Home stretch

Some initial thoughts on this long journey, as the Kickstarter campaign heads into the final few days..

It was October 2013, and I was a guest speaker on The Nation’s yearly fundraising/seminar cruise, which that year went up the Eastern coastline and had a stop in Quebec City. I disembarked with my wife and kid and we spent the day wandering around, at one point stopping in a bookstore where I saw Taschen’s two volume Mid-Century Advertising set — a beautifully produced, 700 page, two volume hardcover set, in a slipcase.

So fast forward to early 2014. I’ve spent many idle hours browsing through the Taschen books, which have become a permanent fixture on my desk. And at some point this idea starts to creep into my mind: wouldn’t it be cool to do something like that for This Modern World? Something like the Complete Far Side, or the Complete Calvin & Hobbes? I started working on the strip in the late 80s, but 1990 was the moment that it started to gain any traction, so that’s what I’ve always considered the starting point—which makes 2015 the 25th anniversary. And I always said, if I was going to go through all the work involved in a Kickstarter, I was gonna do it for something big.

I’d been working with Topatoco for a few years at this point—they published my last normal-sized, two-year compilation, and have also produced some t-shirts and a plush Sparky. I think a couple of my t-shirts sold pretty well but apart from that I don’t think I ever rang up spectacular sales numbers with them—but when I emailed Jeff Rowland and suggested that it would be a fine idea to Kickstarter what I then imagined as a 700 or 800-page two volume hardcover compilation of everything I’ve ever done—rather than urging me to seek professional counseling, he said sure and passed me along to Holly Rowland, who runs Make That Thing. MTT is a company that ushers you through the entire process of a Kickstarter campaign, from preparing the product to running the campaign itself.

I was naive enough to imagine that we’d run a campaign, see if we could raise some money, and then start working on the book. The MTT team shot that one down pretty quickly, pointing out that once a campaign ends, the clock is ticking, and we really needed to have the book close to finished before we launched. Which as it turns out was very, very good advice, as I spent the next year sorting, compiling and annotating 25 years worth of work (actually more, because there’s a section of early work included as well). At times it seemed like a Sisyphean task, as I watched my initially hoped-for launch window of early 2015 come and go, and we still weren’t anywhere near ready to go live.

I’ll continue this later—I’ve actually got some proofing edits I need to go over today. But suffice it to say, it was a long road to get here and it’s been a stunning response to a project that I wasn’t entirely sure would even get fully funded. It’s hard to believe that there are only 53 hours left on the campaign as I write this. I couldn’t have done this without the Make That Thing team—Holly, Sara McHenry, David Malki, Eliza Rose, and last but decidedly not least, my amazing layout artist Christopher Kallini, who I’ve never met in person, but with whom I’ve been working intensively for more than a year. Much gratitude to all of them.