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Leaning Girl Kickstarter

On May 20, 2013 Steve Smith of Alaxis Press started a Kickstarter campaign to promote and fund the release of the English translation of L'Enfant Penchée. The campaign ran for 45 days until July 6th, 2013. The goal of the campaign is to raise $30.000.

Check the Kickstarter campaign page: The Leaning Girl Translated Graphic Novel Project

Steve Smith explains why he started the kickstarter campaign: “I have been a fan of Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten's French graphic novel series The Obscure Cities since the late 1980s. Five books in the series were translated into English but stopped after 2002 with three graphic novels and at least five other books left in the series. The Obscure Cities is an internationally acclaimed graphic novel series, having won major awards in Europe and Japan including the Grand Prize Manga in the 2013 Japan Arts Festival. It was the first time that a foreign author or series won this award. The translated The Obscure Cities album was chosen over 457 other entries. I have translated The Leaning Girl (L'enfant Penchée) into English and have licensed the rights to the entire series with the hope of reintroducing these great stories to the United States and English-speaking countries. This Kickstarter campaign is to help cover the production costs on the first book, The Leaning Girl. I have the blessings of the author and artist, and the licensing rights from their publisher, Casterman, in Belgium. This series is a passion of mine and I want to be able to share it with other European comic and art lovers in English speaking countries. Part of my desire to use Kickstarter is that this series should be seen by a larger audience that has proven time and again it is supportive of unique artistic projects. I have spent the past three months translating The Leaning Girl in to English. The story is very personal and real to me.The art is some of the most delicate and beautiful I have ever seen in comics.

One of the first pages without the French texts.

Campaign video

For the kickstarter campaign a short video was made to introduce the campaign. Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten explains why they back this project.


Everybody can help to make a Kickstarter campaign a success. You can do this by backing the project and donating money to the project. The money will only be really donated when the goal of $30.000 is reached. Based on the amount of money you donate you will get a reward:

Level 1: $1

You will get a thank you of Steve Smith and your name on the backers page of

Level 2: $5

Level 1 plus a thank you greeting card with the cover art send to you.

Level 3: $15

Level 2 rewards plus limited edition fold out store promotional poster.

Level 4: $ 25

Level 3 rewards plus a limited edition Leaning Girl t-shirt.

Level 5: $30

Level 3 rewards plus a copy of the trade edition of the book (retail value $29,99)

Level 6: $50

Level 3 rewards plus a copy of the trade edition of the book (retail value $29,99) and a limited edition Leaning Girl t-shirt.

Level 7: $100

Level 4 rewards plus a limited (#350) edition hard cover version of the album signed by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters featuring 8 additional pages of rare and never seen before sketches.

Level 8: $250

Level 7 rewards plus a limited (#100) edition art print of “The Gazebo” signed by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters.

Level 9: $5.000 or more

Associate Publisher level. You will get your name on the copyright page of all editions. One copy of the limited hard cover edition, 5 copies of the soft cover trade edition, the limited art print, two t-shirts and all level 3 rewards.


During the campaign updates will be posted on progress.

Update #1 - DAY 1 GOAL AND STAFF PICK THANK YOU!!! - May 21, 2013

The Leaning Girl graphic novel project has been officially funding since about 8:15pm CST last night and I was thrilled to wake up to some great overnight activity. As of noon, we have passed the $1700 mark. There is a long way to go to reach the $30,000 funding goal but I am so encouraged. Thank you. Tonight I am going to post several pages of art here as a thank you. Also, I will be producing a The Leaning Girl bookmark for BookExpo, the upcoming publishing industry trade show. As a thank you to the Kickstarter staff for naming this a staff pick and to my early backers, you will all receive one with your level rewards.

Please tell your friends who might be interested about this project. I would be so happy to close the day today at 10% funded.

Thanks, Steve

Update #2 - Some art to enjoy! - May 22, 2013

We have just passed the $5,000 mark and I am very encouraged. Unlike many of the graphic novels that have original art to offer, my rewards are primarily the book in one format or another, a t-shirt, and an art print. Yet we are closing in on 20% funding in under two days. Thank you all so much for being early supporters of this project.

I want to share some more sample pages with you. I also want to invite you to visit the project website at and sign up for the mailing list. In addition, if you are new to this series, I encourage you to visit This is by far the most exhaustive and complete fan site for the series and is constantly updated in English even though it is a Belgian site. I have personally been a member of this site for many years and I look to the site's founder and archivist, Joseph le Perdriel for his wisdom and input.

Thanks again for your support. - Steve

Update #3 - Day 3... I am filled with a sense of wonder! - May 24, 2013

I believe in this project so much. But to see clearly that the Kickstarter community is embracing it is a bit overwhelming. Thank you so much. Tonight as we are approaching $10,000 (one-third of the goal) in just three days, I want to share a page from later in the book. It is a scene involving a chance meeting with a key character, Professor Axel Wappendorf, and Jules Verne himself.

