Because He Can

I was hesitant about writing this column because I was worried about becoming known as the guy who hates on Blind Ferret Entertainment. I’ve commented on a few of their decisions that I found questionable in the past, but I don’t really hate them. I think a lot of what they try to do are good ideas. The problem is the way they go about those ideas.

Last year, BFE launched a kickstarter for a show called Con Season. In the vein of the Penny Arcade Series, a camera crew would follow around the team at various cons and record their adventures, mostly Sohmer’s. It failed, and many people pointed out their reasons for not donating. The main one being that they tried to do a kickstarter during December, when everyone was spending their money on gifts rather than donating to KS projects.

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So when Sohmer announced he would be repeating history, many pointed out this was going to also be a problem again. And it would be worse because now he was asking for an extra $100,000 to fund an animated pilot for Looking For Group. And Sohmer listened… to the people who told him to do it. His explanation for this was that the animation studio would not be free to make the pilot until October 2014 and so it was now or we would have to wait another year.

Which leads me to my big question: Why not wait?

And the answer, my friends, is simply that he doesn’t want to. He wants it now.

Sohmer has always been a quantity over quality kind of guy. He lambasted webcomics creators who were even a minute late, even though Scott Kurtz pointed out that more time allows for a more quality product (Forums were taken down, so I can’t link to that post). During the Gutters KS, he said he would do the comic daily if he could afford it, despite the fact that he doesn’t have enough knowledge of the industry to do so properly. He’s launching new comics and projects on top of his already large plate, and apparently we don’t even see most of what he’s working on.

What really irks me is that there really is no proper planning going into his projects, especially the Kickstarters. For the ad for the LFG series Kickstarter, we hear Sohmer’s voice narrating about the original plan for the LFG movie and how it was poor planning. Very, very poor planning. He cannot describe how poorly planned it was. It was the poorest of poorest planning This is then followed by the representation of disappointed fans asking where the promised movie is. That stops and we then hear Sohmer say that he now wants to do a series, with a bunch of actors who apparently we’re supposed to know. Oh, and if they get any extra money, that’ll go to the series. Like how last time they promised any money on top of the This Is War short would go to the movie, but this time they mean it. Then he goes into rewards. At the end, he thanks for TIW supporters for the motivation

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This is not encouraging me to contribute. He tells us it was poor planning, but what about it was poorly planned? He doesn’t tell us if any lessons were learned, for all we know he’ll just repeat the same mistakes. And if the KS video is going to be filled with a bunch of cheap adobe effects, narrated by a guy who sounds really bored and disinterested in his own product, how does that reflect positively on the final animated pilot?

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Now, the smarter thing to do would be one of two things. The first is have TIW and Slaughter the World in the background while the actors for the series give enthusiastic performances as their characters shilling the new show. It gives potential backers an idea of what the series will look and sound like. Now these were included below that video, but why not make them part of the pitch video? The other idea, take the left over money from TIW and use it to make the first few minutes of the episode, showing what people can expect from the final product.

But really, that’s easily forgivable. Honestly, I rarely watch the pitch vids on a project, the only reason I did this time was for this column. I just read the text pitch, look at some of the stills and make my decision. And I made the decision not to in this case.

In the text, it’s explained that after the This Is War short, they got to work on pre-production, but realised it would take a long time to get the movie out and a series would be quicker. With a pilot that would cover the first four chapters, or first volume, of the original webcomic that it is based off of.

Yes, that’s right. He actually wanted to try to squeeze 116 pages of material into 22 minutes.

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The first issue? I could see that. You just expand a few elements of the story and you could even save time and money by including the This Is War short into the pilot. It’s a solid self-contained story that gives you everything you need to know about the ongoing series. But, Sohmer wants to do as much as possible, so it has to be all four chapters, no matter how cramped and rushed that would make everything. That just tells me he still plans everything poorly.

It also reflects negatively on the comic. Now I knew it was poorly paced, though I mostly chalked it up to Sohmer still following the old format he was using for when he wanted LFG to be a print comic series, as well as just making it up as he went with a vague idea of where it’s going. Now I’m just questioning his skills as a writer, unless he was planning on cutting out most of the story arcs. And I do sorely hope not, because that’s his best writing in the series.

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I should also talk about another common criticism: the use of kickstarter to fund all of these projects. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me, if people want to fund something it’s their money to do so with. No, my problem comes from the sheer lack of quality for the money raised. The LICD pilot snippet we saw was quite glitchy, and one reader pointed out the issues with TIW. After con season, a few readers pointed out just how low quality the footage was, even though $80k was being asked for.But this is an issue I mentioned back in my CAD review, Sohmer just doesn’t have the training or experience to properly judge his final products and just blindly trusts that they are professional level because that’s what he’s paying for. And he won’t get someone who knows better because it’s his project.

As much as people complain that he’s not giving his fans enough time to save their cash for the next project, Sohmer and Blind Ferret will continue to create kickstarter campaigns because there is no limit to how many they can do. And it’s not surprising KS won’t stop them, since it means more people coming to the site, who may potentially back other projects.

So really, I answered my big question in the title of this article.

Professionals cartoonists aren’t beggars, we don’t need handouts. Earn your money, don’t pan handle for it.
– Ryan Sohmer, Advice for Webcomics, 2009

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Posted on December 15, 2013, in webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Nice article, David. I’ve been following Sohmer’s recent fundraising endeavors for a little while now, and it’s certainly been an interesting spectacle.

