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From Webslingers to Webcomics: Comic Book Publishers Online

In North America, superheroes dominate the comic book world and the two biggest publishers of superhero comics are Marvel and DC.  Marvel and DC are taking different approaches to webcomics so far.  We take a look at the online efforts of the big two plus a few other publishers of superhero comic books.

For myself, I haven't bought comic books regularly since the 1980s.  So I'm not really part of these companies' existing readership base, but on the other hand as a reliable consumer of webcomics perhaps I am the kind of person they might hope to attract through online publishing. 

Marvel

Since the end of last year, Marvel has been posting some of its comic books to the web on its marvel.com websitePress releases from Marvel at the time of the launch indicate that this effort will consist solely of repurposing its print comic book library to the web.  At this point it doesn't look like Marvel will be commissioning original work specifically for the web.  Still given where its competitors in the superhero business are, Marvel looks pretty web-friendly.

Marvel's webcomics are free, but you have to register to read each whole issue.  (In fact one of the most annoying things about my experience was the need to re-enter my user id and password a few pages into each individual comic book I read. It would be nice if Marvel would let readers enter the user id and password once for each site visit.)

Marvel has created a special flash-based "viewer" to read its comics online.  It's an interesting idea, particularly relevant when you're repurposing material originally created for the comic book format and not specifically laid out for the dimensions of your computer monitor.  

The viewer gives you the choice of reading the comics page by page or through a "smart panel" system that adjusts what you see to how large your browser screen is set.  The smart panel system essentially allows you to click through the comic on a panel by panel basis.  This works fairly well for smaller panels but does not work well for panels that run long vertically because for those panels the viewer doesn't zoom in enough to see sufficient detail.  You can easily switch to the "page-by-page" mode in those instances and zoom around the image as needed.

Unfortunately though while the text shows up remarkably crisp, the images are unnecessarily jagged and from time to time I noticed some distortion in the coloring, almost as if Marvel had scanned the pages in as a low quality jpeg.  This is really frustrating when reading this work as, because let's face it, a lot of the appeal to superhero comics are the visuals of genre staples like fights, explosions, and super-powered acrobatics.

Given these images issues, one suspects that Marvel might be trying to keep the digital version at least slightly inferior to its print versions.  And although I found the smart panel viewer a worthy effort, I wonder if Marvel also picked a flash-based approach simply to make it more difficult for readers to copy and save Marvel's copyrighted material.

Although press releases from Marvel around the time of the launch of the new online comics effort promised that eventually new stories would be posted every weekday Marvel is clearly not there yet.  By my count there are 23 books available online with a mix mostly of Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Avengers tales.  (There also hasn't been anything posted since the end of February for that matter.)  But apart from a few #1 editions, it's not clear how the selections posted fit together in terms of storylines.

Story selection of course is an issue for Marvel with its immense archive of characters and storylines.  If Marvel is simply interested in giving an online bonus to its already existing core of fans or providing a few examples of its comic books to curious fans of movies based on its characters then it's current approach of cherry-picking issues to post is fine.  But if Marvel is seriously interested in appealing to a new audience for its comic book characters then it needs to be much more methodical in its approach.

Any potential new audience garnered through the web probably won't have much in common with current buyers of comic books.  Marvel shouldn't expect them to care about collecting anything (this is the web afterall, it's about as disposable a medium as there is) and they probably won't know much if anything about the "Marvel Universe".  To attract new readers via the web then it makes sense to assume these new readers won't know anything about the characters.  Approach the web as a chance to attract readers to comics based on the quality of the current work rather then some kind of nostalgia for the characters. To do that, readers need to be able to get in on a storyline from the beginning and know that they can get the whole story right there on the web.

 

DC

DC is easy to sum up.  So far they're don't seem much interested in the web as anything other then a way to sell comic books.  For several of its titles each month, DC offers pdf files with about 4-5 pages from each book. The pdf files while large, are generally pretty good quality.