Thank you all so much for your support! We are one third of the way to the stretch goals and EVERY investor benefits at that point! - Steve

Update #4 - End of Day 4... almost 50% funded! - May 25, 2013

Today was a bit less “exciting” than yesterday. I had hoped to reach at least $13,000 by the end of the day so that my personal goal of making it halfway to the actual $30,000 goal by the end of Sunday night would be reached easily. But something amazing DID happen today. One of my dearest friends, Ashley Laurence (Kirsty from the Hellraiser films) tweeted a link to all of her fans, and this afternoon, one of my favorite illustrators, Terese Nielsen, posted the link on Facebook to her followers. My best friend and longtime business associate, painter Dave Dorman, did a similar post earlier in the week. I am confident we will reach the goal with plenty of time to spare. But thank you to all the supporters who have joined me thus far.

This is a photo I took in February of this year when i visited Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten in Schuiten's studio. It was a rare treat to be able to touch and hold the original art from The Leaning Girl.

This is a photo I will treasure forever. From left to right, François Schuiten me (Steve Smith), and on ther right, Benoît Peeters, posing for a picture in La Grande-Place de Bruxelles in the afternoon of the day our contract was negotiated.

Thank you so much for supporting this project.


Update #5 - THE LIMITED EDITION BOOK - May 26, 2013

This morning, I wanted to share with you the art for the serigraph bookplate that will be signed and inserted into The Leaning Girl hardcover limited edition book. This serigraph plate is one of my favorite standalone images of young Mary von Rathen.

Tonight at 8pm marks the end of week one of the campaign. Right now I am only $1700 away from being 50% funded. If you have friends you think might be interested, please suggest they take a look. If you want to increase your investment to the next level, please, feel free. I am so grateful for the support so far.

This week I am being interviewed by, a Philedelphia based AM radio show. And I will be attending BookExpo in New York Thursday thru Saturday.

More updates to come.

For our American friends and supporters, have a meaningful Memorial Day!


Update #6 - The Leaning Girl Statue - May 27, 2013

It would be very unfair to tease the faithful supporters of my Kickstarter camapign, but I wanted to share with you a photo of a lifesize statue of Mary von Rathen, the Leaning Girl, created by François Schuiten for the 2003 Angouleme Comics Festival. I was fortunate enough to see this for myself when I visited Brussels a few months ago.

I'm not going to say that this or a reasonable facsimile has anything to do with the stretch goals, but I'm not going to say that it doesn't!

Just enjoy looking the picture and as always, thanks for the support.


Update #7 - BookExpo Recap - June 2, 2013

Dear supporters and friends,

I returned home from Book Expo America in New York City last night after several days. I work in another facet of the publishing world so I was there on business, but was able to take in a few meetings of my own. I was particularly pleased that other, much larger, publishing companies were not only aware of my plans for this series but also that more than one of these publishers asked of my interest to package the book and let them publish it.

I am truly honored to announce that Karen Green, Graphic Novels Librarian at Columbia University in New York, and regular columnist at the Comixology website,, has agreed to contribute a foreword to The Leaning Girl. Karen has been an enthusiastic supporter of this project since I first shared it with her last year. She loves François Schuiten's art as you can tell in the quote by her that I use in my Kickstarter video. But I had the opportunity to have dinner with Karen on Wednesday evening and asked her then if she would consider writing the foreword. She said she needed to read the book and think about it. I gave her a proof copy that evening. The next morning I received the most enthusiastic “YES!” email.

Most comic fans may still be unfamiliar with Karen, but she is and will continue to rise as a key figure in the appreciation of comics as a legitimate literary and art form in America. As a collections librarian at one of the most prestigious Ivy League universities in the country, Karen is working to preserve publisher and artist archives. In my opinion, her willingness to participate in this project elevates its importance even more.

I want to share with you a page from later in the book where Mary meets the Parisian artist, Augustin Desombres for the first time. Desombres and Mary are both subjects of other books in The Obscure Cities canon. But their fateful meeting is significant in the “big picture” of this series.

We are roughly 48 hours away from the end of week two of this campaign and we are under $900 away from being 60% funded. If you have friends you feel might be interested in this project, please encourage them to support this project.

Have a great weekend.


Update #8 - 60% down, 31 days to go!!! - Jun 5, 2013

Dear friends and backers.

Thank you so much for your help in making this campaign a success so far. I am really pleased.

This weekend I will post additional artwork. But in the meantime, I want to offer you this video in which François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters discuss the story as François creates his art. This is a page from the next book I will publish, Shadow of a Man. It is in French and I hope to subtitle it soon, once The Leaning Girl is sent to the printer.


