GRAY GUNTER MASTER’S PROJECT

DIGITAL MEDIA 2008 GEORGIA TECH

INTRODUCTION

I LOvE COMIC bOOkS.
My motivation for this project comes from this deep love of sequential art and a belief in the medium’s value in communication and storytelling. From personal experience I know how complex and arduous it can be for an individual to create a comic book, regardless of the work’s scale. Similarly, I have observed how difficult it can be for unpublished comic book creators to find collaborators on a project to share the burden of its production. For those who overcome these obstacles and create a complete work of sequential art there is still the considerable problem of publishing their work and having it be read by the public. Traditionally comic book publication meant print publication, a hard copy of the story was printed, stapled and placed into the hands of the reader either by directly shipping it to them or making the work available for purchase in a brick and mortar store through a third party retailer. In recent years, as with most other art forms, digital publication and distribution have become a viable option for circumventing the well established so-called “direct market”. Thus allowing for a direct connection between comic book creators and their audiences. It has also served to lower if not completely eliminate the barriers to new creators making their works available to the public.

Digital publication has primarily taken the form of the “web-comic”, to a lesser extent downloadable comics, and to a far lesser extent comics released for handheld and mobile platforms. In both the print and digital publication models profits are narrow and losses frequent, particularly so in the digital medium. Likewise, in both models the challenge for an independent creator(s) to become financially viable is nearly insurmountable. It is with these three core problems of COLLAbORATION, PUbLICATION and PROfITAbILITY in mind that I began the fAST PITCH COMICS project. The stated goal of the project is to create an online community dedicated to providing the tools to resolve each of these challenges by bringing comic creators together in a structured, open environment. A site where creators can receive feedback on their stories while they are still in a position to make changes. A site where individuals who otherwise would never have met can organize themselves based on their artistic abilities. A site where a wide variety of comics are available directly from their creators to the public. The hope of this project, its overarching goal, is to foster and promote great works of sequential art that might otherwise languish in production offline or remain undiscovered in a store or online. - Gray Gunter

GRAY GUNTER

fAST PITCH COMICS

INTRODUCTION

THE bUSINESS: PAPER OR PIxELS
The structure of the print comic book business and the digital comic book business models have been extensively illustrated (literally) by Scott McCloud in REINvENTING COMICS. Two panels of the “money path” show the stark difference in these models. In the case of the traditional printed comic book the creator and the reader are separated by four major intermediaries. THE PUbLISHER who editorially controls the work and receives a share (usually a majority share) of the comic’s profits in exchange for absorbing subsequent costs THE PRINTER who gives the comic a physical form
Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud
Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud

PRINT COMIC bOOkS
reliable fan base and community with a proven business model and reasonably predictable revenue stream

DIGITAL COMIC bOOkS
comes in production savings across the board and creating the potential for instant distribution of content to consumers

THE DISTRIbUTOR who determines what quantities of the work must be printed for the privilege of offering to deliver the work to retailers THE RETAILER who handles the sale of the work to readers and often have a great deal of influence in the success or failure of a work financially by the quantities they order and how they chose to promote the work in their store
*Note: In the case of a truly independent print comic book the creator assumes the role (as well as the risk) of The Publisher

THE GOOD

THE GOOD

THE bAD increases in production and distribution costs
that raise prices for the consumer and lower profits for the creator

THE bAD is an unproven business model due to a weak
revenue stream from reluctance by the digital audience to pay for content

In the digital model the Printer and Distributor are completely eliminated, and the barriers to the creator serving as The Publisher and The Retailer are reduced. This offers the potential for creator and reader to engage in a one-to-one relationship, content for money.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

INTRODUCTION

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THE MARkET LEADER
Even if you’re not a gambler imagine the following... A friend offers you $20 if you can guess which website he or she used to do each of the following tasks: view home movies of friends, order brand new books and post a classified ad for free.

following: read a comic strip for free online, download a comic book for a fee, order a printed comic book to be delivered. How confident are you in making $20 now? Do you have a URL for each case? Are your answers in this case more of a guess than in the previous hypothetical wager? If you had trouble you’re not alone. thewebcomiclist. com currently monitors over 10,800 individual comics, over 96% are hosted under unique domains. With this we come to the problem space that Fast Pitch Comics will occupy.

