21 Mar 2013

Caught In The Web: THE PRIVATE EYE #1

In Caught In The Web, we set aside the printed funny books temporarily to delve into the world of digital and web comics. 

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente
Panel Syndicate $????
Tom P: Out of nowhere comes a welcome surprise from artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan with their new digital comic, The Private Eye. It’s a serialized 32-page sci-fi detective story available to download for whatever price you see fit.

Set in a future full of costumes and alter egos, we find that the world is now without the Internet after an event called the ‘Cloud Burst’. The Private Eye has a real pop-art styled noir feeling – you evoke Blade Runner at your own risk, but Martin’s done it in a clever, different, bright and vibrant way with trenchcoated figures giving chase against a backdrop of bold advertising. Pop art is known to take advertising imagery like labelling and logos and then figure them prominently, so it's a nice contrast to see Martin play with this idea, from 'cigarette' packets to the posters and TV shows he's chosen to feature.

I loved the main character’s grandfather, clearly a man from the iPhone generation. I have my own concerns about how addictive social media and the mobile phone have become, and the image of a confused old man lost without his digital life was a frightening sight for me. I often question my own ‘addiction’ - as a father I worry that for all the advantages and blessings of modern information and communications technology, the darker aspects of this new digital world could affect a generation that can access it all from a young age. My 2 year-old son can work an iPad for crying out loud! He knows just how to open his Lego Duplo app and find Postman Pat videos to watch!

Just think of all the things a phone can do now? My first one could only call and text! What happens if we were to reject it all? To see somebody from that background plunged back to a world of physical media and denied the crutch of instant knowledge and information at all times is highly effective. He shouts at his Grandson "I shared as much as I shared ‘cause my life was an open goddamn book!" The next panel the rain hits plant leaves outside like fingers on a keyboard or a touchscreen device. All that information, all his life that he shared, lost like tears in the rain. Now that's how you evoke Blade Runner! Brilliant, powerful stuff.
As we're on the subject of digital media, this approach to releasing content isn’t anything new. You could write everything I know about Radiohead on a post-it note (I have a dire knowledge of music!) but it’s worth mentioning they used the ‘pay what you want’ model for the digital release of 'In Rainbows' back in 2007. It didn’t really catch on in the music world but perhaps it will be different for comics because what Vaughan and Martin have essentially done is bypass the publishers and create a truly accessible and open reading experience. It can't sell out because it can’t be under-ordered. It can’t be resold on eBay, thus bypassing the collectors and speculators. It doesn't offer incentives because you can afford to splash more money on it than the next guy. It's arrived fully formed from two of the hottest names in comics. You can read this on your computer, phone or tablet and it won’t cost you much if you don’t have a lot to spend. All the money raised goes straight to the artists involved. That's quite something. It’s an exciting prospect, and with people like Mark Waid and Cameron Stewart already developing projects like this one we’re likely to see more of this kind of thing in the future if it proves to be a success. This is a promising first issue and I highly recommend you try it. The future of independent comic books? Who knows? A great read? Oh yes! 9/10

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