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  1.  (8975.1)
    From the last week or so of, all in one post for efficiency. I trust this won't be a magnet for sperglords to filibuster while plugging their own blogs.


    When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics form of Comixology or, and start doing, say, 10 or 12 page comics (with whatever notational stuff shoved in the back that they feel like adding) and releasing them for 99 US cents every two weeks or so, I’m going to get interested really fast. And so will you. Particularly when these services perfect series-specific subscriptions that sideload the books automagically into your client locker or push an alert to your device.

    That could even loosen up to, say, buying a subscription to a graphic novel, and having the discrete chapters pushing to you as they’re completed, on an entirely irregular schedule that builds up to something of not fewer pages than you signed on for, within an acceptable plus-or-minus of a previously announced timeframe.

    (Small print, it say “if the artist gets the Mongolian Terror Trout Flu the whole thing could end up two months late, we’ll keep you posted with alerts and send you twitpics of the artist’s pustules”)

    (random thought ends)


    In the few quiet moments during the general horror and mess of this week, it’s been sort of dawning on me that I could, as a comics writer, go pretty much all-digital for new releases at this point. (With a few outstanding exceptions.)

    FREAKANGELS has been a successful project, doing what lots of people told me (and Avatar!) couldn’t or shouldn’t be done — paying creators to make a weekly webcomic and then making the money back on the (re)print collected editions. It must be doing okay, because every six months I hear from the Avatar compound that William’s rubbing money on his chest and giggling as he drinks gin from an athletic Brazilian girl doing a handstand.

    Online, FREAKANGELS gets between 30 and 40 thousand readers a week. (We’re on a veeery shallow constant upward trending curve, but the actual count is a bit more jagged.) I don’t have solid numbers on the book collections, but, like I said, there’s rubbing and crimes whenever a new volume goes out, so I guess they do okay. I know there have been occasions where we’ve done 5K copies of a FREAKANGELS book on release month, and have been continuing to move at least 500 copies of that same book per month several months later. We do okay. We earn out and go into profit.

    If this were a print periodical, 30-40K a pop for an indie book about weird kids in London would be kind of a big deal. Not least because forty thousand readers for a monthly comic about people building greenhouses and jabbering about the true shape of the mind would be, in this market, close to impossible.

    The stores obviously like selling the collections, though. More than they’d like selling the singles. (And if that were untrue, THE WALKING DEAD would be the best-selling comic in English. As it is, THE WALKING DEAD, probably the best longform serial in American comics today and about to become a prestigious tv series, has taken 77 issues to wrestle to an audience of 27K per month. Its collected editions do extremely well, as they should.)

    Which gives one furiously to think.

    Which I will be.

    (Not fully baked. Must go back to work. I’ll end up with a coherent thought, though. Really.)


    From Robot6:

    …this past Wednesday Walking Dead #77 not only arrived in comic shops, but also hit the Image Comics and comiXology iPad applications. It’s priced at $2.99, the same as a physical copy; previous issues have been priced at $1.99.

    Image publisher Eric Stephenson spoke with ComicsAlliance about it, noting that it isn’t a one-time thing:

    “In terms of scheduling, the digital version of the series has caught up to print version, so it makes sense to release both simultaneously,” Stephenson told ComicsAlliance. “With the debut of the AMC television series only weeks away at this point, our aim is to make ‘The Walking Dead’ as widely available as possible, in all formats…”
    • CommentAuthorTom Akel
    • CommentTimeSep 25th 2010
    I think (as you're probably aware) that this will all happen very quickly, within 6 months. And I credit Freak Angels as a pioneer in making huge headway by proving that digital can only help physical sales.

    I wonder what percentage of the 30-40k readers would have spent .99 for every 12 pages if it were available on mobile devices (even though its free here). Even if it was only 5% of those readers, thats a decent enough chunk of change on a regular basis as you'd move towards the collected print edition.
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeSep 26th 2010
    Now that's something I didn't think of-- treating an iPad as a fundamentally different economic tool compared to a laptop or desktop. I wonder if people would pay for an iPad app (as you described) if the comic was still freely available online?
  2.  (8975.4)
    I wonder if people would pay for an iPad app (as you described) if the comic was still freely available online?

    I strongly doubt it.
    • CommentAuthorTom Akel
    • CommentTimeSep 26th 2010
    I don't think one platform cannibalizes the other. There are strong DTO sales, the majority of them on iTunes, of television shows that are freely available online. Just as millions still pay to have access to that same content on their mobile devices. The same applies to music sales of music videos that are available free online, or through a service like Pandora. The 2nd example isn't as apples to apples as the first, but applicable.