MOVIES! BOOKS! ADS!

How confident would you be that you could guess each site correctly and make a fast $20? In each case there are multiple sites that allow a user to complete the stated task, but your mind probably went to only one as the most likely choice. This is because each of those tasks are epitomized by a preeminent site which has established itself as the market leader in their respective category. Market leaders are not defined by the abstract concept of being the “best” at what they do, but rather by convincing a large body of users that their site is superior to any other options thus making it the standard. Market leaders on the web today such as Google, eBay and Wikipedia have achieved such a level of standardization that their brand names have become verbs synonymous with the services they provide. Now, imagine your friend makes another $20 bet with you to guess the website he or she used to do the

THERE IS NO ONLINE MARkET LEADER fOR THE COMIC bOOk COMMUNITY
There are leaders in aspects of the comic book industry with an online presence, from Ka-Blam for on-demand printing to Zuda for presenting selecting new artists. But true market leadership follows eyeballs and dollars. And in the comic book industry both have remained offline, under the control of publishers DC Comics and Marvel Comics. According to Diamond Distributors (which has a de facto monopoly on comic book distribution in the United States and Canada) these publishers combined are responsible on average for 70% of the sales revenue within the comic book industry per month. But neither have taken a lead digitally in creating a standard.

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COMICS!

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GRAY GUNTER

fAST PITCH COMICS

INTRODUCTION

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THE ONE PAGE GUIDE TO fAST PITCH COMICS
COLLABORATION? SURE! SURE!
1 A CONCEPT for a comic book is posted to the Fast Pitch Comics website by one or more creators who are registered to the site. A concept can be any combination of words and/or images that its creator(s) feel conveys an idea for a story. This opens the concept to REvIEW and rating from other registered creators who read the concept online.

CONCEPT! FEEDBACK! FEEDBACK! FEEDBACK! FEEDBACK! FEEDBACK!

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4

MINE’S FREE!

CONCEPT v1! CONCEPT v1! CONCEPT v1! CONCEPT v1!

CONCEPT v2! CONCEPT v2! CONCEPT v2!

DONE! $200! $1 $2 50¢ 25¢ NO! NO!

2 The creator(s) may request within their posting of the concept COLLAbORATION (referred to on the site as ‘Pitching In’) from other creators on the site to help complete their comic book by filling any gaps in a desired skill set. 3 As creators on the site continue to review and rate the concept, the creators may post subsequent revisions based on this feedback or the results of collaboration with other creators as new concepts, opening them up to review as well. 4 Finished works can be posted to the site as COMICS available for free or through various modes of purchase.

GRAY GUNTER

fAST PITCH COMICS

INTRODUCTION

WHERE DOES fAST PITCH COMICS fIT IN TO THE ONLINE COMIC bOOk COMMUNITY
Fast Pitch Comics will serve as the market leader for online comics, positioned at the center of the community because it provides ONE LOCATION for: vIEWERS to read and discover new creators and new stories, as well as sharing weblinks to them with their friends and other fans. CREATORS will be drawn to bring their stories to the site because it provides a platform for creators to expose their work to a wide audience of readers, other aspiring creators and comic book publishers. COMIC bOOk PUbLISHERS netural ground to promote their stories and their artists, with the oppurnity to use Fast Pitch Comics to handle monetizing their work online (similar to the function of Diamond Distributors in getting printed comics to readers).

GRAY GUNTER

fAST PITCH COMICS

fAST PITCH COMMUNITY

MEET THE

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HI!