Update #9 - 18 Days to go... We can do this! - Jun 18, 2013

Dear friends and backers, Thank you again for support of my project. This week I am going to be adding some new art and video to the site for you to enjoy. We are a little over $500 shy of 2/3 funding. Things have obviously stalled in the last week and a half, but I still believe this project is worth it.

Over the weekend, I received a message from a new backer saying, “Thank you for bringing these artists/writers to our attention. If it was not for the Kickstarter campaign, I might never have been aware of their work. I am greatly looking forward to the book.” THIS IS WHY KICKSTARTER IS SO IMPORTANT!!! Not just for my project but for so many great art projects.

Check back for new art and video this week. Please tell your friends about the campaign. I would love to close today hitting the 2/3 mark. If you have been considering upping your pledge, why not do it now. If you have friends who you feel might enjoy this book and the potential this series has, please alert them.


Update #10 - I am so appreciative! - Jun 19, 2013

This morning, the campaign was at $19,200 after a couple of weeks of stalled activity. This afternoon I mentioned we were just $500 from reaching the 2/3 mark of $20,000. Tonight, the campaign surpassed the $20,000 mark by over $100. I'm thrilled. We raised close to $1000 in 12 hours. Now we are less than $900 away from 70% funding and we have 17 days to go.

I want to thank my artist friends, best friend Dave Dorman and his wife, publlcist, Denise Dorman, Joe Jusko, my friend and long ago college professor, comic artist Mark A. Nelson, Jeff Preston, Doug Klauba, My young pal and brilliant designer Adam Baker, Andy McKluskey from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and one of my closest friends, Ashley Laurence, for pushing this Kickstarter campaign to their fans.

I want to share a very brief film clip with everyone. This is a tiny scene from Le Dernier Plan (2000, France) directed by The Obscure Cities author, Benoît Peeters. This scene features French actors Pierre Arditi as Ludovic, and Valerie van Nitsen as Judith.

If you are looking for reasons to invest in this project, take a look at this clip. It epitomizes the mysteries of The Obscure Cities. Funding The Leaning Girl is just the beginning of what I can share with the English-speaking market. There are other graphic novels, journals, maps, but there are also films to share.

Thanks so much for hearing my appeal today. Please continue to share this project with your friends. With your help, I would love to see the campaign reach 70 to 75% funing by Sunday evening. - Steve


Obviously I am a huge fan of this series, and that is why I have chosen to publish it in English, beginning with The Leaning Girl. The series is internationally known but I wanted to share this great news about the series from Japan, a country that is very nationalistic when it comes to their comics and manga art style. This news item should further validate the importance of bringing this series to an American audience. Have a great weekend. We are less than $400 from reaching 70% of our funding and we have 13 days to go. Thank you all who have supported or are considering supporting this project. - Steve

François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters have won the prestigieus Grand Prize in the Manga category of the Japan Art Festival with their translated version of Les Cités Obscures. It is the first time that a foreign author wins this award. The translated Obscure Cities album was chosen over 457 other submissions.

The Jury:

ITO Go / Manga Critic and Associate Professor, Tokyo Polytechnic University] MINAMOTO Taro / Manga Artist and Manga Researcher SAITO Nobuhiko / Editor and Manga Researcher TAKEMIYA Keiko / Manga Artist and Professor, Kyoto Seika University YAMADA Tomoko / Manga Researcher

The jury report says: “Les Cités Obscures is a series by two men who graduated from the same middle school in Brussels; Schuiten is in charge of the artwork and Peeters handles the script. Though human protagonists appear in the stories, the lead role belongs to the alternate world they populate - its environment, architecture, background. Issued in the bande dessinée format of French-language comics, the series earns praise for the intricacy of its artwork wherever it appears. Now it is finally being translated and published in Japan, where readers may at last savor the sublimity of Peeters' story in tandem with Schuiten's illustrations. The first volume in the series was published nearly 30 years ago, but the story is timeless. Before we start making claims about Japanese manga’s pride of place in the world of comics, we had best acquaint ourselves with the level of comics in the rest of the world. This is one work well worth knowing about. It is one of those rare creations that yields both the pleasure of encountering a foreign culture and the joy of sharing something that transcends cultural differences.”

