Kaja and Phil Foglio only needed $55K from their Kickstarter campaign to reprint the latest volume in their wildly popular steampunk adventure series of graphic novel series Girl Genius. What they got last month at the close of fundraising campaign – a bit over $389K – simply astounded them. They fainted from surprise. Apparently repeatedly (see their video at right).
The success of Girl Genius wasn’t forged overnight – it’s been nearly a 20 year journey, and it’s been credited as being the original seed of what eventually became the Steampunk social movement. We sent Phil and Kaja some questions about Girl Genius at their secret laboratory at Studio Foglio, and they were gracious enough to answer them:
SCIFI.radio: The Reprint Frenzy Kickstarter has funded over 700%, and achieved all your stretch goals, even the last-minute ones. How flabbergasted are you?
Phil & Kaja: We fainted! No, really, you can see the video on our new YouTube channel. We were very astonished. It will certainly open up a whole world of new possibilities for us around here.
How did you hear of Kickstarter initially, and why Kickstarter instead of, say, Indiegogo?
We’d heard about Kickstarter for a long time – other web comics folks have been using it successfully. It’s a nice way to collect money from people who might not have an obvious way to give their support to people whose work they’ve enjoyed. Kickstarter is better established and more regulated than IndieGoGo, making it more reliable for the customers. It also has an established community around it. For experimental or open-ended projects, IndieGoGo might be preferable, but for us Kickstarter was a better fit.
You’ve mentioned in your LiveJournal, Phil, that you’ve decided ‘no con[vention]s without new merchandise’. Is ‘new merchandise’ limited to books, or would it include items such as the patches you’re introducing in the Kickstarter?
Merchandise is important, but books are more important. We definitely need enough to sell to make it worthwhile having a booth or table. Fortunately, we don’t foresee this being a problem any time soon, and with good planning, never again!
If you had unlimited resources, what would you most like to do with Girl Genius next – more novels, omake, film version, plush Krosp dolls?
Phil says: Well, everything! But if we had to choose one, it would be a movie, or better yet, a high-quality animated series. Think “Game of Thrones – with laughs!”
Kaja says: Movies. Meh. I want an anime series, video games, and a BBC miniseries.
Will you be returning to the Girl Genius RPG after Volume 13 (assuming this is the pausing point) is completed?
Our success with the Kickstarter is allowing us to spend a little bit more time on outstanding projects like the RPG. We are already having discussions with Steve Jackson Games to get the RPG project back on track.
How did you work out a plot that has played out over a decade in one form or another so far? How long did you think it would take to present originally, and have you two surprised yourselves?
We’ve been working on the story since 1993, and we had reams of notes before we actually mapped the pages so far to a timeline. I remember this really well, because we were eating lunch at the time, and when Phil did the math, he tried to drown himself in his noodles. Actually, a lot of the early part of Girl Genius was written at Ann’s Teriyaki in Ballard, this was before we had kids, and we ate out a lot more often. Because we worked so long on the story before we started to publish, we have been able to let the story play itself out in its own time, which has been interesting. Some things have certainly surprised us, but mostly, we really concentrate on keeping it interesting to ourselves.
What tips might you have for new web cartoonists? Things you had to resolve that might be eased or avoided with a little advice?
Stick with your update schedule! If you can only do one update a month, do that. Don’t say that you update 5 days a week, and then only update once every 6 months.
You can’t go wrong using mechanical lettering. There are good fonts available. ComicCraft is absolutely worth it, even if it feels expensive. Hand-lettering takes too long and can be hard to read.
If you’re going to write a story and put it on the web – the most open and innovative environment possible – make it worthwhile, not something you could do through Marvel or DC. Do what they can’t – or won’t – do.
Your new business manager, Carol Monahan, seems to have hit the ground running, given her pancake photo. What plans does she have for the Studio? How is she starting off her tenure?
We as creative people get easily overwhelmed with people suggesting projects, offering contracts, telling us we could make a million doing something, etc. We already have a job putting out a comic, plus raising our kids. It hits us on all sides – the extra stuff. Carol’s job is to sit on high and sort through which ideas are legit, which contracts have sneaky clauses, and which ones are really good ideas. You really don’t want to leap into stuff you don’t understand without a businessperson. She is starting out her tenure by stopping us from buying a solid gold pony.
What about Girl Genius fandom has most surprised you?
Often when we sit around with other creators, we hear them talking about how demanding their fans are. We don’t have that experience – our fans have been really, really nice! We want to sympathize with the other folks, but mostly, we have had nothing to complain about.
Kaja and Phil Foglio have our undying gratitude for taking time away from polishing their diamond studded cappuccino machine and their sold platinum drawing tables to do the interview for us!
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