Print Works: Habibi, Ashes and dire digital downloads

Now, I loves me the ebooks. The Kindle I snagged for last year’s birthday is going strong, and stuffed full of goodness. It’s revolutionised the way I acquire and consume digital long-form fiction–oh, ok, how I buy and read books.

And yet, when it comes to comics and graphic novels, I’m resolutely and unrepentantly old-school. If it ain’t on print, I don’t want it. A lot of that, I guess, is down to the kind of comics I like to read. I’m no fan of masks and capes, and Marvel and DC for the most part leave me cold. I can’t remember the last time I bought a comic – either the flimsy glossy American pamphlet or good old sheddy English newsprint. It’s trade paperbacks and graphic novels for me, at. I’d much rather read a story all at once rather than wait for it to eke out on monthly 22-page instalments.

An example that I spotted and fell on with delighted squees when it turned up at my local library,  Craig Thompson’s Habibi is something that can only really work as a single volume. Granted, it’s broken into discrete chapters that could be serialised. But why would you when you can collect everything between beautiful bindings and print Thompson’s gorgeous illustrations on creamy premium stock?

Habibi is something of a revelation to me, and I’ll look more closely at it in the next post. All I’ll say at this point is that the book is as much an art object as a book. Something with real weight and heft (seriously, you could stun a burglar if you whopped him upside the head with this breezeblock-sized volume) that’s a delight to have on your shelves.

Download this.

I gravitate towards these volumes, where the process of handling and turning the pages becomes part of the whole experience. You simply can’t condense the essence of a Chris Ware book or the four-volume box set of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls into a Comixology download.

And I remain convinced that the page-by-page way we read comics, the magical way that we fill in the gaps in the gutters between frames is compromised in the digital world. You have to zoom to read text. The Comixology Guided View Technology, that whips around the page like a Hariboed schoolkid makes a mockery of the carefully crafted dialogue that the writer and artist have put on the page. And there’s no way to replicate the wide-screen foldouts that Frank Miller has used so well in the past – in the explosion at the end of Ronin, or the revelation of the true size of the Batcave in All-Star Batman and Robin. I still dream of making a comic that expands out, starting as A6 before becoming an A2 sheet for the big moments. The one thing with reading comics on an iPad–the page size can’t change. Double-size splashes lose all their impact.

However, there is one great thing about the digital world that is helping comics innovation. Schemes like Indiegogo and Kickstarter allow creators to fund their projects directly, and get a fanbase involved and embedded in their world before a single line is drawn. Up to now these fund-raising sites are best known for indie film-makers, but the comics world is also benefitting.

I’ve recently sprung some cash on a new project by Alex DiCampi and Jimmy Broxton, Ashes. A sort-of follow up to her award-winning Smoke, it’s a twisted SF tale of betrayal and revenge set in a dystopian Britain with all too many recognisable traits. Alex and Jimmy have been very forthright with teases and fresh artwork, and it’s project I’m happy to throw a bit of my hard-earned towards.

The thing is. Kickstarter projects have a window of opportunity. If you don’t raise your budget before the deadline, you don’t get a bean. No-one gets charged, but no-one gets the cool book they pledged to support. It would be a shame to let that happen.

So, here’s the dilly-o. Ashes has 19 days left on the clock, and is about 80% of the way there. It needs your support to become a thing that will sit on your bookshelf. Something you can look at with a warm glow and think “I helped make that happen”. Interestingly, although you can pledge a tiny amount and just get the digital download, the majority of pledgers (pledge-ees? pledgeroonies?) have plumped for the hardback edition. Which sort of vindicates my argument and therefore pleases me.

You can find out more about Alex, Jimmy and Ashes, and help a thing become a real thing by clicking on this bit of the blog or the widget below. If you like comics and creepy dystopia and let’s face it, who doesn’t, give it a look and a pledge. Treat yourself or a loved one. Treat yourself AND a loved one.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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