Firstly, some things I missed when sick (boo, hiss) last Friday: the irrepressible KC Green not only kept TopatoCo from burning down while his indenture-holders Jeff and Holly¹ were off in the Bahamas, he also hit Gunshow #500 in a suitably Snakespearean fashion.
Also, for those planning out what to do in the coming week, Angela Melick² will be giving a talk on writing comics at the Vancouver Public Library on Monday, 6 February, starting at 7:00pm. Watch out for the crazed, killer squirrels.
Also, in today’s Holy crap, did you see the OoTS Kickstarter? update, Rich Burlew has now exceed the previous highest-funded comics project on Kickstarter by nearly 150%, and is rapidly closing in on a quarter of a million friggin’ dollars after less than ten days. I’m putting the over/under at US$325,000, and the supporter tally at an even 5000 pledges. Of course, if the pledges get a second wind, we’ll see numbers that may take years to be equalled.
Now, to business³. Last week saw the debut of Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers on Keenspot, the news of which was previously discussed. Mr Zub has kindly agreed to answer some questions about the web-release version of SK, why the parallel channels for comics distribution, and what to expect in the future. But for those with impatient tendencies, here’s the money quote:
In our first week at Keenspot we had more unique IP visits (i.e.: new readers) than all three printings of Skullkickers #1 combined.
For full context, read on.
Fleen: Other creators have taken comics-on-paper and transitioned to the web as a means to spread their back issues to new audiences while maintaining a print line. Others have gone further and shifted entirely creator-owned comics to online for first publication. Given that your experiment with Skullkickers online is a week old, any idea which direction you’ll end up taking?
JZ: It’s too early to say which strategy would work best for Skullkickers. We’re definitely releasing our new story arc through Image as issues starting in April. Once we see how well that does, and if the online serialization of older issues helps sales, then we’ll be better informed to make that kind of decision.
Fleen: From a logistical standpoint, what made you decide to go with Keenspot instead of using the Skullkickers domain you already had?
JZ: The Skullkickers website has become a catch-all place for people to find out information, get comic previews, see reviews, and find out about things like the upcoming Munchkin card game expansion. If Skullkickers continues to grow then I’d like skullkickers.com to be the hub for every aspect of it, not just comic pages.
If the Keenspot site picks up enough steam then it’s possible I’d redirect the .com address to it at some point and integrate the other material as part of the webcomic site. We’ll see how it goes. All of this is an experiment. I feel like it’s one that will help us grow, but it’s not a certainty.
Fleen: Skullkickers has a third story arc that’s getting ready to debut, and you’ve mentioned that the full story you want to tell would take six or seven arcs, if the sales could sustain it that long. Does the possibility of running the comic online without having to make the costs of printing / publishing / distribution make it more likely we’ll see that full story?
JZ: Yeah, it’s absolutely possible. I see the comic online as a way to engage new readers, bringing them onboard the story we’re building, showing them the great stuff we’ve already done and, day by day, make them a fan of the series. At that point it’s easy for them to get all caught up with our trade paperbacks, issues or digital comics if they’d like.
If the series keeps sustaining its creative costs, on any and all platforms, I’d be thrilled to tell the master story I have all planned out, dragging our monster mashing idiots all over the place wrecking every trope and setting imaginable as we skewer the grand-daddy of all fantasy stories, the “heroes of destiny” cliché.
I want people to enjoy Skullkickers and I’m not picky about how they’re doing that. In print or online – it’s all comics and it’s all viable. The divide between physical and digital media is breaking down in video, print and audio. They’re not really “webcomics” any more, they’re just comics.
Fleen: Okay, let’s talk about creative costs a little more. Creating/printing/publishing/distributing floppies of Skullkickers: considering all the people that need to be paid requires x number of readers buying the comic to just break even. You aren’t even making any money, you’re just paying everybody else associated with the book.
Creating/not printing/production work/hosting Skullkickers on the web: same deal, but this time you need y number of readers for the ad rates to hit that break even point. What’s the ratio of x/y? Any idea how many readers of the comics you have that aren’t actually buying it (e.g.: the entire population of Russia), who can now be contributing to your financial well-being?
JZ: As the web archive deepens, our pageviews will tend to go up because each new reader is getting caught up, contributing a whack of pageviews all in one day as they do so. Ad campaign payout rates also fluctuate a lot from month to month. Those two factors change the math of it quite a bit.
If we’re talking readers who are only reading the latest page every day and that’s it (1 pageview per reader per weekday) that number balloons quite a bit, as you might imagine. In that not-really-realistic scenario we’d need about 20+ times as many readers as we have right now in print to cover our monthly issues just in ad view payout money.
That sounds like a massive increase, and it is, but in our first week at Keenspot we had more unique IP visits (i.e.: new readers) than all three printings of Skullkickers #1 combined, so we’re off to a strong start out the gate.
My fingers are crossed that a combination of web pageview ad payouts, print comic sales, digital comic sales, trade sales and convention sales will work together to keep the series running strong so I can tell the entire story I have planned.
Fleen: If Skullkickers did shift to an only-print-the-trades model, would we still get those post-arc guest issues?
JZ: I intend to keep those going, yes. Our Tavern Tales collaborations are far too fun for us to skip out on. I’d be thrilled to get comic superstars like Scott Kurtz, Ryan North or Rich Burlew onboard for a Skullkickers Tavern Tale.
Fleen: We both know that you’re not going to answer, but I have to ask: when do we learn Baldy and Shorty’s real names?
JZ: They have names? Who told you that? :)
Fleen thanks Jim Zubkavich for his time, and also for comics that feature enormous slavering monsters getting kicked in the head because that’s awesome.
¹ Don’t call her “Tallahassee”. Just … don’t.
² Right-hand rule represent.
³ If you mentally pictured Mark Wing-Davies and David Dixon toasting To business!, I like the way you think.