval or printing, but I can see it slowing down dispatch. Weird there's never been a product pic tho. Weird that two years and change after the conclusion of the campaign he's still refusing to send out the PDF to digital backers because he doesn't want spoilers. I mean, at this stage I would be in full placatory mode."
"Anyway, I'm not really going anywhere with this other than to say that looks like proper scumbag behaviour. But I will offer a grovelling apology if anybody ever actually gets what they paid for. It makes me inexpressibly angry because I know that so, so many really good people put time and effort and money into this thing during a period when we were all under duress & really needed a community to coalesce around. And this guy looks to have taken advantage of that. And I can't do much, because I'm just a lil guy who isn't strong or good at fighting or wealthy enough to go to court. But if you f-ck with my people, people I *care* about, then I will put you on blast as hard as I can so nobody ever puts their hand in their pocket for you again. Come at me, bro. Prove a word wrong. I'll beg your forgiveness in public if you can. Oh, one addendum to forestall the obvious: my profit margin on all of this would have been about 500 quid."
"Worth having, but I'm not weeping into my coffee that he's "picked a different printer." I'd have taken the money up front if he'd sent me files. Regular customers familiar with my style of invoicing can draw their own conclusions from that. One last note (until I get angry again): if you got taken in either on the creation or the buying end, or both, please do not feel bad. The man's very persuasive to a point – he got a lot of people invested. And don't give up on crowdfunding, because this ain't representative. This stuff's a rounding error. The vast VAST majority of creators crowdfunding just want to tell you a damned good story and will whip themselves to breaking point to make sure they deliver on time and in budget. Scammers are a blight we can surmount. I genuinely, genuinely, hope this gets rubbed in my face at some point. At this late stage I feel like a lot of people would find it leaves a bitter taste, but I want to be wrong and for people to get their books. Like I say, I will apologise in public and in person if they do."
2. Comments From The Quarantine.
There were plenty of Tales From The Quarantine comments that followed from comic book creators, some involved, some not. Joe Glass, also formerly of Bleeding Cool, wrote "Wait, this book isn't out yet? I'm the first to be understanding of delays, you know that, but this thing is years old ain't it?! I genuinely assumed it was out". Rich replied "This book is never coming out. "Paper delays" were first. Then the curator was sick (absolutely plausible). Then postage is a nightmare. Before he deleted his account I had dms from Oct 21 fishing for confirmation that nobody could get paper. Total nonsense, as you know!""
Dan Whitehead stated "I've given this project a LOT of benefit of the doubt (I've got a story in there with Steve Pugh, and am really proud of it) but the thing that's tipping me over the edge is this: if it's genuinely in the "shipping phase" since Nov 9 why no photos of the actual printed books?" He also proposed "collating the pages from any contributors who still want to see their work put to use and that "at the end of January 2023, I will compile whatever pages have been volunteered into a new book with a new title. So that's my proposal. Friday deadline for proof that TFTQ exists. If not: January deadline for contributors to resupply their pages for an alternate project. Print copies for contributors, digital copies for charity donations to a campaign to run in February/March 2023…. Of course, there is a slim chance that for some unfathomable reason there really are boxes and boxes of thick chunky books just out of shot, all being packed for delivery between now and Christmas. That is, after all, still the stated plan: all items shipped by end of the year. I will fund a limited print run so that every contributor who wants a hard copy can have one. For now, physical editions will be exclusive to contributors. I have neither the time nor energy to run a big Kickstarter right now. To fulfil the charity aspect, which is what got most of us to take part, I propose a digital only edition. I'll run a campaign for NHS Together – supposedly the primary beneficiary of TFTQ – on a site like JustGiving. Money goes straight to the charity, not via myself. Anyone who contributes to that campaign will get a link to the digital edition afterwards. Clean and simple. Will it raise £37k? Probably not, but even if it only raises £100 that's more than charities have seen from TFTQ, right?"
Staz Johnson tweeted his pages out, saying " Given that the more than 2 year wait for the Tales From The Quarantine book to emerge suggests it was at best due to incompetence or at worst a scam/grift, I feel no longer obliged to sit on the piece @ThePeterBriggs & I did. Here it is in all it's progress stages.
Fraser Campbell did the same saying "Anyway, here is the page created by me and the brilliant @LucySullivanUK . It's about a calculating wrong 'un who can't help but see an angle for himself in the pandemic. Take from that what you will."
