The Whole Story

By | Sunday, July 08, 2012 1 comment
You know what I like about Ryan Estrada? The man has no fear. Or, if he has, he's repeatedly been able to push past it and live life as a grand adventure in the best way possible. Those of us who take a regular job for the security of a paycheck and/or health insurance, and dip our toes into the water by writing a blog or doing a webcomic in our spare time generally don't charge ahead because of the what ifs. "What if I fail? What if I'm not as good as I think I am? What if people think I'm a fool for trying this?" Yeah, it takes some courage to put yourself out there as a webcomic artist or a blogger or whatever, but that is nothing compared to Estrada. He just charges ahead with his ideas. They might fail, they might not, but either way he walks away with an experience.

And I mean that in the very literal sense. This guy makes Indiana Jones look like a wimp. When he says, "I thought I might die" he means it in a very literal sense. Ask him about his 2004 trip to Japan.

His latest venture, perhaps a bit more mundane than that, is The Whole Story. Fortunately for us, he loves online comics, which means even his mundane adventures lead to more material for us readers! What he's done is get together work from a number of indie comics folks, from Box Brown to Spike Trotman to Dorothy Gambrell to too many other people for me to remember offhand, and got them to make new comics. Not ongoing serials, but a bunch of done-in-one stories. However long the creators need/want to go on to tell the story they need.

And he's selling them online in a name-your-own-price, DRM-free format.

You want to pay a dollar for hundreds of pages of work? Ok. You think it's worth $10? Sure. $100? Great. And what you get is a file (or files, depending on how many different stories you want) that you can save to your iPad or laptop or desktop or whatever. Throw them on a micro-SD card to read on your phone if you like.

And, yes, theoretically, that means you could pirate them very easily. But Estrada is betting that you think it'll be worth more than that, and all the contributors will get paid fairly.

I haven't read ALL of the material he's making available, but there's quite a variety even in the ones I read. While I think his own The Kind is the most touching and fun, I like the concept behind the two Fusion books: with Korean artist Nam Dong Yoon's consent, he's taken some of his stories -- written in Korean -- and had other comic creators write scripts over top of them having no concept what the original story was or what other collaborators were doing. They make for a very interesting and diverse mix of material that still manages to hang together cohesively, in part thanks to Estrada's editing and in part to Nam's consistency in art. And just to prove Nam's a talented storyteller in his own right, one of the other options available is the more straightforward translation of You Can Do It, Dong Gu which has two original tales by the creator.

Given the creators involved here, there shouldn't be any real question about the talent or quality of stories here. The only question might be which ones' personal styles fit with your own preferences, and what you feel their individual contributions are worth.

It's a fairly bold online initiative, and I hope Estrada will see it succeed. The pay-what-you-want option will only be available through July 23, so you don't want to dally too long on this, but Estrada promises that he'll do a financial report-out afterwards, so it'll definitely be interesting to see how well it works and whether it might be financially viable as an option.

You don't see many folks charging forward with ideas like this. It might work fantastically. It might wind up gaining Estrada absolutely nothing. But it's that kind of bold thinking that I'm thrilled to see in comics. He's taking a chance that not many people are willing to take and, with the promise of relative openness in his financials, I think there's A LOT to be gained from keeping an eye on him. Not just in this initiative, but everything that he's doing. Because it's the risk-takers that push the boundaries and show others where the paths forward are.

But that's just my summary. Go check out The Whole Story for yourself!
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Matt K said...

I like how paying certain amounts for it "unlocks" various "rewards." Cute, clever phrasing.