The Open Age of Comics
THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS: DEFINING A REVOLUTION
FULL RELEASE FOR PRESS: THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS
THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR REFERENCE. IT ALSO EXISTS TO HELP CREATE AN UNDERSTANDING AND DEFINITION OF THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS. IT IS IN MANY WAYS THE COMIC WORLD’S OPEN AGE CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS. THIS LONG-FORMAT DOCUMENT ACCOMPANIES THE DESIGN DOCUMENT TO AN OPEN AGE MAGAZINE SUCH AS BLUEPRINT SAINTS MAGAZINE. THERE IS ALSO A SHORT-FORMAT VERSION DEFINITION TO THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS IN THE BLUEPRINT SAINTS MAGAZINE DESIGN DOCUMENT AND ALL OF THIS CONTENT CAN BE FOUND ON OUR WEBSITE.
LONG-FORMAT DEFINING PRINCIPLES OF THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS:
The Open Age of Comics can be described as part of a brand new timeline in comic history. There has been nothing environmentally revolutionary in the comic world since the birth of the underground comics movement.
Harvey Pikar and Robert Crumb shifted all things as they met and realized some of the key themes and ideas that would be added to the underground comic movement. While not the founders of the underground comic movement, these two men in particular changed the way comics were made and what they could do in a grand scale. Quite literally shifting content and visuals to the open architecture of absolute visual creative freedom in a real revolution, the Open Age of Comics (or the post-modern age of comics) has appeared onto the scene in direct reaction to web comics, Internet and the damage to property and submission of comic works of Art. Rather than making more comics that are lost in the endless wasteland of the Internet (probably only to be pirated or never seen), the Open Age comes to the forefront in as real a revolution as the underground, with a physical magazine that is city specific (meaning created by comic creators in one city, and distributed to that same city via a physical magazine). This Open Age Magazine, or object, gives a sense of ownership and collectability to the reader because it can be physically held. While it can be claimed that comic magazines launched in cities across the country are doing the same thing that the Open Age is doing, that couldn't be farther from reality. An Open Age Magazine is one of many objects that will come to be from within the founding principles of the Open Age.
Because there are no ads in an Open Age Magazine, and no digital versions, this allows for each issue of an open age magazine to be special and a powerful experience to a new reader every month. In addition to these qualities of an Open Age Magazine (or object), this format of a physical publication enables each issue to have an intrinsic value, and because it is ad free, this allows for these print magazines to be given to the people for free or at cost to manufacture, funded from an Arts foundation rather than a corporation or comic label. These magazines are of extraordinary quality with a very high page count. They are collectibles. They're part of comic history.
While it may seem easy for some to define the Open Age of Comics as trivial at best, and irrelevant at worst, what proves that wrong, what is particularly powerful about this move in comics is that the founding principles behind the publication itself are the single most empowering ideals available to the comic world in the 21st century. The underground movement had major controversy and created a rift in the comic world. It took years for it to be accepted –almost a decade. It is now responsible for the amazing freedom of content you see in comics today. We’re founded as an Arts organization, not a comic label, and while some critics and comic creators may not like what were doing, we believe that we are honoring the physical comic and hold fast to the idea that we are in fact preserving the printed comic in an increasingly digital world.
In the tradition of many of the Open Source projects such as GIMP, Open Office, Celtx, and the computer operating system Linux, the Open Age of Comics is giving users, or comic creators, absolute control of their property, and profitability, while still getting the communal copyright a real legal publication can give them. The Open Age of Comics is creating the Art structure, the legal structure, and the software and communal structure for an actual move within the Arts.
All of the documents and digital templates that have been developed over the last seven years will be released by the Comic Arts Partnership as Open ComicWare software. This software will be “freeware”, and will give full control to comic communities world-wide so that comic creators can copyright their own magazines regionally without the fear of losing their property in all its forms from character, plot to visuals and story. It remains theirs, but gets their work seen and possibly picked up by a comic label. So it is important to note that this Open Age of Comics is not in opposition to comic labels, but allows for an Arts foundation to get local creators a chance to be seen ahead of any contract with a label. It’s very similar to getting your album for sale and legally yours and played on the radio before a contract with a music label. Comic labels need to come to the creators with a great offer and a more reasonable contract. Our magazine just lets them be seen and protected and gives them the leverage they otherwise would never have.
Blueprint Saints Magazine is the first publication to ever function within this system of an Open Age Magazine. It is an Open Age Magazine. It follows several key principles in order for its existence to be free, open and relevant.
*For reference point, the Open Age of Comics officially started March 19th, 2009, but had development as early as October 1, 2006.
