Does Asking Downloaders Nicely to Stop Work?

Via The V, at a torrent site, Dan Slott politely asks downloaders to stop downloading his She-Hulk and JLA Classified comics.

She-Hulk, while it gets good reviews and enjoys a pretty loyal and devoted following, is still a low-selling title. It needs EVERY sale it can get to stay in the game. When you circumvent the intended path of sales you hurt the incomes of a LOT of people. [...]

Your sale acts as a vote. When you download a comic without paying for it, no vote is cast. You’ve gotten all the benefits of My, Rick’s, Cliff’s, Dave Sharpe’s, and Dave Kemp’s work– and we didn’t get the benefit of your vote. That’s not fair. We work very hard to produce the best comic we can– and, in effect, you’ve stolen from us.

Please stop. You’re not just ripping off Marvel. You’re ripping off all the PEOPLE putting this book out– people trying to make a living and support their families.

The “other side”, meanwhile, makes an argument for viewing comic torrents as shareware, a way to “try before you buy” in an era with few shelf/browsing copies available at many comic stores.

I can understand why Slott would want to try anything he could to increase sales on a project he clearly wants to keep working on, but I think this is a pretty foolhardy approach to the problem, and it’s likely to be ignored or made fun of more than acquiesced to.

The people I know who download a lot don’t attempt to justify their practice through moral or legal arguments. They know it’s illegal, but their attitude is more like “it’s out there, it’s free, why not?” They buy plenty of material as it is, and the things they download are those that they wouldn’t buy anyway, in many cases. Or they like it so much after seeing it online that they go out and buy a physical copy.

I’m just not sure an approach that can be boiled down to “you’re responsible if I no longer have a job” will work effectively. After all, it didn’t stop anyone from reading Rich’s rumor column when it was tried there.


114 Responses to “Does Asking Downloaders Nicely to Stop Work?”

  1. Scott Says:

    When Marvel was doing complete-issue previews through MileHighComics.com, one of those issues was Pelletier’s first on Slott’s first go with She-Hulk.

    I read it all there, then went out and bought it and the next issue.

    Since then, I’ve read trades from the library.

    So, a couple of thoughts…

    Full-issues on-line don’t keep me from buying an issue I want.

    and (more tongue-in-cheek)

    Should libraries not be allowed to stock trade paperbacks/subscriptions since that really is no different than providing the issues on line for free?

  2. Tommy Says:

    Because of downloading “free” comics the past few years my monthly comic buying has doubled. A couple of years ago I pretty much only read Spider-Man books and whatever Hellboy comics were out at the time but because of my illegal activities I’ve added Strangers in Paradise, Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, Fables, Criminal, Green Lantern (until Hal came back) and probably around a dozen other books I normally wouldn’t have given a second look to. I’ll be honest, I’ve read four or five issues of She Hulk from downloads but I didn’t like the book enough to start buying it. It’s not a bad book, just not for me. I know a bunch of people who, like me, started buying a lot more comics because of downloading. There is a need to read the actual book. Digital copies are fine but something gets lost in the translation. There are some books that I won’t read digital copies of because the art doesn’t look as good (anything by Michael Gaydos comes to mind). I think there is a reason the only company to really have a fit about illegal downloads so far is Top Cow. If the books are good, people will buy them, if they aren’t… well you know how that goes.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Tommy, I find the same thing happens with music, myself. You can’t download liner notes, and a CD is more portable from bedroom to living room to car, so listening to online works means, at least at my house, buying more, not less.

    Scott, you poke fun, but I have seen creators in the past get upset over people reading their work in libraries without them getting their royalty cut.

  4. Steve Says:

    I’m kind of curious as to the demographics of downloaders — how many people really do use it as a way of trying out new comics for later purchase, and how many just download and that’s it. (I imagine the former group is much more vocal.)

    I’m not sure begging or accusing your readers of theft is the best tactic, but I do have some sympathy for Slott’s position — as noted in one of Johanna’s related posts, there are at least four issues of She-Hulk (legally) online for people to sample, plus the occasional 3- or 4-page preview of new issues at milehighcomics or wherever. I would kind of think that would be enough for people to decide whether or not they like Slott’s approach to the character — at least enough to decide whether to take a chance spending $3 on the next issue.

    I imagine downloading will only get bigger as:
    1) the younger generation (theoretically) replaces us older folks who value physical copies of things

    2) crossovers get bigger and more expensive to follow — why buy all the Civil War tie-ins when you can read them online?

  5. Tommy Raiko Says:

    and (more tongue-in-cheek)

    Should libraries not be allowed to stock trade paperbacks/subscriptions since that really is no different than providing the issues on line for free?

    I know you’re being a bit facetious here, but allow me to be humorless for the moment to point out there’s one small but important difference between a library acquiring a book or magazine for its shelves and an unauthorized online pirated edition. And that is that the library does acually buy that copy it puts on its shelves. It pays money for it. And some measure of that money goes back to the creators. Creators may indeed get upset that the system doesn’t let them be remunerated *every time* a library patron reads that work, but they’re still getting some small something out of a library’s purchase, which they do not get from an unauthorized pirated edition.

    That’s not to say that more publishers and creators perhaps ought come to view online editions as promotion that ultimately helps sales, but that’s a bit of a different issue.

    Anyway, the differences between how libraries acquire stuff they offer to patrons and how unauthorized online editions are created are large enough to make any comparison of the two of limited usefulness.

    Apologies in advance for what may be perceived as pedantry in the above.

  6. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Hm. I dislike comics downloads on a general level, but that’s primarily because I love books (and it’s very hard to read on a laptop while lying in bed… or in other places). I have downloaded the entire run of Alan Moore’s Miracleman though, but that was after years and years of frustration trying to get it somewhere as either TPBs or single issues. I noticed it was very difficult to read on a screen.

    I’ve also downloaded Sorkin’s “Studio 60″ as it ran on NBC, for the simple reason that this show will never ever ever make it to my country at all, just like “Sports Night” or “The West Wing” didn’t make it. I will buy the DVD set the moment it comes out (just as I bought the other series through Amazon UK).

    However, the argument that Slott makes — while understandable from his point of view — is just as faulty as the one put forward by the music industry. They automatically assume that each download equals a person otherwise buying the comic book/song/etc. in a store. That is not the case, but it always makes for some good screaming and ranting about “losses” in those industries.

    I have noticed that in the past years the multi-sellers in my country, esp. when it came to music, were by artists who put together a proper album, designed to be listened to as a whole. The ones who get hurt in the music industry (hurt, well… ) are what i call the bubblegum pop people. You know the ones … they have one or two radio-adaptable songs on an album and they are targeting primarily kids, who digest it and then throw it away.

    In the comic fields: oh dear, if you push crap like Civil War with — I believe — over 70 tie-ins that are ESSENTIAL (!) REALLY I MEAN IT, you bind most of your already limited audience buying power to ONE event… and how many EVENTS (one should always use it in capitals, since those EVENTS are earth-shattering, universe-changing, life-altering and lethal events AFTER WHICH NOTHING EVER STAYS THE SAME!) did we have in the superhero market the past 5 years? Countdown to Infinite Civil War Parallel Universes Timeshift Crisis anyone?

    Since there appears to be an inherent “need” expressed both on a retail level as well as on the fanboy level to fuel these things, more interesting, self-contained and, yes, let’s face it, better written books will be wasted on the sidelines.

    So while I am sorry for Mr. Slott’s efforts (and yes, I am one of those who buy She-Hulk, because big green funny women are vital to have, you know?), he just as much misses the point as Jimmy Palmiotti misses the point every time he tells people, quite surely in jest, to go out and buy multiple copies of Jonah Hex…

  7. Scott Says:

    My library comment wasn’t meant to be snarky/cheeky/whatever.

    I realize that the libraries do pay for all of the trades and subscriptions, but they are then basically letting hundreds of people read their copy.

    So, how many of those hundred will go and buy their copy as a result?

    How many will buy a copy based on something online?

    My point (and I do have one), is that there is not a lot of difference between seeing a full issue online and getting it from a library or even trading comics like I used to do as a kid.

    In all cases, one copy was purchased and more than one person read it.

    While I respect the creators’ rights to getting fair compensation, I really think they need to study the problem a bit more to see for certain if they are just picking an easy target or if they have a genuine issue.

    Without this kind of study, we don’t really know if they are losing money or – in the end – gaining new followers.

  8. Lyle Masaki Says:

    I have noticed that in the past years the multi-sellers in my country, esp. when it came to music, were by artists who put together a proper album, designed to be listened to as a whole. The ones who get hurt in the music industry (hurt, well… ) are what i call the bubblegum pop people. You know the ones … they have one or two radio-adaptable songs on an album and they are targeting primarily kids, who digest it and then throw it away.

    Not to get too far on a tangent, but that aspect of downloading had a bit of a “They made their bed, they shouldn’t complain about lying in it” reaction to me. Not long before music downloading started picking up momentum (or at least, the time I had read about MP3 files) some labels had begun following the practice of pulling popular singles from the market, to force people who only wanted one particular song to buy the album. (IIRC that started with Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”)

    Usually if your customers feel like they were unfairly manipulated to buy more of your product than they really want your customers start looking for ways to get back what they feel was ripped off from them. I guess that brings up the question of if superhero events are serving a similar purpose — leaving people feeling like they bought comics they didn’t want just because they felt like they needed it to get Civil War.

    Overall, though, (and I will admit I’m likely being overly cynical here) I think She-Hulk’s biggest problem is the comics market. Marvel and DC has been spending at least a decade discouraging readers who are inclined to follow titles like She-Hulk by failing again and again to nurture these titles (leading to the sentiment of “Why do I bother reading comics if every title I like gets canceled anyway?” which I’ve frequently encountered in the past) and chasing the quickest way to move the sales needle (new creative teams promising a revamp, crossover events or sensational plot points that don’t serve the story well).

    Slott’s comments leave me with the impression that he thinks that the positive commentary on the internet means that plenty of people are reading it and talking about liking it but not all of those people are buying She-Hulk… instead of thinking that there’s a vocal fanbase for the series that, in reality, represent a minority of superhero comic buyers.

  9. Dan Coyle Says:

    My first instinct is to say that Starfox arc for free, is overpriced. Achachachachacha!

    The V pointed out that when Slott made this post, he had already apparently downloaded three gigs of material from Demonoid.

    I don’t download comics because I think it’s unfair and I’m afraid I’ll make my computer explode.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Steve, there’s also the question of cost… $3 seems a lot to me to pay for 10 minutes of reading without a conclusion (in many cases, although She-Hulk is better than many about running short, packed stories). As some of my international readers remind me, they may also have to pay much more than that. Someone who might buy the comic at $1 (as a back issue or part of a lot, say) may not make that choice at $3.

    Scott, you reminded me of something that happened to me just yesterday. I got a wonderful graphic novel called Cancer Vixen out of the library to review it. Its list price is $22, and while I’d heard good things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that much. I read it, enjoyed it… but when I thought about owning it, concluded that I didn’t need to have my own physical copy. The story was great, and I might like to reread it again someday… but not now. And if I do, used copies are only $9 or so.

    Apropos of nothing, after posting something on this topic (and I suspect with certain keywords), my spam comment count quadrupled. Blech.

  11. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    If downloading free digital comics becomes more popular than buying papera comics (which I don’t necessarily think it will in the near future) then the unintended consequence will be what Slott fears – the publishers won’t have the money to pay the pen and paper creators. People forget that the comics are only $2.99 or so, and that $2.99 has to go into a lot of pockets. The only way it ads up to be something significant is if many copies are sold. While it might be great for fans if all comics were free, making them free in a consumer market would result in their being no comics except fan-created ones.

  12. Erech Overaker Says:

    The V pointed out that when Slott made this post, he had already apparently downloaded three gigs of material from Demonoid.

    HA.

    I’ve been an admin on a video game message board the last few months that has about a thousand+ ppl, and since discovering comics torrents recently, a pretty sizable number of the members are now dl’ing comics on a regular basis. Most of them lapsed readers, but a nice number of them are new to the comics scene and lured in by stuff like 300 and Civil War (ugh, I know).

    As much as they are all enjoying it and talking about the books and such though, I know for a fact that if the torrent well dried up tomorrow, 99% of them wouldn’t run out and find their LCS and start plopping down actual money for these every Wednesday either. No way.

