Canadian comic book creators react to the sudden move by Kickstarter to use blockchain for crowdfunding efforts

The Canadian comic book community woke up Thursday morning to the news that Kickstarter is planning to move its crowdfunding efforts to blockchain instead of traditional currency. Previously, Kickstarter has been a very popular method used by comic book creators to encourage backers to financially support the creation and publication of their books supported by complimentary art incentives in return for the final product.

Many of the creators, both amateur and professional, interviewed on this site have benefited from the use of Kickstarter to publish their own comic book and graphic novel projects. This article gathers just some of the reactions from that community, that have been echoed by others across the globe, about how this news from Kickstarter directly impacts them. Because the information has caught many off guard, the repercussions will most likely evolve in the coming months.

Casey Parsons (edited for brevity):
“As a creator, it is hard to find another platform currently that has the same reach and user friendly service as KS (Kickstarter). But that doesn’t mean indiegogo or other platforms couldn’t step up their game and leave KS in the dust. In this culture making one false move publicly can be career suicide, which could be the case here but I think it is early and dramatic to believe that. I think KS will still thrive ultimately and for now, continue to lead the pack in creative crowdfunding. My friends and I will have to seriously consider this going forward, do we want to partner with a company we no longer stand behind, and with comics being an almost rapacious game we (all struggling creators) may have to stick with them and live with the bad taste it leaves.”

Allison O’Toole said:
“Blockchain technology is well-documented to consume colossal amounts of energy and to have a hugely damaging environmental impact. There’s no such thing as an eco-friendly blockchain, as carbon offset is an absurd concept–throwing money around doesn’t remove the carbon from the atmosphere. I’m devastated, honestly, that Kickstarter is making this move, ignoring both the environmental impact and the feelings of many of its users, and I won’t be using them again if they don’t walk this position back.”

Matt McGrath said:
“I’d say my knee-jerk reaction was stunned and upset. That said, this is the early days of the announcement, and there are still a lot of unknowns about this move. I don’t have all the facts, so I’m not ready to panic just yet. But I am pretty concerned.  I’d say I’m skeptical about using Kickstarter in the future, which is disappointing because I was planning on launching my next KS campaign in March of next year. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I don’t use Kickstarter. I’m taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach for now. ” 

Riley Hamilton said:
“My initial reaction is that I know that, even though I have never been personally affected by NFT scams or had any art stolen, many other creatives have had art stolen so it is almost impossible to get behind a technology that enables that. I know that that’s not the only use of blockchain and that there is a chance it plays a big role on the internet going forward but so far it’s proven to be very damaging to the environment and has enabled a lot of bad behavior on the part of its proponents. I seriously hope Kickstarter takes the feedback that I and, I’m sure, many other artists have given them to heart and reverse course. For now I will continue to support comic creators using Kickstarter as they played no role in this decision and should not be punished for it. As for the future and what crowdfunding platform I will be using, I will have to do some research and weigh my options but Kickstarter may very well be a non-option going forward.” 

Mark Allard-Will said (edited for brevity):
“…The other problem for me is that Kickstarter is suggesting that the operators of any given Kickstarter can sit on the successful funds of their campaign to potentially gain an additional profit from the trade value of the digital currency. I have no intention of learning how to bet stocks to succeed on Kickstarter. I could do that with the TSX privately, if I had the time and funds, and fund my own comics projects without Kickstarter. Therefore it sounds like comic creators are going to have cross their fingers and pray for the best twice, once for passing their Kickstarter pledge request and the again against the trade value of the currency. I think this will alienate most of us working class comic creators, who already have to claw through our own wages to fund artists, printing, etc. In my mind, there was no reason for Kickstarter to make it this difficult and to exclude the technology disinclined. Kickstarter’s big lure was always that it was the everyman platform.”

Conor McCreery said:
“My big concerns are with the energy use of blockchain. I’d be curious to see how Celo is ‘carbon negative’. I’d also be leery about some sort of token sale of my projects that trades at a separate value to the project itself (it just feels like speculation, and a weird side way to create wealth on my work, that I don’t share – I mean not ME, because who’d care, but you get the point). Having said that, I suspect Kickstarter won’t be going too deep into anything exotic as their model is pretty good right now. As for other options? GOFUNDME, and of course Zoop, which I used to launch Trickster, and which is working really hard to create an amazing comic-only crowdfunding infrastructure.”

Aaron Navrady said (edited for brevity):
“Some questions I have include: Will pledge prices fluxuate over the period of the KS? Will the end pledge goal remain the same, or fluctuate as well? What will KS be taking from any additional profits made from accrued value? If we were to 3rd party audit the actual environmental impacts of the Celo blockchain, what truths would we discover? This certainly makes KS less attractive to me for the added complexity, on top of the sweat equity and risk involved. I much prefer funding my work from sales (I am currently able to cover print runs) and backing that up with day job earnings. The reliability of those earnings creates more stable, stress-reduced space for me to tackle the creation of the project. This is the same reason why I don’t go after grants. But what works for me certainly may not work for others, and there are compromises in every scenario. My two cents.”

David Daneman said:
“When I heard that Kickstarter is going to move its platform to the blockchain, I was immediately concerned.  I am a member of many comics communities and they are nearly universally anti-NFT. If Kickstarter moves to the blockchain, and then fails to convince artists that this is somehow not destroying the planet, artists will be forced to choose whether or not to abandon the site. If artists abandon the site, I will have no choice but to leave as well, as my business depends upon the happiness of my collaborators.  At the moment, I am just as inclined to use Kickstarter as I was a week ago, but it’s really too soon to say. Kickstarter is the biggest and best site for crowdfunding, but it is not the only one. From my research, Indiegogo is probably the second best.”

Vanessa Stefaniuk said:
“I am absolutely less inclined to support any Kickstarter or launch a project on there. I’ll be seeking similar but environmentally minded services in the future. I can’t make a huge impact on climate change as a whole, but I refuse to worsen the situation instead of trying at all! And as far as crypto goes, it is a huge Ponzi scheme, and will come tumbling down around a lot of gullible people who chose trying to make a quick buck over their own friendships, environmental footprint, and social responsibility. “

Jeffrey Ellis of Cloudscape Comics (edited for brevity):
“Our publishing house is situated in a province that has seen first hand the devastating impacts of climate change: from a heat dome that killed hundreds this summer, to the now yearly forest fire season that covers our skies in smoke, and the catastrophic floods that cut our city off from the rest of the country by road. We are uncomfortable with the environmental impact of NFTs, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology, regardless of claims that anyone’s version is ‘green’ or ‘more ethical’, and we feel that such technologies add little to no value for artists and creatives using Kickstarter. It’s also important to acknowledge that since April blockchain technology has been primarily utilized to steal from and otherwise harm independent artists. The current atmosphere of wild speculation and hype has fostered a deep distrust from a community that has been continually harmed by ‘disruptive’ systems like this in the past. For that reason, Cloudscape will be investigating alternatives to Kickstarter for future projects until the ethics of this system can be properly understood.”

And Alex Steacy said:
“If Kickstarter integrates blockchain I will adamantly refuse to use their service, full stop. Crypto is a scam, NFTS are scams, it’s all a high tech makeover on the ancient pig in a poke grift and I unreservedly reject it.”

Suffice to say, this news from Kickstarter has not been well received by the Canadian comic book creator community. After managing a turbulent year of financial hardship brought on by the pandemic, coupled with the introduction of NFTs, many creators are going into the New Year contemplating what will happen next as they bring their comic book creations to the market.

Special thanks to all the Canadian comic book creators who contributed to this article.

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