Robot 6

‘I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale’

Mark Waid

Mark Waid

“I think it is not only unaffected by piracy, it benefits from pirating. You cannot stop pirating of comics. It’s like trying to push the tide back with a broom. You can either be angry about it, and resistant, and fight and clamp down harder, or you can find ways to make that tool work for you. With Thrillbent, we offered all our files free to download on a weekly basis, so you can read them free on the site and you can also download them for free, and that way, sure enough, we got to control the quality of the image, we got to make sure it was not out of focus or crappy or corrupted files or whatever, we got to make sure there was a placard at the end that says, hey, if you like this come to Thrillbent for more stuff, and that worked wonders for us. And I know that pumped up our traffic. That is not the answer for every publisher, but I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale.”

Mark Waid, during the “Digital and Print” panel at Comic-Con International, when asked whether piracy poses a threat to the comics industry



Waid has said something similar before, and like then he again doesn’t mention whether he views the illegal downloading of his Marvel work as an inevitability that they should embrace. The content on his own website is already free, so using it as an example for the argument that piracy does not equal a “lost sale” certainly muddies the “debate.”

The phrase “That is not the answer for every publisher…” does not even come close to addressing the complexities at work here, and it would be nice to see if Waid thought the pirating of work he’s published through Marvel, DC, Boom, and other companies is a good thing, or at the very least nothing to be fought or worried over.

Waid obviously can’t speak for Marvel and it’s not his place to comment on the priating of marvel comics in any way. You want drama to be stirred where none exists.
-san diego

An interesting thing though sometimes Piracy can increase sales of comics, case in point Underground by Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber.
and the interview btw Warren Ellis and Steve Lieber
(Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber offered up Underground as free download, and Steve Lieber himself went on the 4chan boards, and by all accounts was civil & polite with them). So I;m kind of taking Mark Waid’s position here on this one.

I think his point is 100,000 illegal downloads does not come even remotely close to equaling 100,000 sales you would’ve gotten if there was no piracy. Most people willing to take an objective look at piracy agree that the VAST majority of illegal downloads come from people who never would’ve made the purchase in the first place. Sure, you can argue then they shouldn’t get to read the comic (a completely fair point), but that still doesn’t mean it equates to a lost sale.

Most publishers refuse to accept that as truth. People who are zero-tolerance anti-piracy would say removing illegal downloads would add significant sales, even if not equaling the number of illegal downloads. Pro-piracy advocates say it adds to sales by exposing readers to books they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to, leading them to purchase said book in one form or another.

The truth is surely somewhere in the middle.

IMO, it’s nothing to waste time fighting over because it’s going to happen regardless, so make it work for you instead of grumbling that it works against you.

I will add this as a clarity disclaimer: the industry isn’t “unaffected” by piracy (that was a hurried choice of a word), but neither is it the boogeyman upon which we can blame sliding sales. My points were, and remain, that you can’t wish piracy away and that no one can prove that every or even most downloads equal lost sales.

I used to illegally download comics to check out the first issue of a series and whether or not I’d bother purchasing the title full time. As a result I’d end up buying a lot of Dynamite titles and also got into the Walking Dead after I checked out issue 65 online. Then I bought the backlist and have been purchasing it ever since.

I haven’t done this for years because of the simple reason that 90% of comics are released in the library as tradepaperbacks on a regular basis. I agree with Waid. Most illegal downloaders will buy a comic if they like it, and most peruse titles with no intention of continuing to read them or buy them. I don’t think there’s much loss of revenue there.

i’m always amused by how many people leap to defend the profit margins of multinational corporations when those same corporations would not do the same for them.

Mark is right. Embrace Reality or fight against it. Doesn’t matter. Reality always wins.

I’ve never pirated a comic book but the very notion that the practice can be stopped is just silly. Embrace the paradigm shift or be crushed by it.

apoehler: Saying I want drama to be stirred is a quick and easy way to sidestep my points.

And I agree piracy happens regardless, and making it work for is a great idea, but again, that content is absolutely free for the consumer already, so the piracy in that case is not the same as someone downloading a scan of the newest Daredevil issue, rather than buying it from their comic shop. This doesn’t address whether Mark Waid (because there’s no way for me to confirm that comment is in fact the real Mark Waid) feels it’s beneficial, or even just slightly annoying, for copies of Daredevil to be downloaded illegally.

