Micah January 18th

The Day The Comic Book Died

When I first was out raising money for Graphicly, I got to meet comic book publishers.

At each meeting, I asked the same question, “What do you think of digital?”

And each one answered the same.

“There are more people pirating my comic books than there are buying them. Perhaps as high as 5 to 10 times.”

The comic book industry, which saw its heyday in the 1990s, when highly successful books would sell in the hundreds of thousands, is now ecstatic if a book sells even fifty thousand.

Online piracy has absolutely decimated the industry.

How bad is it?

Comic books come out every Wednesday. By the time I wake up in California, I can already download most of the books that came out earlier that day on the East Coast.

Its not the big guys, Marvel and DC that get squeezed. It not even the little guys–although most will never see a publisher print their book–that are getting smashed, its the publishers in the middle like Image Comics and Archaia that are feeling the vast weight of piracy the most.

Piracy, on many levels, is helping to drive more market share to the top guys, Marvel and DC (both backed my billion dollar companies that aren’t as sensitive to the success of individual books or creative teams), and eliminating the necessary diversity required to ensure a healthy industry.

As Graphicly has grown, we have seen it time and time again. Small and mid-sized publishers struggling for consumer awareness and acceptance in a world dominated by Spiderman and Batman. As diversity dies, so does the ability for the industry to sustain growth.

Every once in awhile a great story like The Walking Dead will break out, but thats not the norm. Interestingly enough, I would say that the pressure piracy places on the mid-tier publisher has actually driven them to become more creative in order to rise out of the shadows of the big guys, but its not easy.

There is no other way to say it, but that piracy is probably the biggest single digital issue facing the comic book industry.

But SOPA and PIPA are not the saviors that “old media” companies hope it will be.

Giving the government carte blanche to censor sites and control the flow of information will cause more damage, deeper damage, long lasting damage to the industry that I have grown to love. The publishers and creators that Graphicly works to support will be hurt in ways that I personally, cannot be a part of.

There are better ways to end piracy. We can improve access. We can develop a platform that allows publishers and creators to be as creative with the distribution, pricing and promotion of their work as they are with the stories themselves. We can help fans discover great stories easily, simply — no more difficult than clicking on a link — removing the burden of surfacing great content.

We can help connect publishers and creators directly to their fans — and believe you me, pirates are some of the biggest fans in existence, as crazy as that might sound — so that those fans can show their support directly to the stories and creators they love.

On January 18, my blog will be censored. I personally am standing next to many of my friends, mentors and colleagues by doing this.

I have also decided to not blackout Graphicly.com.

I made this decision, because we have thousands of creators and publishers that are making real money distributing their stories in a “new media” style, that it would be wrong to deny that. And, more importantly, the access and discovery it provides to great stories are paramount in the fight against piracy, even if “old media” doesn’t understand it.

I am ardently apolitical, yet stopping SOPA and PIPA is exceedingly important, so important, that I have written about politics for the first time ever in the several years this blog has existed.

I want piracy to end.

I want all the story-tellers that should be discovered to be found. I want them to get paid, and I want their fans to get unending enjoyment out of supporting their work.

But, I won’t stand for censorship.