    It’s just like you say Johanna, for many reasons, it’s there and it’s free and people read it. I’d read a People magazine in the doctors office too, from cover to cover, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go out afterwards and get me a subscription. ;)

    (that WAS snarky)

  13. Johanna Says:

    Based on hit counts, downloading free comics is already more popular than paper — only we call them “webcomics” in that case. The biggest ones have multiple times the number of readers of the biggest paper comic series. Those creators have found alternate methods of capitalization, like merchandise sales, just as recording artists have had to.

  14. Rob S. Says:

    I think part of the difference between a library copy and an uploaded torrent is that the library copy can only reach one person at a time, while a torrent can reach hundreds all at once, at the exact point when the comic is most likely to sell.

    I don’t download, so maybe I have that wrong, but that’s my impression.

  15. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    To briefly come back to the “single” argument I loaned from the music industry debacle (and yes, there is a certain amount of “you trained your new consumers to not value your product as an artistic piece but rather as a quick and dirty “fix” that has no lasting impact” argument in there, which mirrors “you made your bed, now lie in it”): As Johanna also pointed out, the amount of reading those 3 bucks give you these days is 10 minutes, perhaps less.

    I once timed my reading of Civil War No. 5.

    While I am a quick reader and thus my timing can’t be viewed as scientifically conclusive, it took me less than SIX MINUTES to get through the entire issue.

    An issue (chapter) of Watchmen took me over twenty minutes, because its structure and art and additional material made for a fulfilling reading experience. Even though the entire story is designed to work as a whole, you can digest each part of it and feel some kind of satisfaction.

    And while I find some of Slott’s material interesting and at times funny, it is clear that he is not and will not ever a writer with an understanding or depth that people like Alan Moore possess.

    Again, this goes back to the “single”: in order to push out more material, in order to get a maximum of market penetration, the product itself becomes little more than a momentary commodity and is thusly treated as such by the audience.

    There is a reason why there is not such a “download” hype for books like Lemony Snicket’s “A series of Unfortunate Events” or Rowling’s Potter books: with those things, people have an inherent notion that they would outright steal from a creator. And a creator in this view can only be somebody who actually created something on his or her own.

    With the superhero books, with most “blockbuster” movies, with most pop music, there is a growing (and often right) perception by the new generation of consumers that there IS NO CREATOR.

    They are just PROPERTIES, owned by corporations.

    Did Mr. Slott CREATE She-Hulk? No. Did Michael Bay CREATE the Transformers: The Movie? No. They are all merely work for hire. Do new musicians most of the times have to sign slave contracts that gives the copyright and the subsequent use of their songs to record companies? Yes.

    Ultimately, it comes down to respect.

    The record companies have already lost it with the consumers (and people like Spears or Stefani compound that by acting like morons).

    In the comic business, somebody like Slott or even Millar cannot command the same kind of respect that people like Miller or Moore can, because most superhero writers these days are little better than what the audience perceives as fan fiction… yes, I am very much aware of how harsh that sounds.

    Again, I am not for downloads per se, but I understand the process that might have led that new generation to believe that it’s okay.

  16. Dan Slott Says:

    Here’s the thing– I don’t think all torrents are “bad”. And I have NEVER said that. There are a lot of forms of entertainment that can ONLY be seen via torrents (TV shows from overseas which have not been released on American region DVD, TV shows which are off the air and have yet to be released on DVD, as well as books which are out of print and have yet to be made available as reprints).

    What bothers me is when someone gets a copy of my comic late at night on a Tuesday, runs home and scans it, and then puts it up online the SAME Wednesday it becomes available to the public.

    I guess where I personally draw the line is AVAILABILITY. My comic is AVAILABLE at stores. That’s where it’s supposed to be purchased. If someone buys it and shares that physical copy with a friend– great. It’s theirs to do with as they please. When they scan that copyrighted material and share it with 20,000 friends– that’s another story. (I doubt 20,000 people can check out that copy at the library at the same time either).

    Two quick things to note:
    1) That message you’re seeing is a post on the thread with the actual torrent. I’ll ALSO send a politely worded Private Message to the person who’s posted the torrent. And I DO find that when I do that, they’re actually pretty decent about the whole thing and that the DO take the torrent down.

    *Also– I DO get that it is FREE publicity and that it DOES encourage some people to go out and buy the comic– but what I want to know is– if THAT’S why you do it, WHY UPLOAD THE WHOLE THING?! Seriously. If you want to get people interested in the book, why not just upload the first 6 to 8 pages? It’s like Baskin Robins– they’ll offer anybody a little pink spoonful of any icecream they want– just not THE WHOLE CONE. :)

    2) The second TORCHWOOD, STREET HAWK, or the live action CUTEY HONEY movie comes out on DVD here in the States, I’ll be the first in line to purchase my copies. :)

    Thanks,
    Dan

  17. Matthew Craig Says:

    STREET HAWK!

    Am I the only person who remembers the unstated gay relationship between Street Hawk and Kevin (George Clooney) in episode 2?

    //\Oo/\\

  18. Dan Slott Says:

    Thomas Gerhardt writes: “And while I find some of Slott’s material interesting and at times funny, it is clear that he is not and will not ever a writer with an understanding or depth that people like Alan Moore possess.”

    And Thomas Gerhardt can bite me. So… I’m not Alan Moore… So you’re saying that’s justification to rip me off? What?!

    BTW, if you can read, say, SHE-HULK #4 (Vol. 1 or 2) in under six minutes… kuddos to you.

    “With the superhero books, with most “blockbuster” movies, with most pop music, there is a growing (and often right) perception by the new generation of consumers that there IS NO CREATOR.

    They are just PROPERTIES, owned by corporations.

    Did Mr. Slott CREATE She-Hulk? No. Did Michael Bay CREATE the Transformers: The Movie? No. They are all merely work for hire.”

    “In the comic business, somebody like Slott or even Millar cannot command the same kind of respect that people like Miller or Moore can, because most superhero writers these days are little better than what the audience perceives as fan fiction… ”

    That is the biggest load of cr@p I’ve read all day. So… Did Frank Miller create Daredevil? Did Walt Simonson create Thor? Did Kirkman create Ant-Man? (Well he did create Eric O’Grady– who’s pretty cool– but that’s besides the point). We’re all creators and we’re all telling new stories and delivering new units of entertainment. Are you seriously telling me that Denny O’Neil’s Batman stories are “fan fiction” because he’s not Bob Kane? Or because DC owns Batman?

    yes, I am very much aware of how harsh that sounds.”

    Thomas, I don’t think that sounds ‘harsh’. I think I sounds disrespectful and a little nonsensical.

  19. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Based on hit counts, downloading free comics is already more popular than paper — only we call them “webcomics” in that case. The biggest ones have multiple times the number of readers of the biggest paper comic series. Those creators have found alternate methods of capitalization, like merchandise sales, just as recording artists have had to.

    In terms of readership, yes. Right now, the media industry is shaking in their boots in the hope the e-Readers will never reach a point where they might become as cheap and easy to carry around like MP3 players, for that would level the playing field and take away all of their corporate power.

    You see, their power is not in the product and hasn’t been for years. Their power — just as the music and movie industries’ — is in their oligarchical distribution system and the fact that it is costly to produce a product on paper, ship it and sell it. Creators themselves never had that kind of power.

    But just imagine … an easily portable e-Reader, full colour (they are working on it at Samsung and Sharp), gives you the feeling of a book or magazine and the ability to download things for a fraction of the cost, over wi-fi, virtually anywhere.

    The MP3 player was the killer app for the music industry. Literally. It will kill them. They haven’t noticed it yet, because — quite fankly — they don’t have any futurist thinkers in their ranks.

    A fully developed e-Reader will allow anybody access to high-res PDF files that download onto it within seconds. The downloaders are merely a drop in the ocean.

    I just googled torrent sites and went through with a search on comics. I believe the most top-rated sites are Piratebay and MiniNova (sp?), at least that is what my search indicated.

    I looked through how many times the latest comic upload torrents were downloaded from each site. In one case it was 1922 times, on the other site the same torrent 2755 times. Right. Time to do some extrapolation — let’s say we have 10 sites world wide with the same impact as the ones I just searched and about 50 with about 10 percent of that download traffic.

    We’re talking about roughly 60,000 worth of torrent downloads here, give or take.

    Those torrents have, from what I could see in their informational attachment an entire week’s worth of new comics (I might be wrong, my comic book stores doesn’t seem to have that many books per week and there were some of which I never heard of, so take that with a grain of salt … but as an indicator, it included Jeff Smith’s SHAZAM No. 2, and I bought that last week, so it must have been last week’s comic releases)

    Right. 60k of torrents that include every book of the week. Here it starts to get tricky, for it cannot be said that those 60k would translate into the same amount of sales.

    Again, let’s err on the side of caution and say 10 percent of those would have bought an A-tier book otherwise, 5 percent would have bought a B-tier book and 2.5 percent would have bought a C-tier book.

    Makes about 6k in potential losses (i say potential) for a book of CIVIL WAR level, perhaps 2-3k of losses in a book on the level of She-Hulk and 1,5k on a book that nobody else would read.

    The inherent logical flaw in this argument is that it is assumes linear thinking. However, the smaller tier books have usually a more rabid fan basis, which offsets those numbers a bit.

    Also, that model doesn’t include the potential for actually going out and BUYING a copy of a B- or C-tier book after reading an online copy.

    Still, with all those flaws and me being too tired to try to come up with a statistical extrapolation model on the fly (and the fact that nobody is paying me to do so), my assumptions lead me to the notion that …

    … so far …

    … illegally downloaded comic books are a negligable factor, since it takes time and effort to find them, usually only displayed by hardcore fans who will also very much likely buy a lot of paper comics as well.

    But, like I said, the game can change very quickly … and will change very quickly, at that precise moment a viable e-Reader will hit the market…

  20. Dan Coyle Says:

    “The second TORCHWOOD, STREET HAWK, or the live action CUTEY HONEY movie comes out on DVD here in the States, I’ll be the first in line to purchase my copies. :)”

    I’m dying to watch Intelligence but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to steal it off the net.

  21. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Mr. Slott —

    As I have expressed in an earlier post, I do quite enjoy your writing on She-Hulk and I am paying money for it, so take a deep breath and relax a little.

    But you are not the creator. You are a content manager. A good one, even. But unless you create an entire world of your own, with your own rules and regulations, you, Sir, are not a creator.

    You are not Bob Kane. You are not Jack Kirby. You are not Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster. You are not Lemony Snicket. You are not Joanne Rowling. You are not Jonatham Lethem. You are not John Irving.

    I do hope that I’ll be able to see an entire world created by you one day, be in book, comic book or movie format, at which point I will gladly give you that credit in my mind.

    But until that point: you are a content manager.

    But while Mr. Miller certainly has not created Daredevil or Batman, he has gotten quite a bit of publicity for his takes on them. That is a point that must be conceded.

    However, his current success outside the rather limited field of DM market comic books is based on neither. He CREATED Sin City and CREATED 300 and CREATED Give me Liberty (with Dave Gibbons) and BIG GUY (with Geoff Darrow).

  22. Scott Says:

    I guess I continued the torrent/library/trading with friends connection because it seems a rather slippery slope.

    Why is 1 or 20 or 100 OK, but not 20000?

    If it is a matter of intent, how do you gauge that accurately?

    As I said, I only bought She-Hulk after I read the first one in an arc (in its entirety) online. I had read many of the 3-5 page previews earlier, and they just didn’t grab me.

    It seems like faulty logic to conclude that shutting down the torrents would yield more readers since we all seem to agree (for the most part) that many folks would not buy the hard-copy comics if the content disappeared from the internet.

    I would further suggest that if the content were more compelling (and did take a bit longer than 5 minutes to breeze through), then perhaps new readers would come looking for the hard-copy versions.

    Perhaps a move to a collected-only format would stem some of this. A collection seems more like a book, and takes longer to scan, etc. Just a thought…

    Also, why don’t the publishers get involved in this? Aren’t they losing a large share of revenue than the creators?

  23. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Oh, and also, please Mr. Slott — do try to read the entire postings before you blow up in front of the public.

    I said I timed my reading on Civil War No. 5, not any of your She-Hulk issues. I also indicated that I am a very fast reader and that my findings are not scientifically conclusive, for it would take empirical study of at least a sample of 1,500 people to get some statistical findings that are at least partially relevant.

