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Last night – technically, this morning, around 4am – I finally put my end of the sprawling Marvel Anime project to bed. All four series are now in the hands of other people, to rewrite and expand and animate.

At the same time, a new thing with someone else reared its head, which we’re referring to as Project Blacklight. This is a weird one, not least because we’re going out looking for funding for it first. Once everyone’s up on deck, it’s going to be a short (if intense) job of work, and quite unlike anything I’ve done before. In fact, there hasn’t been much that’s like Project Blacklight. Dunno how much the tools we’re evolving for it will be replicable, so I’m not going to call it "ground-breaking" or anything. But it’s different, and very much of the moment.

As I think I mentioned before, I’ve broken dirt on Novel 2a (the originally intended Novel 2 having been lost in comedy computer death as described briefly here), and will be spending a chunk of the next two weeks working that up to a big chunk of ten or fifteen thousand words to show my publisher that I’m not crazy.

Peering at the reception of the iPad has been interesting. Seeing Xeni do screenshots of IRON MAN: EXTREMIS on the iPad. Seeing Cory excoriate the iPad experience as (among other things) deleting the social element of comics.

I wrote a book about comics called COME IN ALONE, and I entitled it that because (I like the song) I think comics are essentially a solitary experience, and with the continuing reduction in the number of comics stores they become even more a solitary experience. While I get that (say) Marvel comics on the iPad are locked and unshareable and that that isn’t ideal… I think that iPad comics have to be seen as an additional, rather than as a replacement distribution channel. No-one’s going to take your shareable trade paperbacks away from you. No-one’s going to stop you going into your local store and talking to people. But the iPad will reach places that comics shops can’t go. Where comics shops don’t exist. There are not enough comics shops left to service North America, really. I know people who live in big towns there who remain hundreds of miles away from the nearest comics shop. It’s speculated that anything up to three million iPads might be in circulation by the end of this year. Some of those will reach the places unserved by comics stores, reach the hands of people who like comics but can’t sample singles and don’t always feel like gambling ten or twenty dollars on a trade paperback from Amazon.

(Also, indie comics creators will have an additional distrib stream which might help them bypass the hundreds of comics stores who refuse to order their work and get into the hands of the people who want to read them. But that’s a whole other discussion, with its own problems and hurdles. It also ties into supporting experimentation at commercial publishers, which is, again, a whole other discussion.)

(Not that I’m particularly disagreeing with Cory, not at the point anyway. But I think there are more sides to be seen, that are of equal importance.)

And if and when that three million approaches thirty million — or, a little over half of some projections of what the iPhone might sell this year alone — well, that gets kind of interesting, doesn’t it?

You know, if Marvel sold, say, 4000 apps for iPad? That would equal if not overtake the number of physical locations that sell physical Marvel comics.

Published in comics talk daybook


  1. bob bob

    The kind of places where people can’t get to a comics shop are already well served by torrents. If only the iPad could end the recession. Nothing is going to significantly change in digital distribution because of one device. The vast majority of people still won’t pay for any thing in electronic form. As far as the iPad goes if you’re an indie creator you had better hope Apple likes your work other wise it isn’t going anywhere near their new revenue stream.

  2. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    “The vast majority of people still won’t pay for any thing in electronic form.”

    Reality simply does not bear you out there. If you were right, then, as just one example, iTunes would have shut down years ago.

  3. Tate Tate

    Cory’s arguments aren’t without some merit, but frankly, if he doesn’t like the specs of the iPad or how he can’t tinker with it he doesn’t have to buy it. Resisting a new way for people to read comics, just because it doesn’t match your childhood experience, is as shortsighted as the RIAA resisting mp3s.

  4. Twitch Ramirez Twitch Ramirez

    I never realized how lucky I was. I live less than a mile from my comic shop of choice and there are several comic stores here in town. I have 3 within just a few miles.
    Life is good, here in the desert so. west.

  5. Marvel are giving the app away for free, along with a decent amount of content (and it’s available now from the iTunes store if you go via your iPhone). As I understand it, the same app will work on the iPhone and the iPad.

