After a series of teasers yesterday, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin have released the first issue of their new series, The Private Eye. That’s pretty cool, yeah?
Let’s get to the really, really neat stuff. The first, 32-page-issue has been released DRM free, online, and you get to name your own price. This specific release model isn’t anything new (Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Louis C.K.’s Live at the Beacon Theater come to mind), yet it is new (or newer – I can’t think of anyone to release a title in this way before – someone let me know if I’m wrong) to comics. Here’s the message the creators posted on the site:
Welcome to Panel Syndicate, where artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan deliver original comics directly to readers around the world, who pay whatever the hell they want for each DRM-free issue. Our first new storyline is THE PRIVATE EYE, a forward-looking mystery we created with colorist Muntsa Vicente. Set in a future where privacy is considered a sacred right and everyone has a secret identity, The Private Eye is a serialized sci-fi detective story for mature readers. You can download our 32-page first issue right now, for any price you think is fair. 100% of your payments go directly into our greedy mitts and will help fund the rest of a story that we’re both very proud of (we hope there will be around 10 issues total; an old-school “maxiseries!”), so thanks for reading…
Let’s take a second to look at this: The Private Eye was released with little pre-promotion, released without a major publisher, and released in a variety of formats that are accessible and tailor-made for desktop reading. BVK and Martin have cut out the middle man entirely for a digital only release that works to benefit the creators directly and acknowledges the prevalence of desktop, tablet, and even (gasp!) pirated comic reading.
This might be the next stage in creator-owned titles.
The Private Eye might be a situation unique to the creators (much like Radiohead and Louis C.K., I’d say that BKV and Martin are high profile enough creators that they can do something like this and be successful with it), but there’s something to this model that I feel will catch on. It’s certainly worked well in the comedy world (Aziz Ansari and Rob Delaney have both followed the C.K. model with good success) and there’s enough creators looking to do creator-owned work that they might find value in this model.
Again, no publisher means all the profits go directly to BKV and Martin and a name your own price release means that it should cut down on piracy of the title, while still funding more chapters of the title (as well as other projects).
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I know I’ll be watching.