If it hasn’t been made immensely clear: I adore comics. As an artistic expression, a narrative medium, and physical object I can hold in my hands – shifting and sliding the all-too thin pages with my unfortunately greasy fingers – there’s an untenable magic to it. I love comics and sometimes I download them. Sometimes I pirate them. Sometimes I steal them.
I’ve read a number of articles on Amazing Stories discussing digital distribution and remarking on the act of pirating – and it’s fairly obvious that the majority – most of whom are published writers in the process of fighting the multi-headed beast that is e-publishing – is upset by the idea that someone, anyone, can easily take something without paying for it. That’s a very fair standpoint to have, but I fear it’s missing some crucial discourse around the right of exposure. To sum up much of the dissent against peer-to-peer downloading, torrenting, or pirating (all of which are not mutually exclusive acts) that I’ve seen recently it would be: “if you can’t pay for it, you don’t deserve to experience it”. That’s wrong. In my mind, as everything in this post is and was, the innate ability for humanity to tell and receive stories is one of the prime aspects of our species that allows us to suggest that we are more than the rest of life. The fact we can live through a narrative thread eons long – and begin to externally perceive our place in that thread is paramount to what makes us human. We have “capital M” Mythology at our backs and unlike any other form of life we’ve encountered, our ability to look back is not hindered by what our physical eyes can see, but rather what we learn from stories.
A bit tangential, I’ll grant you – but it’s an important thing to consider.
When it comes to the ability to experience quality media – we, America at least, are quite privileged. Most every publisher of all things content is pushing their product rapidly into the States. Most countries will go out of their way to ensure a means of exporting their creative output to be viewable and understandable by the American audience, even at the cost of changing the content. We are playing the entertainment game on beginner mode and it shows in the way we procure it. Why aren’t people in Scotland or Brazil able to buy comics? Why do people in Australia have to wait for months to see the latest superhero film? Licensing, ownership, copyright – money. Be aware that as I say this, I don’t consider a complete do-over of our system of media the right path – far from it. I just think it’s crucial to attempt in taking a global focus on how we experience things others have made and question the current roadblocks that prevent someone anywhere in the world from buying a copy of Superman. As you can expect from a heart-felt, passion-driven post such as this: I don’t have answers, just the earnest request to consider far more than simply that paradigm of creator/work/ownership that we live in. I think we can trust one another with our content and in turn, we can learn to leverage our currency-based vote of confidence in a creator’s work.
Consider that many of the completely legitimate distribution platforms that have solidified my opinion in this have come out of, or at least recognize the tenants of online file sharing in one way or another. As an example: Bandcamp allows consumers to download their purchases in a variety of formats, notably Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and ALAC which are mostly seen in audiophile communities online who readily trade music via P2P clients.
There’s a cognitive dissonance that distributors sometimes go through when wanting to counter the pirating culture – which is to lock down their own content. The part they fail to recognize is that restricting their product only serves to harm their current clientele as anyone who has the convenience of downloading probably will at the first bureaucratic barrier – because pirating is free and easy. The previously mentioned rash of modernized platforms are well on their way to standing the gap and bringing much of the pirating community into the fold by utilizing familiarly streamlined methods of distribution, while adding a wholly reasonable pricetag.
The point I’m juggling here is that everyone deserves, at a human level, to experience every story ever told – for the betterment of our species. Yes – it’s an idealistic stance, but it’s one that makes sense to me. The rest of how our stories make it to the paper or film or soundwaves that ferry them from one consciousness to another is, while not unremarkable, less important. Yes, creators need to be paid and paid well for their output when it is considered by enough to be worthwhile, but I genuinely think, especially influenced by what I have seen over the past few years, that consumers can be trusted to pay what is economically fair in exchange for quality work.
While this post doesn’t directly pertain to comics or exclusively to the comic industry, it it is driven by my conscious when it comes to how and why I read what I read every Wednesday. I probably spend between $20 and $50 dollars a week at my local comic store, not counting the sums I spend at the variety of conventions I attend annually. Suffice to say, I feel I contribute plenty to the industries that provide me the narrative sustenance of entertainment I require. No matter the dissension, I have never been as thrilled to see what new content on quietly hides behind the horizon, soon to be readily accessible through the various flavors of digital platforms available to me, as I am today.
My pulls for 5/8 are:
- X #1 by Duane Swierczynski & Eric Nguyem
- Batman #20 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Alex Maleev
- Chin Music #1 by Steve Niles & Tony Harris
- Bravest Warriors #8 by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes
- Remind Vol. 1 by Jason Brubaker
- Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick
(top image contains cover art of X #1, Bravest Warriors #8, Batman #20, and Chin Music #1)