San Diego Comic-Con 2014

San Diego Comic Con LogoIt’s that time again! Time when the comic industry makes its annual pilgrimage to America’s Finest City for Comic-Con International. If you’ve been to the San Diego Comic-Con in recent years you know that it can be a crowded, frenetic, clamorous, media whirlwind as studios, publishers, celebrities, outlandish marketing gimmicks, barkish PR sharks, movies, television, games, toys, collectibles, comics, and every niche aspect of pop culture you can imagine (and many you can’t) compete for 125,000+ people’s attention – simultaneously.

How do you see it all? Well, you don’t. Not really. However there are plenty of sites that have sound advice for planning ahead but remember, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

As usual, on this blog we like to focus on digital comics and storytelling. we’ve run down the convention panels related to digital comics creation and publishing. A word of note; the panel descriptions are pulled directly from the San Diego Comic Con Program Guide and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blog. However, beneath each panel description we break down why, in our opinion, you might want to consider attending that panel. So without further ado…

THE SWITCH TO DIGITAL – Thursday, July 24th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Room 7AB
“From mail to photographs and now comics, everything is making the move to digital. Comic-Con International special guests Colleen Coover (BANDETTE), Batton Lash (SUPERNATURAL LAW), Jeff Smith (BONE), Rina Piccolo (TINA’S GROOVE), and Paul Tobin (BANDETTE) discuss with moderator Mark Waid (DAREDEVIL, Thrillbent) when and why they make the switch to digital.”

Why Should You Go? Professional artists and writers giving sound advice on the how and why of digital creative moderated by a veteran comic writer/digital publishing pioneer. This panel should be informative and enlightening for anyone interested in the creative process.

Agent MMARVEL: HOUSE OF IDEAS – Thursday, July 24th, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, Room 7AB
“Love having the best comics in the industry on your mobile devices? Want to know how Marvel stays on the cutting edge of technology while bringing you what you love? Want to learn more about Infinite Comics? Well, this panel is for you, True Believer! Get exciting news from Ryan Penagos (Executive Editorial Director of Digital) and other guests on what’s happening with the Marvel Comics App, Marvel AR, Marvel.com, Marvel’s vast social media presence, and more in this can’t-miss panel!”

Why Should You Go? With original digital publishing efforts like Infinite Comics, Marvel AR, and Adaptive Audio it’s not hard to see that Marvel isn’t afraid to explore and pivot their strategies as they go. Ryan “Agent M” Penagos is a preeminent social media figure and knows how to engage the audience as well. Whether or not you’re a fan of Marvel content this panel will make you think about your own publishing strategies.

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet by Alex Ross

Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet by Alex Ross

DC DIGITAL: DOWNLOAD THIS! – Thursday, July 24th, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, Room 6DE
DC Entertainment’s digital initiative has been a pioneer in digital comics. Get an exclusive look at the exciting series that make up the future of digital comics with the all-star talent behind them, including Ralph Garman (BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET), Marc Guggenheim (ARROW), Kyle Higgins (BATMAN BEYOND), Kevin Smith (BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET), Cat Staggs (SENSATION COMICS), Freddie E. Williams II (INFINITE CRISIS) and others behind them!”

Why Should You Go? DC Comics panels tend to focus on content and they often preview unseen art and hint at future stories and events. If you’re interested in DC Comics’ digital content or the creators mentioned in the description then this is definitely a panel to hit.

COMIXOLOGY: ASK ME ANYTHING – Thursday, July 24th, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, Room 8
ComiXology, the revolutionary cloud-based digital comics platform, spills the beans on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about digital comics, publishing, life, and more! Learning everything from how to publish your own comic book through comiXology Submit to how to begin your own successful startup just like comiXology, from co-founders and panelists David Steinberger and John D. Roberts. Moderated by comiXology’s marketing & PR maven, Chip Mosher.”

Why Should You Go? Between the acquisition by Amazon, the sunsetting of their original app and the subsequent removal of in-app purchasing in their new app, ComiXology has been in the news quite a bit lately. While the panel description doesn’t explicitly say they’re addressing these topics it does say “Ask Me Anything.”

Thrillbent - a digital comics site by award-winning comics writer Mark Waid and television writer/producer John Rogers.

Thrillbent – a digital comics site by award-winning comics writer Mark Waid and television writer/producer John Rogers.

