Crowdfunding Review: “God’s’Dog: Monster” (Jonathan Pageau, Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things mysterious and menacing.
Today we’re going to take a look at God’s’Dog: Monster, a 112-page graphic novel that was successfully crowdfunded in 2021 via Indiegogo. 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
Naturally, some story spoilers will follow.
Book Content and Quality
Co-written by Jonathan and Matthieu Pageau and featuring illustrations by Cord Nielson and colors by Felipe Cartin, God’s’Dog: Monster is a fantasy story inspired by the religious tales of Saint George and Saint Christopher.
The main story follows George of Lydda (who would ultimately be canonized as Saint George), who is guiding a group of travelers on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Each member of the group has his own reason for going- some are looking to rekindle their lapsing faith, others seem to be doing little more than sight-seeing.
During their travels, the group is closely shadowed by misshapen creature, who is referred to as Reprobus. This has understandably caused some unrest in the party, and each man is reacting to the situation differently. Most are fearful, some want George — the legendary dragon-slayer — to kill it, while George himself is staunchly in favor of a permissive approach.
In the background of this journey, there is an underlying subplot about protecting the world’s very first relic: the “Skins of Adam”. These being the skin clothes that God gave Adam when he and Eve were banished from Eden. (Eve didn’t get skins – she got fig leaves, if I’m not mistaken). The skins are somehow connected to the travelers, presumably George has them in his protective custody, and a group of thieves led by King Nimrod is pursuing the party in hopes of stealing the Skins of Adam away. After a series of violent exchanges between the pilgrims, thieves and Reprobus, the pilgrims begin to change their attitude towards Reprobus, some more so than others.
God’s’Dog: Monster was not exactly the story I expected. I assumed that the book would be a graphical effort to synthesize some of the more popular legends surrounding Saint Christopher, God’s “dog-headed” saint. God’s’Dog is really more of a Saint George story, at least so far, as Monster is only the first book in a series. The Pageau brothers took a lot of liberties with the “characters” (for lack of a better word when dealing with real people). If nothing else, it’s extremely unlikely that both Saint Christopher of Lycea and Sant George of Lydda would have ever met one another, as the former was martyred in 251 AD and the latter in 303 AD. To make make things more confusing, the villain waiting in the background is Nimrod, an Old Testament king that lived several millennia earlier – we’re talking Book of Genesis earlier. This implies that the king has somehow survived all this time, and is now in command of a strange clan of acolytes who I suspect are connected to the Biblical Nephilim.
If you’re a religious purist, this take on these stories may not sit well with you. It’s still a religious story in theme, at least technically, but it’s not too much more of a religious book than Raiders of the Lost Ark or Kingdom Come are religious movies. There are lots of religious references and all of the protagonists are men of faith, but the plot so far looks to be a Biblical history-inspired adventure with a lot of creative license.
Despite being 112 pages long, God’s’Dog: Monster is not a particularly long read. The dialogue is tight and used sparingly, and much of the story is told through the artwork. Cord Nielson’s art in God’s’Dog: Monster is highly stylized but not highly detailed. It’s quite different than the artwork that most American comic book readers will be used to. While it lacks flash, each of the characters is easy to identify, and they all have a lot of personality in their expressions. Even without much dialogue or narration, the pages don’t feel empty, as there is a rhythm or poetic cadence to the panel progression. The depiction of the environments and character actions still drive the story forward without the need for words, which is where a lot of other sparsely worded books fail.
There are moments of violence in the book, but none of it is gruesome, and I’d still feel comfortable letting a fairly young boy or girl read it. If I were to highlight any faults, I can say that the “dog-headed” Reprobus sometimes looks more like a lion than a dog, and I did find one color error where a background wasn’t fully filled in around a dialogue balloon. The page layouts are fairly strict too, adhering to basic layouts throughout the book. Certainly the art style won’t resonate with many readers, but that’s why it’s a good thing to have some sample artwork throughout this review, eh?
To round out the package, there is also a fan art gallery at the end featuring multiple interpretations of Saint Christopher. There is a wide variety of art styles on display here, from more conventional comic book styles to artwork that is reminiscent of religious art of the Middle Ages.
Overall, I expect that your enjoyment of God’s’Dog: Monster will depend on how much the subject matter resonates with you. It’s definitely a richer experience if you recognize the religious references and imagery being employed, and it feels a bit more like a prologue to a much larger story than a complete story in itself. If I am to admit my own bias, I am particularly interested in stories that blend faith and fantasy, so I thoroughly enjoyed God’s’Dog: Monster. The story is simple, but it is engaging and well told. The visual approach to the storytelling makes it essential to be consumed as a graphic novel, with the only other possibility being animation. There are also enough lingering questions left at the end for me to be enthusiastically on board for the follow-up God’s’Dog book when it launches.
