The Cloud Factory
|Original review author:||Shan|
|Webcomic name:||The Cloud Factory|
|Author:||Alexandra "Lexxy" Douglass|
|End Date:||? (but after only 8 pages)|
|Defining Flaw:||Warning signs of more of the same (aka nothing new under the sun with the lead character and premise) even from the get-go.|
(This entry was approved for direct entry into the Wiki by wiki moderators Long Tom and Plarblman in mid-2017 and to be in conjunction with Kickstarter: A Bad Webcomics Wiki Primer. I'm going to work on both in parallel from here on. There's a lot more to work out and write from the references I've collected, so I'm going to be working on this for a while. As of now, this is nowhere near finished.)
As covered as a case study in Kickstarter: A Bad Webcomics Wiki Primer, The Cloud Factory is an infamous case of an intended webcomic creator launching a Kickstarter in 2013 for a webcomic that was yet to exist, as opposed to one that was already established and wanting to use the funds raised to go to print. I learned about it courtesy of the Welcome to Webcomics Youtube video at just after the 4 minute mark.
Not everyone can do such a thing, so there must have been a tremendous amount of goodwill and prior reputation to raise so much money in a Kickstarter when there was no pre-existing product to speak of. Which then went on to progressively be burned through in the passing years.
As history would go on to show, it ended up with a mere 8 pages and a whole lot of frustration among its backers which is still going on to this day. The mechanics of that side of the story are mainly going to be covered over on the other entry.
Of the money raised, a lot was to go to physical rewards, including something called Volume Zero which is described as the following: "The goal of this Kickstarter is to publish a high quality, soft cover, 6" x 9" art book, which will include at least four complete comic pages, by July 1st, 2013*.
This Volume Zero book will contain 32 full-color pages, and the comic pages will also be available to read online for free on http://www.cloudfactorycomics.com. After July 1st, it will update one page at a time on a regular schedule, like most webcomics, until the story is complete."
From what I found elsewhere on the Kickstarter page "A printed collection of concept art and comic pages from Lexxy's upcoming fantasy adventure webcomic, The Cloud Factory."
Physical products were ultimately made and it seems like they did eventually get out to backers over a period of years as indicated here but it still seems like there are people yet to receive anything.
Now, the reason there is also this entry is to discuss the actual webcomic itself. Even though there are only 8 pages as opposed to our usual threshold of approximately 50 is because on top of being an infamous case, there were already some signs in what was completed that may have been signs of some issues that befall many a webcomic, so we thought we'd stop and have a look at what there is of the actual webcomic itself. If nothing else, on top of being a logistical cautionary tale, it could also be a narrative one as well for anyone's future endeavours.
Before I got my mitts on the review for Exiern, an earlier version of it which still exists on our currently inactive sister site The Webcomic Authority said the downfall was when the character of Denver appeared as a blatant appeal to the nerd/geek market by being the only knowledgeably decent man in the kingdom and was seemingly set up as a love interest for the main character.
I went to actually read the archive past the year 2008 (which is where that review seemed to stop at even though it was written in 2013) and found Denver did in fact go on to be wrong a lot, infuriating many of the other characters including the main one, hinted to by the king that his bodyguards might have his head go in a different direction to the rest of his body if he didn't go away one time he was being particularly annoying and he and was even shocked and knocked out by some other people who wanted to sacrifice him but not before finding him annoying first too. So I guess he did go on to redeem himself from a story-telling point of view by being more well-rounded than just a plot device even if it was at the expense of everyone around him.
Now even though we only have 8 pages and 6 of those are introductory scene setting, certainly already getting some déjà vu from the appearance of this character and the suspicion only deepens when you read the background character detail.
"Théo is handy with a hammer and anvil, but prefers the more delicate tools of a tinker. He and Molly were close as children, and her return throws a wrench in his quiet and complacent valley lifestyle."
"The Cloud Factory follows the parallel efforts of two young protagonists, a tinker-smith and a latent witch, as they try to change the fate of their home and its people."
He may well have gone to be something other than a walking collection of tropes like Denver managed to but I guess we'll never know now, will we?
In case you were wondering but not enough to get sufficient motivation to look, we never got as far as meeting Molly in the story.
