23 March, 2009

Spiderman Must Die! (part 2)

(Read part one of this article here.)

I recently discovered Graphic Smash and Komikwerks, two subscription-based webcomics publishers. While webcomics sites like Comic Genesis or Webcomics Nation are swamped with poor quality work, these sites retain the editorial sensibilities of traditional publishers (in terms of quality control).

While some individuals will make go of it alone, this seems like the future for the majority of comics creators. It is interesting to note that Marvel has concluded Spider-Girl in print and is to re-launch it, next month, as a digital-only title.

I don’t think printed comics will ever wholly go, but given the ragged state of publishing in general at the moment - and with comics and graphic novels suffering falling sales - the industry must make some tough decisions to reinvigorate comics and prevent the medium from falling into obscurity.

As per part one of this article, OK Erok! proposes four ways to revitalise the comics publishing industry:
  1. Kill ongoing/endless titles:
    Ongoing/endless titles, with their increasingly baroque continuities, alienate casual readers and stifle the creativity of writers. Finite/limited titles energise writers and offer more 'hooks' for the reader. Make them the cornerstone of the industry.

  2. Release/relax copyright on existing characters:
    Encourage the current generation of comics fans and creators to offer their own takes on classic characters.

    In Japan, a dojinshi culture of amateur/unsigned creators, making professional-quality bootlegs of popular manga, is seen as a benefit rather than a threat to publishers. It's only a step forward from the comics industry's policy of harvesting talent from successive generations of comic readers.

  3. Crowd-source comics:
    Without getting into the debate about whether or not crowd-sourcing is evil - the equivalent of making every worker a scab etc - it may also be a fact of economic life, especially in the 'creative industries'. Zuda is an early adopter of this approach.

    "...comic book culture has a higher percentage of productive fans than other groups. Even more significant, the productive fan of comic books can actually get a job writing, drawing, or somehow being involved in making the official adventures of his or her favorite character. Fans of Star Wars don't really ever get this chance." - Matthew Pustz
    This is the great, untapped strength of comics culture. Acknowledge the fact that comics fans are some of the most creative fans and build it into the system.

  4. Anthologise monthly comics:
    DC has recently acknowledged the need to provide more content for their expensive products, by lowering their price and adding back-up features to their titles. Despite the failure of CrossGen Comics, which pioneered monthly anthology comics, the monthly book is a relic of another time and needs to be retired.

  5. Decentralise publishing:
    The advantage big publishers have over indie producers is their ability to market and get exposure for their products. Change focus, from doing everything - outsource some of the creative work (as above) - to bringing comics to readers.