Communication and Fulfillment
The campaign ended in December 2021 and I received my copy in August 2022, which means there was an 8-9 month turnaround time. Perfectly reasonable, and absolutely no complaints.
The God’s’Dog crew communicated at least once per month on the status of the project via email, which is what I would consider to be an acceptable frequency. Though they missed July – for shame! Meh.
All of the email updates look to be reflected on the Indiegogo campaign too, though they are STILL updating the Indiegogo page as of 26 September with news about international fulfillment and updates for God’s’Dog book 2.
I know that this is overkill for some crowdfunding backers, but I’m a believer that you can’t over-communicate.
Packaging and Shipping
The Super Pageau Bros. (had to happen at least once this review) sent an email on 3 August including a FedEx tracking number, and my box arrived on 11 August. And it was a whopper. A massive box. A girthy package. All that stuff.
To put it plainly, I am confident that the large, padded box cost the shippers far more than necessary. Certainly the book and the other items inside were in pristine shape, but I hate to see them lose money when a Gemini mailer would almost certainly have sufficed.
I almost want to dock them points for wasting so much of their hard-earned money, but I won’t. It got here safe and sound, and with a tracking number provided so that I knew when to expect? Icing on the cake.
Stretch Goals and Bonuses
The God’s’Dog book came with a slick, high gloss hardcover that looks and feels great, and the pages inside were also a fine, glossy stock. Everything about the book itself has the air a high quality.
Other than the book, though, backers received several other tchotchkes and bonus items. As a backer of just the standard $30 level, I also received a mini art print, a single-fold pinup poster, and a digital copy of the book and a digital preview of God’s’Dog Book 2. The mini print is of the very first image of St. Christoper illustrated for the God’s’Dog project, so it only looks like a sketch, but it’s still a cool piece of history for the book itself.
The pinup art is a fairly simple 8″ x 11″ image. featuring the main characters arranged in a movie poster-esque composition. The moon at the top is nearly cropped off by the edge of the paper, and the bar code at the bottom of the silhouette is distracting, but it’s otherwise okay.
Am I supposed to do something with that bar code? Maybe. You see, there was also a separate QR code packed with my book that linked to a special online page where I could claim 7777 God’s’Doge coin, a special cryptocurrency created just for this book. It’s tucked away in a crypto account and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to – or want to – spend it (who wants something other than that magic 7777 number?), but it’s a really fun, imaginative bonus that I honestly didn’t expect to get.
There’s only so much one can say about receiving a bonus digital copy of the book. No to knock it, but some comic fans have more use for them than others, and only you can say whether you’d find any value in it. It is still a clean PDF, though, and I always like receiving them so that I can snag clean images for reviews!
The big bonus with the God’s’Dog campaign came from the $200k stretch goal, which is a digital version of Secrets of God’s’Dog, a 60-page behind-the-scenes book that dives into the creative process and symbolism of the book. This includes developmental sketches, rich historical background of the inspirational texts, and articles and essays by Jonathan Pageau on topics related to God’s’Dog. It may be a bit “text book” for the liking of some backers, but I dig it.
At $30 for a 112-page hardcover book packaged like fine crystal, I honestly don’t know how the Pageaus did this at such a reasonable price. Sure, it went on to make $300+ thousand by the end, but still, I have to wonder how much of this project was profit by the end, or how much was left to put forward into later books. It does look as though artist Cord Nielson may not be returning for the second installment, which is disappointing considering that part of the funds were expected to lock him down to work on the series in a full-time capacity.
As far as the God’s’Dog: Monster project is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book and had very few quibbles with the way business was conducted between the creators and me as a backer. I do hope that the shipping can be tightened up a bit, but that’s for the creators’ sake, not mine. And it is worth repeating that if you are not someone who already has an affinity or familiarity with some of the religious conventions or symbols being employed in the book, then I expect that part of the book’s value and enjoyment will be lost, but only slightly.
Though I will be disappointed if the artist does in fact change at this point, I will very likely be on board for the second God’s’Dog book. If you would like your own copy, there are plans to sell the remaining books through the God’s’Dog store (here) before going to a print-on-demand model via Amazon, along with the dip in print quality that comes with that.
Overall Grade: A– (Not an average)
Thanks for reading!
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