The same day I'm reminded that our version of Blue Beetle is the first co-star with Batman in the premiere of the funky new animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, premiering tonight at 8 pm --
-- I heard that the book itself is cancelled.
Wow. It's almost as if basing your entire business model around a series of must-buy big event crossovers in a market with limited purchasing resources hurts your midlist.
Although I've gotten some outraged e-mails from fans, I have to say this isn't unexpected. Both DC and Marvel are in a weird place right now -- are they publishing companies in a dying market or IP companies in a growing one? The answers to these questions demand different strategies, neither of which are necessarily the best circumstances for the creative participants.
Time to go creator-owned, and digitally distributed. Because that's the only solution that makes sense for our side of the equation.
There's a reason I like comic books so much, and plan on working quite a bit on digital distribution in the upcoming year. It relates somewhat to this essay by Cory Doctorow, discussing how new media forms are evolving from the net. Cory focuses primarily on video, and how commercial structure often bends stories into forms which don't necessarily serve to best tell the story. Although I'm pretty comfortable working within that structure, no TV writer will deny that he's said "Dammit, I wish there wasn't an act break here," only slightly less often than "Jesus, did that PA go to fucking Vegas to pick up lunch? I'm starving."
On the business side, there are a million great stories out there that aren't being told, because of a.)the high cost of breaking into the business of storytelling in mass media and b.) the high cost of producing and distributing those stories once you've broken in.
My point being -- a lot of those great untold stories make the best sense told in a serialized nonstandard page length, with accompanying art. When I was working on Blue Beetle, the final two issues originally plotted out to 50 pages. A tight fifty pages. They had to fit into 44. Now, setting aside that it's always better to edit, we can still ask -- was the book better for losing those six pages of character and story? I don't know. But it seems damn silly to bend storytelling to a format sold almost exclusively in low-attendance, often creepy specialty shops scattered across the nation.
Even if it's a fool's errand, I'd rather bend my storytelling to fit boxes that almost everyone has in their living room or back pocket.
Will you get even the paltry tens of thousands of paying customers that comics now get? I don't know. But without the publishing overhead, you may not need that many. Let's put it this way -- stripping out distribution costs and our share of the rent for those nice DC offices in Mahattan, Blue Beetle could have cost fifty cents an issue at its worst sales level, and still paid Rafael and myself more than we made on the run of the book.
Blah blah, just start wrapping your head around the Coasean Floor, while we start poking around with format and distribution. My goal here, by the way, is slightly different than most peoples. I don't want to figure out a way to build a company around this format. I want to figure out a way for a writer in Arkansas and an artist in Cairo to tell stories for a living.
In the Comments, your beefs with comics and your bright thoughts on non-traditional storytelling - including "Why there's no way this could work." Bonus points for bringing up hostage-ware and a patronage system.