Here’s part two of Brandon J. Carr’s Avatar parody guest strips. I don’t know about you, but a Smurfs reference is an instant win in my book. “Project Azrael?” Yes. OH YES.

I don’t know about you, but I follow a lot of web comic people on Twitter, and it’s been a real delight reading their response to Brandon’s work with these guest strips. Clearly everyone misses him and wants him to return to illustrating RIGHT AWAY! *wink, wink!*

Hopefully Brandon is having as much fun putting these comics together as I am posting them to Theater Hopper. Thanks again to Brandon for another excellent comic. Can’t wait to see what he has in store for Friday!

Speaking of Twitter, a mini-controversy erupted there early Monday night when our favorite raconteur Scott Kurtz had some disparaging remarks to make about Kickstarter fund raising campaigns like mine.

At first he expressed uncertainty about the service Kickstarter offered and was wary about how Kickstarter would become the next “thing” that web comic people would descend on and ruin. A fair concern to have.

But when he categorized Kickstarter participants as “look(ing) like a string of goddamn hobos with your hats on the ground,” what he intended to pass off as humor was completely misunderstood and the shhhh really hit the fan.

Long story short, a Twitter war erupted and Kurtz launched a podcast later in the evening to discuss the topic.

Several people joined in the conversation. The comments section on uStream was a swirling hornet’s nest. Scott, to his credit, allowed different points of view into the conversation. Spike from Templar, AZ, Gordon from Multiplex, Ben Paddon from Jump Leads and myself were all given a turn at the mike.

Scott made some pretty loaded conversations during the podcast. His contention was that if you aren’t able to raise the money yourself through pre-orders on your site, you shouldn’t be begging for money through Kickstarter. In his words, he felt the practice made the rest of web comics look weak.

Fundamentally, I think Scott’s problem with Kickstarter was a semantic argument. Scott continuously referred to the money participants give to projects as “donations” or “charity” – something people in the uStream chat field protested vigorously.

When I got into the conversation somewhere around the hour and a half mark, we all looked at my Kickstarter page and Scott said “I see the word ‘pledge’ 18 times on your page.” To him, “pledge” means the same thing as “donation.”

To me, it’s not the same thing. To me, “pledge” means “I’m giving you money now and expect something in return.” To me, “donation” means “I’m giving money to you now an expect nothing in return.”

Part of what Scott also didn’t understand were the personal circumstances that lead people like myself, Gordon and Spike to utilize Kickstarter as a tool.

In my case, I have been trying to raise money for the book through pre-orders since January. I got a lot of pre-orders, but not enough to publish the book.

Now, by Scott’s logic, if my business can’t support the book, then I shouldn’t publish it. Or, rather, I should direct my efforts toward growing my audience so the site can support the book in the future.

I see his point and I don’t disagree with him. But when I started the pre-order campaign on the site, there were two things I didn’t count on. 1.) The state of the economy driving up printing costs (compared to my first two books) and 2.) The state of the economy driving down ad revenue on the site.

With the first two books, I published them utilizing a combination of pre-orders and ad revenue. When ad revenue took a hit, it would still be theoretically possible for me to use ad revenue to publish the books. It would just take much, much longer.

While searching for solutions, I was getting e-mails from people who pre-ordered in January asking me, “Hey, when is Year Three going to come out?” People have been patient, but waiting over a year for a book is puts strain on my credibility. Kickstarter became a solution that could help me organize the pre-order process, build buzz around the release of the third book and manage pledge amounts in a convenient way.

I didn’t take the move to Kickstarter lightly. If I had my druthers, I would have MUCH preferred the pre-order process through Theater Hopper. But circumstances being what they are (compounded by the fact that I lost my job in June) made Kickstarter the most viable option.

The most important thing to remember about Kickstarter is that if I don’t make goal, I don’t get ANY of the money that’s been pledge so far. If that ends up happening, then I have to assume what Scott is saying about the strength of my business not being able to support a third book is true and I will probably hang up my hat. I’m not going to keep bombing Kickstarter again and again trying to raise this money.

Kickstarter is an experiment. Either the experiment will prove successful or it will fail.

But in the meantime, I make no apologies for utilizing a tool to help me meet a specific objective. I do not believe it tarnishes the reputation of web comics as a whole. I do not believe it makes web comics look weak. I do not believe that using Kickstarter reflects some level of “entitlement” on my part. It is simply the means to an end.

My biggest concern with Scott at the time was that he was spreading misinformation about Kickstarter because he didn’t understand the service completely. Scott wields influence and I was worried that if his negative impression of Kickstarter took root, I could not only potentially jeopardize my fund raising efforts, but the fund raising efforts of others as well.

Of course Scott is free to have his opinion. I don’t deny him that right. But there is a difference between having an opinion and having a well-informed opinion. From my perspective, Scott was not informed well enough to make a sweeping generalization that characterized Kickstarter participants as “hobos” and I felt a need to stand up for myself and others.

If my explanation did not change Scott’s opinion and he still went on to disparage Kickstarter, then there’s nothing I can do about it. But at least I could say I tried.

At the end of the podcast, tempers cooled and I think everyone understood with a little more clarity where the other was coming from. Scott made good points from a businessman’s perspective. Ultimately, I think his concern came from a good place. I think, for him, it’s about self-respect and never giving an inch to outside influence. He wants to maintain the integrity of web comics as a medium.

I’m paraphrasing, but directed to me he said he raises these issues out of concern because he believes someone like myself SHOULD be capable of raising the money through pre-orders. I’ve done it before. Obviously there is something substantial about Theater Hopper that allows it to happen. It was a nice compliment.

At the end of the day, I believe Kickstarter is a self-policing venture. Fans like YOU determine what is successful and what is not. A thousand web comics could descend on the Kickstarter tomorrow and I think projects without merit would quickly be weeded out.

Hopefully the fund raising drive for Theater Hopper: Year Three is not one of them. We are $1,300 away from goal with 15 days left to go. If you haven’t pledged already, please consider pledging today.

For those that have, I continue to appreciate your support.

I’ll see you here on Friday.

↓ Transcript
So we'll put your into one of these blue bodies and count on you to be accepted in their village.

This one's yours...

But... why?

Because their peaceful, sharing ways go against everything we stand for.

These goody-goodies make me sick, Mister Brazelton.

Besides, I feel like they'd make a spectacular stew!