Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Comics, Digital Revolutions and the Future
I would like to address the statement "Kinda long for a comic". I have heard this from more than one person who has read the script. It struck me as odd, like saying "Kinda long for a novel" or "kinda long for a movie". Just because Marvel & DC feel that a comic should be 20 to 22 pages these days doesn't mean all comics have to be. Do they?
I think not.
If nothing else, the digital comic self-publishing avenue allows us to tell comic stories as long as we want. It isn't a TV show in the end, where we have to have X amount of minutes per half-hour set aside for commercial breaks and the show has to end on either the top or the bottom of the hour.
This is now a freer medium, due to the print impositions being lifted. Much like in the roleplaying game world, the self-publishing revolution has lead to some brilliant pieces of work (and yes some turkeys) so to can that happen for digital comic books.
For that to happen though I think two very important things need to occur, first being that we need artists to start coming to sensible rates for their work (some do, but far too many do not). While I understand that every artist is trying to make a living at this (note to too are writers), when the industry standard (IE: What you get paid walking in the door at Marvel or DC) is $100 - $125 per page of pencils, where is the logic in demanding $150 - $200 a page when you are an unknown artist and you are not working for Marvel or DC? This, of course, is a discussion for another day, but one that needs to be had.
The second thing we need to do is to shake off the traps and limitations of the old ways. Marvel and DC have worked out their formula of page counts from a mostly cost-to-profit basis. Not because 22 pages is the best way to tell a story, or the audience will only read 22 pages and then get bored. It is because based on art, writing, and production costs, vs. sales and advertising revenues, this hits a sweet spot for them. Or it did for one of them and then like always the other played follow-the-leader.
I remember reading an article years ago, sometime after 2000 I think, where the writer took a critical analysis of the American comic book industry and compared it to the Japanese model. His conclusion was that for the industry to survive another 20 to 30 years it would have to move away from monthly titles and start heading towards the idea of quarterly trade-paperbacks that told a complete story. At the time most of the comments seemed to be geared towards telling him what an idiot he was and other less than savoury things, but here we are 13 years or so later and everyone is "writing for the trade" as they say. Stories that come out monthly, but are being told with an eye towards collection sales, which are becoming the real bread and butter of the industry.
So make your comics as long or as short as you want them. There is no one to tell you you are wrong, save yourself (or your publisher if you have one) and at the same time put as many or as few toppings on your pizza as you like.
Cause I'll tell you this, if you don't write something that makes you feel satisfied, how the hell can you expect a reader to be satisfied by it?