Cory Matthews on Writing About Family and Running a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

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Cory Matthews (yeah, he knows he shares the name with the late 90’s/early 00’s derpy, curly-headed, Topanga-chasing lothario) is the creator of TnC Comics. Cory has written nearly 50 strips to date, with Eryck Webb illustrating. Cory has also launched a successful Kickstarter campaign so he can continue working on his passion project, and documenting his family history in a unique way. We talk with Cory about running a successful Kickstarter campaign, writing about his family and discovering his audience.

Shortboxed: You’re writing comics based on your life, what it’s like sharing your story with everyone?

Cory Matthews: There are pros and cons when it comes to writing about your life. At times, it is like the strip practically writes itself. It just needs a little molding to fit into a 4 panel strip. Or to make sure the punchline delivers in the end.  But a lot of the stories are based on truth. Or some semblance of it. The drawback, of course, is that you have to be careful not to piss off the family. It is important to tell the story, but to also know you are going home to a happy wife.  And that’s not going to happen if you make her look like a villain in your funny papers.It’s also helpful that we are two totally different people. Tia is very practical. Responsible. She makes sure our house runs like a well oiled machine. I can be very impulsive. Juvenile. Borderline irresponsible. I have a closet full of toys that were impulse buys. To the point that Tia very rarely lets me go shopping by myself. I’m kind of like that wacky uncle that is really cool to come stay over for 2-3 days but a week into it and you are already trying to find excuses to kick me out. Luckily, Tia hasn’t gotten that far yet.

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SB: When it comes to making strips about real life – what subjects are taboo? Did you have a sit-down with the family and discuss what is and what is not permissible?

CM: I found out writing about your wife’s age is a big no-no. Haha. But for the most part, with me trying to keep it PG, that takes out a lot of the potential problems. Im not talking about religion, sex, race, or politics. The strip is meant to be light hearted, and I think I’ve done a good job of that.

SB: Let’s talk about your successful Kickstarter campaign. How did you go about planning to raise money, take us through the process, giave advice to people looking to do it themselves.

CM: Kickstarter, especially your first one, is very scary. I liken it to asking out the prom queen in high school. It can be nerve wracking to put yourself out there and hope that other people have as much faith in you as you do. Luckily for me, it worked out. I shattered my goal. Almost doubling up.

If I had to give someone one piece of advice for Kickstarter, it would be to make sure you have avenues to promote it. Even though I did go past my goal, I feel like I shorted myself by not exhausting every avenue. I mainly stuck with Twitter and Facebook.  But there were other ways I could have promoted it. Instagram. Local book fairs or smaller local comic shows. But I was fortunate enough to have made a large and faithful (in my eyes) following. I was backed by a lot of friends, family, and co-workers. And I found a lot of new fans as well through Kickstarter. Even an unsuccessful Kickstarter can still yield a lot of positive experiences.

SB: What do you think is important for creators when it comes to developing an audience? How do you show appreciation? Are you shooting for an audience when you’re making comics?

CM: I think for the most part when you are trying to build an audience, don’t fall behind. Do not fail to follow through on your promises. TnC was made to be an every Friday strip and we haven’t missed yet. I know the strips that I follow, when someone misses a release day it makes me wonder if they are continuing. And over time they fade away.  With the internet around, there is way too much content to be able to absorb it all.  So you need to make sure your presence is felt.  and I think being punctual is a big part of it.

As far as appreciation, I try to respond to everyone that posts. Even if it’s just a ‘thank you’. Noting is worse than having an avenue to talk to someone and feeling like you’re not being heard. Of course that works the other way as well. There are times when I get no responses to a strip and I ask myself “what’s the point if no one is looking?”  Then I just need to remember who I am making it for. Myself. Family and friends. If other people want to come along for the ride I’m more than happy to drag them along. But mainly, I do it for myself. It’s something I want to be able to show the grandkids. That grandma and grandpa were in the comics!!

SB: Where do you go from here? Do you feel like you’ve successfully reached a point in your comic creation that you can start planning out a next stage?

CM: If you are meaning with the strip, I’m happy where it’s at. It would be easier if i ventured into some adult jokes and tongue in cheek adult humor. That’s easy. It’s a lot harder to write something that will entertain younger people as well as adults. My strip was mainly made for family and friends. So I want to make sure I keep it at a level that I feel comfortable letting my nephews read.

I already feel like I’m successful. I mean, I didn’t start doing this with the idea I would be the next Charles Schultz or Jim Davis. I just wanted to make a strip that would make family and friends laugh. And I did. If more people along the way want to jump on board and enjoy it, I’m all for it.

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SB: Finally, what do people say about your strip – what do they enjoy most about it? What’s the most common compliment and/or critique you’ve gotten?

CM: The most common compliment I get is “I can totally see Tia yelling at you for that”  or  “That sounds like me and my wife too”. And those are the best. It means I’m writing about it. And it’s real. It’s not made up. It’s something that people can relate to because I’m keeping it honest. The worst critique I get is slang terms or lack of an apostrophe. I use “alot” instead of “a lot” or “yea” instead of “yeah”. Things I have to keep trying to pay attention to. Especially since I do all the writing. It’s the one thing I have to do, so I better do it well.

SB: So, you’re taking a shortbox to a desert island, what are the 5 comic books you make sure are included? (Graphic novels, miniseries, omnibuses and story arcs are all fair game.)

CM: Although I’m a big Green Lantern fan, a lot of my favorite comics come from my childhood. Still stories that I read over and over again:

Marvel’s Secret Wars

Spiderman: Kraven’s Last Hunt

Green Lantern: Sinestro Wars

The Entire Giffen Justice League run  (ONE PUNCH!!)

And Uncanny X-men from about 170-224

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