Friday, March 23, 2007

You can help improve comics and get something free at the same time

-More on downloading comics: Yesterday I suggested that future superhero comics might read like fan fiction--uh, even more like fan fiction--if downloading becomes the main way comics are distributed. But discussion in the comments field has made me think this might not be such a bad thing.

So here's my new stance: downloading of comics is potentially a very good thing. Right now the intellectual property-dependent comics we read are filtered through a 16 year old boy mentality. But if Marvel/DC/Disney/whatever are no longer able to control such things, we might finally get some worthwhile comics. We just need creative types willing to work for free in order to support it. The next Michael Kupperman is out there, ready to write a dialogue-heavy Daredevil. Tony Millionaire (or his spiritual descendant) could finally do all the Batman stories he's always wanted. Peter Bagge's Spider-Man (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) might finally see the light of day, for Christ's sake. If none of that entices you, how about Alan Moore writing Dr. Strange? All we need is for these creators to abandon all hope of actually being paid.

Here's a bold thought: illegally downloading Marvel and DC comics might actually help speed this along. The corporate powers-that-be already view these publishers as IP laboratories, where creative technicians experiment with new ideas for movies, TV, and various merchandise. If downloading comics makes these publishing laboratories unprofitable, the higher-ups will simply eliminate them. And in their place will spring hundreds of unofficial, fan-produced comics. If one of these creators is especially good, Time-Warner or Marvel Characters might actually sign them to contracts to keep them working on material that might bear fruit in other media. The intellectual properties won't suffer from image abuse due to the overwhelming number of such projects; the signal-to-noise ratio will be too low for anyone to notice.

So there you go: if you truly love comics, you'll quit paying for them. Only then will we get the (superhero) comics we really deserve.

-I can't help that notice that ever since he's been back, Scipio of the Asorbascon (NIM) has been sticking to mostly non-controversial type stuff. I thought that in his premature farewell address he scolded those who wanted him to concentrate on this type of content. I want to see some of his fire breathing antics when they happen, rather than having them pointed out to me months after the fact. The current stuff is just boring; rectify this situation at once, Scipio.

-I'm shocked that no one noticed that I misspelled "pomegranate" in the original title to my now infamous 70s comics post. Look at the URL.

-On the same subject, tmurray (who apparently created an account on the TCJ message board for the sole purpose of discussing this subject, given that he only has one post so far) is the only person I've seen so far who seems to understand what I was trying to say:

Wow. This is a purely academic argument, isn't it? Comic book history seems to (loosely) run in cycles, and I really think the people suggesting that decade is all "-pre and -post" are just describing one phase of a repeating cycle that happens to coincide most neatly with the 70's. This was mostly a "down" cycle in American superhero comics: the phase of shrinkage and developing experimentation, which ends with some kind of consolidation of the experiments (of which we seem to have a facination with arbitrarily picking something specific to represent, like Action#1, FF#1, the Death of Pheonix, etc) which leads into the next expansion and exploitation phase like we were in in the 60's and mid 80's, and like we're in now. Anyway, these designations are arbitrary and the lack of a 70's "identity" to comics is really a goofy thing to fret about. Reality doesn't compartmentalize that easy.

I've never bought that history is cyclical--I'm closer to being a One Damned Thing After Another type, frankly. But this is a totally valid criticism. In my defense, I was responding to Greg Burgas' original post about 70s comics; I agree that breaking down comics (or anything else, really) by decade isn't the most effective compartmentalization. Having said that, the 70s, at least for mainstream comics, definitely seem distinct from the 60s and 80s. If I were willing to subject you to some ponderous academic musings, I might suggest a long 1970s (beginning when Green Arrow became a righteous dude in the pages of Justice League or possibly ending with maybe Contest of Champions). Or a short 1970s (beginning with Tomb of Dracula, or ending with Giant Sized X-Men #1). Underground Comix also suggest alternate start/stop dates for the 70s, like "Joe Blow," Arcade #1, or even Cerebrus #1. But yes, history is not dictated by our system of numbering years.


