August 20, 2017

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Sparkler Monthly Kickstarter Needs a Final Spark


It's hard to believe that Sparkler Magazine is entering its fifth year. It seems like only yesterday that I was giving readers an overview of the site, but it turns out that was back in 2014! Wow!

At that time, Sparkler was about a year old and looking to get to 200 members via subscriptions. Now, as with most publishers, they use a Kickstarter model. Unfortunately, this version of the Kickstarter is coming up a bit short. With only about 2 days left as of this writing, Sparkler is still a little over $5,000 short of its $25,000 funding goal for a new year of issues. Given how important I think Sparkler's role in the comics world is, I wanted to give them a push here at the end and make sure Panel Patter readers were both reminded that Sparkler exists and also to encourage you to back their Kickstarter, if possible.

Why do I think Sparkler is important in comics? It's right here in their mission statement:
The primary audience for Sparkler Monthly is girls and women aged 15 and up, or anyone interested in the rough ballpark of Female Gaze. Our four founders and most of our staff identify as female and are committed to promoting inclusive, fem-positive, and ridiculously fun content. We welcome creators of any gender and are particularly interested in entertaining, engrossing stories that tap into the variety and diversity of fandom.
Unfortunately, no matter how much better things get, there's still entirely too many comics out there that focus on the male gaze, even if they're telling a story that's got a positive vibe to it and/or strong female characters. Sparkler makes a point of ensuring that their content avoids this problem.

Sparkler's content is OEL manga, primarily, reminding me quite a bit of the best of Tokyopop's material before it imploded. However, Sparkler is far more than just comics. It's an entire smorgasbord of content types, providing content for an English-reading audience that is probably more typical for fans of Japanese comics in their original language. That includes comics, light novels, and even audio dramas, the latter of which really impressed me with its content quality. All of this is in the realm of shojo/josei, making it the perfect thing for those who are looking for English-language work that's in the same vein as publications in translation from Viz and Vertical, among others.

There are now 24(!) series on the comics page, 4 audio dramas (plus an RPG and podcast), and 6 light novels, along with a short story section. It's a lot of content, and while most of it is free already, the only way that this content can continue is to have financial backing. Sparkler prides itself on paying its creators an advance(!!) and working with professional editors to get content that is just as good as what you'd find from the biggest names.

Some of the series currently running include (all info from the Kickstarter Page)
Old friends reunite to deal with a literal demon from their childhood in Yellow Hearts, the LGBT+ fantasy by Keezy Young.  
Eli & Viv's gorgeous romantic mystery Heart of Gold will pull you into its dramatic exploration of faith, love, and lies.  
In Knights-Errant, the LGBT+ war drama by Jennifer Doyle, revenge is all fun and games until someone loses a limb(s).  
In Decoy and Retrofit, Bell and Hazel's sci-fi boy's love light novel, post-apocalyptic survival gets complicated with the arrival of a childhood friend, an ice cream truck, and a whole lot of guns.  
Why commune with the deceased when you can commune with some coffee (or booze)? Unfortunately for Cailen, ghostly trouble finds her whether she likes it or not in the light novel series Dead Endings, written by Jessica Chavez and illustrated by Irene Flores.
 So what do you get with a paid membership to Sparkler? Here's their explanation:
The vast majority of Sparkler’s series are free to read on our site, with new comic pages posted on a weekly update schedule. Paying Sparkler Members don’t need to wait for new pages, though - they get monthly DRM-free downloads of all new pages weeks or even months before they’re released online, as well as special bonuses to download to their computers and e-readers. With a paid membership, you help support the creators of our stories and get to keep your downloads forever.

We have two types of memberships depending on the Sparkler experience you want:
Normal: Get DRM-free downloads of the current issue(s) a month or more before the pages are available online, all Member Exclusives (21 and counting!), and early releases of the Sparkler Podcast. See all downloads here!
VIP: Everything in the normal membership, plus series-specific ebooks of everything running in the magazine (so you don't miss a back chapter), plus our entire steamy Cherry Bomb line recommended for ages 17+. See all downloads here!
As a final note, if you're already a subscriber, backing the Kickstarter extends your membership. A nice touch for those who already support Sparkler, but want to do a little more, especially since Sparkler plans to cease publication if the Kickstarter fails.

So what are the rewards? Well, most of them, quite naturally revolve around membership, including getting a full year of the access above for $50, which is cheaper than subscribing on the website. You can also back getting downloads of year one for $35, pick up certain trades in digital or paper form, and of course, go into higher, combo levels if your budget allows.

Again, as I write this, Sparkler's a little behind the 8-ball. It's had an amazing run filling content you can't get elsewhere, and doing it in such a way that the creators get paid. If you like shojo and haven't checked out Sparkler yet, take a moment to browse the free material. There's quite a bit! Then come back to their Kickstarter page and pledge. Let's get this one over the finish line and keep good comics coming out on a regular basis.