FOR ABOUT TWO YEARS, “Penny Arcade” creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins once relied on the open-wallet kindness of their readers — what the cartoonists call crowd-“begging” — to keep their gamer comic financially afloat.

Today, of course, “Penny Arcade” is an empire of books and web shows and PAX conventions that’s boosted partly by online advertising. Now, they want to do away with that advertising and — as Mike “Gabe” Krahulik tells Comic Riffs — go back to working for their readers.

With that aim in mind, the cartoonists Tuesday launched the “Penny Arcade Sells Out” Kickstarter campaign, with the initial goal to raise $250,000, which they say would afford them the fiscal ability to remove their leaderboard ad for a year. [Update: The donated total is now up to nearly half that amount.]

Their next goal would be to raise $525,000 so they could remove all home-page ads; and for a million bucks donated, they say, all of the Penny Arcade site would be ad-free. “One of the things that excited us most about the idea of trying an ad-free model,” they say in the Kickstarter announcement, “was the amount of time it would give us to actually make comics.”

Technically, “That's not my job,” the Seattle-based Krahulik tells Comic Riffs of the advertising aspect of their business, “but I know the ad guys work their butts off doing it.”

[HOW TO KICKSTARTER: A cartoonist’s 14 tips for a more successful funding campaign]


(courtesy of PENNY ARCADE )

Because Kickstarter campaigns are often launched by creators lesser-known and less successful than “Penny Arcade,” the announcement of the project sparked some criticism and carping in the gaming and comics communities. Why donate to such a big webcomic, their thinking goes. But Krahulik doesn’t let the negative reaction bother him — or deter him.

“We get backlash for almost everything we do,” Krahulik tells Comic Riffs on Tuesday. “I don't let that stop me from trying new stuff or making the comics I want to.”  

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for both unknown and well-known creators. Earlier this year, cartoonist Rich Burlew set a comics-Kickstarter record by raising $1.2-million for his popular webcomic “Order of the Stick.”

Mostly, Krahulik says, he’d like “Penny Arcade” fans to understand one thing about his site’s Kickstarter-fueled goals:

“We would rather work for them than advertisers.”