PITCH YOUR COMIC TO MARK WAID AND THRILLBENT – Thursday, July 24th, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Room 8
“Think you have a one-shot digital comic in you that the world should see? Here’s your chance to pitch it to Mark Waid (DAREDEVIL, SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT, EMPIRE), James Tynion IV (BATMAN, THE EIGHTH SEAL, THE HOUSE IN THE WALL), Christina Blanch (THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD), Chris Mancini (COMEDY FILM NERDS), Nicholas Rucka (KITCHEN DEATH MATCH), Lori Matsumoto (Thrillbent general manager), and Raygun (Thrillbent web development/design). They’ll listen to your verbal pitch and select the best they hear for further development. Along the way, there’ll be frank discussion about how Mark and his partners do what they do, what works and doesn’t work in digital comics, what makes this medium unique, and what new projects are coming up from Thrillbent!”

Why Should You Go? If you’re interested in pitching a web series to a high profile, professional digital publisher then this is a no brainer. Beyond that, this panel offers a peek behind the scenes at how Thrillbent approaches their publishing plan, what they look for in a series, how the team dynamics work, and the qualities they think make a successful digital comic regardless of whether or not it’s a Thrillbent series.

BREAK INTO DIGITAL COMICS USING THE MOTION BOOK TOOL – Thursday, July 24th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Room 2
“From BATMAN to MY LITTLE PONY, Madefire and DeviantArt have revolutionized the comic book online. Learn how to publish your comic to DeviantArt in less than five minutes using Madefire’s unique cloud-based tool! Panelists for this session include Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, Liam Sharp, Yuumei, and Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau.”

Why Should You Go? Madefire dominates “motion book” storytelling, combining animation with traditional comic art. They’ve recently strengthened their position outside of the App environment by partnering with DeviantArt. If you’re at all curious about what’s going on and how to be a part of what they’re doing then this is definitely the panel to hit. Bonus? Talking about the creative process with comic industry greats like Gibbons (WATCHMEN, DOCTOR WHO), Sienkiewicz (STRAY TOASTERS, ELEKTRA, NEW MUTANTS) and Sharp (DEATHS HEAD II, HULK)!

Monkeybrain ComicsMONKEYBRAIN COMICS: DIGITAL AND BEYOND – Thursday, July 24th, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Room 28DE
“Since launching in 2012, Monkeybrain Comics has become recognized as a premier publisher for quality digital comics, and many of their titles have since been released in print editions by publishers such as IDW, Image/Shadowline, and Dark Horse. Co-publishers Allison Baker (Monkeybrain Comics) and Chris Roberson (EDISON REX) are joined by Anina Bennett (HEARTBREAKERS), Christopher Sebela (HIGH CRIMES), Jen Vaughn (AVERY FATBOTTOM), and Gabriel Hardman (KINSKI) to discuss the advantages of publishing digitally and how digital and print can work together.”

Why Should You Go? Monkeybrain has focused on digital creative with a eye toward print collections and so far the strategy has been working well for them, having forged strong partnerships with ComiXology in addition to a number of traditional print publishers. If you’re interested in living in both worlds this panel should provide some valuable information. Also of note, it might be interesting to hear how Monkeybrain is shifting their strategy in the wake of ComiXology’s purchase by Amazon – if at all.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: BEHIND THE DIGITAL LINE – Friday, July 25th, 10:00 am – 11:00 am, Room 28DE
“As digital comics have become a driving force of the medium, more publishers and creators have launched digital first lines of comics. How do publishers and creators deal with the unique properties of the web and tablet? How do readers react? Are they an evolution from webcomics or their own medium? And how will technological evolution affect storytelling as more choices arise? PW’s Calvin Reid discusses the digital evolution with the people behind digital lines, including Aces Weekly’s David Lloyd, Monkeybrain’s Alison Baker, New Paradigm’s Brandon Perlow, Black Mask Studio’s Matt Pizzolo, and Sequential’s Russell Willis.”

Why Should You Go? Publisher’s Weekly tends to take a distinctly industry focused approach to their reporting and I would expect this panel to be no different. The panel description alone brings up some important topics, notably devoid of typical comic book marketing hype. With a nice, cross section of comic industry publishing pros this panel looks to be perfect for those that take the business of comics seriously.

