For those of you who tuned in for the discussion on Joey Manley and his views on webcomics getting leapfrogged by publishers on adopting key iPad app technology, Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 has weighed in on the matter herself. Her response includes observations coming from some small publishers and the folks at Comixology, who posted at Manley’s original article:
Manley gets right away that these devices are a digital newsstand bringing DC and Marvel comics to a new audience, and he thinks the publishers could be doing a better job of repackaging them, but his main point is that the big, clumsy comics companies of yesteryear are doing the best job of exploiting this new platform. Of course, that’s because they have ComiXology to do the tech work for them; DC and Marvel are really just supplying content, and in this case, it’s mostly content that has already been published in other forms.
In the comments, SLG’s Dan Vado complains that indy comics are getting swept aside:
This is pretty much dead on. Comixology has all but stopped converting SLG titles in favor of, their words, “higher volume” sellers.
UPDATE: ComXology’s David Steinberger responds to Vado and the others in the same comment thread, saying that they remain committed to indie publishers:
To be clear, we’re dedicated to the indie market, and are investing a ton of our resources to make the access to our platform more equitable. We took the opportunities that we created with this platform, and now we’re catching up to being able to continue to get great books from all publishers.
In the end, Alverson advocates a sort of “guerilla movement” of webcomic creators working in the iPad/Android environment. (I imagine the controversial Webcomic App would hopefully be the first of many salvos).
In that context, Adams’s suggestion that creators use the web as a portal to the iPad is an interesting one; the problem with having all your content come through a single corporate gateway is that it tends to be pretty bland and commercialized. I’d love to see some guerilla webcomickers create an underground indy comics scene for the iPad and Android, using ComicZeal to bypass the iTunes store. The problem is the eternal one: Money for freedom, as monetizing a PDF is a lot harder than collecting a check from Apple for your iTunes app. Still, comics people are creative people, and I’m hoping that when I finally spring for an iPad, I’ll be able to read more than repackaged Batman comics on its big, beautiful screen.
Valerie D’Orazio of Occasional Superheroine ponders the question on her blog as well, which leads to a very lively discussion in the comments section.
Chris: Seems like the same thing happened with underground Comix, back in the day. The big companies are able to work like a machine–and not only a machine, but an organic machine, sort of like the Borg, which can adapt new technologies relatively quickly to continue their domination. Webcomic artists haven’t necessarily been able to adapt to the business side of making a living off their art… some, like Erik Shoenek, weren’t even able to shoulder the demands of crafting a narrative strip day after day, week after week. The big WCs that really WORK, too, seem to have become more and more like businesses, little cottage comic industries all their own. I wonder if they’ll just become a part of the bigger comics community, with another revolution in the future?
Jamie Noguchi: Webcomics are far from dead. First Second and Tor are two great examples of dead tree publishers who are experimenting fairly successfully with web delivered comics. Kickstarter is providing new tools for webcomics to monetize. Dark Horse is still dipping their toes in the webcomics waters (go AXE COP). The fact that ComicCon has a webcomic alley is fairly significant.
There’s a lot of innovation still out there. It may be small. It may not be in the forefront. But webcomics continue to evolve.
(Full disclosure: The Webcomic Overlook blog is mentioned in both the Robot 6 and Occasional Superheroine posts.)
UNRELATED PENNY ARCADE SHOUT-OUT: I somehow missed this article earlier this week, but I just noticed that the Penny Arcade guys (including Robert Khoo) got a bit of a shout-out at Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog during the week of Comic Con. It’s short and a bit of a puff piece, but it’s still a good read:
The partners were sitting at their table on Sunday afternoon, signing autographs for a seemingly endless stream of fans. They regarded our old media press badge warily and pointed to their business manager as their speaking representative. Holkins and Krahulik prefer to deal with their art and fans, and they leave the marketing and business functions to Robert Khoo, who signed on eight years ago. It’s a harmonious relationship.
Khoo began life as a market strategist. He was also a fan of comic books, so he offered to quit his job and work for Penny Arcade gratis. He was absolutely confident that he could increase Penny Arcade’s popularity across different spectrums of readers, and he was successful. He changed the revenue model from donations to an ad-driven one and was able to land Microsoft as their first advertiser. Things started to fall into place after that he said, and for other webcomic artists as well. “We’ve helped pave the way to legitimize the medium,” said Khoo.