aNewDomain.net — Exactly 20 years ago, comic theorist Scott McCloud wrote a book called Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology are Revolutionizing an Art Form. In it, McCloud predicted the trajectory of comics from dead-tree media to digital media. His arguments were so compelling and irrefutable; no one thought twice about his logic. But today, webcomics are making only a small splash. Amazon’s recently released Kindle Comic Creator may just be what the industry needs to break into the digital technology arena.
Historically, the comics industry has been hesitant to make the transition away from paper pamphlets to all-digital comics. Companies know that comic books are often collectors’ items. Collectors like their pristine libraries, and covet books not unlike the way Scrooge McDuck likes to swim in pools filled with gold and jewelry.
It’s a matter of time. Even the most old school comic fans have come around to the inevitable: the future of comic books is digital. Comics will be consumed digitally on phones and tablets, even PCs. Journalist Valerie Gallaher even predicts that comic books will only be printed in small batches, exclusively for hardcore collectors. She writes on her website Occasional Superheroinethat everyone will eventually read comics in digital form.
In many ways, the move to digital comics is already happening beneath our very noses. In a recent interview, Hank Kanalz, the Senior VP of Digital Comics for DC Entertainment, revealed that his company experienced a nearly 200 percent increase in digital sales in 2012. Compare that to a measly 12 percent increase in print sales.
Clearly, what the world needs most of all is a reader-friendly digital platform that pleases the reader and the creator equally. Many sites offer digital comics such as Comixology, ComicsPlus, Graphicly, Thrillbent, and Madefire, but none have produced a seamless paper-to-screen reading experience. Many of these sites are creaky and too inflexible to embrace the medium’s inherent explosive creativity. Most don’t even address the right-to-left reading preference of manga fans.
But that may be changing. Amazon recently debuted a promising platform for comic creators called the Kindle Comic Creator. Comic artists can transport their comics onto Amazon’s e-reader. The Comic Creator is free and lets artists render e-comics with double-page spreads, facing pages, and appropriate page turns. It even aids the reader with helpful navigation and individual panel views. The e-book revolution didn’t happen until the Kindle showed up. Perhaps it’s time for a real disruption in the comics industry now.
“The Kindle Comic Creator seems like it might be a viable tool for some indy artists to test the waters for digital, especially if they’re new to the whole idea,” says Greg Hatcher, a columnist for ComicBookResources.com. “But the real advantage is the branding, the fact that the Kindle stuff is available through Amazon. That’s a HUGE push to the front of the pack.”
But others disagree. Artist David Grimshaw is one example. “There are so many webcomics available for free, and sites that host webcomics for free,” says the Texas-based cartoonist who publishes under the byline Pow Flip. “I’m not really sure how much room there is for something like this.”
In a way, Grimshaw is correct. The digital comic book revolution has already happened. It was called webcomics. In no way is Amazon sparking a revolution. It’s merely providing options and a marketplace.
The Kindle tool also addresses the technological issues in converting print comics to digital comics. They’ve made the process a lot easier, says children’s book author Aaron Shephard. “The genius of the Comic Creator is that you can create your pages in almost any program you’re familiar with and then just import them.” Shephard spent about 20 minutes converting and importing his book The Adventures of Mouse Deer to the Kindle platform and experienced nary a hiccup.
The trick for Amazon will be to persuade consumers that digital comics are worth paying for. “The person who cracks that digital nut is going to be richer than God,” says Hatcher. Changing the longstanding culture and mindset of comic readers is the real issue, he concludes. “It has nothing to do with format.”Tags: Downtime,Software