    A little more info, for those who might not know: a few months ago, Sohmer launched a Kickstarter for a video game based on his Looking For Group comic, asking for $600,000 in funds. The Kickstarter failed, reaching only a little over $200K. Shortly afterwards, Sohmer had the “epiphany” (his word, not mine) that LFG was really meant to be an animated series, and launched another Kickstarter, this time asking for $200K to create a pilot episode. This Kickstarter also failed, reaching only about $65K. And now, less than a week later, he’s launched yet another fundraising drive, this time on Patreon, for a new comic he’s working on about baby Hitler or something like that. (As of right now, it has a grand total of 32 “patrons”, pledging a total of $158 per month.)

    Given all this, it’s pretty easy to understand why some of Sohmer’s fans might be a little annoyed at Sohmer seemingly treating them like his own personal ATM machine.

    • Thanks for the additional information. I didn’t click on some of the links and assumed that the animated series pilot KS was still underway. The information you provided helps make David’s point. Actually, the lack of that information makes me wonder if David’s post was written a week earlier, but was delayed for some reason.

      FWIW, the link to Sohmer’s newest project is: http://www.patreon.com/sohmer

      • I didn’t write them in because they were in the links, though I wasn’t aware Patreon was a fundraising thing, I thought it was a subscription service.

      • Just looked at the Patreon project. The promotion video has no indication what Zufruh is even about. It just desperately tries to be funny beating a joke to death. Three minutes better spent if the project was in the spotlight. If Sohmer has so much free time, why not using it to improve the quality of the existing comics?

        About Zufruh. It’s supposed to be a German term, but with wrong spelling and wrong pronunciation (how could Austrian artist Anna-Maria Jung give her okay for that name?). I doubt that a lot of thought or planning went into the project.

        • You know, now that I think about it, he didn’t even bother to explain what Looking For Group was in his KS video either.

          I think the big problem is he’s so certain he has enough fans who will support the project that he doesn’t see the need to branch out. Either that or his ego makes him assume everyone knows who he is. Neither would surprise me.

          • I can understand that reasoning, I’m planning on crowdfunding my own book in the future and I’ve been looking at other projects on Indiegogo as research. I found that unless you’re already established and have lots of fans, your crowdfunder is more likely to fail. I’ve seen one with really gorgeous art never make its goal even.

        • A couple of commenter on YouTube pointed out that something called “Evil Baby Orphanage” already exists. Apparently it’s a card game that had a successful Kickstarter campaign back in August and is now available for purchase. And, naturally, Sohmer thinks people will cough up more cash for evil babies.

          Maybe instead of making that video that reveals nothing, he could have done some research?

          • …So I guess what I’m really saying is that since that card game didn’t come out that long ago, I’d say it’s zu früh for Zufruh.
            *puts on sunglasses*
            YEAAAAAAAAAAHHHH.

  2. Ryan Sohmer.

    Oh boy.

    I’ve changed stances and preferences in my years analysing comics in different places. I’ve defended people I now hope will please just get a goddamn clue, and have denounced those I now gleefully follow. So much happened in the last, I don’t know, 8 years.

    I still despise Ryan Sohmer with all my heart. And he keeps giving me reasons for that. Hell, I could forgive Matthew Inman for all the preprocessed Facebook-ready content he unashamedly produces and promotes, and yet Ryan Sohmer is still one hell of a horrible person who threads the shit all over the carpet while somehow still amassing a following of fans.

    Why people are giving money to the guy who stated “webcomics suck” via an obnoxious generic author avatar IN A WEBCOMIC to produce stuff based on his webcomics fails to make any sense to me.

  3. wow, the LFG movie is cancelled and now he wants to make a series based on this?
    So that’s:
    A LICD show
    A LICD game
    A LFG game
    A LFG show
    and translations for LFG?

    This is never going to get made. And I’m surprised that LFG is still continuing even after I stopped reading it about a year ago. I completely forgot what the hell it was even about in the first place.

  4. Love LFG, though it went downhill big time. I know Sohmer has the ability to make a good comic. Early to even mid LFG was really awesome. But he keeps trying to make more, and more, and more. Maybe, just maybe, he should FOCUS ON THE DAMN COMIC. Perhaps then he could put out a quality product again.

    Even some of the recent stuff started to have potential before he squashed it with more pointless meandering.

  5. Ooh, the This is War looked unfinished. They should’ve spent a couple of weeks on tweaking scenes, mostly making the quality of the animation more consistent, more extremes pretty much everywhere, more emotion from the characters and way less clutter in the backround. Last but not least, the movement needs way more weight most of the time, now it was moving with the same slow pace all the time in a robotic motion. This is something my own animation teacher would say that it still needs a lot of work.

    Sohmer’s blandness in composition and movement in his webcomics might still be tolerable (for some people) due the strip-format, but animation isn’t something you can do with people standing around, doing robotic movements while looking bored with their mouths flapping open and shut. Animation with its motions is much like stage-play in how “extremity” is important in how the movement is portrayed. Storyboarding can be a tremendous help at achieving this kind of quality and I can see where the problem lies if it was Sohmer and Lar working on them, doing the mistake of making most of the storyboards be about bored looking characters flapping their gums in front of each other.

    Unfortunately for Sohmer, I don’t think he’s cut out to do any animated projects because they require a lot of work, time and patience to look right and he doesn’t really have that patience, especially with his plan for that movie and when its supposed to be done. He would need at least a 10-50 animator team to make an actually decent animation with the extreme deadline he’s set for himself with it. He’s simply underestimating how much work animation really requires. Making a 10-12 episode series would mean he’d have to have enough budget to pay at least 10 animators for a full year if he’d want to see the series being done to the end.

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