1. Who are you and what are you working on right now? (2 questions in 1, I know!)
My name is Jon Lock, and I’m the writer and creator of a comic called Afterlife Inc.
Afterlife Inc. is the tale of con-artist Jack Fortune, who, following his untimely demise, discovers an afterlife in chaos and proceeds to take over and run it like a business. After three years of self-publishing the ongoing adventures of Jack and Co. I’m about to release the Book of Life, the deluxe hardback collected edition of Afterlife Inc. volumes 1-3. In April this year I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first print run of the Book. At 376 pages, it’s a pretty weighty tome, but thanks to Kickstarter I’ll be able to cover the print costs while simultaneously getting the Book into the hands of my backers.
When not applying the finishing touches to my Kickstarter page, I’m also developing two new titles aimed at younger audiences. ALL41 and ZOOLOG are currently in production but will be seeing the light of day before too long.
2. What drew you to digital comics?
I think it was the opportunity to connect with a new audience, not to mention the immediate, global reach of digital comics. Thanks to apps such as Comixology, the average smart phone or tablet user now has access to an immense library of comics at their fingertips. Even people who have never set foot in a comic might find themselves drawn to new material. I read titles on my iPad that I’ve never owned physical copies of. I know people who have only read my book on a smart device. Either way, it’s a medium that’s opening a lot of doors for the creator. Also, digital copies of my books can be downloaded the world over, ignoring expensive printing and postage costs. It’s an invaluable aid in building a book’s readership.
3. Webcomics or digital comics?
I can’t really choose one over the other. It’s always going to come down to the quality of the story rather than the medium – although each side does have its pros and cons. Digital comics work best on a smart device, especially one with a user interface such as touch screen. You can also mess around with the format and panel transitions in ways that a browser-based webcomic might be unable to support. Webcomics on the other hand can be simpler and don’t generally require expensive gadgets or gimmicks. Although reading a comic in a browser can at times be cumbersome, and the landscape layout of most computer screens does limit your options, there’s something reliable and convenient about being able to trawl through your favourite webcomic’s archive at the click of a button. Some stories clearly suit one platform over the other. That said I’m sure we’re going to see a real blurring of the lines in coming years.
4. What do you think works with digital comics?
With guided view technology and the ability to animate transitions between panels, digital comics have really changed comic storytelling. While once you’d have to think hard about the structure of each page – number of panels, layout etc – given that most people view their digital comics on a panel by panel basis, creators are now freer to experiment. Books like Marvel’s Infinite series on Comixology and Mark Waid’s Thrillbent titles are starting to bridge the gap between comics and animation. Unique panel transitions are bringing comics to life in ways we’ve never seen before. It’s this experimentation that is most exciting. People are still exploring the boundaries of what’s possible in digital.
5. Can digital comics replace print comics?
I see the two as supporting each other rather than being in direct conflict. As technology develops, print might – conceivably – die out, although I’d wager this would come with greater changes in society than we’re likely to see in our lifetimes. In the meantime, people will always appreciate a physical copy of a book. The feel and (oddly enough) smell of a good book have great appeal. While digital comics offer exciting new possibilities, the lure of print will continue to hold sway for some time.
6. How can print comics work with digital comics?
At the end of the day, it’s about the story not the medium. If people care about a character, they’re going to read about them regardless of whether it’s on paper or a screen. Digital comics are cheaper to produce and distribute, but will never be able to match the joy of owning a physical copy of your favourite book. If digital comics were to provide daily, weekly or monthly instalments of a regular series, print could respond by cornering the trade paperback/collected edition market. A reader might follow, say, Spider-Man for six months on their tablet before buying a physical copy of the collected run for their shelves. Print should move towards luxury items, producing high-end, attractive books that people will want to own.
7. What don’t you like about digital comics?
Their ghost-like nature! I purchase digital comics but do I ever really own them? My graphic novel collection is my pride and joy (even if my bookshelf is starting to groan audibly under the weight). My digital comics are off in the cloud somewhere: always present, yet somehow absent.
8. What digital comics/webcomics do you read?
I tend to split my purchases roughly halfway between digital and print. I collect The Manhattan Projects, Saga and a lot of Image comics exclusively through Comixology. The rest I get from my local comic shop. On the webcomic front I was a massive fan of Freakangels and Sin Titulo before they finished. For my weekly funnies I regularly check out Penny Arcade.
9. Where do you see digital comics going from here?
More experimentation. More moves closer to animation: moving graphics, active special effects, you name it. Cheaper stories. More regular updates.
10 Who do you think we should look out for in digital comics?
Rather than name anyone in particular, I’d suggest your readers keep an eye out for the growing number of independent creators bringing their stories to digital comics. While once production costs might have prevented them from getting their stories out there, digital comics offer the perfect blend of exposure, creativity and affordability. Don’t rely entirely on the bigger companies to blow your mind. Some very interesting things are happening on the fringes. The digital explosion could pave the way for all kinds of incredible new stories.
Check out the Book Of Life Mailing list – live on Kickstarter on April 1st 2014
The Book of Life is the hardback collected edition of Afterlife Inc. Volumes 1-3. In addition to over 300 pages of stories, the Book of Life also features exclusive never-before-seen special features including profiles, pin-ups, a guide to the afterlife and a brand new Afterlife Inc. tale.
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