Comics / Comics News

Mike Grell Launches December Kickstarter


By Philip Schweier
December 1, 2020 - 13:10

Mike Grell’s Masterstroke Studios is giving Jon Sable, Freelance – one of his most popular creations – a massive new release. A Kickstarter campaign launched today at 9 a.m. EST, running until December 21 at midnight. An early Spring 2021 release date is scheduled for the first of five omnibus editions, the definitive version of the groundbreaking series.

Jon Sable, Freelance was one of the earliest successes among independent comics of the 1980s. Published by First Comics from 1983-1987, it featured the adventures of a former African hunter returning to the U.S., working as a bounty hunter/mercenary. Its character-driven narrative helped redefine what the medium could achieve, and often saw higher sales and critical praise than many other mainstream titles.

Grell fans have been clamoring for Jon Sable’s return for many years. IDW released a series of trade paperbacks in the early 2000s, and Comicmix published smaller trade paperbacks in the last decade. Sable’s most recent appearance in Rules of the Hunt, published as part of the Maggie the Cat Kickstarter campaign.

Beginning with issue #44, Grell stopped drawing the series but continued to write the title until its final issue (#56). For the omnibus, According to Grell, some of those issues – at least two, possibly four or more – will be re-drawn for the omnibus edition.

In addition, some of Grell’s original artwork will be “remastered.” Working from original plates of the page art, he intends to revisit select issues and pages, refining some of the art. Beginning with Jon Sable, Freelance #19, Grell began working in pencil on mylar or vellum, seeking a specific look that sometimes failed to translate due to printing limitations of the 1980s. Since the advent of digital processes, it will be possible for Grell to achieve cleaner, crisper lines and enhanced colors.

The forthcoming omnibus editions will also pave the way for new Jon Sable stories from Grell. He says they are discussing spinning off of Rules of the Hunt, and then repackaging the new material for wider distribution in TPB paperback form.

Previous Kickstarter campaigns for Grell’s Maggie the Cat (a spinoff from Jon Sable) and The Pilgrim (a collaboration with Mark Ryan) have proven very successful. “We learned a lot from the Maggie the Cat Kickstarter, with growing pains from the word go,” says Grell. “Once we figured out the process. We were able to smooth things out for The Pilgrim.”

Hours into the Jon Sable campaign, it had generated more than $15,000 of its $55,000 goal. Early bird fans will get the chance to score an exclusive print to be included in the first 100 backers’ packages when the first book is published early next year.

In addition, the names of backers of the project will be listed in the back of the book, thanking them for their frontline support of Grell's work. The Kickstarter page adds, “As we surpass our funding goal, and unlock Stretch Goals, there are even more great surprises in store, from trading cards, a Sable poster, a feature length Mike Grell video interview, trading cards, art portfolio prints, and even a chance to get Volume 2 of the omnibus set at a discounted rate after we pass a certain funding goal.”

Other perks, premiums and add-ons are also available, with more surprises to be announced during the three-week campaign.

Companion books that will be part of the Kickstarter campaigns will include the original Freelance Writing letters columns, with a forward by former Sable editor Mike Gold. It will also include Grell’s Safari Sketchbook, which was published in Jon Sable, Freelance #22-24.

The omnibus editions will be released first via Kickstarter campaigns to supporters, then through wide distribution. The over-sized editions will measure approximately 8.5 by 12.25 inches – the same size as the DC Comics Absolute Editions – and each will clock in at around 400 glossy pages. The dust jackets will line up to form a complete image when placed in order on a shelf. Each volume will retail for $100, featuring all new covers and rare material, such as unpublished artwork. All five omnibuses will be released over the next two years, culminating in Volume Five being published to celebrate Grell’s 75th birthday in 2022.

Based on the success of Grell’s Kickstarter projects, fans can expect to see more of his creator-owned properties – such as Starslayer and Shaman’s Tears – to receive crowd funding campaigns in the future.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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