 

Image

Image does publish some superhero work and it does publish some material online.  Image seems to be somewhere between DC and Marvel in its attitude to the web right now.  Image has several #1 editions of its ongoing series posted at its site, but doesn't appear to have any plans to publish ongoing material.  This gives readers the benefit of an entire book to read (a great deal more satisfying then DC's previews) but ultimately the only way to read Image books is by keeping up with the series in print.

One key difference between Image and Marvel and DC, however, is that Image properties are creator-owned (Marvel and DC generally own the copyright to all of their work) and so individual Image creators may have radically different online strategies of their own. 

 

Dark Horse 

Dark Horse is also hard to pin down.  They don't have a prominent focus on webcomics and they don't seem to have a coherent online strategy (although many titles do have previews online).  Many of the books, however come from the web already (such as Penny Arcade or until quite recently MegaTokyo) so Dark Horse really can't do much there.

On the other hand, they serialized online The War of the Worlds, and really they did an excellent job presenting that in terms of image quality and navigation.

 

How the Web Was Won?

Obviously there are other smaller companies that publish superhero comic books and there are countless others that are published independently.  But in looking at the largest publishers which represent an overwhelmingly high percentage of sales in the direct market, we can take a snapshot of the relationship between comic books and the web. 

Surprisingly to me, it's Marvel and not Dark Horse or Image that has taken the firmest company-wide initiative to experiment with webcomics.  I will be watching Marvel this year to see if they continue or Marvel pulls back from its ambitious initial announcements for its online efforts.

Marvel could improve its effort, however, by looking at how Dark Horse published The War of the Worlds online.  Of all that I read online, only Dark Horse was able to publish something that really felt at home in its setting on the web.  Although Dark Horse always intended The War of the Worlds to go into print at some point (and it will publish that version this year) it did not stop Dark Horse from publishing a version online where the artwork was formatted for the web (avoiding the need for "viewers" of any kind), and more importantly, publishing it in serialized format and publishing original material (as opposed to repurposing existing print work).  Some may quibble with my point regarding serialization as a positive, but for many action-oriented superhero stories serialization of individual pages is a perfect fit and there is no reason not to use that to build a regular readership online.

Re: From Webslingers to Webcomics: Comic Book Publishers Online

I've been around for a few full moons and yet I still like to read the old comics. Why doesn't someone tell DC to make their collection avaiable to internet readers?

Its more practical for the big companies to simply do this...

Information Ministress's picture

With all the disadvantages mentioned by the posters above regarding big companies taking over, I'm quite convinced that they won't be entering the webcomic market fighting attention with independent creators very soon or if so with any major effort at all. The nature of creating money from the web and from print is so diffrent that I doubt a lot of these companies would bother with the trouble when they could just watch the webcomic scene closely and find out which webcomic have potential then swoop in and offer the more popular ones publication rights. (Megatokyo/Penny-Arcade etc)

If I was a big Publishing company like Marvel/Dark Horse/DC why would I waste my time and money trying to create a new series on the web when I could just pick from the thousands of popular/ potentially popular webcomics already exsisting on the net? Why should I waste my resources trying to find out (or create) which is popular/what will sell and which wont when the webcomic scene is already doing all that "field testing" for me?

I'm quite sure that only a very few people will ever refuse a publishing deal with Darkhorse/Marvel/DC.

[IMG]http://img50.imageshack.us/img50/550/mibanner4xv.gif[/IMG]

I recall DC and Marvel's

Brian's picture

I recall DC and Marvel's first attempts at webcomic content by putting previews of certain print titles up on their respective websites. Marvel's tried to utilize Flash in order to give it a "real book" feel that really just took too damn long to load and made for a slow and clunky reading experience. DC's online content required you to download the pages to your computer and read them with Adobe Acrobat. If they're really going to get into doing webcomics, they've got to be willing to do them a LOT simpler.

Webcomic Imprint

Fabricari's picture

How difficult would it be for Marvel/DC/Whomever to create a webcomic "imprint" like they did with Epic or Vertigo? New artists, new web exclusive comics. Seems simple enough. It'd only take a few good titles to create a stir. And it would be a good portal to sell their print stuff. There's surely money to be made. Or at the very least it's free adverts for their print stuff.

