Saturday, August 4, 2007

Looking Back to the Future, Part One

Seems like just last week I was writing about the webcomics zeitgeist that has taken hold of several comic companies who in the coming months plan to boldly blaze a path into the online future of the comics medium (while boldly ignoring the paths already blazed by successful online comics creators, possibly because the amount of money that makes an individual creator happy isn’t enough to make a multimedia company happy.)

Platinum Studios and DC's new Zuda Comics initiative cast the comic creator as contestant (much to the chagrin of Scott Kurtz)--and I know of at least one other online initiative in development at a major company also looking to go the American Idol route. Virgin's Coalition Comics puts readers in the role of creative collaborator. And the recently announced resurrection of the DARK HORSE PRESENTS anthology on MySpace mentioned something to the effect that Dark Horse was expecting to use the venue at least partly to showcase the work of new creative talent discovered on MySpace itself.

These look like potentially heady days for an online comics creator looking for an expanded audience or even a paycheque. Actually, in some cases, they're potentially heady days for any comics creator, really. Neither Platinum's Drunk Duck webcomic site nor MySDHP have made much effort (that I can see) to alter or encourage the alteration of work from the traditional comic format in a way that would make maximum use of the delivery technology that the work is, at least theoretically, intended for--a monitor.

What I've read of the first edition of MySDHP, while entertaining and well-produced, was clearly created with traditional-sized print comics in mind. Maybe the intended audience is used to scrolling down to get to the end of a (from an online point of view) completely arbitrarily shaped page, before moving on to the next one and I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. Wouldn't be the first time. But speaking for my Luddite self, I find the format distracting at best and, because of my frequently-glacial internet speed, frustrating as hell at worst.

In any event, I can't help but think that by ignoring the advantages the monitor-as-delivery method offers in favour of the same-old, same-old, these companies are making it easier for the pre-existing (and massive) webcomic reading community to dismiss them as an crass attempt to co-opt the webcomic format, making it an advertisement for an eventual comic or trade rather than a satisfying reading experience in and of itself.

But “(re)Create The Future” was LAST week. While Dark Horse, Virgin, DC and Platinum look to the web; Dynamite!, Marvel, and Image are looking in the opposite direction.

First, Dynamite! announced SUPERPOWERS, the next project by the creators of DC’s JUSTICE maxi-series, Alex Ross and Jim Kruger.

"These are characters that had different titles in the past and so, not all of them were part of one grand scheme or groundwork originally, and what we are trying to say is "here is this groundwork of characters that makes up what would appear to be, to anyone’s senses, a very rich world, similar in scope to the majors."

Then Erik Larsen announces Image’s THE NEXT ISSUE PROJECT, which will

"...showcase top talent from the world of comics reimagining Golden Age characters that have fallen into the public domain. But it's not quite as simple as that - the series will literally publish the next issue of a great golden age book, with modern interpretations of Golden Age super heroes."

Around the same time (possibly slightly before), Marvel announced JM Straczynski and Chris Weston’s 12-issue series, THE TWELVE:

"While some of Marvel's first heroes such as Namor and Captain America have blossomed into the foundation for the Marvel Universe, there are others that for one reason or another weren't able to have a firm grip as Marvel evolved. But no more. In this twelve issue series scheduled to begin in Spring 2008, these heroes (and villains) are revived and rejuvenated and brought into the 21st century."

To the best of my knowledge, all these series feature characters (exclusively superhero characters, to boot, as opposed to the more diverse genres the online initiatives seem to be willing to entertain) that were created 65, 70 years ago.

And all of them are bringing the characters into the modern day.

Which begs the question: Why?

To be continued (unless it isn’t.)


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