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The Eisner Awards, arguably the most prestigious in the comics industry, will be presented July 25 during Comic-Con International. Among the assortment of awards given to artists, writers and colorists, there’s an odd little thing that’s a relative newcomer: the Best Digital Comic Award. Here’s the criteria: “The best digital comic category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2012.” They have to have a unique domain name, and they have to be “online-exclusive for a significant period” before being available in print.
Rather odd, considering that many of this year’s nominees barely qualify under those parameters. A “long-form comic” suggests an extended, dramatic story. The Oatmeal doesn’t really qualify (unless you consider the bid for a Tesla museum to be a real-life epic). High Crimes technically has a domain name, but it directs you to comiXology for digital download. It’s all part of the challenge in determining what, exactly, a “digital comic” is. Looking at previous nominees, there are several that don’t fit neatly within the rules.
Comic book awards. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. On the one hand, there are several challenges to clear. Who’s worthy of nomination? If it’s “Best Digital Comic,” what are you awarding it for — the way it takes advantage of its online environment, or the content? Generally, it’s the content, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be competing in the existing comic categories rather than be banished to the sidelines? (Several webcomics, including The Adventures of Superhero Girl, have been in contention in other categories … but only after their digital content has been converted in the traditional currency of ink and pressed wood pulp, as God intended.)
Going to PAX East in Boston over the weekend was like going to a comic convention on another planet.
The gestalt was the same — the exhibit floor, the booths, the cosplayers, the panels — but everything was a little off. The crowd was bigger and younger. Huge screens advertised properties I knew by name only. A lot of the attendees were glued to consoles or computer screens, playing games; one side of the convention center was split into a massive tabletop gaming area and an even bigger PC gaming section. The part that really came closest to a comic con was the indie area on the exhibit floor, where developers were hand-selling their games the way indie creators promote their graphic novels.
Games and comics, especially webcomics, have a long history of collaboration and crossover, and now the lines will be blurred even further: PvP cartoonist Scott Kurtiz is creating an officially sanctioned Dungeons & Dragons comic Table Titans as well as a D&D-based PvP storylne.
In the tradition of PvP, this comic isn’t set in the world of D&D but rather in the world of the people who play it: Table Titans follows a trio of D&D players, Andrew, Alan and Valeria, in their quest to become the greatest D&D team ever. “I’ve been writing and drawing Table Titans in the edges of my D&D character sheets for the last 30 years,” Kurtz said in a statement. “It’s the culmination of my love for Dungeons & Dragons and the profound effect it’s had not only on my life but on the lives of so many gamers around the world.”
Since its founding in 1992, Image Comics has become a bastion for creator-owned comics — printed creator-owned comics, that is. Its 20th anniversary is a banner year for Image, with a multitude of prominent new series as well as stalwarts like Spawn and The Walking Dead reaching some milestones. However, the publisher has stayed completely out of the webcomics game. Yes, Image releases some of its books digitally the same day as print, and Top Cow is partnering with digital portal Thrillbent for the new Pilot Season titles — but in terms of Image Central titles debuting original material first and building a creator-owned frontier online, nada.
In the more than 25 years since the advent of online comics, the medium has steadily built up steam and has become a major part of the broader comics industry — but its largely been separate from “comic books” the way comic strips and political cartoons are. But that division is breaking down every day, with DC and Marvel experimenting with digital-first comic books, and print heavyweights like Mark Waid, Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen creating comics for the web with any print considerations held off until later. In print comic books the majority of the titles are company-owned, but in the free range of webcomics that is practically flipped in favor of creator-owned comics.
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, creators of Penny Arcade, and PvP creator Scott Kurtz have begun collaborating on a webcomic even more off-mainstream than the ones they are working on now. Those comics were just about gamers, but The Trenches, which debuted last week and updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is a comic about a game tester. To sweeten the deal for the target audience, the blog will feature true-life adventures sent in by readers who are game testers themselves. It seems like narrowcasting, but the humor in the opening episodes seems to be fairly broad, so maybe it won’t be as tech-y as it first sounds.
If you’re a member of an industry that let Dave Cockrum die in a VA hospital after helping give us most of the X-Men characters that comprised three blockbuster films and you get pissy about what Mark Waid said, then you deserve to remain on this sinking ship.
When Diamond Comics can’t make money despite being a monopoly, it’s time to start listening to people like Mark Waid.
Half of the people he delivered his speech to were over the age of 50, currently not working on a project in comics, and are most likely without health insurance, retirement or savings accounts.
Mark Waid had the audacity to warn a group of people he cares about, that nobody is putting the internet in a god damn DeLorean and driving it 88mph towards the twin pines mall. And for that he got dressed down by Santa Claus in front of his peers.
That’s how scared people are right now.
And the bottom line of it all is that in about 5 years, a lot of people are going to owe Mark Waid a fucking apology.
–PVP writer/artist and Harvey Awards emcee Scott Kurtz reacts with characteristic, shall we say, candor to Mark Waid’s keynote address on copyright and piracy and white-beardedGroo cartoonist Sergio Aragonés’ heatedly negative reaction thereto.
(via Joe Keatinge)