Crowdfunding Review: “Groken” (Mitografia)

Groken was on my radar for a long time before the campaign launched. Kenneth Rocafort (Superman, The Ultimates, Red Hood and the Outlaws) is no stranger to comics. His prior work with the “Big Two” had given him a fan base that eagerly awaited his independent launch. I was one that was counting down the arrival of January 29, 2021, when he would launch his campaign.  

The campaign went live just after midnight pacific time on the 29th, NO ONE was aware ahead of time – a “ninja launch” as it often still referred to. Living on the east coast has some advantages, this being one of those times. I woke up seeing the whisperings of some Australian friends on social media that Groken was live. Some of Rocafort’s limited sketch tiers were still available; 6 out of the 10, if I remember correctly. But I didn’t back at that level; a fact in which I often kick myself for today.

Groken is a 56-page graphic novel written, drawn and colored by Rocafort. The only other credits given in this book were to two editors proofreaders, Brian Dye and George Travlos (Disclosure! George writes comic reviews for The Splintering). While lots of people are familiar with Rocafort’s art style, how would he fare with his first crowdfunded project where he was responsible for many different aspects? With this review we will dig deeper and look at the following aspects:

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

Book Content and Quality

I backed the Groken campaign several times. With my first backing, I grabbed cover A and the mini comics, despite cover B being my favorite. During the close-out stream, I backed cover A (for a friend) and all the covers with mini comics; I couldn’t pass up cover B and was caught up in the hype frenzy of the close-out. I was really a fan of the bright, complementing colors with a watercolor effect they created.

Most of Rocafort’s color palette in the book is muted with tints and shades, giving that watercolor feel. Even items that appear to be metal are not shiny. These choices assisted with conveying the atmosphere of a dystopian era. Everything is not right in this world – it’s dark, dingy and waiting for a feeling of hope to return.

The art is nothing short of amazing. Each panel brings new details that are only seen upon rereading. And the details that are provided lead the reader to question its importance and whether it is a piece to a future puzzle that is unfolding. I do not see any area of Rocafort’s art which is lacking. Details, foreground, background, unique people, and creatures – he deftly draws them all with confidence. Action, movement, dynamic panel layout, also check, check and check. Aside from the art style not being to a person’s taste, I don’t think they could find much fault. Rocafort didn’t get to where he is without putting in the work.

The story of Groken is held in mystery both on and off the pages. Before Groken was released, Kenneth Rocafort was asked to give a synopsis of what the story was about. He would say “Groken”. At the time, I thought that was due to not wanting to give away the story; now I am not so sure. Once it was in people’s hands, a lot of people still had a hard time describing it. It fits in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and not that I can pinpoint why, but it gives me some Jim Henson’s Labyrinth vibes.

When someone asked for more insight, I tried to describe the story the best I could. *SPOILERS* A ‘creature’ (not defined yet) called “Groken” escapes an experimentation prison. Everyone wants him (for reasons not yet revealed) and he meets an old ‘friend’ – whom he doesn’t remember – who helps him battle those that are pursuing him.

There is another plot line that follows an old man in prison (we don’t know his importance yet) – but the additional mini comics make you believe that he is the one that raised Groken. People keep trying to interrogate the old man, but he is not forthcoming with any information. The inquisitors eventually give the old man a final warning that they are going to cement him in his cell if he doesn’t tell them what they want. There are also some other characters introduced in the book, but again, their importance was not revealed (yet).

The story leaves the reader with far more questions than answers. Despite this, I still really enjoyed reading it. Rocafort does well with the imagery, using both words and art, to weave through what he wants to show you, but no more than he is willing. There are multiple levels to the story, with depth and intrigue and layers that are slowly peeled away to build anticipation. The first issue is just a piece of the greater plan, though I expect that the collective project of whatever Rocafort plans for Groken could very well be a masterpiece. Of course, we do not have the cover of the puzzle box to know what the final image will truly look like. Just pieces.

I have heard others who question the writing, with some suggesting that there is a language issue. I do not feel this is the case. I feel as though the wording – whether intentional or not – helps transport you to an unfamiliar place. Almost as if in a place from the past, but with a foreshadowing of the future, and it is the language of this forgotten time. It all adds to the immersion. In any case, I did not have any issues following the story as it was unfolding.

The book came with a glossy cover and a perfect binding which was changed as part of a stretch goal. The interior pages were glossy, as well, all with a nice weight to them. They met what I would call the ‘standard’ in crowdfunding quality for the price premium at which I backed. The mini comics are 6 X 9 in size and came staple-bound. It is my understanding that these mini comics were similar in content to what was provided through Rocafort’s Etsy store, in a limited run, before the campaign launched. While I enjoyed the stories that were in them, they are not needed to enjoy the main Groken book. They provide a bit more detail into the background/history of some of the characters. They also provide a loose thread to a theory of the potential relationship between Groken and the imprisoned old man, but again, they offer more questions than answers.

Grade: A

Communication and Fulfillment

It appears Rocafort intended to do monthy updates with the campaign. However, when the campaign was live, he had additional updates that relayed when stretch goals were met, some additional art, announcing the upcoming ending of the campaign, and even a Kenneth Rocafort drawn “Thanks to you!!!” image after the campaign closed. Once the campaign ended, he did monthly updates at the end of each month. His updates were usually short, but straight to the point. They were attractive with a large Groken logo topping every one and an original line-break graphic separating pieces of info. He added links to the campaign (for those that were reading the update via emails) and links to update addresses via Indiegogo as the campaign wound down. Every piece of information was needed and was included to be helpful; the writing was not frivolous or long-winded.

