Digital distribution continued to make news at the San Diego Comic-con International with announcements of a new comics-specific crowdfunding venture from iVerse, a series of digital first titles from Archaia and comics e-book news from Abrams ComicsArt, Viz Media and digital vendor Comixology. In addition Vertigo announced a new Sandman series from Neil Gaiman and a panel focused on impact of the bookstore market on comics brought together an all-star panel of cartoonists, among them Alison Bechdel and Nate Powell.
Crowdfunding is all the buzz in the comics world these days and by crowdfunding we mean sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow anyone from a single artist to a major corporation to pitch funding appeals for publishing projects. Typically crowdfunding projects ask for financial support and offer incentives/premiums to the public—from a copy of the book to offering to put the donor in the book—to donate to the projects, kind of like public radio and TV. Kickstarter is easily one of the best known crowdfunding sites and its ability to generate enormous sums of money to launch all kinds of projects—books as well as virtually anything else--has opened up an entirely new channel of funding.
Digital vendor iVerse Media is launching the Comics Accelerator later this month, a comics-specific crowdfunding site that offers some distinctive differences from sites like Kickstarter. Iverse CEO Michael Murphy outlined a service that offers publisher hubs, a central location where a publisher can host multiple projects and marketing info about them; digital reward delivery, a way reward a project's donors with digital incentives (like e-comics) using iVerse's digital comics platform ComicsPlus; and Reserve Funding Option, which lets project creators use their funding before the funding of their project is complete.
Like other crowdfunding ventures Comics Accelerator takes a 5% fee of the final funding amount for its role in managing the whole process, but unlike Kickstarter the new service will cap its fee at $2,500 per project. “We think that publishers and creators should receive as much as possible if their projects hit it big,” Murphy said. Indeed projects can hit it really big and kickstarter can boast at least one graphic novel project that raised over a $1 million with many comics projects regularly raising tens of thousands of dollars. Comics Accelerator launches on July 23
Indie comics house Archaia is teaming up with Digital vendor Comixology to launch a series of digital-first graphic novels to release the books initially as chapter/e-books serials for weeks or months before releasing the works as complete hardcovers in print. Archaia has been experimenting with the process for awhile—science-fiction author John Scalzi is also trying this approach with a forthcoming novel from Tor. Archaia will release Space: 1999: Aftershock and Awe, a series of graphic novels based on a 1970s science fiction TV show about an nuclear accident that hurtles the moon out of orbit; and Mumbai Confidential, a crime thriller set in the Indian city. Beginning July 11 Archaia will begin releasing chapter/e-books from the books via Comixology—for iphone, ipad, Kindle Fire and the Web—and complete hardcover editions will go on sale by the end of the year and early 2013.
Abrams ComicsArts also announced plans for its first digital comics releases, in addition to announcing new titles including a major new artbook, Art of Will Eisner, collecting work from the legendary comics innovator, that will be written by Paul Levitz, former president and publisher of DC Comics. Abrams ComicsArts executive editor Charles Kochman also announced a new graphic novel by acclaimed comics artist Dave McKean called Caligaro, displaying only a few pages from the book (and nothing about the plot) that can best be described as hauntingly beautiful.
Viz Media also announced it has expanded its digital comics to Android smartphones.
Digital vendor Comixology has grown to be the dominant distributor/marketplace for digital comics, not only developing its own apps for buying and reading digital comics but serving as the app developer for what seems to be most of the biggest comics houses (DC and Marvel) and big independents like Image and IDW. Comixology has also developed the Guided-View technology—it allows a reader to manually or automatically read the comic panel by panel in an animated process that enlarges each panel for easy reading—initially intended to help users read comics on phones.
But the technology can also be useful for creating digital-first comics in a way that is truly ingenious, offers very cool motion effects, is easy to read and also completely divorced from how conventional print comics are made. While Comixology CEO David Steinberger has been talking up the technology as a creative tool, offering to release a version of the proprietary software for the public, he admitted at the Comixology panel that the technology ultimately requires too much technical support to be used effectively by individual artists. But Steinberger said the company continues to work on the platform and teased the panel with the claim that Comixology may have a new solution to offer to artists that want to use the technology that may be ready around the time of New York Comic-con in October.
After inking a new book deal with HarperCollins earlier in the week, Neil Gaiman was back in the news with the announcement at the Vertigo panel that he will write a new Sandman mini-series for DC’s Vertigo imprint that will be released in 2013. The Sandman series features stories about Morpheus and the Endless, a kind of immortal dream world super team that travel back and forth between the world of dreams and the waking world. The announcement was timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the bestselling Sandman series and art on the new book will be by J.H. Williams.
Also at Comic-con, Open Road announced that it will digitally publish Andy Briggs’s Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy and Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior this fall to celebrate the centenary of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s original Tarzan. The titles will go on sale on October 16. The e-books will include an illustrated biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the history of Tarzan, and are being done in cooperation with the Burroughs's estate.
And finally Tom Spurgeon—looking slim and phenomenally healthy—editor-in-chief of the Comics Reporter blog, moderated Graphic Novels: The Bookstore Crowd, a panel of comics artists discussing the impact of bookstore market on their careers. The (big) panel was comprised of Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Alison Bechdel (Are You My Mother?), Brecht Evans (The Making Of), Jennifer and Matthew Holm (Babymouse Series), Nate Powell (Any Empire) and Jason Shiga (Empire State), representing a range of genres as well as such publishers as D&Q and Random House, and the panel offered some insight into the publishing careers of a slate of much acclaimed artists. Indeed up until, say, ten or 15 years ago, most of these artists would have had to hope their books would find an audience in the comics shop market, a venue focused almost entirely on super hero comics.
The discussion ranged over topics about writing long form comics (as opposed to mini-comics and classic 24 page comic books) and finding an agent to the impact of backlist—comics publishers at one time almost never kept publications in print, even when there was demand—to the impact of their comics being in libraries (essentially considered a kind of free public bookstore) and studied in high schools and colleges like, well, books. Alison Bechdel noted that, “I was happy about it but I was worried that people were being forced to read my book,” to general laughter across the room. “But it’s working out.”