David Lloyd is one of the most famous and distinctive British comics artists, with a career than spans Nightraven , Doctor Who , V For Vendetta and Hellblazer . Now he’s embracing the digital age with a new online venture, as Stacey Whittle finds out…
To start could you tell me a little bit about Aces Weekly
“ I always wanted to do something about putting comic art on the computer screen, 1) in some experimental manner, exploring what could be done with it that avoided the unaesthetic values of most ‘motion comics”, and 2) as a simple means of distributing great comic art, using the screen as an alternative to paper. I was attracted to the ease in which this could be done too; just get a bunch of folks together to tell their stories and put them all together to distribute though the internet. No print, shipping, warehousing, and retail costs, and then the income from it can be split equally between all creators of the product. Go straight to the buyer from the drawing board!
“The original plan was to use someone else's platform to host the anthology, but I was persuaded that having our own identity was a good thing, so that's what we've done. I was helped majorly from the beginning by ex-Marvel editor Bambos Georgiou, who was a big fan of the traditional British comic weeklies which Aces Weekly is, to a degree, modelled upon. He became the managing editor on the project. Then I started recruiting potential contributors from a wide range of ‘ace’ creators I know in this business. And off we went and built the product. It's tailored for iPad, Android, laptop and PC, and is landscape in format, designed to fit the ratio of all those screens. And buyers access the weekly issues through the Aces Weekly website.”
Aces Weekly seems to be bringing together the great British anthology, of which I’m such a fan, and the digital medium – is that amalgamation a challenge?
“Nothing practical in problem terms, re collating and production. Technically it's reasonably easy to fit the art into the website from which it is accessed by customers. And the benefit of great comic art on screen is that it is never affected by poor printing or poor colour reproduction: what the creator intended is what you see. AND try connecting your iPad to your big plasma TV: it's luminescent and amazing, the way this great art deserves to be seen! We're still happy being small, though – but not TOO small: we're not for phones.”
What are the biggest benefits of the digital format?
“Ease of production, no unnecessary and draining costs, nothing to take away money from the creator just to get it to buyers. We just go from point A to point B at the touch of a button. No-one has to try to find a comic store or bookstore to get it. It never ends up in a back-issue bin; it's always available to buy. And subscribers always have access to it. They don't have to find shelf space for it either!”
Warning: video contains flashing images
Are there any cons to publishing this way, would you recommend it?
“Cons arise from the difficulty of the sales place. I'm sorry to say it, but there is far too much comic product on the net for free. So much, that despite the incredible value we offer – £6.99 for seven weeks of some of the finest creators in the medium totalling up to 210 pages in a volume – folks hesitate. I even see this when I'm selling Aces Weekly in person at conventions via the coded sketch cards we developed which are purchasable for the usual price of any volume, and have the bonus of a free sketch from me – the famous David Lloyd – thrown in! Even though they can see the brilliant work of Aces Weekly creators illustrated on a big banner beside me and in folders, etc.
“However, that resistance is mostly minor in those circumstances. The sketch cards are a very productive means of selling single volume collections of Aces Weekly we've found.
“Secondly, there is definite resistance to moving away from paper from very many comic readers, which is also a barrier in our way. When those problems lessen in effect, I'll happily recommend it!”
What have been the highlights so far for you?
“The highlights for me are simply the loyalty of our subscribers – a solid bunch, some of whom I meet at every convention – and the adventurousness of our contributors, who are aware of the difficulties of being so pioneering in what we're trying and take the risk that we're taking along with us, because they believe in the concept: that of their work going directly to those who can buy it from them and splitting that income equally with their fellow Aces. They also get to do almost anything they like as Aces Weekly contributors and they own it all too. It is an honour for me working with them all.”
There have been some amazing creators attached to Aces Weekly . Have most people embraced the digital aspect, or have you had to convince anyone about the format?
“One creator wasn't sure about the landscape format at the beginning but he soon found it liberating. There's an airiness about that space; portrait can be restrictive. For myself, I always looked at it in simple terms: as a double spread – a centre-spread – that you can get a lot out of in storytelling space.”
What does the next year hold for Aces Weekly ?
“More growth in on-going subscriptions, wider audience, and less resistance, hopefully, in the face of the fantastic value and variety we offer that is unequalled in any other quality presentation of comic art you can find anywhere, in print or out of it.”
• Thanks you so much to David Lloyd for taking time out to talk to us, you can find out more by looking at any of these links: