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Archive for ‘Business’


Steve on Jack

My old pal, Steve Bissette lays down the law after the recent Kirby heirs court decision.

I’m too busy with my GN to look deeply into the specifics of this case, but I did offer a brief general comment on Google+.

Jack and Roz Kirby are buried just a few miles from here. Maybe I’ll swing by this week to pay my respects.

Like so many of his generation, “the King” deserved better than he got.


Wolk at Wired and a Bad, Bad Law

The always-sensible Douglas Wolk offers a solid round-up of issues surrounding comics and tablets for Wired this week.

Long time readers may find mostly familiar ground here, but it’s good to have someone put it all into perspective once in a while.

And the illustrations are pretty great.

Meanwhile, the CBLDF alerts us to a truly awful Tennessee law worth fighting. And as always, the CBLDF could use your help.

Stop by their site for news and some great premiums and special events coming up.

[via Spurge]


Pay Attention, Comics

“But with individual titles costing between $1 and $3 for about five to 10 minutes of enjoyment, it quickly became a habit too costly to keep up.”

This article at GigaOm by Darrell Etherington points to what I’ve long thought of as the elephant in the room in all discussions of the comics industry: comics’ crappy cost-to-minute ratio.

While subscriptions might be an important part of the solution as Etherington suggests, I personally think that a 99 cents price point could be attractive for a one-off comics story. IF that comic was 50 pages long AND formatted to the screen.

Kurt Busiek has long made the argument that comic books took a wrong turn decades ago when they started cutting pages to keep the price the same. That less satisfying read plus a product not earning its shelf space for retailers, led to fewer copies sold, the loss of the economies of scale, and even higher prices in the long run; while in Japan, Manga’s cheap phone book sized anthologies were selling in the millions.

Now we actually have the opportunity, through a potentially more efficient distribution channel, to get prices down AND bulk up the page count (no printing cost for pixels!). Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

Rule #1: Is your comic a satisfying read?

Rule #2: Is the price low enough that your readers won’t mind paying it again and again?

Rule #3: See Rule #1. Repeat.


The Plot Thickens…

Okay, it’s a bit short on details, but why do I get the feeling that things are about to get very interesting out there?

Back home from our first-ever visit to New Zealand and the family (Ivy, Sky, and I, with the role of Winter being played by Sky’s friend Kendra) had a fantastic time.

Webstock was top notch. Hung out with and loved performances by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley, met great brains like David McCandless, Peter Sunde, and Tom Coates, played Werewolf for the first time (Go, Villagers!), and had lots of good food and good conversations.

Wellington is a beautiful city. We’re so adding it to The List (our friends will know what I mean).

Big shout out to the 40 or so wonderful cartoonists we met this weekend in both Wellington and Auckland. You guys rock.

And thanks of course to Dylan Horrocks, ambassador for the Kiwi comics nation, our host in Auckland with his adorable family, and one of our favorite people in all of comics.

Back to the drawing board!

[video link via @modernlovecomic]


What Year is This Again?

This video confuses me.

I mean, I like it; it’s funny, well-made, etc, etc… And I strongly endorse the basic message. I’m just not sure it fits comics in 2011 as I see them.

I complained about diversity with the best of ‘em a decade ago in RC and I think there’s plenty of room for improvement even now, but when I look at today’s comics scene, I see great progress on multiple fronts, and somehow that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the more serious rant portion (starting about 5 minutes in) of this otherwise great video.

Graphic novels, Manga, All-Ages Comics, Non-Fiction Comics, Webcomics… all of these have had some genuine success stories in the last decade. Hell, all five largely began as serious markets in the last ten years. When looking at diversity as they define it, I wonder if Eric and Co. really considered Persepolis, Fruits Basket, Bone, The 9-11 Report, or Penny Arcade?

Maybe I’m missing the point, but it seems like kind of a direct market, comics store centered complaint. A bit like saying that TV doesn’t try anything new, based on the fall schedule of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Anyway… still a great funny video, and its heart is in the right place. Do check it out.

[via pretty much everyone]

HEY! ALMOST MISSED IT: IT’S HOURLY COMICS DAY TODAY!


The REAL Future of Comics

New York based Raina Telgemeier recently blogged some adorable photos of school and library visits she did here in California on behalf of the terrific “dental drama” Smile. I defy anyone to read the post and not smile just as widely as Raina and her growing family of young readers.

Reading it drove home for me again (see previous post) what an enormous opportunity every cartoonist has to translate their own experiences and interests into comics and find or even create new readers, based on the subject of that work.

One reader emailed me from a Therapy Center simply because she’d heard there was a comic explaining Crohn’s Disease (there is; it was a 24-hour comic by Tom Humberstone who suffers from the condition). Crohn’s disease affects between 400,000 and 600,000 people in North America alone (thanks, Wikipedia). Why the Hell WASN’T there a comic about Crohn’s disease until now??

Whole markets can be created out of thin air when the right subject strikes. Gan Golan (one of my 2003 seminar students at MIT) made a name for himself collaborating on the political parody Good Night Bush in ’08. Now he’s now teamed up with several other great talents to create Unemployed Man and he’s had no trouble getting coverage on CNN and a zillion other press outlets—not because of some surge in interest in the comics artform—but because Gan and co-creator Erich Origen have zeroed in on a topic with a potential target audience in the millions.

The beauty of this kind of outreach is that it only adds to the base of comics readers, and rarely do these efforts cannibalize each other. Barry Deutsch’s fantastic orthodox Jewish adventure Hereville isn’t competing for readers with the Bertrand Russell stories in Logicomix, or with XKCD, or with Persepolis. Each one is its own little community of readers, some of whom may have never read a comic before, but ALL of whom are now one comic deeper into this medium we’d all like to see grow.

