Kickstarter, the wildly popular crowd funding website, has been a godsend to creative teams looking to finance projects. A number of projects by comic creators have been hugely successful, including the Womanthology collection spearheaded by Renae De Liz. There’s no question that comic fans are passionate about their favorite medium, and in a world of dropping sales and cancelled books Kickstarter gives consumers a chance to put their money where their mouths are. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see fans directly involved in the creation or resurrection of books that they love.
Another industry that’s taken to Kickstarter with relish (and has it’s own uniquely passionate fans) is American craft brewers. A growing number of entrepreneurs are looking to their fans to finance their dreams, forgoing traditional funding paths.
Inevitably, comics and beer have collided on Kickstarter. Chicago’s Arcade Brewery wants your help, and they’ve got some comic luminaries backing them up.
The Arcade Brewery’s origin story starts two years ago, when it began as an art project. Artist and Arcade co-founder Christopher Tourre created “Public Brewery” in 2010, a homebrew workshop that turned galleries into experimental breweries, set up DIY brewhouses, and sourced local ingredients from Chicago. Last year, Tourre reached out to Threadless‘ Lance Curran to explore the creation of a permanent, full-scale brewery that held on to the core values of his project. The result of Chris and Lance’s partnership is the Arcade Brewery, founded in May of 2011. After months of planning, the pair has taken to Kickstarter to raise money for licensing fees, equipment, brewing supplies, and to pay comic creators for artwork and designs.
One of the big draws for Arcade – and the reason I’m covering it here – is the incredible talents that are working with the upstart brewery. On the Kickstarter page, some of the higher pledge rewards are commissions from big names in the industry. A $500 pledge buys original art from Cliff Chiang, Renae De Liz, Jill Thompson or horror comic artist Menton3. Other levels get you prints, signed artwork, and even a starring comic role on an upcoming label.
Apart from these one-off rewards, the brewery’s “Six Pack Stories” promise continued collaborations with the comics community.
Six Pack Stories are original, six-part stories told across the bottles in a six-pack of Arcade beer. The style of each beer is actually dictated by the story – the creative teams will come up with a tale they want to tell, and Arcade will work with them to come up with a beer that, according to Chris, “helps you set the mood for the story.” Kind of like Comic Shots in reverse. The brewers are looking at each bottle as an issue of the story, so it may be single or multiple panels.
The first story was written by one of iFanboy’s “Best People Working in Comics” in 2011, Jason Aaron. Art is by none other than Tony Moore, the superstar artist on Walking Dead and Fear Agent. Titled “Festus Rotgut,” the first sixer holds a Western/Zombie comic. There no art to show from the story yet (Tony Moore has been busy), but Moore is committed to the project and Aaron has already submitted a complete script. The creative team will change from story to story, so Aaron and Moore will be off after the first pack, but the founders promise “top names in the comic industry” will be contributing in the future.
Pros have also been involved in the development of some of Arcade’s beers. Jill Thompson (Sandman, Scary Godmother) and Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman) were two of the first people to taste-test the aspiring brewery’s stout. Lance and Chris was pleased to get rave reviews of their Oatmilk Stout from Azzarello, reportedly an opinionated beer drinker and stout fan.
Aspiring artists will have a chance to work with Arcade, too. Curran and Tourre are planning to hold quarterly design challenges, with winners getting their art on seasonal Arcade labels. The brewery has chosen to work directly with creators rather that going through comics publishers; Tourre said that he looks at Arcade more as an original publisher than a home for already established brands and characters. The community-focused Arcade is also excited about working with Chicago-area “Drink and Draw” clubs, groups of artists and designers that regularly get together to sketch and drink. Tourre sees the meetings as a chance to “blend beer and art,” hosting jams where fans can help brew a new beer and design labels and art on the fly.
So, why art and comics? Chris and Lance are both lifelong comic fans, and this shared fandom made incorporating comics into the brewery a no-brainer. As the creator/curator of Threadless’ Comics-On Tees, Lance brings ties to the comic book industry and artists to Arcade. Though Moore, Aaron and SEIBEI are the only creators the duo has collaborated with so far, you can’t help but be excited for future projects after looking at the roster of folks who worked on Comics-On.
Beyond the comics angle, Arcade has plenty of other plans to make their brewery stand out from Chicago’s increasingly crowded craft beer scene. The founders are creating a travelling arcade for events and festivals, highlighting indie game artists and developers (along with some arcade classics). A few of the Kickstarter reward levels are also game-related, including a party at Logan Hardware’s Video Game Museum.
The company’s first line of beer, the “8-Bit Series,” is based around a handful of styles. The first is a Grapefruit IPA, a hoppy pale ale that gains it’s unique kick from a liberal addition of grapefruit. The Oatmilk Stout (Azzarello and Thompson approved!) and Honey Ale round out the early offerings.
The community focus of Tourre’s original project remains as well. Customers will have access to educational resources on home brewing, be able to track their favorite Arcade Brewery beers from “conception to consumption,”, and submit and vote on label designs and recipe designs.
At the moment, the Arcade Brewery guys seem on track to their 30k goal, if cutting it a bit close. A third of the way into their Kickstarter drive, they’ve raised about a third of the required funds. As a comic fan, a beer geek, and a gamer, I’ve got plenty of reasons to hope that the duo gets to make their brewery a reality. Not only that, but beer bottles seem like a chance to get comics into the hands of folks that wouldn’t necessarily venture into Challenger’s. I’d also love to see some new, unique work from Aaron, Moore and others.
Beer that’s brewed precisely to go with a specific comic might put the Comic Shots team out of business, but that’s a sacrifice I’m totally willing to make.
Josh Christie is a beer-drinker, bookseller and lovable scamp. If you want to get what’s honestly probably too many recommendations for beer and books on a daily basis, you can follow him on Twitter. Full disclosure – he threw a few bucks into the Arcade Kickstarter.