The printing world is one whose tendrils stretch far and wide across the entire globe, and in the early stages of the pandemic that proved to be a major problem for many of our Kickstarter peers. As horizons began to narrow mid-March, so too did the capacity of China’s printers, where facility closures linked to COVID-19 severed a crucial link between comic book creators and affordable print services.
The situation was further compounded by the fact that North Americans outsourcing printing to Asia also have to factor in shipping times as well as customs delays when estimating when their books will arrive. It’s a tightly-coupled system where a problem in one part of the supply chain can have a ripple effect that can result in falling seriously behind the original schedule. This is what happened for a long list of projects stuck waiting for re-openings and revised timelines on their books, a situation that extended original deadlines by several months at the very least.
We were very, very lucky. Or more accurately, we were very, very lucky to have Angela on our creative team. In addition to lettering and graphic design, she has worked for many years in the field of product design, and has relationships with a vast array of service providers associated with making all kinds of stuff. This includes printing, and before we launched our campaign we made the decision to link up with a local service, Mutiny Studio, as our print broker to handle our first run of Code 45 #1.
Of course, there were hurdles here too. Ontario, which is where Mutiny is based, also went into lockdown in March, but some services were allowed to continue in a limited capacity if they were deemed essential, and printing received this designation. We confirmed with our contact at Mutiny that we still had a spot in the queue in early April, and it was a go: they worked hard to find a printer that could meet our timeline, and did it with exceptional speed and professionalism from the first test print to the final batch. They even hand-delivered our full print run right to our Toronto HQ.
The next challenge we faced was getting those books from Toronto to Montreal. Our original plan had been to handle all packing and distribution from Toronto, as its more central location would reduce shipping costs and it would allow Joe, Angela, and other helpers to move through fulfillment as quickly as possible.
Lockdown made this impossible: we weren’t even allowed to have visitors in our homes, and no one wanted to put anyone else at unnecessary risk. We finally decided to meet mid-way between the two cities (about a three hour drive from each side) in the parking lot of a shopping center, where we had a socially-distanced hand-off and cover-sign outdoors and masked up. It was the first time I had seen my co-creators in months. It would be the last time I saw them in person in 2020.
Our experience with Mutiny and local printing was so good that we went to them again for our second Kickstarter and had the same level of service. We can’t recommend them enough to anyone who decides to keep their printing in Canada, and it may also be a good option for Americans looking to stretch their dollar. Yes, we may have paid marginally more per issue than if we had hired an overseas print shop, but the certainty of delivery was well worth extra cash outlay—and it certainly saved our first Kickstarter campaign from facing the same extended delays we saw so many others agonize through.