A Kickstarter campaign launched by Lee & Low Books to expand the print run for a graphic retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein set in colonial Mexico, Clockwork Curandera, Volume 1, The Witch Owl Parliament (Oct.), not only quickly exceeded its initial goal, but the children’s publisher has since added three stretch goals to raise ultimately $11,500. The funds raised beyond the initial $6,000 will be used to host a virtual launch party for Kickstarter donors; provide a bonus beyond their advances and royalties to author David Bowles and illustrator Raúl the Third; and, lastly, to send Bowles either in-person or virtually to an underfunded school on the U.S./Mexico border, which will also receive 200 copies to hand out to participating students.
Donors can purchase a copy of the book for themselves on Kickstarter and donate another copy to an underfunded school or library. More than 20 backers to date have chosen this Get One, Give One reward tier or added donated copies to their pledges.
Besides wanting to raise funds for production costs relating to The Witch Owl Parliament, Lee & Low launched the Kickstarter campaign to tap into the book’s target audience of graphic novel and comics fans. “As an independent publisher, we are constantly pushing ourselves to innovate and think outside the box when it comes to our marketing,” said publisher Jason Low in a release. “This is a unique book project and, especially after the challenges of 2020, we wanted to do something special to celebrate it.”
Low noted that Lee & Low is not known for its list of graphic novels—The Witch Owl Parliament is only the fourth such release in the company’s 30-year history. Telling PW that it’s been “a fun experience,” but also “time-consuming in terms of the amount of work it takes to run a successful campaign,” Low praised the Kickstarter community for its support and teased that “for the right book we could be back.”
Project editor Stacy Whitman told PW that she moved quickly when Bowles, who had translated Lee & Low’s 2018 Spanish edition of Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, told her that he was working on a graphic novel script.
“I asked him to send it to me for consideration, and it blew my mind,” she said. “It was the kind of graphic novel script that demanded an amazing artist, and I’d just recently heard from Jenn Laughran, agent for Raúl the Third.” Even before Lee & Low made Raúl the Third an offer to illustrate Bowles’ text, he’d drawn his concepts of the characters.
“Those sketches are in the back matter of Volume I, by the way,” Whitman said. “We knew Raul’s unique take on these characters would bring completion to an outstanding script.”
According to the press’s publicity materials, Clockwork Curandera, a trilogy, is a mash-up of “steampunk, fantasy, and alternate history,” set in a world “that centers Mexican mythology and Indigenous lifeways” and includes a queer love story. The book will be published simultaneously in English and Spanish, with the translation provided by Bowles, who is a professional translator.
Originally, the Kickstarter campaign had been considered only as a vehicle to fund visits by Bowles and Raúl the Third to underfunded schools along the U.S./Mexico border.“When Covid hit, we realized that a large-scale school tour was not feasible,” marketing director Hannah Ehrlich said, “but we still wanted to carry the idea behind that into the current project.”
As of Tuesday morning, the Clockwork Curandera Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $9,500 from 300 donors. The campaign will run through Wednesday, May 19.