The Mire by Becky Cloonan

The Mire by Becky Cloonan

COMIXOLOGY SUBMIT: THE FUTURE OF SELF PUBLISHING – Saturday, July 26th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Room 23ABC
“Think you have what it takes to be comics’ next indie-creator superstar? Then this panel is for you! Since its launch at SXSW in 2013, comiXology Submit has released over 1400 independent comic book series. ComiXology’s marketing & PR maven Chip Mosher and comiXology co-founder and Director of comiXology Submit John D. Roberts are joined by such breakout Submit superstars as the sensational writer and co-creator of THE BUNKER Joshua Fialkov, Eisner Award-winning cartoonist behind THE MIRE Becky Cloonan, and the artist/writer team of the Eisner Award-nominated series WATSON & HOLMES, Brandon M. Easton and N. Steven Harris, for a discussion on how you too can join the ranks of comiXology Submit stardom!”

Why Should You Go? ComiXology’s self-publishing portal has been live for just under a year and a half. Although the system isn’t without fault, in that time an impressive number of creators have published through the platform and some have even gone on to score print distribution of their series through mainstream comic publishers. How Submit fares now that ComiXology has been acquired by Amazon is still subject to debate but the fact remains that ComiXology has provided a relatively turn-key solution for digital comics distribution within the ComiXology ecosystem. If you’re interested in that, this panel should not be missed.

Deadpool: The Gauntlet by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Reilly Brown

Deadpool: The Gauntlet by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Reilly Brown

CREATING COMICS THE COMIXOLOGY WAY – Sunday, July 27th, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, Room 24ABC
“From early experiments like BOX 13 and VALENTINE to more recent efforts like POWER PLAY, Marvel’s Infinite Comics, ATOMIC ROBO, and DC Comics’ BATMAN ’66, ComiXology’s cinematic Guided View Native format has ushered in a new era in comic book creation! Now, you too can learn the trade secrets of creating Guided View Native comics straight from John D. Roberts, comiXology co-founder and director of digital storytelling, joined by Reilly Brown, co-creator of POWER PLAY and artist on DEADPOOL: THE GAUNTLET Infinite Comics, and Jamal Igle creator, writer, and artist of the exciting GVN comic MOLLY DANGER.”

Why Should You Go? I know what you’re thinking; another ComiXology panel? Yes. ComiXology is making an effort to really distinguish their panels topically at this convention. This panel focus’ on creating comics specifically for compatibility with ComiXology’s Guided View. Attempts at branding and ownership aside, creating comics for ComiXology’s Guided View doesn’t substantially different from the way comics are created for digital publisher’s like Thrillbent or how Infinite Comics are displayed in Marvel Unlimited and other non-comiXology platforms (including right here on Comic Book Think Tank). However, none of those other platforms are hosting panels that talk about how to do it. If you’re interested in the creative process behind digital original comics and “turbomedia” then you should consider hitting this panel.

Relaunch by Ron Perazza and Daniel Govar

Relaunch by Ron Perazza and Daniel Govar

DIGITAL COMIC: GOING BEYOND THE PAGE – Sunday, July 27th, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Room 8
“A distinguished roundtable of comic creators, digital impresarios and webcomic entrepreneurs discuss all things digital comics – the promise and the peril of the ongoing digital revolution. Panelists include Mark Waid (head honcho at Thrillbent), Ben Abernathy (Editorial Director at Madefire), Ron Perazza (co-founder of Comic Book Think Tank), Jen Brazas (MYSTIC REVOLUTION), Hank Kanalz (Senior VP of Integrated Publishing at DC Comics), and Josh Elder (SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED).”

Update: Because of a scheduling conflict, Mark Waid won’t be able to make the panel. However, Tony Hobdy (Chief Operating Office of iVerse) has been added.

Why Should You Go? Full disclosure, Comic Book Think Tank is taking part in this panel. An open forum with a roundtable of digital comics creators, editors, publishers, and strategists from across a spectrum of start-ups, self-publishers, non-profits, and corporate giants? If you’re at all interested in the how, what, and why of digital comics this is the panel to hit.

