When I first started blogging here, I deliberately limited myself to webcomics, defined as separate from online comic books. If my occasional references to comic book culture haven’t hinted at it enough, I do follow comic books as well, though not as closely as I used to. The big comic book publishers, like DC, Marvel, or Dark Horse, for example, have been putting content online for some time now, and even though previews are often free, usually there’s some money involved to read the entire issue. Webcomics, on the other hand, tend to be more or less free, whether they’re professional and syndicated or the author(s) are just having some fun.
I bring all this up to show that I’m not a newbie to the print world because of an interesting news item: a fairly well-known talent in the comic book industry, Mark Waid, is trying something new with digital content. He’s launching a new site called Thrillbent on May 1 for both new and veteran creators to distribute their content online. Fleen had a mention of this yesterday, and the news section of PvP online has a post which lays out a doom-and-gloom scenario about what could happen to the niche that webcomics have carved for themselves:
This is something I’ve been warning my friends in webcomics about for a while now. That eventually, someone famous from the comic book industry would figure out that they should try what we’ve been doing for the last fifteen years or so, and would follow suit. All it would take is one or two high-profile creators succeeding at being “webcomicers” and suddenly everyone would jump over.
And the term “webcomic” will finally die and just become “comic.”
Webcomicers have had a strong advantage for a while now: we’ve been the only people who truly believe in the business model of giving content away up front, building an audience, and then monetizing that audience. Up until this point, everyone in the comic book industry has been trying to sell digital comics. You pay to read. And you pay as much as print comics to read.
I’m a big believer in the power of the web. I certainly hope that we don’t see the end of the little webcomic or the independent creator. Large syndicates stabilize the medium, and are handy to have around to keep the lights on, but so many new, interesting talents are online when they never, ever would have found a place in the print world. Even now, before Thrillbent has launched, the site is asking for a password when you go there. On the web, of all places, I had thought that there was enough room that corporations and independents could co-exist. Let’s hope.