    I also indicated that there is a growing PERCEPTION that the product people are downloading, be it music files, blockbuster movies (please, try and find some classic movie as a torrent… there are not many) and comic books are not the works of individuals, but rather expendable properties that are PERCEIVED to have no creative value by a growing part of a new generation of consumers.

    I can even understand your personal anger about that perception. I really can. But that is far, far beside the point of argumentation here.

    This is a problem the entire media industry will have to face in less than 10 years time, and the only reactions coming the people inside it are a) anger b) lawsuits and c) putting their heads in the sands.

    We are on the verge of a paradigm shift the media has never seen before. This is not the advent of television. This is not even the advent of the VHS or the DVD.

    This is the loss of distribution power from the ones who hold it right now and the gain of that power by creators (who will have to take the risk) and the consumers.

  24. Dan Slott Says:

    Thomas Gerhardt writes
    “Mr. Slott —

    As I have expressed in an earlier post, I do quite enjoy your writing on She-Hulk and I am paying money for it, so take a deep breath and relax a little.

    But you are not the creator. You are a content manager. A good one, even. But unless you create an entire world of your own, with your own rules and regulations, you, Sir, are not a creator.

    You are not Bob Kane. You are not Jack Kirby. You are not Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster. You are not Lemony Snicket. You are not Joanne Rowling. You are not Jonatham Lethem. You are not John Irving.

    I do hope that I’ll be able to see an entire world created by you one day, be in book, comic book or movie format, at which point I will gladly give you that credit in my mind.

    But until that point: you are a content manager.”

    Thomas, you really need to backpeddle. Because you’re wrong. I’m a creator. Fabian Nicieza is a creator. Tony Bedard is a creator. That’s just the way it is. Did I create the Thing? No. Did Fabian create Cable? No. Did Tony create the Exiles? No.

    But did Tony create a great run of Exiles stories? Stories that wouldn’t have existed without him? Yes. Did Fabian create an awesome bunch of Cable/Deadpool stories? Would the the Thing: Idol of Millions TPB be sitting in your local Barnes & Noble bookshelf without me and my little word processor? I don’t think so. These are creations.

    Your argument is pretty weak. You’re saying that Alan Moore didn’t “create” when he was writing Swamp Thing?

    Come on?

    Yes, comic writers are working in a shared universe. But it’s a tapestry made up of the contributions of many. When characters– even VERY minor ones like SHE-HULK’S Southpaw– get added to the mix, they contribute to THAT world. When stories advance established character’s continuities through those worlds, they ALSO add to that tapestry.

    To say that those stories aren’t creations is a GREAT disservice to everyone working in the industry. Seriously.

    “A content manager”?

    Really? You’re equating people’s work like they’re the Manatees in the tank of that Sout Park episode– like there are these bits of content we can just shove around and snap together and magically end up with a story.

    There IS craft involved. It is hard work. And that craft and work makes those people creators, NOT content managers.

    By your logic, Alan Moore’s LOEG doesn’t count as a creation since he didn’t “create” his main characters. And that’s just wrongheaded. What Alan Moore does with those characters, the stories he tells, MAKES that book an AMAZING creation.

    Please rethink both your stance and your terminology, because it’s really very insulting.

  25. Dan Slott Says:

    Thomas Gerhardt writes, “Oh, and also, please Mr. Slott — do try to read the entire postings before you blow up in front of the public.”

    Thomas, in your earlier post you make a point of how a specific comic only took you six minutes to read. THEN you go on to mention my work and the work of others. Whether it was your intent or NOT– unless you spell it out, the implication is that my work falls into that category as well. And whatever shots someone wants to take at my work– that sure ain’t one of ‘em. So I’m sorry if my pointing that out ruffled YOUR feathers.

  26. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Mr Slott —

    I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that point. If you feel personally insulted, that is your individual right, but does not change my view on it at all.

    This is about the argument, not your personal feelings, I am sorry to say.

    And no, Alan Moore’s LOEG does not count as an original creation in my view. Neither does his Swamp Thing nor his Batman: Killing Joke. Nor is his work on Lost Girls a creation, since it is a clever, pornographic deconstruction of various real creations by other creators: Oz, Wonderland and Never-Never Land. I enjoyed all of those, but they were not creations by and of themselves.

    It is a sign of the poverty of today’s pop culture that it is the same people who cry “rip off” when somebody steals their craftmanship, yet are so eager to steal the properties of dead people and claim them as their own.

    Alan Moore has always publically claimed that he was strip-mining popular lore with LOEG, and he has never claimed ownership or the creation of those characters.

    To take pride in craftsmanship, in my view, is not the same as creation.

    They were all bits of good craftmanship, of which I have no doubt. But a creation, by its very definition, comes from an empty canvas.

    Like I said, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  27. Dan Slott Says:

    Scott writes: “Why is 1 or 20 or 100 OK, but not 20000?”

    Scott, you know what the difference is between 20 and 20,000?

    19,980.

    :)

    And with a library book (or a borrowed copy) do you know how long it would take to get it read by 100 people? And what condition the book would be in at that state?

    Conversely, a book that was uploaded onto the net would stay there all nice, shiny, and new even after 20,000 people got their grubby “virtual” hands all over it. AND they could all do so at the same time.

    There’s a BIG difference between the library (or lending) scenario than there is with downloading.

    Also, with the library (or lending) scenario, no one is making illegal copies of the material.

  28. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Please don’t think that anything can ruffle my feathers. I rather enjoy a feisty intellectual argument with somebody who holds such a diametrically opposing view. And I don’t take anything personally.

  29. Rob S. Says:

    So Jack Kirby didn’t co-create The Fantastic Four? He was given a plot, after all–which means his canvas wasn’t quite empty. And did Stan Lee, for that matter? Didn’t the publisher task him with creating a Justice League for Marvel?

    Ridiculous. Of course they did, “empty canvas” or not. There ARE no empty canvases.

  30. Dan Slott Says:

    Thomas,
    Carl Sagan once said “If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the Universe.”

    When you say that Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing can’t be attributed as the work of comic creator– that’s CRAZY. There’s so much creativity at work– so many ideas, concepts, risks– so many elements in that run that changed how many other comic creators APPROACHED comics– to deny him that is just WRONG.

    This isn’t a case of “let’s agree to disagree”. You’re wrong. If you want to call a zebra a giraffe– it’s not a valid opinion, you’re just plain wrong.

    Did Alan Moore create Swamp Thing? No. But was he a comic creator working on Swamp Thing. Yes. Was he producing “fan fiction”? No. He was getting work published under the DC Bullet– and it was brilliant! Each story was an amazing CREATION. That’s just the way it is.

    Originally WATCHMEN was going to be based on all of the Charlton characters– and DC had misgivings. So Moore had to go in and “re-create” all the characters. The Question became Rorschach, Blue Beetle became Nite Owl, Captain Atom became Dr. Manhattan, and so on.

    So, by your earlier argument, are you saying that if Alan Moore did what he was ORIGINALLY going to do– and told WATCHMEN with THOSE characters– that his work would matter LESS?

  31. David Oakes Says:

    Nice bit of solipsism there, Mr. Gerhardt. But it really doesn’t address the issue. You posit that it is morally/ethically valid to pirate Dan Slott’s work because he didn’t create it. And imply that Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” is superior because he did.

    But let’s level the playing field. Alan Moore admit’s to “strip mining”, so if I wanted to pirate copies of LOEG that would be OK? I owe Fantagraphics nothing for posting scans of “Lost Girls”?

    Oh, and that “blank canvas”? The “Watchmen” were direct consequence of the Charlton characters. Sure, he made a few cosmetic changes – only after DC said they had other plans – but the canvas wasn’t even as blank as it was for Tom Strong. Heck, he probably made more changes in LOEG. So which one is better?

    (That being said, I don’t think for an instant that anyone downloading She-Hulk is going to buy it if the scans go away. I love the book, I do – it’s the only post-CW book I am allowing myself – but the people reading the scans don’t. But one or two, maybe even ten might, and they wouldn’t know that without the scans. Those ten may buy if there are no more scans, but the next ten from the next scans won’t, because there aren’t any next scans, are there? The benefits outweight the costs, and moral outrage doesn’t mean zip.)

  32. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Actually, David — I never said or indeed implied that it is okay or morally right to pirate anything. It is not. That is a conclusion you and apparently Mr. Slott are drawing.

    Just because I don’t consider the majority of work in the mainstream comic book world original creations does not diminish levels of craftsmanship or indeed the obligation to pay for such craftsmanship, if one is willing to want to read it.

    That, however, is merely my PERSONAL opinion.

    Please, do read the entire postings dealing with my (and I do concede it is my view and my view alone) take that one of the MAJOR problems that have gelled into the “moral acceptance” of pirating media is the PERCEPTION of a growing percentage of potential consumers that there are NO CREATORS (I would substitute it mostly with CRAFTSMEN, but that is my personal point of view and I really do not care how much that is personally insulting to Mr. Slott or others in the industry) they can hurt by doing that.

    And so far, there hasn’t been ONE reply her adressing that. Not one.

    Instead, we just have righteous anger on display.

    And i personally find that hilarious, because it is not dealing with the issue at hand.

  33. Rob Barrett Says:

    To just address your 5:01 p.m. main point, Thomas: I don’t think we can chalk this up to a confusion (deliberate or otherwise) among downloaders about the distinction between “craftsmen” and “creators.” I think it’s safe to say that (a) creators have never been more prominent in the marketing of comic books than they are now and (b) the majority of the comic fans downloading scanned books online are hardcore fans who know the industry quite well (somehow I don’t think the bulk of downloaders are kids who just happen to have falled in love with Spidey somewhere).

    From a personal standpoint, I don’t download entire books. But I do read scans_daily–which, with a few exceptions, functions more like a “fair use” transmission of selected pages and images. And reading scans_daily has indeed led me to add books to my pull list.

  34. Scott Says:

    Mr. Slott,

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree with regards to the library issue.

    I have been at a library with my kids and seen other kids read through a stack of books while I was there. So, multiple kids reading multiple books… because they were there.

    These are the same libraries that participate in Free Comic Book Day (courtesy, I believe, of local retailers) and are left with stacks of free comics at the end.

    So, I am thinking that at least some of today’s youth are not interested in pack-ratting books away like their wiser (or, at least, better-looking) elders.

    And these are not your or my comics of our youth and really do not take as long to read as when we were kids (either that, or we – dare I say I – were just slow readers).

    So, while I agree that it is likely a money loser to have these illegal copies on the internet (tho’ by no means a sure thing), I would say that it should be looked at as an opportunity rather than a problem.

    Could online content be provided for a small fee so that scouring the web would be less convenient?

    Could books be delivered in such a way as to make scanning a pain?

    Could Marvel use some of their legal talent to stem some of this sort of behavior?

    There are a lot of things, I think, that could be done.

    Granted, it would be nice if all criminal activity would cease and desist if we asked, but we both know that isn’t going to happen.

    As I said, there may be an opportunity here to make some lemonade.

    Oh, and I’ll add that I’m only going to be giving New Avengers: The Initiative a shot (on paper, of course) because you are attached to it.

  35. Rich Johnston Says:

    >2) The second TORCHWOOD, STREET HAWK, or the live action CUTEY HONEY movie comes out on DVD here in the States, I’ll be the first in line to purchase my copies. :)

    Torchwood is available in the US from Amazon.co.uk and the like on R2.

    Why you’d want to have it on DVD, that’s another story.

  36. Sarah H. Says:

    As a librarian who buys GNs & TPBs for my library, I can assure everyone that it’s rare for 100 people to read 1 copy. Books almost never last through that many circs. I’ve had to replace some after only 5 circs. So we do eventually buy multiple copies (as long as the books stay in print!) as the books fall apart, go missing, or just get plain icky. For high demand books, we even buy multiple copies initially.

    At least the kids reading the comics in the library are reading purchased books, versus the kids cramming the aisles in Borders/B&N.

  37. Rob Staeger Says:

    One more thing, Thomas:

    Your website pretty much acknowledges that for your “The Chosen” you’re drawing from the traditions of Superman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the DaVinci Code. That’s hardly a “blank canvas.”

    I’d say you’re still a creator, and there’s no need to be so hard on yourself. But if you feel like you’re a “content manager,” you’d know better than I.