Only, I doubt there would be much networking with "outsiders", and that's a lot of what makes webcomics so accessible, right?


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

I think it would be a big

PvP's picture

I think it would be a big deal, and really awesome, for some well known, professional comic book guys to do web-exclusive stuff. But that's not going to happen unless they believe in the experiment, can find the time or are paid for their efforts.

Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran's Superidol?

EricMillikin's picture

It sounds like you're describing Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran's Superidol. I think they put that up in about 2002?

--------------------------

Fetus-X is the greatest comic in the world.

Superidol

Fabricari's picture

Jesus, that's an incredible webcomic. But I don't think that's the degree of effort he's talking about. A 13 page story that could safely be reprinted in a standard comic book doesn't seem much like a mainstream artist making their home on the web. Perhaps if Superidol had regular updates for a year, then there would be a substantial buzz around it. It seems like the kind of comic that would carry on quite well.

I think it's pretty tough to market 13 pages and build significant hype around it, even if they're some of the most beautifully rendered pages I've seen online. (I'll have to learn more about Colleen Doran's work.)

I don't see it happening until they can quantitativly measure a loss of money because of webcomics. To be honest, aside from graphic novels, I don't even bother with pamphlet books anymore - webcomics fill that need for me.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Like i said-- it's not that

djcoffman's picture

Like i said-- it's not that they would swoop in and all of the fun we're having would die off... but form a business side of things, they could very easily swoop in and DEFINE webcomics, which would totally leave a bad taste in some creators mouths who feel they have some flag in "webcomics" as pioneers. -- That's just business though.

Man, go look at the Bendis Board forum, which is VERY large and rabid-- they would all EAT UP a daily webcomic written by Bendis. Believe it. Even if he did Wolverine Daily, you'd see it fast become one of the most read webcomics online, and the books would sell like hotcakes too. It'll totally work for the big guys if:

A. They play to their own strengths.

B. They hire the right people who KNOW the web. Know the ins and outs of delivery systems, online promotion, etc.

Ad dollars would be... jesus.. ad dollars alone would make it worthwhile for them to do it. I mean, you might be reading a Bendis Daily along with an Adidas shoe ad, but still...

:)

I wouldn't be too quick

I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the idea that DC and Marvel could yet come to dominate the webcomic "market". It's not that long ago that people (audiences and business analysts alike) were writing off Disney as being too set in its ways to innovate. But it's always bounced back. Whether through limited forays into the world of 3D animation in its own right (Tarzan) or through ownership of or partnership with an existing innovator (Pixar), the dominant corporations in any industry will usually find a way to adapt and come out on top.

Just wait until the big guys (i.e. the money guys, not the anti-liberal brigade) start lobbying for more control over the net. Despite what current conventional wisdom would have us believe, there's always a way to control content if the rewards for doing so are substantial enough.

As soon as Marvel or DC believes it can make money from web-based distribution, it'll lobby for the sort of controls that will exclude any real competition - like, maybe, content-provider licences that only major publishers can afford to buy and comply with (just as an example!) (It would be pretty easy for them to argue the case on the grounds that much of today's web-content is irresponsible, harmful to minors etc etc.) It's what any major company wanting to preserve its monopoly (okay, duopoly!)would do.

Beware complacency, guys! Web-comics just aren't a financially attractive target yet!

___________________________
Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Website: www.brokenvoice.co.uk
Contact: edit_bvc@yahoo.co.uk

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Actually, you split the

Tim  Demeter's picture

Actually, you split the difference, Scott, if you don't mind, which route are you finding is working best for you?

Tim Demeter
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Tim Demeter
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Re: Actually, you split the

PvP's picture

[quote=timdemeter]Actually, you split the difference, Scott, if you don't mind, which route are you finding is working best for you?