A “counter-Earth,” almost but not quite like ours, is populated by a mysterious group of city-states: les cités obscures. These serve as the backdrop to the strange events depicted in this popular Franco-Belgian comic-book series, which has been translated into ten languages and has won numerous awards. To date there have been 12 volumes published in the “official” series, with another 12 “spin-offs” for a total of 24 works. Three stories are included in the volume that earned this prize, the first to be published in Japanese, under the title Yami no Kuniguni (Countries of Darkness). They are La fiévre d'Urbicande (The Fever of Urbicande), which depicts people confounded by a strange cube that suddenly starts reproducing itself; La Tour (The Tower), which follows the vicissitudes of a man caught up in an adventure that involves secrets related to a huge tower; and L'enfant penchée (The Leaning Girl), about a young girl whose body leans at an angle due to an unknown astronomical phenomenon. Rooted in a profound knowledge of all manner of creative arts, these intense stories are illustrated with meticulously and exquisitely drawn images - which were produced, it is said, at a pace of one week per page. Plans call for a total of four volumes to be published in Japanese through 2013.

Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten attended the ceremony on February 12, 2013 to receive the award and inaugurate an exhibition at the Roppongi Arts Center. The award consists of a certificate from the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, a trophy and 600,000 Japanese Yen.

Update #12 - ONE WEEK TO GO!!! - Jun 28, 2013

Hello friends and backers (backers, I consider you friends too, thank you!). We are one week away from the end of the campaign. I have had repeated requests for a backing level for just the Hardcover limited edition book, so I heard you. You can now select an $80 level which will get you the limited edition hardcover book without the t-shirt. In addition, the shipping cost for international backers has been reduced.

I have also added a retailer level for bookstores wishing to participate by purchasing multiple copies.

I have had so many questions about international shipping costs so I have explored a less expensive, international first class shipping price. Because I cannot simply go into the levels and make changes to the shipping costs, on Sunday, after I receive final calculations, I am going list new levels which will be identical to existing ones, but with lower first class airmail rates instead of international priority. Those of you wishing to change your pledges can cancel and pledge again in the lower priced level.

Just to clarify, domestic US shipping is included in the pledge prices.

Thank you all for your support. I have received some truly inspiring messages. I believe this campaign is worthwhile and I appreciate your support. If you know any “big spenders” who would like to become larger backers, I still have the three $5,000 publisher pledges available. If you are interested in some type of pledge in between, please feel free to contact me.

All the best, Steve

Update #13 - We have passed 75% - 7.5 days left. 7.5K left to raise. - Jun 29, 2013

Today was an awesome day. Thank you to all those who pledged or modified their pledge. It is time for assertiveness. If we can reach $25,000 by Sunday night, I am positive we can fund this campaign.

I am heading to The American Library Association convention in Chicago tomorrow. I will report back anything relevant that happens. It is a great show for meeting library collections buyers from across the country.

Thanks again so much for your participation.


Update #14 - Amazing! - Jun 29, 2013

I just checked the new backers today and found we are under $600 away from 80% funded. Thank you so much.

I just had the opportunity to meet with Terry from NBM, the original American publisher of the first five of The Obscure Cities books in English in the late 1980s. The books were identified as Stories of the Fantastic in the NBM editions. Terry was pleased that the series is goimg to continue and even offered to make introductions for me into some of the specialty distributors.

I am so encouraged by the support of you, the backers, and by people like Terry Nantier at NBM.

If we reach our final goal of $30,000 before the deadline next saturday, I will produce a premium for all level 2 and higher investors for each day between the goal being reached and the end of the campaign!

Have a great weekend! Steve

Update #15 - Sunday afternoon update - Jul 1, 2013

Dear friends and backers,

I promised I would add some first class shipping options today and I will do that shortly, but quite frankly, I needed to take a moment to pick myself up off the floor. I was warned early on not to watch the page every second of every day because it would drive me mad, so I have tried to not do that.

I logged on a few minutes ago and found that the campaign is now 88% funded. It is only $338 away from 90% funding and $3,338 away from fully funding. I could not be more encourage. The campaign has increased by $5,000 since Friday morning.

I am grateful to all my backers for your support. I would love to end this night at 90% and that would literally take each current backer upping their pledge by $1.00. But I would prefer to appeal to your friends who share a common interest to back the campaign. If only 12 new backers choose the $30 level, it will take the campaign over the 90% mark and to start the last five days of the campaign at that level would be very exciting.

Regardless, I am so thankful to all of you for your support.

Today I am sharing an image of the French language 1996 limited edition of The Leaning Girl with a striking image on the cover.

Again thank you for your support.



Backer friends, Thank you so much for bearing with me throughout this campaign. I feel like I write updates. But today I want to announce that in response to so many international backers, I am investigating lower first class air mail shipping options. I apologize for being so slow with this but I have been at American Library Association's convention in Chicago for the last several days so when I get home at night I spend my time looking at allthe pledges that have come it.

There were five levels where the products fell under the required maximum weight for first class to Canada. So I have added those options. I'm sorry the pricing can't be even better. On the levels where I did not add a Canadian price it is because the products weighed in at over the maximum weight of 4 lbs. So the Priority option is the best I can do on those.