  38. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Nah, Rob. That was also Content Management :) And purely done as a joke for a Vertigo editor, with the artist and me going: what is the SILLIEST thing we can come up with over the weekend?

    Just as my pitch for Wonder Woman was an intellectual exercise. It was fun doing it, and I still stand by its craftsmanship, but I was playing with other people’s toys.

    Also: I’m doing these things as a secondary thing, primarily because I love the medium. My real job is to consult with media companies all over Europe, to streamline production processes, to extrapolate future market developments and to find answers to market positioning problems. One of the reasons why I don’t consider anything personal. I’ve angered and been yelled at by CEOs of very, very big media companies over the years, because most of them also take everything personal. But in the end, a) they pay my fee and b) a lot of my predicitions have come true.

    But that is still not the issue at hand. Right. The issue at hand is how the media industries deal with the paradigm shift. Like I said, I understand the reasoning behind Mr. Slott’s anger. He is working within a certain set of rules, and those rules are no longer completely applicable.

    Here’s the thing the industries do not understand. We are on the verge, for the FIRST time in history, I might add, in which the actual BUY of a media property can become a completely conscious choice on all levels.

    In short: the VALUE of a media property is solely decided by a growing number of first adopters (i say growing, because the development will be a gradual one, depending on technological and cultural factors).

    If they consider it to be of VALUE to PAY for it, they will.

    Properties that — in the eyes of that growing group — does not MERIT the buy, will perhaps looked at and perhaps downloaded, but the link download = loss in revenue is one that uses tools and thoughts from a time circa 1990, where all distribution venues were in the hand of very, very few corporations.

    Media — as it has become a commodity and is advertised as such — now is forced to follow the same rules as other common-day commodities.

    We once did a survey of 5,000 people that came up with the following (comic books were excluded since it is a neglible market, seen from a mass market POV):

    The majority of people considers these fair prices:

    A CD = 7 Euro
    A DVD film = 10 Euro
    A DVD TV Box Set = 20 Euro

    Stay BELOW those limits, you can maximise your potential audience, go ABOVE that, you will lose approximately 8 percent of your potentials per Euro you charge.

    Now, on the web, stuff is FREE (or so it seems)

    And that is why you cannot call it “bootlegging” or even “stealing” in the old sense of the word. Yes, there will be a lot of people who will start to yell again, but before the Ann Coulterisms come out or somebody does the unthinkable and starts Ayn Rand, let me explain what bootlegging meant in the past:

    It mean that somebody made a copy of a concert of a recorded session and SOLD IT through back channels, without the corporation getting a dime. It was, well, Black Magic Capitalism aimed at the hardcore fans. But, and here’s the big thing, it was done in order to turn a PROFIT.

    What the Torrent software or before that the P2P has done is turn the entire world into a schoolyard. Sure, there are bits out there that were shot in a theatre (why anybody would want to watch a film in such bad quality is beyond me, but that is personal opinion) or from stolen DVD screeners, but there even more material out there that somebody BOUGHT, RIPPED (SCANNED) and now SHARES.

    Just like we used to, back in the days, in the schoolyards. Only, and here is the scary thing for the media corporations, on a global level.

    Three years ago, we did some research into the amount of sharing of TV shows, and I was surprised how few actually were shared. Almost all of them were in the range of 100K or less world-wide, with a decided sharp downturn about four to five days after the initial release. The problem at the moment is not the actual numbers of people using torrents for any give product, it is the paradigm shift itself behind it.

    It’s the notion that the consumer now decides not only if he wants to listen (read, watch etc…) something, the consumer decides when, where and HOW MUCH HE WILL PAY for it, if indeed he will pay at all.

    And again, there is a growing PERCEPTION out there that the media that is produced does not represent an artist’s work anymore, but rather a design by committee somewhere in the CEO rooms.

    That PERCEPTION is what has been fed by the media’s marketing of their products within the past 15 years, more and more streamlined products, artists that have been designed from lego blocks, stories that have been put together by the Edgar Wallace plot wheel.

    And here’s the thing: the media is now dealing with the first generation who may not know what a Sunni or a Shiite is (or will have a hard time finding London on a map), but they sure as hell know the inner workings of a TV show, a pop song or a mainstream comic book.

    It is the rise of a generation that knows plot construction — subconsciously, but still — just as much as most of the rather pedestrian writers who have come out of Harvard and construct their plots from a steady diet of Friends rerun.

    And a growing number of the audience doesn’t respect the product anymore, because it has become predictable, mundane and most of the times: boring.

    In movies, for example, the distinction we found in our research has become

    1) must watch in theater
    2) will buy DVD
    3) will rent DVD
    4) might watch it on telly for free

    The torrents offer option No. 4 as option No. 1.5 — download something that they wouldn’t pay money for otherwise.

    This will continue to spread, whether people in the media corps like it or not, as long as the perception is there that the content offered is not worth the money that is being asked for.

    That’s why I said, it comes down to respect. This new generation will BUY things only if they RESPECT the creator (or the content manager/craftsman), if they feel these people have EARNED that money.

    Now, one can whine about it (most within the industries do), one can sue (which is the silliest thing) and put DRM on anything (which pisses off the people who actually DID PAY for stuff and now are being treated like criminals a priori) or one can put one’s head in the sand (and I have talked to many, many managers who do exactly that) and go “na na na na I can’t hear you”.

    Now, I cannot say that my personal taste is that of a mainstream audience (heck, most of the shows I really like get cancelled, most of the comic books I love are either cancelled or on the verge of being cancelled … and in order to get the music I like I have to go to artist’s personal sites and buy there) … but I can distinguish between my tastes and what works for maximum potential, without letting my emotions get in the way.

    What — I believe — is the way forward for any artist is to gain the audience’s respect, which is admittedly a slow and painful thing to do.

    Like, and I do use that example with young marketing students all the time, because it works so well … one of the persistent myths about Harry Potter is that it is the end result of clever marketing. That is utter nonsense. The marketing blitz started with the release of the third book and went into frenzy with the fourth one.

    Before that, the Potter books had to reach a critical mass all on their own, and the first print runs were laughable. The books, however, were traded, loaned, read and re-read on virtually every British schoolyard for years, feeding a) respect for the author and b) setting up an ever-growing audience.

    BTW, one more thing on creation vs. content management. Not all creations are inherently GOOD, nor are all managed contents inherently BAD.

    Again, my personal view: Miller’s Sin City, while he created all things there, is an example of piss-poor writing, filled with every cliche imaginable. But he CREATED it, from the ground up (influences from every pulp fiction noir story are there, of course, but there was no Marv character before that series, no Dwight etc…)

    Same writer/artist on Dark Knight Returns, which in my view, is content management, since he takes pre-created characters and uses them to tell a larger story is one of the better examples of good craftsmanship in any medium. However, in order to understand it, one must know (consciously or not) the Batman mythology, just as one must know the superhero mythology in order to fully understand Watchmen or one must know the pulp fiction mythology of the 19th century to fully understand LOEG. Without that conscious or subconscious knowledge of those pre-existing characters, something like LOEG would be an exercise of intellectual futility.

    I do actually believe that is one of the reasons why the movie failed at the B.O. — take that careful deconstruction of Victorian values, Victorian adventure stories away (and there isn’t much happening in LOEG for the first four issues…) you are left with this pitch: It’s X-Men in the 19th century.

  39. Rob Spencer Says:

    I’m not sure personal attacks really do very much other than underline Johanna’s point that asking nicely won’t get you much on the internet. It’s easy to take what you want and dismiss who you don’t like, because there are no material consequences; that’s the mob morality of the web.
    Further to the original point, I think the majority of downloaders are young, likely teens and early 20s, and so far unfamiliar with the real world value of a dollar. And we know that kids today are dumber than we were, so it’s unlikely they can fathom $2.99 x 20,000.
    As for the respect given to creators, it’s kind of their own bed. A lot of creators have used the web to interact with fans, presenting themselves as simply one of the boys. Obviously, there are many fans who feel that a shared background equals shared qualification to do the job. And so, the creator is no better than they are, just luckier. Often, the creators even say as much, and in a few cases, actually are fans who recently got an opportunity with a big publisher. So if you lose your job, they might be able to get in.

    To the creator/caretaker argument, I think there is a difference between a creator and a writer. Take a look at the work that a lot of writers are doing on properties vs their own books, and there is a huge difference in attitude and quality. Thunderbolts may be good, but Fell will blow you away, and leave you thinking about it afterwords. And telling your friends. Marvel Zombies was fun, but Invincible is outstanding. Astonishing X-men is ‘cool it’s like Buffy'; Buffy Season 8 is aaawe-some. Cap #25 – yawn…again?, Criminal #5 – gutwrenching.
    This falls in with Thomas’ point above about ‘committee craftsmanship'; the fans hear about editors and writers throwing around story ideas and seeing what sticks. That sounds a heck of a lot easier than what Warren Ellis does, alone at a keyboard with his redbull and his brain. I just personally don’t have much respect for Joe Q. and Jeph Loeb playing toy soldiers in the Marvel sandbox. But Bryan Lee O’Malley? Hell yeah. And it’s right there on the page.
    I guess it’s like adopting a pet; you have to feed the cat and keep it healthy, and you can get a lot of joy from the cat. But if you actually gave birth to the cat, now that’s something to talk about.

  40. Alan Coil Says:

    .
    Marvel and DC only get somewhere aroung $0.50 for each comics they sell to Diamond. That 50 cents doesn’t go very far when split so many ways (Marvel, writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colorer).
    —–
    This always comes back to the final argument of—what amount makes a person a thief? $1000? $100? $2.99?

    I am not without guilt in this kind of thing, but I find that the older I get, the more I respect things that belong to others. If Marvel or DC put a book online, I might read it. If someone illegally puts something online, I never even go to look at that site.
    .

  41. James Schee Says:

    Hmm, I think asking nicely might get some to not download the comics. Yet it probably won’t make much difference, just as it didn’t for music downloaders.

    Perhaps the thing to do is offer those people a viable option like the music industry did? I know I changed certain habits when Itunes started, and I could get music for 99 cents.

    I personally don’t download comics because I have a Mac and don’t feel like trying to figure out if it is even possible to do so on it. Plus I get enough from reviews and previews to decide if I want to pick up an eventual trade. (I order online, so tend to go trade only)

    Yet if there was a viable option, it might be something I’d consider.

    I did get a good laugh at the recent news that Top Cow was partnering to have their comics available for download. Yet were going to charge the exact same price as the print comics.

  42. OMAR Says:

    “2) The second TORCHWOOD, STREET HAWK, or the live action CUTEY HONEY movie comes out on DVD here in the States, I’ll be the first in line to purchase my copies. :)”

    You could spring for a $50 region-free DVD player, Dan.

  43. Jonathan Miller Says:

    It’s good to know that Shakespeare didn’t create Hamlet and Homer didn’t create The Iliad. I guess they were just content caretakers.

  44. carpboy Says:

    2) The second TORCHWOOD, STREET HAWK, or the live action CUTEY HONEY movie comes out on DVD here in the States, I’ll be the first in line to purchase my copies. :)

    I… uh… really? The Live-action Cutey Honey?

    I mean, I love Cutey Honey and Hideaki Anno and all, but…

    Although for all I know you might have found it as disappointing as I did but feel that since you “sampled” the whole thing, you have an obligation to purchase it. In which case, your moral-fu is stronger than mine.

  45. Lyle Masaki Says:

    Regarding the “creators” vs. “content managers” point… while the discussion has gone another way, I originally took Thomas’ comment as a reference to how, in the end, it’s Marvel or DC that decides what happens to their characters and if a writer comes up with a great take on an existing character that doesn’t stop editorial from coming along and deciding that the franchise needs some freshening up that treats the current take on the character like last week’s newspapers just for the sake of touting something new and different in the marketing copy. It may be within the rights of the character owners, but it’s a longstanding practice that has left comics audiences feeling disrespected and having less respect for the product in return. Joe Ballpoint’s take on Strong Guy is easily discarded by the publisher for a hotter-at-the-moment writer and, after years, the audience sees superheroes as disposable. The days when one can appreciate a superhero comic, thinking that it will have a lasting impact… even a minor impact are gone. Characterization and past events are quickly thrown out the window if the audience becomes too small to care about.

  46. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Mar. 22, 2007: Farting space potato Says:

    [...] on by a Dan Slott anecdote, Johanna Draper Carlson wonders if asking downloaders to stop pirating your comic book online actually works. Scroll down [...]

