Monday, February 9, 2009

Wyatt Update Feb. ’09: The Internet Will Save Us All

Hey, look! Actual content related to the topic that gives this blog its name!

The reason we haven’t been posting many updates is … well, because there hasn’t been a lot of progress lately on The Adventures of Wyatt Earp in 2999.

I don’t mean, however, that work on the comic itself isn’t coming along. Josh is still producing pages. I chain him to a drawing board and keep a watchful eye over him whilst sipping lazily from some sort of rum-based drink that comes in a coconut half-shell, periodically shouting vague orders like “Ink harder!” and “More pizzazz!”

But enough time has passed since our original submission to say that at this point, we’re probably not going to be picked up by a publisher.

The widescreen/landscape format has always been a sticky wicket, as I’ve mentioned before. I’m not claiming that’s the only reason the book hasn’t been picked up (although I am claiming the only reason I am not a starter in the NBA is because I'm 5-foot-9), but it’s an irregular format for printing, and all the retailers we’ve talked to hate landscape books from a business standpoint because they don’t stand up well on a standard comic rack. If you’re a comic book publisher and there’s thirty other submissions by similarly unproven commodities in your inbox, I imagine it’s real easy to say “no” straight off the bat to the one that’s going to give you some trouble.

And that was before the recession/depression/whatever you want to call it.

Josh and I both read about Diamond upping its minimum orders, and you might have too. There’s talk (although I don’t know how accurate it really is) that the Previews catalog is basically going to be cut in half. Unfortunately, this will probably not mean fewer catgirl statues from Japan where you can take the skirt off and maybe the bikini top too, but will rather result in fewer small-press books getting distributed. So self-publishing is not looking good, although with the hellacious costs involved in printing and distributing your own comic, it did not look totally awesome to begin with.

But wait! I heard a rumor that some creators are putting comics up on the internet! Is this true? If only there was some portmanteau for comics which can be read on the Web! Netpanels? Interzines?

Yeah, Josh and I are planning to jump on the webcomics bandwagon. We’ve already got the “pilot” story up on Comic Space and Webcomics Nation, but I’m talking about a serious, formal effort here -- our own website, a professional layout and interface, archives, a regular schedule, everything. Now I’m a guy who loves print comics, and it was a real thrill to actually be able to hold a comic we made in our hands and give them to people. But considering that the technology is readily available, there’s a proven market for it, and that producing a regular webcomic costs a small fraction of what printing up a single book does, it is damn attractive. True, it doesn’t bring in any money in and of itself, but I read something (I forget where) where a webcomic creator said something to the effect of “Nobody was buying my comic anyway, but at least this way people were reading it.” Too true, person whose name I forget!

And that horizontal format? Somewhere over the last couple years everyone started making widescreen computer monitors, and I have only just caught on that this is very much to the benefit of viewing our comic online. One page filling the screen, with no scrolling down like you have to for traditional vertically oriented comic books.

Also, the format of the individual stories is particularly conducive to web reading. I don’t really like webcomics that tell an extended narrative but only put up maybe one page a week. Unless you’re really pacing the narrative to work as standalone “units,” I find it’s unsatisfying. If you read one page a week and it’s this one, it’s going to be a disappointment -- it’s atmospheric and beautifully drawn and works really well in context with the other pages, but on its own it’s just three panels of some mountains and grass and a crashed spaceship.

Comics like Warren Ellis’ FreakAngels, on the other hand, put up “episodes” of several pages a week. Hey, after the pilot, our comic is structured into four-page episodes! It is as though we planned it like this all along. Of course, weekly’s probably not an option on our schedules unless we win the lottery, but perhaps biweekly or monthly. I feel like a longer wait is acceptable as long as when you do finally get new content, it’s a complete story.

This isn’t going to happen right away, because we don't want to be those guys who put up a half-assed webcomic for three weeks and then give up. I’m researching the “how to” of webcomics (good lord, they even have books that tell you how to do it!), and I’ll have to get webhosting, and probably find/hire somebody to design a modest but decent-looking site. This will also give Josh some lead time so at some point we can get on a regular schedule.

I am long-winded and have taken enough of your time with this update. Perhaps we’ll chat again about this soon. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, by all means leave us a comment.

Thanks, y’all.


Anonymous said...

You guys should also look into print on demand publishing models like Lulu, which specifically will print and publish comics for independent creators.

They don't mass-distribute, they only print what is ordered, so you can use them as a means of drawing in a fanbase to buy the books, OR show some samples to a store, see if they'll buy them, plus Image or DW or somebody cool who might pick it up might think, hey that's cool, I want that. I haven't done the figures for paying for them to print copies for conventions, but imagine it is not beyond the realm of affordability.

It's worth looking into.


Will Schar

Justin said...

Lulu's actually something I've looked into before. Of all the printing options, it looks like it probably is the best deal, and I've never heard a bad word spoken against 'em.

We're still pretty sold on the webcomic idea, though, but using them to print out some con-only copies isn't a bad idea. It looks like we could get a 100-copy run for $3.34 apiece (that calculator on the Lulu website is *incredible*).

That's still hell of expensive on our budgets (and webcomics are almost free by comparison, especially if we want to use color), and we'd be lucky just to break even on expenses, but that might be something to look at as a promo item in the future.

Justin said...

I've also recently bought a book on making Webcomics (the one by PVP's Scott Kurtz, et al.) and one of the writers recommends Lulu for collected editions. Not huge print-runs, but when you're just starting out, which is what we'd be. A trade paperback kinda deal is still a long ways off.

I also bought Comiccraft's book on lettering, and I'll probably post about reading both next week.