For work lately I’ve been profiling area farms that appear in farmers markets in my paper’s circulation area. It’s been so much fun to learn a little bit about the people behind the products that I decided I wanted to start doing something similar for my website. Only, instead of farms and farmers, it would be creative people who put stuff out into the world for a different kind of consumption.
My first profile subject is Dave Mercier, creator of the webcomic MercWorks (note: it’s a .net address, not .com). I chose him because I love his strip (funny, honest, sometimes tender, and he sparingly swears), but also because he has a Kickstarter campaign going and I’m very curious about the use of Kickstarter as a means of generating funds for a creative project.
(And did I mention I really enjoy his comic?)
Kristen Tsetsi: You started publishing the MercWorks strip online in 2011 – how long did it take before it started getting attention? (And what qualified as “attention”?)
Dave Mercier: The comic got some attention right away, which is a big reason why I kept doing it. People on sites like reddit really seemed to like it and that was really encouraging to me. The audience has been growing at a pretty steady pace since then, but it’s exponential so I keep getting a larger and larger audience and a bigger and bigger ego problem.
KT: MercWorks was recently included in Chive’s list top 20 online comics. How did that happen?
DM: I have no idea! I guess whoever wrote the article is a fan. I was actually having a kind of a pissy day when I initially saw that article, gave a quick glance and saw that some of my friends were listed, and bitterly closed the tab with the sentiment “how dare they not list ME!” Of course, they did, and I was just being too much of a baby that day to even notice.
KT: Do you plan to draw a girl wearing a Chive shirt the strip’s protagonist – also named Dave – could possibly hit on?
DM: As much as I’m sure the Chive would be charmed by it, my corporate sponsor right now is McDonalds. You’ll notice a lot more comics take place in McDonalds instead of coffee shops, and a lot more “I’m lovin it” punchlines.
KT: Before considering Kickstarter, what was your plan for MercWorks? How were you going to “get it out there,” and did you eventually hope to somehow turn it into a career?
DM: I never really had a plan for MercWorks – it started very casually and for some reason the natural evolution of it demanded I treat it like a job. I’ve always worked to build my audience because I always knew that was going to be an important aspect of what I was doing, but I never think about the stuff I do too much. I want to turn comics into a career more than anything and I’m on the right track (probably?) but right now I do a lot of freelancing to sustain myself.
KT: What did you see in Kickstarter that convinced you to give it a try?
DM: Late in 2012 I was presented with an opportunity to take a really decent paying full-time job that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like very much. Additionally, I knew that if I took the job I wouldn’t be able to keep going with the comic, so I turned it down. In coming to terms with that, I realized I needed to do more to justify doing the comic and decided that by the end of 2013 I needed to come out with a book.
I knew the only way it was going to be viable was if I had a Kickstarter, and I had a feeling my audience would be large enough to fund such an endeavor. A lot of other webcomics have done Kickstarters with positive results, so that was a big factor too.
KT: Have you ever donated to other people’s Kickstarter projects?
DM: I have, though not as many as I probably should have. I’m pretty broke most of the time (in case you couldn’t have guessed based on the examples of poor life decisions I’ve illustrated above) so I always pledge what I can, especially if it’s a friend’s webcomic.
KT: Your Kickstarter explains what people who pledge certain amounts will get, among them a copy of the book, MercWorks Vol. I: The Joy of Despair, and a set of six 4 x 6 inch prints featuring characters from MercWorks. Will you have any money left over after the printing of the materials?
DM: I don’t think so. It’s going to be close; the $12k covers the cost of the book, prints, shipping (which is huge) and lots of little things like getting an ISBN and stuff like that. Anything left over will be used to sustain my horrible comic-making habit.
KT: Have you considered starting a Kickstarter campaign that would essentially pay you a salary while you create the second volume of The Joy of Despair?
DM: I’ve seen a lot of comics doing this lately, but I don’t think I’ve got quite the confidence (or stamina) to do another Kickstarter for a while. I’m still thinking of titles for the second volume of comics, but I’m considering “MercWorks Vol II: Everything I Do Is an Accident”.
Thank you, Dave!
Dave is close to reaching his goal, but he’s not there yet. Visit his Kickstarter to donate.