Shelly Bond, editor-in-chief and CEO of OFF REGISTER is living every fan girl’s dream in an industry often thought of as the ultimate boy’s club. Her incredible list of credits includes editing such comics and graphic novels as the Eisner award-winning series Bitter Root, Fables, and The Sandman: Overture. She spent more than 20 years at DC Comics, including several years as executive editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint. She left DC to launch an imprint called Black Crown for IDW publishing, and today Bond runs her own firm, OFF REGISTER. OFF REGISTER is a partnership with her husband, artist Philip Bond. The couple frequently funds their projects through Kickstarter, connecting directly with their rabid fans and making new connections.
Comic Books and Graphic Novels are hot
With superhero movies grossing billions worldwide, it’s no secret that comics (the source material) are big business too. Of the top 10 grossing films of all times, only James Cameron’s Avatar wasn’t originally based on a comic or graphic novel and it eventually went on to be incorporated into both. But comics can showcase a different kind of superhero, as evidenced by one of Bond’s projects, Femme Magnifique, 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed the World.
Femme Magnifique is an anthology, celebrating not only 50 amazing women but offering a platform for 100 artists and writers who felt a special connection to their subjects. Spurred by the results of the 2016 elections and a sense of loss, the goal was designed to serve the greater good and honor women who inspired so many. The compilation included well-known women from history and less-well-known figures in the areas of pop, politics, art, and science whose stories deserved more prominence. Each woman is celebrated with prose and artwork in comic book panels. Most remarkable, the stories were brought to life using only a few pages – a title page and three pages of art and stories for each woman.
“I asked the participants to propose a woman who personally inspired them,” said Bond. “The stories were so individual that very few writers requested a subject already claimed.”
Femme Magnifique also included special bonus material: character studies; an introduction penned by pro-skateboarder Cindy Whitehead, one of the subjects; an editor’s “backlogue” telling the Kickstarter story; and, a special section giving readers an insider’s look at the process, including early script drafts and sketches.
Inspired by College Radio in the 80’s
Bond’s latest project is inspired by her experience as a college radio DJ in the 80s. Zoom gathering of her friends fueled the project. The virtual reunions included college DJs, former program and music directors, and station managers. All fondly recalled their experiences discovering new music and learning the ropes at their college radio stations. Heavy Rotation is a comic book love letter to ‘80s college radio.
In addition to the opportunity to gain important professional experience, college radio offers community to students at a time in their lives when they are both ready to take risks and are tentatively exploring adulthood. College radio is also seen as a proving group for both personalities and music. During the 80s, college radio helped usher in alternative music. This includes the roots of “New Music,” a combination of punk, new wave, new romantic, goth, and indie/alternative.
Heavy Rotation is a 48-page anthology of short comics, prose and single illustrations, essays and interviews. An impressive lineup of comic book artists brought the stories to life. Bond is once again funding via KickStarter. The project reached its financial goal in a matter of hours. As of this writing, it is closing in on 500 funders.
Why Crowdfunding? And How?
After partnering to raise almost $100,000 for Femme Magnifique from more than 1700 funders on Kickstarter, Bond took the lessons learned with her to support other projects. For example, in 2020 Bond created Insider Art, a print compendium of comics, crafts and cats, in only three months. She worked with 150 female and non-binary editors, writers, and artists from around the globe who donated their skills to the 272-page project. The book was first released as a digital comic on Gumroad with all proceeds going directly to female and non-binary comic book retailers who faced financial hardships due to COVID-19. The digital comic, still availalble, raised over $6000. Bond funded Insider Art on Kickstarter to create print editions for the contributors and offer the all-ages compendium to a wider audience. Hey Amateur!, another Bond project, raised almost $60,000 from more than 1200 backers.
Are you thinking about crowdfunding your next project? Bond recommends:
- Work with others. A group approach helps to bring in more networks and more backers.
- How does your project connect with what’s happening in the world? Femme Magnifique connected with women at a key moment in history. There was an awareness of the importance of giving back and inspiring the next generation.
- “Great titles go places.” Bond acknowledges the power of her title. It was a key element in her ability to gather 50 stories AND 100 artists. It also connected Femme Magnifique to a community primed to purchase the product, whether as a gift or for themselves.
- “Hit it hard out of the gate but be prepared for a month-long project,” says Bond. Her projects often include stretch goals and special bonuses. These keep the excitement alive, attract new audiences and capture additional investments from existing backers. (Heavy Rotation’s bonuses now include bumper stickers and an art print of David Bowie. The piece is signed by acclaimed comic book creators Laura and Michael Allred (Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams, Silver Surfer).
- Know your market. Bond feels her main community and target market is the comics industry where consumers have a well-known set price. Her crowdfunding projects offer rewards at a variety of levels.
- Do what you love! Bond’s projects are a way to channel her extraordinary passion for a subject into a product that others will love too.
(June 2021 Editor’s note/update – Bond is funding a new, even larger project, Filth & Grammar, the Comic Book Editor’s (Secret) Handbook.)
(July 2021 Editor’s note/update – Bond recently opened up a store on her website so you can purchase the results of any of the projects mentioned here.
Interested in learning more about the comic book business, reminiscing about those nights dancing by yourself in a darkened radio studio, and/or crowdfunding your passion? Follow Shelly Bond on Twitter at @SXBond and Instagram @sxbondimprimatur