Crowdfunding Review: Sci-Fi Graphic Novel “Terralympus” Volumes 1 and 2
I back a lot of crowdfunding campaigns, both on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Unlike other popular online sites, there’s no real way to leave feedback or a review of the items you purchase. I thought it’d be fun and helpful to start writing reviews of crowdfunding items as I receive them. I’ll write a brief synopsis of the campaign, where it was available, and then review it based on four categories:
- Book Content and Quality
- Communication and Fulfillment
- Packaging and Shipping
- Stretch Goals and Bonuses
The first campaign I’m starting with is Terralympus, which was available both on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The books were written by Stephen Kok, illustrated by Von Randal, edited by Shaun Keenan, and lettered by Darren Close. The tier I backed included both volumes 1 & 2 of the Terralympus graphic novels, and the following is based on my experiences alone. Certainly others may have had different opinions of this campaign.
Book Content and Quality
Although there are four categories, I can’t help but think this category is the most important. When pledging to a comic crowdfunding campaign, the book is the main items of interest. The other categories play a part, but this category is the key.
The story of Terralympus was compelling. The dialogue was contemporary and concise. I appreciated how quickly the story started, but there were a few moments where an introductory caption box (when characters were first introduced) would’ve helped. The characters were diverse in cast, but when you’re conveying a story in black and white, it is difficult to differentiate the characters for new readers. There’s a reason why superheroes wear such brightly colored costumes in comic books, after all.
The artwork was very good. The artist Von Randal didn’t skimp on scenes where the page was background heavy, and he seemed to work just as much on a character’s appearance as he did on a wiring in a spaceship. Randal was able to convey emotions through the characters’ facial expressions which is definitely difficult, even for a comic art veteran.
The paper quality was exceptional. The covers were glossy and the paper stock was thick and sturdy. It felt like a quality book. I did notice that the edges of pages in volume one seemed to be cut where you’d see the preceding page edge, but this issue was rectified with volume two.
There were way too many extraneous pages that added nothing to the advancement of the story in both volumes. Volume 2 for example was advertised as “perfect bound 56 page black & white (greyscale) graphic novel”. Those pages include the cover (front and back), all chapter title pages, a preview of volume 3, storyboard and bonus sketch content, and even ads for other campaigns. In actuality, the story is about 40 pages. It just felt like the book was loaded with too much filler.
I would say the biggest issue I have with these books is that they are in black and white. I believe this was done purposely to showcase the artists line work. As mentioned previously, the art is good, but even line art masters have their work colored. I think having this story in black and white was a mistake. However, this can be corrected in future campaigns. Perhaps a remastered version?
Ultimately, the story was indeed intriguing and the artwork was professional quality. Small changes could’ve made a big impact to the final product.
Communication and Fulfillment
I pledged to this campaign on June 2, 2020, and had it delivered on August 10, 2020. A two month turn-around time for any crowdfunding campaign is incredibly fast, let alone one that needed to be shipped internationally.
The creator was in constant contact with his backers, providing updates on the printing process, when fulfillment would begin, and when all packages were shipped.
When an issue arose with my package and I contacted the creator, he responded quickly and offered to make it right. I was extremely pleased with the Communication and Fulfillment of this campaign.
Packaging and Shipping
There was no direct confirmation to me that my package had been shipped, and no tracking provided on my shipment. Yes, updates were made in general to the backers (see Communication and Fulfillment) but I would have liked to receive an email stating my package was shipped on this date, using this type of shipping, with perhaps even a tracking number.
The items I received were packaged in a paper envelope. The contents (two books, three mini prints, and two trading cards) were all contained in one comic book bag, without a backing board. There was no bubble wrap and no cardboard to bear the brunt of shipping. I’ve crowdfunded over 40 campaigns in my life and this was unfortunately the poorest packaging and shipping I’ve seen. I’ll leave it up to the reader to imagine the condition two comic books arrived in, shipped internationally in a paper envelope without a backing board or bubble wrap or cardboard.
Stretch Goals and Bonuses
If any stretch goals ever unlock added pages or upgrades to the actual book, those would be covered in the Book Content and Quality category (above). This is strictly for any extras that are sent with the book.
I received three mini-prints (roughly 8.5” x 6” in size), and two trading cards. None of the content in the package received was signed by any of the creators.
The prints were acceptable quality, as were the cards. The prints were denoted with “Limited edition print of ###” (either 200 or 250). Otherwise, there was nothing on the prints to differentiate them as unique. A hand-numbering of each print with an exclusive number for each would’ve really made these prints feel special. Overall, the images on the prints are appealing, and it’s nice to see the characters in full color.
The trading card faces were standard. The backs of the trading cards were dull and advertised the social media sites of Terralympus. It would’ve been nice to see some entertaining backing on the trading cards, perhaps a character spotlight, or a quote from one of the characters. These trading cards seemed more like business cards than collectibles.
Terralympus was my first ever pledge to a campaign by this creator, and there were definitely some high and low notes to the campaign from start to finish. There are signs of inspired storytelling, but also a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, the pieces that need to be rectified are indeed fixable. If Terralympus is going to be an ongoing series with more volumes in the future, I recommend changes be made to reduce content filler, add color, and sharpen the packaging and shipping to really satisfy backers and have them coming back for more. Some of these changes should be “easy as pie”.
Overall Grade: C-