BLOG Talking About The Revolution

Do you enjoy web comics? Blogger Stacey Whittle has been thinking about the effect of technology on the small and indie press...

I went to a lot of comic conventions last year and saw a number of panels which discussed the digital comic revolution. The general consensus being print comics are an endangered species and digital is the future baby; ready or not, here it comes.

I don’t think I’m ready. And I’m not so very sure that everybody else is either. I remember when eBooks first made their big appearance and we were told that books were the past - get with the programme luddites and pick up yer eBooks here. It was a bit of a damp squib really, with fellow SFX blogger Lee Harris being the only person I know bigging up the digital format. And the rest of us book sniffers (it’s all in the smell, it really is) hanging on tight to our print copies.

I don’t think that is going to be the case for comics. I think there will be a move to digital comics but I don’t think it is going to be a complete move. I think we will become more like our European cousins and the single issues or floppies will become a thing of the past. I see trades only for the future, with single issues being downloaded onto your chosen portable viewing system either for free or a very small amount of money. I don’t necessarily think this is an entirely bad thing (except if 2000AD suffers - you do not want to see a 32-year-old woman beating the floor and wailing at the death of her favourite comic!) because floppies are so ridiculously expensive at the moment that I'm personally building up to a cull. Trades are better value for money. They look nicer on your bookshelves and they are meant to be kept and reread and adored.

There are a lot of web comics out there and their creators often produce trades of their comics, and we buy them. A lot of them! And that’s why I don’t think the trade is going anywhere. Warren Ellis’s Freak Angels is a big seller – you can go and read it all for free online , but we buy it anyway. No, I think trades are here to stay. What I do wonder is how the digital revolution will affect artists. Many, many artists use computers and tablets and Photoshop to produce their artwork now. Where that is going to take them, and what they are going to be able to produce with the technology, is going to be incredibly interesting to watch. What else can be achieved? The sky’s the limit really, but will it cause a retro backlash and will ink and paper be the new Cintiq? I can’t help thinking so. Everything is so cyclical in life, isn't it?

How this will affect the small press and the indie press I’m not so sure. The indie guys are often at the cutting edge of new technology – you can read Insomnia comics on your PSP for example. Tommie Kelly who writes the web comic Road Crew has put a 3D page up on his website . The smaller creators who do it for passion are just as likely to be as excited by the new technology as anyone else. I have heard people say at panels that they think the digital revolution will be the end of the small press, I can’t see that happening at all, in anyway. They have always been - under a guise of different names, alternative comics, underground press, stripzines etc – and always will be and maybe their passion and creativity and outright talent will show up in different formats; but they will show up, I have no doubt about that.

As for my unpreparedness for the changes... well, maybe I’m not quite ready to give up all my floppies just yet, but I am excited to see what the future will bring (please, please let there be jet packs!). So yeah, viva la revolution!

This is a personal article by Stacey Whittle, one of our 12 site contributors. Are you reading online or mobile comics? What effect do you think they'll have on traditional paper comics? Your thoughts welcome as always.