What Happens When the Kickstarter Creative Team Changes Before Publication?

Oh, this isn’t going to end well, I suspect.

Alex de Campi set up a Kickstarter campaign to publish a graphic novel, Ashes, written by her and illustrated by Jimmy Broxton. Based on that creative team, and a lot of publicity, they raised over $32,000 (on a goal of $27,000). As The Beat pointed out, that makes it the #7 most funded comic project on the site.

Ashes page drawn by Jimmy Broxton

Ashes page drawn by Jimmy Broxton

Now that funding has successfully completed, de Campi has fired Broxton (real name James Hodgkins). That link has Broxton’s posts on the subject, which include these statements:

… this is not a joke, Jimmy (you all know who he really is) has been fired, and will be replaced on the book, naturally I’m not at all happy about this, but I have no control. I have posted this here on FB to start the process of presenting my (Jimmy’s) side of the story. I sincerely hope it doesn’t get too ugly, but I have to try and protect his reputation….

Jimmy worked for 6 months off and on (unpaid) preparing the project, and he has not, and will now not receive a penny of the $32,000 raised as part of the Kickstarter campaign. I hope to be able to offer more information soon, I’m waiting to hear from Kickstarter themselves, I only found out about this a few hours ago.

In response, de Campi posted (to backers only):

Jimmy and I have had an irreconcileable split over creative differences, with the result that yesterday evening I asked him to leave Ashes. I have no desire to hang out dirty laundry in public so I hope you don’t mind if I leave the explanation at that….

If you only pledged for the book because of Jimmy, or if this announcement otherwise colours your desire for the book, please contact me to say so … and I will refund your pledge immediately and in full. Likewise, once I find a new artist, if his or her work is not a style you like, you may also contact me and be immediately refunded for your pledge.

The artist implies considering legal action at being denied his part of this project, and I’m guessing there was no formal contract. I would think the best approach would be to cancel the Kickstarter completely and relaunch when/if a new artist is found, but given how many people wouldn’t participate again, that would likely kill the project entirely. de Campi has promised to do that, though, if no artist is signed by Valentine’s Day.

This is a major flaw with Kickstarter — there’s nothing that guarantees you’ll get what you were promised. Once the creator gets the money, they can do whatever they want with it, or the project can fall apart for a variety of reasons. It’s up to you to determine whether you trust the people you’re funding.

Update: (1/18/12) Heidi MacDonald has an interview with Broxton/Hodgkins giving his side of the story in more depth. He talks about the contract between him and de Campi (one does exist) and suggests what he thinks should happen now: the cancellation of the whole project.

Update 2: (1/19/12) And now de Campi’s response is posted. On the one hand, it sounds like a miserable working experience that she needed to end; on the other, it provides more evidence if someone is reading it from the perspective of “girls are emotional to work with.” As outside observers, we’ll never know who was “right”, and the question doesn’t make much sense anyway. I hope it all just fades away, because right now, all we have is tawdry internet drama, and that’s not doing anyone any good.

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