By Jason Larsen
You probably already know that the University Library houses an expansive comic collection which is always available for checkout to take home and read. You probably also know that we have an electronic comics application called ComicsPlus that offers free access to over 20,000 comics from over 80 publishers right at your fingertips. You may be surprised to learn, however, that the library has a truly unique collection of crowdfunded comics, many of which are only available through the UIUC library.
Over the last several years, the library has been collecting crowdfunded comics. For those unfamiliar with the term, crowdfunded comics are created via the backing of donors through sites like Kickstarter. Many of these books come from BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ creators that rely on crowdfunding to have a presence in the comic space. Until now, there have been no academic libraries collecting these comics in significant quantity. To try and help ensure these materials are seen and discoverable, we have acquired to date 188 different crowdfunded comic projects and are actively adding them to our collection.
The library is excited to be able to share this unique and growing collection with you. And to celebrate both Black History Month and this unique collection, February’s selections will primarily, though not exclusively, focus on some of the different crowdfunded comics we have acquired from Black creators. If you see something you like, make sure to check it out, and hopefully discover something new and unique to enjoy!
Comics Available on the Shelf
This modern anthology series comes from Iron Circus, one of the pioneering publishers of crowdfunded comics. The book takes classic African folklore and updates them with modern twists and takes. While the book may seem more suited for juvenile readers, many fables and folklore stories have been the basis for connecting people of all ages to other cultures as well as our own pasts.
The comic is a horror mystery series that feels like a slasher movie set against a Shakespearean backdrop. It is the story of a playwright who has big Broadway ambition yet is stuck working on a small-town rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, he then finds himself wrapped up in a murder plot that ripples through the town. After their lead star is murdered, can he change the script of this drama before anyone else becomes a victim?
A demon is stalking the citizens of a small village. When this mythical monster takes the lead character’s father in one of its raids, it sets in motion a quest to put an end to its reign of terror. The series is set in a dark fantasy world where our mythology influences which gods and monsters we see. As the series progresses, the hero and his party find themselves placed in situations that their training never prepared them for, but the hero always wins in the end…right?
In this manga series, we follow a novice magical bounty hunter as he begins his career hunting all sorts of magical and mythical nuisances. Along the way, he meets a female bounty hunter who will either be a great partner or…a bitter rival? Will these two become the heroes everyone needs when great evils have started to be freed from captivity? Or will they decide the world is too full of darkness and corruption to be worth salvation? The creator’s love of Shonen manga really shines through as he world-builds around the two protagonists.
This expansive high fantasy series (currently on its sixth issue) follows four different characters as they grapple with their destinies. The story around each of the four characters is different, yet the tales overlap as they are all traveling in the same land. Whether you are following the soldier running from his past, the young queen struggling to take control of the reins of power, the old king trying to change the history of the world by ending generations of war, or the spy trying to prevent the world itself from burning, you will find yourself likely enthralled with what happens next in the land of Amashik.
Real Hero Shit is another selection from crowdfunding publisher Iron Circus, and you won’t want to miss reading this one! Real Hero Shit is set in a Dungeons & Dragon style world that breaks down the boundaries of traditional fantasy to include queer representation. A rogue is tasked with rescuing villagers but finds his options slim. To aid him in this quest, he gathers a mismatched group of fellow adventurers, including a local prince who is more about partying than adventuring. The group, especially the prince, is about to receive a hard lesson about the system and what being a real hero means.
Crowdfunded comics cover a wide variety of topics and interests. And Chicago-based creator George Gant’s collection of comic strips about the hilariously absurd task of raising a toddler, is a great example. The series was originally published as a webcomic on the Webtoon application before King Features Syndicate picked it up in mid-2022 and now publishes the series through their website.
Kayden Phoenix is a third-generation Chicana creator who has been creating her own Latina superhero universe via crowdfunding. This book has an all-Chicana creative team, with one of their stated goals to create superhero characters that are true representations of Latinas by challenging stereotypes about them and other marginalized Americans. The book is the origin story for the character as she discovers her powers, and along the way delves into the world of child kidnapping and trafficking.
Zufan is an Afrofuturistic series inspired by the attempted Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1896. It takes the core of its story from the historical unification of the various and highly fractured Ethiopian provinces to repel the Italians, and in so doing, being the only African country to retain its independence during what is known as the Scramble for Africa era in the late 1800s. The creators apply this historical event to an alien invasion of Earth where instead of provinces, the country of Africa must find a way to unite in a Pan-African alliance to survive.
Comics Available Through ComicsPlus
Farmhand is an exploration of the life of Jedidiah Jenkins, the world’s most unique farmer. You see his farm doesn’t produce crops but instead produces body parts! After years of amazing business, the truth about the root of Jenkins’ success bubbles up from below the surface. When his estranged son returns home, will this spell doom for everyone or will it save the family from a greater evil? Find out in this new horror/comedy series from creator Rob Guillory, who won fans the world over with his run on the Image series Chew.
While the above comics are some of our favorites, there are many more to choose from in the catalog. The easiest way to locate the crowdfunded comics material is to type “Kickstarter” in the catalog search box. You can then filter the results list using the Subject topics on the left-hand navigation pane such as Comic Books Strips Etc. and Comics Graphic Works among others.
And if you are unfamiliar with the ComicsPlus application where Farmhand can be found, check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.