For all other international backers, I will add options tomorrow if it is possible to lower the rates.

We are only $2400 away from funding this project. Thank you so much for your support.

Best, Steve


This afternoon I added two reduced shipping options for international backers. The $100 package and the $250 package now have a reduced shipping option. All of the others are actually slightly below post office cost.

Update #18 - ALMOST THERE! - Jul 3, 2013

Dear backers and friends, The Leaning Girl campaign is a few days away from the end, and as of right now, it is only $103 away from being fully funded.

I wanted to share one of my favorite Schuiten illustrations of Mary. This is Mary during her high wire act in the Robertson Circus. This piece is actually the cover illustration to a children's book version of The Leaning Girl, called Leaning Mary (Mary la Penchée). What is so fitting is as Mary walks this wire I have felt like I have shared this walk with her, as I have been both nervous and encouraged throughout this Kickstarter process.

It is relatively safe to say this campaign is a success and I want to thank all of you for supporting this. I am proud to be a part of this project and I am honored that so many have stepped up to participate.

Have a great evening. I know I will.

Best, Steve

Update #19 - FULLY FUNDED BUT WE CAN DO MORE!!! - Jul 4, 2013

Dear friends, and believe me, you are my friends. I cannot express to you how excited I am that The Leaning Girl graphic novel project is funded. I am grateful to all of the backers in this campaign. The other day, as I sat watching the funding increase and my emotions turned from apprehension to excitement, I made a promise that if the project was funded before the deadline, I would create a unique The Leaning Girl premium for each day I was not forced to worry over whether or not the campaign would succeed. Last night at 5pm CST, the campaign crossed the $30,000 threshold.

So my brain has been busy. I want to give my supporters some truly unique pieces. As of today, I have thought of two out of three premiums and I promise I will keep thinking about the third. I have some ideas.

The first item will be a very nice bookmark. I created a promotional bookmark for the Kickstarter campaign but I will do a new one without the Kickstarter promo copy on the back.

The second item is the mystery item for now, but the series writer, Benoît Peeters, is helping me track down one of Mary von Rathen's (The Leaning Girl herself) letters to produce a frameable replica. That is one idea.

The third item I am very excited about.

If you have watched the little vignette video on this campaign page, featuring art from the book, the music is by an incredible French composer and musician, Bruno Letort. Bruno has written and recorded numerous pieces based on The Obscure Cities series since 1999. Bruno has agreed to allow me to create a three track CD featuring some selections related to The Leaning Girl and other Obscure Cities stories.

Here is the cover art for Le Musee A. Desombres, a rare, long out-of-print collectible book in The Obscure Cities canon. I will most likely use this image as the cover to the CD. The image features Mary von Rathen, Prof. Wappendorf, and others as they attempt to communicate with our dimension. I have always loved this art and I love the music.

Everyone who has pledged $15 or more will receive these items.

Again, thank you so much for your support. Happy 4th of July to everyone in the USA, and to all of the international supporters, have a wonderful week.

Best, Steve


Hello all,

Not to sound like a broken record, but THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT! I have been able to sleep at night this week so I owe all the backers of this campaign a debt of gratitude.

This is an illustration of Mary taken from the children's picture book, Mary La Penchée (literally, Mary the Leaner). How could you resist this little girl's charm? Look, she is pleading with you to tell all of your friends about the campaign.

I wanted to share another related image.

This is a table at a Japanese bookstore. In Japan, The Obscure Cities series is being collected in four multi-story volumes by ShoPro. Japan has embraced the artists and their series. When I made the decision to pursue this series it was because I believed America was ready for it. The rest of the world already knows the importance of the series. I am looking forward to displays like this at booksellers in the US, featuring the Alaxis Press editions of each of the books.


This image was produced as a multi-color art print in Belgium upon the initial release of the book in 1996. I have started working on the final layout of the book while Benoît Peeters does his proofreading of the translation. I assure you this book is going to contain wonderful bonus features including a new foreword by Benoît, large reproductions of images like this, and more.

There are 21 hours remaining in the campaign. I hope I don't sound greedy but I am hopeful we can continue to grow right up to the end. There have been numerous backers who have cancelled their pledges and well, I can't help but think we aren't out of the danger zone until the campaign actually funds tomorrow morning.

Thank you for confirming my beliefs that this is a viable project. I feel as though I have almost 500 new friends.




Dear friends,

Thank you so much for making The Leaning Girl campaign a success. We are just 40 minutes away from the end of the campaign. If you have friends you think might be interested, please let them know that it is not too late to back this project.

