Thursday, January 08, 2009

"Wait - You Still BUY Comics? How TwenCen!"

Well, like many of you, December was a bit wonky for me. Lots of traveling, lots of spending money in ways that you don't normally spend money (helpful hint: if you're on the road on Christmas Eve, eat dinner before the only thing left open is McDonald's), lots of really-not-at-all-good-for-you food, lots of people I don't see very often. Plus throw in some surgeries for both me and the dog (wholly unrelated) and you come out at the end of the month a bit haggard and having to do some triage.

The biggest issue for me going into 2009 was/is money. I ended up spending a little more freely than I probably should have in December and, while it wasn't anything that I can't handle, it means that I'm starting this year out a little tighter than I anticipated.

So the other night, I started looking at my budget to see what I can/should do differently from 2008. The S.O. and I've gone through it a couple times, and it looks like I'm going to continue living by pretty much the same tenets I took up last June. That is, not spending any money on comics.

That said, I've actually been pleasantly surprised how easy it is to continue to be engaged in and part of the comics scene without dropping $30 a week at my Local Comic Shop. Obviously, I'm reading a lot more online than I had been previously, but I've also gotten a number of print books, thanks to some reviewing jobs as well as some comic-related contests. (I love me them comic related contests!) And the situation reinforces some beliefs I've held for a little while now.

The comics you pay for? The ones you pick up at your LCS or buy from Amazon or whomever? What you're paying for is the delivery method. You're paying to have the story in a series of pamphlet comics or a collected hardcover or whatever. The stories being told are given away. Marvel has over 60 comics, mostly published within the past year, that are available on their site for free without even requiring a sign-up. You can read The Dreamer or Buck Godot without paying anything. DC's experiment with Zuda has been successful, by every account I've heard.

Think on this for a moment: ten/fifteen years ago, what were your options for reading comics if you were strapped for cash? You were essentially limited to beg/borrow/steal methods. But, today, in early 2009, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of legally available comics for free.

Yeah, I know; you've heard me tout the wondrous of benefits of webcomics. "Get a new hook, Sean!"

Actually, my point today isn't intended to be evangelistic. It's more of a public recognition that, once again, The Future has snuck up on me. While we're all waiting for teleporters and phasers and dilithium crystal powered warp drives, the subtler aspects of Star Trek -- that people create for the pleasure of creation and not for commerce -- are sneaking into the real world. The currency I deal with most frequently any more is cultural capital -- which I no longer need to spend my U.S. dollars on. I'm online reading and discussing comics, and increasing my cultural capital... without decreasing my economic capital (i.e. cash).

It's a fascinating prospect, I think, to see an economy built up wholly on what's in people's heads. (Cory Doctorow dubbed this new currency "Whuffie" in his book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.) What's even more interesting is that society is moving fast enough now that we can actually see it change and evolve in front of our own eyes.

Man, I love the 21st century!

5 comments:

Matt K said...

Darn kids. Take your blogrolling and your e-books and your twittering and get off my lawn! :)

webcomicoverlook said...

Wait a minute... we're saying TwenCen now? For some reason, I'm conjuring up a ponytailed guy from Little Big Adventure that only, like, 20 people in the world will ever get.

Also ... at some point someone is STILL gonna have to go buy comics, 'cuz Lora Innes' still gotta eat, ya know.

Sean Kleefeld said...

@Matt - Let me know how your new buggy whip manufacturing job goes! :)

@wco - Took me a minute to get your Twinsen reference there! :)

No need to worry about Lora, though. She's quite talented and will do fine with t-shirt/coffee mug/whatnot sales, not to mention those generous/wealthy enough to send her a few bucks from time to time. Same way that Foglio chap stays in business.

Anonymous said...

"...people create for the pleasure of creation and not for commerce..."

Mainly because art has become an unworkable, invalid career option for 95% of people with interests in that area.

Matt K said...

I think it will go relatively well, Sean. For the foreseeable future, at least, I can probably purchase about as much with bwm earnings as you can with whuffies. ;-)