On Friday, I spent a lot of my time focusing on the Small Press Pavilion and other publishing efforts on the indie end of the Comic-Con spectrum. Given the immensity of the con, and the fact that the rather small Small Press Pavilion is literally in the shadows of big media company booths, it definitely feels like this is increasingly a game for well-capitalized players. But the world of sci-fi and fantasy entertainment has always been fed from the underground/bottom up, and while the rapidly expanding audience for this genre of entertainment has made companies like Marvel, DC, SyFy, and Lucas Film media titans, and has squeezed out a lot of smaller players, wandering amongst the small frys, I wondered whether this might be changing. I wondered if it isn’t the case that the same rapid prototyping, on-demand publishing, and finance technologies that are changing the hardware world may be on the verge of changing the small media world as well. One thing I noticed was the amazing high-quality of the books, comics, games, and other products that people were selling in this area. These were no funky small press books, newspaper-print comics and zines, these were gorgeously printed, glossy books, art prints, luxurious coffee table tomes, and 3D printed objects. And that magic word, Kickstarter, was on everybody’s lips. People told me that the project I was looking at was either Kickstarter funded, or was about to be. People are doing small on-demand prototypes, taking them to shows like Comic-Con, then drumming up support for a Kickstarter run. One impressive example I saw of this model of getting work published was at Armand Balthazar’s booth.
Armand is a Senior Designer in the film business. His current pet project is a book (and other media) he wants to produce, called Diego and the Steam-Pirates, the first story from a world he’s created called Collidescape. It’s a world where time has imploded and fragments of different time periods overlap, are happening at once. In the Diego story, Diego and his friends try and rebuild their world by using mechs cobbled together from an amalgamation of technologies that survive. It’s a world of mechs that build rather than destroy.
At Balthazar’s booth, he had gorgeous art prints of the characters, machinery, and scenery of his imagined world and physical models that really caught people’s attention as they wandered by. One of them was a model of Redford, one of the mechs (seen here) that a model-maker friend of his built for him. Another was a model of Diego that Balthazar rendered in ZBrush and then had 3D printed. While I stood there, several people asked about buying the models. He said he’s considering offering them. He’s selling the art prints to raise money for the project and he’s considering a Kickstarter run.
Standing there, I was really struck by all of this. You have some amazing idea for a fantasy world that you want to bring to life. In the past, you’d have to convince a publisher it was worth the risk and investment (or raise quite a bid of funds on your own). And certainly the idea of doing books, prints, animation, and models all at the same time, or in quick succession, would be unheard of for a newcomer. Now you can digitally render your ideas and have them printed into on-demand books, made into prints, and 3D models, take them to a convention like Comic-Con to gauge interest and drum up crowdsourcing support. And from the enthusiasm I saw from people while I was at his booth, he’s going to have no trouble finding a way of giving birth to this world that now swims in his head.
One wonders, in five years, what the dynamic will be between the individual/small press publisher at Comic-Con and the media giants, and just who is going to be in the shadows of whom.