Lizzie Boyle Says: The challenge for small press creators for 2014 is to lift our comic above what it is now [and] integrate the physical comic into a digital reality!
Our roving reporter, ‘Lizzie Boyle Says’, was at ThoughtBubble recently, indulging her love of small press comics and thinking about the crossover between (printed) small press and the digital world.
A comic con is itself an old-world experience: people come together in a single place to meet their comics heroes and to buy physical books, sketches and prints. (There’s another blog brewing about the digital future of the convention, but I’ll save that for later.)
Amid all of that printed material: what place for digital?
For marketing and promotion of small press comics, digital is ubiquitous: you’re not going to get very far without a website, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page to help people find out about your wares.
So far, so simple., but what else?
Over the last year, I’ve seen an increasing number of trailers for small press comics. One of my favourite graphic novels of 2012 was Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist? (Accent UK); you can watch its trailer here.
Owen Michael Johnson, creator of Who On Earth…, turned his attention this year to Raygun Roads, which showcases not just a different style to his comics writing, but also a further integration between the printed comic and its digital surroundings. It’s a comic with a soundtrack; listen to the album at raygunroads.com. But it’s more than that. The whole comic is an album – with side A and side B. It’s a great bridge between the new and the old: the physical experience of reading Raygun Roads links you to its digital score, as well as harking back to the good old days when albums had sides.
The other small press creator who is really making strides in the crossover between print and digital is Barry Nugent. Barry’s Unseen Shadows universe has come a long way since his first (non-graphic) novel, Fallen Heroes. It has spawned into a mini-empire of comics anthologies, standalone tales and audio dramas, with more innovations in the pipeline, all germinating from his website unseenshadows.com.
I also have to give a Big Loud Mention to Comicsy, a digital store for all things comics which gives small pressers an opportunity to have their own online retail space (Check out our interview with Comicsy founder Tim West here! – Ed). The next time you have a couple of hours free, go to www.comicsy.co.uk and use their Select A Shop facility; it’s a great way to browse for new and emerging comics talent.
“The challenge for small press creators for 2014 is to lift our comic above what it is now… to create these onion-layers around our work, [and] integrate the physical comic into a digital reality?
There are more examples, but there are still a lot of creators (myself included) who aren’t taking advantage of all that digital has to offer. We have our websites and our Twitter feeds and a lingering fondness for printed artefacts. We find it hard to make the time or acquire the skills to create these digital universes or to think in depth about how technology can help our comic to reach new audiences or exist in a different way.
Perhaps the challenge for small press creators for 2014 is this: what can each of us do to lift our comic above what it is now? How can we create these onion-layers around our work, integrating the physical comic into a digital reality?
That said: whatever we do digitally has to make our comics more than they are (in dreaded parlance, “add value”). Let’s not get into the world of identikit websites and cloned trailers. Let’s use digital opportunities to show what is unique about our work: if your comic is rooted in a physical place, what can you do with maps and geographical information? If it’s historic, how can you bring in archives and artefacts to place your story in a wider context? Above all, let’s think about what we can do as creators to build connections with new readers and encourage them into our worlds.
Lizzie Boyle is an author, blogger, small press comics aficionado and founder of Disconnected Press. You can find more or writing at lizzieboylesays.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @lizzieboylesays