Specific principles of the Open Age of Comics can be defined as:
1) ARTISTS SUBMISSIONS REMAIN THEIR PERMANENT PROPERTY:
Even though artists submit works to Blueprint Saints Magazine (an Open Age Magazine), all of their intellectual property (characters, designs, plots, etc.) remains theirs. These artists get to be in print while retaining all ownership. That’s a big idea because in almost every case, artists won’t even be able to submit to a comic publisher without worrying about theft. They don’t even want their work online because it can open up a world of IP theft. It’s a lot like having a genius masterwork in a sketchbook, but never being able to open it and show anyone out of fear that some of the best ideas can be stolen –their ideas. We also liken this broken situation to the Coca-Cola formula that was just recently stolen and is now available for everyone in the world for free without reproach. It’s significant that these artists are seen, but when they are, they are protected by an actual physical publication and its copyright. The general copyright of an Open Age Magazine protects these artists, but does not take “ownership” of their works. They are able to have their own copyrights, and a secondary copyright that shields them against public theft.
2) ARTISTS RETAIN ALL PROFITS:
Because the Comic Arts Partnership is founded as an Arts organization and not a comic label, its intention and function is to enable artists to keep all of their monies -that's a fact. The Open Age of Comics is the foundation to all things in the artists creative control interests. IP is the single most important thing in existence when it comes to being a comic artist or writer. It must be protected. Zero profit margin or markups can happen when publishing an Open Age Magazine. Blueprint Saints is sold at the cost to manufacture and is purchased directly from the manufacturer without a cut to the publisher.
3) NO PERCENTAGES OF RESALES:
While in print, these local artists get to see their work available to the public in an Open Age Magazine, but the print object, again, takes no revenue, no percentages and cannot sell any variation of the artist’s works physically or digitally. A true Open Age Magazine is part of an Arts organization, not a comic label. An Open Age Magazine does, however, allow comic creators the ability to make their own comic labels on their own without consequence.
4) PRINTING ELSEWHERE:
Printing in any publication is permitted before, during or after the publication of an Open Age Magazine such as Blueprint Saints Magazine (or whatever variation title another comic community chooses to call their magazine.)
5) ARTISTS IMMEDIATE LEGAL COPYRIGHT:
This Magazine project allows for the immediate communal copyright of all artists involved. The Magazine is an example of what Open ComicWare materials allows. While being in print in this magazine is a copyright, it is assumed that this publication copyright is only laying out to the world that all artists involved are in fact published. This protects the artists published works while still allowing them to be seen and republished by the artists without restrictions, in addition to owning their own copyright. We do not claim ownership at any point -period.
6) POINTER SYSTEM: THE POWER OF PRINT:
This print publications pointer system allows for each artist to have their .com and email addresses around their printed comics. These print headers and footers function as physical pointer systems to their direct .com websites and direct communication to artists. Because this publication is only a snippet of artist’s works, readers are encouraged to go to the creator’s digital versions on their websites, and thus these artists get to sell their books directly to fans -avoiding the middleman entirely, while no percentages are paid to anyone involved with an Open Age Magazine. These artists are in essence seen because of this print object, and are able to make a fan-base and sales they otherwise would never have been be able to do.
7) THE POWER OF A PUBLICATION:
The print object template that is the master file of the Open Age of Comics is designed to be ad free so that no revenue can be pulled in even by association. It also prevents any kind of comic label or corporation from being able to have ads and whittle away at potential freedom of use of an Open Age Magazine or object. We encourage users to work with our materials properly and build an Arts community on their own in their own cities like we have, but we also understand that in releasing our open source works to the public, that any comic community can use it for any reason the way we intended or not. We, however, are very stubborn when it comes to our own Open Age Magazine and refuse to veer off track on the principles that set the standard for a great, free, open magazine.
We encourage you to read about Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds in order to understand the difference between “Free Software” and “Open Source Software”. While we use the term “Open Age”, and certainly believe that both paths in software across free software or open source software are valid, we do heavily migrate toward Richard Stallman’s way of thinking. We do, however, understand that some communities will need to function with our materials being used for profit. We do not restrict other communities from using our materials for profit, but we do not, with out own publication, allow for a profit model. Our model in our specific publication is a free software model. We cannot restrict the multifaceted usage of our free and open documents and templates. We can and will however, not give our Open Age seal to any magazine that is sold for a profit.
8) NOT OPEN SOURCE COMICS, BUT AN OPEN ENVIRONMENT:
All of electronic media reacts to an open age magazine that is in print. The publication is free and open to the public. While this is not open source comics (that is dangerous because it is assumed that comics can be manipulated and resold by anyone), the key elements of the Open Age of Comics (meaning the template and design document) have been created as an open source environment, again, similar to the Linux operating system that allows for programmers to make programs where they have complete control without liability or ownership from the founders of the open environment. It also allows for the customization of the materials created for the Open Age of Comics by any comic organization.