USERS ON THE fAST PITCH COMICS SITE
Individual users on FastPitchComics.com are treated by the system as two separate groups; Creators (registered users, with information stored within the site’s DB) and Viewers (non-registered users, or registered users not currently logged in on the site). vIEWERS are comprised of anyone on the website, but not currently logged in. As their name suggests they are restricted to only viewing the content of the website and are unable to contribute reviews, concepts or finished comics to the website. CREATORS are the content providers of the website. During registration these users create a profile for the site. Then have the ability to post their comic books and comic book concepts, review the work of others, communicate on the site message borad and collaborate with different creators on completing story concepts.

vIEWERS
View Concepts View the Forum View All Reviews View Creator Profiles View or Purchase Comics

CREATORS
Post Comics Post Concepts Post to the Forum Sell Posted Comics Contact other Creators Create of a Personal Profile *Plus All Viewer capabilities

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

offer in their scripts some direction to the artist(s) about what is happening visually, this direction varies greatly in detail depending on the writer.

WRITERS are tasked with creating the plot and providing the dialogue. Traditionally comic writers

CREATOR SkILLS
A key function of user registration is the definition of a creator’s skill(s). SkILLS are a self-reported list of talents an individual creator feels he or she possess that are applicable to creating a comic book. When creating an account a creator may identify themselves with five skills. These selections can be changed at any point by updating the creator’s profile.

PENCILERS

provide the primary structure of the artwork seen in a comic book. This art is normally done in blue pencil, then digitally scanned to be inked and colored at a later stage, often by another artist.

of each. The weight of these lines is responsible for creating an effect of depth and helping to separate and distinguish elements in the composition.

INkERS produce black outlines over the artwork’s pencil lines using a brush, pen or combination

COLORISTS add color and shading to artwork which has been penciled and inked. For reasons These skills are based on the classic studio model of of speed and consistency in the past decade this process has become almost exclusively digital monthly comic book production. This model is not industry wide. as rigidly adhered to by publishers in the modern day industry, but the terminology is still used and understood by anyone familiar with comic book 3D MODELERS are an expanding field in comic book production, by no means a standard in the production and serves as a common point of reference industry. The skill is often used to add particular elements to individual panels, integrating the for Fast Pitch creators.
models with hand drawn art.
NOTE: Fast Pitch Comics creators are not required to assign themselves a skill(s) to join the site. Lack of any skill would imply that the creator is interested in reviewing and discussing work on the site, but not creating it.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

INDEPENDENT ACTIvITIES

THE SIx ESSENTIAL ACTIvITIES Of A fAST PITCH COMICS CREATOR
The essential activities that creators on the Fast Pitch Comics site can engage in are separated into two categories, independent and codependent. INDEPENDENT ACTIvITIES are actions that can be taken solely by an individual creator with no action by another creator. This is not to suggest that these actions must be taken alone (a forum post that is neither in response to another creator nor looking for a response from one is rather pointless) but simply that they could be done alone. CODEPENDENT ACTIvITIES require action by another creator. Reviews can only be given to comics or concepts once another creator has posted them to the site. A social network of collaborators related to a creator can be built by the invitation and acceptance of those creators.