Rachael Stott replied "Emailed @FrazerBrown asking to see a physical copy of the charity anthology. and got an auto out of office reply saying he was recovering from surgery. Which is odd because he tweeted he was at the post office.
But he also has supporters. Contributor Glenn Fabry writes "I like Frazer, he's one of the good ones. He hasn't f-cked off with anyone's money, it's out next week"
3. Frazer Brown replies at last.
Obviously, I had been asking around about Tales From The Quarantine, and that included talking to Frazer Brown. It seems my intervention led Frazer to eventually take to Twitter, while recovering from surgery. posting images of the single comics to social media to state;
"I apologise for my silence. I had surgery on Tuesday, it's been a somewhat slow recovery week. It's taken me this long to get enough energy to react. Those that know me, know how precarious this year has been for me when it comes to health and how serious my personal situation is. I felt I had explained this fully to backers and contributors, I apologise if that was not the case. I am loathe to discuss personal issues in public, so I generally keep my cards close to my chest. I try to maintain composure and dignified silence in adversity unless there are real world ramifications, "Answer questions, ignore statements" So I tend not to engage in arguments or confrontations online. Sometimes This can be misconstrued as arrogance or evasiveness. I spoke to a long time comic journalist friend this evening who persuaded me perhaps it's time to engage and address some of the vitriol sent my way….stating that my mentor (who I loved) was very much a 90's type CEO that didn't take in to account the age of the internet."
Yeah, okay, I may reject that description, but think he's talking about me. I told him that he needed to answer his critics rather than just ignore them.
"It seems it was the wrong week to have surgery. A lot has been happening, whilst I wasn't able to be online. TALES FROM THE QUARANTINE is currently being fulfilled, we said it would be fulfilled by Christmas and are well on the way to doing so. NOTHING has changed. Christmas is still weeks away. The floppies are easily viewed on our instagram, the peripherals have all been sent and hopefully received. 'Peripherals' makes light of the actual logistics involved especially when 100+ people needed address corrections and double checks and over 300 parcels were shipped. We will ship all books. It's still 5 weeks till the deadline. Our commitment remains to fulfilling all orders and Pledges. It is time consuming, it is hard work. But it is happening."
Ah yes, the deadline, he is now talking about shipping Tales From The Quarantine before Christmas. Which is famous as a really easy time to ship things through the UK post office. But we will see.
"I naively thought people were happy to wait, In my eagerness to maintain 'professionalism' I may have backed myself in to corners where I'm a little behind, I myself have pledged on Comic Kickstarters that have been 1-3 years late and not given it a second thought. In fact I can name two projects from famous creators that are still due, with nary a negative comment. And one of my most vocal critics this week was himself over a year late on his latest. I'm not excusing the lateness of TFTQ at all. I am fully aware it's been too long."
The issue here, as I tried to explain to Frazer, is not just from customers – and he has refunded those with complaints, whether they asked to be or not – but from comic book creators who provided work, for free, who now feel taken advantage of. And are justifiably upset.
"TALES FROM THE QUARANTINE was created out of a passion to help. I am incredibly proud of this book, It is one of the biggest projects of my life and has maintained every thought waking and sleeping since its inception. Every single contributor brought their A game and Rachael Stott, Chris Weston, Christian Ward all our contributors and all our cover artists created such beautiful work. I hate that any of this week has put strain or ended the amazing connections I have made through this. I've lived and breathed TFTQ for two straight years, I've drifted through two years of family life and covid and so much more thinking and acting on the project, To have anyone try to destroy that is heartbreaking to me. And to have so many people take the word of a completely unconnected starnger as gospel is equally upsetting. Do I wish it had happened quicker? I do, of course I do. I became incredibly ill in 2021, It's been a hard road to recovery for me, and out of some misguided attempt at 'professionalism' I have kept the intricacies of my health out of public eye."
"Let me answer the big questions. WHY IS IT LATE? Various reasons. Some people committed to the book then unfortunately after 9 months of waiting they had to pull out for their own reasons. Some people took OVER 12 months to get me their page to me and out of professional courtesy, I delayed as it's a voluntary project and they had to fit around their schedule. My health around November 2021 just at launch deteriorated rapidly and catastrophically delayed. the release. The printer I engaged, stated supply issues and dragged it out to the point, I had to threaten legal action to get the money back and find a different printer. The whole time I have tried to keep the operation 'smooth' in the public eye. This happens to lots of Kickstarters. The difference is people's passion for this book is high.
