Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kickstarting The Secret Adventures of Owney

The campaign to make "The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney the Postal Dog" become a reality - an inside look.

It goes like this: In the 1890s, the United States Postal Service adopted a mutt from Albany, New York, as its unofficial mascot. That dog ended up going on a trip around the world and becoming the most famous dog in the world. True story!

I first came across the story of Owney when artist David Montgomery and I were doing research for a graphic novel about the 1904 World's Fair. Owney had attended the St. Louis World's Fair (albeit already stuffed - he died in 1897) as one of the more unusual exhibits on display. We immediately knew his story had a lot of potential, but it was going to take a few years until we actually delved into his greatest adventure - his around-the-world trip in 1895.

From all accounts, the trip was actually rather uneventful, aside from the many accolades and ovations that Owney received wherever he stopped. The fact is, he only really visited Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, with quick stops in the ports of Egypt, Algiers and the Azores. But we imagined how his story might have been had he had the chance to go to other places. We thought it would be exciting to see him in India, the Middle East and Europe, meeting letter carriers, dignitaries and ne'er-do-wells from these distant lands. And that's how our story was born.

I hadn’t heard of Kickstarter until David brought it to my attention. He was involved in creating the artwork for a winemaking boardgame that went on to become a hit on Kickstarter. A platform to raise funds quickly for creative endeavors seemed like a perfect choice for us. We based our goal on realistic costs of production and printing, plus hiring a colorist to help with the book. Ultimately, Kickstarter is a pre-ordering outlet for indie creators, and similar platforms are starting to sprout. It could be the future of publishing.

The Kickstarter campaign also gave us the chance to create a “gift bag” that we thought would be cool and reward the people who believed in the project.

The premiums we came up, besides softcover and hardcover copies of the book itself, included a set of postcards with scenes from the book, an Owney t-shirt, and original framed art. We also included personalized Owney dog tags. David, being an avid pet portraitist, came up with the idea of including people’s pets (or themselves) in the story as extras, so we made that a reward too.

The 30-day campaign was ultimately successful, though it was a lot of hard work. And the support we received from people everywhere who somehow connect with Owney was gratifying in that it showed us we’re not the only ones who want to see him live on in the pages a comic book.


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