This week’s Kickstarter of choice isn’t a comic, but it’s the next best thing: The Family Troll is a picture book, comics’ sister medium, co-created by comics artist Tyler Kirkham and his wife, Jill. Longtime Multiversity readers have probably picked up that I am, as well as a comic book fan, a supporter of picture books as a medium, and love seeing true works of passion in the field, as opposed to the committee-produced commercial garbage that is slowly pushing classic works of art off the shelf. The new project from the Kirkhams, though, is one that truly comes from the heart.
Like many good stories, the Kirkhams’ picture book, while fantasy, has its roots in reality. Unfortunately (and, again, like many good stories), its roots are not necessarily lain in happy times. The Family Troll reflects the failed attempts of the Kirkhams to have a child after years of frustration. The young couple who are featured in this fantasy are similarly impeded, but their unhappiness is abated when they take it upon themselves to adopt a young troll. As the couple mirror the Kirkhams, the troll reflects the reassuring role a pet such as a dog can have in assuaging the doubts and sadness the many hopeful parents such as the Kirkhams experience when going through similar upsetting times. It is a rule prescribed by protective parents and marketing gurus that childrens’ picture books can only fit into certain “appropriate” topics; the concept the Kirkhams have come up with is more in line with the theories of creators such as Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss, the thought that children are more intelligent than adults believe, and able to comprehend all manners of ideas. Then again, what do they know about writing for children?
Comic readers will probably know Tyler Kirkham best from his recent work on “Green Lantern: New Guardians,” where he draws flashy muscley superheroics in a style that reflects 90s Marvel and Image while avoiding the (many) drawbacks of that era. To abuse cliches, his style is kinetic and energetic, and fits the tone of the book quite well. As one might expect, though, the preview pages of The Family Troll shows a completely different side of Kirkham — and, to be honest, I think I like this facet of the artist better. Sure, Kirkham’s comic interiors are quite impressive, and remind us why the 90s house style used to be dominant, but the handful of pages provided possess a level of charm that one might not expect from the work we comic fans are used to. The characters are stylized in a more simplistic manner, enabling the facile communication of emotion, but the backgrounds are lush and detailed, with colors that dazzle. These pages would be enough to lean me toward making a sizable donation, but when you put them next to the charming plot that is promised, it’s a no-brainer.
Unlike a lot of smaller projects, the Kirkhams are hoping to fund the widespread distribution of this picture book, and as such, the goal they are shooting for is rather high: $11,200.00, to be exact. In terms of incentives, this means the project’s rewards are just that — special offers for those who believe in the project, rather than products to be purchased. While, as with any Kickstarter project, you can donate any amount, but it isn’t until you hit the $25 marker that you start getting anything back. That’s just fine, though –for that amount of cash, you get the whole kit and kiboodle. Not a pack of stickers, not [solely] your name in the credits, not a digital copy, but the hardcover book. For a first incentive, that’s not bad at all. The next few incentives add extras such as a print, stickers, and a custom plush of Narg, the titular troll, but considering each one is respectively double the one preceding it, they’re more for those who were planning on donating that much as it were. Anyone interested in this project should at least donate $25 in order to get the physical product, and as much more as they would like — if you reach the next incentive level, that’s great; if not, every little bit helps.
Rich folks who desparately want to see this project to succeed can donate $10,000 to receive — on top of the book, stickers, print, plush — $1,000 in art from Kirkham, and either a choice of a trip for two to any Wizard World event, including a dinner with the lovely couple, plus the chance to name (spoilers) the baby the protagonists eventually have, or you can give up the wizard world trip and naming the child in the book to name the Kirkham’s real first child, born or adopted. Just don’t name it something like Broccolihead, you cruel people.
The Family Troll seems like it will be both poignant and delightful for readers of all ages, and the pages we can see so far are very promising, artistically. Pledge at least twenty-five dollars and give it to a child you know… after reading it yourself, of course. And remember: something with this high a budget needs word of mouth support, so be sure to let everyone who know who might be interested (and even those you aren’t sure of) about this new project.