After "Understanding Comics"


11 August, 2000

"As with my first book, I hope to offer a starting point for debate -- all biases on the table-- and invite others with vastly different biases to join in and help assemble the broadest possible picture. The solutions to comics' problems won't come from the top down but will grow up from the best of many ideas."

So begins the promise of Reinventing Comics, and so it continues. What McCloud started so brilliantly in Understanding Comics, he continues in this followup volume that explores the business of comics, and the problems that comics face today. It also explores a strong solution to this problem -- digital distribution. The latter half of the book is about comics in the internet age, and proposes some models for adapting comics to the new medium, not just as scanned and downloaded pages, but as new evolutionary forms for comics to take in the digital era.

With Understanding Comics, McCloud challenged me, personally, to rethink the way I perceived my own work, and the future I saw in that work. This web page and the completed issues to date are partly a result of that book. With Reinventing Comics, he has challenged me once again, this time to rethink the way in which I get my work to the public.

Like any comics artist, I want to make a living doing what I love. Like a lot of comics artists, I have had problems making that dream a reality. There are only so many pages in the Previews catalog, and there are no strong contenders for their role in distribution. I hold enough value in my work that I don't want it to sit moldering in dark corners with the minicomics and fanzines. I want it to get noticed. So, my question in this last year has been how to have a good chance at distributing my comics in a profitable way. I am wondering now if digital comics might not be the answer.

In Reinventing Comics, McCloud explores the option of micropayment for comics material, meaning that each customer pays a few cents to download the work on a page per page or book by book basis. This eliminates such costly problems as printing, shipping, and retailer discounts. It gets the work straight to the reader and allows the reader to 1)more objectively judge the quality of the work before making a large commitment to a book, and 2)communicate more directly with the creator. And save money, too, which is an important item not to be overlooked.

As a result of my reading, I am currently investigating a micropayment option that would bill customers directly to their ISP for work that they receive (perhaps in a Rocket Reader-ish readable but not printable format). I have already had people tell me that they think it is a bad idea, that comics readers would never pay for online content. I would like to know what you think. Is this a good possibility? Would you, as a reader, be willing to pay for comics online...comics that would cost considerably less than print editions, that would allow for greater diversity of material and format (and that would never be in anything less than mint condition!)?

I strongly urge anyone....anyone!....reading this to send me an email at and let me know what you think about this. My decision will partly be based on the response I get (or don't as the case may be) and I would very much like to know what you really think.

Oh....and if you get the chance, check out Scott McCloud's work at It's worth a look.

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