ComiXology is a popular platform for digital that lets you buy the comics once and then read them on multiple platforms: iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows 8 devices. While some publishers have their own iPad apps, there are many (including DC and Marvel) who run a ComiXology-powered app.
Today in the run-up to this weekend’s SXSW, ComiXology announced a new initiative called ComiXology Submit, which lets anyone submit comics to sell on the platform and get 50% of the net sales. There are 34 indie comics creators who signed on for launch, so you’ll already see their comics in the store now, but this opens up digital comics publishing for the masses in a way that doesn’t involve setting up your own website and infrastructure. If you’re interested in getting your own comics published, visit this page to get started!
The ComiXology app has a “Guided View” mode which zooms in on a panel or two and transitions from panel to panel; when you submit a comic, that is all taken care of for you. I’m not always pleased with Guided View (in cases where panels overlap or there are odd-shaped panels, you don’t get the effect of the full page) but for the most part it guides your eye so you don’t have to zoom in and pan around manually.
I was able to interview two of the artists on the project, Jake Parker and Shannon Wheeler. Jake Parker is the artist behind Missile Mouse, and also recently shipped Antler Boy and Other Stories, a collection of short comics stories that he funded on Kickstarter. Shannon Wheeler is best known for his long-running comic strip Too Much Coffee Man, but has also published cartoons in The New Yorker and a comic book about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill entitled Oil and Water.
Both Antler Boy and Too Much Coffee Man are now available in the ComiXology store.
GeekDad: Jake, you’ve got Antler Boy and Other Stories in the first batch of comics in the ComiXology Submit program; Shannon, I saw that Too Much Coffee Man is there as well. How did you both get involved in the project?
Parker: It was pretty simple. Comixology has a page where you can submit your email telling them you’re interested in the Submit program. As soon as I heard about it from an article I read, I submitted. A friend of mine who was already working with them on getting his creator owned comic in their app put in a good word for me as well. Before long they contacted me and we started the submissions process.
Wheeler: I’ve wanted to do a ‘Best Of’ for years. ComiXology contacted me about being part of the beta testing when they were trying out small publishers. It was a great match. I’d been asked to do digital books for years but I’ve always been hesitant.
Of course, Best Of caused me mental problems. What is best? There are cartoons I like that nobody else seems to get. Does that make them part of the best collection or do I leave them out? This tripped me up for about 6 months as I added and subtracted cartoons from the file. Deciding to call it “Favorites” solved a good number of my hang-ups. These cartoons are the ones I like.
GeekDad: Jake, have you published any of your comics online or in a digital format prior to this?
Parker: Not exclusively. I’ve had a few of my made for print comics up on my blog for folks to read. But the bulk of my comics work has been strictly for print. this is the first time my comics have been available on a platform like this. I’m pretty excited about it.
GeekDad: Shannon, I know TMCM has been available online — how does this ComiXology platform differ for you? How does it compare with running the comics on your own site, for instance? Did you have to do any reformatting or color work for this latest version?
Wheeler: At different times I’ve posted all of my cartoons online and I’ve posted only the most recent. Right now It’s a mix of recent and old work. It’s not very organized.
The comics on ComiXology are a chance for me to reorganize my work and put my best foot forward. I’m starting with the early color newspaper cartoons. Soon I’ll put together some of the short stories; Too Much Coffee Man Saves the Universe, and Too Much Coffee Man in Love.
It’s weird to see the panels so large and the colors so vibrant. Most of the time I love it. Also, it makes me wish I drew better.
GeekDad: For both of you, how does this compare to traditional print publishing of your comics? Jake, I know Missile Mouse was published by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint, but you decided to go the self-published route for Antler Boy. Did you prefer one experience over the other?
Parker: Self publishing has been an education. It made me fully appreciate everything a publisher does. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that you have to do as a self publisher that I never messed with when I worked with a publisher. That said, I still enjoy that side of things. From promotion to preparing files for the printer everything gets my personal attention. I also like that it’s all on me. If it fails I have no one to blame and if it succeeds I get all the credit.
Comparing the printing of Antler Boy versus the digital publishing of Antler Boy there’s a huge imbalance of the amount of work and money involved. Printing and shipping a few thousand books can mean an upfront cost of tens of thousands of dollars. For digital publication there’s zero cost outside of the time you put into it. I can finish drawing it one day and have it available for reading the next.
Wheeler: With print it’s a dice roll. I color the comics on the computer and then wait weeks to see how they look in print. There are multiple variables that affect the final book. Originally, I colored the cartoons to be printed in color in the newspaper so I used full saturation (I call it coloring with a sledge hammer). A solid red on newsprint prints dull. The paper itself has a slight tone that helps tie the page together. When I reprinted the cartoons in comic books I used better paper and the colors popped. Reprinting them digitally is closest to what I see when I’m coloring them. The detail is shocking. Great sometimes and horrifying other times. It’s definitely interesting.
GeekDad: Should we expect to see more of your comics on ComiXology soon? Jake, will you be able to publish things like Missile Mouse there, or is that up to Scholastic? Shannon, will we see Oil and Water, for instance, or does Fantagraphics get to decide about that? Or your collections of rejected New Yorker cartoons?
Wheeler: Looks like we got the Oil and Water book up on ComiXology today. The rejected books should come soon.
Parker: Yes! This summer I’ll have a brand new comic going up that’s in the works right now. On the other hand, Missile Mouse is in the hands of Scholastic. There’s plans for going digital with a lot of their content in the future, but nothing definitive yet, as far as I know.
GeekDad: For the “Guided View” feature, did you have to provide anything or did ComiXology pick how to divide up frames? Do you, as the artist, get any input into the final appearance?
Parker: The guided view feature is pretty fantastic. It took me a little while to warm up to it, but I recognize it does bring something special to the story telling. I just handed my book over to them and let them run with it. They did a great job processing my stories. I do have input, and in future releases I’d like to play with guided view a little more and test its potential.
Wheeler: They did it all. I’m going back through and making changes. ComiXology is an old hand at the guided view thing. There’s a learning curve for me. I’m still figuring out what I like and don’t like. Right now I lean toward a single panel at a time and I’m working up the nerve to put in the changes. Next week I might prefer 2 or 3 panels per view. It’s a new ball of wax.
GeekDad: Thanks for your time!