KEENSPOT 2014: GIANT-SIZE PANEL OF PURE WEIRDNESS – Sunday, July 27th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Room 4
“YouTube superstar Markiplier of the markiplierGAME channel hosts this totally weird 14th annual Comic-Con panel for pioneering webcomics publisher Keenspot, again featuring their transmedia partner Red Giant Entertainment! Keenspot fans are accustomed to comics being free to read online, but Red Giant is about to “set free” the world of printed comic books! On Free Comic Book Day 2014, Red Giant previewed their revolutionary ad-supported, free-to-consumer comic book line GIANT-SIZE COMICS with a bundled four-pack of #0 issue flipbooks to incredible response (within hours, the sought-after free bundle was paradoxically being purchased on eBay for as much as twenty bucks!). Along with some of Keenspot’s top webcomics creators on the dais to answer audience questions, many of the minds behind the GIANT-SIZE line will be here to discuss and reveal all-new details on its exciting future as a free 72-page weekly event launching in stores later this year. Creators scheduled to appear on this panel include Benny Powell (WAYWARD SONS), David Campiti (PANDORA’S BLOGS), Thomas Fischbach (TWOKINDS), D. J. Coffman and Ally Monroe (THE GOD CHILD), Mort Castle (DARCHON), David Lawrence (MAGIKA), R. C. Monroe (OUT THERE), and GIANT-SIZE story editor Brian Augustyn. All attendees will receive the GIANT-SIZE #0 four-pack bundle!”

Why Should You Go? Keenspot is one of the original webcomic portals, having been founded way back in 2000. Originally an open collective for webcomic creators, Keenspot is now a more exclusively focused digital comics publisher. Red Giant is an intellectual property development and publishing company that has a strategic partnership with Keenspot for distribution outside of Keenspot’s website. Where many webcomic creators are defiantly independent, Keenspot has taken a “strength in numbers” approach that has survived the test of time. If you’re interested in webcomics history and how some webcomics creators have adapted from the early days of of digital publishing to today’s much more digital friendly world then mark this panel on your schedule.

That ought to do it! Of course, if you know of an event, artist, or exhibitor relevant to digital comics that’s not listed here please feel free to mention it in the comments. Finally, if you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and wade into the madness remember to stay safe, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t be creepy.

Good luck!

Three Questions With Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis Welcome back to THREE QUESTIONS our weekly conversation with digital comics creators and innovators. This week we’re talking to Steve Ellis. You might recognize Steve’s mainstream work for Marvel and DC Comics on characters like GREEN LANTERN, IRON MAN, and the WINTER GUARD but he’s also the Harvey Award winning creator behind ComiXology’s first digital original series BOX 13 and Zuda Comics’ debut series HIGH MOON. He’s currently partnered with writer David Gallaher for another digital original comic, winning critical praise from the likes of Boing Boing and The Hollywood Reporter, with THE ONLY LIVING BOY. As always, we’ve presented Steve with the identical question we’ve asked previous participants. Steve’s unique insight into the digital comics creative process is a welcome addition to the series.

CBTT: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

ELLIS: It allows you the ability to interface with the reader in a way that takes advantage of technology. For example, the way BOX 13 was created for the iPhone, we were able to consider the reader experience in an individual way; the pace of the story is dictated not only by panel changes, but more significantly by the speed by with the reader clicks through panel-to-panel and screen-to-screen.

BOX13 BY Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

BOX13 BY Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

It’s exciting because it can be a much more interactive experience. Digital also affords us the ability of being directly interactive between the creators and the readers. The feedback loop is immediate for the creator, and it makes the reader more invested in the project community.

CBTT: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

ELLIS: From an artistic standpoint, it can be visually restricting on how you design a page. A lot of artists enjoy the freedom that comes with wacky panel design, but that’s restricted when you have to consider devices like a phone or iPad. It’s harder to do more intricate, fluid panel design when you feel restricted to the ratio of a smartphone screen. The rectangle can be oppressive!

THE ONLY LIVING BOY by Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

THE ONLY LIVING BOY by Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

CBTT: What do you see in the future for digital comics?

ELLIS: Hopefully, as more and more devices appear on the scene, I would like to see and create more projects that interact with the reader more. I think that rather than giving people an animated experience to watch like motion comics do, I would like to see something where the reading speed, flow, tempo and style is fitted more to an individual readers pace. The nice thing about digital with regard to comics is kind of like Scott McCloud said – the canvas is infinite! I think we’ll see more experimentation. There will always be conservatives who think paper first, and there will always be people trying to push the limits of technology. But I think we’re going to settle somewhere in-between flashy technology and a paper dominant model, in a place where the reader’s interactive experience is paramount to how the material is processed. Too often, the technology wants to move us toward animation, which leaves the readers as simply viewers, and therefore less engaged. I’d like to see comics that allow the reader to interact with the material in the same way that one might turn a page (flipping panels, choosing the direction of the image flow) without affecting the story.