  47. Johanna Says:

    Sent to me anonymously…

    Everybody stop talking. Make Hulk’s head hurt. Need no-head-hurt-pill.

    Ummmmm… NO PILL! HULK TRAPPED IN LITTLE BOX! HOW HULK GET HERE?

    Grrrrrrr. Who create trap for Hulk? Wait… Who create Hulk? Hulk am Hulk!

    WHERE AM HULK’S CONTENT MANAGER! HULK SMASH CONTENT MANAGER!

    What content manager? Who create content manager?

    ARRRGH! HULK HEAD HURT! HULK SMASH EVERYBODY!

  48. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Let me point out a small problem with any analogy that says downloading content of any kind is the same as borrowing a book from the library or your friend. When you download content you have a permanent copy of that content. So the appropriate analogy would be it is like borrowing a book from the library or a friend and then making a copy. To make it more vivid, it like make a full color photocopy of the book. Now I’m a morally simplistic person. If I borrow the newest copy of She Hulk from my friend, run over to Kinko’s and make a full color copy of the book then I have committed thief. I own a copy of something I didn’t pay for. Same goes for downloading the newest copy of She Hulk. Just because the technology changes doesn’t mean the morality changes.

  49. Scott Says:

    OK, I see how borrowing from a library can be (to some) different than downloading off of the internet.

    However, I am not sure that that applies necessarily to everyone… or at least to me… which is why I said what I did.

    Being a collector of comics, I would not regard a copy or a printout to be a real book. Sure, it has the content, but it is not the book.

    Now, I am not saying that I would make a copy or download (I have done neither and don’t really care to), but they aren’t “real” comics to me…. just as I had substantial personal mindset issues to even pick up a Marvel Masterworks or Essentials volume (until that great equalizer – lack of funds – made it more attractive than doing without).

    When I think about this issue, I was focusing on distribution of the content… regardless of the media used to make that distribution.

    And the content is what we are talking about, right? Not the media?

    Maybe I’ve been reading too much (or not enough?) Promethea of late – or am not fully appreciating the problem – but I just have this feeling that the real issue of content ownership isn’t exactly being addressed here.

  50. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Again, I’m a moral simpleton so here is how I see the issue. My point is that regards of the media used, if you obtain content that you did not rightfully pay for or obtain freely through the appropriate channels then you have committed thief. If you borrow a friend’s or library’s copy of a comic, that is fair use. If you download a comic from Marvel’s website site that is fair use. If you download a scanned copy from your friend that is thief. You can’t get around the fact that in downloading the comic you not only got content you got permanence. The downloaded file gives you free and unrestricted access to the content in a way that borrowing from a friend or a library does not.

  51. Dan Coyle Says:

    “I mean, I love Cutey Honey and Hideaki Anno and all, but…”

    Believe me, it’s not very good. First of all, asking Anno to direct something like that is like asking Warren Ellis to write, say, Thunderbolts, because we all know he would NEVER write such an obvious fan service…

    …uh, wait a minute.

  52. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    WHERE AM HULK’S CONTENT MANAGER! HULK SMASH CONTENT MANAGER! What content manager? Who create content manager? ARRRGH! HULK HEAD HURT! HULK SMASH EVERYBODY!

    That… is funny.

    Still… nobody who wants to argue the points of what the perception of value by consumers might mean for the various media industries? Nobody interested in debating a potential paradigm shift? Nobody?

    Nah. It’s easier (and probably much more fun for onlookers) to latch on that rather silly, but so wonderfully emotionally charged creator-content manager thing. I still find it funny on how many toes one can step by just taking a different view.

    A little thanks to Kyle, who did get one of the arguments I was making (and one does not have to agree with that, not at all) and putting it into a much more concise way. I hate him for that. Really, I do.

    If it so important for some to call themself a creator while working on a company owned property, please do. But here’s an inconvienient truth to every artist, every writer, every letterer and every colorist who does: all of you are replaceable at a moment’s notice.

    And before somebody calls me a dickhead for this, I take no glee in saying that. It is just the truth.

    You were hired to do a job, just like a journalist is hired to write for a magazine, just as an engineer at Porsche is hired to put together a new engine block.

    You can be fired. Replaced. And the property moves on without you, for better or for worse, it moves on without you. The taste of the market may change, there may be new editorial policies (or just new editors who just don’t like you and love that kid from next door) … you can be downsized. You can be taken out and shown the door.

    A lot of time and hard work went in to the making of this comic. How well it sells– the demand– the need for the comic, helps to determine what kinds of jobs I get in the future. In that sense, each comic that’s SOLD acts as a kind of vote towards my career– how high profile an assignment I’m offered– whether or not I should get a bump in pay– and so on.

    So, yes, again, I do understand Mr. Slott’s concerns. If his writings don’t perform on the market as well as somebody in the company thinks they should, it might affect his career in corporate-owned comics.

    Other people have gone down different paths, much riskier ones in the short-term, like e.g. Jeff Smith with BONE. He created it from scratch, he owns it, he owns the ancillary rights and the only person who could fire him is … well … Jeff Smith.

    And here is where it comes down again to my original argument, and please do realise that I don’t like downloading, I don’t download something that I can go out and actually buy… but the perception of a growing number of people that corporate-owned media (this is not just comics. Hell, comics is the tiniest bit of it) has not the same value to them as something that is created and owned by one person (or two or three) instead of a media conglomerate.

    That was actually the debate I wished for, because it will change the media landscape as we know it.

  53. David Oakes Says:

    Lyle: “I originally took Thomas’ comment as a reference to how, in the end, it’s Marvel or DC that decides what happens to their characters.”

    And if he had said that, rather than a facile “He’s no Alan Moore”, I could respect that, because it is true. On the other hand, all of these knee-jerk “Fell is way better than Thunderbolts” responses would be more believable if they came from someone who seemed to like superheroes. Busiek’s “Astro City” is good, but he can get too wrapped up in his own world building. He was actually better on “Avengers” because he could just cut loose and have fun. Waid and Kitson’s “Empire” was OK, but ultimately neutered by their reliance on other tropes. Waid and Kitson’s “Legion”, even if they were “forced” to use Supergirl, shows a lot more heart and a lot more commitment to the story they are trying to tell.

    How hard a creator works, and how much a fan loves something has a lot more to do with the final product than the perception of ownership. Though the more people involved, yes, the more potential for decisions to be made that don’t please everyone. (Of course, that would be true if it were just one creator and one fan. There are people who can say “I love *everything* Alan Moore has done on his own”, but really, in the end, how different are they from a Marvel Zombie buying every appearance of Wolverine?)

  54. Scott Says:

    So, would downloading, reading, and then deleting the file be OK?

    How would this differ from borrowing a book from a library?

    And as far as library books go, I have – on more than one occasion – essentially “owned’ the book for several months due to endless renewals.

    True, at the end of it, it was no longer in my possession, but the story was (since I’d read it so many times).

    My primary concern is that this seems to be a precipice of a slippery slope.

    One that could be altogether avoided (or at least minimized) if – as I said before – this were looked as an opportunity rather than a problem.

  55. David Oakes Says:

    Same thought, different tangent:

    Lyle: “[I]f a writer comes up with a great take on an existing character that doesn’t stop editorial from coming along and deciding that the franchise needs some freshening up.”

    Expressed that way, it gels some thoughts I have had about recents trends like Manga, “waiting for the trade”, and long standing debates like Corporate Art and “maturing” tastes.

    What if all of this isn’t about quality, but safety? What if the preference for “a complete story in one volume” or lip-service for “the vision of a single creator” (things that often aren’t true in popular Manga, either*) is because we, after investing the time and emotion to read it, we don’t want the story to change? One defense of the shock “Event” storytelling/marketing is that “the old comics are still there”. But as Joahnna pointed out, they aren’t the same. You can’t unread a new story, and it’s changes will color your memories of the old ones.

    Which is good, because that’s the way life works: you live, you learn, things change. But it can also be very scary, and is rarely comforting. And not what people want from “entertainment”. Maybe we don’t all want “And they lived happily ever after…” But it is nice to have “The End”, to know what we know, and to be sure that we know it. And not to have to constantly worry that what we know isn’t “real” (all stories are imaginary, but some less than others), or just that tomorrow we will have to learn a whole new set of rules to understand the world around us. Because we get enough of that in real life. We are old(er), comfortable, and we don’t need to learn any new tricks. So if Alan Moore says “This is how Promethea ends” it makes us feel better than Brubaker saying “This is how Captain America goes on…”

    (* – Thanks to Johanna I am aware enough of Manga to know that there are multiple version of “Train Main”, or that “Hot Gimmick” had a reboot. But I don’t follow it enough to know if anyone cares. Can anyone offer insight on how these changes are received? And how they are perceived originally in Japan?)

  56. hcduvall Says:

    Scott:

    I think the confusion is between what a customer thinks he’s buying, and what business/law does.

    A library pays for whatever number of copies of a book, and lends at most that number out. Downloading a file is still making a copy of the content, so unless you limit the downloads, it’s not comparable. You download, now they’re two copies, even if you destroy it later. Whether or not the thinking is outmoded, buying something is considered owning content in that media, not the content (story, song) outright. You can borrow an item from ad infinitum if your library allows it, but they bought that one copy and only one copy is in use (some reads over your shoulder, that’s two readers, still one copy), so its their right. It’s not one reader per purchase, it’s one copy per purchase.

  57. Johanna Says:

    And yet, my library also lets me “borrow” digital files from them. I have no idea of how the details of that work … maybe a self-destructing file?

  58. Dan Coyle Says:

    Oh, if only I could make the Jeph Loeb comics I own self-destruct…

  59. Scott Says:

    To take my point to a (ludicrous) extreme…

    What happens when someone with a photograpic memory and excellent artistic skills reads a comic and reproduces it virtually flawlessly, and then distributes that reproduction.

    That would (I think) take the original creators out of the picture, no (or not)?

    It would still leave the publisher/copyright-holder able to deal with this though…

    Which is why I continue to wonder why we do not have more action from the companies, since this torrent problem has been known for a few years.

  60. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Scott, my main point was show that most people think making a photocopy of a comic illegible. Whether you destroy the copy after you finish reading it or not. You have violated the copyright laws and the terms of fair use. Just because we are talking about downloads versus photocopies doesn’t change the morality of the argument. I don’t understand why people think downloads are so different from photocopies. To me heart of the ethical issue here is whether you follow the appropriate legal means to obtain the content. Content can be presented in multiple forms of media but it stills need media to be disseminated. So the you can’t divorce the ethics of media distribution from the ethics of content acquisition.

  61. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Scott, per your example. Fair use allows me to go to the library, read a book and make notes about what I’m reading and keep those notes. I can’t sit and copy the book by hand that is a violation of copyright laws. Where the copier is human or machine a faithful reproduction of the original is illegal.

    As to why comic companies don’t prosecute? I don’t know. But don’t be suprised if that isn’t coming soon. It all depends on how deeply Marvel and DC thinks this is affecting thier profit margin.

  62. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    Actually, Scott, there have been plenty of actions by media conglomerates when it comes to digital copies.

    Their lobby groups in my country (Germany) were even successful to re-write German copyright law, resulting in the de-facto abolishment of fair use which was in effect under the old one. There, you were allowed to make up to five copies of everything you have legally bought, be it software, music, movies, whatever … and, unless you SOLD them, you could do whatever you wanted: give the copies to friends, use them as back-up, they were yours.

    Under the NEW law, you are still allowed your five copies, but the actual ACT of copying, if there is a DRM management involved, makes you a criminal.

    You know, it’s kind of some of those medical marihuana laws in the US. Can’t buy it, can’t own it, but if it magically falls from the sky, you can smoke until your head falls off (in the interest of full disclosure, this is a joke by Bill Maher)

    To adress David Oakes: As I have stated before, I have actually BOUGHT She-Hulk, for quite a bit more than 3 bucks per issue, so from that fact alone a person might come to conclusion that I do indeed value Mr. Slott’s writing enough to actually put money on the counter. And for a book that is pretty much stand-alone for the most part at that.

    And no, I don’t consider his craftsmanship to be on the level of that displayed by Alan Moore in various of his books (not all of Moore’s books. There are books I like more, there are books I think must have been written for a paycheck and I consider to be sloppy and not fully thought through).

