Friday, 29 March 2013

Viewing The Private Eye

Or some thoughts on Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin's digital comic, The Private Eye

The Private Eye is the new digital comic being made by Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin. It's digital only and available from The Panel Syndicate under a pay-what-you-want-scheme. (They suggest $1, but if you are especially poor/cheap you can get it for $0). The premise of the comic is that everyone in the world has a secret identity and wears a disguise to protect their privacy in a post internet world. The title character, Patrick Immelman, is a Paparazzi private eye, an investigator who bores through disguises to reveal a persons true identity. From a story perspective The Private Eye reads like a classic detective story built around a wonderful high concept and a timely discussion about privacy. The artwork in The Private Eye is sumptuous: a kind of kinetic, high resolution, pop-art infused, delight. (Before you decide I'm a dink for saying "sumptuous" go and LOOK at it.) Basically, The Private Eye is as good a comic as you would expect given it is written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin.

Go buy it, if you haven't already.

I think the first point to make is holy crap BKV and Marocs Martin. I first heard that BKV and Martin were collaborating about the time Marcos Martin left Daredevil to focus on creator owned works. I have been periodically and surreptitiously Binging this project since. All of a sudden we get teaser images and THE NEXT DAY the comic is available. Not only that, but the comic is available in a variety of formats under a PAY WHAT YOU WANT scheme. And of course the comic is amazing. Which I guess is just further proof that Brian K Vaughan and his collaborators are fucking rockstars.

I guess my next thought, which seems to be the general trend, is to remark on the self-published digital nature of the comic. I can see the obvious appeal of this kind of approach for established comics pros with the cache and name recognition of BKV and Marcos Martin: they retain complete control, don't have to worry about physically shipping and retailing items,  and can use social media to advertise their comics. Minus web-hosting  bandwidth, and Paypal's cut, the creators realize 100% of the profits. Given I bought the comic HOURS after it was made available speaks to the effectiveness of this. (Also, how refreshing is it that Vaughan and Martin just published their comic rather than launching yet-another Kickstarter? I mean, I feel like it's getting a little out of hand.) 

All that said, I'm kind of bummed that The Private Eye is not meant to ever be a print comic. I love print. I enjoy the reading experience of actual paper in a bound volume. I enjoy displaying print comics in a way where I can enjoy the sight of them whenever I want to. I like being able to lend my print comics to friends and to share things I like with them and to try to convince them to give comics a chance. (Sharing a .pdf feels awfully close to participating in piracy.) I am not convinced that digital ONLY is better than making media available in multiple formats to cater to readers consumption preferences. Although, I am a dinosaur about these things. But dinosaurs are awesome... so... I hope this doesn't become a trend.

Another point of interest, I think, is that The Private Eye comes to us in files DRM free, which means that 1) we actually own the files (as opposed to us licensing the files from the publisher) and 2) we can take these files and duplicate them and give them to whomever we feel like. Of course, setting up an elaborate pirating ring for The Private Eye is stupid, since the option to buy it for free exists from the creators. 

Combining this DRM free, highly piratable file format with the ability to straight up take it from the creators actually leaves me with a few questions. Like, did they do this because they know the people who want to pirate it will pirate it... so why not embrace that? Or is it that they want as many people to read the first issue as possible to build up a buzz for future issues and projects from The Panel Syndicate? Or, is it because the comics from the Panel Syndicate have a dual purpose?

This is wicked cynical, but I wonder to what extent The Panel Syndicate functions as a showcase for BKV and collaborator's ideas for other media? If you didn't know this, Brian K Vaughan's main career these days is writing for film and TV including a stint at Lost and, most recently, a new series based on Stephen King's Under The Dome.  Now, if I were a writer for film and television a completely self-published, pay-what-you-want (to recoup costs), and highly pirate-able comic publishing platform would be what I'd want to showcase my ideas for potential clients: it beautifully illustrates the concepts and costs a fraction of actually filming something. I mean, I have no proof of this and no problem with it if it's true. I'm just curious is all.

Mostly, though, I'm just excited for the next chapter of The Panel Syndicate.

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