CBTT: Fantastic and valuable insight. Thanks for playing along, Steve!

As the Chief Creative Officer behind Bottled Lightning, Steve is hard at work on THE ONLY LIVING BOY. However, if you’d like to see more of Steve’s work you can check out his personal website. You can also find Steve on Tumblr, DeviantArt, Facebook and Twitter.

Digital Creators React To ComiXology + Amazon

ComiXology IconThe digital comics industry is in the midst of a significant transition. Early in April digital comics distributor ComiXology announced that was to be acquired by the online retail giant Amazon. Within weeks of the announcement, while the full impact of the acquisition was still being debated, ComiXology made the controversial decision to reduce functionality and eliminate in-app purchases on their popular iOS app, forcing users to leave the app and buy comics through ComiXology’s web storefront (in a manner similar to Kindle purchases on iOS).

It should come as no surprise that the response from fans and creators has ranged from concerned to critical. At the time of this writing the new app has well over 1,500 reviews (and counting) and has managed only a 1.5 star rating.

“This feature removal isn’t going unnoticed; reviews of the app have plummeted with the new version…”TechCrunch

Chip Mosher, ComiXology’s Vice President of Marketing, has advanced the idea that publishers, creators, and fans could benefit from the move, citing the potential for diversity and savings. Certainly the elimination of Apple’s 30% channel fee opens up the potential for an increased share of the revenue paid directly to publishers and independent creators – that is, assuming the web store can compensate for the lost iOS sales.

“…shopping on the web provides even greater selection of comic books and graphic novels. iOS customers will now be able to save money with comiXology’s exclusive web-only bundles, take advantage of subscription features and enjoy eGift cards.” – Chip Mosher via Comic Book Resources

ComiXology’s acquisition potentially impacts every creator working on digital comics to one degree or another. With Comic Book Think Tank we’ve always tried to focus on progressive digital publishing and the digital comics creative process so we thought it might be a good idea to reach out to a few of our fellow digital comics creators, experts in their craft, who might be able to give valuable insight from their unique points of view.

Are these changes good news? Bad news? Will it have a significant impact on digital comics creators and publishers? This is an evolving issue and one that is sure to affect the digital comics marketplace for weeks and months to come. Do you agree with one of the creators below? Disagree? Feel free to leave your own opinion in the comments but first, read on…

John AllisonJOHN ALLISON (BOBBINS, SCARY GO ROUND, BAD MACHINERY)

Viewed from any angle, ComiXology/Amazon should give people pause.

The 30% pay-to-play on in-app purchases within the Apple store’s walled garden is obscene. Comixology Submit’s creator deal was an equitable 50/50 split – after a corporate giant took a vast cut. This inevitably pushed prices up.

A rump of entitled ComiXology users complaining that their method of reading comics just got *slightly less incredibly efficient* is laughable. One assumes that getting off one’s ass is still not part of the new way to buy titles through ComiXology.

Amazon’s ownership of ComiXology will have an immediate hammer-down on prices, just like every other sector they’ve been involved in. Amazon’s near-monopoly has sucked a greater part of the life, and money, out of working in books, music, film.

For the last 20 or so years, comic books have cost more than they were worth. Now get ready for them to cost much less than they’re worth. Get ready to lose your local comic shop, like you lost your local record store and your local bookshop.

Jared FletcherJARED K. FLETCHER (Marvel Comics, DC Comics, STRANGER FICTIONS)

ComiXology is the best chance of bringing in new comics readers right now. If the industry is going to grow, we need to get comics into the hands of new readers as cheaply and easily as humanly possible. So why do we continue to complicate the matter? This is another sad example of how comics generally, not just digitally, continues to put up these barriers between the reader and the product.

What’s bad for the readers of comics is bad for the creators of comics. I’ve already seen a few tweets from people who have already given up trying to switch over the new app because it was too complicated. And that’s just getting the app to work, not even buying or syncing comics yet. It’s a disappointing situation for everyone on all sides of it. It looked like ComiXology had a good thing going until this.

