February 5, 2014

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Maple Key Comics Looks to Kickstart Anthology, New Creator Careers

Center for Cartoon Studies alumni Joyana McDiarmid has launched a new Kickstarter campaign for a six issue anthology series that spotlights the incredibly talented individuals coming out of her old school.

The goal of the project, which is planned to last one year but may continue beyond its initial 6 bi-monthly issues if successful, is to give newer creators the ability to have a venue to tell their 1, 3, or 6 part stories. From the Kickstarter information page:
Maple Key Comics is a comics anthology magazine, released bi-monthly. It is dedicated to featuring the work of talented emerging cartoonists. Focusing on serialized stories, Maple Key Comics brings you the joy of new installments of your favorite stories with the convenience of having them all in one book. Maple keys are the winged fruit that fall from maple trees like little helicopters. If comics are the fruit, Maple Key Comics hopes to be the wings.
A page of McDiarmid's from the project.
The slightly tortured metaphor aside (people tend to step on and forget Maple keys, after all), the sentiment is strong. In an interview with her school, the Center for Cartoon Studies, McDiarmid brings up the reason for an anthology such as this one:
Well, going to The Center for Cartoon Studies and comics conventions, I saw this sort of empty space in the comics market. You had the people who were making…these fantastic little minicomics that you’d only come across sort of by accident. I started to notice the enormity of the gap between self-publishing and finding a publisher–a publisher who would treat your comics the way you’d want them to. 
McDiarmid hopes to be that publisher and is using this funding drive to get the money to put out the first two print issues so that the sales can drive printing the other four issues. The goal is to debut the first issue at MoCCA, which is a very smart idea. At least in my experience going in 2012, there were not nearly as many debuts as at SPX, so there should be some extra appeal for a new work at the show which features many of the same creators as the Bethesda institution.


Art from Will Payne
While there's no guarantee any new project will take off, my gut tells me this one has a good shot. McDiarmid has been paying attention to what came before (like Mome, which launched several creators to higher prominence, such as Gabrielle Bell) and how to put something that lacks star power at a reasonable price. Print issues will be $15 for roughly 300 pages of content, which is a great deal. Digital issues are built into the plans from the start (always a good way to get my support) and are a very reasonable $6. Getting them as part of the Kickstarter saves you a few bucks, but the price difference doesn't penalize those who might come later.

Similarly, the campaign is set at only $7,000, a very achievable number, and pledges start as low as $5 to get that first digital copy to see if you want to buy more later. Little things like that can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to a new project.

In terms of the art, while I am only casually familiar with the names contributing to the project, the art style itself is very much in my wheelhouse. As a CCS alumni herself, McDiarmid definitely skews towards selecting creators who work in what I have come to call the CCS house style, and for my money there's nothing wrong with that. I put up a few samples with this post, and you can find more at the Maple Key Tumblr page. Even within that general style there are differences, such as McDiarmid's own intricate detailing or the ink washes of Laurel Holden that remind me of Colleen Coover.

Art from Laurel Lynne Leake
It may seem a bit odd to push a comic project when I'm not well versed in the art, but this is a case where I'll make an exception. Based on the samples on the KS itself, the Tumblr, and the website, I believe there is going to be a lot to like, especially when each issue brings so much of it to the table. If you like the CCS style and trust McDiarmid to pick the best of the new talent she's encountered, I think you will, too. But it's really cool that there's an art Tumblr and a strong creator profile page to help you. Once you check either of those out, I'm sure you'll come to the same conclusion, if you are a fan of the type of $1-$5 minis that are available at shows like SPX and others across the country. Now, thanks to Maple Key, you don't have to do as much of the footwork to find the good stuff. It misses a bit of the fun of the search, but looks to be well worth it.

Just about everything relating to this project is a positive for me, which is why I'm strongly recommending you get in on this one from the ground up by backing it. It's a chance to discover new creators, receive new comics on a regular basis, either via mail or digitally, and shows that the anthology method of providing content is alive and well. As of right now, this one looks on pace to fund, but let's get it past the goal safely so that McDiarmid and her team of creators can concentrate on making the comics, not just funding them.