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Rethinking Chicago's Kickstarter Book Burner

"A 30-year-old webcomics artist who raised more than $50,000 on Kickstarter has burned the books his donors paid for because, he says, he ran out of money to ship them," DNAinfo Chicago reports.

"In late February, John Campbell, who lives in Wicker Park, told his fans on the online crowdsourcing platform that 'It's Over' and published a video of himself burning 127 copies of his book, Sad Pictures for Children."

What a dick.

But wait.

This opening to his explanatory essay kicks ass.


Not to me personally, in public. Please choose from one of the following titles for your publicly posted essay:

I work hard and I get to live in a nice house. Other people work hard and do not get to live in a nice house. I like this and I want this to continue.

The problems in the world sure are going to take a long time to fix for whoever's in charge of fixing them to fix! Who wants to play an hilarious card game. Have you written a blog for your pet? Let's discuss cartoons I deserve to live in Brooklyn everything's fine everything's fine everything's fine

Listen up: let's fix these problems, so long as we don't have to modify our behavior or attitudes in any way. We could stop wars and change our relationship with the environment and all that but let's be honest with ourselves here: no we can't

Hello drug dealer in prison, I bought this weed I'm smoking from you, and my friend over there just started selling weed legally. Try to make the best of your time in there okay.

Look: I'm not affluent yet, but this is fine, you know? I might be, what if I could be!

It does get sad after that, as Campbell rambles about his mental health and sexuality, but it puts the humanity in the artist on display, and if it doesn't cause a re-think of your original reaction, illuminates a lack of humanity in yourself.


That said, he raised $50,000, not, say, $5,000.


On the other hand, maybe this is somehow the right outcome for everybody involved. Those who got their books now have collector items. Those who didn't are not - individually - out a lot of money. And perhaps Campbell has a little more peace of mind now. Maybe that's what some donors contributed to - it's worth more than a comic book.


Meanwhile, fellow comics author Paul Jenkins is passing it sideways, if you will:

"While I understand what John did was wrong, I don't think he deserves animosity. I feel he deserves compassion and understanding. In my opinion, the stress of doing Kickstarter got to him - he made a bad decision or two and it got worse. John has admitted issues with depression - I hardly think it's appropriate to attack a guy who is clearly showing signs of a breakdown . . .

"I've made sure with the good folks at Kickstarter that I am not violating any terms or conditions, so here's an official announcement: if you know anyone who pledged for Sad Pictures For Children and received nothing, please do me and them a favor and ask them to email me at I am going to make sure that we send them a free PDF of Fairy Quest #1. I realize ours is a very different book but I believe this small gesture will help put a smile on their faces. Kickstarter is a great community, and as a creator who has seen and done it all it is very much a community I want to be a part of. Neighbors help each other."


Comments welcome.


Posted on March 12, 2014

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