Kickstarter in the Community: Animals, artists, and the Vancouver comic scene

Mega Fauna contributors and their pets
Mega Fauna contributors and their pets. Via Kickstarter

Cloudscape Comics launches eighth graphic novel anthology

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

The Cloudscape Comics Society brings together the comic community through published works by new and veteran artists and writers, meetings that are open to the public, and events that connect comic creators with their fans. On May 22, the society will host a launch party for their eighth graphic novel anthology, Mega Fauna, at Cloudscape Comics HQ in Vancouver’s Memorial South Park.

“Attending the Mega Fauna launch is a great way for people to connect with the local comics/graphic novel community,” said Bevan Thomas, who wrote “Hunt for the Unicorn” for Mega Fauna. “It’s good for people who like to read graphic novels, and especially great for people interested in creating them themselves.”

Mega Fauna is a full-colour, all-ages anthology featuring 25 animal-themed stories done by more than 35 writers and artists. The book was partly funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign that ran during August 2014.

“It was very exciting to watch the numbers go up, especially after the numbers surpassed the original target,” Thomas said.

“We had run two successful Indiegogo campaigns previously, and funded our last book Waterlogged in the same manner. In many ways, we were much better at it this time,” said Jeff Ellis, founder of Cloudscape Comics and editor-in-chief of Mega Fauna.

The Kickstarter campaign rewards included digital and print copies of Mega Fauna and previous Cloudscape anthologies, graphic novel e-books by Mega Fauna writers and artists, colouring books drawn by Cloudscape members, and pet sketches done by a Cloudscape artist.

For a donation of $250 or more, Ellis and Cloudscape member Jonathon Dalton offered to create a one-of-a-kind monster card of a donor’s real-life pet, which would be included with the Monster World-style trading cards featured in the final pages of Mega Fauna.

The Kickstarter campaign exceeded its original funding goal of $4,700 by raising $8,718 from 249 backers. Cloudscape used some of the additional funds to fairly pay the artists and writers who contributed to Mega Fauna, turning what had previously been a labour of love into a paying gig.

The all-ages content of Mega Fauna was a slightly different style for the Cloudscape anthology, which in previous years had included some mature content.

“I think the animal theme encouraged us to go off in a more all-ages direction by suggesting certain stories more than others,” Thomas said. “Certain stories in previous anthologies had dealt with such issues as religion, drug abuse, and introspection at the death of a loved one. The animal theme moved us more into the direction of pet relationships, the environment, wanting to belong, and other themes that children are more interested in.”

“Many of our contributors were eager to create stories for young readers,” Ellis said. “In some cases, we rejected stories for being too simplistic. We believe children are very clever and tried to avoid stories that talked down to them.”

For Mega Fauna, he wrote “Harper’s Muse,” a science fiction story set in a futuristic Vancouver where genetically modified pets have become the latest trend and class structure has shifted.

“The message of the story was that anyone can be inspired to make a difference in the world around them,” Ellis said. “It touched on themes about the ethics of genetic modification and ideas of class and privilege. I also personally enjoyed including the concept of Vancouver going full circle, with the Eastside returning to affluence and the West End falling into squalor.”

Kathleen Jacques, who wrote “Little Tiny Giraffe” for Mega Fauna, found the all-ages requirement a change in style compared to her online comic, Band vs. Band. While BvB features cute, colourful illustrations, the content isn’t intended for children.

“This was something different for me, since I don’t do all-ages material very often,” she said. “For Mega Fauna, I had to shift gears a little to write something actually appropriate and appealing for all ages.”

In “Little Tiny Giraffe,” a woman saves a magical fish that offers to grant her a wish. She randomly asks for a pet miniature giraffe.

“I’ve always liked giraffes. They’re so graceful and awkward and weird,” Jacques said. “I’d been thinking about the Canadian PSA commercial with the tiny house hippo, and how often I’ve heard people say they’d want a house hippo, and what would happen if an absurdly specific wish like that came true.”

Jacques, Thomas, Ellis, and Dalton will be appearing at Cloudscape’s Mega Fauna launch party along with other Mega Fauna artists and writers such as Colin Upton and Shannon Campbell, who is the founder of the Vancouver Comics Art Festival.

“I really think the lineup of creators in this book is so good. I’m glad I got to be part of it, Jacques said. “Many of us will be exhibiting at VanCAF on May 23 and 24, so come and say hi!”

The Mega Fauna launch party will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on May 22 at Cloudscape Comics HQ at the Memorial South Park Field House, 5955 Ross St., Vancouver.