    I guess my 2 main points are:
    - consumers will still pay to own content they love, be it digital or a physical product, regardless of that content being free online
    - there are many, many consumers who have a preference and habit of how they prefer and access their content, and will want it in one format regardless of how it is packaged elsewhere.
  3.  (8975.6)
    Wait until the ipad 2 is released at two thirds of the weight of this one. We are only a few years away from the death of paper comicbooks outside of a few POD services for the diehards.

    Mind you I wouldn't pay 2.99 for a digital comic unless it was really something, (ironically I probably would pay that for FA, but don't get any ideas!).
  4.  (8975.7)

    I wonder if people would pay for an iPad app (as you described) if the comic was still freely available online?

    I strongly doubt it.

    I think it depends whether you're delivering any added value in the iPad app - which could be anything from additional story/background material to earlier access (e.g. releasing on the iPad app a week before it's free on the web) - basically anything that falls into what Kevin Kelly called the Eight generatives that make something "better than free".
  5.  (8975.8)
    Wait until the ipad 2 is released at two thirds of the weight of this one. We are only a few years away from the death of paper comicbooks outside of a few POD services for the diehards.

    Aside from, you know, the people who can't afford computers.
    • CommentTimeSep 26th 2010 edited

    I guess my 2 main points are:
    - consumers will still pay to own content they love, be it digital or a physical product, regardless of that content being free online
    - there are many, many consumers who have a preference and habit of how they prefer and access their content, and will want it in one format regardless of how it is packaged elsewhere.

    I'd like to note at this point that anyone with an internet connection and a brain can get just about any comic they'd ever want without ever paying a dime. The moral high ground aspect of it is lessened if it being freely available is through legitimate sources, but I think most people who buy comics are more concerned with supporting the industry and it's creators. Of course, there's also the side who feel the need to own physical copies, but that's not who the iPad apps are targeted towards, obviously.
  6.  (8975.10)
    Not that commerce is more important than art, but you've got plenty others focused on the artistic side of FA, and I've always been the greedy capitalist of the group, so...

    5,000 copies trending down to 500 copies a few months later averages to roughly 10,000 eventual copies of each trade sold, minimum.

    Six trades at $20... that's over $1,200,000 total gross before merchandise. Was this a conscious goal? "Read FREAKANGELS... the million dollar webcomic!"
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    Warren or anyone from Avatar - can you confirm those figures ^ are about right?

    And if so, can I request an official press release or something that can serve as a permanent citable source for them?

    My reasoning is that if there's a statement available that confirms those kinds of figures as a cashflow illustration then it could be included in business forecasts for other people who are looking to do something similar, but need some backing for it.

    Of course, there would be some adjustments necessary and there are probably only a handful of creators who could match those exact figures, but putting the information out there in a way that would be meaningful to a venture capitalist or underwriter could potentially help to get some more projects off the ground by increasing confidence in the model.

    Obviously, you don't owe anyone this and there may well be commercial or other reasons for not going into it in public, but after wrangling with banks and financiers and underwriters whilst attempting to start a business recently, I'm sure that there are some people it could help.

  7.  (8975.12)
    I'd have to leave that to Avatar.
    • CommentAuthorEmperor
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    A couple of thoughts:

    • Walmartisation - given the Murderdrome debacle and the fact that the iStore will account for a high proportion of sales for the time being (although they probably won't dominate the market as they do for music downloads) would there be a pressure for comics creators to defang their comics to ensure they get listed? Does Warren have an idea of how much of his output could potentially get blacklisted? Anyone have an idea of where the bar has been set these days?

    • Decompression - fans of American comic books have been "trained" to put up with decompression, but, with recent price rises, a lot of questions have been asked about whether they are delivering value-for-money and this will only intensify with more new/returned readers picking up electronic comics. A cheaper price point would perhaps work in decompression's favour but possibly only with readers who might have dropped the title at $3.99 and could be tempted back to their continuity porn fix through going digital. That said same-day-same-price releases rather torpedo this, as it is surely going to make people wonder how they can justify the price for a product that doesn't incur the overheads of making a physical object (dead trees, shipping, ink, etc.). So I suspect we'll see more compression in digital comics and Fell looks increasingly like the kind of comic we might be seeing more of in a purely digital format - lower page count, compressed storytelling and we should also not overlook the fact you can just pick up the first issue and start reading without having a workable knowledge of a giant fictional universe and years of continuity. The last point helps keep sales moving for those who like their soap operas in spandex, but could be a real turn-off for new comic readers.

    So where are we at: shorter, cheaper, compressed and continuity-light (with a question mark over how far you can push the content and not get blacklisted by Apple). Sounds good to me.

    Of course, comics like Alex de Campi's Valentine have been out there for a while now and it might be her experiences can help those following on behind avoid some of the potential pitfalls.
  8.  (8975.14)
    We're not doing the decompression argument here, because it's fanman wank. I hope that's clear enough for everybody.

