You need to know a few things about why building this software was nearly impossible and why it's an amazing gain to both you and the comic world. Some of you will want to know everything to the “T” our of concerns that we are no the real deal. We’ve written long-format content to help that crowd. Others of you are ready to jump and mostly don’t care anyway, so skimming our content would be suggested at a minimum so you know what you’ve got your hands on.
We worked tirelessly on this so that you wouldn't have to, and in the tradition of Linux, we've taken some extraordinary steps and broken all the rules so that you or your community of comic creators could have the freedom you need to go for the impossible.
It's a rare thing for people to do something like this, so in the tradition of GIMP, Open Office, Celtx, Linux, some of the great things we admire and Free and Open Source software and technology in general, we've made "Open ComicWare". This section of the website exists so that you can understand, experience, use and maybe even appreciate what we've built for you to have for free.
What is Open ComicWare specifically, and how did it start?
We are releasing 8 years of development and technical documents and templates to the comic world for free. No license, no royalties -Open. Forever. No copyright. That's what we're doing. Now, here's the story:
In the fall of 2007 in the last year of his college teaching, instructor Benjamin Kuchera was guiding a drawing class in Lexington, KY. While teaching, he noticed the sketchbooks of a few of his students and was stunned at much of their talent. Frustrated with the lack of exposure for these students, he got the idea of creating a magazine called "Blueprint Saints Magazine". This magazine was something that would consume 8 years of his life, and in the process, enable him to make materials that would in fact become many of the materials you will find here on this site.
There are some founding principles of what make Open ComicWare significant to the comic world. In the tradition of Linux, Open Office, GIMP and many of the most substantial free and open-source movements, Open ComicWare was founded on the ideas of artists rights.
What that means isn't all that complicated, but it does take a small step toward a real change in the way comic communities function.
While developing Blueprint Saints Magazine (the worlds first open environment publication), key ideas of protecting creative content started to blossom. In the comic world, there was always a wall between independent comic creators and industry professionals that were part of major comic labels. Comic creators began to make their own labels -most of which were unsuccessful. While it is true that Image Comics and Dark Horse comics came out of a real growth in the independent culture, artists quickly settled back down to doing their own thing -too paranoid to even submit work to the major labels.
Open ComicWare is comprised of the materials that were developed out of the Comic Arts Partnership, Comic Creators Live and Blueprint Saints Magazine. The community team of the Comic Arts Partnership saw the challenge to local artists and began the major steps of starting an Arts organization that would allow for the production of a print magazine that would bring regional artists together. This magazine had a model that supported print, and its focus was not the web, as it was clear that the web was a dangerous model for comics due to piracy.
Enter the elements of "The Open Age of Comics". Open ComicWare has been birthed directly out of the source of the Open Age of Comics. The materials were initially designed for Blueprint Saints Magazine, but it was clear the comic world needed the materials as well.
A key element of Open ComicWare is the design document from the founders of the OAC (Open Age of Comics). This template allowed for local artists to submit their works so that they could be seen in print. But it was risky to print in any publication if it did not protect artists rights.
Skip to FAQ #4 below to read the long-format specifics about what the open age of comics brings through these tools. It's pretty amazing.
Are These Materials Really Free? What's the catch?
The nature of Free Open Source is really not all that complicated, but there is one key thing about it that you have to pay attention to.
When Linux went down, it was a game-changer for the Open Source community. They had a spirit of wanting to make software and tools for people that would truly be free, allowing a user to grow without the expense and break into the technology world in a brand new way -license-free.
There was never a catch to this. It seemed too good to be true. It wasn't.
Enter Corporate America. Even though the original materials were free and open to the world to use (even to alter) corporations also had a right to use the materials, alter them and then make them part of their own property. This split Open Source into two main ideas -1) Free and open-source and 2) Open Source. The difference was that "Free and open-source" was truly free -no copyright, no restrictions, to the ability for the developers to sue anyone. The other (Open Source) was filled with complexities and subtle ownerships and licenses that took away much of the spirit of Open Source itself.
