Fabrice Sapolsky created FairSquare Comics in June of 2019 with a mission to “promote and give more exposure to immigrants and under-represented creators of the world; an objective emphasized in [their] company’s mantra: “comics for the rest of us”.”
Kickstarter has been a driving force in the independent publishing world and FairSquare Comics has two hugely successful campaigns behind them. Sapolsky’s own One-Hit Wonder graphic novel raised a little over $6,800 earlier this year. Noir is the New Black, FairSquare’s first anthology, raised nearly $50,000 in 30 days to publish a 100% creator-owned Black Noir comic stories featuring stories from the biggest Black American comic book writers and artists.
Now, they’re back again to kickstart Phil Briones’ ambitious, supernatural, multi-layered queer romance — Twin Kings’ Battle. They’ll need your help to raise $18,000 in order to bring the graphic novel to life!
You Can Help Bring Phil Briones' Twin Kings' Battle to Print
Briones has had a successful career as an animator, working on familiar projects like Disney’s Tarzan, Hercules, The Emperor's New Groove, and A Goofy Movie. He has also worked for DC Comics, Marvel, and France’s Soleil Productions. With FairSquare Comics, Twin Kings’ Battle will be his first creator-owned series.
FairSquare Comics is also the first comic book publisher to have a campaign on Hulu, launching ads for Twin Kings’ Battle on the popular streaming service ahead of the Kickstarter campaign, which began October 7th.
Twin Kings’ Battle is a story inspired by the best Asian romance tales of all mediums, including manga, tv series, and literature. The story’s heroes have larger-than-life adventures, where emotions are the seeds of the graphic novel.
Liam is a seemingly ordinary student, but he has a secret that can’t be shared with his friends. At least, that is until a series of unfortunate events occur that shatter his world. Enter Nathanael: a tall, charming, and unexpected boy who will soon take a great place in Liam’s life.
But dark forces are threatening the fate of multiple universes, more powerful than any of them could have ever imagined. Nothing will ever be the same. Wait. And who are the Twin Kings?
To find out more about Phil Briones’ cast of characters and the overarching plots you’ll read in Twin Kings’ Battle check out the Kickstarter.
Your Money Geek chatted with Fabrice Sapolsky, CEO and Founder of FairSquare Comics. Sapolsky is best known for co-creating Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man Noir.
Maggie Lovitt (ML): You raised an astounding $48.3K in just 30 days with Noir is the New Black. What do you think it says about the comic book community that there are so many fans who are ready to support indie publishing companies in telling diverse and unique stories?
Fabrice Sapolsky (FS): First, I think it shows how much a project like this one was needed. The big publishing companies have had the chance to do something like that for a long time. It was never their priority. It’s not my place to say if it’s a good or bad thing. They have every right to release and promote the books they want. But let’s say that, for me, as an immigrant and a minority, it was a no-brainer. The DNA of FairSquare Comics is diversity.
We’re here to publish the books that other companies will turn down because it’s not what they’re looking for or they don’t know how to sell. We’re here to give a chance to those whose first language is not English but are nonetheless uber talented. Those who come from under-represented categories of creators: BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities… And offer the best contracts to them. At FairSquare Comics, publishing is a two-way street. Publisher and talent have a common goal: telling the best possible stories and make a decent living from our creations.
And, let’s face it, in comics, you have the established publishers who, for the most part, are more interested in creating/owning or perpetuating brands and IPs and the independent publishers and creators who want to tell their stories before anything else. It’s a visceral need. I think 2020 and traditional book distribution being put on hold for a few months gave a unique window to independents like me to get their voice heard a bit louder.
We simply were more visible, all of a sudden. Ideally, we should ALWAYS be visible. But I’m realistic, we’ll never have the marketing power Random House, Warner or Disney have.
Still, with the establishment on hold, we became the cool kids. The ones who are coming up with original, new, authentic and emotional stories that people want to read. I think now the fans know where to find us. We have to keep pushing and deliver quality to make sure we don’t disappoint.
ML: Do you think the market is shifting into a more fan-fueled (and funded) space where indie publishing companies will thrive from the support of their readers?
FS: To a certain extent, yes. I’m pragmatic, the big companies are going to come back and be there. But they had to change their ways. They’ll be leaner and forced to adapt. Indie publishers still have challenges. We’re usually under-funded. We’re still struggling for distribution.
But I think we absolutely have a unique chance to develop personal relationships with the readers. A Direct-To-Consumer approach that was already there but not on that scale. The fact that live events have been put on hold too is a major issue for us as many independents were traveling from festival/convention to convention, using those events as much marketing opportunities as ways to shift more products. But again, I foresee a change on that front. We’ll probably never go back to “the world before”.
