A few minutes ago, I Twinterviewed Rantz Hoseley, the inventor of Longbox. Set to transform the way we read comics, with deals with all sorts of publishers, could this be the beginning of universal, multi-format, user-friendly, iTunes style digital comics? And what effect could this have on our industry? Was he a devil or an angel? With emotions running high, I decided to begin with my usual tact and diplomacy.
BC: @RantzHoseley, inventor of Longbox, why do you want to destroy the comic store?
RH: Seriously, I don’t see it as binary. Print OR digital. Our model was designed from the start to expand comics’ reach.||To assume the position that it has to be one or the other is one borne of fear, and not really trying to expand comics. I think there will always be people that prefer print. That have a love of the ‘physical object’ nature of printed works.||But it’s a fact that monthly book sales are down overall. We’re not drawing new readers in. So, how do we do that?||for years it’s been trades vs monthly, what we are trying to do, in part, for the current fans is give them a way 4 both
BC: As a longtime comics collector, if Longbox has a majority of comics, I’ll stop going to stores. Am I not representative?
RH: while at the same time, expanding that audience, & making it easy for new readers to get in to comics||I think SOME books will ALWAYS have a print monthly, too much istory to do otherwise but others I can see doing print TPB||
BC: I agree, like vinyl and CD. But is there enough to save, say the around-3000 Diamond supplied comic shops we have now?
RH: I think the good ones, the ones who look forward, who look at it as a business, yes.
BC: So long term, the monthly printed comic, the fuel for most comics stores will be reduced to a trickle||TPBs move to bookstores, only the biggest comic stores in big cities survive, but lots more readers will use Longbox?||This feels like a comic store post-apocalyptic society. But, if Longbox succeeds, I can’t see any other way. Can you?
RH: I don’t think it’s that simple, a good comic shop is an ‘experience’. You know the people there, they know your tastes||and that social aspect is a huge part of the current appeal for a good store. My LCS is a ‘smaller’ shop, but it’s great||& even though a TPB or HC might be cheaper via Amazon or bookstore, I got THERE, because a.) I know they’ll have it||and b.) I like the people there. I like the store, I like the experience holding, in person, stuff like Dash Shaw’s work.
BC: I agree. But I look at my bookshelves and there’s no room… Longbox keeps me in comics, but out of the store.
RH: well first off, right now every single issue has to be ‘weighed’ in terms of “Is this worth $3.99, etc”|| at $0.99 an issue, it allows you to just read for ‘enjoyment’, rather than putting the pressure on the book to poop gold||
BC: But can I roll up Longbox and slip it in my back pocket? Not that I would, but if I wanted to, could I?
RH: the mission of LongBox is to provide “portable, affordable entertainment.||that includes things like handhelds and e-readers. If you want to roll THOSE up, I think that will void your warranty!
BC: Okay, I never rolled up comics anyway. Ruined their value. What about slabbing them? How much for Longbox CGC 9.8?
RH: as a defensive weapon? Probably a 4 or 5.5 Offensive weapon? Notsomuch||I think however it goes to the issue of making the collector market more valuable, & the reading market, more accessible
BC: @wood83 makes a good point about money – are you self funded or have big backers? The iTunes of comics sounds expensive
RH: hmmm, how do I answer this…
BC: Evasively? Sorry about the delays, it appears that Michael Jackson’s corpse has killed Twitter
RH: If it weren’t for Jon & Kate destroying their family, and MJ dying, LongBox would be a trending topic…|| How about “both”? Core dev was self funded. Most of what was developed to the point of HeroesCon was SF||However, we do now have investors & are talking to some other folks about these things The marketing alone is ‘not cheap’
BC: I know an advertising copywriter who’ll work for Longbox dollars! Can we talk about what publishers/creators might get?||iTunes gives the publishers 70% of cover price. What kind of figures are you throwing around for Longbox?
RH: You can ASK, but that’s a discussion between LongBox, Inc. & the publishers. I can say the per-unit percentage is good.||@mckelvie @bremxjones @jhickman all know ‘the score’ & as they noted, they could actually make money from THEIR comics.
BC: Got room for Watchmensch, Civil Wardrobe or Holed Up?
RH: We will support indie/self-published comics. Details to be announced. Watchmensch? No. Flying Friar? Sure ;)||LBX was motivated by a.)my love of the medium & b.) frustration seeing talented creators have day jobs so they can live
BC: I asked Marvel if they were moving onto Longbox and they told me “no comment.” Should I read anything into that?
RH: That isn’t what… oh… er… I mean…”No Comment”
BC: So do you see yourself as the new Phil Seuling? Or is there danger of you being the new Marc Alessi?
RH: someone said I needed to invest in black turtlenecks. I’m happy to be an evangelist for LBX, but it’s about comics||& anything that really GROWS the market, gets new readers, gets the excited… that’s KEY||Our COO took his 13 yr old daughter to HeroesCon & she was very much “dad, I don’t want to, comics are dumb…”||& yet, an hour later, she’s back at the hotel with a huge stack of comics, laughing aloud, & asking ‘are there more?’||reaching THAT audience, making it easy for them to find stories they love, introducing them to what’s out there…||THAT is a HUGE part of our focus, & why LongBox is exciting for me speaking as a creator, parent & fan
realtripwire: “Will it cost creators to get the plugin to port out comics in your file format?”
RH: The plug-in and publisher support doesn’t cost anything for participating publishers & creators
JohnBivins: How is the trade-paperback voucher I heard about supposed to work?
RH: details on the collections/voucher/TPB system will be announced later. Part of the ongoing deals/negotiations
BC: So should we sell our longboxes on eBay now while we might get a few cents on the dollar or put them out for recycling?
RH: No, if anything, I think the value of older monthlies will go up. Collecting 101: scarcity = value
RalphContreras: How can one become a beta tester for LongBox?
RH: Watch places like @CBR, my twitter feed, etc for details on Beta Program. Do. Not. E-Mail. Me
pkdmedia: I wonder how selective “Longbox” will be when indies apply to have their comics be a part of their store.
RH: There is a formalized process for indie creators to get their work on LongBox to ensure quality standards (not genre/style)
BackOutVideo: I see that @iversecomics has inked alot of comic companies have Longbox been in talk with those companies (Archie,Dabel Bros)
RH: We’ve had discussions with the majority of comic publishers at this point. Details to be announced later
BC: Hold that eBay van! Thank you for your time Rantz. And I for one welcome our new Longbox overlords.
RH: you’re welcome. Very excited & happy to see all the positive reactions to it. Only the tip of the iceberg folks||a last sidenote. We should have the video of the HeroesCon panel up either today or tomorrow, depending on editing time.
The Longbox website launches next week.