Talking Digital Comics with Dimented Realities’ Michael Koch

Michael Koch, creator of Dimented Realities, took some time out of his undoubtedly busy day to answer some of my questions about his work in digital comics. Obviously head over to his site and check out his work, which you can purchase through Graphicly, as well as through the iTunes Store, for your Kindle, and so many other handy digital devices.

I Speak Comics: What inspired you to start publishing your own comics?

Michael Koch: Thought my comics were different and would have real difficulty getting in with a publisher based on past experience. They are neither hipster or superhero-ish so there is no clear cut market for publishers to get their head around. And not all people like my style or sense of humor…. Instead of altering my approach for some kind of shot at being published, I took the opportunity I saw with Graphicly to self publish and keep my vision intact. It also helps that I work as designer by day.

ISC: Which digital comics service(s) do you use? Why?

MK: Graphicly. It was all set up in a way I understood  to help  get me started. And on Apple & Kindle, the main markets for self published digital comics, getting on those 2 stores is pretty streamlined with them. Would love to be on Comixology since the great design of that app helped propel digital comics much in the same way iTunes did music.

ISC: What appeals to you about the digital comic medium?

MK: Freedom & quality of imagery. Also that it doesn’t have the burden of making it in a store one month in print form or figuring out websites. The ability to self-publish in color is something that isn’t common in print form for independents due to the costs. remember there’s a lot of black and white and two-color books out there. And not all by choice. Besides colors looks great in digital. Like many, I see Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in a new light because of digital. Back when i was a kid, that stuff looked very washed out and antiquey due to faded colors & printing. Now one realize how badass these guys were now that the color and inking sharp .

ISC: Do you see digital comics as a career or a hobby?

MK: A good career, 6 months out of the year and live anywhere in the world if I can get paid for it. I have other interests too- fine art painting, design, some business. Not paid for it yet but working towards that goal.

ISC: In your opinion, does the digital comics medium offer financial security? Might it in the future?

MK: Depends on the public. Even big names in the big two or Image would be reluctant to jump in digital comics all way. Its what you make of it and for the public that buys comics to give the best stuff in digital a chance, that’ll take at least a few years. Also comic news are pretty focused on DC, Marvel & Image and maybe a few hits from Valiant. They could make a difference or put that kind of exposure on non high profile stuff isn’t in their DNA yet. Marvel, DC and the like get a lot of free and adoring press. It just smothers everything else being done out there to compete and have any kind of chance.

ISC: Why not web comics? And if you have done web comics, what is the difference between the two?

MK: I have done web comics since 1997, comics since 1991.  I switched to eBooks because the tech was there and I had no success with the web. I was also very impressed with what I saw on Comixology.  I’m social media shy and my comic is not an easy sell or a really marketable concept. Also a comic is truly finished when you publish it in an ebook. On the web, how you show it and trying to monetize it is an ongoing tortuous technical puzzle that never ends. I don’t see it going anywhere far besides as promotion and blogging. I know. I’ve tried and failed over and over. I’ve been trying to show the same comics on the web over a span of years and it became anti-productive to my process. I am thankful in a way because my efforts to show comics on the web helped get me started in my design career. It’s how I make a living now

ISC: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of digital comics/the digital service you use?

MK: Strengths:

Anybody can do it if they get their act together but its serious work.. Also, another thing that  never gets mentioned, digital comics are a great house for IP of your ideas in a legit, legal way with an ISBN and everything. Having an idea on a website doesn’t mean its published, an ebook means it is. I learned that dealing with the copyright office. A main attraction for me.

Instant data and longer shelf life for comics like mine. But if tech is not good, you’re stuck. Right now for me,  the jury is still out on Graphicly but they have a super nice staff and helpful tech support there. Also if the medium levels out the playing field one day, the best quality books may win and be technically on par with the ones that have the biggest backers.

Cons

This move towards promoting on social media is more of a reflex of the times and works in spades for some. But I still think you have to learn to advertise and be steady if you are going to stay around. It’s own tortuous project. Its like what happened to independent film, cheaper and easier to make but you’re just lost in the mountain of stuff competing against each other for some attention, the little 1% left over from the big guys who can easily cross promote on their hits but have more overhead and pressures to succeed. You can make a movie on an iphone these days but the independent film movement looks pretty much dead now as opposed to when it was harder to make a film in the 90s. Too much stuff too sort out and distribution is now the expensive part. Best option these days for independents seems like making something wacky or viral on YouTube now to get views.

One easy question to put it in all in perspective, do you or anybody you know ever watch the Sundance Channel? Might be the same for self published comics.

ISC: Have you ever published print comics? If so why did you make a move to digital?

MK: No, I would like to have something in print but digital works for me just fine now. Digital was my only gateway into the medium and being as legit as possible on a small budget. Beside that, the biggest reason I published my two comic books is that these were a collection of stories and characters that I shaped over 20 years that I was proud of. ( little older than you bro)   I’ve had most of them published on the web for about 15 of those years at dimented.com, later dimentedrealities.com . Kind of unrecognized and unprotected as I struggled to make my web comics work website-wise in whatever free time I had. And  trying to be a fine artist as well while doing it.

But for me, there was one  2-page story I had out there for a long time on the web called  “The Street Gangs of Malibu” made in 1995, then I heard about  this movie “Malibu’s Most Wanted”…made in 2003 and a few alarm bells went off. Also I made a character “1978 Man” in 1994 and Austin Powers came out in 97-ish. Not accusing them of anything and I know the movies are different, easy for a few people to be on same track with ideas. But still, I was a bit concerned if that if it wasn’t the case in other scenarios, I would feel screwed and helpless.  I wanted all this work I did over the years to be protected and legit somewhere. Found out the web wasn’t that somewhere…..

Spoofs and satires are fine but I have original characters too and they could easily be mined in a web search. No character is popular yet but I think a few have some real potential. When ebooks, the iPad and  Apple as an ecosytem came along for real, the math was easy even though the effort was hard. In a nutshell,  I’m am so glad I’m not sweating it on the web anymore….Digital comics are superb that way.

Michael Koch created Dimented Realities in 1991 to express his writing and storytelling through comics. He is a classically trained painter, artist and self taught cartoonist. He is also a graphic and web designer. Michael lives and works in New York City.

You can check out his online portfolio, which features his graphic and web design work as well as some of the cartooning to be found in Dimented Realities, at KochGraphics.comHe’s done some fun Batman stuff too. He also has some beautiful paintings for viewing and sale at Kochart.com and every week he features, critiques, and comments on art from a variety of mediums at ArtxArt.

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