Analyzing Digital Comics Through Interviews – Part 2

Alright yesterday I did part one of this analysis which you can read here. It went over digital comic creator motivations, and what they believed some of the strengths of the medium are. But because we want to be fair and balanced, we’ve definitely got to talk about the weaknesses inherent in digital comics.

If you haven’t read the interviews that I’m talking about, well what are you waiting for?
Christ Charlton of Assailant Comics
Michael Koch and Dimented Realities
Ed Dippolito and Frank N. Stein
Sara Simms and The Future Prophecy
Joe White and Annie MacCool

I also interviewed Becky Jewell from Graphicly, to get the lowdown on their services and what they can offer to digital comic creators. Becky provides an awesome industry perspective and highlights publisher goals and the emerging trends in the digital books market.
Becky Jewell from Graphicly

Weaknesses
So Much Material Out There: It makes sense that, because of how easy it is to get a digital comic up, there’s tons of material out there for readers. How do creators set themselves above the rest? How do they make their comic stand out? Creators have the same problem in the print domain, but I think the issue is compounded on the Internet. It’s definitely a major hurdle out their for neophytes.

Must Learn Ins and Outs of an Entirely New Market: Do you want your comic to be successful on the web? How are you marketing yourself? Are you leveraging the right social media platforms? How does your website look? Are you responding to fan emails and blog comments? Do you have an active Twitter profile? Are you meeting new creators in digital spaces? Are you constantly networking networking networking?

Not only is the internet on 24/7, but it’s very “choose your own adventure.” There are no rules for guaranteed success, and when experience is the best teacher, you’re bound to fail quite a few times while coming to grips with this new system.

Where are the Profits? Where indeed! Unless you’re a well-known comics creators, or someone with an absolutely rabid following, it’s not likely that you’re going to be seeing a steady flow of cash from your comics. Jim Zubkavich, the big brain behind the totally fun Skullkickers from Image, wrote a great piece that breaks down the financial realities of indy print books. It should be required reading for anyone looking to get their mitts dirty with comics. He wrote another piece breaking down the fiscal madness of digital comics too, and again, it should be required reading. Jim shows wear the money goes, the percentages, the whole shebang to the best of his knowledge. You can absolutely make money off of digital comics, but again it takes work and dedication. These aren’t short term gains we’re talking here.

Digital Comics are so New: Jim talked about this in his post, but digital comics are new and there’s not a lot of data out there to analyze and figure out best practices. Companies aren’t releasing sales figures so no one really knows how well these comics are doing.

And as of yet there is no industry standard. No prescribed measurements, no interactivity requirements, no sure fire way of doing, well, anything. I think J. Michael Straczynski put it very eloquently in an interview with Previews,

“I think the digital playground is still working out its own rules for comics and the best ways in which to incorporate comics. The conceptual problem is that when a new delivery system comes up, everyone tries to shove previous content into the new venue without understanding the benefits of the new form, like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It’s not just a new distribution system, it’s a new system, and you have to adapt and create something new and suited to its rules.”

You’ve gotta carve your own path and that can be terrifying, but rewarding too.

Digital Comics Publishers
When it comes to choosing a digital comics publisher, you want to work with a company that takes advantage of all the medium’s affordances while navigating it’s weaknesses. The majority of my interviewees worked with Graphicly, and Becky actually works for Graphicly, and they all seemed pleased with the experience.

They help provide exposure by connecting books to Amazon and the iBookstore among others. They publish material quickly. From what I’ve heard, their customer support is top of the line, though the interfaces for some of their programs could use some work. They allow creators to see analytics and take direct control over their reader’s viewing experience with panel by panel transitions. I’ve never personally used Graphicly, just spoken with people who have and it seems as though they’re doing good work for the comics crowd.

That being said, are there some aspects of digital comics that are out of both creator and publisher control? Some unexpected problems that have arisen with regards to the technology, the culture, or just the way that we read comics? That’s what I’ll be addressing in my next post, complete with video! Stay tuned folks!

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