Comic Non-Sans: How to Self-Publish Your Comic — 14 Years Ago

A while back, a friend lent me a great little book by one Mr. Tony C. Caputo called How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book. Yes, said friend is aware of the fact that, not only do I have a publisher, I occasionally branch off to other printers for smaller volumes on my own.  The book was not lent to me for reference — though it does have some interesting advice on freelancing, contracts, and page layouts.  No, it was lent to me solely for the material on pages 138-141: a section titled, in large friendly letters, THE INTERNET.

This book was written in 1997.

Yeah, yeah.  I was handed this book as a cheap novelty.  But it’s such a fantastic time capsule when it comes to seeing just how good we have it with webcomic creation and distribution nowadays.  At the time it really was documenting something very new and confusing, and for its time it was an excellent reference.  But to look back now, it seems like a whole other world.  For example:

When I first used a computer, back in the mid-80s, modem speeds were about 2400 bits per second, or bps. […]  This was considered fast, but today you can purchase a modem with 28,800bps (or 28.8bps) for about $200.

Okay, arguably this paid for itself eventually, and considering there was only a limited amount of data online (no one was streaming last week’s “X-Files”) it wasn’t exactly low-speed compared to anything else.  But think about that next you’re at Best Buy.

Passing relevance to webcomickry, you say?  Fair enough.  Let’s look at all the places you can go and smack your stuff online at no cost.  Comic Genesis, Smack Jeeves, DrunkDuck, and any blogging or social networking site you can bend to your will.  Most places you sign up for now will even give you unlimited hosting provided you run an ad banner.  And even if you choose to host your own site and pay for your own domain, it’s not horrendously expensive, and buying extra space isn’t a particular bother.  Helpful, as my own web-resolution comic pages tend to run 200-300K each.

But Mr. Caputo, what would 16-year-old Kara have to have done if she had focused on comics rather than her epic fantasy novel that was going to take the world by storm?  Where could I have stored my files then?

… American [sic] Online (AOL) is a widely recognized and used ISP.  The company charges a monthly flat fee for unlimited use; it also offers you your own free web page with your own address and directory (in which to store your files).  Earthlink Network is an excellent choice of an internet access service […] and they give you 2mgs (megabytes) of space for your own free personal web site!  You can fit a considerable amount of web publishing files in two megabytes of space.

I just sent an e-mail to someone two rooms away from me that was more than two megabytes.

The funny thing is, I was lent this book for the humor value, and at first I did laugh at what looks to me now like stilted language and overstating of the obvious.   But put in context, it’s actually made me grateful for what I have available to me nowadays as a writer and webcomicker.  At the risk of sounding old way before my time, kids these days don’t know how easy they have it.  If you can get online, you can have a webcomic — making it look good takes a bit more money and effort, sure, but it beats hooking a noisy $200 box into your parents’ phone line and paying regularly for what would have been about ten pages’ worth of space.  And then having to learn HTML and MacPaint before you could go anywhere.

Remind yourself of that next time your site goes a bit glitchy.  I know I will.

Tony C. Caputo’s How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book is still available to buy from Amazon.  Come for the helpful hints on collaborations, stay for the nostalgia-bombs that are screen grabs of MacPaint in action.

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics

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  1. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2011-07-20 at 01:14

    Man, I remember the noisy box. I also remember sharing the modem phone line with my parents and them being angry with me being online all the time.

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