Comic Books

Concepts

Forum Posts

CODEPENDENT ACTIvITIES

Reviews of Comic Books

Reviews of Concepts

Collaborator Network

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

INDEPENDENT ACTIvITIES IN DETAIL
Independent activities flow from the few (possibly the ‘one’) to the many. These actions are instantly available for response and reaction by the community of Fast Pitch Comics creators. COMIC bOOkS are completed stories of sequential art posted to the website available for consumption by creators and viewers alike. Details on this process are explained in ‘Putting Ideas Into Action’ section of this design document. CONCEPTS are unfinished stories still under development. Because of its ‘under construction’ nature there no standard template for what comprises a concept. A concept can be any combination of words and/or images that its creator(s) feel conveys an idea for a story. See ‘Putting Ideas Into Action’ for a step by step view of this. fORUM POSTS appear on a site-wide discussion board. The open nature inherent in user generated forums creates a space for the discussion of topics outside the specific day-to-day aspects of the Fast Pitch Comics site.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CODEPENDENT ACTIvITIES: REvIEWS IN DETAIL
Codependent activities can be seen as flowing from the many to the one. As creators produce and post concepts and comic books to the Fast Pitch Comics website individual creators can attach their review (opinion) to the work. Reviews are comprised of two components, a statistical rating and a prose critique. A review can be posted without the creator who enters it providing both. RATING is based on the five star system, a standard on many websites most notably YouTube, Amazon and NetFlix. This provides both a visual and numerical means of ranking work on the site. CRITIqUE is a typed commentary that allows the creator making the review to give a more nuanced, detailed reaction to the comic book or concept in question. Where the rating is simply a gauge of one creator’s reaction to the work of another, the critique is the explanation of that reaction.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CODEPENDENT ACTIvITIES: COLLAbORATOR NETWORkS IN DETAIL
Unlike other social networks the Collaborator Networks crated and maintained within the Fast Pitch Comics website are not merely based around mutual admiration or affection between two users, but are instead established by creators working together to produce a comic book or concept.

CREATORS CAN bE LISTED IN ONE ANOTHER’S NETWORk ONLY If THEY HAvE WORkED TOGETHER AND ARE CREDITED ON A CONCEPT OR COMIC bOOk POSTED ON THE SITE
This moves the site away from the genre of ‘social’ networks with a focus on communication to an emphasis on production and cooperation. Large networks are therefore built not by contacting the greatest number of creators, but by producing content for the site with the widest variety of creators. Two creators, otherwise unrelated to one another, are connected not by who they know, but what they did with who they know.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

INDEPENDENT

CODEPENDENT

CREATOR PROfILE PAGE: AN OvERvIEW
The Creator Profile Page is the ‘home’ or ‘landing’ page for a Fast Pitch Comics creator, providing summary information on the individual and aggregating links to his or her work and opinion available on the website. It is the portal through which the six essential activities of a Fast Pitch Comics creator are most directly presented and available to their peers within the creator community. The Creator Profile Page exists to quickly answer the two questions first posed to any creative professional, ‘Who are you?’ ‘What have you done?’. Subsequently the page is divided into INfORMATION and WORk.

Comic Books

Reviews of Comic Books

Creator Profile Page Concepts Reviews of Concepts

Forum Posts

Collaborator Network

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USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CREATOR PROfILE PAGE: STRUCTURE
INfORMATION is separated into two tabbed columns: Me and Collaborators. The Me tab displays self-reported information provided by the creator as well as site monitored data the creator does not control. The Collaborators tab presents a list of other creators connected to this user through their Collaborator Network. WORk constitutes the majority of the Profile Page and is separated by tabs into a gallery of comic books and a gallery of concepts for the creator.
Screen grab - Creator Page

Feature Information Work Creator Profile Page

Gallery

One Feature concept or comic book by the creator is always visible on the left side of this section, regardless of which gallery is being viewed.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CREATOR PROfILE PAGE: INfORMATION SECTION, ME TAb
The Me tab focuses on the user-reported information about themselves and site-calculated statistics for the work he or she has posted. USERNAME contains the user’s avatar, location, date the user joined the site, creator skill set and a brief biography of the creator. MY STATS offers all data related to how the creator’s work has been received by the Fast Pitch community, separating this data into totals for the comic books and concepts. The data displayed is the total number of comic books or concepts, number of reviews, average rating of these reviews, number of views, number of times favorited, number of times downloaded, number of Diggs and number of del.liciouo.us bookmarks. MY REvIEWS aggregates the same data as My Stats, but displays how the creator has responded to the work of others. Their most recent review is displayed. MY fAvORITE contains links to the creator’s current favorite concept and comic book. MY TAGS is a list of keywords and terms the user associates with themself.

Screen grab - Creator Page, Information Section, Me Tab

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USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CREATOR PROfILE PAGE: INfORMATION SECTION, COLLAbORATORS TAb
The Collaborators tab of the Information Section within a creator’s profile is a list of individuals the creator has worked with on Fast Pitch Comics projects. This list provides each collaborator’s name, avatar, skills (ALL of the collaborator’s skills are displayed, not just the role he or she is credited with) and the title of the work the produced. Each avatar serves as a link to its creator’s profile page. The titles act as links to the page for the respective comic book or concept. In cases where two creators have collaborated on more than one concept or comic book together the title of their most recent work is listed.

