I’ve missed out on a lot in comics.
I missed out on the ‘all genres for all people’ pulp period of the forties and early fifties. Then I missed the ‘needs more antihero’ excess of the nineties. Heck, I even missed the explosion of ‘webcomics for gamers by gamers who can’t game anymore (because drawing).’
I missed all of these great times to be a comic creator because I was either non-existent, was repetitively drawing vases in art class, or repetitively playing Diablo. But that’s ok, because I think now is the best time to be a new creator in comics and I’m going to tell you why.
Disclaimer: while some of us can buy comic book shops to calm the digital/print seas I have neither the capital nor the guts to do the same. So while I’m going to assign today’s excitement to the ‘digital revolution,’ I’m just going to say that I want Moth City to be printed. The thing is I love books. Plus you know, trees, yuck – the way they just stand there making you feel short and horribly reliant on their life-giving oxygen. Bullies.
In fact I hate trees so much that I make vertical, print-ready versions of every single Moth City page I do. Its arduous work, a true commitment to climate change, and you can see examples below:
So now that I’ve calmed the people who printed this post out before reading it, let’s talk digital.
Just the fact that I can talk to you about comics at all is a reflection of what digital comics can give us. I’m in New Zealand, the place that TV shows use to stand in for ‘incomprehensibly faraway.’ If someone in a spy drama is digging too deep into their own division’s shadowy ops, they’re probably gonna be sent here. (KIWI FACT: spy castaways made up over 10% of our population at last census).
So yeah, I’m far enough away from most places that I break out in sweat every time I have to pronounce aluminium/ aluminum, and if I was making Moth City ten years ago you never would have seen it, weird spelling notwithstanding.
Mark would never have seen it either, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the chance to introduce so many people to my favourite bigot, Governor McCaw or (more this season) my favourite hired killer, Jun.
It doesn’t sound sexy, but distribution is everything now. The ability to disperse comics to waiting readers all over the world for effectively no cost has the power to change the way we tell stories. I’m not talking about our fancy Thrillbent swipes and doo-dads, I’m talking about risk-taking.
Everything I’m doing with Moth City is ill-advised. Period piece? Marketing will hate it. Wait, what the heck is the Chinese Civil War? Nah, no way. Who’s the protagonist? You don’t have one? Well at least tell me that you stick with one genre… oh, a crime/horror/thriller/alt-history/Kung Fu action? We’re not printing that… The first scene is a business meeting?! Get outta here kid.
(Note to self: Imaginary Editors are probably right about starting a comic with a business meeting, even if the characters are discussing Bio Weapons and one of the workers has a knife just begging to be used.)
Would Moth City have more mass-appeal if I didn’t make these decisions? Of course, but no one else was going to write it like I wanted, were they? While today’s ‘Creator Owned’ print tag means the best of experience, in digital it reflects a largely indie crowd that naively avoids Marketing 101. Just look at the stuff coming out on Comixology Submit and on Thrillbent – what a diverse little eco-system.
Will our ideas always come off? Of course not. But we get critical feedback quickly, we get analytics by the minute and download numbers instantaneously. We can learn fast. Cost to creator? Sweat. Benefit to readers? More creators from all over the world, working in more genres and taking more risks.
You’re ignoring the vast diversity of Webcomics you say, sure – but I consider Thrillbent a webcomic collective. A rare place where you can read long-form webcomics in a format that works. And the stories plug into lovely PDF or Comixology chunks to be absorbed in blocks while blobbing out on the couch, or (according to Comixology) on the toilet.
I’ve said it before, digital can be the new pulp – risk-taking content, by professionals and noobs alike, dispersed widely for affordable prices. And we could all do with some more pulp in our lives. With Moth City I’m offering up a genre mash that shows you characters that make mistakes, damaged people you’ll grow to love, antiheroes you’ll grow to hate, and a setting you’ve never seen before.
The new season just launched, you should check it out.