I understand Amazon not wanting to give Apple that extra dollar for every comic sold. But where does that dollar go now? Are the comics all one dollar cheaper now? Most of them should be anyway. Do the creators get that dollar? I would hope so. That would be a bright spot in this. Or does Amazon just take that dollar for themselves in exchange for removing the only feature of any significance in the ComiXology app?

PetzMATTHEW PETZ (WAR OF THE WOODS, LORDLESS)

As a creator, I can’t helped but feel this is a step backward. Discoverability is essentially gone. If it was hard to be seen before, I think unfortunately it’s harder now.

This idea that the savings will go towards the creators seems little dubious at this point. We’re talking about an extra 15 cents in most cases. Maybe it will add up? But if it’s at the cost of a lot of lost sales from inside the app then I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Joey EspositoJOEY ESPOSITO (Assemble After Dark, CAPTAIN ULTIMATE, FOOTPRINTS, PAWN SHOP)

I think people tend to go from zero to sixty in reaction to these types of things and the apocalyptic reaction it got was sort of unwarranted, nevermind it being unfairly directed at ComiXology instead of Amazon. And that’s the thing: Amazon acquiring ComiXology wasn’t done on a whim, and I would imagine that the removal of the in-app storefront on iOS was a calculated move rather than an arbitrary one. I doubt Amazon acquired ComiXology to lose money, therefore I’m willing to wait and see how this change pans out and see what the result is in terms of sales and money for creators.

It certainly makes discoverability a concern, particularly when it comes to getting under the eyes of new and/or casual readers, but at a certain point it falls on us, as creators, to find our books new venues to readership. We should never be relying on one platform; we should be using every platform available to us to get our work out there. We need to be nimble and be able to change with technology and with the market.

Ben BailyBENJAMIN BAILY (Assemble After Dark, CAPTAIN ULTIMATE)

It’s easy to call the removal of in-app purchases on iOS devices a misstep on ComiXology’s part, and maybe it is, but the folks there have proven one thing time and time again over the years: they love comic books. For our little all-ages title, the loss of easy and friendly browsing and shopping is a little painful; we’re a kid’s book starring a new, unknown character. It’s impossible to know how impulse purchases affected our sales, but I suspect it was significant. Time will tell on that one. For us, that extra 30% isn’t quite as important as selling an extra 30 copies. It’s about getting the title out there, getting the book into the (digital) hands of new, young readers. That said, we have faith in the folks over at ComiXology and they have always been supportive of us and our little book. Things might not be perfect right now, but we know they love comic books and that, ultimately, they want what we all want: to share that love with new readers.

Cameron StewartCAMERON STEWART (Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Vertigo, Dark Horse, SIN TITULO)

I’m trying these days to remain as positive as I can about most things (even though it’s extremely challenging at times), so despite the inconvenience of no longer having an easy and seamless shopping experience, my initial reaction to the change in the ComiXology app was to be happy that a) they’re no longer beholden to conform to Apple’s ludicrously inconsistent content restrictions, and b) the 30% of sales that they surrender to Apple is now able to be kept by the publisher & creators.

However, I’m very curious to see what kind of hit they take on sales, now that it’s impossible to make casual, impulse purchases within the app. Building an obstacle course in front of the cash register is sure to discourage a significant number of people from even bothering. I myself had this experience a couple of days ago – I downloaded the new app, synced some of my library to the iPad, and for a moment actually forgot that I was using the new non-retail app and went looking for some new issues of series I follow to purchase. When I remembered that I was using the new app, I was frustrated and closed it. I didn’t bother to go to the ComiXology website to download them. I still haven’t. Maybe I’ll get around to it at some point. They would have had a couple new sales, now they don’t.

I’ve bought comics through the website before, but generally when I’ve been at my desk, on my computer. There are many times when I’m browsing the ComiXology app while in bed, or in a cafe, and those are when the most impulse-purchases happen. I’m not sure I’ll buy as many now.

As for independent creators, we/they need every sale they can get so it’s a bit depressing that what was a promising new outlet for them seems to be radically compromised now.

It remains to be seen what Amazon’s plan is, and if they’ll be able to build some new method of sales that will be as convenient as what came before – I hope they can do it.

And then of course there’s that brief moment of clarity where you realize we’re all whining about how we can no longer purchase drawings on our luxury devices without going to a different website

Kevin ColdenKEVIN COLDEN (DC Comics, IDW, FISHTOWN, BABY WITH A MOHAWK)

In the short term this deal isn’t that great for anyone except Amazon – my wild speculation is that they purchased ComiXology primarily to a) Remove a potential competitor and acquire their existing interface and user base and b) take revenue from Apple by disallowing in-app purchases. I suspect the latter is the primary reason. But they may implement some new ideas that will change that in the future.

