Five Questions with Creators: Charlie Stickney

White Ash #1 by Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes.

By Zack Quaintance — Charlie Stickney is the comic writer behind White Ash, which just recently completed its third successful Kickstarter. White Ash, as we wrote in our February 2018 New Discoveries, is a compelling and well-done comic that combines bits of classic fantasy stories with a star-crossed lovers conflict and sets the whole thing in rural Pennsylvania—it’s well worth checking out.

Anyway, Charlie was also kind enough to take some time out to talk to us for Five Questions with Creators feature, discussing White Ash, Kickstarter comics versus indie publishing, and advice for comics writers who are just starting out.

Let’s do it!

1. How many Kickstarter campaigns have you done for White Ash?

This is our third Kickstarter for White Ash. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that we’ve been successful on all three outings and that each has progressively built upon the last. If all things continue to go well, a Kickstarter for Chapter Four should be live sometime late in October or early in November.

White Ash #2.

2. What have you learned about how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign in the process?

This is a HUGE topic. There are websites like comixlaunch that devote (really informative) weekly podcasts to the subject. I will say though, for me, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that a big misconception people have about Kickstarter is they think making a great comic and putting it on the platform will be enough. And that’s not the case. You have to understand how the Kickstarter algorithm works. Kickstarter only makes money when your project funds. So projects that are doing well are promoted. Projects that don’t have a surge of backers, don’t get any love…no matter how great they are. So, you need to make sure that to get funded on Kickstarter, that you kickstart your campaign on Kickstarter. That means on day one, you need a bunch of backers lined up. For our most recent campaign, we had a huge surge of returning backers that got us off to an amazing start, which eventually carried us to over $23,000 in funding.

But for our first campaign, when nobody had heard about White Ash, that meant making sure we had enough people lined up who would pledge right off the bat to help create that surge to get the ball rolling. One way or another, you need a big pool of day one backers.

White Ash #3.

3. What are some of the advantages of funding your comic through a Kickstarter campaign?

We use Kickstarter as a pre-sales distributor. So in essence, it’s our version of Previews Catalogue. From that perspective it has a lot of advantages. While the actual Previews has a larger reach, we’re still seen by a huge number of people who buy comics. And the percentage of revenue we give to Kickstarter is only a fraction of what we would give to Diamond (and currently we are self-published so there’s no publisher fee/cut). Which means we’re making more on Kickstarter per issue than we would on the stands in a comic book shop. Plus, we still own all of the intellectual property rights, so if someone wanted to turn White Ash into a TV series or a movie, we’d again be the ones making the money.  

4. What advice would you give a would-be creator who has an idea for a book right now on how to go from idea to physical comic?

I think it depends on what the creator’s background is and how much experience they have with the art form. But let’s assume for the sake of this question that they’re a writer with a little experience and a decent understanding of the medium. If that’s the case, there two things they need: a finished script and an artist/team of artists to work with. And they won’t be able to get the second without the first.

So start with the script. Don’t just hash around ideas. If you want another professional to work with you, you need to show them what you’re bringing to the table. So write the entire script out.  Once you have a script in hand that you think is ready for prime time, then you can go looking for an artist. Jim Zub has a website with some amazing advice for writers (and comic professionals in general). He devotes an entire post to finding an artist. I recommend reading that, and everything else on his blog. But where I’d personally recommend someone go nowadays to find an artist is Twitch Creative. There you watch them live stream their art, chat with them, and get a sense of what they like to draw. This is important, because finding an artist for your book is a lot like dating, you need to be compatible. Just because you’re both great on your own, doesn’t mean you’re going to be great together. Then once you find that partner, get cracking, because making a comic book is a lot of work.

5. For fans of White Ash, is there anything you can give away about where the story and characters are headed?

One of the nice things about self-publishing is that we get to tell the story at my pace. And I’ve really enjoyed taking my time over the first three, extra-long issues, getting to know the characters and the town of White Ash. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy good action sequences. And without giving too much away, I can say we’re going to get a lot of action in Chapter Four. It’s the climax to our first story arc and we’re wrapping some bits up with a BANG…and some slicing…and skewering…and, well, you get the idea.

Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes at San Diego Comic Con.

Charlie Stickney is a writer/producer from Los Angeles who has worked in various fields of the entertainment industry (animation, film, television) for close to 20 years. He’s written for companies including: Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, Revolution Studios, and Scholastic Productions, developed and creating shows like Cosmic Quantum Ray and Horrible Histories. Charlie has always had a passion for comics. While in college, he interned in the editorial offices at Marvel Comics. And were it not for a job offer in Los Angeles, the plan after graduation was to move to New York to write comic books. But now, after a longer detour than intended, he’s returned to his roots with the fantasy/romance/horror comic book, White Ash. Billed as Romeo and Juliet meets Lord of the Rings…in rural Pennsylvania, White Ash: Chapter Three just finished an insanely successful run on Kickstarter.

Check out our other Five Questions with Creators pieces and other Comics Lists here!

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.