March 17, 2012

Comics Necropolis - Part One

This Column was a collaborative piece done with Steve Savage (The Boss at Fan to Pro)which first ran on Comics Bulletin.
The power of the internet, beyond the immediate access to pornography and pictures of kittens doing cute stuff, is that you can combine powers with others. It's like a giant conceptual Voltron.

Last week I mentioned how Daniel Elkin's ventures into the Bargain Bin had inspired me to come up with a business idea - an archive and storehouse of digitized oddball comics. This idea combined Daniel's Cheap Thrills experiences and my eternal love of history and strange things. I figured I'd write it up, post it, and then move on to something more.

Then Daniel and I talked. This is when the Voltron phenomena started.

The more we talked about it, the more we fleshed out the concept.

So what you have here is Daniel and I's proposal for how this idea can become reality – if someone will run with it. You know – someone like you. That is a massive hint.

The idea? We call it "Comics Necropolis."

The basic idea of Comics Necropolis is this:

1) It would be a digital archive of more obscure comics, the things not owned by any existing large houses, titles that are out of print, etc.

2) The comics would be available in some easy format - preferably through a large e-comics distributor.

3) It would come with supplemental material - blog, magazine, etc. – which would expand the idea and allow for additional income streams.

The basic idea is pretty simple - we need a place to get the odd and the weird and the long-lost titles online. Preferably this should be in a self-supporting way that can eventually pay for a few people, full or part time, to maintain the archive and expand it.

Are you unsure, doubtful, or cautious? Do you find yourself asking why anyone would want to do this anyway? I mean, sure, there's the fun of the old comics, some good laughs, a sense of nostalgia, but really, why would this be viable? Why would people care?

In the course of our conversations, Daniel and I hit on quite a few reasons:

First, Comics Necropolis would be an archive of what didn't work. We're not talking about laughing at failure alone(though, face it, we will – especially Daniel). Comics Necropolis would be an archive of fascinating mistakes, lost ideas, and more. When marketing fails, when funding collapses, when printing is too expensive - there's a giant history here from which we all can learn.

Second, Comics Necropolis would revive works and art that truly deserve appreciation. There have been amazing creative efforts over the years that deserve wider distribution and recognition. There have been works that were inspirational, or unusual, or ahead of their time. I remember someone did a true-to-myth comic of Norse legends that blew me away and I would love to see it again - if only I could remember the title.

Third, Comics Necropolis would provide a broader sense of comics history. The strange, obscure, and dead titles out there may have given birth to careers, hopes, plans, or more. Their failures remind us of issues of economics and appeal and markets. Comics Necropolis will let us learn more about all of this.

Fourth and finally, Comics Necropolis will help us understand the march of technology. What today is done entirely online and cheaply was, not even two decades ago, insanely expensive. Methods of print have changed, methods of distribution have changed. Comics Necropolis would be a window into the past of this type of technology.

Four pretty intriguing ideas, huh? Like what you're hearing? Has your appetite for a venture of this sort been whetted? Well, there's more.

Come back next week when Daniel and I will discuss how this idea could be done and what features it should have . . .

Check out everything that is Steve Savage here and make sure you check out his excellent site on how to turn your hobby into your career, Fan To Pro.

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