Tim Demeter
Reckless Life[/quote]

For me, the website and the daily strip feel like the heartbeat of PvP. Losing the comic book or the merchandise for any period of time is survivable. But if the website goes away, PvP dies. That's what I feel.

The comic book wasn't some big plan. I just wanted to do one. And at the time I started self-publishing, it was a way to diversify my income. One more possible avenue for a check coming in. I didn't expect printing a PvP comic would work. It was just another idea I threw against the wall and it stuck. It worked for me.

So with Marvel and DC and Dark Horse, I think the print versions are the heartbeat. If Spider-man was online and not in comic book stores, it would feel as if Spider-man was dead. That's where Spider-Man fans get their fix. Not on the web. Their ritual is every wednesday in those comic book shops.

that last part about them

djcoffman's picture

that last part about them getting their fix weekly in the stores? It's true, but.. WOW it's been rapidly changing as entire legions of comic fans have been flocking to places like the Bendis board and Warren Ellis's Engine--- those same people would eat up a webcomic by their favorite creators or iconic characters.

believe it.

I dunno. It just seems to me

PvP's picture

I dunno. It just seems to me that the current webcomics community was borne from the fact that most people can't get into print (be that by breaking into comics, getting their strips published in magazines, etc).

In other words, without the web, we would have no other viable way of getting our work out to the masses. But now, with the internet, we have a way to get past the bottlneck of having an editor somewhere like your work enough to give it a potentially large audience.

And that bottleneck isn't there to oppress, right? It's there because these editors have to sell books to keep their companies alive. So it's dangerous to put in stuff that's not going to guarantee the sales of the magazine. So only a couple people each year get the break.

The web allows EVERYTHING to go out. The good and the crap. And then the audience chooses who rises up.

So looking at it from Marvel's point of view, or DC's point of view...why would they need the web, or webcomics other than a novelty?

Web is a Threat and an Opportunity For Marvel/DC

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote=PvP]And that bottleneck isn't there to oppress, right? It's there because these editors have to sell books to keep their companies alive. So it's dangerous to put in stuff that's not going to guarantee the sales of the magazine. So only a couple people each year get the break.

The web allows EVERYTHING to go out. The good and the crap. And then the audience chooses who rises up.

So looking at it from Marvel's point of view, or DC's point of view...why would they need the web, or webcomics other than a novelty?[/quote]

I think Marvel and DC as the VERY VERY LARGE incumbents in the comic book market have lots of reasons not to get into webcomics.  It's a very different environment in terms of distribution, business models and it potentially could undermine their current, profitable business model.  They certainly aren't going to jump into webcomics because it's "cool" or whatever.

But if you look at it another way - there's clearly not a lot of growth in the direct market for the product that Marvel and DC are selling - they are experimenting with other genres and styles (hence the manga initiatives) but they still rely heavily on the superhero titles.  In fact as a percentage of their overall corporate profit, revenue from comic books is certainly declining as they make more money from licensing their characters for films and videogames.

So at some point it's entirely conceivable that they'll see the web as an opportunity that lets them grow a new audience or helps them to replace their declining direct market business.  Marvel's limited efforts so far are part of that process - just like the record companies finally letting Apple sell music some years back and movie and tv experimenting with web-based distribution.  All of these guys want to make new money from new areas without losing any of the money they already make from their existing areas.

There's no question in my mind that entertainment (and information like news as well) as a whole is going to be very-web centric within 5 years at most - whether comics will follow those overall trends is likely but impossible to know for sure. 

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: I dunno. It just seems to me

Tim  Demeter's picture

[quote=PvP]I dunno. It just seems to me that the current webcomics community was borne from the fact that most people can't get into print[/quote]

True, but it seems some good ideas both in terms of form and business have come out of that practical necessity. To me, the Bigs' potential advantage in hitting the web would be outreach, provided they marketed outside their existing audience. In a more immediate sense, I agree with what's been said above, they'd make a KILLING in adverts compared to the likely overhead required to actually do it.