Screen grab - Creator Page, Information Section, Collaborators Tab

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

CREATOR PROfILE PAGE: WORk SECTION, fEATURE AND GALLERY
The Feature item is the comic book or concept that the creator wishes to give the highest visibility on their profile page. Presumably this will be the work that the creator is proudest of or best represents his or her storytelling talents. The Feature is visible on the Profile Page at all times, regardless of what is occurring in the Information section of the page or in the Gallery portion of the Work section. The Gallery is a thumbnail presentation of the entirety of the creator’s work on the Fast Pitch Comics website. In addition to the thumbnail image each item is listed with its title and average review rating. The presentation is organized by date, indexed newst to oldest, accross multiple pages in the case of an extremely prolific creator. The Gallery is tabbed to display either the creator’s concepts or comic books. Items are displayed in order of their posting to the site from most recent to oldest.

Screen grab - Creator Page, Work Section

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fAST PITCH COMICS

USER ACCOUNT STRUCTURE

INTO ACTION!

PUTTING IDEAS

THE CONCEPT AND THE COMIC bOOk
One or more creators may publish work on the Fast Pitch Comics website in two forms, concepts and comic books. COMIC bOOkS are finished works of sequential art posted to FastPitchComics.com and accessible by registered and non-registered users alike through channels defined by the story’s creator. CONCEPTS are proposals for stories or unfinished stories still under development. A concept can be any combination of words and/or images that its creator(s) feel conveys an idea for a story. A concept can be viewed as a piece of what may become a comic book.

Concept

Comic Book

COMIC bOOkS DO NOT NEED T0 bE CONNECTED TO A CONCEPT ON THE SITE NOR vICE vERSA
While Fast Pitch Comics encourages the public review and development of stories within the community from concept to comic book there is no mandated enforcement of this.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

CONCEPT
Concepts are an admittedly nebulous construct that the Fast Pitch Comics site provides an organzied framework for, while still allowing for open-ended creative expression. Concepts represent the outline of a story that will become a comic book and can be presented with a wide spectrum of detail in the words and the art from rough to refined. A concept may take the form of a script, a page of loose pencil sketches, fully inked and colored artwork or all of the above and any variation or derivation in between. If it can be put to paper, captures the creator(s) vision and is open to revision and refinement, it’s a concept. The posting of a concept is the beginning of a call and response cycle between the story’s creator and his or her peers within the Fast Pitch community.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

CREATOR WORk: MAkING AN IDEA A CONCEPT
A concept reaches the Fast Pitch community by being assembled as a PDF (Portable Document Format) a file format widely supported and adopted (the International Organization of Standardization is considering PDF as the worldwide standard in digital documents) that allows for high quality imagery to be stored in relatively small amounts of memory. A creator on the site must then upload the PDF on the concept to the website by clicking ‘Pitch Your Comic’ and providing the required information for the concept, including the usernames of any other Fast Pitch Creators who have worked or are currently working on the concept. In the case of a multi-creator work after the creator uploading the work to the site has submitted the concept the other creators listed will be contacted via e-mail to confirm and approve their association with it.

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PITCH YOUR COMIC: STRUCTURE
Pitching a concept or a comic book begins when a registered creator selects ‘Pitch Your Comic’ from the top navigation bar. In the first screen the creator assigns a TITLE, SYNOPSIS, GENRE and TAGS for the comic book or concept being added to the site. In the second screen the creator lists their role in the project and the names of any other creators involved and the skill each creator used on the project.
NOTE: With the exception of the creator uploading the concept or comic book to the site, none of the creators listed will appear as attached to the project until he or she responds to an automatically generated confirmation e-mail sent to their account on completion of the ‘Pitch’.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

