The annual Philadelphia Comic Convention arrives in town this weekend, attracting fan boys and fan girls of monsters, super heroes, and science fiction. The new frontier of the industry is digital distribution, and two local comic book writers are showing how it’s done.
With their South Philadelphia-based company, South Fellini, Tony Trov and Johnny Zito create comics. They’ve had relatively successful runs with a storyline about an orphanage for zombie girls called “LaMorte Sisters,” girl gangs dressed as Mexican wrestlers and Elvis Presleys fighting for territory around the deserts of Las Vegas in “Black Cherry Bombshells,” and “Moon Girl,” a revived super hero from the 1940s whose powers derived from moon rocks put her in an existential quandary.
It’s hard to find these in comic book shops. They are designed to be downloaded.
“Digital distribution in comics is pretty much exactly what happened 10 years ago in the music industry,” said Trov. “Now there’s a device to read comics online—an iPad or a tablet. It’s pretty much the same as an iPod 10 years ago.”
As the comic industry begins to follow the steps of its musical counterpart, it also faces the same digital headaches of bootlegging and piracy.
At the Philadelphia Comicon (presented by Wizard World), Trov and Zito will participate in a panel discussion about digital distribution. They have done this before in other cities; it’s a popular topic at regional conventions around the country. People want to know how it’s done.
The answer is to create intellectual properties that can be franchised.
“It’s a traveling carnival now, with T-shirts, prints, buttons, merchandise,” said Zito. “That’s really the industry we’re creating—nerd culture, as opposed to just comics.”
Trov and Zito have found relative success by keeping up with trends. “LaMorte Sisters” hit in the wake of the “Twilight” phenomenon, and with DC Comics this weekend they are putting out a free digital comic of the Green Lantern, to coincide with the film release.