According to an update in October of 2021, the print files were sent to the printer, it almost appeared as though the campaign would be fulfilled earlier than expected. However, even Rocafort was not immune to printer issues at the end of last year. He did let backers know in December that the deadline was not going to be met due to printer issues. When the anniversary of the January launch came, he provided an update that went into greater detail, reassuring backers that his timeline was sound and despite the few extra weeks he originally built in to accommodate for unforeseen issues, the printer issues still set him back. In the same update, he stated a new date of February 24th in which the printer assured him the books would be shipped to him.

Within a month or so, while admittedly a few days later than the assured date, he received the tracking number for his books. Three weeks later, an update that fulfillment was 100% complete. With Rocafort doing the fulfillment himself – (with what ever friends and family he managed to convince), a three-week fulfillment for all 1,100 plus backers – including international – is impressive. I have waited longer for several other crowdfunded books, and waiting stinks when you see others getting their copy, especially when they are as highly anticipated as Groken.

Grade: A

Packaging and Shipping

I received both of my orders separately (the friend’s order was mailed directly to them). My order including all of the covers and ashcans was the first package I received. According to the tracking information, it was sent via Priority Mail on March 15th, and I received it on the other side of the country on the 19th. Due to my receiving additional items that were not included as part of the campaign, it came inside a Tyvek-style priority envelope. The package included a t-shirt, pin, and the Gemini mailer that contained all the campaign items. The Gemini was sealed with Mitografia-branded packing tape. This was a nice touch and appreciated the color choice (teal blue and yellow) as it stands out amongst the darker styles that I have received in the past.

The books were individually bagged and boarded, with one of them including the extra trading cards, stickers, and mini comics. Rocafort also used packing tape to secure the items inside the Gemini mailer. Detaching the tape from one of the books caused stretching of the plastic sleeve that the book was in, minor damage, but one of my common annoyances with packaging. The books were fine.

The second package was sent on March 17th, and I received it on the 21st. This time it was just the Gemini mailer and its contents: Cover A with the two ashcans, trading cards and stickers. There were no packing tape mishaps with the second package. I have experienced issues with campaigns that use packing tape to secure books, whether affixing the books to the mailer itself or to other books. I once even had the sleeve rip as I was trying to get it off the bag and board. Thankfully, just like with Groken, the books were not damaged.

Grade: A-

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

Depending on the tier, backers should have received a book (or combo of books) and mini comics. Rocafort placed his first stretch goal at $50,000, which upgraded the binding of the book to be perfect bound instead of stapled saddle stitch. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine this book as anything other than perfect bound. I am finding that as I collect books, having them be perfect bound allows them to sit/display nicely on a bookshelf, and the nice touch of the name being on the binding, definitely gives it more of a professional appeal. With the level of detail that Rocafort provided in Groken, with both art and story, I wouldn’t have wanted anything less. While it may be an indie crowdfunded book, the book upgrades ensure that it does not look nor feel it.

The second stretch goal was at $75,000. At this point, an exclusive trading card was added to every order, and while the campaign specifically states one per backer, both my orders contained it (I am not sure if it was included in the friend’s order). Furthermore, I am not sure which card is the “exclusive card” as I received two trading cards in both orders. One of them must have been due to signing up for the campaign before launch. If he shared any of the art for either of them, it was not on the campaign page.

The last stretch goal was an exclusive sticker at $100,000. While the campaign only raised $84,865 in the 60 days of crowdfunding, I still received a couple of stickers. However, these were given out to people who sent an email to Rocafort requesting it. This information was shared via a YouTube channel Rocafort often hangs out in (one that specifically benefitting the #Rocaforce army). For those that received the sticker, it itself is truly a work of art. Even the sticker is not missing the any of the fine details or hidden meaning of the items Rocafort chose to include. The best part was that the main image was a self-portrait of Rocafort, illustrated as a nod to his appearances on various YouTube channels where he was typically cloaked in darkness. I’m not sure if this sticker was done with the intentions of being the $100k stretch goal, but it was a nice bonus.

Grade: A

While Rocafort may be known as a powerhouse with his art, he is not widely known for his writing credits. The story of Groken is a testament to his talent in that area, too. I won’t so far to say that Groken is THE best crowdfunded book I’ve received, but it is certainly up there in my personal ranking. My biggest gripe with the book is that it raises more questions than answers. As a standalone story, I’d need more answers to rank it higher on my list. However, there are enough seeds dropped into the pages that indicate that this could be a glorious ride, and I need to be a part of it.

Rocafort is launching Groken 2 June 15th via Indiegogo. He has discussed launching again at midnight Pacific Time, so be sure to sign up here to keep on top of the news leading up to the launch. Lots of people were upset when they missed out on the last campaign as he did not go in-demand. If you missed out on the first issue, there will be a way to catch up during the campaign. Personally, I will be setting my alarm and snagging a sketch tier if he has a similar one available. *Fingers crossed* he will!

Overall Grade: A

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