In the previous post, I was using Muncie as an example of a town that ought to be able to support more comics shops than it does given that it’s a college town (Ball State). As I’m well aware because I shop there, Alter Ego Comics is in Muncie, and store owner Jason is great and will order anything you ask him to order. I recommend Jason’s store highly. But even Alter Ego (like most stores) can’t afford to stock especially wide or deep on non-Premier titles without customers asking for them in advance, not in the way a megastore in Los Angeles or New York can. That was my point, no slight to Jason intended. I’ll go back and edit “Muncie” to “Tupelo, MS” for clarity.
Some very harsh truths about comics’ current existence and its future burrowed their way into my thick head about three years ago, back when I was Editor-In-Chief of a comics publisher called BOOM! Studios. I learned a lot at that job about the current state of comics publishing–not just from BOOM! but also from comparing notes with friends-turned-bigwigs like Nick Barrucci at Dynamite Comics or Filip Sablik over at Top Cow. Here are two especially big and scary bits of math.
Got back yesterday from the 2012 Gem City Comic Con, a great Dayton-area show run by a terrific and energetic young Nate Corddry lookalike named Jesse Noble. I endorse it unreservedly. Amazing show, lots of money drummed up for the Hero Initiative, well worth the trip for me.
And only one very tense moment.
On the way out–literally, in the parking lot after the show– I was approached by a man named Dennis Barger, who manages Wonderworld Comics in Michigan. He wanted to confront me about my stance on digital and I could tell he was ready for a fight…but what could in years past have fast turned into a contentious and angry argument instead turned into an enlightening and civil conversation for us both. I don’t know how that happened, but let’s humor me and assume that I must finally be growing up. Anyway.
Dennis very patiently let me explain that, while I absolutely valueand support the comics shops across the nation that currently sell my wares, it’s not financially feasible for me to go print-first and self-publish my comics. I’ll go over the numbers in detail tomorrow, but the short version of my argument was (and is) that even if I’m able to self-publish a monthly color comic that clocks in close to what my BOOM! series IRREDEEMABLE sells–and that’s a big “if”– it’s gonna cost me almost a dollar a copy just to print the damn thing, and that’s on top of what I have to pay a good artist, colorist and letterer for their work. In a nutshell–and you’ll hear me say this a LOT in the coming weeks–I would LOVE to keep producing comics retailers can sell, but unless those projects are financed by an established company and thus not fully creator-owned, I can’t afford to. It’s simple math. Some comics writers can buck the system because they’re (deservedly) millionaires. I am not.
Dennis countered by pointing out that while he gets that and he doesn’t begrudge me launching my own original material in digital form, he worries when he sees me designing and creating digital work for Marvel. He fears that by throwing my market weight (whatever it may be) behind a digital-only Marvel project that (as he sees it) cuts the retailer out of the distribution chain, I’m helping to cannibalize the existing superhero-reader market. And I had to admit, he had a point. I said I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, but I saw and respected his point of view, and he gave me something to think about.
But the most important takeaway from our exchange was that Dennis is hosting a hospitality suite for retailers during C2E2–and when I offered to stop by for an impromptu summit or two, he generously offered to make that happen. More details to follow as we hammer them out, but I love the fact that we can have a civil dialogue about this where I can explain that it’s not digital v. print–it’s digital AND print. We’ll podcast the results provided I don’t float away face-down in a pool of blood.
Welcome to the blog relaunch. Enjoy the show.
If you’re just joining us, as many of you are, I’m Mark Waid, a very lucky writer whose 25-year career has depended exclusively on print–specifically, on comic books and graphic novels in their familiar paper format. I’ve had some very good years and a few relatively lean ones. I’ve been around long enough to see the fortunes of the medium I’ve loved since I was three years old rise and fall repeatedly, but I always assumed that print would forever be my home.
Now I’m not so sure.
Right now, even as you read this, I’m working with some incredibly talented comics craftsmen to launch a digital comics website next month. It’ll be regularly updated with all-new content covering a variety of storytelling genres. But because I’m a big believer in sharing information, I’ve decided to go public with the construction process–meaning that, effective today, I’m turning this dormant “here’s everything I know about print comics” page into a full-blown Digital Comics Process Blog.
In the weeks to come, I’ll regularly update you with Everything I Know. I’ll explain why I originally got the bug to go digital several years ago and what about it appeals to me. I’ll introduce you to some of the webcomics creators I learned (and am still learning) from. You’ll read interviews with and guest columns by other artists and writers as we talk about what works, what doesn’t, and what ought to if we could just figure out how to implement it. Most of all, with glass-house transparency, I’ll show you my first baby steps in this new medium, and I’ll happily disclose what I’ve learned (and am still learning) about how to get the best out of it.
If I do this right, we should in a very short period of time become a good, solid resource for anyone out there who wants to know how to start doing digital comics–and for anyone experienced who cares to share his or her insights. Forums are already being set up here (if they’re not already), and I welcome your comments.
Tomorrow: Epiphany 2009.
Hi. Mark Waid here. As promised if you were paying attention at WonderCon today during my spotlight panel, here’s a free PDF download of a short digital-comics story I did as proof-of-concept with the talented artist Jeremy Rock. It’s a little zombie story called “Luther”, and it’s a sample of the approach I’m taking to my long-promised–and now imminent–series of Digital Comics.
Download it for free. Open it in whatever program you use to read PDF files. A simple right-click or page-tap takes you through, screen by screen, dead simple. For best results, view it full-screen, landscape format, so each image reads as a separate “page.” And enjoy. Free from Jeremy and me to you.
If you like it, we could use your assistance. Send the link to your friends. In fact, I encourage you to share “Luther” with as many people as you like. Help us spread the word. Help us show off what we think Digital Comics can be. Help point the audience here. It’d be much appreciated.
Then come back here April 2 to see what else I have in mind for the future of webcomics and find out how you can participate.
This is big.