So, we want to be clear. We are "Free and open-source". You are free to alter, use, and redistribute what we release without consequence.
Free Open Source Linux is still built on a top-level team that approves new pieces of code and plug-ins on a case-by-case basis so as to grow official releases safely and carefully. In that Spirit, Open ComicWare is the same. We want our user-base to do whatever they want with the applications and software tools we make, but our group will be approving the official Jellyfish builds so that our community can know we have proof-checked things. It does not mean we own anything at all. We are simply developers of a public domain environment that can be used for non-commercial or commercial purposes by the world.
We encourage you to read up on Open Source vs Free and open-source here:
MORE TO COME
THE OPEN AGE OF COMICS: DEFINING A REVOLUTION
* 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 WORLDS 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.
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. Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb shifted all things as some of the key developers of 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 on a grand scale. While they changed the way comics could be made (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 webcomics and the 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 magazine 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 of Comics.
Because there are no ads in an Open Age Magazine, and no digital versions, with limited printing, this allows for each issue of an open age magazine to be a special and 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 that would otherwise not be relevant in a world where a publication can simply be purchased, and because it is ad-free, this allows for these print magazine to be given to the people for free, funded from an Arts foundation rather than a corporation or comic label.
These free magazines are of extraordinary quality with a very high page count and are larger than even Rolling Stone. They are collectibles. They're part of comic history that is limited to 10,000 people a month getting a chance to have something utterly fantastic.
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 had major controversy and created a rift in the comic world. It took years for it to be accepted, and it is now responsible for the amazing freedom of content you see in comics today. Were founded as an Arts organization, not a comic label, and while some critics and comic creators may not like what we're 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 eight 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 a reference point, the Open Age of Comics officially started March 19th, 2009, but had developed as early as October 1, 2006.
Specific principles of the Open Age of Comics can be defined as follows:
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. Its a lot like having a genius masterwork in a sketchbook, but never being able to open it and show anyone in fear that some of the best ideas can be stolen. We also liken it to the Coca-cola formula that was just recently stolen and is not 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.
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 are to enable artists to keep all of their monies -that's a fact. The Open Age of Comics is the foundation for all things in the artist's 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.
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 itself takes no revenue, no percentages and cannot sell any variation of the artist's works. Again, its an Arts Organization, not a comic label. The magazine does, however, allow these 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 allow. 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 publication pointer system allows for each artist to have their .com and email addresses around their printed comics. These print headers and footers function as pointer systems to their direct .com websites and direct communication to artists. Because this publication is only a snippet of artists 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 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. The printing of this publication is dependent on donations and grants are given directly to the Comic Arts Partnership and its 501c3 structure. We encourage users to work with our materials properly and build an Arts community on their own in their own cities as 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.
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, 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. At this time, we've faced cynicism and resistance from a small fragment of the comic community, but we have an almost absolute majority in favor of this revolution. Our own community served as the model for what will happen world-wide in the comic culture. While its not all pretty, when the dust settles, because of this, comic creators become friends, and 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 come together in their own cities -that's an amazing thing. We fought for this local culture. We hope that this replicated to other cities where other leaders take our materials to make their own Open Age Magazine calling it whatever they want and bringing together their own city comic creators behind it.
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 will be the organization that gives them free tools to make their own revolution, their own projects, and their own communities. 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 free publication. All-new comics. All new people. All new ideas. All new freedom.
11) NO DIGITAL VERSION FROM PUBLISHER:
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 is going to do.
While it is understood that many in the comic world will still, after all these fantastic steps, find this to be restated that this is independent comic creation, it absolutely is not that. It is true that comic creators involved in an Open Age Magazine or book are independent, but what's great about it 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 an artist 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 bring the comic 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.
-END OF FILE REV.2.0
DOCUMENT WRITER: BENJAMIN KUCHERA
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's 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 world's first Open Age Comic Magazine Blueprint Saints.
*This transcript is from a PDF document written by Benjamin Kuchera. Its 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 Rev 2.0 copyright Feb 24, 2011 Benjamin Kuchera *New revision 2020 soon!