There’s been some action on Twitter tonight about independent and creator owned comics. Most of what I’ve seen has come via Tim Seely and Eric Powell. Mr. Powell even posted a video on YouTube. Sorry, gentlemen, but while I like your respective creator-owned books, I think you’re both missing some pretty important points. Maybe it’s because Twitter limits folks to 140 characters at a time. I’m going to start with the big point, though:
For even Goon, for every Hack/Slash, there are 342 “indie” comics that are utter and complete crap. I see them every time I go to a convention. The art is bad. The writing is frequently worse. More damning to the argument that Mr. Powell makes is that upward of 90% of these books aren’t even slightly original. I, for one, am not going to support a bad book simply because doing so helps independent creators, because in the end I don’t think that’s helping comics, it’s just lowering the bar.
Are the “big two” dominated by superhero books? Yes, yes they are. That would be because these books make them money. They are businesses. However what about Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles, V for Vendetta, Sandman? These all came out from DC, most of them via the Vertigo imprint. All of them were rather successful (though Invisibles admittedly had a sometimes troubled existence). DC also tried a science fiction imprint for a while. Because the big two are businesses, if a non-superhero book will make them money then they would sell it.
Even if the above examples didn’t demonstrate that, webcomics have certainly proven that there is a market for non-superhero comics. I’m sure there are superhero webcomics out there. The fact that none of them spring immediately to mind is testament to the way other genres have dominated the webcomic dialogue. Sure there are webcomics that don’t provide a living for their creators. I would even go so far as to say that most webcomics don’t make money for their creators. However, if you’re already losing money, or not make enough money doing print comics what is there to lose? I paid under $50 to get a fairly generous shared hosting package for one year; that’s significantly less than a 100 issue run of even a black & white, let alone a color comic, would run me. The only requirement to access my site is that one have an internet connection.
A larger readership potential, and significantly lower buy-in, and therefore significantly less money lost, if the project doesn’t work out. Not to mention the ability to explore options, such as color, that might be prohibitively expensive in a print book, or to experiment with the medium in ways that print simply doesn’t allow. And as a reader having your comic on the web means I don’t have to shell out $3 – $5 for a single issue of an unknown.
I like a printed comic as much as the next guy. I prefer reading on the page to reading on the screen. That said, if independent and creator-owned comics aren’t making it in the traditional market then maybe they need to quit doing things the way they’ve always been done just because it’s always been done that way.