Due to the removal of in-app purchases, the big losers will be the independent creators with books on ComiXology, as their visibility and discoverability just dropped to zero, possibly lower.

Alex De CampiALEX DE CAMPI (Dark Horse, VALENTINE)

I think Amazon buying ComiXology was inevitable. While the elimination of in-app purchasing for iOS devices is frustrating from a user point of view, I’m hoping Amazon shoves enough money Comixology’s way that they can work on streamlining the mobile version of the site. My biggest concern is that the casual/non comic store going reader will be dissuaded from buying comics (or confused by the new iOS app) during the initial period of app downloading/investigating, and will do the app equivalent of abandoning their shopping cart… which is, in essence, abandoning digital comics. I emphasize again this is only users on iOS devices, but that’s still an important segment of users.

I also hope they integrate Amazon gift cards into ComiXology purchasing (as I know many friends, and children of friends, who bought comics on the app using iTunes gift cards/credits).

As a creator, I”m mostly concerned with, “can I still get my comics on the ComiXology platform?”. The answer is yes, and now if there is better integration onto Kindles / the app coming bundled onto new Kindles, that is one less formatting and submission job I have to do and, hallelujah. Seriously, if by having my comic on ComiXology Submit, it can also be available on Amazon for download via Kindle publishing/the main Amazon Kindle store? I’ll buy David Steinberger beers for the rest of his damn life. Verily, multiple formats and submission processes are a hobgoblin preying on creators’ time and sanity.

David GallaherDAVID GALLAHER (THE ONLY LIVING BOY)

It’s interesting because I believe the changes to the ComiXology app are really just small potatoes compared to the massive opportunities available to creators. How many resources will now be available to small publishers that were out of reach before? Amazon runs one of the largest order fulfillment services in the world, provides publishing services, and incredible recommendation engine that drives discoverablility on their website for physical and digital goods. I think the opportunities for creators is brighter now than it ever was before. ComiXology may have revolutionized digital comics, but I think it will be Amazon that liberates them.

RStevensRSTEVENS (DIESEL SWEETIES)

Good or bad, it’s really not surprising if you look at Amazon’s history of making things more efficient for the sake of Amazon. It’s no different than how they try to cut out other layers like UPS. Maybe the inconvenience of not being able to buy comics on iOS will be outweighed by the ease of doing so on amazon.com or a Kindle?

It’ll be interesting to see.

ANONYMOUS

As we reached out to different digital comics creators there were a few that had strong opinions but for various professional reasons asked us not to disclose their names. While we think context is important we also respect their right to privacy. We felt that the opinions expressed were informative and indicative of some of the general opinions on the evolving relationship between ComiXology, Amazon, and the publishers and creators that distribute through them. Presented here are a few comments from those that wished to remain anonymous.

Anonymous JANE DOE

Amazon buying ComiXology is, to quote the Vice President, a big f’ing deal. It’s validation – not just for ComiXology, but for the entire comics industry. The world’s biggest bookseller just bet big on comics, and that is an awesome thing.

In the long term, this will be a boon for publishers both great and small. It’s going to force other digital distribution outlets to step up their game and compete for both content and customers. It’s going to put comics in front of more potential buyers than ever before, and that means more sales and more revenue for everyone.

However in the short term, this is nothing but bad news for publishers and creators. In-app sales on iOS were the largest single largest source of ComiXology’s sales by far. The majority of ComiXology customers will (grudgingly) make the transition to making purchases on the web, but some will not. Those disgruntled customers may migrate to other channels (ComicsPlus, iBooks, etc.), but they may just as easily stop buying digital comics all together. And even for those customers who stay with ComiXology, ‘impulse purchasing’ will inevitably decrease since a purchase that once took a single step now takes three or four.

In summation: I believe that publishers will lose sales and customers will be dis-satisfied in the short term, but that the benefits to both will (eventually) outweigh the costs.

AnonymousJOHN DOE

This ComiXology/Amazon move is one of greed, pure and simple. It infuriates me to read the praise people give towards ComiXology/Amazon and how this will ultimately benefit the creator. This is a spin, pure and simple, and not a very clever one. Oh, and thanks for the five bucks! That will go a long way toward my comics ever regaining what little digital traction they once had in the crowded industry leader storefront.