Tim Demeter
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Tim Demeter
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Dark Horse online comics

Several of Dark Horse's Hellboy stories are online, hosted either by Dark Horse or Playboy.
Online Hellboy list

Didn't Cover That Because...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

For both Image and Dark Horse, their creators have various strategies for dealing with the web outside of the publisher. To cover all of that would have made this article just too long but there's definitely Image and Dark Horse published comics on the web in various formats.

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

It's hard to imagine a time

Greg Carter's picture

It's hard to imagine a time when anything with the DC or Marvel brand on it will be anything other than underwear perverts. It's both a matter of the money/inertia discussed above, and TWG's points. They can make a ton of money, but by using their current franchises. Not developing anything new. Not any time soon anyway.

I do think their offspring like CMX could do very well but their section of the DC site barely exists now. DC and Marvel could make some decent coin, I'm sure. But it will be side-divisions. And there will be very little experimentation or patience at losing any money.

But this is the most true statement I've seen:
[quote]I see them as looking to webcomics as a farm league for print.[/quote]

I know two creators who are thisclose to finishing up contracts to publish their webcomic collections with two different Big Comic Publishers. One is a "print the current series only" contract similar to Fred Gallagher's at Dark Horse. The other is a current series AND development deal silmilar to Fred's at CMX. So they know about webcomics, and see the possiblility of success, but they're not thinking outside the box yet. If Fred and DC get along, the possibilities of their cooperation is practically endless. And that can open doors for others. Slowly, for sure. But nothing succeeds like success.

This I know: it is going to be very interesting to see what those big print comic companies do in the next year or so.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

Well, here's the seperation.

djcoffman's picture

Well, here's the seperation. We're talking BIG business, so much of a big business that our feeble independent creator minds cannot conceive of the amounts of money that companies like these could EASILY make if they put up free webcomics. It would actually BOOST their company profits, especially with things they're good at, like tie-ins and crossovers... and book trades of the online works, faggedabout it.

How would they make money? Forget subscription type things... ADVERTISING. They'd make MILLIONS in ad revenue, where the little webcomic pond only makes maybe thousands at best, IF you're extremely lucky.

All of these big companies could totally dominate in ad revenue.. maybe they'd pay out a creative team 3000 a month to produce a daily feature? Then they could easily make five times that in a week--- don't believe it? You'd be a fool not to. Totally not related, but even NICHE websites for politics like Crooks and Liars easily get a thousand a week for a mini blog ad, http://www.blogads.com/dsppltboemjbsthnbjmdpn/1100655750842/advertise

If Marvel and the big boys wanted to, they could dominate, with several ad partners they already do business with. Not to mention the wide media exposure they have at thier disposals. If the giants wish it, they could move in and take it all over.

It's something many of you should think about, maybe even embrace. Heck, you might be, in the future, being paid to a webcomic for Dark Horse-

Of course, there will always be hobbyists out there, but the "industry" aspect-- we havent seen ANYTHING yet.
DJ Coffman
http://yirmumah.net

Sure

The William G's picture

Everything you suggest can come true. And if The Big Two do decide to move in with a big splash, they can.

But I doubt they would last. Who exactly is their audience going to be? They havent been all that good at building a new readers for about 20 years now. And what could they possibly do that is going to motivate the core spandex readers to prefer 72dpi over print? Outside of making a big title a web-exclusive, or the sudden collapse of the direct market.

As well, The Big Two never attempt new genres... And they always half-ass it when they do. They'd need to provide what the web audience wants if they were to have any hope of building a readership of people (okay, aging geeks) not set in their reading habits.

I think they realize these potential stumbling blocks and that's why they're going to sit and wait. Sit and wait for webcomic tastes to dramatically shift towards superheroes. Great for Justin, Al, Tim, Jerzy, and the rest of those guys, if it happens.

But yeah, forget Marvel & DC. Image and Dark Horse... I think it's these companies that have the best chances of doing what you feel will happen. They're willing to provide material with more appeal to their likely readers.

(I change my mind about Viz and Tokyopop. It seems OEL manga doesnt sell, and any lisenced stuff from Japan would probably have a million fan translations already available.. If they could get the rights to do it.)