It is way WAY to late in the campaign to announce any type of stretch goal, but I would love to see this hit $36,000. So here's the deal, if it does, ALL investors at the $15.00 level and higher will receive an official THE OBSCURE CITIES passport. This has been an idea of mine for as long as I have followed the series. I have plans for the passport in future projects.

So if by chance we get there, you get a bonus premium.

Thanks again so much for your support.

Best, Steve

Update #22 - THE LEANING GIRL - Jul 25, 2013

Hello friends,

I haven't posted an update since the project funded on July 6th but I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out today and let you know the translation to the book is completed and has been approved by Benoît Peeters, the series author. I am now working on the production of the book. I will post some “in-progress” photos this weekend.

Thanks again so much for your support.


Update #23 - The Creative Process - Aug 25, 2013

In addition to the great font created by François Schuiten for the project, I am excited to share that Timothy Botts, perhaps the biggest name is American fine art calligraphy, has agreed to create Mary's translated journal entries. The following samples were submitted and I asked author Benoît Peeters and artist François Schuiten to select the style they preferred. You can see there are four numbered samples. The third option was chosen and Tim Botts is working to complete the translated journal pages. There are four journal entry pages at the beginning of the book which, along with stunning color images, allow Mary to set up the story which then unfolds in the following black and white pages.

Once the book files are completed and sent to the printer in Italy, I will begin the surveying for t-shirt sizes and begin production on the support items. As it stands currently, we should be on track to deliver everything by the original target of the end of October. Once all of the backers have had their rewards shipped, I will begin working on the next book and the audio book project. I will also be releasing composer/musician Bruno Letort's MUSIC FROM THE OBSCURE CITIES full-length CD in the US and other English-speaking countries in time for the holidays.

Please make sure you visit my facebook page at and “like” it. Also visit, the official American website of the series. But I want to encourage you also, the English-language Belgian website run by Les Cités Obscures archivist, Joseph le Perdriel, and his associate, Eilko Bronsema.

Finally, I want to invite you to continue sending messages if you have questions. I will make sure I keep you all informed via updates as the the progress.

All the best,


Update #26 - Breaking News from The Obscure Cities! - Sep 18, 2013

When I first approached Benoît Peeters, author of the Obscure Cities series, about publishing the series in English, he warned me that there were legitimate mysteries surrounding it. Apparently, in 2003, a small number of people were given copies of a journal purported to be by Mary von Rathen, the “fictitious” young character in my upcoming release, THE LEANING GIRL. In this volume, of which approximately 10 copies are know to exist, the writer, claiming to be the real Mary, confirmed and revised many of the situations Benoît had written about and François had illustrated in the original French language edition, L'ENFANT PENCHEE in 1996. A couple of other events have convinced both Peeters and Schuiten that their work was the result of real but otherworldly inspiration.

When I met with Benoît and François last February in Brussels, François eluded to the possibility that Mary, as a young girl, had actually visited my own home city of Chicago during the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Apparently, Mary has chosen, after years of silence, to share another clue validating her existence, and more importantly, that she is still alive and well.

During the second broadcast of the radio documentary “Traveling and discovering the Obscure Cities” by Radio France's “France Culture” on September 15th, 2013, a young lady delivered a letter to the show's producer. Discovering it was a new letter by Mary von Rathen, the producer, Laurent Védrine, contacted Benoît Peeters. Obviously, I will print the contents of the letter as soon as I receive it, but here is a photo of the letter as it was delivered.

Stay tuned, Steve

Update #27 - THE LEANING GIRL IS AT THE PRINTER!!! - Oct 13, 2013

Dear backers, friends, all,

I am honestly filled with price to announce that the English translation of THE LEANING CHILD, the project you all enthusiastically supported, is at the printer. Yes it is true this took longer than expected. Yes it is true the book will be late for delivery. But as soon as I have an estimated date from the printer in Italy, I will notify everyone regarding the shipments.

I have to tell everyone, I don't believe I have ever felt more satisfied with a book as I do with THE LEANING GIRL. Author Benoît Peeters and artist François Schuiten have been involved with the process every step of the way. In fact, they permitted me a significant amount of editorial flexibility.

I promise to now jump into the other premiums and get them ready while we await the arrival of the books.

For those of you who want to know more about the changes I made to the book, you really should visit:

But be warned, there may be spoilers.

In fact, I encourage everyone who backed my project to visit this website and become a member. If you want to learn everything about The Obscure Cities, this is the best site anywhere AND it is presented in English. A good friend, Eilko Bronsema, keeps the site running for Joseph Le Perdriel, an archivist living in the world of The Obscure Cities.

So anyway, to get back on track, the book is at the printer in Italy and as soon as I get an estimated ship date, I will let you all know. Thank you so much for believing in this project.

I welcome emails. I welcome questions and comments.

