Seemingly launched out of nowhere in mid-February, the Digital Comics Coalition is the brainchild of Min Kim, the founder of Taptastic. Other members include Mark Waid (Thrillbent), Josh Wilkie (Madefire), Felix Kiner (ComicsFix) and Doug Lefler (Scrollon). The group of comics creators, programmers, businessmen and filmmakers joins together regularly to share ideas on the innovations happening today in digital publishing. But, other than their panel at Meltdown Comics, not much is known about the organization, its purpose, direction etc.
We got a chance to talk to Min Kim about the DCC, and find out more about many of the questions we’ve been waiting to find out the answers to.
Graphic Policy: How did the Digital Comics Coalition come about?
Min Kim: I’ve been living and working in San Francisco Bay Area for about 10 years witnessing all sort of technology innovations in the media and entertainment space. We now stream endless music to our phones. We video-chat with family and friends from anywhere in the world. We consume so much content on mobile including news and books. So, when I walked into San Diego Comic-Con in 2014, I was shocked by how technology, particularly digital comics, was heavily underrepresented. I met Doug Lefler (Scrollon) and Josh Wilkie (Madefire) at the convention and we all just naturally connected because we shared the same frustration. We continued to talk after the convention, and then more of our friends, Mark Waid (Thrillbent) and Felix Kiner (Comicsfix), joined in on the conversation.
GP: What are the goals of the organization?
MK: The coalition is still very new. We’re still in the process of finalizing our manifesto and bylaws. However, the general purpose is to facilitate comic industry’s transition from print to digital. We know that there are other important matters to keep in mind such as content diversity, racial diversity, and gender equality. Mark, Doug, and Josh are all creators themselves. Indie comic creators are an important part of all our companies and the industry. So, we want to make sure that everything we do prioritizes comic creators. Sorry that I cannot provide bullet point answers at this time.
GP: Is the organization going to be formalized as a non-profit or a trade organization?
MK: It’s currently an agreement between the members. We are discussing how we want this group to evolve. If we feel that the group needs to officially register in the future, we will do so.
GP: Are there current coalitions or organizations that the coalition is looking towards as inspiration?
MK: As a group, no specific ones. Personally, I admire organized groups that have been recently fighting for net neutrality. There are also many that are promoting or fighting for advancement of good ideas. Digital comics is a very good idea and very good for the industry and the creators.
GP: There’s a lot of issues facing digital services like broadband expansion, EULA standardization, CISPA, and more. Will the organization get involved in the policy end of things?
MK: We currently do not have plans in place for those issues. Perhaps in the future.
GP: How has the digital landscape shifted since you became involved?
MK: DCC was organized in 2015, and we’ve only done one event at Meltdown, which you can view on Youtube. We’re happy about the turnout and the fact that various organizations like Graphic Policy and creators are contacting us. We’re hoping an accumulation of events will eventually lead to a positive shift in the industry.
GP: One of the major issues I see with digital services is the walled environments, and lack of standardization of formats for the digital goods. Will the coalition work at all together to standardize the digital comic format and make it easier to port comics if a service were to shut down?
MK: This is a tough question because standardization can impede innovation, yet there are also benefits like transferability that you mentioned. Usually free competition determines standards in any industry and the same goes for digital comics. The coalition is a good starting point to discuss how we can work together to minimize bad consumer experience by lowering some of those walls that you mentioned. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that some consumers will feel like losing out when a service shuts down. This reminds me of my HD-DVD that I once purchased that is useless today.
In addition, there is some psychology at play here because the society has hardwired us to think that there’s more value in something physical than digital. For example, consumers associate all the tangible costs such as paper, ink, and delivery into pricing of a book. Although digital books don’t have those tangible costs, there are inherent values such as the ability to instantly download, mobility, and storage that consumer do not think about. Furthermore, purchasing digital comics goes beyond just purchasing a book like we are used to. Digital comics today offer a unique experience that was never available. This unique experience varies based on platforms, but comics today can now support background music, animation, and engagement with other readers. So, we’ve come a long way from purchasing static content. So when something goes away because nothing in life really lasts forever (I’m sure most of your comic books are stashed away in the garage like mine), we should try to stay positive. I hope more people view buying a digital comic as buying a ticket to a movie or a Broadway show.
GP: There’s this founding group for the Digital Comics Coalition, but numerous services that aren’t involved. Will more be joining?
MK: Oh yes, definitely! We already have a few requests and we are in talks. We’ll make an announcement when appropriate.
GP: We’ve already seen one service have a data breach, will the coalition work together to better protect data of the customers?
MK: Security breech happens all the time across all industries. It is very unfortunate that it happened to Comixology, but it’s also a great opportunity for others to learn from such events. So although we did not have a specific discussion around this issue, I can see members of the coalition sharing experiences and resources to protect the consumers.
GP: What do you see as the biggest hurdle for digital comics? What do you see as the biggest advantage for digital comics?
MK: I’ll answer the second question first. I’d say the biggest advantages are accessibility for readers and creative freedom for creators. Accessibility is obvious where anyone with PC or mobile device can instantly read millions of visual stories. In addition, technology has lower the barrier to entry for creators. Anyone can publish and share his or her comics online. Anyone has a chance to display his or talent to the world, so digital has democratized storytelling. As for creative freedom, I think exploring some of the creators’ work on any of our digital comics platforms speaks for itself. In the past, creators were restricted to panels and pages. They had to because economic costs were also factored in – paper quality and ink used for production and printing. Technology has provided more creative freedom. Technology allows unlimited ways for a creators to tell stories. Creators can now add music, transitions, and other animated effects. So many people are doing very cool things out there.
The biggest hurdle? There are so many. Right now, it’s the distribution. How can more people know that these new experiences exist? How can more people learn that digital comics is not just pages scanned for digital viewing? So many people still think of superheroes when they think of comics. No, there is so much that digital comics offers beyond that.