PITCH YOUR COMIC: STRUCTURE (CONTD.)
Creators must define the story being uploaded as a ‘Comic’ (a completed story) or a ‘Concept’ (an incomplete story). Besides defining which section of the site the story will appear in this makes it clear to the site’s server what other information must be gathered to complete the pitch. The creator then uploads the PDF document containing the story and provides a feature image and gallery thumb image for the story.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

PITCH YOUR COMIC: STRUCTURE (CONTD.)
Creators adding a concept to the site can then choose to make a request for other creators on the site to ‘pitch in’, to fill missing skills that will help complete the project. This is done by selecting which skills best fit these needs and describing the need in detail. This request will then be visible and searchable to other creators on the Fast Pitch Comics website. Creators adding a comic to the site must choose the story’s availability, how will readers have access to the finished work, which will determine what compensation its creator(s) receive for the work. The four categories of availability are: Free, Buy, Ransom and In Stores. Each of these models is described in full in the Compensation section of this design document.

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fAST PITCH COMICS

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PITCH YOUR COMIC: STRUCTURE (CONTD.)
The final stage of the pitch is a review of the information the creator has provided on their concept or comic book, provided in the form of a preview page showing what the story’s page on the website will look like. After clicking ‘Pitch’ the story will be added to the website and visible to creators and viewers alike.

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CONCEPT PAGE: STRUCTURE
The Concept Page is the visual presentation of the PDF and creator provided information that comprise the concept as well as reviews and statistics associated with it once it is posted to the website. It is also the interface for others within the Fast Pitch community to react and respond to the concept. The page is divided into two sections: Information and Document. INfORMATION is separated into two tabs: Concept and Reviews. The Concept tab displays self-reported information provided by the creator(s) about the concept as well as site monitored data the creator does not control.
Screen grab - Concept Page

Information

Document Concept Page

The Reviews tab shows a list of creator reviews others in the community have provided for this concept. DOCUMENT is where the PDF the constitutes the core of the concept is presented to the user within a Scribd frame. The buttons which surround the document are navigational links for response to the work posted.

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STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

CONCEPT PAGE: INfORMATION SECTION, CONCEPT TAb
The Concept tab focuses on the user-reported information about the concept and site-calculated statistics for how it has been received by the community. CREATORS lists all the registered creators working on the concept at the time of its posting. Each creator’s avatar and name is provided, along with the skill icon corresponding to their role in production. SYNOPSIS is a text description of the concept. Since it is describing an unfinished work this space is useful for explaining and outlining whatever is yet to come. PITCH IN is the equivalent of a help wanted ad, including a description from of what work (if any) is being sought with icons for those skills displayed above the description. STATS offers all data related to how the concept has been received by the community, including total number of reviews, average rating of these reviews, number of views, number of times favorited, number of times downloaded, number of Diggs and number of del.liciouo.us bookmarks. TAGS is a list of keywords and terms the creator(s) associate with the concept.

Screen grab - Concept Page, Information Section, Concept Tab

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CONCEPT PAGE: INfORMATION SECTION, REvIEWS TAb
The Reviews tab shows a list of all reviews attached to the concept. In the tab’s default state the user name of the creator providing the review, the date of the review, the review’s rating and an abbreviated selection from the critique are displayed for each review. The ‘more’ link beneath each review switches the Reviews tab to the isolated state. The isolated state hides all the other reviews for the concept leaving the one the viewer selected remaining now with its complete review critique displayed. The user may return to the full list of reviews by clicking ‘less’.

Screen grab - Concept Page, Information Section, Reviews Tab - Default State

Screen grab - Concept Page, Information Section, Reviews Tab - Isolated State

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CONCEPT PAGE: DOCUMENT SECTION
The document section of the Concept Page is the heart of the creator(s) story pitch whatever form that may take. It is the opportunity for the deepest engagement of a viewer in the comic book being proposed because it presents the PDF of the concept and is the location of all the tools creators viewing the concept have to respond to the creative team. These tools are accessed through a series of buttons surrounding the PDF viewer.

