Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Super Real Notes - Webcomics

Super Real Notes are a production diary for my book, and an in depth, behind the scenes look at self publishing.
As of Monday, Super Real is again running on GraphicSmash.com as a webcomic, running issue 2 on the web (mostly before it's available in print). I thought I'd tackle why that's happening, and how having the book featured as a webcomic factors into the gameplan. To do that, we'll need to look at how this all came about.

Essentially, I was approached by the editor of GraphicSmash, T. Campbell, in late 2004 about potentially bringing Super Real to the site as one of the featured properties. GraphicSmash is the action/adventure version of the ModernTales family of subscription-based webcomic sites, the largest subscription-based webcomic network on the net. Subscription-based meaning, content is only free (and available to anyone) on the days that it's "new", and once it's "archived" (or old), it is only available to paying subscribers of the site (who pay $2.95 a month for full access). At the time, all of ModernTales.com's sites were operating under this model, currently however, there are changes afoot, to where some strips/series, will be free and supported only by adspace (the more prevalent webcomcis model). Not sure where Super Real fits into the future of these sites, if at all (and we'll touch back on that).

Basically, I'd always intended to have Super Real available on the web, in addition to print. Print was always plan A, but I saw no reason why it couldn't find some sort of digital model, where it was also available in that format (with the potential growth of this model, potentially surpassing print substantially). However, I had no background, or experience in webcomics, so my ideas were basically homegrown, and on the back burner (I'd played around with making content available on the SRG.com website many times). When the opportunity to throw in with a legitimate webcomics site came up, I saw no reason to turn it down. In my experience, print comic readers, had little to no crossover with webcomics, so I wasn't worried about losing potential print readership. I only saw it as an opportunity to get the concept more exposure.

So Super Real started running on GraphicSmash in September of 2004. At that point I was still working on issue one, so it started running there, on a weekly basis. About a page per week. Now, I say approximately, because ever since I started running it as a webcomic, it's started and stopped, and never kept even close to a regular schedule. Because of this, and because the print book went into full swing with distribution coming mid 2005, the focus has never been on maintaining or building a "web audience". Therefore, Super Real has never really had much of a "webcomics" presence, or audience. The bigger, or even more generally followed series on the web, become that way from offering steady, oftentimes daily content. More similar to newspaper strips. And Super Real is not that kind of animal (though, if I had the time, I really think I could do stuff with it, to great affect, in that vein), and it's never offered steady content.

Since GraphicSmash is a revenue based model, the creators on the site are eligible to receive payment for their strips, in theory. But there are two factors that impact any potential revenue. The first is the model itself, which is setup on a performance-based payout system, so the sites revenue is essentially split between the creators, with the percentage of payout tied to a strips performance. With the top series' pulling in the majority of the revenue. The other factor in payments, is that all of the ModernTales sites are run by one person, webcomics mogul Joey Manley. A big part of why he's moving the sites, and business models, in new directions (WebcomicsNation, ad-based), is because he's essentially become overwhelmed in a backlog of bookkeeping and code writing. The bottom line is, while there is money tied to webcomics, it's mainly only a very few, highly successful, series that make in kind of real revenue.

Any way, after starting issue two online briefly last year, the webcomic had been in limbo for months. I'd seriously considered discontinuing it, and moving it over to WebcomicsNation, the new ModernTales upstart for a creator controlled model of webcomics (for those of you who don't know, WebcomicsNation is a great place for any potential creator to get their work on the web. An all-in-one service, similar to Blogger or other blog sw sites, that offers everything one needs to publish comics on the web, for rock bottom prices). After discussions with T, we've settled on at least finishing issue two on GraphicSmash, and then going from there, in terms of coming to a decision for Super Real on the web.

So, as of now, the complete second issue is running on GraphicSmash.com HERE
It's updating daily 'til next Wednesday, 2/1/06, when it will return to weekly Wednesday updates. Updating a new, never before seen page each week, 'til it concludes in early May (just in time for the print version of number 3 to hit shops).

If you want to get a peek at pages from issue two before hits shops in a few weeks, tune into GraphicSmash and check them out! Issue one is also completely available in the archives, it is however (except for the first chapter), only viewable via subscription (once we get further into the series, I plan to make at least the first issue available online for free). That gives anyone interested in the series, another option, for the time being, to check it out, or potentially discover it. In the future, we'll see. I'm not sure how well Super Real fits on GraphicSmash, under which model (subscription/pay, ad-based/free), or even as a "webcomic" at all.

Ultimately, I'd like to have a setup, where each issue is available online at a low cost, say around $1 an issue to view/download. And then, depending on how digital viewing plays out, I definitely want to have it available in those formats/options as well (PSP, Sony reader, iPod, etc.).



Crazz said...

Jason, that's some good stuff. I'm really torn between reading Issue #2 a page at a time or waiting until I can read it all at once. Either way, I'm going to read it and buy it!

Jason Martin said...


I'm a print guy myself, least til there's a better option than a computer monitor...

Though pages of #2 are available online now, the complete issue will be in print first (the webcomic will take through May to finish).

An hey, the first review is in on #2, my wife loved it! (imagine that...)

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