Tag Archives: Sara Simms

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

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!


Analyzing Digital Comics Through Interviews – Part 1

Over the past weeks I’ve had the incredible opportunity to talk to multiple awesome creators about their digital comics work. We talked about their motivations, the services they used to get their books out there, the strengths and weaknesses of the medium, and so much more. Now I want to distill some of that conversation into something that we can use, something that shows how creators are using digital comics, their needs, and where the medium is going.

If you haven’t read the interviews that I’m talking about, well what are you waiting for? Be sure to check these bad boys out and head over to the creator’s sites to see what they have to offer.
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

I think it goes without saying that those people out their creating comics, they have a passion for storytelling. The creators that I talked to all had this passion, but they had different reasons for working in comics and making that jump to digital.

Some, like Michael Koch, felt that their material was unpublishable and not mainstream enough for the established publishers to pick up so they decided to tell their stories digitally. Joe White wanted to see one of his film scripts brought to life and used comics. Others, like Sara Simms, saw comics as a way to combine a variety of artistic and local influences with her professional persona and create something totally unique. Ed Dippolito wanted to tell stories, but autonomy has to be a part of the package. What’s his is his, and digital publishing allows for those sorts of affordances. Chris Charlton wanted to create a body of work for people to see, whether they be fans or potential employers, and supplement his print comics work.

A ton of different motivations right? Well how did the affordances of this particular medium help fulfill those motivations?

Strengths and Weaknesses
Each creator had their own view of the strengths and weaknesses of digital comics and I think showing these off is something that will help us understand what the medium offers, what works well, and what can be improved.

Ease of Entry: Anyone can publish a digital comic once they’ve gotten something on paper. Many of the services that help publish digital comics, Graphicly for example, only require a modest fee and your digital files. They take your work, convert them to whichever format a platform requires and they actually distribute the comic for you. Just sit back, relax, and watch as your story hits Amazon, the iBookstore, and other popular digital marketplaces. All creators are responsible for is crafting a great story.

Cost Effective: Compared to print, digital comics can be a lot cheaper to distribute. Companies like Graphicly and Aquafadas, depending on your service choice, only charge an up-front fee. Granted you get a huge chunk taken out of your profits by distributors, but that’s the same for print. No printing costs, and unless you feel like it, you don’t have to go to conventions peddling your wares. It’s probably a good idea to hit the convention circuit, it’s all about who you know, but you don’t have to.

Short Time to Market: While the act of actually writing, pencilling, inking, and coloring a comic obviously takes a crap ton of time, printing and distribution can add months to your release date. With digital comics your finished pages can go live in as short as two weeks!

Much Longer Shelf Life: Digital comics, unlike their print cousins, never have to go out of print. This means that readers who caught on to a creator’s later work won’t have to wait for a trade paper back or comb through the quarter bins at the local shop for the early stuff. It’ll be right there for them to purchase, whenever they feel like it.

Exposure: Even if you had the power to go to every single convention, you’ll never get as many eyes on your work as the internet could potentially provide. The internet grants access to markets and audiences that you never knew existed. It provides a space for to brand themselves and their work, to create a home base for fans to gather, and a offers a whole slew of different ways to communicate across industries and continents. It allows easy access for fans, fellow creators, editors, and publishers who may be interested in your material but aren’t anywhere near your geographic proximity.

Synergy: Chris mentioned that the sales of his print stuff have gone up since introducing free digital comics into the mix. There’s an opportunity there, especially with the innovations provided by print-on-demand services. Get readers hooked on the free stuff so that they’ll want to support you and pay for your other work. Comics are still “collector’s items” and until we forget what it feels like to hold a comic in our hand, forget that special smell, people will be willing to buy print work. Why not get them hooked on digital first?

Adds Legitimacy: The best thing creators can do for themselves if they want to make it in comics is, you guessed it, make comics. Once you’ve done that you’ve got a leg to stand on when you start pitching your tales to established publishers. You’re not longer Random Joe with a story about fairies, but you’re Joe Spinelli, that guy who’s done great work on that cool digital comic Fairy Fire.

The Future: In an increasingly digital world, and with the increasing ubiquity of tablets, ereaders, and smart phones, what creator wouldn’t want to ride this wave? Learning what it takes to thrive in an online environment now will prepare creators for the rapidly changing face of publishing and better situate them for this brave new world.