The worst thing this move has done is lessened any chance of me or others buying digital comics in a casual/browsing way – similar to the experience of shelf buying. I wonder how long before the ComiXology-powered publisher apps will lose in-app purchasing?

ComiXology has taken what little trust, faith, and belief I had that they were honestly for a better digital comics marketplace, and sold it to the highest bidder. I sincerely hope those behind the app made a small fortune on the purchase. It only cost their fan base.

Three Questions With Alex De Campi

Alex De CampiWelcome back to THREE QUESTIONS – The Comic Book Think Tank ongoing series of questions and answers with digital comics creators, innovators, and storytellers. This week we’re thrilled to speak with filmmaker and Eisner-nominated comic creator Alex De Campi!

Alex has been on the leading edge of digital comics and is one of the original “turbomedia” storytellers, notably on ComiXology’s platform using their “Guided View” format as a creative tool instead of merely a way to help read print comics on small devices. With her original series VALENTINE, Alex didn’t just help popularize a method of storytelling but also experimented with the creative process itself, effectively crowd-sourcing the translation of the comic into multiple languages. She has recently migrated VALENTINE away from ComiXology and joined forces with the progressive digital comics collective Thrillbent where she continues to tell great stories.

VALENTINE by Alex De Campi & Christine Larsen

VALENTINE by Alex De Campi & Christine Larsen

As the headline states, we’ve asked Alex three questions; the very same three questions asked of other digital comics creators. We think the similarities (and the differences) in their answers is often enlightening.

CBTT: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

DE CAMPI: That any transition can be a page turn. That you can’t see ahead and take in the next four-to-ten panels at a glance, the way you do with a paper book. As a writer, I find my pacing is pretty consistent whether I’m writing for digital-first or dead tree, but the experience of digital-first is so heightened for the reader, especially with my style of writing, which is thriller/suspense.

SMOKE/ASH by Alex De Campi with gor Kordey, Carla Speed McNeil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Richard Pace, Colleen Doran & Dan McDaid

SMOKE/ASH by Alex De Campi with Igor Kordey, Carla Speed McNeil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Richard Pace, Colleen Doran & Dan McDaid

The writer also has a much greater control of the reader’s experience of time in a digital comic. Although you can slow a reader down or speed them up via the number of panels on a printed page, you have so many more tools to do this digitally, from having the reader tap to bring up dialogue, to adding in spacer panels or cutaways/reflective moments to drive home a character’s thought process or emotions.

CBTT: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

DE CAMPI: I don’t see a lot of “worsts” with digital-first comics, except the badly-done ones, but hey, 70% of everything is badly done, isn’t it? Anything that overly invades on the reader’s control of time is problematic to me. Voiceovers, animation that’s not simple effect/atmosphere loops (eg. rain, fire, snow, etc). I talk in my “bests” about how digital comics give the creator more control of time, but you have to respect an ultimate line. The reader has to choose for the next thing to happen, and when it happens, by clicking/swiping. You can’t foist it on them – eg. by having an animation or voice dialogue just start five seconds in, unexpectedly. As a reader, that makes me so stabby.

GRINDHOUSE by Alex De Campi, Chris Peterson & Simon Fraser

GRINDHOUSE by Alex De Campi, Chris Peterson & Simon Fraser

CBTT: What do you see in the future for digital comics?

DE CAMPI: I think we’re going to see short, fully-animated trailers/intros. I think there will be a lot more borrowed from video games – not necessarily “Choose Your Own Adventure” (but I’d love to see that done really well. I fear the production of the redundant plot lines would make it financially unviable, though) – but, other video game tricks and tropes: looped atmosphere animations, looped music, SFX on transitions. I think digital comics have barely reached 15% of their potential. And if some nice entertainment company would just give me a good budget and a skilled coder, I will happily take that frontier and march it well forwards into the unknown. Ad astra!

CBTT: On est ad astra mollis e terris via!

If you’re interested in seeing Alex’s storytelling technique in action you should check out VALENTINE on Thrillbent. Alex is also the creator of SMOKE/ASHES and GRINDHOUSE, both available from Dark Horse Comics. Of course, for the social media minded, you can also follow Alex on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.