    That’s my opinion. It’s not an insult. I didn’t call Mr. Slott a hypocrite, I didn’t call him a dickhead, I didn’t make any attacks on his person.

    If he finds my opinion on his level of craftsmanship insulting… so be it.

    I didn’t drag the argument in the mud, and if you actually click on the link to the V provided above by Johanna and just read through the first page, it would have been very, very easy to do exactly that by spreading innuendo about him as a person.

    But that wouldn’t work very well in a reasoned debate about the issue at hand, which is: why is there a growing number of torrents, what might the impact on the media industry and what are right strategies in a changing market place?

  63. Jason Says:

    Personally, I’ve downloaded a few of the net, but usually only to sample a particular series, some I’ve bought soon after. Oh yeah, and Miracleman, since I’m not made of money and I’ll buy that as soon as it’s available for a sane price.

    Mr. Slott, I haven’t bought the most recent trade of She-Hulk, despite loving each of the previous ones. I haven’t bought it for one reason. marvel’s trade pricing is out of hand. DC is pricing trades of 6-8 comics for $15. Your She-Hulk trade is $20 for 7 issues. I won’t be robbed by Marvel, it’s too expensive. I won’t download these issues, though I may get them from the library. Put plainly, Marvel lost my sale, so you may want to talk to them about how many other sales are being lost to their rampant over-pricing of their product.

  64. Johanna Says:

    Thomas: You asked “Nobody interested in debating a potential paradigm shift?” I find your analysis interesting and even convincing, but until/if it happens, all we can do is say “sounds likely” or “sounds unlikely” or “I have no idea, let’s wait and see”. Not much of a debate potential there, in my opinion.

    It does tie into changes in the corporate business environment, with a lack of loyalty caused by ever-increasing numbers of layoffs and cutbacks; people have been taught to look out only for themselves.

  65. Thomas Gerhardt Says:

    I wuv you, Johanna :)

  66. Dan Slott Says:

    “Your She-Hulk trade is $20 for 7 issues. I won’t be robbed by Marvel, it’s too expensive.”

    Actually, Jason, the current SHE-HULK TPB is $19.99 for EIGHT issues. #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, and #13. That includes both covers for #8. An extra page of content (see if you can spot it). A reprint of the SHE-HULK section of the CIVIL WAR DAILY BUGLE SPECIAL. And a page of Paul Smith’s She-Hulk sketches. And it’s still over $5 cheaper than if you purchased all 8 issues separately.

    All the previous SHE-HULK TPBs were $14.99.
    The first two reprinted 6 issues a piece.
    The third reprinted 5 issues– but the third issue was double-sized– so the page count is about the same.

    Hope that clears things up.

  67. David Oakes Says:

    “[W]hy is there a growing number of torrents[?]”

    Because the technology is new. It’s like asking why so many people got cell phones in the 80s, or why people started buying books in the late 1400s: because they were there. And it’s not like the motivation of “Something for nothing” is all that new, either. This is just the latest permutation.

    “[W]hat might the impact on the media industry [be?]”

    The Media Industry *might* collapse under it’s own weight, leading to an Open Source Utopia and an infinitely free flow of ideas in all directions.

    Or the Media industry might exert absolute privilage, send out SWAT teams to hunt down people who sing “Happy Birthday” without a permit, insert DRM into out very genes, and make William Gibson look like an optimist.

    Best guess? Media will piss and moan about how the Internet will destroy industry, just like VHS destroyed television, television destroyed movies, movies destroyed the theatre, and Gutenberg put all those monks out of work. And then Media will start buying web sites, investing in on-line communities, convincing advertisers that “viral memes are the new blipvert”, and start putting ads up on YouTube the same way they put them in front of movies on CD. (And the way they did on TV. And how they convinced weathly patrons to support the Arts. And…)

    Capitalism doesn’t suceed because of a superior ideology. Capitalism suceeds because it has the money. Some corporations will resist the new technology, and become obsolete. Some will embrace it, and fail anyway. And the vast majority will lumber along, adding new ideas and sloughing old ones as always, and find themselves in the middle of the pack where they have always been. It’s a Brave New World, and yet we still have monks. Sic transit gloria mundi.

    “[A]nd what are right strategies in a changing market place?”

    Pretty much what has worked since the first corporation: invest in many things, absorb the losses, and flog the successes. If the marketplace is truly changing (moreso than usual), the focusing on any one strategy leaves you vulnerable to being wrong. New technologies lead to new infrastructures and “new paradigms” as the jargon goes. But ultimately they are as faddish as ostrich feathers and tulips. Betting on viral memes or micropayments or imbedded adware may make you the next Bill Gates. And I will guarantee it will make at least *one* person the Next Bill Gates. But it may not make *you* the Next Bill Gates. So plan accordingly.

    (And yes, “Plan for the unexpected” is an oxymoron. So is being a Futurist.)

  68. Jason Says:

    Dan, I’ll concede that it’s $20 for 8 issues (my maths ain’t too good). But it’s still 25% more expensive than a comparable package from DC. Essentially, your Distinguished Competition is giving me more bang for my buck and valuing my dollar more. Thus, they get my money.

    Also, I don’t regard things that Marvel gives away for free (the Daily Bugle) as content. Same with sketches, they’re nice, but no one buys a trade for the page of sketches you throw in the back to make sure the page count is even. Don’t even get me started on variant covers…

    I really do enjoy your work, and you come off as a very nice person, but Marvel has lost a lot of my business due to the fact that they are simply more expensive. Hopefully my library will get future volumes of your work.

  69. Johanna Says:
    no one buys a trade for the page of sketches you throw in the back to make sure the page count is even

    I did. I bought the second Human Target collection because it added to the stories background sketches and corresponding work notes from Cliff Chiang, and I am a total fangirl for his work.

    I’m reminded of (I think it was) Tom Spurgeon’s comment: the only comics that are too expensive are those you don’t like. If you look at a book and think “costs too much for what I get”, that’s not a comment on price, it’s a comment on perceived value.

  70. Scott Says:

    Ed, thanks for detailing your arguments.

    I don’t think a photocopy of the whole book is different than downloading a torrent.

    What I am trying to get at (somewhat unsuccessfully) is the notion of penalizing content distribution (and I would disagree with you regarding its inherent intertwinedness with media distribution… it is currently so, but needn’t be and I think they need to be dealt with as separate issues) on an ad hoc basis.

    DC is part of a larger content delivery company. I would think they realize (and yes, I do know that they have been somewhat active in going after copyright-violators) that the internet is providing a convergence of content that needs to be dealt with.

    That is, most content – regardless of how it was originally distributed – can be distributed via the internet. So, it would seem reasonable that a multimedia company would want uniform content distribution regulations (with minor tweaks for differnces in off-line media).

    My points above regarding library vs. torrent vs. trading among friends weren’t meant to say that they are different or not… just part of a spectrum.

    And if enforcement wasn’t well-crafted it could either be abused easily, or could continue to be ineffectual.

  71. carpboy Says:

    I’m reminded of (I think it was) Tom Spurgeon’s comment: the only comics that are too expensive are those you don’t like. If you look at a book and think “costs too much for what I get”, that’s not a comment on price, it’s a comment on perceived value.

    Jesus Christ is this ever the truth. When people argue over whether $10 is too much for a volume of manga it makes me want to tear out my hair. Comics aren’t laundry detergents.

  72. Tommy Says:

    Cassette tapes are going to destroy the recording industry!

  73. Alan Coil Says:

    If I don’t own a property, I cannot sell it, give it away, or cause a third party to use it.

    I can give away my television, but I cannot give away my neighbor’s television.

    If you don’t own it, don’t put it on the internet.

    Plain and simple. Anything else is theft. It doesn’t matter how you try to justify it, it is theft. Any other argument is merely self-centered selfishness.

  74. joe Says:

    But let’s level the playing field. Alan Moore admit’s to “strip mining”, so if I wanted to pirate copies of LOEG that would be OK? I owe Fantagraphics nothing for posting scans of “Lost Girls”?

    Actually, you wouldn’t owe them a dime. Top Shelf put it out.

    But your ponit is taken.

  75. joe Says:

    Jesus Christ is this ever the truth. When people argue over whether $10 is too much for a volume of manga it makes me want to tear out my hair. Comics aren’t laundry detergents.

    Except people think of them that way, as commodities.

    That’s the thing with intellectual property – there’s no real way to drive the price down on individual properties. I mean, I can drive the price down on laundry detergent by buying another brand and my clothes will get just as clean

    For example, if I want the new Jay-Z album, there is only one manufacturer for that album: Def Jam.

    Warners isn’t putting one out. Matador isn’t putting one out. Def Jam is.

    Now, they feel that the price should be a certain level. And I can pay that price or break the law.

    Also, the idea that there is no creation going on in the process of making work-for-hire books is completely nuts.

    Making comics is hard work, even if you don’t own the copyright. Making good comics is very, very hard, practically a specialized skill set.

    (This is why it makes me kinda sad to see TV and movie writeres writing comics; part of me thinks those jobs should go to people want to be comics writers AND have the appropriate skill sets. But that’s another tangent.)

    Making great comics, well, I think it’s this weird miracle that other media, no matter how hard they try, cannot really replicate.

    [full disclosure: I don't torrent stuff and I love She-Hulk. But boy howdy, I would KILL for a full run of Jack Cole's MIDNIGHT, which I know has been largely torrented. You'd think this would inspire a publisher to try to make it available, but no.]

  76. Dan Slott Says:

    “Dan, I’ll concede that it’s $20 for 8 issues (my maths ain’t too good). But it’s still 25% more expensive than a comparable package from DC. Essentially, your Distinguished Competition is giving me more bang for my buck and valuing my dollar more. Thus, they get my money.

    Also, I don’t regard things that Marvel gives away for free (the Daily Bugle) as content. ”

    Don’t worry, Jason, my math’s not that good either.
    I should have said that our latest trade was still $4 cheaper than buying all the issues individually. And, BTW, though some of the DAILY BUGLES are free, the one that the SHE-HULK article came from actually cost 50 cents. Really. :)

    Like I posted before, my other Marvel Trades collect about six issues ($18 worth of comics) for $15 dollars (a savings of $3). And Marvel Trades like THING: IDOL OF MILLIONS and SHE-HULK: LAWS OF ATTRACTION contain eight issues ($24 worth of comics) for $20 dollars (a savings of $4). I don’t really see how Marvel’s ripping you off. Especially when you consider that SHE-HULK Vol.2 #8 is still going for over $20 all by itself. And there it is in our current trade WITH both covers, 7 other comics, and all those extras… for $19.99 ;)

  77. MuD Says:

    Have I downloaded comics? Sure. Are they of things I would’ve otherwise paid for? Nope. If it weren’t for all the “free” comics online, I’d buy no comics just like 3 years ago. But 3 years ago I found digital comics and now I buy a handful every week.

    Dan – just a thought – if you aren’t selling enough She-Hulk, maybe it’s you. Plenty of other books are profitable. Why can’t yours be?

  78. jughead Says:

    Almost two years ago I downloaded my first comic, after reading an article about digital comics. I hadn’t bought a comic book in over 10 years at that point. After downloading for a couple of months I began buying comics again. Not in mass quantities, but around 8 titles a month. Now I’m buying nearly 3 dozen a month.

    Am I still downloading? Yes. It’s a great way to check out new stuff, but when I find something that I like I end up buying it. Without digital comics I would never have started going to the LCS again, so in my case they have acted as a gateway back into the hobby.

  79. Dan Slott Says:

    “Have I downloaded comics? Sure. Are they of things I would’ve otherwise paid for? Nope. If it weren’t for all the “free” comics online, I’d buy no comics just like 3 years ago. But 3 years ago I found digital comics and now I buy a handful every week.

    Dan – just a thought – if you aren’t selling enough She-Hulk, maybe it’s you. Plenty of other books are profitable. Why can’t yours be?”

    Actually, MuD, for a book about third tier character, we’re doing pretty well. But, like any product, you always want to do BETTER. There are flagship titles like SUPERMAN, DAREDEVIL, and what have you– that are ALWAYS going to do well. I take great pride that we’ve put out a SHE-HULK book that’s gone on for so long– that’s been given good reviews by publications from the NEW YORK TIMES to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, and has been called “one of the best books coming out today” by both AINT IT COOL NEWS and the ONION.