Screen grab - Creator Page, Document Section

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CONCEPT PAGE: DOCUMENT SECTION, iPAPER vIEWER
Creator PDFs of concepts uploaded to the Fast Pitch Comics servers are viewed on the site through iPaper, a Flash based embedded document viewer created by the Scribd document sharing service. iPaper was chosen as the viewing engine for documents on the site because its light, efficient architecture allows for rapid loading and viewing of PDFs without requiring the user to download any additional software or leave the Fast Pitch website. Security is also a priority in iPaper. iPaper files can not spread viruses to viewers. Because the files are web-based they can not be downloaded or shared without the creator who uploaded the file setting the appropriate permissions to allow this. Finally, iPaper comes packaged with features for SEO optimization and social tools to help users easily share documents with others, driving additional traffic to the website. These two essential elements of iPaper make it essential to expanding the exposure of the site beyond its initial user group.

Screen grab - Creator Page, Document Section, Scribd Viewer highlighted

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CONCEPT PAGE: DOCUMENT SECTION, vIEWER RESPONSE TOOLS
Five buttons comprise the viewer response tools: PITCH IN appears only when the creator(s) of the concept are looking to collaborate with other artists. When accessed by a user on the site it opens a contact form to the concept’s creator(s) where the interested party can introduce themselves and their skills. REvIEW opens a response form for the user to offer their rating and critique of the concept. fAvORITE sets the concept as the viewer’s favorite concept, and will be displayed on their profile page. DEL.ICIO.US allows the user to add this page to their account on the social bookmarking web service where it can be discovered by other del.icio.us users. DIGG submits the URL of the concept as an article to this popularity based website.
Screen grab - Creator Page, Document Section, Response Buttons highlighted

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CONCEPT PAGE: REvIEW POP-UP
After choosing to review the concept a user must provide a rating by clicking the stars at the top of the pop-up as well as a critique of the concept in the text box beneath the stars. Clicking the ‘Review’ button in the pop-up attaches the review information to the concept and to the review history of the creator providing it. Closing the pop-up cancels the review without transferring any information to the server.

Screen grab - Concept Page, Review pop-up

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CONCEPT PAGE: PITCH IN POP-UP
After choosing to pitch in on a concept a creator must select which of the requested creator skills he or she is offering to bring to the project. The text box beneath is available for the responding creators to introduce themselves, their experience, anything that may justify their joining the project. Clicking the ‘Pitch-In’ button in the pop-up sends the information to all of the creators currently attached to the concept. Closing the pop-up cancels the pitch in without sending any information to the concept’s creator(s).
Screen grab - Concept Page, Pitch In pop-up

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CONCEPT: WHEN COLLAbORATION IS NECESSARY
A comic book requires several skills to reach completion. For the moment let’s assume that these skills are to each come from different individuals and that the skills correspond to the traditional studio model of writer, penciler, inker and colorist. When all the necessary creators with the necessary skills are assembled and fulfill their role in production, we have a comic book. If one skill is missing (say the penciler) the creative team lacks a role necessary to finish the comic book, but can still produce a concept.

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But how does the creative team locate a creator with the missing skill and finish the comic book?

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CONCEPT: PITCHING IN
When a creative team posts their concept with a request for collaboration it creates an open invitation visible to everyone in the community to ‘pitch in’ on developing the comic book. Creators on the Fast Pitch Comic website are able to filter concepts to only see those that require a specific skill set, separating out the concepts that are closed to development outside the initial creative team or seeking artistic talent other than what individual user has to offer. This makes for a more efficient search and placement of talent on the part of all parties involved. Creators find concepts they’re interested in and qualified to work on faster, and the creative teams increase the likelihood of their work being seen by creators looking to work.

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HI! HI! HI! HI!