    We're going to reach a point soon -- if we haven't already -- where Apple simply cannot police every piece of content sold in-app on every app. And, frankly, if the Murderdrome guys had had more time, they could have embarrassed Apple into unblocking that by drowning them in bad press and expert testimony. (Much of which should have started from "wait, I can't buy this but I can rent JOHN RAMBO and see Sly Stallone cut people's heads off and turn little yellow men into puddle-splashes with a fifty-cal?")

    Also, as iBooks gets going, we're going to see Apple doing a lot less micromanaging anyway. They'll have to. Because the minute they list something like, say, AMERICAN PSYCHO, their argument in re: selling violence kind of goes away for good.
    • CommentAuthorEvJ
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    The first Rambo and American Psycho 2 are already on iTunes as movies, along with various Saw and similar "horror" efforts. A Clockwork Orange is up there too. I don't think they ever had any solid footing on the violence thing.
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    Just for your information:

    I vaguely remember being shown a preview of Freakangels in one of the catalogue things at my local comic shop, i looked at it and thought hmm, more post apocalyptic teenagers with superpowers, i can live without that, and left it. A bit later a mate was going on about 'Crooked little vein' while i happened to be reading some old Lazarus Churchyard. Warren Ellis, hmm, didn't he do Transmet too? A bit of google and i ended up here and discovered that Freakangels wasn't in fact something i could live without. Whitechapel is also rather good and has led me on to things i probably wouldn't have noticed without it.

    I read all this on my ageing desktop computer at home, when i have a few minutes, hours or days spare time, (i'm an agency driver and my work is a bit erratic). I have no urge to buy a hard copy of the comic, viewing it in HTML on the internets is just fine for me, i much prefer that to any fancy flash (Zuda) or pdf presentations. So far i haven't paid a penny toward anything Freakangel related, though some of the merchandise interests me a bit, still not sure i'll buy anything though. Having said that, i feel like a bit of a freeloader now. Still, no one involved seems short of a bob or two and if an appeal went up for money to keep the site open, i'd chuck a few quid at it. I follow - pauses to count them up - blody hell, about fifty or more web comics, that's my attitude to all of them. If i had to pay a quid a week for each of them i wouldn't, i don't have that much spare cash to throw around.

    So, there you go, probably not your typical reader but then, who is? There probably are ways to 'monetise' me but they'd have to be good and easy or i'd probably be to fat and lazy to bother with them.

    Having said all that, Whitechapel and Freakangels is damn good and i thank everyone involved for making it available to me free online.

    I hope this is of some use to you. Goodnight.
    • CommentAuthorJoeltox
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    Is there room for a kickstartesque model where I pay, say $5.00 extra for the tpb in advance, only now I get a mention on the thanks page, as well as an X day jump on the latest electronic version of the strip? Larger denomonatiions get more perks/accolades? Signed versions, etc etc?
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    I'd pay a few bucks for a Freakangels app for the iPad (or whatever tablet platform) that did anything more at all than present the static content, or really just eliminate the need to pinch and zoom just a bit to stay centered on the comic. If the app led you and Paul to be interested in a "motion comic" treatment that really took advantage of the medium, added annotations or search, heck a soundtrack, etc, I'd pay more than that.

    I could see looking at it as the electronic TPB version, both collecting and adding enhancement.
  9.  (8975.19)
    Motion comics take control of time away from the comics creators, by and large, and so it's nothing I'd personally spend time on.
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2010
    My .02 cents

    If many people are unwilling to pay 3.99 for comics now, they sure as hell aren't going to want to pay that for digital versions IMO I think the traditional medium as we know it will not be overtaken digitally unless prices per digital issue drop drastically. And undercutting paper copies will be like shooting ourselves in the foot if you place them to compete against one's going to fuck shit up.

    Digitally comics have been around for at least a decade now, at the very least when Marvel started selling those DVDs with huge backissue runs on them. I don't think they've been all that successful, although I do not have the numbers to back that claim up. Illegally downloading digital comics has been around just as long if not longer. I'll admit being familiar with this means of access with every form of media that can be seen and/or heard going way back now.

    I really think the most successful means of distribution will be a universal, monthly subscription service like netflix or gamefly, at least for the core audience and big publishers. Apple apps, and digital downloads of individual issues will float for a small percentage of readers and new initiates, but for the collector who makes up the majority of the fanbase, single digital issues will be less attractive unless they are coming directly from independent creators. One thing I've noticed about media is people like the idea of the money going to the artist more than a huge corporation. We like to support the creators of what we enjoy, not so much the big company that envelopes them. In this aspect digital publishing can be advantageous and work well.

    Eventually I believe electronic paper will be developed successfully and overtake our current form of reading devices. That will probably spell the end for many printed media sources, until then I expect paper to hold an edge on screens. POD might have a place in the scope of things somewhere if it can really get out of the gate or get some industry support.