WonderCon 2012: Mark Waid buys into digital, sells off his comics

March 16, 2012 | 5:42 p.m.

The cover for Daredevil issue #10.1, which was written by Mark Waid. (Marcos Martin/Marvel Comics)

The cover for Daredevil issue #12, which was written by Mark Waid. (Paolo Rivera/Marvel Comics)

Comics need to adapt to a digital medium if they want to survive, comics writer Mark Waid told WonderCon attendees Friday afternoon during a panel spotlighting his career. And to drive his point home, Waid announced that he is selling his extensive comic book collection to fund a weekly online comic series, which will launch in May.

“This is in no way a hard-luck story,” said Waid, the writer behind Marvel’s relaunch of “Daredevil” and co-creator (with artist Alex Ross) of the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel “Kingdom Come.” “I’m a very lucky man. I don’t have to do this because I need a kidney. … I’m just doing this because it’s about the right time to let go of the past and really embrace the future.”

A future for comics, according to Waid, means creating comics specifically for a digital audience, instead of adapting print comics for the Web. For example, comics are created in a vertical format for print, however digital readers tend to read on horizontal devices, Waid said, holding up an iPad. Furthermore, they should cost 99 cents instead of the $2.99 or $3.99 major comics publishing companies currently charge, he said, explaining that smaller comics creators can’t always afford to print their books and have them placed in shops, and so the Internet provides a better outlet.

“They don’t want to undercut the 1,800 Diamond retailers out there in the world, and I get it,” he said. “I don’t want to undercut them either. But we’re playing a different game. The more of us that know how to do this for the Web, the better off the medium is.”

A panel from "Luther," a free, online comic by writer Mark Waid and artist Jeremy Rock. (MarkWaid.com)

Waid is teaming up with John Rogers, the writer and producer of the TV series “Leverage,” to develop his own “digital publishing imprint,” he said. The project will be funded by the sale of his comic book collection on blastoffcomics.com.

The new weekly series will be created by Waid and artist Peter Krause, who worked together on “Irredeemable” and its spinoff series “Incorruptible.” Although Waid has said those comics will come to an end in May, he hinted during the panel that the new digital series will pick up where they leave off. Each weekly installment will be smaller than a full comic book — a decision inspired, in part, by serial newspaper comics like “Prince Valiant.”

“We said, ‘Let’s look at the old Sunday pages,’ not in any way in terms of tone or in terms of language, but really in a sense of how much of a chunk of story feels like a good, satisfying chunk of story,’” Waid said. “And what we found so far is about eight to 10 screens feels about right.”

Waid is also releasing a one-off digital comic, a zombie tale drawn by “Narcopolis” artist Jeremy Rock, that served as a “proof-of-concept” for Waid’s digital format. The comic, titled “Luther,” is available free on Waid’s website.

A page from Daredevil issue #10.1. (Mark Waid and Khoi Pham/Marvel Comics)

During the panel, Waid also discussed “Daredevil,” the Marvel title he helped relaunch last year, to much critical acclaim. Waid said he loved Daredevil (a.k.a. Matt Murdock), a superhero whose exposure to radioactive substances leaves him blind but with his remaining senses ultra-heightened, and loved the stories created by previous writers — “a murderer’s row of really great talent” — but wanted to have more fun with the typically dark comic.

“Even I got to the point of having to take a stiff drink at the end of each issue,” Waid said, laughing. “Will nothing ever go right for Matt? Why doesn’t every issue open up with Matt having a gun in his mouth?”

But Waid was careful to honor the character’s past, even as he tried to turn over a new leaf. “If I had come and just started to clean house without any sort of acknowledgement of what had happened in the past, I would have had my head handed to me,” he said.

Instead, Waid took inspiration from his own approach to dealing with dark points in his life.

“Matt hit that point: ‘I just have to start faking it until I make it,’” Waid said.

– Noelene Clark


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8 Responses to WonderCon 2012: Mark Waid buys into digital, sells off his comics

  1. Phil Boyle says:

    I'm going to buy into paper comics and sell my digital comics. Oh wait, never mind, digital comics have zero value.

  2. Robert Scott says:

    Waid still misses the point entirely. The "future" of comics is creating as many channels as possible for the material. Putting all of your eggs in one basket, whether print or digital is foolish. Content should not dictate to the consumer how they must access it, it needs (within reason) to be available to the consumer in whatever format(s) they prefer. THAT is the only way to grow an audience, which as bad a job as print has done, digital has done even worse so far,

  3. Kieren says:

    A comic is primarily a vehicle to tell stories. "Value" does not come from how much I can sell it for but how much enjoyment I got from the story. Digital, paper, whatever. If I have read a story I enjoy then that is the comics value.

  4. Francis says:

    I agree with Waid as far as pricing digital comics goes. A digital comic should be 99 cents. It’d absurd that a digital issue costs as much as its print version. Like Phil Boyle said in the first comment, a digital comic has zero resale value.

    Also, a digital comic has very little overhead. There’s no paper cost, ink and color cost, shipping cost–it’s a virtual file, put into a server and sent to whoever buys it. It doesn’t cost the publisher the same as a printed book, yet it’s priced the same. That’s really the only thing keeping me from adopting digital comics.

  5. James says:

    I was nodding my head, until I got the part where Mark talks about price. He says that $2.99 or $3.99 is too much to pay for 20 to 22 page comics as they are now, which I agree with. Then he talks about 99 cents for 8 to 10 pages a week. 2 weeks and that's $2 for 20 pages… not much different than paying that much at one time a month.

  6. T.J. says:

    "For example, comics are created in a vertical format for print, however digital readers tend to read on horizontal devices, Waid said, holding up an iPad."

    Quick, somebody show Mark Waid how to turn an iPad!!!

  7. Allen says:

    Mark is absolutely right and good for him for looking into the future. The only thing I disagree with is selling his old stuff, that's just crazy as I'm sure it's a heck of a collection.

  8. Sean Tyler says:

    One can pray that he's simply drunk and will sober up in time. Doubtful, alas, but still…

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