Yes, Mark Waid is not the marketing or sales representative for Disney, and is not in charge of digital initiatives or battles against piracy for the corporations employing him. He is, however, one of the most visible names in the industry who is saying piracy does not equal the loss of sales, then using his own website which distributes free content as a demonstration of how piracy can be used to benefit creators. Thrillbent is not losing comic sales because it is not offering comic sales. The piracy of content that is actually for sale is what’s in question here.


I agree that it may bring in business. I only ever pirate downloaded one comic and it was the complete series of Preacher. Within 5 or 6 issues I realized it’s awesome and since reading on a computer is annoying I went out and bought the whole run in trades and then later sold them and bought the hardcovers.

Pirating will never stop but at least it’s a way for some people to try new things they wouldn’t normally try and then make a buying decision.

If I paid for every comic I download I would be in the hole at least $100 a week.
If I HAD to pay for comics I would spent two thirds of jack shit a year buying one or two TPBs because I am that poor.

Why is it the consumer’s fault for keeping up with the times. Tough titty but supporting a comic shop these days is the same as preferring a horse and buggy to a car.

Doctor Bong: Your sense of entitlement doesn’t not supersede the law. You’re stealing, plain and simple, regardless of the justification. One day you’ll grow up and see that.

Tyler: Sorry, but that’s just plain idiotic. So pirating comics is a smarter idea than supporting a small business? A small business that sells collectibles, comics, cards, etc — entertainment. Does this ridiculous POV extend to all small businesses that aren’t tech oriented.

Mark Waid is correct in his statement, but the ridiculous justifications above make me hope that this generation grows in to mature, responsible adults. Fingers crossed.

Tyler: How is paying for things that dont belong to you an outdated notion? Thats about the dumbest thing i’ve ever read….

Anything that gets more people reading comics is a good thing. Even piracy. Right now we have a system where digital comics cost the same as ones that have to be printed on paper and driven to shops using gas. So the current amount charged online is fixed as a favour to old school stores. I have more of a problem with that than people downloading some comics for free.

My bad, I didn’t know online ad revenue was such a foreign concept to people. I know I didn’t completely explain myself but how do you think sites like, Google, Facebook, and more than likely this Thrillbent pay for themselves or make any money? They get a page view that other companies value through ad-space. Pretty simple stuff.

Jon Snow: I’m familiar with comic book shops and I was addressing comics. Almost any other nerd commodity can(collectibles, cards, specialty board games, miniatures, etc.) are far easier to get through the internet these days. I’ve seen this shift from my six years of comic/card shops. The times have been changing and although it would be nice to always have a physical copy of a comic, it just isn’t that feasible anymore. It’s easier to pirate for free and you’ll probably see more and more comics get this Thrillbent treatment. What would be the best strategy for someone like Marvel? Suing everyone? Refusing to change and lose your money? Actually try to compete with the best option?

stenchburg: Because change in the industry isn’t facilitated by supporting an outdated distribution system.

“I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale.” I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that most creators and publishers are making that argument.

I read that statistically speaking, the majority of downloaders buy considerably more media (Music/Movies/Games/Books/Comics) than the average non-downloader, so I think that it is more a matter of paying for as much as you can afford, and downloading the rest as well as what is not easily available. Thus, when there is no net loss of profit there is nothing immoral about downloading, it is just an extra bonus audience for the product.

What I can say for myself personally is that my overall consumption of comics skyrocketed once I discovered pirated comics. For an industry that depends so much on continuity-heavy superhero comics, it is almost an absurd demand on newcomers to pay for every single comic they need to feel comfortable with the new product.

There is less of an argument to be made for pirating creator-owned comics (which, I’m not going to lie, were among the first series I downloaded– The Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Strangers in Paradise), but then it can also be instrumental to building creator loyalty. Nothing you could have told me about Garth Ennis’s work would have made me want to read it until I did. Neil Gaiman likes to do a thing when asked about piracy– he asks how many people discovered their favorite novel or author by picking it up randomly in a bookstore, and how many people made that discovery by being lent the book (either by a friend or library). The number of hands that go up for the latter vastly outnumbers those for the former. He also says he sees his sales go up in any area where there’s an upswing of piracy of his work.

