Loose Cannon: Issue #10

Fri, March 16th, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

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TWO SEEMINGLY UNRELATED THINGS WHICH REALLY ARE ABOUT COMICS, AFTER ALL

[Tivo]Jonah came over to Chateau Lar when he was in San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo last month, and during our luscious repast I excused myself and went to make sure the TiVo was recording Dennis Miller.

There were a few distinctive beeps as I scrolled through the onscreen menu, and Jonah called in from the other room, "Mmmm; sounds like TiVo."

Unless you have one of these things, like Jonah does, it's hard to imagine just how cool they actually are, and just exactly why a few beeps evokes such a positive Pavlovian response in the listener.

It's almost hard for me to articulate how much better my life is for having this thing hooked up to the television without sounding like some sort of Moonie.

I didn't want to get the TiVo, but Mimi really did, and so I said, "OK, but this is like a puppy. You have to take care of it, because I don't want to deal with this thing AT ALL." I'm not exactly a technophobe; I can hook up the gizmos and rip-and-burn CDs, and that sort of thing… but the gadgets need to have the bugs worked out before I want to get behind 'em. I wouldn't be nearly as an early-adopter of the new gee-whizzes as I am if it weren't for Mimi.

As long as they keep making what Garth Ennis calls the "wee notebook" and something to write in them with, I won't be getting a Palm Pilot, for example.

But the missus really wanted the TiVo, so there you go.

So, she brings it home, and spends an afternoon setting it up. "Hah," I think, "it takes three hours to set up? What a piece of crap." Until she explains it's getting info downloaded from the TiVo mothership, or something, and that the two or three hours set up only has to be done once, and it's basically a computer, and that's how long it took to set up the G4, so I should just shut up.

So I put on some tea, smugly, thinking that she was wasting her time with this thing that, even if I had heard some glazed-eyed techies talking about it in worshipful tones, could not possibly be as cool as they said it was. So we read the documentation on their website, and I had to admit that the set-up interface was very approachable, and I found myself going from "get that away from me" to "cautiously optimistic" about it.

Then, we set it up to record The West Wing, and Will and Grace (I lust after Debra Messing and will watch any stupid thing she's in), and Farscapeand That 70s Show and Dennis Miller Live.

Which it gets, every episode, with me not telling it again.

And it started recording Prey for me, because it stars Debra Messing. And The Invisible Man, because it thinks I should watch it.

Oh, I love my TiVo. Love it love it love it. I actually spend less time watching TV, instead of more, because it's only stuff I want to watch, ready for me whenever I damn well feel like watching it. It is a little black box of heaven made just for me.

TiVo; oh, I love you.

[Napster]The next thing, seemingly unrelated, is the whole deal with Napster, of which I'm sure you're well aware.

Napster, you'll recall, is an application that allows users to trade music files over the Internet. The two sides of the question seem to be the "Information should be free" folks, and the "This is obviously copyright infringement if not outright theft" people.

As a guy who produces copyrighted entertainment for an audience, it ought to be pretty clear which side of this question I come down on, but I'm not really rabid about it because I'm not really a big music guy. I don't think any really good music has been done since about the time Howard Cosell stopped calling Monday Night Football, and the few things I really have enjoyed since then don't exactly break the bank to go buy the CDs every couple of months or so.

So, you know, steal from the record companies, screw the musicians, whatever.

But as I started to follow the case more closely, it sure seemed that, anecdotally, people were admitting to having hundreds of MP3 files of every damn possible song on their hard drives, but also claimed to have spent much much more money on CDs than they used to because they were able to sample the tunes first and were exposed to that much more music.

Seemed to me that Napster was certainly filling a need…

So, right around the time that finished sloshing around in my brain… the ability to sample a bit of entertainment before you buy… and the on-demand capabilities of the TiVo… a thought began to form about applying this to comics…

[Oni]And darn if the Joe Nozemack/Jamie Rich brain trust over at Oni Press didn't come up with a kick-ass way to do it:

Like our pals over at Savant, with their comic book analysis .pdf delivery system, the hard-working folks at Oni have posted first chapters of some of their most acclaimed graphic novels for readers to sample as .pdf files.

This is an extremely good idea, and I suggest you head over there now. They've got Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's first chapter of Whiteout available for readers and retailers alike.

I know sometimes I get a little carried away with the hyperbole, but I'm stone cold sober and as serious as a heart attack, here, when I say:

This is the future of comic book marketing on the Internet.

Now, if Joe and Jamie could only figure out micropayments.

Email about this column should be sent to larry@comicbookresources.com

Of course, most answers to simple questions you may have about me or my company can be gleaned from http://www.ait-planetlar.com.

If you're interested in other methods of comic book delivery via the web, hit Cool Beans World and see what's going on there.

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