    What’s frustrating on my end is that if the people who were downloading issues– people were enjoying the full unit of entertainment of the book– actually paid for it, we’d be in a much safer place. There are so many factors that affect a book– how it’s marketed, what kind of coloring it gets, how much its budgeted for covers, etc. By not casting your “vote”, you also affect the quality of a book.

    We need your “votes”. And the entire creative team works VERY hard to get them. When you end-run the process, when you get all the value of our work, and don’t recipricate it has an effect.

    Quick question: How many books would you say that you download a month? How many of those that you read all the way through do you buy? Do you NEED to read the book all the way through to decide whether you like it and would like to purchase it?

    The reason I ask– I honestly think I would have NO problem whatsoever with people downloading the first third of EVERY comic out there and– like a Baskin Robins pink spoon– deciding whether they’d like to buy the whole cone or not.

    My biggest problem is the people who read the book all the way through– who get the full unit of entertainment out of the book– and THEN decide not to pay for it.

    To me it’s like a carton of milk. If you take a sip out of it and it’s bad, you should get your money back. If you take a sip of it and its bad– and yet you KEEP drinking the whole carton, you shouldn’t be able to ask for a refund. You drank the whole carton!

    So… My take… If you read the comic all the way through, there was something about it that was worth your TIME– something that got you to enjoy THE FULL UNIT OF ENTERTAINMENT that story provided. If you get all the way through the book, you should reach all the way into your wallet. NO ONE is forcing you to read the whole thing. If you don’t like it, STOP reading. If you like it well enough to finish, please do right by the creative team.

    Does that sound fair?

  80. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Dan, I have to say while I’m not currently buying your She-Hulk (no offense, it’s a money issue, no really), I honestly appreciate
    A) Your perspective
    B) Your understandable passion about your livelihood and your concerns about this technology’s impact on your work
    C) Your willingness to discuss the issue here and elsewhere.

    Also, your Thing series ended far too soon for me.

  81. David Oakes Says:

    Since you are still here, Mr. Slott, a quick question:

    How are everyone else’s downloads? I mean, if the downloading-to-purchase ratios for CIVIL WAR and NEW AVENGERS are the same as SHE-HULK, then this is just the cost of doing business. Sucks to be a book on the margin, but if CW didn’t draw in more, that says a lot. About all comics.

    (If SH has a dl/p less than CW, you are better off than you could be. Of course, if it is more, that would indicate you can’t pull them in like other books, and you want Marvel to think that even less than your low sales.)

    And just to stir the pot, are their torrents for WATCHMEN? Anyone downloading it at all?

  82. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    part of the Baskin-Robbins pink spoon analogy is that with more and more of contemporary mass-market comics being written for the trade, one whole issue sometimes isn’t enough to give you a sense of the book/story as a whole. I’m always amazed at how much longer it takes to read a comic from the 60s or 70s than a current one.

    One comic that I downloaded was Elk’s Run — I read the whole first issue and felt that I had enough sense of the book that I have the collected edition on pre-order at Amazon. 4 or 5 pages of that issue would NOT have been enough to entice me to buy the whole work.

    and I’ve read enough of the works of Dan Slott to know that you do try to give value for the individual issue cost as well as larger stories, but sampling can be very different amounts for different people. I STARTED buying The Thing after issue 5 because I tried a couple issues that were downloaded. I also then bought the trade.

    and the point being made about the trades isn’t that Marvel’s pricepoints can’t be justified, it’s that they don’t compare as well to DC’s pricepoints. Although it does need to be pointed out that DC tends to use cheaper paper on their cheaper priced collections. And given that the material in the collections has already (hopefully) recouped its costs from the original publication, saying that it’s 20% cheaper (or whatever) really isn’t that much of a justification. New hardcovers are $26 — the trade paperback is $13 and the mass-market paperback is $7 or $8 — that’s the price differential that people are used to for books, not that the original floppies were $24 and the trade paperback is now only $20.

  83. James Schee Says:

    You know, I guess one positive (?) thing about this thread is it made me realize I hadn’t read She Hulk in a while. (last issue was the first of the Star Fox thing)

    $19.99 for the new trade seemed a bit much, but Amazon has it for $13.59. Hmm… not a bad price though I don’t know with the Civil War stuff. (I haven’t read any CW stuff)

    Maybe I’ll go download an issue to try it first! KIDDING!!!

  84. Johanna Says:

    In my opinion, the series has had several different approaches over its relatively short run. I liked the earlier issues better myself, with the lighter, shorter, funnier plots. I can understand why someone might try different things to build an audience, but it’s also the case that the series hasn’t been as consistent as some others, which might account for a greater desire to sample.

  85. Ed Sizemore Says:

    David, My problem with your response to Dan is that it’s like telling the owner of a mom n’ pop store that they have to accept shoftlifting as part of the business model. They shouldn’t do anything to stop shoplifters because that’s just the way retail works. If their profit margin doesn’t allow for a certain percentage of shoplifting the way Walmart or Target does, then they should simply find another occupation.

    The same with people who say that downloading comics lead them to buying comics. Again, it’s like saying three years ago I didn’t eat potato chips, but I stole a couple of bags and really developed a taste for them. Now I regularly purchase a few bags each month. Mind you I don’t buy as many bags as I shoplift lift, but shoplifting is helping me became an honest consumer. I just don’t buy the argument.

  86. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    one other element of downloading comics that “messes” up the numbers a bit is that almost no available downloads are for individual comics. there tends to be download packs for the new weekly comics. So someone who’s downloading the pack for “Civil War” will also get “She-Hulk” with that pack. And someone who wants to read “She-Hulk” also gets “Civil War.” (you can select which elements to download and which not to, but most people don’t really know how to do that). So the numbers for the combo-packs aren’t really reflective of anything but the aggregate number of people interested in downloading current comics.

    but most series also get put out as their own individual runs (again, as runs, not as individual issues). There you could see how, say a “Civil War” pack compares to a “She-Hulk” pack. a quick glance at one download site shows a consistent 12-16K downloads for the weekly combo-packs, but around 300-600 for a character or title specific pack. I couldn’t find a “She-Hulk” or “Civil War” specific torrent at this time to do the direct number comparison, but I’ll keep looking. I have a strong sense that the download numbers probably correlate very similarly to the sales numbers.

    Just because 12-16K are downloading the weekly packs does not mean that those are lost sales. In a weak analogy, 30 million people vote each week for American Idol, but the sales of the eventual winner are nowhere near that high. It’s one thing to say I like someone’s singing when it’s just a phonecall, it’s a whole other thing when it’s the cost of a full CD.

    Mass digital distribution is coming in all media. Industries are going to have to figure out how to work with it, not deny it. To use Ed’s comparison, they need to give the shoplifters a reason to become paying customers. they need to add something to the mix or figure out a pricepoint that a large enough portion of the people are willing to pay. ITunes did that, but I’d argue that even their price point is too much, if you compare them to eMusic, which has DRM-free music for between 25 and 40 cents a track, depending on which plan you subscribe to. If Marvel or DC had an eMusic like digital subscription plan where I could get a digital copy of a comic each month for something like 50-75 cents, i’d buy a LOT more books (and then probably buy the TPB of the ones that I really want in a more permanent fashion).

  87. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    “In a weak analogy, 30 million people vote each week for American Idol, but the sales of the eventual winner are nowhere near that high.”

    Since you can vote an unlimited number of times, that 30 million number is a gross overestimation of the number of people who are actually voting. Given how many people sit there with their finger on the redial button for the full two hours after the show’s over, I’d imagine the person who wins at the end may only have a million people voting for them at any given time.

    I believe all previous seasons of IDOL are available for download at your local Torrent tracker, as well.

    And I pay for my copy of SHE-HULK each month at my local comics shop. =)

  88. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    well, I did say that it was weak analogy…

    and I buy She Hulk too, mainly because I want to support this type of mid-level book. In fact, I find myself more likely to buy the mid-level books and ignore the big stories. From reading reviews, message boards and the eventual library copy of the TPB, I don’t miss much from the big stories, but I’d definitely not know about the better stuff going on in the lower books.

    you’re never going to get the 12-16K people downloading the combo-packs converted to paying customers. What needs to be determined is how many can be converted, and at what price point. Starting with the mind-set that “well, they pay $3 for it now, so let’s start there” is not going to work. If Marvel and DC honestly only get 50 cents from Diamond for each book sold (and if they do, Diamond is clearly the profit winner in the equation), then they should see what they can sell getting that SAME price back per download. The costs are different for electronic distribution, so why shouldn’t the price point be different as well?

    We had a band play at our local community college — small indie band, self-release their CDs. I had downloaded one of them from eMusic to sample their sound before the concert. After, I talked with the band and they indicated that they make more profit from the downloads than from the physical CDs. And that’s at eMusic’s download price of approximately 25 cents a download as opposed to the $12-15 they were charging for the CDs. This is the sort of paradigm shift that electronic distribution is creating. the smart company is the one that’s going to get in step with this, not continually joust against it.

    Cross-gen, for all their faults, understood this quite well with their Comics on the Web. Unfortunately, that initiative is tainted with the company’s failure, so nobody wants to go back to that. Comics on the Web worked rather well, and that was still back in the days of dial-up. Sure, there was no download, but that would have been the natural evolution — Cross-Gen was very good at re-purposing material that had already had its production costs paid for.

    As my father always said, “If there was an obvious, easy solution, it would be in place.”

  89. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    oops — I meant to write that you’re never going to get ALL The 12-16K people downloading the combo-packs to convert to paying customers, especially of every book that’s in those combo-packs. You will get SOME to convert, as several people in this thread (and others) have testified.

  90. Lyle Masaki Says:

    Just to clarify, when I mentioned my impression on the “creator vs content manager” bit I wasn’t necessarily disagreeing with other commentors’ reactions, but wanted to bring up my reaction since the discussion was veering in a very different direction.

    David, that’s an interesting thought about “safety” and that’s an interesting way to put it. I’d say that loyalty to any kind of entertainment commercial property is based on an emotional connection, one that lasts if the product stops coming out. I think a lot of grumpiness in superhero comic fandoms come from that sentiment being stepped on, whether that’s “Oh, look, Phoenix is dead again” cynicism or even my own everlasting grumpiness at what Keith Geffen did with Amethyst. Superhero comics walk a tighter line since they’re the “same” comics as the ones remembered fondly, unlike a new Superman movie which, if inferior to ones we liked, leaves a feeling of disappointment instead of betrayal.

    (I changed entertainment to commercial because I started to realize this also relates to packaged goods or business franchises where people sometimes feel betrayed because the product changes.)

    For example, if I want the new Jay-Z album, there is only one manufacturer for that album: Def Jam.

    Warners isn’t putting one out. Matador isn’t putting one out. Def Jam is.

    Now, they feel that the price should be a certain level. And I can pay that price or break the law.

    Nitpick… there’s one other option. Decide it’s not worth the price and decide to go without the Jay-Z album.

    There’s plenty of stuff I want but find that the asking price is more than I want to spend (or, more often, that there is something else for a similar price that I want more). Many people at that point consider theft, but one option that people seem to forget in discussions like this is that some people decide to go without the product being stolen… I feel that group is relevant because people who download pirated content and those who’ve considered buying the product and decided not to own it (legally or illegally) both come from a pool of customers who want the product but don’t feel it offers enough value for the price.

    For me with comics, there’s a lot of stuff I want but I know I can’t afford it all. I go without the titles I decide not to buy, a decision made easier since I barely get through all the reading materials I buy without illegally downloading more reading material (since, even if I downloaded it, I realize I probably wouldn’t get around to reading what I downloaded).

  91. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Er… this probably just fogs up everyone’s debate, but in the UK (and, in the EU generally) authors get a royalty from every time an issue is borrowed from a library. It’s not much, but does add up for people who get borrowed a lot.

    So for at least some people outside of the US, the Library comparison really doesn’t hold in any way whatsoever.

    KG

  92. ~chris Says:

    I disagree that one can always decide on buying a comic based on the first few pages. Sometimes it takes multiple issues, borrowed from a friend, before I’ve decided on become a regular purchaser of a comic series. Every consumer is different.

    There has long been a debate over whether free samples, whether in whole or in part, lead to fewer or more sales. The solution is simple– let the owner decide!