WHEW! Alright team, that’s it for the analysis tonight. Next post, I’ll be talking about the weaknesses of the digital comics market, so don’t think that the world of digital is totally rosy 24/7, and why our creators used the services they did. It should be a blast so stay tuned!

Talking Comics With Toronto Music Maven Sara Simms: The Future Prophecy

This past week I was lucky enough to talk to Sara Simms, a champion of Toronto’s music scene. Just recently she and her sister released The Future Prophecy, a vision of a post apocalyptic future where evil record companies harness the power of music to control the masses. So how did a DJ get into comics? Well you’ll have to read on to find out!

I Speak Comics: First off why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background, you’re a DJ right?

Sara Simms: I’ve been DJing for over ten years professionally, and have a background as a hiphop/battle DJ and turntablist. About five years ago, I was inspired to begin playing techno and edm, and decided to change my DJ alias.   Since then, I’ve played around the world, and rocked in Japan with fans.

Sara Simm’s Super Heroic Alter Ego

ISC: Tell us a little about The Future Prophecy.

SS: The Ancient Prophets of the Underground foresaw a Great War written in their Score of Infinity.  It would be the Final Chapter of Man.  They created a blank score, on which a new future could be written by The Chosen One…

The Future Prophecy takes place in Toronto, after The Last Great War.  Bogtown Records, an evil musical corporation are using negative sound waves to control the city’s population and create their mutant CACU army.  Decklyn Dubs, a technological wizard knows the time has come to find Sara Simms, the Chosen One who must pass the musical tests that lie before the fabled The Future Prophecy.

ISC: What motivated you to create a comic? How’d you get into the comic book world?

SS: When I returned home from a tour through Berlin, my sister Melle and I wanted to create a new project that combined together music, art, DJ culture, technology and an epic story.  Melle has a real passion for graphic novels, and had ideas for the main concepts in the story.  We began to write The Future Prophecy, and based our characters on DJs and musicians who we encountered in Toronto’s vibrant music scene.

ISC: Why did you choose to publish through Graphicly as opposed to other services? Why go digital instead of print?

SS: I liked the fact that Graphicly catered to independent graphic novel and comic book creators, and offers distribution to major retailers like iBookstore, and Amazon.  I also like their Zoom feature, which allows you to look at each panel of a comic individually.  We chose to publish digitally, as our world is moving towards a mobile-based society, and this has impacted the way we read and purchase literature.

ISC: In your eyes what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of digital comics?

SS: You can read them on your mobile device or tablet anywhere.  A graphic novel that is well designed looks stunning on an iPad.

Sara’s Partner in Crime – Melle

ISC: What are your plans for The Future Prophecy after Arcanum? Do you think the book will ever make it to print?

SS: We are planning a launch party for the series on Saturday December 1st at The Mod Club, which features the DJs and musicians from the graphic novel performing as their superhero and villain characters.  After ‘Arcanum’, we plan to release the second issue; and continue the story for our readers.  All of the forthcoming issues of ‘The Future Prophecy’ will be accompanied by a song composed by the story’s characters, intertwining our story with a rich musical soundtrack.

We just published a print version of ‘Arcanum’, which includes additional bonus pages, and character development sketches.  It’s available for sale here:  http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/432438/follow and will be available on our website, http://www.thefutureprophecy.com. The first issue is available for iBookstore and Amazon Kindle as a free download: http://www.thefutureprophecy.com/read/

ISC: Anything you want to say to fans?

SS: Thank you for reading and supporting The Future Prophecy.  If you enjoy the story, please keep checking back in with our website for project updates.  You can stay up to date with us by following us on Twitter and Facebook.  The journey is just beginning…

Right now The Future Prophecy is giving away cool free prizes in a Sweepstakes…prizes like a Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGo, a Play Records prize pack, Audio/Video Courses from Witz Education and tickets to our Official Launch Party. Enter to win here: http://on.fb.me/SIbv9u  Hurry, our Sweepstakes close on Nov. 27th!

If you enjoy The Future Prophecy, please share it with a friend!  Tag us on Twitter as #tfp

You can find out more about The Future Prophecy at its official website – http://www.thefutureprophecy.com – and be sure to check out Sara’s official website – http://www.sarasimms.com – for more music madness!