Interview: Cloudscape Comics’ Jeff Ellis on 21 Journeys

Camilla D’Errico (Sky Pirates of Neo Terra), Colin Upton (Buddha on the Road), Angela Melick (Wasted Talent), and Steve Rolston (Ghost Projekt).

What do these comic book artists have in common? (Other than that they are all based in Vancouver, BC)

They represent just a handful of the fantastically diverse talents who have contributed to Cloudscape Comics over the years.

Cloudscape is a Vancouver-based comic collective that has published four comic anthologies since their inception in 2008. For more about who they are and what they do, I would direct your attention to this post I wrote profiling the group.

This past year, the folks behind Cloudscape Comics decided to try their luck in the wonderful world of internet crowdfunding. Hey, publishing quality comic anthologies doesn’t come cheap – just ask The Anthology Project.

21 Journeys

For their fourth publishing effort, titled “21 Journeys“, Cloudscape decided they wanted to produce a higher quality of book than their previous anthologies. Inspired by books like The Anthology Project Vol. 1, they wanted to release something that would make comic shop perusers take note and really stand out on the shelf.

To that end, they turned to IndieGoGo as their fundraising platform of choice. While they didn’t hit their ideal goal of $7000, they were able to break the $4000 mark – just enough to get the book done the way they wanted.

I recently caught up with Cloudscape Comics’ President Jeff Ellis to talk about the book, which is due out ’soon’ (though no date has been formally set) and can already be purchased in e-book form here.

My chat with Jeff is below:

KD: What can you tell me about how 21 Journeys came together?

Jeff: Well, we had a long planning meeting about what we wanted to do, and we actually ended up with two ideas on the table. Those ideas were either fantasy or travel. Ultimately, we decided that since the last book was sci fi, fantasy is maybe a little too similar. So we thought we would do traveling first – stories involving some sort of ‘journey’ theme – and then we’d come back to fantasy after.

We had also just finished looking at the Anthology Project, and they had a hard cover full color book, and we thought ‘okay, let’s pull out all the stops on this one and do a full colour travel anthology.’

21 Journeys

KD: What have you done in color before?

Jeff: We did Funday Sunnies, which was a 48 page full color book. Which is not nearly as difficult to pull off as a 250 page full color book. Our main problem with the new book was financing.

KD: Speaking of financing, what was your experience with IndieGoGo like?

Jeff: Oh it was really fantastic. We were getting a little worried if we could pay for the printing, and we didn’t have the ability to use Kickstarter because no one in our group has an American bank account.

Angela Melick from Wasted Talent sent me the link to IndieGoGo and said ‘you should be looking into this’.

So we set it up and started doing preorders, and we offered some of our older books as well as some sketches as incentives for donation. It was a little slowgoing at first, but we did hit our target and we achieved enough funding for the book.

KD: Do you feel like sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter can be game-changers for indie comic creators looking to put together anthologies?

Jeff: Absolutely. We’re not the only group that’s finding that if you show people what you’re going to do and ask for the

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money up front, people are willing to contribute. There are so many recent examples of people setting up an account on one of those sites and doing something that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

It’s funny, I had a friend sort of criticize me for using IndieGoGo, and his logic was, ‘well you have a website, and you have paypal – why don’t you do it yourself?’ I think people don’t trust to send their money to an individual. But then sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter add a bit more legitimacy to it. It makes people feel like they can trust where their money is going, and that really impacts fundraising for creative projects in a positive way.

21 Journeys

KD: Sites like IndieGoGo allow for contributions from nearly anywhere around the world. Was it a surprise to you at all where some of the donations you received came from?

Jeff: We had a lot of contributions from Australia. In fact, we did a 24 hour event where we stayed up for 24 hours on our U-Stream doing comic jams and selling commissioned sketches, just sort of drumming up support as a last push for the remaining money we needed to hit our target. What was interesting is when we hit about two or three o’clock in the morning, most of our Canadian supporters had gone to bed, but suddenly we had about five Australians on chatting with us. They got us through to about 6am when the Canadians started joining in again.

KD: Now that you’ve done a book in color, do you think you could go back to doing another black and white anthology?

Jeff: It’s funny, if you were to ask Jonathan (Dalton), one of the other board members on Cloudscape Comics, he would say never again. He’d say we’re never doing another full color book.

21 Journeys

I say this all the time, but this is probably the best book we’ve ever made. The quality, the art, the revisions we did, the fact that it’s in color – it

really is the greatest book we’ve done, but it also logistically was a nightmare. It was more than we’ve ever had to cope with as an organization. The fundraising alone was a whole other dimension we’ve never had to deal with, and it definitely burnt us out a bit.

Giants of Main Street, the next book, which is fantasy based, is going to go back to black and white. I don’t want to say we’d never do another, personally. I feel like if you give us a chance to rest up, and maybe check back in a year we could give it another shot. I think it would go a lot smoother now that we have the experience under our belts. Everything we’ve ever done was a struggle the first time around and then much easier the next time through.

KD: Speaking more to

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the content of the book, what can you say about some of the new contributors that are making their Cloudscape debut with 21 Journeys?

Jeff: We cast our net much wider with this book, which is also probably part of what made it more logistically difficult. One of the big ones for us is we have Steve Rolston doing the cover art. Which is really cool, because he’s out there doing Ghost Projekt for Oni Press, he did Emiko Superstar…he’s a veteran of the Vancouver scene and one of my favourite Vancouver-based artists. So having him do the cover was a real treat, and it made us feel like we were doing something right if Steve was up for taking some time out of his day to do some art for us.

A few new people submitted as well, which we were really excited about. Another big get for us was having Miriam Libicki contribute. She’s been working for years independently as part of Real Gone Girl studios and doing her comic Jobnik.

21 Journeys

KD: Once the book releases, where do you anticipate people will be able to get their hands on it?

Jeff: This is where we’ve always kind of fallen flat, is distribution. I often comment to people that ‘we make the greatest books nobody’s ever heard of’. We’re hoping with this book we do our Diamond application.

We’re thinking that this could be the book that

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meets Diamond’s quota. We’ve always been a bit gunshy about that, because we don’t want to burn our bridges early on. We’re also doing e-books, which is huge for us. We believe that digital distribution is a big part of the future of comics, and to that end we’re going to be offering 21 Journeys as well as our last book, Exploded View, as purchasable e-books.

We’re going to sell the printed copies, but also go ahead with the digital books. Worst that can happen is nobody buys it – but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Selling books digitally could be the financial boost we need to help publish future anthologies.

You can purchase the digital version of 21 Journeys here, or go here to download a preview of the book.

For more from Cloudscape Comics, check out their official website.

-Interview by Kevin de Vlaming

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