Open vs. Closed, a concrete example.

So, over the past couple of years, writers and novelists have been talking (and fretting) about the future of their livlihoods, vis a vis the rise of ereaders and the newfound ability of new and untested creators to forge their own path outside the traditional publishing circles.

It all sounds very much like the webcomics debate that’s been going on for over a decade now, but I’m not sure if the traditional authors side has anyone as vehemently opposed to the future as a Ted Rall or Wiley Miller.

There is, however, one big difference between webcomcs and indy books, that authors would do well to keep in mind:

The World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee and the others at CERN who developed the Web were enlightened enough to donate the technology to the public domain. Anyone can use it, and everyone does. Even those few webcomic collectives that have tried to hide their offerings behind a subscription paywall have done so using the Web.

The only barriers to entry on a webcomic are the creativity and drive of the individual cartoonist, and the only stumbling blocks to a successful run are persistence and bandwidth costs.

Indy ebooks, on the other hand? Sure, you can find them for sale on the Web, but they’re not really of the Web. Their existence, at least at the moment, has everything to do with the self-interest of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

But mostly Amazon.

This may prove to juse be worst-case-scenario speculation on my part, but I can see either bookstore deciding that the terms they’ve been offering indy authors are far too generous, and that it’s time to stop leaving money on the table. What one does, the other will duplicate. That, or one of the major publishers decides to strong-arm them, offering their upcoming guaranteed bestsellers ebook versions to the stores that drop the indy titles.

Either way, it’s gonna hurt.

Solutions? Authors need to find exposure beyond the closed platforms of the bookstores, above and beyond personal blogs, guest blogging, and banner ads. Something like Comic Rocket or The Webcomic List. A directory specifically for independant authors, organized by genre, content, and the like, to let readers find out what’s out there.

I think there’s a market for it.

Iron Man 3 and the Movieverse

Last week, over at TRU-Life Adventures, I made the claim that Iron Man 3 was a good enough movie to have broken the curse of the third superhero film. And because I had Jack make the claim, I was able to cite both Superman 3 and Superman Returns as examples of bad third movies.

Funny thing was, I hadn’t actually seen the movie yet. Reviews had been generally positive, but if it had turned out to be a stinker after all, I would have had to claim that particular strip took place in a timeline where it was good.Fortunately, that’s well within the purview of the strip.

Even more fortunately, Iron Man 3 was a really good movie. Even if all his armors seemed a lot weaker this time around. They justified it with the Mark 42, since it was a prototype and proof of concept more than anything else, but even the Hulkbuster armor put in a poor showing.

So, the question is, how many previous movies do you have to have seen for this one to make sense?

Obviously, Avengers. Both to explain what happened in New York, and the identity of the person in the post-credit scene. And to understand Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor should be required viewing.

That said, I don’t think the entire Marvel Movieverse is required viewing at this point. Not that they’re not all really entertaining flicks, because they absolutely are. It’s just that, well, let’s look at a couple examples to see if I can illustrate what I’m trying to say.

Iron Man 2. I’m actually of the opinion that this is the weakest movie in the series (though that still puts it head and shoulders over a lot of other stuff that’s come out before and since). But that’s not why I don’t think it’s vital. Yes, it introduces the Black Widow and presents the twist that SHIELD doesn’t want Tony Stark to be part of the Avengers project after all, and those are pretty big story points.

Except they turn out to be really not. The Widow’s first two scenes in Avengers do a better job establishing her as a character and force to be reckoned with than her entire screentime in Iron Man 2. And Tony’s invited back onto the team with a couple lines of very Whedonesque dialogue.

The Incredible Hulk. I really liked this movie, especially how it managed to incorporate certain elements of both the Ang Lee movie (picking up in South America, where we last saw Bruce at the end of it) and the TV show. And it does introduce the idea of the Super Soldier Serum, that plays such an important part in Captain America’s backstory. But Ed Norton’s Banner, as entertaining as he was to watch (make no mistake, I liked him in the role) might as well be a completely different character than the one Mark Ruffalo plays.

So, yeah. All that to say, to understand Iron Man 3, you need to have seen Avengers. And to understand Avengers, you just need to have seen Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.

Who are also generally considered the “Big Three” of the Avengers in the comics. Not sure what exactly that might mean, but it’s out there.