All the best, Steve

Update #30 - and now... we wait! - Oct 24, 2013

Hey everyone. I wanted to check in with you all to let you know that I am waiting to hear from the printer as to an ETA for the trade editions to be shipped. This morning I received the art files for the hardcover “boards” which is the artwork under the dust jacket. That will be configured with the new English language title and spine copy and printed and attached to boards that will make up the hardcover “case-binding.”

In the meantime, I am getting the t-shirt art prepared, having the sleeve made up for the 3-track CD featuring music from the Obscure Cities composed and performed by Bruno Letort, getting the thank you cards and the store poster printed. So even though the book is out of my hands for the time being, the project is not.

I want to acknowledge one of the project backers, Frans Boukas. I was talking to one of my favorite comic artists, Geof Darrow, at New York Comic Con just a couple of weeks ago and showing him the review copy of THE LEANING GIRL when Frans interjected that he had backed the project on Kickstarter. I told him it was my project and we had a great conversation. I loved meeting him.

Anytime anyone sends me a message, I try to personally respond right away. Please feel free to keep in touch.

And keep an eye out for the surveys which will start coming in a couple of weeks. This is how I secure your shipping information for fulfilling your rewards.

Have an awesome week.


Update #32 - WE'RE GETTING CLOSER - Nov 17, 2013

The Leaning Girl hardcover boards

Dear backers, followers and friends,

Every morning I open my email hoping for an update from the printing company as to the status of THE LEANING GIRL. I promise you, as soon as I know it is on its way, and as soon as I have an anticipated release date, I will let you know. I am definitely hoping to at least have the trade editions to you all before Christmas.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you what the art boards for the case binding will look like. This is for the hardcover edition and this is what you will see if you remove the dustjacket. Other than the translated text, the front cover is identical to the original French language edition first released in 1996. But the back cover is new and features young Mary atop the mysterious sphere so important to this story.

Thank you all for your patience. I will be sending out my official surveys very soon to get your current mailing addresses.

All the best, Steve

Update #33 - THE LEANING GIRL STATUS UPDATE - Dec 7, 2013

Dear backers,

I have an update to share. It is one I am not particularly pleased about but it is progress nonetheless. On Tuesday I received an international express package containing the press proofs for my approval. I spent Tuesday night going through the proofs page by page to make sure everything was correct and sent the proofs back to Belgium to the production coordinator at Casterman (the publisher of the French editions and the go-between for me and the Italian printer). There was one minor error in the hardcover art boards making the ISBN number barcode smaller than it should be. That was corrected and the book is in production.

Sadly, I have been given a date of January 10th for the completion of the project. I will have all Kickstarter copies shipped over via air so I can expedite delivery and I am arranging for a Belgian agent to do the European fulfillment so that copies don't need to be imported to the US then reshipped back.

Interior Proof
Covers and board proofs

The official release date for the book in the US is February 11th in time for Valentine's Day. All my backers will have their copies in January.

I know several of you have contacted me saying you backed the project with plans to give this book as a Christmas gift. Anyone with this dilemma, would you please send me a message and I will send you a “gift” card announcing that the book was ordered for them and that it was delayed at the printer and will be shipped shortly.

Also, because I feel really bad about this, and don't want any of my backers to have to wait to read the story, I will make available a .pdf digital copy of the book to anyone who backer that requests a copy. It is a 25 MB file and I will send it via Hightail, a dropbox type online service. Send send me a message and I will send you a link.

Part of me needs to offer you my sincere apologies for the scheduling delays. I am truly sorry. This has been a learning experience and will allow me to be more deliberate in scheduling decisions on future editions. But the other part knows this is going to be a breathtaking book, is going to attract a great deal of attention, and will be worth the wait. Publishers Weekly magazine ran an article on me and Alaxis Press and a brief review of the book in November.



Thank you so much for your support and your patience. The printer is trying to trim some time off the schedule. I will keep everyone posted as I hear anything.

All the best, Steve


I have been waiting three months to announce this but could not until now. The creators of THE LEANING GIRL and the entire Obscure Cities series, Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten, have been invited to be the international guests of honor at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con this coming July.

I have had to keep this to myself since the Comic Con folks first shared with us their intentions. Both Benoît and François are very excited about this. I will be updating more as we get closer but suffice it to say, this will be an unforgettable experience for American and other fans, and… me!!!

Now, I want to wish all of the backers of THE LEANING GIRL, and all of our supporters and friends, the most joyful and memorable Christmas ever.

All the best the season offers!


Update #36 - Almost... - Jan 13, 2014

Hello backers! If all goes according to plan, the books will be shipped from the printer in Italy to Chicago this week. The transport time is about 21 days. At that point we will fill all Kickstarter backers' orders.

