Q: Why digital? Don't you know you're ruining comics?
A: We are big advocates of the analog arts, and probably always will be. Even though Zander gushes over Cintiqs a little more than a grown man should, we both learned the art of comics in the days before scanners and computers, when you drew your comics, made changes right there on the paper, and pasted everything up for the camera (we actually worked for the same newspaper without knowing it -- more on that in a later post). We both were raised using rotary phones and typewriters, and we both see the value in comics as an art form that you can easily produce on a desert island.
But we're also both broke most of the time, and to be able to put out a hard copy magazine the way we envision it we'd have to charge you a fistful of dollars just to break even. And that's not fun for anybody. Digital allows you to read our comics for only eight lousy quarters.
Q: But how do you feel about destroying brick & mortar stores?
A: We don't think we are. We have several friends here in Minneapolis that either run or work at comic book stores, and we don't want to see them go. They're anchors in our community. We actually think that by first releasing HECK and CRATER XV digitally, MORE people will know about -- and want to purchase -- the physical books when they come out in Spring 2013. Kevin put his first graphic novel, Far Arden, online for free (where you can still read the whole thing), and while that move was controversial at the time, he heard from many people who said either they read the book online and that inspired them to buy the hardcopy, or who said that they started reading it online, but decided to wait to pick up the physical book.
Also, in this particular case, Top Shelf doesn't typically put out serialized comics ("floppies"), so we aren't competing with an existing or even potential print product, which both salves our guilty consciences and allows us to price our digital serials to be more competitive with other digital media.
Q: But if people are buying Double Barrel, aren't they essentially paying for the same book TWICE?
A: We intend the experiences of reading Double Barrel month to month and reading either HECK or CRATER XV to be different; The books, of course, will be the complete stories of both HECK and CRATER XV, formatted to suit each tale best, but Double Barrel will be a window into our studio, with the extra content giving a sense of what goes on here and how and why we do what we do.
As for buying things twice, that is the model that we are trying to subvert here. Most comic books are serialized for a time and then collected once they have completed a storyline. Backup stories are rare, letters pages are gone, and so you are paying only for the privilege of reading the book ahead of time. With so much competition for your purchasing dollar, we want to make both experiences worthwhile and distinct. Most other art in digital form works out to around $2/hour, give or take, and so that is what we intended here.
Hopefully if you enjoy the experience of reading the graphic novels HECK and CRATER XV and decide to buy the collected editions, you will feel like you haven't already paid us a fortune.
Every publisher is playing with the notion of publishing both digital and hard-copy versions of the same book, but some publishers (not to name names, but they're owned by some huge corporations) are charging you around three bucks for maybe 20 pages. Top Shelf is capping Double Barrel at two bucks and each issue will have at least 50 pages of content. A year's worth will be $24, which will include 2 full graphic novels, extra comic strips, FAQs, How-To essays, sketches, and more.
Q: If you like digital so much, why aren't you putting it online for free?
A: The potential plus of Double Barrel making a little money and freeing up some of our time that is otherwise spent on uninspiring freelance work is what we're after here. We've put many, many small doses of comics on the web for free (and still feel like that's a great thing to do with a strip), but when you have a product that's best read in large chunks, we feel it's better to package it together and charge a token amount, and see if we can't all be happy with that. With this number of pages, we can feel good about giving you a long bus ride's worth of reading for about the same price as the bus ride itself, and we hope that many people will feel the same way.
Q: Well, you've convinced me. Thank you for your time.
A: No, thank YOU, Mr. Straw Man; it's been a delight.