"After leaving the valley 10 years ago, Molly makes a sudden and mysterious return! Her parents have stayed in Delta city to run their arcane apothecary, and rumor has it Molly has a knack for magic as well."
OK, that's a potential future storytelling pit trap for much the same reasons if you're not careful.
Hmmmm, also their full names according to the background material were Molly Millbrooke and Théophil Laforge. Yes, I think in absence of new material like there was for Denver, there's enough to pin Theo for the same downfall trigger in just his two pages on-screen so to speak and since there's nothing to mitigate it later ... well, here we are and there he remains.
Story and Plot
This is a curious case in that the creator clearly had plans as outlined here but the story never got anywhere near that far.
The landscapes and scenery that make up much of the first 6 pages are outstanding top quality work. It all really speaks for itself. The characters and people in the backgrounds are executed exceptionally well. It's really a shame this didn't go past Page 8 for that reason alone.
Maybe the only thing that might have had scope for improvement are the captions and speech bubbles, examples of which you can see throughout this review. The work might have been better served by executing them in a different style as I found them a bit incongruous compared to the level of skill of the rest of the art. Your mileage might vary, I suppose.
There's not really much to add that hasn't been covered before. This story may well have fallen victim to the stereotypes and tropes of fantasy fiction as seen by the setup and the background material we have access to. Storytelling is its own skill separate from creating artwork and being adept at the latter is no guarantee of the former.
Maybe it might have gone on to surprise us instead of travelling some well trodden paths but at the end of the day at the most fundamental level, for better or worse (preferably better), you ultimately have to make something as opposed to nothing.
One thing I can comment on based on what we've got, for the kind of setting and scenario we have, having a location in the story named "Delta City" seems just a bit out of place, almost as if it wandered in from somewhere else ...
We have a reputation for going after creations and even the people behind them with just a bit of a mean streak. I've found myself becoming just as guilty of the same behaviour the longer I was here. I'm not proud of it, it's not usual for me (I haven't really got the stomach for it). OK, with that out of the way, I'm not here to do a hit piece but instead to play Internet archaeologist. It's like hunting for dinosaur footprints and trying to deduce what happened from the footprints left behind after the dinosaur is long gone .
As we know, it didn't end well.
From what I've been able to piece together from indirect observation, this creator had a plan for a project, the enthusiasm seemed to be there and it seems there was some kind of goodwill and prior reputation to build on. Like I said before, you don't raise this money for a first Kickstarter in a vacuum.
However, from there it seems to have devolved into a morass of missed deadlines, no new pages, intermittent contact, no contact, contradictory public presence on social media being conducted as if none of this was going on and some increasingly frustrated backers in the comments section of the Kickstarter that dragged on for years and still seems to be going on even today some five years later.
At the end of the day, this is no way to run a railroad is what we're saying here.
Looking just at the initial Kickstarter page for The Cloud Factory, there's nothing to differentiate it from the highly successful campaigns such as those from Der-shing Helmer of The Meek and Mare Infernum as just one example, the first one of hers especially as she'd yet to have a record of a completed success (but now she's gone to have multiple completed ones, of course).
Sometimes things happen in people's lives that disrupt the processes of making a product. These things happen and as people have proven time and again, they can on the whole be very sympathetic and quite patient (as seen here in this Kickstarter campaign's comments and elsewhere). However, at the end of the day, the whole system needs the delivery of the promised product (and most camapaigns successfully doing so) or a timely return of the pledged funds when it cannot.
In this case, from what we've been able to piece together, the incongruities of a lack of product, a lack of content, and the seeming oddity of signs of things outside this project (social media and the like) carrying on as if none of this was going really isn't tenable for this business model as a whole.
If nothing else, as a webcomic creator generally, at least talk to your backers on a regular basis no matter what's happening. That can go a long way towards keeping people satisfied (though it goes without saying that last step is probably going to ultimately need you to deliver something).
From the author's contact page.
Meanwhile, currently on her Patreon at the time of writing ...
Look, the take home message is that even though ideally, a webcomic would be well written and updating regularly, failing that, on average at least getting something out is preferable to nothing at all (those particular webcomics which are clearly horrifying abominations including some reviewed here excepted).