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Top Cow – Kickstarting the Comic Book Industry

Cyber Force #1 coverWhat do you call a team or company that insists on breaking the old rules of how the comic book industry operates? Not once, not twice, but over and over.  I call them Image Comics and Top Cow Productions.

Time after time they break out of the status quo of the comic book industry and mix things up.  From their very inception 20 years ago when Marc Silvestri, and 6 other comic book professionals, walked away from a steady pay check from the established companies to found Image Comics. Dedicated to a different vision and way of doing things based on creator rights. They were told repeatedly in those early days that they would be out of business in a month.  Seems they must have been on to something as Image sits as the #3 comic book company according to the July Comic Books Sales Chart .  It may take time and exposure to knock number 1 or 2 off their perch but I wouldn’t put it past this team to eventually manage to top the ranks.

Now 20 years later Marc Silvestri, Matt Hawkins and the rest of the team at Top Cow are at it again.

“Doing things the way they’ve always been done is fine if your goal is to make a really tasty grilled cheese sandwich.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a tasty grilled cheese as much as the next person but grilling (or doing what’s always been done) isn’t what we at Top Cow do)” – Marc Silvestri

Using Kickstarter to generate buzz and offset costs, their latest game changing move is a relaunch and FREE giveaway of the first five issues of the Cyber Force, the new ongoing series.  Both print and digital editions are free, and bring the comic book readers of the early 90’s a familiar title with a juicy offer.

But what will Cyber Force be this time around? Here is what Top Cow had to say about Cyber Force in the Kickstarter:

Cyber Force is about a group of cybernetically enhanced resistance fighters on the run from a monolithic multi-national conglomerate. The essence of the new Cyber Force series is bio-cybernetic steampunk. Top Cow founder and Cyber Force creator Marc Silvestri (The Darkness, Incredible Hulk) is returning as co-writer, art director, and cover artist spearheading the unique vision for the new series. Co-writer Matt Hawkins (Think Tank, Lady Pendragon) is collaborating with Marc to create a cutting-edge world based on real technology. Artist Khoi Pham (Mighty Avengers, Daredevil) will be working hand-in-hand with Marc to make sure that every issue is filled with the spectacular, dynamic art fans have come to expect from Top Cow. Rounding out the team will be master colorist Sunny Gho (Artifacts, Incredible Hulk) and letterer Troy Peteri.

That is an impressive team as it should be when re-launching and re-imaging the book that launched the company 20 years ago.

“Top Cow aims to be the first major US comic publisher to launch one of their biggest properties with top tier creators concurrently for the traditional print market and exploding worldwide digital market for FREE.

Why give it away and then use Kickstarter for any of the funding?  The team admittedly has been asked this repeatedly.  Marc even joked at the “Top Cow We Create…. Innovation” panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con that “we have the worst business model ever” because they were giving books away for free instead of using Kickstarter to fund production and then sell the books and make a bigger profit.  “When it comes down to it, most comic book Kickstarters ask you to donate money for an item that will be offered for sale to make a profit”

Top Cow may not have said it, but I will, their plan is marketing brilliance!  Why?  Look at the buzz they have generated about this Kickstarter.  People are talking about it which will generate more interest in the book itself and that buzz alone could help achieve what they are looking to do, “change how mainstream comics are produced and reach both new readers and lapsed fans.”  And they are going to do this by giving the book away both physically through local comic book retail shops and digitally on torrent sites.

Wait did you say torrent sites?  Yes, seems these guys get it.  Or as they put it, “why fight city hall, make city hall work for you.”  People are downloading comic books for free anyway, so why not make it legal for them to do so.  At the same time by having content that will only be in the physical editions motivate some of the downloaders to go get the physical copy from their local comic book shop.

Why give away the physical copy for free?  That is simple, if the reader goes to the local comic book shop for five months for their free copy of Cyber Force, it is unlikely they would NOT find other titles to buy while there.

If the book is free why would anybody support the Kickstarter project?  Fans who believe in the Top Cow vision are seeing the point, and they are able to get some exclusive items for their participation.  These rewards include among other items: exclusive variant covers, signed copies of the first five issues, a hardcover that includes all 5 issues, or original Marc Silvestri cover art. And for that fan that can really step up to the plate there is even … a trip and stay at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA followed by a day seeing the sites with Marc Silvestri, Matt Hawkins and the Top Cow team (come on winning lottery ticket I really need you this week).  And the comic book retail shops aren’t left out as there are rewards geared just for them.

In addition to the obvious benefits of this game changer are the less obvious ones.  By bringing new and lapsed readers back in to comic book retail shops they help those shops stay in business (fans win).  They help artists and writers of the other books that these readers pick up keep creating more comics (fans win).  They help the comic book producers stay in business (everybody wins).  So yes, it may be a bit of a gamble.  It may be generating buzz specifically around Top Cow, Image and Cyber Force, but at the end of the day it is generating buzz about the comic book industry.

So what do you call a team crazy enough to keep shaking up the industry they make their livelihood in?  Innovative, out of the box thinking… Top Cow Production and Image Comics!

So let’s help Top Cow change “the landscape of mainstream U.S. comics!”  Back the Cyber Force Returns Kickstarter

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