Alt.Comic-Con: The Shortening Distance Between Imagination and Media

Craft & Design Fun & Games
Alt.Comic-Con: The Shortening Distance Between Imagination and Media

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.


2 thoughts on “Alt.Comic-Con: The Shortening Distance Between Imagination and Media

  1. Miguel Valenzuela says:

    I think your article should be titled, ‘Shortening the distance between imagination and Funding’

    The distance between imagination and media has shortened significantly in the last few years but has always been short by those with enough money to get it. Now, the wealth of the masses is accessible. No need to go begging to big studios or break into inner circles to start your project and get it off the ground.

    Kickstarter has become the proving ground for ideas and concepts. If it doesn’t get funded, go back to the drawing board.

    You ask about the future? The future will convert large studio houses like Paramount, Fox, and Universal into large distribution houses that assist small independent artists to distribute their works while getting a piece of the pie. It will be an Amazon of media giving anyone with 40 thousand TV channels the ability to watch whatever, whenever and by whom ever, but not only that, dynamic printing and physical rendering of merchandise and manufacturing where the artist will have their choice of distribution package 1, 2 or 3.

    Large warehouses will store and distribute Jack and Jane’s latest work tailored to the individual who will take these keepsakes and find happiness and joy that they can identify with the work of an independent artist.

    Welcome to Life on Demand. :)

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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