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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dirk and Comics Piracy -- Check out today's Journalista for Dirk Deppey's observations about the nature, availability and scope of online comics piracy via bit torrent sites.

"Virtually every genre-oriented comics pamphlet is scanned and posted online within a day or two of its release in stores. This includes everything released by Marvel and DC, of course, but also most of the material released by smaller publishers as well."

That's merely one of the eleven valuable points Dirk makes about this growing phenomenon. Much, much more in the link -- scroll down to the seventh section, "Digital Comics," for the rest.

I've dabbled a bit in downloading comics from bit torrent sites, and I don't have eleven things to say about it, but here's a couple:

* Many, many times I've downloaded a comic out of curiosity only to enjoy it enough that I have gone on to buy the actual comic. Recent examples would include World War Hulk #1 by Greg Pak and John Romita, Jr., and the entirety of Garth Ennis's Punisher MAX series, which I have liked so much I bought all the trade paperback collections, and then went on and bought those stories again in the oversized hardcover collections. In the latter case, this is an investment of something like $200.00 or so. Lesson? The availability of free, downloadable comics in .cbr or .cbz format can and will lead to large outlays of cash, but there's a catch.

* Many, many --the majority -- of corporate superhero comics I have downloaded are so ham-handedly amateurish and uninteresting that I haven't even bothered to finish them. And those are the ones that I bothered with, because like the vast majority of downloaders responding to this comics piracy poll at The V Forum, (quoting the poll here) "I cherrypick which titles I want to read so I don't waste time downloading crap I don't want." So yes, the availability of free, downloadable comics in .cbr or .cbz format can and will lead to large outlays of cash, but there's a catch.

The comics have to be worth reading.

As Dirk notes, the majority of available comics that you can download are corporate superhero comics. I'd submit to you that "I cherrypick which titles I want to read" would not be doing so well in that (admittedly unscientific) poll, if Marvel and DC would spend more time investing in and nurturing talented creators, encouraging them to do their best work and then rewarding them for it. Instead, they continue, decade after decade, to pander and pile up the crap on the shelves of the direct market -- crap that the V poll clearly suggests is not worth reading even when easily available for free.

There's an obvious business model for Marvel and DC to follow here, if they want to compete outside the direct market with the greater mainstream audience for comic books. Because surely not all the people buying comics on Amazon, at Borders, or Chapters, or their local independent bookstore, want to buy Fruits Basket or Persepolis or the other titles they choose; some of them would probably like to spend their money on quality adventure fiction, some of that even superhero fiction. So what's pretty clearly called for is more emphasis on quality, and less on overwrought continuity porn and bland trademark maintenance. One more time:

To be worth buying, the comics have to be worth reading.

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