I want to invite all backers, especially those near Chicago, to the US release party of The Leaning Girl on Saturday, March 1, 7:00pm, at the International School of Comics. More details to follow!!!

Thanks again for supporting this very personal and amazing project!

Best, Steve

Update #37 - SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE IT! - Jan 22, 2014

Dear backers and friends,

Yesterday I got word from Belgium that the Brussels office of Casterman, the publisher I licensed THE LEANING GIRL from, had received a couple of sample copies of the book. Benoît Peeters, the author, emailed me to tell me François Schuiten (the artist) had seen the book and was very excited. This morning Benoît emailed me again from his home in Paris to tell me he has received a copy as well and that he is very pleased. A little later, I got a wonderful email from Willy Fadeur, the gentleman who officially retired from Casterman last April but who committed to stay involved to see my project through. He told me he was thrilled with the outcome and he assured me I would be too.

Needless to say, I feel like climbing out of my skin. I am dying to see the book. The January 14th ship date came and went without word, but I have now been told the books will likely be ready for pick up and shipment tomorrow.

I want to thank all of you for your patience. This labor of love has turned out to be a much more complex undertaking than I ever imagined. That being said, we are close. Once I have a firm delivery date I will inform you all. I will also be sending out the surveys next week to get your accurate addresses, and other details pertinent to your backer level.

One thing I will tell you is that I am at work translating the next book, THE THEORY OF THE GRAIN OF SAND in hopes of having it printed in time for San Diego Comic Con. I have finished translating LEANING MARY, the children's book retelling of THE LEANING GIRL. I want to share with you the cover comps for the next couple of books. The Theory of the Grain of Sand cover

Shadow of a Man cover comp

For those of you planning to attend San Diego Comic Con, Alaxis Press will be in the booth next to my longtime friend and business associate, Dave Dorman.

Please, as always, feel free to email or IM me any questions you might have.

All the best, Steve


Dear backers,

It is with a tremendous sigh of relief that I can finally announce that the books were picked up from the printer this morning and are en route to the shipyards. They set sail on February 12th aboard the New Orleans Express for Chicago, with an estimated arrival date of March 4th. Because of some administrative delays, the shipment did not get picked up in time to make the original ship last week. But you have all been so patient thus far. Please know, the book is on its' way. Below is a photo of the actual ship. See all those train car-looking containers? Well, my shipment takes up approximately 1/12 of one of those containers!


But because the anticipation is no doubt high (as it was for me), I want to also share with you that I received an advance copy of the hardcover edition and the trade edition last Thursday and I want to tell you, I am a proud papa. So last night, I shot a quick video for you. Understand, my normal special effects crew, make-up crew, lighting and sound crew, etc, were all unavailable, so instead this was shot on my iPhone. Now, be forgiving because the camera is not. They do say that a camera puts 15 pounds on you. Apparently this was shot with six cameras or iPhones have wide angle lenses!

But take a look, and thank you again so much for being supportive of this project. We are gearing up for the arrival of the books and the week they arrive we will be shipping all of the Kickstarter and pre-orders out.


Update #41 - THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!!! - Mar 10 2014

Dear friends, colleagues, and Kickstarter backers,

Well, “She's here!”Last Friday, my friend Tom and I unloaded ten pallets from a truck into his warehouse just outside of Chicago. After months of nail-biting, and after a year of work which followed nearly a year of negotiations, THE LEANING GIRL books have arrived safe and sound on American soil.

We will begin packing up and mailing out rewards immediately, but we are still waiting for the Bruno Letort CD Sampler and the T-Shirts to arrive which we anticipate happening this week. Our shipping supplies have all been ordered and it is our goal to have at least half of the rewards shipped out by Monday, March 17th and everything else shipped out during the course of that week.

Thank you all for your support and your patience. Honestly, the book is stunning and I am so proud to have been part of it.

If any of you will be attending PLA (Public Library Association's convention) in Indianapolis this week, please shoot me an email at [email protected]. I will be there Wednesday and Thursday!

For those of you in the Chicago area, please pay close attention to the next update.

All the best, Steve


For those of you living in or around the Chicago area, or those living anywhere but willing to travel to the most beautiful city in the world, PLEASE join Alaxis Press for the official THE LEANING GIRL book release party on Saturday night, March 15th, from 7pm - 10pm, at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics (International school of Comics) at 1651 W. Hubbard (at Paulina) in Chicago.

You will have an opportunity to see the new book, plus examples of François Schuiten's artwork, videos, and more. Plus you will have an opportunity to see the school itself, and meet some of the faculty and staff. Publisher and translator Stephen D. Smith and co-publisher Christine Smith will be on hand all evening. Refreshments will be served.

Books will be available for purchase throughout the evening.

If you have any questions about directions, visit the school website at, or email: [email protected]