I know that’s easy for the Neil Gaimans (and even the Warren Ellises and Mark Waids) to say, but if your creator-centric argument against piracy is “what if they’re not good enough to get that kind of loyalty?” then you really need to ask yourself why you’re going to bat for them in the first place. If their work is decent enough to be read but not purchased, then the free market would have put them out of comics eventually. All piracy does is speed up the process. (And even that’s not necessarily the end– the last novelist I read whose books I was happy to read but can’t imagine paying cover price for was Ian Fleming.)

Can’t say as I care for any of Thrillbent’s offerings enough to pay for them. So, whatever.

@Hideous Energy: “Waid has said something similar before, and like then he again doesn’t mention whether he views the illegal downloading of his Marvel work as an inevitability that they should embrace.”

Erm, I don’t know what quote you read but I think it’s pretty damn strongly implied what he thinks of piracy in general.

@jon Snow: Copyright infringement is illegal, but no, it is not in fact “stealing, plain and simple”. If you want people to take your point of view seriously, consider ditching the hyperbole, familiarizing yourself with how copyright law actually works, and having an honest debate. Capitalizing your own handle properly would probably help too.

@Tyler: If you want to talk about what the best business strategy is for Marvel, it’s getting out of comics entirely and focusing on its film franchises. Is that what you really want?

The comparison to Google is cute. Notice how very few companies have managed to make Google’s business strategy work?

And speaking of that business strategy? Google’s making its money by spying on everything you do and monetizing your private information. You know how they manage to give you so many services for free? Because you’re not their customer, you’re their product.

You, too, are claiming a complex issue is simple. Saying it is doesn’t make it so.

But you know what IS a simple fact? DRM does not prevent piracy. And, speaking from a simple technical perspective, it never will (with the possible exception of video games where the entire binary blob is run on a remote server and the end user only uses a dumb terminal that accepts input, sends it to the server, and then receives streaming video from the server — but any form of static/passive media, or any form of interactive media that copies itself to local storage or memory, can be copied and propagated, by its very nature).

The implications of this are more complex — DRM doesn’t stop piracy but it IS a good way to lock publishers into a single distribution platform, as the likes of iTunes have shown us. Why do you suppose Image has announced it will be releasing its books DRM-free? It’s not just because they realized The Walking Dead is still making plenty of money even though it’s widely pirated (though that of course is part of it); I think it’s reasonable to assume the Comixology/Saga snafu a few months ago hammered home the drawbacks of relying on a single distributor.

Meanwhile, remember when all those free Marvel #1’s brought down Comixology? That’s stupid and unnecessary and throws the problems brought by DRM into sharp relief.

To wit: why in the FUCK would you copy-protect something you’re giving away for free in the FIRST place? That is STUPID.

I get that it was a joint deal with Comixology, and Comixology wanted to get people interested in their service. Did that succeed? Well, I haven’t seen their internals, but I’m guessing that no, having their server down for several days was not a great moment in advertising the quality of their service, and instead pissed off the customers they already had while failing to bring in the new ones who wanted free comics but couldn’t get them.

You know what they should have done? Put all the free #1’s out as CBZ files, stuck an ad for Comixology in at the end of each one, and put the whole thing out as a torrent. You know what the nice thing about BitTorrent is? Greater demand means BETTER download speeds, not worse like in the client-server model.

But the decision-makers at the major publishers aren’t interested in BitTorrent’s strengths or weaknesses as a technology; all they know is it’s used for piracy and they don’t want to support it. Which is foolish. BitTorrent is a transmission protocol; it doesn’t care whether the ones and zeroes transmitted through it infringe somebody’s copyright or not. It can be used for legal purposes or illegal ones, same as any other means of transmission, be that Usenet, HTTP, FTP, E-Mail, scanners, cameras, photocopiers, CD burners, DVD burners, hard drives, RAM, video cables, pencils, or crayons.

Anyhow, speaking for myself, I think Thrillbent is great and Waid is doing wonderful work (both creatively and in terms of technology). I continue to prefer to read comics at full size and printed on paper, but there’s room for Thrillbent in my library too and I’m glad it’s out there. And I also know I’m not representative of the public at large, that there ARE people who’d rather buy digital comics than paper ones, and I think Waid’s helping chart a course for the right way of doing it. And the data I’ve seen also suggest that the increasing demand for digital comics has actually helped bring MORE people into comic shops, not fewer as people have often assumed. I sincerely hope that’s true, because I love my local comic shop.

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