Anyway, tmurray, whoever you are, thank you for making an effort to engage my original point on its own merits, even if you disagree with me for some unfathomable reason.

-Grame McMillan wonders about the lack of outrage from the latest New Avengers solicitation. Part of it might be because Newsarama didn't publicize the full solicits like they usually do. For those of you unfamiliar with how they normally do this, Newsarama typically features a few select solicits the weekend before the release of a new Previews. Then, at the beginning of the week, they post the full solicitations at the same URL, and move the story to the top of the page with a title like "MMMMMMARVEL FFFUUUULL SOLICITATIOOONNNSSSS FOR JUUUUUNNNNNNEEE!!!!!" (Imagine that read in a Bruce/Michael Buffer voice.) This month the solicits were not moved up to the top of the page (or if they were, I didn't notice it).

Of course, I guess some bloggers get their info from CBR or even Previews itself. If so, I see a few possible conclusions: (1) We really are immune to Marvel hype, either because it's (a) like a grating noise which has become familiar and unremarkable over time, or (b) we're still numb from Civil War, Infinite Crisis, House of M, etc. (2) Bloggers who talk about solicitations in microscopic detail tend to get their info from Newsarama. (3) Someone out there is complaining about this and McMillan hasn't noticed it yet. Overall, it seems like there's a bit less solicitation hype than last time. Maybe the convention season alters the properties of hype, meaning that solicitation hype is an off-season phenomenon. I'll try to keep an eye on this development.

19 comments:

Spencer Carnage said...

Your theory on downloading comics and etc: bollocks. The inevitable dwindling of the Marvel and DC's comic lines will only result in less Spiderman, X-men and Avenger books and probably kill off cult titles such as She-Hulk, Manhunter and whatever other titles that sell poorly but are critically acclaimed. As for fan generated content, I doubt any creator that is half-way decent is willing to waste their time on doing revenue-less Spider-man story when the opportunities to make money off of their own creations are so plentiful these days.

And the solitications debuted at the top of the page. I think the lack of outrage comes from the lack of a Fanboy Rampage. There is no discernible gathering place for us to get together and snark.

Dick Hyacinth said...

Spoken like someone who's sleeping through the 21st century. Hey Rip Van Winkle, this shit's going down whether you like it or not. If Dan Slott and whoever it is that writes Manhunter are really dedicated to the characters, they can still produce this work under my plan. Under the status quo, it's up to Levitz/Didio/Buckley/Quesada. You need to jack into the now, dude. I'm sure Warren Ellis would agree, assuming he's not too busy posting photos of intentional genitalia trauma (is that true, BTW?).

Also: "bollocks?" Are you British now?

James Meeley said...

We just need creative types willing to work for free in order to support it.

Actually, Dick, this point you make right here is why your theory will never happen.

See, something Ron Marz once told mepretty much flies in the face of this. He said: "As a creator, when you are looking for exposure, you'd be willing to work for free just to get it. Once you have it, though, you won't do a damn thing without getting paid for it."

That's pretty much the gospel truth of things, Dick. As long as the creator in question felt they had no marketability, they'd gladly do their version of Spider-Man, or whatever, for free. Once they saw they had a following and a chance to cahs-in, you could kiss all that good-bye. Which basically means, that even if your theory did happen, we wouldn't be getting the best superhero comics we want. We'd be getting fan-fiction try-outs of them, that were of a quality less than what we probably get now. And the minute they accomplished something more than that, said creator would be off to cash-in on their skills. We'd lose it from the free stuff, because, as much as we like to believe otherwise, people are just not alturistic enough to do for free, what they know they can get paid for.

I have no doubt that Dan Slott and many other writers are dedicated to the characters they write, but getting paid is, sadly, a good part (if not the main one) of why they are. If you take that away, you take away a lot of reasons for creators to care.

Until the need to make money to survive in the world is done away with, don't expect "creation for creation's sake" to be the main thrust for any creator worth their salt. It's an easy thing to claim to support, when you don't have anything to lose by not supporting it. That's why fans will always "care" more this way.

Spencer Carnage said...

