I spent Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival running around from panel to panel, trying to catch all the wonderful, talented people reading and talking about their books. I missed most of the comics panels, but I did make sure to make it to the Act-I-Vate collective panel.
Dean Haspiel and the rest of the crew have created a smorgasbord of comics with every imaginable option available on the web, in a pretty simple, readable format. Their most significant contribution has probably been proving that giving away comics for free on the Web doesn’t prevent print sales. Jeff Newelt, “Minister of Hype,” noted “We learned a lot of our marketing from crack dealers–give ‘em that first bit for free.”
Comics creators are rather different from other media consumers–I don’t know if people who download free music also buy an album, or people who read free journalism on the Web buy the print paper, etc. Still, the model has worked for Act-I-Vate–none of them are getting rich off the site, but they are drawing attention, getting print deals for books that start on the Web, and most of all, spreading the gospel of comics, whether it’s pulling in new creators or convincing new readers to check out this awesome free webcomic.
Molly Crabapple called it “The coolest way to learn comics,” and it was pointed out that webcomics are international–they can be accessed from anywhere one has Internet access. They’re portable, you can pick them up where you left off very easily, and of course, they’re free.
It’s not a business model that is going to make creators rich anytime soon, but the Act-I-Vators seem to be happy with what they’ve created, both the website and more importantly, the cameraderie–the “collective” part of the equation. Comics as real community and as outreach–I like it.