Crowdfunding Review: “Starlight Cats: Merlion Rising” (9 Lives Comics)
Little girl, big adventure. Cats in space!
Selling a ‘cat book’ to a predominantly male audience was a tough sale. Even I didn’t get Starlight Cats: Merlion Rising for myself. I thought that my then 8-year-old daughter would LOVE the book, that it was going to be “CUTE”! The lead character, Rebecca, was about my daughter’s age, and she loves cats. Little did I know that the book would become much more.
The book itself is 48-pages, perfect bound with a glossy cover and thicker interior paper (the weight was increased thanks to stretch goals). The crowdfunding campaign opened on Indiegogo in October 2020 and closed at the end of July 2021, raising a total of $127,798. The first time I backed this campaign it was just the book with the variant cover by Kenneth Rocafort. The second time was the Barnaby lunchbox, magnet, and a raglan t-shirt (all with art by Rocafort) to help the campaign reach the six-figure mark. (Opening, closing, and milestone streams on YouTube are a glorious thing to be a part of).
Today, we are reviewing Starlight Cats: Merlion Rising and the crowdfunding process, this review will cover the following criteria:
- Book Content and Quality
- Communication and Fulfillment
- Packaging and Shipping
- Stretch Goals and Bonuses
Book Content and Quality
This was Shane Davis’s (Superman: Earth One, Metal Men) first venture into crowdfunding after leaving the mainstream. Davis and his wife, Yanzi Lin, were largely the creative team behind everything Starlight Cats. Davis and Lin were co-creators, with Davis on pencils and Lin on inks. Rounding out the team was Candice Han and Jason Wright (colors) with Eric Weathers (lettering).
The story follows a young girl and her inadvertent adventure with super-powered cats and battling a race of rat-like aliens, the Verkin, in space. The “Starlight Cats” are trying to locate the missing starlight jewel to resurrect the “Great Synga”, while the Verkin are trying to locate it first to avoid that from happening. When the last jewel is found, the cats and Rebecca must defend the planet Catz against the invading Verkin.
The story was a fun, family-friendly adventure that had touching moments, humor, and action-packed battles. The story would appeal to the young at heart, cat-lovers, and the sci-fi adventure lovers that enjoy space battles. The story ended in a place that left things complete, but still left some storylines and questions open to be continued in future books. I especially enjoyed the fact that we saw a sub plot in the story come full circle. The scene that closed the book was similar to the one that opened the book, but with a different ending – showing the growth of our young heroine, Rebecca. It was great storytelling. However, personal preference and impatience prefers loose questions to be answered sooner rather than later, and we do not have any idea when Starlight Cats 2 will be brought to this planet.
Looking at Davis’s past mainstream work with DC, Marvel and Image, there was little question that the art would be top shelf. Prior to reading Starlight Cats, I did read Metal Men and knew that Davis has a strong suit with facial emotions and gestures, but who would have known that he could bring that to cats?! It is part of the art that I feel stands out most in SLC. There is no fault with the art. Davis can draw gestures, little kids, cityscapes, tech, and battles all with A+ effort. The color brings the impact of images and layouts front and center. The colors glow, pop, and bring energy to everything that Davis and Lin are doing with-in this book.
The book itself is great quality. The final product is something for the creative team to be proud of, but I often wonder what kind of product we would have seen if the “better quality” wasn’t part of the stretch goals. There are additional pages in the book that are not part of the story. They include bonus material like variant covers, line art, fan art and even snap shots of the special cats that got to have their likeness drawn into the book. I remember seeing a comment where one of the backers of this “drawn-in tier” was completely impressed with Davis’s ability to get their pets’ likeness.
Communication and Fulfillment
There were 38 updates to the Indiegogo campaign in addition to many updates provided on Davis and Lin’s YouTube channel, Talking and Drawing with Shane Davis. There was at least one update roughly every 30 days, and often several during the month, discussing progress and showing off new pages. They were always upfront with the process, and I was never left wondering what was going on with the book or whether I would be receiving it on time.
I backed this book during the initial campaign, but was probably only aware of it a couple weeks after it launched. It took some time for me to think I needed – or rather my daughter needed – this book in our lives. Despite Davis and Lin personally doing the fulfillment for nearly 1700 backers, my order seemed to come quickly once fulfillment was started.
Packaging and Shipping
Both of my orders came packaged together in a large priority mail box. I received a tracking number when they were shipped on August 24th, and it was promptly at my doorstep on the 27th. Everything was secured inside and arrived in pristine condition. The outer box even held up to any mail carrier’s abuse. Davis and Lin could not have done anything differently to improve with this criteria in the future.
Stretch Goals and Bonuses
Several of the stretch goals were upgrades to the quality of the book with paper quality, color, and signatures by both Davis and Lin. These types of goals help to simplify first-time campaigns, which most creators would find to be a blessing, as they aren’t getting in over their heads while learning the crowdfunding process. Davis and Lin provided a nice blend of physical goals as well: 4 trading cards, a double-sided fold out poster with two different scenes on each side (featuring art by guest artists Billy Bascko and Jose Garcia), and a mini print of the Davis/Lin upcoming project Inglorious Rex. The trading cards are glossy on both sides with a character gracing the front and stats on the reverse side, including power ratings and a “did you know” factoid. The stretch goals were a nice edition, but aside from putting the trading cards in a binder, I have done nothing with them.
Starlight Cats is more than just a “cat book”. It is more than “cute”. While it may be lacking the dark and gritty, it isn’t lacking kitties or bad-ass spaceships and space battles. It is geared for an all-ages audience. It is something that should be a part of any Shane Davis fan’s shelf and is a strong sample of how comics could and should draw in new readers (like me and my daughter), as well as entertain the veterans. It’s also a prime example of what can come from independent comics that rival the mainstream; quite a feat for a maiden campaign.
Davis and Lin have also launched their sophomore campaign, Inglorious Rex, and have seen monumental success with the launch. I’m sure some of this is due to the “cat-book” being well received. In fact, the only way to currently grab a copy of Starlight Cats is to pick up a second printing available with the Inglorious Rex campaign (which you can do here). I am anxiously waiting for the return of Rebecca and Barnaby!
Overall Grade: A
Thanks for reading!
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Fantastic campaign and beautiful product. Enjoyed it a lot. Really good value for $35 with outstanding customer service and delivery. Gold standard for crowdfunding and CG in my opinion. I only wish he could pump these out quicker, but that applies to CG in general I guess.
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