The niche, laser-focused nature of the comics direct market means that there are plenty of ways comic writers and artists can get more eyeballs on their material than through Diamond and the comic shop market. Whether it's traditional publishers giving Dav Pilkey and Raina Telgemeier a massive platform for their best-selling work, or the webcomics marketplace providing access to a new and different audience than either the direct market or the bookstore market have been serving for all these years, one thing is clear: "mainstream" comics are actually not necessarily the only "mainstream," and those who create them can find large audiences outside of what is considered traditional comics venues.
Enter Justin Jordan, a writer who has worked for major publishers like DC, Valiant, and Image, and whose series of Luther Strode comics with artist Tradd Moore is headed to film. Jordan's webseries, Urban Animal, actually has significantly more people reading it than have ever had their eyes on his superhero work. Still, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign to put together a physical version of the book that supporters can pre-order.
"Urban Animal lives on in its first form on Webtoons," Jordan explained. "Working in the direct market as I do, it is odd to me that the thing that by far, and probably by a factor of magnitude that I do that has the biggest readership, is almost completely unknown within the direct market....So by comparison, Urban Animal has 475,000 subscribers at Webtoons and it gets a weekly readership of 100,000 people, which by regular comic standards is a huge deal. By Webtoons standards, we're successful mid-list. But [to produce a print edition], we are still making the comic, and we also need to reformat the comic. And that is something that I am incapable of doing and John Amor, the artist, doesn't have time because he's still making the comic. And his chunk of Urban Animal is literally a full-time job, year round. So we needed to do that, and I had initially thought about bringing it to Image or someone. I suspect they would have gone for it, but I didn't have a way to really market it in that way, for us to tap into the webcomics readership. That's a tough nut to crack, because those ended up being very separate markets. Also, we needed somebody with experience doing the reformatting, since we couldn't have time to do it ourselves."
What's the book about? Urban Animal follows Joe Gomez, whose high school life seems perfect until he suddenly discovers that he is a shape-shifting chimera, and ends up getting drafted into saving the human race, whether or not he's up for the task.
Jordan explained that "Rocketship, who we're doing the Kickstarter with, provided both of those. Urban Animal is the ninth Kickstarted print edition of a Webtoons thing they've done. They've done two volumes of Let's Play, which is one of Webtoons' big dogs in the U.S. market, like 4 million subscribers. And then they've done a variety of others, so we're the ninth Kickstarter they've done. So they've got the experience to do that and they also have experience in tapping into the Webtoons market. So they just offered us some things that I didn't think I could get from the direct market thing, and I really wanted to see the thing in print. So it was basically, we could do that with those advantages, or we could wait another four or five years and try to do it ourselves. And I didn't want to wait."
This isn't just about getting a book in the hands of subscribers, then, and re-selling the same content to the same audience with some bells and whistles. Rather, Jordan wants to build up the crossover between his two audiences.
"I suspect a large part of my fan base, for whatever fan base I have, would like Urban Animal," Jordan told ComicBook.com. "I think it is the sort of thing that people who like what I do will like. While it is not the mature sort of thing -- mature in blood and guts sense that Luther Strode is -- I think they are of a piece in terms of the sensibility and the feel of them."