    If an indy musician allows free song downloads, or a publisher puts an entire comic on its website for free downloads, then go ahead. But if the owner does not, even if you disagree with the owner’s reasoning, then downloading their content is stealing. Pure and simple. I don’t care how you try to justify it.

  93. ~chris Says:

    “to become” or “on becoming,” not “on become.”

    BTW, if a content owner fought to keep a book out of libraries, and asked people not to share their book with others, then I wouldn’t read it if I didn’t own it. (Of course, I wouldn’t want to buy a book from such an owner.)

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  95. Jordan Peacock Says:

    First of all, I bought almost zero comics before I began downloading.

    I lived in Kuwait all through middle- and high-school, and the local bakhalah (small store that sells ‘everything’) would only have 1 or 2 Marvel titles at a time (no DC or anything else except Archies, which I really wasn’t into). Therefore, I caught about 12 issues of Captain America before they started receiving only X-Men, which I read until they stopped receiving comics altogether.

    Fast-forward a couple years, and I’ve discovered the wonders of Bittorrent and comic book reads. What followed was months of comic book downloading (internet was free) but I couldn’t even pay rent, so nothing was purchased.

    Coming out of college, all that has changed. Do I download? Most definitely, and quite obsessively. Do I purchase said comic books? Well, not all (some are not even in print anymore), but I have several titles that I keep up with and I have 2/3’s of my bottom shelf filled with hefty graphic novels or collected trades. I don’t go crazy purchasing comics, but my spend is up more than a 1000% from any other point in my life, and not looking to decline anytime soon.

    Truth be told, if I lost every digital file and download, I wouldn’t cry; it’s happened twice to me already. I would return to the library, or standing in the aisle at the comic’s store, but I would miss the obscure indie favorites or lesser advertised major releases that have become some of my favorite works.

    Downloading comics for me then, merely puts the onus on creators again, to make quality works that survive, and allows me to catch onto said series (and purchase them) before they get canceled, instead of finding them years later. This comes back at me as well, as I find myself now writing scripts for comics, and thinking through many of the same issues that Dan Slott has.

    All the best.

  96. Tommy Says:

    Hey there Mr Slott, the live action Cutey Honey is in the last issue of Previews. Get with your comic shop guy quick, final Preview orders are due in on Tuesday.

  97. Brad Reed Says:

    So the big question is “does the increased exposure through downloading increase sales enough to offset any sales lost through that same downloading?”

    My hunch is yes, based upon what I’ve read from writers, musicians, and such who offer their works for free download. The internet is loaded with accounts of said folks explaining how the free downloads have increased their sales. And this isn’t just for twenty-second song bites or single chapters, but whole songs and books. The great enemy of mass-market artists is obscurity, not piracy. Writers starve when nobody knows their work, not when their works are widely distributed through a black market.

    Then again, the world-o-comics tends to be insular, so the equation that works in music and print fiction may not apply to funnybooks. Hm.

    Again, my hunch is that it does work the same way, and that the public spread of torrented comics creates sales gains that outweigh the losses it creates, but damned if anyone can prove it one way or the other.

    I would kill for an iTunes type of arrangement for comics. Or maybe something like the CrossGen “Comics on the Web” arrangement, where you could read their entire line of comics over the internet for a flat fee, but you couldn’t download them. That was a hoot, and it got me to buy several trades that I never would have considered otherwise. Something like that will arise soon. It makes too much financial sense.

  98. Brad Reed Says:

    Based on complaints about downloading I’ve read from creators of various media, I’m curious how much resentment there is towards the non-sanctioned free spread of one’s hard work even if it would be likely to increase sales. I could see how that would drive me nuts.

    Is it better, from a creator’s standpoint, for a comic to sell 20K per month with no illegal downloads or 21K per month with, say, another 30K of illegal downloads? Yes, financially the second option would pay better, but pride may make that option unpalatable. How much of the anti-downloading ire comes from a place beyond sheer sales, from a sense of one’s work being devalued?

    (“It depends on the individual creator,” yes, yes, I know.)

  99. Lyle Masaki Says:

    One problem I see with the argument that downloading exposes potential readers to titles they wouldn’t pay to check out — unfortunately, in comics it’s not the readers that determine a title’s sales it’s the comic shops. Considering how I’ve encountered more than a few shops who don’t respond to selling out of a second-tier title by ordering more in the next month, a part of me wonders if its enough for readers to get exposed in an unfamiliar titles. In many cases, I expect they’d have to hound their local retailer to increase their order… or they could just continue to download when they see the title sold out.

  100. Johanna Says:

    Brad, I think there may be a tendency for creators to assume that of course anyone reading their work likes it enough to buy it, so any downloader is a lost sale. It’s not true, but it’s understandable why a creative type would think that.

    Lyle, perhaps this is another area in which the direct market is going to be left out of the loop? Read it online, then buy the collection online.

  101. Tommy Says:

    The suspense is killing me. Did Dan Slott order the live action Cutey Honey from his local comic book retailer?

  102. cimmerian32 Says:

    I am a comic scanner. I am a lifelong comics collector. I am an unrepentent comics downloader. I own, in paper, virtually every comic I’ve downloaded. I download comics, so that I don’t have to ever take my physical copy out of the mylar they enter on coming home from the shop. I do NOT scan new books. I scan books from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 70’s.

    I currently buy She-Hulk, because I own every other copy of She-Hulk ever printed. I download She-Hulk, because reading scans is easier and less stressful to me than removing my physical copies from their bag. Most of the people I know, both online in the scanning community, and in the downloading community, own at least some of the books they dl, but, like me, would prefer to keep their copies pristine, and just read the scans.

    I became a scanner of the older books, because they aren’t available in any form. Sure, you can go out and spend hundreds of dollars for a copy of a book (and I do), but if you do, you probably don’t want to read it much, because every time you read it, you damage it a little more, thus devaluing it a little more. Thru scanning, I basically only read the physical copy once, and then can peruse it, study it (in close-up even), as many times as I want, and it just sits in my box, at the same condition it came off the scanner in, slowly accruing value.

    My 2p, for what it’s worth,
    Cimm

  103. cimmerian32 Says:

    I should add…

    I don’t scan new comics, because I am a condition freak… I am the guy you see in your LCS going thru the stack on the shelf, looking for the best condition copy, sometimes asking the shop guy if he has any that haven’t been shelved yet, and who goes to the counter and doesn’t allow the shop guy to touch them, instead I read the price off them for him, and then bag them myself :D

    The older books I scan, and can afford to buy, are almost never in top shape, just in the best shape I can afford. One more read won’t hurt them, whereas my new books are pristine, and shall remain that way for the duration of my ownership…

    Just wanted to clarify, lest someone take that comment as a moralistic standpoint. It’s not, just me being condition conscious.

    And one more thing. I share my comic scans, because they are NOT the actual book. They are mere facsimiles. For me, they are merely a way to show the world just how cool what I dig really is. I imagine it is the same for most scanners. We wish to share our tastes, in the hope that the scan will reach people that can’t, or have never, or would never otherwise, go into a comic shop. I think you, Mr. Slott, are being a bit narrow on your stance, and maybe thinking a bit too little of your own value. If what you do appeals to people, and they can sample the entirety of your output, they will be MORE inclined to buy it, than if you demand that they not be given the opportunity to sample it at all… and no, 6-8 pages is NOT enough to decide if you like or dislike a book. It is enough to decide if you like or dislike the ART, but you’re a writer, right? The story, and direction thereof, takes time, and often multiple issues to show a clear direction. Downloading comics allows people to truly decide what they dig or don’t dig. If your good (and I think you are, for what that’s worth), then the wider your exposure is, the better off you are.

    again, just my 2p, for what it’s worth…

    Cimm

  104. Levi Says:

    I might be missing something (and this might have already been mentioned, I haven’t read all the comments)… but what’s the difference between downloading an out-of-print comic and buying it second hand?

    I’ve been downloading a lot of out-of-print titles recently, because, as much as I’d love a physical copy, they’re too hard to get hold of, and would cost far more than I could ever afford (especially when you’re going back to comics that are 40 – 60 yrs old).

    In all fairness, the creators should be paid by everyone who views their work, but that just isn’t going to happen until the creators embrace an online, digital store (iComics if you will).

    As for current titles; comics are even harder to get hold of in countries outside of the US. You either have to pay inflated prices at one of the (very rare) comic stores, subscribe to them direct from the publisher (best option, but slow, and not available for a lot of titles), or put up with the country’s own produce (which is usually a mish-mash of old stories with no concern for continuity; in story, vintage, or style).

    It’s not hard to see why free downloading is seen as the easy option.

  105. Johanna Says:

    The difference, fundamentally, is money. No one gets money if you download (in most cases), and for most people, that just seems wrong. Especially since you say that the comics are available to you, you just think they’re too expensive. (Not that you’re wrong, just that your decision is one-sided.)

  106. Levi Says:

    Buying second hand doesn’t put money in the creators pockets either. Is it really “stealing” when what you’re downloading isn’t for sale anyway?

    You’re right about the expense; it shouldn’t matter… you wanna read the comic, you pay your monies… but it doesn’t really work like that. I am planning to subscribe to a few Marvel titles direct, because after the international shipping and the subscription discount you only end up paying the cover price anyway… which is as fair as you could ask for. But those that I can’t subscribe to, and would have to pay 130% mark-up on the cover price for… well i just wont buy them, but I don’t see a problem in downloading them if it’s the only way I can get it (I’d gladly pay a couple dollars per download… but there isn’t such a store for me to do that yet).

  107. Johanna Says:

    Buying second hand does put money in a retailer’s pockets, though. And the perception seems to be that you shouldn’t be able to get something for nothing. Every entertainment costs, whether cable TV or movie tickets or buying coffee while you read manga at the bookstore. :)

    But you’re right. Just because something’s got a price tag doesn’t mean people are willing to pay it. Everyone’s looking for a deal.

  108. Nat Gertler Says:

    To say that the creators don’t make money off of the second-hand purchase would be just like saying that they don’t make money when you buy a new issue from a comics retailer, because the retailer has already paid for the comic and your money just goes to the retailer. While that is technically true, the retailer purchased that comic because of his ability to resell it, and the absence of that comic from the store makes it more likely that he will reorder the comic or order some form of reprint, and thus generating more royalties for the creator.

    The second-hand comics market has long helped drive the new comics market, as some customers buy comics with the thought that they will be able to recoup some of their cost (or in some cases actually at a profit) by selling the comic book used. (True, the purchaser often overestimates the money to be gained by eventual reselling.) And the purchase of the second-hand copy removes one more copy from current availability, and that scarcity makes the reorder or purchase of a reprint by the next guy that much more likely.

    Standard purchase works towards scarcity, with copies winding up in people’s collections and wear-and-tear reducing availability. File “sharing” works against that — the more copies that are out there, the more sources there are for further copies.

  109. B Williams Says:

    Man oh man am I late on this issue… but I wanted to make a quick snarky comic:

    “Dan, I’ll concede that it’s $20 for 8 issues (my maths ain’t too good). But it’s still 25% more expensive than a comparable package from DC. Essentially, your Distinguished Competition is giving me more bang for my buck and valuing my dollar more. Thus, they get my money.”

    That’s only if you think that value lies only in page/issue count, not in the storylines and art. For my money, DC comics has never put out anything worth even half as much as a good Marvel release (not to say that Marvel hasn’t had their share of terrible stories, but by and large the point still stands). To put things simply by using a low (1) to high (10) scale, Marvel averages out at about a 7 while DC averages at about a 4. Marvel has stories as high as a 10 and as low as a 1, while DC’s range is from 1 to about a 6.
    *Shrugs* Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m totally biased – I’ll even admit to being a bit of a Marvel fanboy. But the point remains that to me at least, Getting a Marvel TPB with 8 issues for $20 is a much better deal than getting a DC TPB with 8 issues for $14.

  110. Solamon77 Says:

    Comics are just too expensive. Plain and simple. $3 for a 20 minute read just costs too much. The comic book industry needs to find a way too lower that cost by at LEAST a dollar if not more. I don’t know how they can do it, but they have to do it.

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  114. Unkown Says:

    I started downloading comics a while ago… Since they were never available in my country … In summer I ended up traveling to London and to show support I bought six graphic novels ..five from marvel .. In some way downloading free comics helps to have a bigger fan base … Because honestly it’s a lot more Fun reading the comic on a hardcopy rather than on the pc,iPad,etc




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