“The reading experience on the iPad is wonderful” Kurt Busiek talks digital comics and the possibility of an Astro City iPad app

While researching this article I tried to get in touch with all my favourite artists and writers in the faint hope that they might be able to spare some time from their busy schedules to answer my questions. After sending out emails to everyone of note in my comics collection, one of the first people to get back in touch with me was the fantastic Kurt Busiek of Astro City and Marvels fame. Growing up I was a massive fan of Kurt’s work on Marvels and I was so excited to hear what he had to say, and here it is…

What kind of effect you think digital publishing is having on the comics business?

It’s hard for me to say, because I don’t see much of it, either from the publisher or consumer end. My publishers do digital releases, but I don’t see that side of the business much, and I don’t buy e-comics simply because I get so many print comics for free. So I’m kind of in the middle of it, but not in a position to witness well.

Do you own an iPhone or iPad and do you think devices like this are having a positive or negative effect on how people consume and create comics?

I have both. I don’t think I’d like reading comics on the iPhone, due to the screen. I’ve tried comics on the iPad, due to trying out the various companies’ free offerings and using the iPad to read scanned older comics that have been supplied to me for research.
I’ve got to say, the reading experience on the iPad is wonderful. It’s a great way to read comics, and I assume that it’ll be a big part of comics’ future. While a lot of comics readers may prefer paper, new generations won’t feel that preference anywhere near as strongly. I’m already a big Kindle reader, and I can see digital delivery of comics growing to be a larger and larger part of the market — and growing quickly! I can’t really comment on the business side as a consumer, but I can comment on the aesthetic side as a reader — I think it’s a great way to read comics.

Do you think your fellow comic writers are embracing the world of of digital comics or are they still more inclined to stick to traditional ways of doing things?

Comics creators, in my experience, tend to embrace new things — we’ve been seeing digital production coming from computer coloring to computer lettering and so on. These days, you’re more likely to do any proofreading off a computer screen than off a printed page, and sending PDFs of completed issues around has gotten to be the common thing. So comics writers are used to reading stuff digitally, even before consumers got to.

Different people will have different tastes, so some writers will be happier to have new comics on screen than others, and there’ll be plenty who prefer print. For my part, I’d be happy to read comics digitally and buy the stuff I most want to save in book form. But as time passes, I’m sure that the same attachment to print won’t be there in new generations of creators.

Do you think you would have benefitted from being able to publish digitally when you were trying to break into the business – could you see Astro City being turned into app instead of a book for example?

Well, I broke in over a decade before ASTRO CITY started up. Back when I started, we didn’t have faxes, much less e-mail. But I don’t see it as an either/or choice. ASTRO CITY probably will be available as an app soon, but it’ll be available as a book too. That’s how I like it — I’m happy to reach readers through any good way of doing it, not just picking one over the others. If digital publication had been available when I broke in, I’d certainly have explored it. I’m sure I’ll be exploring it some now. But I’m still more focused on the stories I tell than on the method of publication — if digital’s available, great. If something else comes up, that’s good too. I’m happy to work with whatever’s available.