One of the great results of the Open Age of Comics is a comic family. Once artists get past their paranoia of these founding ideas, it has been proven to bring most of them together toward a singular purpose, while not undermining the individual powers of each artist. We faced cynicism and resistance from a small fragment of the comic community, but retained an almost absolute majority in favor of this revolution. Our own community served as the model for what will happen worldwide in the comic culture. While it’s wasn’t all pretty, when the dust settled, because of this, comic creators became friends. Rather than having some thin relationship online or isolated in their homes at a drafting table and a comic conference once a year, these comic creators physically came together in their own cities -that's an amazing thing. We fought for this local culture. We hope that this replicates to other cities where other leaders who will take our materials to make their own Open Age Magazine calling it whatever they want and brining together their own cities comic creators behind it. It won’t be easy for them, but they at least will have a reference that it’s possible by showing Blueprint Saints Magazine to their own recruitment team.
We imagine that there can be an Open Age Magazine in every major city in the world, but we will not be responsible for its control, funding, content or actions. We let artists have control, not us. It is our own efforts toward Blueprint Saints Magazine that excites us. We will not have our organization be the stamp of approval for the entire comic world. We are only the organization that gives free tools for other comic communities to make their own revolution, their own projects, and their own gallery or comic artwork. And the best thing we can give those other communities is the proof of the object existing, testimonies from hundreds of comic creators, and all the digital elements we have built over 7 years. It fast tracks their own communities right into the steam. Our mini-revolution will in fact give way to revolutions in the comic world everywhere, bringing people together physically to make a physical object that is given for free to people birthing the next generation of creators and readers.
10) NEW GENERATION:
That new generation we were talking about? The Open Age of Comics functions best when the materials of Open ComicWare are used the way they are intended. It creates a free environment for creators, but also allows for a new generation of readers to be birthed due to the nature of a profit-free publication. All new comics. All new people. All new ideas. All new freedom.
11) NO DIGITAL VERSION:
We want to support our local comic shops, and we want to keep the comic book real -physically in the hands of the reader so that there is a sense of ownership, collectability and value to each precious magazine. That’s essential. That’s what our project did. We will not be supplying a digital version at any point –not in an online store and not on our website. The reason for this very significant choice is that when a magazine goes digital, it can pop up just about anywhere, and that means that a digital layer can be applied to an Open Age Magazine and someone else can randomly profit off of it. This is unacceptable. There is to be no digital version of our magazine released and that is why we have created a communal copyright. While sharing is great, others profiting off the comic creators in an Open Age Magazine is against every standard we have fought for. It not only is something we stand against, we absolutely refuse to let a digital version exist without consequences from those who would abuse the purpose of an Open Age Magazine.
While it is understood that many in the comic world will still, after all these fantastic steps, find this to be restating that this is independent comic creation, it absolutely is not. It is true that comic creators involved in an Open Age Magazine or book are independent, but what’s great about the effects of the Open Age is that creators get to come together in the city they live in, get to show their work regionally, and once a copyright is obtained, they'll be getting the exposure they otherwise would never get. Through this process, comic creators that submit to an Open Age Magazine have that upper hand on the comic industry. The highest bidder gets to offer creators a real contract, not an unfair agreement where artists’s might get 5% of the revenue and have to give up all their intellectual property.
No other comic organization is moving in these new ways. We not only believe that The Open Age of Comics is the most substantial thing to happen to comics since the birth of the Underground, we believe it to our core.
The Open Age of Comics has nothing to do with how comics are made, or even why comics are made. It’s about the environment in which they are made communally, and the power it gives to bringing the comic book back to the creator at the drafting table and to the everyman on the street. It’s not said lightly that this is revolutionary. It is an absolute paradigm shift in comic creation and comic readership -no Internet required.
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Founder: The Open Age of Comics
The Comic Arts Partnership is an Art foundation that fosters freedom and creativity within the comic Arts.
Comic Creators Live is the social team of comic creators that meet for production meetings and for fun while creating an Open Age Comic Magazine. Blueprint Saints Magazine is the world first Open Age Comic Magazine. It is the object that proves the model of the Open Age of Comics. Open ComicWare is where all digital materials will be available to the comic world with the onset of the final release of the worlds first Open Age Comic Magazine Blueprint Saints.
*This transcript is from a PDF document written by Benjamin Kuchera. It's formatting has been changed to fit this website. A PDF file with correct formatting is available to the press, educational institutions, and comic historians.
Document March 1, 2008 Benjamin Kuchera