Are you looking for a place to read comics - for free - while supporting the creators? Former Escapist community manager Jeff Palumbo is making that a reality with Spinwhiz Comics.
What comes to mind when you think of the words "comic book ndustry"? Probably companies like DC Comics and Marvel - if not smaller publishers like Image, Dark Horse, or Boom! But in reality there are countless independent comic book creators who never found exposure through such companies, something that The Escapist's former community manager Jeff "Spinwhiz" Palumbo knows something about. That's why he's hard at work on Spinwhiz Comics, a digital comics platform where anyone can read the work of indies for free - while still letting everyone take home a paycheck. Even better, Palumbo's site should finally be getting it's anticipated launch by this May.
It all started about two years ago, when Palumbo launched his own independent comic book Chimera. "I had a guy from Marvel draw it, I had a guy from Dynamite color it," Palumbo told The Escapist. "Spent quite a bit of money on it to have an excellent product... and had about 3000 people total read it. Which for an indie, not awful. But for a comic? Completely and insanely awful." Palumbo's circumstance wasn't unique: Most comic creators who can't get the attention of larger publishers can easily slip through the cracks - especially with websites like Comixiology releasing hundreds of issues every week.
Palumbo's response? Create a website where any comic creator can post their work for free. When a series is first uploaded, the first issue is available to all readers while creators are paid through ad revenue. Subsequent issues are then made available through Spinwhiz's digital store - but suppose you still don't want to pay a dime? No problem: Just wait a month, at which point the next issue is unlocked until the entire series is made available.
"The only thing we ask is that you have more than one piece of content," Palumbo explained. "You can't be a Kickstarter and say 'If we have #2 we'll get it'. That's the only rule that we have because we don't want it to be a graveyard of [first issues]."
As long as your work is creator-owned, and not affiliated with DC or Marvel, Spinwhiz will accept contributions from anyone. Palumbo even intends to feature a "Breakthrough" section that showcases creators with very small followings - which allows up-and-coming artists to be featured alongside more popular personalities. In fact, Palumbo believes in the principle so much that Spinwhiz will display Breakthrough content even though it doesn't collect ad revenue - at least until it's reached the minimum following.
"I want [the Spinwhiz community] to be an aggregator for great content. And that's what it should be," Palumbo continued. "It's ways to take all this awesome content out there and let people sort through it, find it, and if they like it bring it up so everybody else can see it too."
That community presence is significant, because unlike other digital comics platforms Spinwhiz will not curate individual. "We're not going have a team in the future that tells you what's good and what's not," Palumbo explained. "It's completely community-driven. So we'll actually give the community the ability to thumbs-up whatever they want." At the same time, Palumbo wants to have tools in place to ensure the system can't be abused by trolls - which is why Spinwhiz will not have a "Thumbs-Down" review option.
"The reason for that is for indie comics, sometimes they're the the only one," Palumbo said. "You might put everything in one comic hoping it does well and - I don't know if you know this or not - but the internet is full of trolls that literally just want to destroy dreams... Just rip it apart regardless of whether they like it or not. So we've taken that ability away from them."
In the meantime, Palumbo doesn't consider Spinwhiz Comics to be something that competes with other comics publishers. In fact, it's his strong hope that companies like Image, Boom!, or IDW will add their collections to his own. "I want all those guys with us eventually, because it doesn't cost them anything," he noted. "They have libraries full of old content they could be making money off of... that are just sitting there collecting dust."
Palumbo's current plan is to run a Spinwhiz Comics publisher beta in the next two weeks, with a user beta following shortly after. Once all that's finished, the website should be ready for a mid-May launch - at which point Palumbo will start presenting big names already attached to the project. From there, he hopes Spinwhiz Comics will get even bigger.
"The goal is to basically have everybody on this platform in the next year... Hey there's no reason why [publishers] shouldn't do this. It's free, it's easy, everything's drag-and-drop it just takes 15 minutes to create a title... why not?" Palumbo concluded. "And hopefully I make everyone a ton of money. That would be great."