Crowdfunding Review: “The Bobcat” by James Hostler

Today we’ll be reviewing the crowdfunded comic book series The Bobcat by James Hostler.  For those of you not familiar with our review format, we grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:

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

With The Bobcat, I backed the “Great Words & Shocking Revelation Signed” tier, which came with all five issues of the series signed by writer James Hostler and artist Jim Mehsling.  This campaign was available on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo (and it’s still in demand on the latter here), but is also being released by publisher Caliber Comics.  Let’s take a closer look at this series.

Cover Image to Issue #5

Book Content and Quality

The Bobcat was written and created by James Hostler with pencils, inks and lettering by Jim Mehsling.  Later issues had art assists credited as well as editing credits, but the two main creators have been working on this series together since issue #1.  The series is self-described as “Native American Western with elements of Indigenous Mythology, Steampunk, and The Supernatural,” and I would say that description suits the book perfectly. 

The Bobcat is the story of Will Firemaker, a Cherokee blacksmith living in late 19th Century Oklahoma.  You follow Will from his time as a blacksmith to his transformation as the Bobcat, a heroic figure who uses his expertise as a blacksmith to create a protective suit and fight crime.  There are ancillary characters you are introduced to, as well as Dr. Shock, the mad genius villain of the story.  One of the uniquely appealing aspects of the book is the use of historical figures.  Legends such as Frank James and Jim Thorpe are interwoven into the issues seamlessly.  It’s a rather clever use of characters.

Action sequence featuring the Bobcat in his armor from Issue #5

I found the story to be unique enough to interest me, but some of the plot lines seemed a bit too drawn out.  Each issue takes its time to set up the action, and when the action does occur, it falls a bit flat.  There’s such a build up to the action sequences that when they do occur, they don’t seem very satisfying.  That may be from the story pacing, or it may be how the story is executed with its art.

I would describe the artwork as rather minimalistic at times.  Although no colorist is credited, the book isn’t traditional black and white.  There’s simplistic color used throughout, but the characters are drawn in a way that they are tough to differentiate between each other.  I found the art to be rather inconsistent as well.  There would be some nice action poses and splash pages where you’d really appreciate the scene, but then other moments where two characters were trading dialogue where the artist seemed either rushed or disinterested.  There is a significant amount of reference used, and some pages look like photos were actually placed into the background.  Many times, the character poses looked wooden, and facial features were not emphasized. 

The artwork on this page from Issue #5 shows a lack of emphasis on facial features and expressions, and the poses seem wooden, almost mannequin

The lettering was serviceable and while there were a few slight lettering issues in the book, it was not something that took away from the story.  I would say that if I didn’t go into this book with the mindset of wanting to review it, I wouldn’t even have noticed anything.  Ultimately, the lettering and editing of the series were acceptable and no major flaws are worth mentioning. 

My biggest problem with The Bobcat was the quality of the printing and paper.  The initial issues were saddle stitched.  Their page counts seemed to increase issue over issue, until we get to the fifth issue, which is the largest issue of the series and the only one which was square (perfect) bound.  The interior pages themselves seemed to adhere to each other.  I had to peel them apart.  They weren’t sticky, perhaps more of a static-cling than anything.  Once you pulled the pages apart, they seemed fine. 

Unfortunately, the books I received were not in very nice condition.  The damage I saw had nothing to do with packaging and shipping, either.  These books were clearly flawed before they were even packed.  Earlier issues had significant cover scuffing, there was a tear in the cover to my issue #4, and with issue #5 there was a significant corner dent that ran through the entirety of the book.  I struggled with where to grade the damage I saw, as some would say this belonged in packaging and shipping, but I chose the book quality and content, because the issues I experienced existed before we got to the packaging and shipping stage. 

Comic book grading is a multi-million dollar industry. My books didn’t arrive in the best of condition.

Ultimately, the best compliment I can give this series is that the creators have a passion for it.  The writer has a story to tell, and he’s doing his best to tell it.  The Bobcat simply didn’t hit the mark for me.  I do think that an improvement to the art would help as well as a switching of printers, but I understand that the creator is going for a specific feel to the story.

Grade: D+

Communication and Fulfillment

This book was successfully funded on July 4, 2020 via Kickstarter.  The original estimated delivery was set for August 2020, but I received my book in June 2021.  Basing the timeframe from the end of the campaign to receipt of my book, that’s an 11-month turnaround time.  I would say that’s slightly below-average considering the current state of publishing, printing and shipping. 

The tier I pledged to included all five issues signed by the writer and artist

The campaign creator wasn’t as active as I’d like to see someone who’s book was months past their anticipated delivery date.  I recognize that we were living in unique times during this waiting period, but I would have liked to have heard more from the creator during my wait.  Overall, I’d say the communication and fulfillment process was less than desirable but not overly concerning.

Grade: C-

Packaging and Shipping

The campaign owner let his backers know when the books had arrived and that he’d begin shipping, but I wasn’t provided any sort of tracking.  Although I only paid $7 for shipping, my package was shipped Priority Mail, which is the premium shipping option in the US.

A Gemini mailer was placed within a USPS Priority Envelope for added protection

All items were packed with care, and each comic book was placed in their own bag and board.  A Gemini mailer was used to protect everything, and then the Gemini mailer was placed in a priority envelope for added protection.  Even though there was damage to the books I received, it’s my opinion that none of this damage occurred in transit (see previous section).  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 and shipped. 

Grade: B+

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

I want to stress that I’ve never seen this happen in a campaign before.  There were no stretch goals unlocked, hence I would have normally just given this category a grade of N/A and then moved on.  However, the campaign owner notified his backers that “I am sending extra accoutrements (Bling!) with everyone’s rewards to give an extra “thank you” and help make up for the wait you’ve had to endure.”  So even though no stretch goals were unlocked, I received several bonus items, including numerous stickers, a fridge magnet and a coaster. 

These items were very nice quality, especially the die-cut and hologram stickers.  This really made me feel appreciated, because it showed the campaign owner sympathized with his backers.  Look, a few stickers don’t make up for a 10-month delay, but it’s nice to know that the folks care enough to provide a little something extra as a way of saying thank you. 

All of these items were added in as a bonus thank you for patiently waiting

Grade: B

I need to point out that I did not reach out to the campaign owner to inform them of the damage to the books I received.  I am confident that if I did, they’d have sent replacements.   

Finally, delays occur, and that is understood.  Just stating that it’s unavoidable isn’t enough.  You need to provide timely and concise updates once your book goes over the expected due date, and providing your backers with a few extra items really helps them feel appreciated.  In this case, the bonus items were a nice touch, but more communication throughout the end of the campaign would’ve helped.

If you’re interested, you can still check out The Bobcat Indiegogo in demand page here.

Overall Grade: C+

Thanks for reading!

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