_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


Re: Sure

Tim  Demeter's picture

[quote=The William G]Who exactly is their audience going to be? They havent been all that good at building a new readers for about 20 years now.[/quote]

Ah, but is it they who suck at getting new readers, or the current market who sucks at embracing anything outside the familiar? I wonder how a quality mainstream book like Runaways that suffers from marginal sales would do with a more diversified web-based audience? My guess would pretty freaking good. I'm sure part of the reason a comic like that doesn't do as well as it could is it's lack of familiar characters, which the racks feed upon. But when every character (or the great majority) is unfamiliar to the reader, as it would likely be for the random web surfer, the playing field levels, and a book with new characters is longer at at a disadvantage, in fact, has a strong advantage because there's no prior baggage.

The other obvious solution is the Ultimate/All-Star (well, Superman, anyway) formula. I'd be interested to see if those lines really do garner new readers, or if they just attract exiting fans who like Spider-Man or Superman comics that aren't ridiculous. Maybe these new readers just need it delivered to them?

But Hal Jordan fans will stick to paper, and that's fine. (They won't be around forever.)

Dear Marvel and DC,
These are good ideas.
Call me.

Tim Demeter
Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
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Hells no

The William G's picture

I believe that they will never dominate for the following reasons:

1- The technology is just not up to snuff. Sitting and squinting at a monitor for the time it takes to read, say.. Watchmen, compared to the easy on the eyes print? No way their fan base would be willing to do that given what a bunch of cranks over paper quality they are. And if their fanbase wont go for it, they wont pay for it. Thus, the "big companies" will continue to sit and wait.

2- Their fanbase is old and getting older. Not that some guy in his 40s wont sit in front of a monitor, but "he's" been reading capes in a certain way for three or so decades, and "he's" not going to change unless forced to. And the young people who ARE reading comics, aren't reading superhero comics.

Tokyopop, Viz and Dragon Magazine stand a much better chance at doing any sort of domination that may happen.

3- The current webcomics scene is an extensive love letter by fandom to itself. This isn't likely to change any time soon, and it isnt likely to be realized by big companies that this is the sort of readership they have to appeal to.

So I don't think "Wolverine Daily" will cut it. But I do think "The Adventures of Squirrel Girl", will.

Which I admit that I would totally read.

Hell, I'd even do a fan art for it.

_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


The Web's just not all that

The Web's just not all that easily dominated. If it were that easy, gamer strips already would have done it.

Well, it doesn't matter what

djcoffman's picture

Well, it doesn't matter what you "think"-- I've spoken with editors from several of the "big" comic companies, and the only reason they haven't utilized webcomics more is, there's not a solid guaranteed way for them to make the amount of money necessary for them to even consider it. BUT, they all admit, when the money and time is right, they'd have more focus and output on the web.

While Marvel or DC couldnt come in and overtake the CURRENT webcomic scene, have no doubt that if they wanted to, and put the right people in charge, they could easily have a daily Spiderman or Batman, Xmen, ANY of their big flagship icons as a webcomic and bring a TON of comic readers to them. Plus, unlike the majority of webcomics, the quality of those things would be polished and professional and simply make everything look like crap. People will hate it when the big bucks come in and "invent webcomics" when us little guys have been toiling around in the medium for years. Heck, remember, Marvel and DC didnt really invent Superheroes either, but they co-own the trademark and to the public, YUP they invented Heroes. Could it be that one day, 60 years from now, when someone says "webcomic" to someone in a supermarket they will think "WEB OF SPIDERMAN"? It very well could be.

Not that I wish for those things to happen, but the community should be aware that it will at some point happen.

