So, Rich Burlew crossed the threshold for the #5 all-time Kickstarter fundraising total sometime overnight. Then somewhere around 9:30am (GMT-5) today, he lost it again, because coming out of nowhere is the campaign for Double Fine‘s next videogame, which set the record for 24 hours of fundraising and highest number of backers and is, as of this writing, literally adding backers and dollars faster than I can refresh the project page.
If you have to fall behind on a landmark achievement, at least there’s no shame when these guys are in the game; at present rates of growth, somewhat less than 48 hours will be necessary for Double Fine to become the all-time highest fundraising total on Kickstarter, and it keeps picking up steam0. As I write this sentence, they’re over US$868,000¹, having added at a rate of more than US$60,000 per hour since I started paying close attention a couple hours ago.
And, since as we all know Double Fine are slightly associated with Scott C, it’s all in the webcomics family.
Did I mention that Burlew’s campaign is (again, as I write this) over 1000% funding? Or that Rich Stevens had cleared 400% of goal in 24 hours? These are exciting times for creator-owned (in the case of Burlew and Stevens) and boutique/creator-driven (in the case of Double Fine) works; in case you were unconvinced on that point, allow me to direct your attention to this story.
A guy named Gary Friedrich created the character of Ghost Rider for Marvel comics. You know, tortured motorcyclist, head on fire, spirit of divine retribution, all that. Couple zillion comics sold, big movie with Nicolas Cage, and a sequel about to hit theaters, all owned by the comics division of Disney, the multi-billion dollar company.
As with many creators, the gigs fell away and today Friedrich has no residuals, no pension, and no material benefit from having created such a lucrative property. He’s been selling prints of Ghost Rider to keep from being entirely destitute, and sued Marvel for a fraction of the worth that he created for them.
Clearly, this could not stand. Marvel countersued for the value of those prints, and as of today, have won a US$17,000 judgment against Friedrich². Also, he cannot ever say that he created Ghost Rider.
You can make all the arguments you want about Well, he didn’t have to sign a work-for-hire contract and Nobody forced him. Fine. Out of your system? Explain to me what benefit Marvel receives from enjoining Friedrich from stating a true fact. Explain to me how the Marvel/Disney corporate legal team could have possibly spent less than US$17K, and how spending more money than you receive can serve any purpose other than to punish Freidrich for having the temerity to say Hey, this deal is pretty lopsided, out of simple human decency and a sense of fairness would you re-negotiate?.
Where would Friedrich be if he owned Ghost Rider? What kind of hellish poverty will Burlew, Stevens, and the entire crew of Double Fine be much more likely to avoid simply because they’re not beholden to a publisher³ that demanded complete ownership of the things in their heads? How entirely malevolent does an entire segment of the publishing industry have to be that Rich Stevens has a brighter future by giving away4 something he owns than Friedrich and countless others have had by cashing checks for things they should have, but didn’t?
0 So to speak.
¹ Probably hit US$900,000 by the time I’m ready to post.
² Money he doesn’t have; cf: destitute.
³ Can publishers be useful? Absolutely — take a look at TopatoCo, which does not demand total ownership of properties it publishes, because Jeff and Holly realize that is entirely out of proportion to the risk they assume in capital and effort to bring things to print. This is because they are decent human beings.
4 From the second update to his Kickstarter:
I am definitely going to be able to do my collections and offer them as DRM-free, payment-optional downloads.