The webcomics blog about webcomics

What Say You Lot?

Something kind of interesting crossed my (virtual) desk recently. (It wasn’t Orbitz, though that would have been awesome.)

It was an email about 17 Sensational, Free, and Downloadable Graphic Novels. Last month, someone I know mentioned something that certainly sounded like he had a version of Watchmen on his computer. I kind of shuddered at the thought, but mostly because, well, it’s Watchmen. I so loved reading that book, what with the panel structure and use of color and so on. It wouldn’t be the same, of course, but I feared it might lose something, or the reading would shift. (Well, duh, on that last one: of course it’s going to be a different kind of reading.) But, you know, how interesting. “I wonder what they picked,” I thought, and off I went.

Anyway, Daniel of Daily Bits writes, “I want to highlight a booming segment of the online free culture movement: graphic novels. Each link will take you to a page where you can download or view a high quality graphic novel or excerpt [my emphasis] freely and with no strings attached.”

Shows what I know; I didn’t realize it was booming. I’m just getting over my print hangup. But if you look down the list, the whole thing is kind of interesting, from the selections they made, to the industry behind it (one of the commenters points out that over half of the list are links to DC’s books, where you can download an issue but not the whole graphic novel or trade paperback), to what other publishers are doing. For example, I didn’t realize that Top Shelf, who I basically considered a print publisher, had a whole online (web?)comics section. Cool. Okay. And, if you keep reading, Hope Larson’s lovely Salamander Dream appears. It’s one of a very few different, unique-looking comics included in this list.

It made me wonder, ultimately, not just about how reading has shifted but also about the state of the comics industry; Top Shelf was fairly explicit in stating that the online “section is, in effect, the continuation of the now-defunct Top Shelf print anthology” and I’ve heard many folks say that it’s much cheaper to publish online, particularly if they’re allowing free access. In some ways, it echoes what DC’s doing with these downloadable issues: read them, see if you like them, and maybe you’ll buy the rest of them. And I know some artists who post their work online, but they certainly don’t consider themselves “webcomics artists”–the webcomic stuff is a by-product generated along the way as the artist works toward collections published in print once per month. Diary comics, for example, do this kind of thing fairly often.

Are we starting to see a shift, specifically seeing works appear both online and off? What does that mean for the book trade? I know I’m less freaked out by the concept than I was a year ago, and I imagine a large part of that is getting used to reading comics on my computer, but I’m not sure I can get on board with something, again, like Watchmen.

But I wonder what it might mean for webcomics. Thoughts?

Salamander Dream was as a webcomic BEFORE it got picked up for print, Anne!

But yeah, “webcomics” — a term I’ve never liked, because it implies that they are something different from just comics on the internet* — are starting to supplant comics magazines as a cheaper loss leader to TPB collections. Which is nice, because generally speaking, I only need to see a few pages of something before I can tell if Ill want to buy it.

* Then again, I’ve never liked “graphic novel,” either, because it implies that they’re something different from just long comics. And they’re not.

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