The Middle Ground #125 | Everything old is new again, again
Whether it’s re-released previous print work with all-new material included, or using digital to release work that never even made it to the print stage in the first place, this past week has been one that has suggested that, yet again, old indie comics could find themselves resurrected by digital.
I am, I admit, very curious to see what happens if Valiant’s rumored digital release of two issues of Quantum and Woody, Christopher Priest and Mark Bright’s cult superhero series from the 1990s, that never actually saw print during the series’ original run turns out to be true. It makes sense, if there really are, as rumored, two entirely complete issues of Quantum and Woody that never made it to the final, printed stage out there, to include those issues in the digital re-release of the entire run when it happens later this year. After all, they were part of the original run for the creators, and their public debut more than a decade after the rest of the series provides the digital release with a news hook that will hopefully garner some level of media coverage and, therefore, higher sales in the end. Win-win for everyone, right? But what I’m going to be interested in is seeing whether those final two issues are significantly more popular than the rest of the run, with fans who’d purchased the original run in print coming back to collect the final two issues in the only format in which they’re available.
If they are a hit, those final issues, I wonder whether we’ll see other creator-owned series that were canceled with completed issues in the can follow suit — or even incomplete issues, for that matter. Comic book history is littered with series that have fallen before their time, whether because the publisher has folded unexpectedly (Hi, First, Eclipse, Comico, et al) or been bought out by companies that had little interest in continuing certain titles; we’ve also had series canceled for low sales at publishers that are still around, of course, with rights eventually returning to their creators after (usually) lengthy amounts of time. Almost all of these series have some element of fanbase still out there, and still active; could the creators — or whoever controls the rights — for these titles and characters bring them back digitally, and in the process, either complete unfinished stories or release unseen material from that period to offer added value to that which did appear the first time around?
The current Cerebus: High Society digital release is an example of that second idea, of course; not only does the digital release offer the complete content of the print issue, but it has all manner of background material from invoices to sketches from the era, making the digital issue a must-read for even the most ardent of Cerebus fan. It’s the DVD extra idea, transferred to comics, but it’s the kind of idea that makes me wonder whether or not it could bring a second life to all manner of books that had disappeared long before their time.
I like the idea that that’s a possibility, as strange as it may sound. It’s not that there’s an army of creators out there desperately wishing to go backwards in their careers and revisit former glories, but more that there’s an appeal to me in the digital format as a low-overhead method of providing continual income for their work on an ongoing basis, without worries about things falling out of print or whatever other concerns the analog world could provide. Maybe comiXology Submit could factor into this, somehow …