Spoken like someone who's sleeping through the 21st century. Hey Rip Van Winkle, this shit's going down whether you like it or not.

Wake me up when all the really good indie creators start working on JSA for free!

If Dan Slott and whoever it is that writes Manhunter are really dedicated to the characters, they can still produce this work under my plan.

They can and probably will do just that, but not so they can write about Batman and Spider-man without getting paid. Any and all efforts to do so will be towards getting themselves into a position where they get paid to do it.

Fan generated content will never be able to compete with whatever Marvel or DC are putting out because there's no money in working for free. Especially on someone else's character. I would love to see of the potential comics you propose, but I am not stupid enough to believe that is going to become some kind of norm that will kill Marvel comics.

Loss of revenue from illegally downloaded comics that people don't like enough to spend money on(Civil War, anyone?) but will download for free just so they can know what happens to their favorite wallcrawler/detective/man of steel/earth's mightiest heroes? That's a problem.

Your misguided optimism for a super hero book created by a Fantagraphic's Alumni? THAT is fan fiction right there.

You need to jack into the now, dude. I'm sure Warren Ellis would agree, assuming he's not too busy posting photos of intentional genitalia trauma (is that true, BTW?).

Hey, look at that. All it takes for you to show some teeth is me being someone who ISN'T gonna hook you up over at Comics Should Be Good. Needs a little work, but you're on the right track.

MC Hugh said...

Isn't there a huge market in Japan for this sort of 'fan-fiction'? Like entire conventions where fans and semi-pros meet up to swap bootleg punk rock versions of the mainstream hits?

Dick Hyacinth said...

You need to read the comments to yesterday's post, Mr. Carnage. It will all make more sense then (or maybe not, who am I to say?). As it stands, I'm a little unclear on why you think this is a personal attack. Unless those are your genitals in the (possibly apocryphal) photos that the anonymous commenter mentioned yesterday. I mean, if that's the case, then more power to you, I guess.

I can't believe you guys are wanting me defend my incredible plan. I mean, if you're satisfied with Ron Marz and Geoff Johns, then I'm sorry that you won't be able to read the incredible, groundbreaking work they would surely produce if not for illegal downloading. As I see it, the blame lies with their (theoretical) unwillingness to work for free. However, I'm sure that the future Seths and Joe Saccos of the world will sacrifice proper nutrition and reasonable shelter just so they provide us with new tales of Kyle Rayner and the Kingdom Come Starman. I, for one, can't wait.

Todd C. Murry said...

It's tmurry (no a) thank you very much. And as long as I'm correcting you, I think it's Bagge's Hulk that hasn't been released, not the Spider-Man. Interestingly I agreed with alot of your post, and I was mostly responding to the TCJ board responses, and the responses elsewhere (like the Beat) in which people were (weird as it sounds) defending the 70's like the decade had some kind of definative existance like your grandmother or a piece of toast (hm, that reminds me, I'm hungry). It was all just to concrete to me.

Despite what I said (I reserve the right to be inconsistent) I don't really believe in the cyclic thin either, at least in a predicatable fashion, but there have been some critical masses thet came up, broke through, and saw the next X number of years being exploited into the dust. Years beginning with 197 (oddly, the years of the exploitation movie) just seemed to lack a predominant big exploited movement (some littler ones with horror and kung-fu and whatnot).

Bottom line - I was just reacting to inappropriately applied concrete thinking. And yeah, just one post there... I don't read the boards regulary, but I always read Journalista, and everyone has to have a first post, right? BTW - I love the blog - best new one in some time. Keep it up!

jlg said...

mc hugh: There is, and that's what I was thinking with dick's post. Doujinshi and the cons that sell them let fans, amateurs, and pros to publish stuff outside the regular industry. I know established creators like Yoshitoshi ABe and Ken Akamatsu still publish stuff for the doujinshi market, and there are stories about how artists are discovered at these conventions.

And there is fan fiction made, although the snag is there is a lot that's porn...

Hugh Stewart said...