Are you a cartoonist?

Are you passonate about something? Anything?

Are there others that share your passion?

Do those “others” number in the thousands?

Tens of thousands?

Millions?


PayPal Launches Micropayments, Uses Words like “Frictionless,” Pleases Cartoonist

THIS is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.

I’ve got a graphic novel to draw, so I’ll stay on the sidelines for a while, but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, and I hope you do too.

And yes, if it flies, I’ll be gloating for a reeeally long time.


Or, As We Say in Sweden…

Got an email the other day from a consultant named Ben Sauer, wondering what I thought of Flattr. He’d even Googled “Scott McCloud Flattr” with no luck.

If he was surprised that I’ve kept my mouth shut this long, I can’t blame him. I’m a little surprised myself.

Flattr is a “social micropayment” (or, if you like, micro-donation) system that gives users the option of donating a lump sum each month that can then be proportionally distributed among content creators that the user visits.

The amount is up to the user and can be as little as a few bucks.

It’s not a bad idea on the face of it, and it’s getting a little extra attention because of the involvement of Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde.

These days, when micropayments come up, I tend to stay on the sidelines. I’m enough of a poster boy for what didn’t (couldn’t?) work in 2005, that I doubt any favorable attention from me is going to do anyone any good.

But the Pirate Bay connection is an interesting one, because it highlights the fact that what we think of as paid content markets are, on some level, becoming de facto donation communities for those of us who could get content elsewhere for nothing, but just decide not to.

“Willing sellers and willing buyers” was the phrase I kept coming back to. Even in 2005, I wasn’t interested in unbreakable paywalls or DRM, I believed that if there was a simple way for users to pay a little for the content they liked, enough people would do so to keep comics afloat without the need for coercion.

I was marked down as wrong in 2005, and there’s no guarantee that the makers of Flattr won’t suffer the same fate, but I’m glad somebody out there is still trying.

If closed systems like app stores and dedicated devices wind up putting paid content back into the driver’s seat, a lot of comics pros and the companies they work for might have reason to celebrate, but a community-based solution would make me a lot happier.

Does Flattr look like a community-based solution any of you would want to support?


“We are the People of the Book”

Here’s a good stemwinder by Cory Doctorow from earlier this year (via Dirk) on the many complex ways copyright control legislation and information access are at war.

A lot of people in comics—writers, artists, publishers—are pinning their hopes on legal protections and new walled gardens like App Stores to restore some sense of stability and control to what looks increasingly like the same leaky boat scenario that’s affecting other creative fields.

It’s important, though, to consider the many ways that the “remedy” being proposed and implemented is far worse than the “disease” of widespread sharing.

I’ve always hoped that a culture of willing buyers and willing sellers, however small, can continue to emerge alongside file-sharing. But the key word was always willing; a concept increasingly at odds with the world Cory is rightly warning us about.


The House that Patience Built

Back home from Comic-Con!

It felt like a very forward-looking Con to me, despite all the worries about impending doom in various markets.

Both Sky and Winter were among the thousand or so led by Edgar Wright out of Hall H on Thursday to see one of the first public screenings of you-know-what. Have yet to meet anyone who didn’t love it.

The four panels I was on went off without a hitch. After the fourth on Saturday, I talked for a long time to two teams of iPad comics creators about the challenges of that new platform, and was reminded of how young the mobile space still is.

Speaking of young, Ivy and I got to meet Juni Kibuishi for the first time (above—and yes, Ivy’s hair is purple again!). I watched his eyes watching everything and was reminded how unpredictable each generation of creative minds can be.

Raina Telgemeier’s terrific all-ages Smile sold out at the show. We talked at the First Second dinner about the dozen other subjects that deserved the comics treatment and what a difference Raina’s personal touch and wise storytelling choices made.

Of the hundred thousand plus who descended on San Diego last week, maybe a few hundred were aspiring young artists or writers making the journey for the first time.

It’s easy for a dedicated young artist to believe that if their work is good enough, it’ll rise and rise until they’re the ones at the Hall H microphones (or at least Ballroom 20) and it’s their characters being painted on the side of the Bayfront Hilton.

It’s also easy, after a few years of frustration, for even the best young cartoonists to believe that the system is rigged, and no matter how hard they work, there’ll be enormous obstacles put in their way that have nothing to do with the quality of their stories and art.

Both are true, of course. Good work will rise to its level AND the system is rigged. Which is why, if you want to find a common denominator among the success stories at San Diego, it’s patience.

For example, bookstore buyers don’t always understand Telgemeier’s Smile. The children’s comics market in bookstores is still immature and the obstacles for new authors are numerous and frustrating. But as soon as kids actually got their hands on the book (often through book fairs), it became a big hit. The book itself made all the difference.

One of the iPad hopefuls I talked to was Robert Berry whose Ulysses adaptation was originally rejected by Apple for nudity. It’s a smart, well-designed work that was nearly killed in the cradle, but its future actually looks pretty bright now that Apple was embarrassed into reversing their decision. Joyce’s legacy may deserve part credit for the reversal, but the quality of the work will carry it from here on.

And Scott Pilgrim for YEARS couldn’t get shelved in one of the biggest book chains in America. The “system” was truly rigged against it. Yet here we are.

Will Eisner insisted again and again that CONTENT would always drive the industry and the art form. No matter what happened at the retail, publishing, or distribution levels; it was what happened on the page and in the panels that would make all the difference.

I believe it more every year.