You are reading this rather than a regular broadsheet or glossy magazine. That’s good. That’s half my work done. You know print is in decline to the point of almost flat lining and according to Chris Anderson in his essay for Wired so is the world wide web. Anderson suggests that we no longer interact with the web directly instead opting for programs that sit on top of its HTML infrastructure. Closed wall applications feeding us information whether it’s from social networks, news aggregators, reference tools and now comic distribution platforms such as Comixology, Graphic.ly and the array of publisher branded apps. These mostly adhere to the top down system that Diamond has near monopolised since the late nineteen nineties. With top name publishers adopting this model it leaves very little room for more independent friendly alternatives. However, by Apple and Google giving access to their mobile development tools is it possible that creators like so many start-ups, can simply cut out the middleman and independently develop apps to distribute their work?
Warren Ellis proposes “series-specific subscriptions” that would push alerts to your device through the third party clients mentioned above. The natural evolution of such a structure is the ‘creator-specific app’ that would allow said creator to publish a project directly to the end user for an upfront fee with enough back-end infrastructure for further monetization for additional content or future publications. Maybe even, for all those bibliophiles, access to a print on demand service to order a physical copy.
While speaking to the Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast regarding downloadable content, FirstPlay’s Tim Clarke gave the example of computer game magazines. Historically gamers have paid high cover prices for exclusive content and playable demos. They are an example of a demographic predisposed to this system and the comics industry isn’t without its precursors, Absolute/Ombnibus editions, variant covers and back matter. The later of these can only be strengthened on a pay-for-content basis hopefully elevating the quality of additional material from script to panel processes to fully realised and designed reinforcements for the main story. The capabilities of digital device carrying a creator owned app may also lead to more experimentation with the form beyond digital reprints of old issues.
‘The Unwritten’ #17 by Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly’s utilises the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style of narrative where each paragraph would give the reader a choice of responses, and whichever one you took would then lead you to a page where you would face the consequences. Not something new but definitely something ambitious and an idea that could be expanded and extrapolated outwards in more malleable mediums than paper adventure games. The inherent abilities allow for a much more vertical storytelling experience rather than the linear one dictated by the confines of a monthly print run. An option that creators may wish to revisit once their main story is completed to create tangent narrative threads and to boost the re-readability of their comic. This may be in danger of losing the passive narrative where “Extraneous details are not left out but they are pushed into the background, saved for later, ranked in importance. “ (Carr cited in Wood, 1991: 165) An experience that comic books have been providing for nearly a century. Although the success of Marvel’s motion comics maybe proof that this isn’t a problem and that a level of interactivity and choice is that lucrative ingredient that will push a creator’s work from obscurity into something resembling mainstream profitability.
It is a really a contradiction and a shame this model would only really work for known 'name' creators that have an existing fan base built up over years or that single breakout crossover hit, captive audiences that will allow the creator to breath. This may fail when pitted against an on demand type system. Ironically, without employing a programmer for cold hard cash to produce a workable backend very few of these creators have the time or means to make and manage an application that would free up time in their schedule. Extending deadlines, exerting control, and stimulating ideas.
Ander, W., (2010, October). Who’s to blame? Wired, 129-131.
Ellis, W. , (2010, September 9). Idle Thoughts Instead Of A Station Ident. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=10565.
Ellis, W. , (2010, September 16). Digital Comics 2.01. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=10615.
Krotoski, A. (Host) (2010, August 31). Tech Weekly [Podcast]. What Next For Online Music?: The Guardian. Retrieved September 26, 2010, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/series/techweekly
A great start to another great column! I'm diggin' it.