Incidentally, isn't this 'punk rock comics ethos', comics for comics' sake the driving force behind most webcomics being put out today? There are probably what, a dozen webcomics artists actually making a living off of their sites?

Maybe I'm severely under-judging how profitable webcomics are, but it seems like something that's mostly done for fun and art or because you want to make terrible jokes about video games.

Dick Hyacinth said...

Mr. Murry, I've got to include you as one of Dick's History Buddies. Thanks for your kind words.

James Meeley said...

As I see it, the blame lies with their (theoretical) unwillingness to work for free.

As I said, Dick, until you can find the way to circumvent the need for money to take care of a human's needs (i.e eating, shelter, clothing, medical, providing for their family, ect.) don't expect that "unwillingness" to change.

Art and creativity are great, but the HUMAN equasion and its needs will trump those every time.

I can't believe you guys are wanting me defend my incredible plan.

I can only speak for me, but that's not what I want.

Your theory is all well and good, Dick. It's a nice DREAM. But there are realities to this world we live in that make it unworkable at this time.

There may truly be "starving artists" in the world, but that's usually not from thier willingness to be in that situation. And it seems more than just a bit naive to expect all creators to willing accept that station. At least, it is in the world we (and they) have to live in today.

Or, to put it another way for you: We're in the 21st century, huh? Well, meet the NEW century, same as the OLD one.

Don't give up the dream. But don't expect some radical shift to it becoming reality any time soon, either.

James Meeley said...

Incidentally, isn't this 'punk rock comics ethos', comics for comics' sake the driving force behind most webcomics being put out today? There are probably what, a dozen webcomics artists actually making a living off of their sites?

Yes, and when one of those becomes even mildly successful, you suddenly see them having thier webcomic published into trade collection and all kinds of other licensing is done, to cash-in from the webcomic's success.

It just further proves my (and Ron Marz's) point: You only do it for free, until you or the property becomes something marketable. Then, it is all about the payday.

There's nothing wrong with that, though. It's the basic foundation of the American Dream. And I certainly can't fault someone for cashing in on their ideas and talent.

jlg said...

On the other hand, though, a creator wouldn't have to worry about a character or characters to become "something marketable." All the obscure or killed off characters fans demand to see? New characters not succeeding? Wouldn't be a problem, as fans or creators could just whip up something and not worry about sales, or characters being pushed out by stale icons and derivatives.

Joe said...

Whoa, did Spencer totally take this at face value? Even I thought he was smarter than that.

Anonymous said...

You create a list in which you claim that every decade has an identity except the 1970s, then when others provide arguments and evidence that the 1970s are as distinctive as any other decade, you suddenly side with those who say that "breaking down comics (or anything else, really) by decade isn't the most effective compartmentalization." But then you immediately contradict yourself, claiming that the "70s, at least for mainstream comics, definitely seem distinct from the 60s and 80s." Be nice if you'd make up your mind...

Spencer Carnage said...

Joe,

The only part I didn't take at face value was the part about the established creators wanting to put out their own versions of established characters simply because the mentioned creators would never do anything of the sort. The whole thing itself seemed a little wonky, but when Dick followed up with "Wake up, Rip Van Winkle!" and "Jack into the now!" with a sense of vitrol, so I assumed he was serious.

And Dick, apparently I miss read your remark about genital trauma. The whole "is that true BTW?" came off as some slight, indicating that I was the one suffering from such affliction. (Don't worry, I don't.) Then again, I was a bit snippy myself so I apologize.

I just think that if fan versions of established characters really hurt sales drastically, the Big Two would just pay the people making those fan versions to work on the real ones. However, people who love spider-man would be stoked on the potentially much better fan version, yet they would still buy the comic.

Simply put, let's agree to disagree.

Matt Brady said...

I was going to try to explain the "joke" here, but I figure I'll just enjoy it and watch any continued developments. Of course, I could be wrong and Dick is serious. Then the joke would be on me...

And Spencer, Dick might have been a bit snarky, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't implicating you in any genital trauma. He was just curious if Warren Ellis was really posting gross photos as reported.

Hermes Downtown said...
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