    It’s really interesting that Apple chose to give it away free with those first iPads – in the same way that’s interesting the comixology app was highlighted in apple’s recent UK TV advertising.

    I’m hoping Comixology open up their format and allow sideways loading of comic book content – Marvel will never do it, but it’d give content that apple won’t approve a fighting chance to get on there.


  6. And then there are people like me, who want to read some comics again but absolutely refuse to step foot into those fucking places, period.

    And for the guy who said people won’t pay: I’ll pay. Who wants to dick around with torrents and CBZ or wtf they are files? I just want to bloody read, not waste my life hunting down shit that might have embedded trojans or viruses.

    If Doctorow had written what he did about the *iPod*, people would have questioned his sanity. Yet, you can’t create on *that* thing. You can’t share on *that* thing. And guess what? It was the same damn way with *radio* and *TV*. Those closed systems never stopped people from wanting to create for them. Nor did the lack of printing presses ever stop people from doing fanzines (as I did in my time). The determined ones will *always* find a way. Those who “wish” they could do it are always just that: wishers, not doers.

    If Doctorow wanted to be useful, he should have done a post like this one:

    That’s something that’s going to bite them all back.

  7. tobot tobot

    i think people will still steal comics digitally but will also still buy them physically. paying nearly the same price for something i will never be able to hold or properly own still does not scan for me.

    in fact i can see the future model being something like this, you pay a slightly higher price for one ‘prog’ (old 2000ad reader here) and you get a digital copy AND a physical copy, the digital copy being released to you as the physical print run starts, so you get to read it earlier and you also get a copy to bag and board :-)

    this will possibly also have knock on effect for future collectors as in years to come there will be many more mint condition never read copies. although i know many collectors buy one for reading and one for bag and board.

    any thoughts on this?

  8. So, who stays old school and who leaps into the new (electronic) age? We’re cross-generational in both paper and e-world. It’s about who you hang with. What you do, how much info you take in. What you are comfortable with. Stimulants required to make you act. How much each person’s life is being infused and inducted into interactive technology. Exposure.

    Even if it wasn’t the idea that you can get to places where comic book stores dwell not, (which is valid), it’s also that you can provide an opportunity for those people who would dwell not in comic book stores-dont even really know about their existence until they “come across something on the web” …then get absorbed, get hooked, and eventually long for something to hold in their hands when the device needs charging.

    Even if they passed the c-books, or anime, or whatever it may be, a thousand times in the giant bookstores. Even if they lived three blocks away from a hardcore comic book store for the past five years~and just never “saw” it.

    I’ve been watching my fellow wo/man lately-we come in all shapes and sizes, we can be 14 or 40 and we love what we love. Categories and demographics are tougher to define, the culture shifts and swirls and blends. The world is accessible, things are accessible-you just have to know it’s there.

    If Marvel proclaims there’s an app for that, and touts it in all the right places, and all the right ways, there could be an increase in both paper and electronics. Instant gratification works both ways. The hardcore fans will be there, the new recruits will be intrigued.

    I wonder how many people read Freak Angels religiously? And, were they Warren Ellis followers or graphic novel fans before, or were they just looking for something good to read and found it..or were led to it?

  9. Adrian Forest Adrian Forest

    Me, I’ll be torrenting comics and reading them on one of the many iPad apps available for the purpose. I don’t need an official Marvel comics app to read Marvel comics. I can get them for free.

    Finding a way to derive revenue from content is not my problem. That is a problem for publishers. Selling overpriced content in new formats is probably not the way to solve that problem. If I were to approach the problem, I’d start by abandoning a model that relies on having exclusive control over access to the content. Since, y’know, that exclusive control hasn’t been possible for many years now.

  10. Adrian Forest Adrian Forest

    Oh, also, I’ll be sharing all the comics I download, both with friends and with total strangers via BitTorrent. Cory Doctorow can suck my torrent tracker.

  11. The iPad brings with it all kinds of threats, most of which get obliterated in the ridiculous feeding-frenzy of over-excitement the thoroughly owned media indulge in, but remember THERE ARE OTHER BRANDS AVAILABLE – a lot of which have better hardware, a smaller price tag, reward the developers better and are open source.

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