Fundraising site Kickstarter propelled sibling duos graphic novel

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Using websites such as Deviant Art and Kickstarter, the creators of Holli Hoxxx found both artists to depict the story as well as donors to fund the project into its next stage, making it easier to take the comic to a higher level. (Photo Illustration)

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

It’s 2051 and all the gravity on Earth is gone. Manhattan Island floats in the sky and two companies battle it out for control of the weightless world while a slew of other characters are caught in the crossfire.

In a sci-fi reality like the one described in the graphic novel “Holli Hoxxx,” it might be reasonable to expect that cyberspace would be a thing of the past ­— the VCR of the latter 21st century. But according to Adam and Austin Tinius, the brothers who imagined and wrote the book, the story wouldn’t have stood a chance without the Internet.

“The Internet has been everything basically,” said Adam Tinius, a UT radio-television-film alumnus. “When we started off, Austin was in Denton, I was in Austin and the artist [Stefano Cardoselli] was in Italy. It all happened because of talking on the Internet. It’s hard to think how this would’ve been made back in the ’70s. It would have been extremely difficult.”

The graphic novel began as just an idea: Manhattan untethered from the Earth, an island city floating in the air. Austin Tinius, a 29-year-old screenprinter and University of North Texas alumnus who thought up the idea for the weightless city, told his brother Adam about it, and the two decided to make a comic book together. Then came the hard part — actually making the comic book. That’s where the Internet came in.

With the help of services like Kickstarter and deviantART.com, sites that connect projects with investors and artists with other artists, respectively, the Tinius brothers managed to see that initial idea through to near-completion.

They found Stefano Cardoselli, the series’ artist who lives in Italy and has illustrated for comics like “Heavy Metal” and “Robodeath,” after posting an ad on deviantART. Communicating over the Internet, the team wrote and illustrated the first issue. It was funded by the brothers’ own money and released in November 2010.

Now, the team is in the process of completing the second installment in the six-part series. The second issue is set to be released this November. Before they discovered Kickstarter, however, the brothers didn’t have enough money to pay for its completion. Austin Tinius introduced his brother to the service and after 60 days of fundraising, they had solved their funding issues.

“Sites like those really open up your options that much more to a whole world of people that want to help tell stories,” Adam Tinius said. “I honestly don’t know how we could have afforded the second issue without the help of all the these people, it’s been awesome.”

The brothers are using the $6,576 they raised to pay Cardoselli for his illustrations, printing and towards paying a cover artist.

Kickstarter, created in 2009, is an online pledge system designed to fund independent projects. The projects are diverse — there’s anything from film to music to tech projects among the thousands on the site. Users who start a project decide how long they want the fundraiser to last and how much they’re aiming to raise. Then they describe the project with a few paragraphs and a short, explanatory video. The brevity makes for “a tough sell,” according to Adam Tinius. The fate of the project lies in the hands of the investors — “backers,” as the site calls them.

Backers find a project they want to support and pledge a certain amount of money. Depending on how much money a user pledges, they’re rewarded with a benefit that corresponds with the amount donated. With “Holli Hoxxx,” the Tinius brothers used incentives like posters, signed copies of the books and T-shirts to entice their 28 backers.

The six people who donated at the $500 level were rewarded with characters that were modeled after each backer’s likeness. Dani Raschel, a Kickstarter user from Laredo, donated about $35 (a pledge-level that entitles her to a hand-screened “Holli Hoxxx” poster and a printed copy of the book) to the project when she discovered it on the site.

“I was just messing around on Kickstarter and I typed in ‘comics’ just to see what came up,” Raschel said. “I saw the guys are from Austin and I love Austin. So I was like ‘I’ll just go ahead and support these guys.’ I haven’t really seen any of the artwork, just what was up on the video. It looked good.”

Adam Tinius said that without Kickstarter, they probably would have completed the book anyway, but they would have had to sink a lot more money into it. With Kickstarter and other online outlets, not only were they able to raise enough money, Tinius said that they also created a buzz around their project and got the fans involved.

“It’s a really cool service,” Adam Tinius said. “It helps people out and spreads the word and gets people to help fund projects that without their help wouldn’t get off the ground,”

Printed on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 as: Web gave 'kickstart' to graphic novel