Some comics are made for newspapers and are published on the internet for convenience. You might think of well-established comic strips like Rhymes with Orange, La Cucaracha, and Doonesbury. However, some comics are made for the internet and make their way into print form…eventually. One example of a webcomic that is subsequently published in print form is Malaak: Angel of Peace. It’s a superhero comic by Joumana Medlej, set in Lebanon. Take a look at the comic at www.malaakonline.com. According to the website, the print versions of Malaak (Parts I, II, and III) are available in English and French, with Part IV available in English. An Arabic language version is being developed as an ebook.
One webcomic that I read is called Artifice. It’s a science fiction comic written by Alex Woolfson and drawn by Winona Nelson. Woolfson wants to create a print version of Artifice, and he has created a Kickstarter campaign to do it. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have contributed some money to Woolfson’s Kickstarter campaign. But this blog post isn’t intended to be an advertisement for Artifice.)
Initially, I was a little bit wary of Kickstarter. After all, it seemed to me a little bit like a gamble: interested parties donate money to a cause, and the money is then used to bring the product to fruition. If enough people donate and the monetary goal is achieved, then the project moves forward. However, the more I read about Kickstarter, the more I realized that it is used for a very broad range of projects, like independent movies and independent music CDs. And, most germane for readers of this blog, comics. Click on this link to look at some of the comics projects on Kickstarter.
Typically, my own interests in comics don’t really touch on issues of publication. I appreciate the work that other scholars do in keeping track of publishing houses and mergers, of the tension (if that’s the right word) between larger comics houses like DC and Marvel and smaller houses like First Second and Drawn, Out Press. But on-line resources like Kickstarter seem to be complicating comics publishing in ways that are surprising to me. In a nutshell, the issue is this: comics that are freely available on-line are being funded in advance to be printed and sold! Popular wisdom has it that internet users don’t want to pay for their content. The discussions revolving around file sharing and the music industry exemplify this trend. On the other hand, some users are willing to pay for content that is otherwise free.
In the case of comics, it seems that readers (still?) like to have their own print copies of things. Having a graphic novel (like Artifice) or a serial webcomic (like Malaak) on-line is one thing, but having bound, printed, gorgeous copies for the home library still has appeal. There was a recent, related discussion on the Comics Scholars listserv, and several people contributed different opinions about the difference between print and electronic versions. Some readers prefer print, while others feel comfortable with on-line versions or ebooks. My best guess is that this discussion will continue and probably intensify as the web matures as successful medium for comics artists.