Re: Well, it doesn't matter what

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

[quote=djcoffman]Well, it doesn't matter what you "think"-- I've spoken with editors from several of the "big" comic companies, and the only reason they haven't utilized webcomics more is, there's not a solid guaranteed way for them to make the amount of money necessary for them to even consider it. BUT, they all admit, when the money and time is right, they'd have more focus and output on the web.
[/quote]

That's the inertia thing I'm talking about. Marvel and DC have a very specific way of doing business: all of the people involved in the different steps of the process expect a certain level of compensation, based upon decades of precedents and market studies (at x cover price and y sales, we'll generate z dollars). By contrast, the web is scary. There's no easy way of translating readers to sales to revenue. Like newspapers, they'll have to leap into the abyss, or face constantly dwindling profits, I just don't see them having the same relevence on the web that they do in stores (well, specifically American stores).

As for eventually dominating webcomics, I don't see that happening either. I think Marvel and DC will do well on the web. I think both need to find their way there eventually, but the audience for webcomics is considerably different than the audience for super-hero comics. It's like the difference between comic strips and comic books (a random sampling of webcomics makes it seem obvious that webcomics grew more out of the traditions of the comic strip than the comic book). Most people would admit to reading newspaper comic strips, but a much smaller segment of the population reads comic books. Marvel has had a long standing relationship with comic strips, but they've never dominated it, despite their roster of talent.

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teaching baby paranoia

Making Money Is Exactly the Issue for These Guys

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote=djcoffman]Well, it doesn't matter what you "think"-- I've spoken with editors from several of the "big" comic companies, and the only reason they haven't utilized webcomics more is, there's not a solid guaranteed way for them to make the amount of money necessary for them to even consider it. BUT, they all admit, when the money and time is right, they'd have more focus and output on the web.[/quote]

 

I don't doubt this, but for Marvel and DC it is complicated like it is for any big player in an established market pondering what to do about an upstart technology.  These guys make money from the current comic book/direct market framework and so they have a lot to lose by publishing webcomics.

If they embrace webcomics they run the risk, potentially, of disrupting their business model. (This is no different actually than issues before Hollywood, Music industry, newspapers, etc)  I don't personally think DC and Marvel have all that much to lose by fully embracing webcomics b/c I think a lot of their core direct market customers would continue to buy the books just like the most fervent fans of webcomics or newspaper comics for that matter like to buy books of things they otherwise get for free.

I'm sure if Marvel and DC really jumped into the web though they'd make a huge splash, but they could never dominate it like they have the comic book segment of the marketplace because there won't be the same distribution and retail bottlenecks on the web.

 

Xaviar Xerexes 

 

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

DJ, I don't think they're

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

DJ, I don't think they're watching and waiting for a moment to enter the webcomics fray; I see them as looking to webcomics as a farm league for print.

To be honest, I'm not convinced that Marvel and DC will ever have much of an impact on webcomics (beyond just trying to stem the tide of pirated versions of their books by offering reprints online). They're operating with all the inertia of 50+ years of factory style comics. Unless they have an editor/publisher who is a serious webcomics evangelist and is willing to drag the company into webcomics singlehandedly, I doubt Marvel and DC will do much in the near future.

I imagine that at some point in the next fifteen years or so, accountants will realize that the costs of physically printing super-hero periodicals greatly outweigh the marketplace and they'll mandate a switch to electronic delivery. (Of course, it'll be too late, as our robot masters will undoubtedly forbid all stimuli that angries up the blood.)

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teaching baby paranoia

Re: DJ, I don't think they're

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote=bryantpaul]Unless they have an editor/publisher who is a serious webcomics evangelist and is willing to drag the company into webcomics singlehandedly, I doubt Marvel and DC will do much in the near future.[/quote]

Well Marvel has John Barber right?

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Yeah, and when they decide

Yeah, and when they decide to actually use him, then maybe we'll see something. Right now, they've got this highfalutin-sounding Web division and last time I talked to him, they hadn't even bothered to consult him on it.

He's RIGHT THERE!

IN THE OFFICE!

Grrrn.

DC

djcoffman's picture

DC and DarkHorse have an important connection to the webcomic world actually-- both have published MEGATOKYO, and DH is publishing Penny Arcade. Don't think they haven't taken notice of webcomics as a future thing to tap into. They're all watching and waiting.