Still, conventions will come back in any way or form and we’ll be there while bigger publishers probably won’t. Now, there’s the case of crowdfunding. This is interesting because this system has been in place for 6 or 7 years now. It’s the place to be for “early adopters”. So fans helping us fund our projects on platforms like Kickstarter are these people. They are the cool kids making us part of their circle.
I love the way crowdfunding operates. But it’s full of challenges of its own for independents. We have to become familiar with logistics, deal with postal services and many things far removed from creation. Not everyone’s good at that. And there are a lot of predators and scam companies waiting for us to fail and let them in.
Crowdfunding is just a small part of the equation. I’m trying to educate people on the real price of a graphic novel. And usually, the audience has no clue. We need to be transparent, because we’re independent and because we’re building a relationship with the public. Tell them that even when you raise nearly $50k, there’s not much left for the publisher because Kickstarter has its fee, you have to pay the creators, you need to keep money for the designer, the printer, the shipping and any ancillary products you have to create as part of the campaign. In the end, when you pay people fairly, this amount isn’t that much. Making graphic novels is expensive.
And still, FairSquare Comics sells its books for more than competition. Because we need to keep a healthy business with creators who can live from their art. We’re the publishing version of Fair Trade!
ML: One-Hit Wonder is already available and Noir is the New Black and Twin Kings’ Battle will release in 2021. What are your plans for getting the word out about their releases? Will you be partnering with any upcoming digital conventions or participating in panels?
FS: Noir Is The New Black will be released in February 2021, just in time for Black History Month. There will be a second marketing push as we get closer to that date. One-Hit Wonder is now available. We’ve just started offering it to retailers.
We have this program called “BFF” for Best Friends of FairSquare Comics exclusively geared at retailers. We want to establish a direct relationship with them. Be there for them. That’s one of the reasons I’m giving away my phone number: (323) 405-9401. It’s super-direct marketing! One to one.
Retailers can text me and I’ll oversee distribution of our products to them personally. I’m using an app called SuperPhone (a service created by music producer Ryan Leslie) to help me regulate the flow and be more efficient in the way I’m handling my clients and customers.
As for Twin Kings’ Battle, we’ve actually made history with that one: we’re the first comic book publisher ever to have an ad campaign on the HULU streaming service. We also booked ads on Facebook and YouTube. It’s a pretty respectable marketing plan for a company of our size.
Finally, you mentioned digital events and yes, we’re doing that. I’ve been featured at half a dozen virtual conventions since spring and this coming weekend, FairSquare Comics is a partner at Diversity Comic Con (www.diversitycomiccon.com). I’ll even moderate a panel (Oct.17th at 4PM ET) on marginalization in comics. Hopefully, again, in 2021, we can expand again and tour with our graphic novels in hand.
ML: Aside from what the Kickstarter explains about Twin Kings’ Battle, what is the core of the story that sets it apart from others in the genre?
FS: First, there’s the sensibility of the creator, Phil Briones. Phil is somewhat of an empath. He feels everything. And emotions can be felt through his art. Phil is delivering his most personal creation to date. A story about how to love when you feel different. A story about finding your place in the world when you feel you don’t belong.
What sets Twin Kings’ Battle aside from the other Queer books is that it’s a romance filled with supernatural and action/adventure elements. It’s not sexualized. It’s really a story teenagers and young adults can identify with. No one wants to be put in a box, especially at that age. And Twin Kings’ Battle is addressing that with subtlety. You can see all Phil’s influences in there: from the classic X-Men from the 1980s to the Asian Boys Love dramas. This graphic novel is charming. It’s like Love, it’ll conquer all! (Laughs).
ML: Once readers have fallen in love with the story, as well as Liam, Nathanael, Amy, and Neal is this a graphic novel that could have a Volume II?
FS: There are plans already for multiple volumes. And Phil Briones is probably producing the best material of his career. He’s been at Disney. At Marvel Comics. At DC Comics. But now, on his own graphic novel, his own characters, he feels ready to let all his creativity run free.
He writes, draws and colors Twin Kings’ Battle. I actually had to tell him to limit himself to 140 pages of material but he’s ready for 1000 pages already. So if we can get Vol.1 funded, yes, there will be a Volume 2.
And I want to point out that FairSquare Comics already has 18 projects at various stages of development for the next three years. We’re here to stay. That’s a promise.
You can support Twin Kings’ Battle on FairSquare Comics’ Kickstarter. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sunday, November 1, 2020, at 1:59 AM EST.