Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The "Comic Mix" Webcomic Revolution

a page from John Ostrander & Tim Truman's "GrimJack,"
appearing exclusively at Comic Mix "Phase 2"
(click for bigger image)

I've been hearing whispers about an intriguing "Phase 2" to the comic book blog/consortium Comic Mix ever since I ran into Glenn Hauman at Kyle Baker's charity baseball game. Glenn was pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing but I thought I heard "original content" uttered but for a second.

Well, at the Baltimore Comic Con, where I attended Comic Mix's press announcement regarding "Phase 2" -- which launches October 2nd -- I got to learn the full extent of the company's publishing plans.

More specifically, webcomic publishing.

"Let's face it, the traditional comic book format is a 15-minute, 20 minute experience," Comic Mix Editor-In-Chief Mike Gold told the audience. "Four bucks is a lot for a 15-minute experience."

Is there more than a bit of irony that legendary former DC Comics group editor & First Comics founder Gold and the other comic book veterans that make up Comic Mix's staff and creative roster would turn to this up-and-coming new medium to showcase their stories?

"The webcomic allows us to be free of many of the publishing constraints that we faced with the traditional format," Gold explained. "With webcomics, we don't need artificial cliffhangers at the end of an issue. We can just let the story tell itself."

And the other thing? The content is free.

Mike Gold: "You don't have to pay a penny."

The list of talent Comic Mix has on-board is impressive, including Mike Baron, Rick Burchett, Chris Burnham, Michael Davis, Ian Gibson, Dick Giordano, Mike Gold, Stuart Gordon, Mike Grell, Bo Hampton, Glenn Hauman, Marc Hempel, Lovern Kindierski, Linda Lessman, Jay Lynch, Frank McLaughlin, William Messner-Loebs, John Ostrander, Andrew Pepoy, Bob Pinaha, Michael H. Price, Bill Reinhold, Nick Runge, John K. Snyder III, Joe Staton, Martha Thomases, Robert Tinnell, Timothy Truman, Trevor Von Eeden, Mark Evan Walker, Matt Webb, Mark Wheatley, Skip Williamson, Marv Wolfman, and John Workman.

It's a lot of familiar names, with familiar properties like "GrimJack," "Jon Sable," "The Adventures of Simone and Ajax," and more.

But Comic Mix "Phase 2" is also about giving a voice to comic creators to tell the stories they've always wanted to tell.
a page from Comic Mix's "Demons of Sherwood," written by Robert Tinnell & painted by Bo Hampton (click for bigger image)

For example, Trevor Von Eeden's graphic novel "Jack Johnson: The Great Black Hope," about the first African-American heavyweight prize-fighter. It's a project that Von Eeden has wanted to publish his whole career. With Comic Mix, he gets that chance.

But what are my personal views on "Phase 2"?

By watching their presentation at Baltimore and just talking to Mike Gold and the other Comic Mix staff, I felt a great deal of energy and excitement coming off of them, an excitement that was quite contagious. They are obviously so passionate about the project.

But also, in their dedication to their talent -- and specifically to established talent some of whom, in my opinion, have been relatively ignored by the mainstream as of late -- I got a real sense of the way comics used to be. It's a family. It's looking at your talent and your staff as a big family. It is looking at the pool of comic book creators and editors who have helped make comic books what it is today -- issue-by-issue, character-by-character -- as a family, a family of people who just want to tell great stories.

And I think that spirit is very important. I think maintaining that continuity is important.

a page from "EZ Street," a graphic novel serialized on Comic Mix by Robert Tinnell & Mark Wheatley
(click for larger image)

But far from looking backward, Comic Mix is about moving forward with new technology that will revolutionize the way we read comics, technology that makes these stories accessible to a wider audience.

Of course, one topic that always comes up in these discussions about webcomics and new comic book publishing ventures in general is the topic of rights.

Gold confirmed that all the creators on Comic Mix will retain both their copyrights & trademarks.

The company will get their revenue from advertising and eventual "hard copy" trade-paperbacks of the stories they serialize on the site.

Related to the topic of the eventual trade-paperbacks, Comic Mix contributor Tim Truman wanted to point out is that "retailers have not been left out of the mix in this." He went on to make an analogy regarding DVD collections of TV shows. "When a show first comes out you don't want to watch all the episodes in one shot. But later, if you really like the show, you can purchase the DVD collection."

I for one am very much looking forward to what the company has to bring to the table (and my screen) come October 2nd. And my blog will be looking at specific Comic Mix projects in future posts.