10 Questions With P M Buchan
10 Questions with P M Buchan – from La Belle Dame Sans Merci!
1. Who are you and what are you working on right now? (2 questions in 1, I know!)
P M Buchan, a writer specialising in comic-books, based in Manchester, UK. This is turning into a very busy year for me. So far I’m working on the script for the third issue of my Gothic-horror series La Belle Dame Sans Merci (co-created by Karen Yumi Lusted), the final issue of obscene horror-comedy anthology BLACKOUT (co-created by Jack Fallows and Phillip Marsden), preparing for an exhibition called CULT that I’m organising at Orbital Comics in London with a comic art collective called GHOSTS, and finishing off a pitch for a big folk-horror series.
2. What drew you to digital comics?
If comics are a medium then digital is one of the channels that we use to reach an audience. Initially I was reticent to read comics digitally, until Russell Willis, the founder of the SEQUENTIAL digital graphic novel app, convinced me to get an iPad and give them a go. What I found was that whereas reading comics on a desktop was inconvenient, and really just felt like more time spent staring at a monitor, reading comics on an iPad was comfortable and intuitive. I haven’t really looked back since then. I also review comics for a number of magazines, and accepting digital review copies levels the playing field. Posting out physical review copies can be really expensive, which has an impact on independent creators.
3. Webcomics or digital comics?
Digital comics. I understand the structure that appeals to the creators of webcomics, and the direct means of interacting with readers, but I’ve always felt like I wasn’t in a position to commit to an ongoing webcomic. Webcomics work best for a single creator with a singular vision that they want to deliver without compromise. As a writer, every time I ask an artist to collaborate with me, there needs to be an end goal in sight, and I have to give them a clear reason to work with me. I don’t feel comfortable asking anybody to work with me on an ongoing strip before I can prove to them that we’ll pull in a sizeable audience.
4. What do you think works with digital comics?
Innovation or quality. Those are the two things that persuade me to spend money on digital comics. Either an immersive method of storytelling that couldn’t be achieved in any other medium, like some of Boulet’s webcomics or Madefire’s creations, or a reliable and intuitive interface, like SEQUENTIAL. The only thing I’m not really interested in is something like ComiXology, which had a pretty poor interface last time I used it. If the pages load slowly, so that I can’t read a digital comic as fast as I can read a print one, then I’m not interested.
5. Can digital comics replace print comics?
I don’t see any reason that the two can’t complement each other, but I do believe that digital comics will become the gateway product for hooking new comic readers. Physical comic stores, as much as I love them, are such a specialised environment. A lot of people use them for the community that they offer, which is fine, but there are also a lot of people in the world like me that have families and responsibilities that have to take priority. I’ll take my entertainment anywhere that I can fit it in, and digital comics are a lot more convenient than printed monthlies.
6. How can print comics work with digital comics?
I’m a big believer in download codes. I’d be happy if every physical product came with a download code for the same digital material. That’s actually a good point, I should offer that with my comics. If anybody out there has bought physical copies of any of my comics, get in touch and I’ll send you a link to download digital copies too.
7. What don’t you like about digital comics?
Slow uptake rate. I can’t even begin to understand why smaller publishers haven’t digitised ALL of their existing back catalogue. As far as I’m concerned, any publisher that allows a graphic novel to go out of print is pouring money down the drain. Once a comic is available in a digital format it can be made available for near readers indefinitely.
8. What digital comics/webcomics do you read?
I used to really love reading Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield’s Freakangels when that was being serialised, and I have a soft spot for Si Spurrier’s Crossed: Wish you were here webcomic, but the truth is that I read webcomics in big binges, then go for months without looking at them again. Short, weekly episodes just don’t work very well for me. The other webcomic I REALLY love is Jamie Smart’s Corporate Skull, though that’s currently on a break.
9. Where do you see digital comics going from here?
I hope they’ll become more mainstream. Buying printed comics is anathema to a lot of people, but then a lot of people didn’t want to be seen buying erotica before 50 Shades of Grey became popular. Digital distribution means that people can access whatever material they’re interested in quickly and discretely. I hope that as an industry we’ll find a way to market our products to new readers.
10. Who do you think we should look out for in digital comics?
The SEQUENTIAL app is just going to get bigger and bigger. Nobody had previously acknowledged what a gap there was for the distribution of non-superhero comics, but really there was a staggering amount of good material that wasn’t suitable for ComiXology. If SEQUENTIAL manages to find the audience that it deserves, and continues to partner with more publishers to distribute the best in independent graphic novels, that app is going to be HUGE.