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Eric: Leaping faith with a ten speed bike...

So I've been thinking about PV Comics. I like subscription models, as you know, because I like paying my way in the world of webcomics. And I've had an interest in PV Comics. If Modern Tales and the other Manley sites are the collective "Alternative Press" of our medium, and Keenspot is the "Mainstream Syndicate" of our medium... then PV Comics is lining up to be the Image Comics -- the upstarts coming in, with more of a rockstar feel than the Manley or Crosby approaches.

And yet, there's a feeling of youth to the strips, too. A Freshman feel, with the potential to grow into massively cool things, but a sense they aren't completely there yet. And unlike the Manleys, it's an up-front committment of $15 for unrestricted access to 18 strips. Nothing at all compared to comic books, but significant compared to, say, My Comics Page, which offers close to 140 strips for twelve bucks a year. Of course, most of MCP's strips are also available (with 30-day archive limits) for free, but that may be a perk instead of a bug.

I dunno. It's hard for me to just pay the cash on faith. Some of the strips -- Amy's Suitcase, for example -- absolutely kick my ass right out the gate. Others, like Yirmumah (which has its archives available right now) are strong Freshman strips, but still very much Freshman -- heavily influenced by the Kevin Smiths of the world, Yirmumah could turn into a hysterical daily read, but it's a hair clunky right now, and that makes it hard to jump into it. Yet another strip -- KU-2 -- really really intrigues me, with distinctive art and a real alternative-art feel to it, but the lead character hasn't grabbed me yet.

Still other strips that I've been able to sample don't interest me at all, though exposure might change that.

And then there's Nephilum.

Guys, I write for In Nomine, by Steve Jackson Games. I love myself the Antedivulian horror. I love myself the angels among us. I own two different translations of the Book of Enoch. I have written about 25,000 words of a home grown RPG based on the Grigori and the Watchers. I should be leaping into any comic called Nephilum with both feet.

Only... well, there's nothing but a prologue available without paying, and I'm not generally hooked by exposition. Especially when it's a variation of exposition I've already written myself, for a very different medium.

There's so much else to see and talk about. Atland could grow into a lot of fun, though it's not yet distinctive. Dewclaw's look and feel is gorgeous, but the flash comics interface leaves me cold (for one thing, it takes me way too long to click click click through things, when I could just scan a page quickly....)

I dunno. I get such a vibe of dynamic flow, of action, of excitement. I get the feeling like if I jump into PVComics now, I'll be at ground zero for something huge....

But it hasn't pulled me in yet. I've got some of its stuff on the "sporadically check" list, but nothing's moved into the daily trawl, and without regularly updating content on some of those strips, they're never going to end up on that list.

One of these paychecks I'll take the plunge, and then we'll see. But until then, I'm on the fence. And I have to wonder about people who aren't nearly as nuts about this stuff as I am -- what would it take for them to take the plunge?

I'm still left with the nagging feeling there's something we're all missing. That there's some magic bullet that will be shot into the hearts of financial difficulty and make it possible for art to flourish in this ultimate medium of distribution.

There has to be a better way.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at September 23, 2004 10:33 PM

Comments

Comment from: Bob Stevenson posted at September 24, 2004 9:50 AM

Another glaring problem for me on the site: I can't see the front page graphics. I've tried disabling my firewall, but nothing.

As for the strips, at one point, I really enjoyed Welcome to Heck and he does have a rather long and beautifully rendered free tale. The rest of the site seems mostly stashed behind that subscription wall. I think the same thing has hurt the potential for my own strip at graphicsmash. Because people can only see one strip each week, it's a leap of faith to even add it to the rounds, nevermind buy a subscription.

Here's a logistical nightmare of an idea: Allow people to sign up for free. Let them know they have a limited number of page view with their account before they have to pay and encourage them to use the page views to get to know the space. Has anyone tried this? I guess the problem would be, what's to stop someone from registering over and over again. Maybe some sort of personal info could be required to start an account.

-Bob Stevenson

www.journeyintohistory.com

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 24, 2004 10:12 AM

Bob--

Is it Websnark or PV Comics you can't see the graphics on? Just to be clear. ;)

Comment from: Bob Stevenson posted at September 24, 2004 10:32 AM

Sorry on two counts.

First, my comment seems to have posted thrice. I thought I wasn't signed in or it didn't accept the comment.

Second, the graphics on the PVComics front page are an issue for me. They all translate to alt text. The only other sites that do this for me are keeners, and turing off the firewall usually seems to do the trick, but not for PVComics.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 24, 2004 11:15 AM

No problem on the triplication. I've deleted two of them, so your Cargggite ways have ended.

Comment from: Pooga posted at September 24, 2004 6:41 PM

I think your entry a while back about cast pages a while back touches on one of the deficits that several of the subscription sites suffer from: lack of info about the comic in the free area. I'm right behind the idea of paying for comics, but I want to have a fair idea about what I'm getting before I subscribe.

I subscribe to Graphic Smash. At the time I started, I was familiar with several of the artists, but mostly I was following Fans over from Keen. I enjoy many of the comics there. However, while the Modern Tales page layouts lead to a nice uniform look between the various strips, I have to admit there's a dearth of non-comic info on any of the sites. Yes, there are nice bios of the creators at the bottom, and most series have a number of free samples, butI don't recall seeing a cast page on any of the strips, or a plot synopsis or even much of a series description. After browsing Modern Tales and Girlmatic, it looks like they suffer a similar deficit.

Don't get me wrong. I love most the strips on GS. Sooner or later I'm going to subscribe to MT (and possibly other MT-related offerings) because there's several strips over there that sound really good. The thing is, the main reason I know there's good stuff over there is word of mouth. Or, word of forum and blog, to be more precise. While that can be some of the best advertising you can get, I think it's important to design a site to make it as easy as possible to hook a new reader, especially if you're looking for them to pay for what you're offering. Many of the print comics from ucomics have better cast pages and strip summaries than most of the online subscription comics.

Having griped on like that, the MT family still has a lot more going for it in terms of hooking new readers that PV Comics seems to. The current strip is always available on all the comics. The one-month subscription offers the ability to try it out fairly cheaply. The cross-pollination of talent between the various MT related sites and also free sites makes it easier to hook someone who likes strip A to subscribe to the site with strip B. I didn't research PV Comics very thoroughly, so there might be some talent crossover there (although none of the names jumped out at me). Even if there is, that seems to be the only external hook.

Being a Graphic Smash subscriber, I know there's lots of good stuff inside that, for me, justifies my subscription. But I'm a webcomic fan anyway. There's lots of strips out there I try to interest my RL friends in, and many I think they'd really like are on GS. It makes it a much harder sell to have a relative dearth of information about a strip available at it's own site.

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