This isn't the Juxtaposition of the Day, more like the Juxtaposition of Two Years Ago, because I featured the February, 2013, Non Sequitur panel in this discussion of Kickstarter, and the Doonesbury strip in this take a month later, both of which I will leave for you to visit rather than repeat them entirely here.
They make a good pairing, because, in the first case, it's easy to see how you benefit from my donation, but what's in it for me?
And in the second case, if a commercial producer won't put up the money, and if simply delivering it doesn't seem a sufficiently worthwhile premium, how viable is the product?
I've been thinking about Kickstarter for a couple of weeks, since the FTC dropped a rock on a guy who raised $122k and produced nothing, spending the money instead on personal expenses.
It wasn't much of a rock, actually: More like those prop boulders they used in Star Trek and Man from UNCLE that clearly weighed almost nothing, which is also the amount of blood you can get from a stone.
Which is to say, having proven that the guy spent all the money without producing anything, what are you going to recover from him?
And here's the thing: The only reason the FTC was able to step in was because the guy actually misused the funding.
There's more incompetence, or at least incapacity, than outright fraud in these things, and that's where "buyer beware" kicks in.
That's the nub of the more well-known example of crowd-funding gone nowhere:
The ZPM Espresso Machine fiasco, covered here by the New York Times, was a case of somebody raising $370,000 for a wonderful, commercial-grade espresso machine for the home, and then finding out why nobody already makes a wonderful, commercial-grade espresso machine for the home.
However annoyed and upset the backers were, and however blown-off they may have felt over the cheerful tone of the endless excuses for non-performance, the Times writer sums it up early in the story:
Part of what gives the ZPM case its appeal is the vision of a lot of pissy little espresso drinkers crying and kicking their heels on their plush-carpeted floors. It would be different if the product had been some sort of home dialysis machine.
But the end result remains the same, which is something bankers and venture capitalists assume: You win some, you lose some, and the losses fall under the principle of lentus stercore.
For more on unfulfilled promises, check out this Ars Technica piece, which cites a study showing that, despite all the delays, only a small percentage of projects actually fail to deliver, and only an even smaller percentage are dishonest.
It's about comics and related creative projects, which brings us back to those guys on Wiley's desert island.
And, specifically, to this piece that Tom Spurgeon linked to, in which a comics store owner talks about why he doesn't much like crowd-funded comics projects, and which is what inspired me to address the topic today.
If you are a creator thinking about starting a campaign, you should definitely read it, and it's of interest to all comics fans, but to cut to the chase, the deal is that, when a crowd-funded project succeeds, it means the largest likely market for the product -- the most loyal fans of the creator -- has been tapped.
Which leaves no reason for a retailer to stock it, which in turn means that it's over.
And as he suggests, the name "Kickstarter" says it: The idea was to get a project off the ground, not to wrap it up entirely.
I've backed some best-of books, as well as some projects where a known creator tried something new and promising, and I don't object to spending more on the promise than I would on the final product were it funded by a traditional publisher.
And, granted, syndicates aren't as generous in jumping on anthologies as they used to be.
But, even when there is a 100-percent chance of fulfillment, I have to be a real fan to make the investment.
Therein lies the rub: Those two guys on the desert island genuinely need a boat, but they'll never get beyond that 50 percent mark, and, if it were intended to be realistic, they'd have only hit 12 percent, because who the hell are they and who do they know?
And if they had the connections, wouldn't one of their friends simply come get them?
Bottom Line is this: Whatever may be true in the land of tech gear and upscale kitchen gadgets, over here on the creative side, nothing has changed. If you have a huge fan base, you will be successful. Either a publisher will back you, or your fans will.
But if you don't have five-digit fan numbers, you probably don't have a sufficient crowd for crowd-funding.
If you are still determined, this may be helpful.
But Lady Day has your moment of zen: