Fear of Bad Comics

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage

It's very easy to publish something these days. Between CreateSpace, Kindle, Lulu, Smashword, and, doubtless, other services I'm forgetting, you can make a book and get it out fast.

In fact, some of these services allow people to get comics out. I'm sure these services will perfect and streamline these more over time, and then of course comes the expected fear, the fear that has gripped writers.

The fear people will use this technology to churn out utter crap.

That terror has been present in the writing communities for awhile. I recall many years ago when fan fiction sites popped up, and people feared lousy fiction. It's pretty much the same these days with the fear of countless lousy e-books.

So next up, I expect fear to grip the comics community, the fear of lousy e-comics, custom manga, etc.

I don't think it's much to fear.

First, as I have said many times about e-books, there's only so incompetent you can be to get a product out. To get out an eBook you have to finish the lousy book, check it, format it, and then set it up for any number of methods of distribution, from print to kindle. To be brutally honest, you have to be pretty competent to get out a lousy book, which is both a barrier to crap, and a reminder that there's only so bad you can be and still get a book out.

It may not be much of a comfort, but I think of it as the Ed Wood factor - as bad as he was, he was only just so bad, and he had enough charm to make his badness sort of enjoyable.

In comics, the barrier to entry is even higher.

Writing is something we all do, reading is something we all do. Most people have at least basic writing skills and an understanding of language. What far fewer people have is an understanding of comics and the skills to do them.

Comics in many ways is a language. The proper size of panels, the flow of actions, the techniques of storytelling. There's a lot to doing a good readable comic that requires an instinctive or conscious knowledge of technique.

Most people don't have that. They read comics, but don't know the language well enough to "speak" in comics. They're like people who can read, but the mysteries of stringing together language aren't something they have.

Being able to "write" in comics form is much, much rarer than the ability to read.

Now, even if someone has that understanding of language, they must be able to draw and create. Being able to speak in the language and to draw, they must also be able to format and get out a publication themselves or with help. 

The barrier to getting out a comic, skill-wise, is a lot higher than the barrier to getting out writing.

So for those worried about a flood of bad comics? I don't see it happening. It requires a lot of skill and knowledge, providing a huge barrier to entry.

So you're safe.

For now.

(Then there's people just stealing your work, and that's a whole other issue).

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