Crowdfunding Review: “Xenozoic” by Mark Schultz (Monochrome May Special)

Today we’ll be reviewing the crowdfunded comic book omnibus Xenozoic by Mark Schultz.  For those of you not familiar with the “crowdfunding review” format, I grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:

  • Book Content and Quality
  • Communication and Fulfillment
  • Packaging and Shipping
  • Stretch Goals and Bonuses

With Xenozoic, I backed the Hardcover Signed Book tier.  This campaign was exclusive to Kickstarter.  Did Xenozoic provide the roaring adventures you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic world filled with Dinosaurs?  Read on and find out. 

Book Content and Quality

Xenozoic was written and illustrated by Mark Schultz.  This is actually an omnibus, collecting the entire Xenozoic Tales 14 issue series originally published by Kitchen Sink Press from 1987-1996.  Xenozoic is set in an apocalyptic future where dinosaurs have returned, and the human race is now endangered.  The story follows expert mechanic Jack Tenrec, and his scientist companion Hannah Dundee, who is as beautiful as she is brilliant.  Together they unearth and unravel mysteries of the past, all while dealing with the modern struggles of their time. 

If all of this sounds familiar, it might be that you remember it under a different title, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, which was the name given to the various line of merchandise that was spun off of the series.  There was a Cadillacs and Dinosaurs animated series, a video game, toy line, and even Cadillacs and Dinosaurs candy bars.  All of this stemmed from the original Xenozoic Tales comic book series, and there is no shortage of adventure in this collected edition.

A look at everything included in the Xenozoic Hardcover Signed Book tier

Even if you have each individual issue of this series, this is a beautifully crafted book that makes for easy access to re-read these classic tales.  There’s no doubt that Mark Schultz was heavily influenced by classic 20th century writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.  There is a clear sense that these stories were meant as a tribute to classic pulp characters such as Tarzan and Conan. 

There is no weakness to this book.  It achieves and even surpasses all expectations, in every facet of the comic book medium.  Even the fact that it’s reproduced in its original black and white is a plus, as you get to appreciate the artists tone and shading in each and every panel.  Without a doubt though, the most stunning aspect of this book is the art.  I can say this with absolute confidence, this is the finest sequential artwork I’ve seen in a comic book. Ever.  It may have been matched (i.e., Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer), but not topped.

A look at some of the beautiful black and white art included in the book

If I could think of one artist to compare Mark Schultz work to, I’d choose John Buscema.  The sense of power he renders in his male forms, and beauty he creates in his female forms is very reminiscent of the late Buscema.  It’s no wonder that Mark Schultz got his first published mainstream credit inking a backup story in the pages of Savage Sword of Conan #132. 

The book is over 350 pages of content, and the quality itself is absolutely incredible.  I’ve been buying books from Flesk Publications for years and they’ve never disappointed.  The cover is sturdy, and the binding is tight.  Still, the way it’s bound, it allows for the reader to lay the book flat without any added stress to the binding.  The pages are thick but not obnoxiously so.  This may be the finest quality book I’ve ever seen in crowdfunding.  If you were to ask me to come up with a way to make it better, I really cannot.  It’s a remarkable book, and has my highest of recommendations. 

Grade: A+

Communication and Fulfillment

This book was successfully funded on September 3, 2020.  Being that this is an omnibus of existing material, the funding was for the publication of the work.  The original estimated delivery was set for February 2021, but I received my book in May 2021.  Basing the timeframe from the end of the campaign to receipt of my book, that’s an eight-month turnaround time.  I would say that’s about average considering the current state of publishing, printing and shipping. 

The campaign creator was very active with posting updates to his campaign page.  He kept his backers informed of delays and let everyone know where the books were during each aspect of their creation.  Overall, I was pleased with the communication and fulfillment, and never once felt like I was in danger of not receiving what I backed.

Grade: B+

Packaging and Shipping

The campaign owner let his backers know when all of the books had shipped but I wasn’t provided any sort of tracking.  In update #22 from the campaign, he stated, “The books have shipped using USPS Media Mail and include tracking. We don’t send you all the tracking number simply as a time saver. It would take a lot of work to send out 800 individual messages with this information. Media Mail can take 7-10 days to arrive.”  I’ve backed projects with over 4,000 backers and received my tracking number, so I won’t take the sheer number of backers as a reason for not being provided a tracking number. 

The book and bonus items were all packed with care.  They were all placed within a polybag, and sealed with tape.  Then they were packed in an appropriately sized box surrounded by paper.  My items arrived in mint condition.  Although I need to see a tracking number to be completely satisfied in this category, I was still pleased with the way the items were packed.  Also, being that I was only charged $5.00 to ship a 350+ page hard cover book was a big plus.      

Packaging a book with care shows your backers you appreciate their support

Grade: B+

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

I received three items as part of my book pledge:

  • An Al Williamson & Mark Schultz 16-page sketchbook
  • An 8” x 6” mini black and white print
  • A promotional postcard

The bonus items were of nice quality, but nowhere near the quality of the main book.  For a campaign that raised over $100,000, I’d say this is about what I’d have expected to receive.  They are nice to have items that I never would have purchased on their own. 

A standard assortment of stretch goals accompanied by pledge

Grade: B

I am really pleased with Xenozoic, and I am really glad I purchased it.  My only question is this: did I need to crowdfund it?  The book is readily available on the Flesk website right now.  I did receive a bit of a discount by pre-ordering it, and I received the bonus items listed above, as well.  I also waited eight months to receive my items.  Was it worth a $10 savings and a few knick-knacks to have my money put on hold for that long?  I am not sure.  That’s up for each backer to decide.  I am here to just let you know my personal experience and grades. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below!

This beautiful signature page was included in my book

Overall Grade: B+

Thanks for reading!

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