More on why Demon is a Webcomicon March 4, 2014 at 3:43 pm
I remember having endless debates in the 90’s with my friend Derek Kirk Kim about webcomics. For those who don’t know, Derek Kirk Kim was somewhat of a webcomics pioneer. His comic “Same Difference” debuted online and over the course of 2 years garnered a huge fanbase culminating in a million page views the week it reached its finale. Scott McCloud listed it as one of the 5 reasons people will pay for online comics content in the coming decades. The popularity of the story eventually went on to win all three industry awards and launch Derek’s career in alternative comics. All to which I said, “Phooey!”
My argument at the time was that webcomics will never have a future because 1) they cannot be read on the toilet and 2) buying a $2 comic is cheaper than buying a $1500 computer so people will always buy the comic. I think Derek’s rebuttal was that someone could sign up for computer time at the library and read the webcomic for free. So there.
I guess a lot has changed in the past 15 years. You can read webcomics on the toilet with a $500 tablet. Physical comics now cost $20. And someone (Penny Arcade maybe?) eventually cracked the code to making money from online webcomics. There were a lot of really noble experiments with micropayments and subscription based sites but at the end, it really just came down to slight variants on selling adspace and merchandise. In a way, it’s a shame; it’s hard to imagine a young Bill Waterson having the stomach to print Calvin and Hobbes as a webcomic today. But at the same time, I’m really hopeful about the future.
One wake up call for me was seeing a lot of my friends run successful kickstarter campaigns. I remember getting a $5,000 Xeric grant when I was first starting out in comics. It was literally a life changing amount of money for me and reshaped my entire career and life trajectory. To think we live in an age where a cartoonist starting out can essentially use kickstarter as a modern Xeric grant, applying for $5,000 every year in perpetuity. Printing has also gotten a lot cheaper. Risographs and print on demand publishers are now covering the gap of print runs ranges over 100 and under 2,000 in a really elegant way.
All this convergence couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. Demon is in a word, insanity. Right now you’re thinking, “What? No big deal, Jimmy shot himself in the face. What evs’s.” But trust me. You will not believe some of the bananas shit Jimmy gets up to in future pages. Your heart will beat and you will scream a primal scream of rage and confusion and maybe pee in your pants! Something the Xeric grant instilled in me and that I hold to this day is the self-publishing DIY ethos. I knew getting a larger publisher to even look at Demon was a long shot. And I was right! Demon has been designed as a self-published project from the get go. And I’m really grateful some of these trends in webcomics and publishing have crested right as I launched.
I’m even more optimistic about the future of webcomic. But as I learned from the 90’s making predictions about the future is really hard and you end up looking ridiculous. So let us just enjoy this present for now.