"WHERE'S THE BOOK?!!! Everything is on it's way or being posted, In my attempts to maintain a professional outlook I sometimes enthuse too much in a 'everything's fine' kind of way. However, everything is fine. I have a very specific plan for delivery. Once everyones' orders are fulfilled we will then sort any replacement items and issues, then we will create a full monetary account and submit the accounts to an independent audit. All NET profits will then be donated to charity, I am happy to show the results of this audit. That hasn't changed from the start. What saddens me most, is we had big plans for the book to make as much for charity as we could, and lots of great marketing announcements that have now gone out of the window."
Well… he's certainly got publicity out of it. There are other people he named, involving other issues from the past, that I am really not going to get involved with at this stage. But Frazer had more to say.
"This whole weeks turmoil was initially created by an individual that is well liked and well respected in the industry, which is why his false accusations have managed to gain so much traction. This individual is somebody I've spoken too perhaps thrice in the past few years, he has ZERO inside knowledge of any aspect of the project, our budget, our delays, or anything AT ALL and yet last week in the spirit of "cheeky chaos" decided to launch a very precise and personal attack on me and what is my life's (so far ) passion project. As this individual is well liked, his words gained traction. To the point, people involved in the book have decided to react. The reality is, I have had perhaps 3 or 4 creators reach out to me personally to ask any questions before posting negatively about the project, I understand the need for self preservation in the hells-cape that is the internet.
Yeah, he's talking about Rich Davids of Comic Printing UK, if that wasn't clear.
"Not only do the words this individual said border on libellous, they are completely and ignorantly false. "I'll apologise after" is not an excuse. Within the course of a few days, some creators have passionately and publicly reacted to what they consider an informed opinion. I get it. I've tried to reach out where I can, in what was a very slow week for me physically. But in some cases that damage seem irrecoverable. As a passion project, It has naturally evoked a LOT of passion, from contributors, from customers and from critics. what an amazing thing. I ask everyone, Critics, contributors and onlookers to, perhaps, put this in perspective. We have a delayed Kickstarter that will be completed and then audited. Nothing more. I have publicly promoted and produced this project for 2years, why would I so publically walk away?
"BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK?!: Presently we have shipped all Merch items and are just starting to ship single 'Floppy" editions of the book. You can see photos of the floppy edition below and on our Instagram accounts too. I will be setting up regular social updates to ease people's minds. The Kickstarter fulfilment continues, It will continue. Please post images when your books arrive and I will continue to see this through as people that backed it are relying on me to do so. Please note: My account is being deleted in 5 days. I remain active on other platforms. I will also be blocking the originator of this 'chaos' Now if you'll excuse me, I have. book to get out."
Rich Davids' ComicPrintingUK account, which has now hilariously changed its name to "C-ingle individual PUK", replied to a number of the tweets using quote tweets, as did others, only to find the original tweets deleted and reposted. Amongst his replies were, "You didn't offer comps, asked them to do promo and pay for the books, then swanned off with the money. I hate to think what happens when you don't appreciate someone. Again, this is a lunatic way of shipping a multi-part Kickstarter. Those of you who have run one know this. Frazer, mate, I've seen harassment. This isn't it, this is mockery with a side of accountability. And if you ever want to be famous you're gonna have to learn to live with bad press" and also posted, "I guess if I had any advice on becoming a single individual who is well-liked and respected in the industry it would probably be "don't f-ck half of it over"."
4. Where is Tales From The Quarantine now?
But we have a new deadline, the end of 2022. Frazer has posted pictures of the single issues on social media, but not the 200-page collection. There are also accusations of him reviewing his own, unpublished book on GoodReads, which has now drawn negative reviews in the wake of this, yet still remains unpublished. Indeed, Frazer's use of social media, multiple identities and trying to game the system still remains rather questionable. But if people start getting their books by Christmas, or even – let's be generous – the first couple of weeks in January, Rich Davids will be grovelling apologetically to Frazer Brown, and Dan Whitehead will have a lot less work to do in 2023. If not, I guess Frazer will be grovelling to us all.