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STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

CONCEPT: PITCHING IN, SPLITTING CONCEPTS
Because of the nature of the review, pitch in and concept processes there is the capability for creative teams to offer multiple versions of a concept on the site with different creators filling skill sets. Imagine a case where the creative team on a concept is looking for a penciler to develop their comic book. The team posts their concept with the request for outside collaboration and after being contacted by several interested creators the team narrows the candidates for penciler down to two Fast Pitch users. Rather than basing their final decision and future artistic direction of the story on their own opinion the team can post versions of their concept with pencils provided by each prospective creator. Thus the team can gauge the reaction and feedback of the community before making a decision about which creator to move forward with and complete the comic book.

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STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

PROfITAbILITY

AvAILAbILITY AND

COMIC: bEYOND THE CONEPT
Structurally the comic is nearly indistinguishable to the concept as far as the internal workings of the Fast Pitch Comics site are concerned. The gallery and page displays are both presented with the same underlying information architecture, the iPaper viewer handles handwritten notes and sparse doodles the same as carefully inked lettering and meticulously rendered anatomies. The difference lies in the value and the motive behind the work being presented to the community.

COMICS REPRESENT THE PRIMARY WAY CREATORS MONETIzE THEIR WORk
A concept’s creator is saying to the Fast Pitch community “I am working on this, give me your time to critique it (and possibly help to complete it).” A comic’s creator is saying to the Fast Pitch community “I have finished working on this, give me your money in exchange for my efforts.”

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AvAILAbILITY AND PROfITAbILITY

COMIC: MAkING YOUR WORk AvAILAbLE
Availability of a comic on the site represents the path its creator feels is best for providing the story to the community and money to themselves. Four forms of availability are supported for comics on the site: fREE, bUY, RANSOM and IN STORES. While each is available to any of the creator(s) on the Fast Pitch Comics site to select for their comic there are logical benefits to creators choosing one over another given who he or she is and the story being made available to the community.

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COMIC: AvAILAbLE fOR fREE
Free comic books are available to creators and viewers alike for no charge. The totality of the story is visible in the iPaper viewer or by selecting the download link. Donations to the creators are accepted in any amount by clicking the ‘Donate’ link in the Availability portion of on the the Information section of the comic page. This method is ideal for new and unknown creators who want the lowest barrier possible between the community and their work, while still having a simple option for readers to provide some them with some compensation.

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COMIC: AvAILAbLE TO bUY
Comic books available for on-line purchase provide only a preview of the story to creators and viewers for free through the iPaper viewer or by selecting the download link. The full version of the comic is e-mailed directly to the purchaser only after providing a fee set by the story’s creator(s). This method is recommended for more experienced creators who are confident that even with a price restriction preventing direct access interested readers will take an extra step and provide their money to get the whole story.

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COMIC: AvAILAbLE fOR RANSOM
Comic books available for ransom provide only a preview of the story to creators and viewers for free through the iPaper viewer or by selecting the download link. The full version of the comic is made free and completely available creators and viewers on the site only once a reserve price set by its creator(s) has been met. This method of availability allows creators who are confident in their work to demand a higher price for it from the community as a whole without having to demand a high price from individual readers. It also gives an incentive for readers wishing to expedite the ransom process to encourage friends and associates to contribute money exposing the story to wider audience.

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NAvIGATION

WEbSITE

CONTENT GALLERIES
Site navigation on the Fast Pitch Comics site is based around presenting available content as thumbnails within galleries. The three galleries that form the core of the site are the Comic, Concept and Creator galleries. Each gallery is a series of thumbnail icons (up to 15 per page) which display limited information on their subject and link to the respective pages of the content for each item. By default galleries are indexed by the date each item (Comic, Concept or Creator) was added to the website, displayed newest to oldest. A viewer of the gallery may chose to filter the gallery content displayed to him or her using a variety of criteria, depending on which gallery is selected.

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WEbSITE NAvIGATION

GALLERY fILTERING: CONCEPTS AND COMICS
Concepts and comic galleries can be filtered through four identical methods and one method unique to each type of story. RATING filters any story with a rating greater than and equal to (or less than and equal to) the rating set by the user filtering the gallery. DATE filters stories based on when the concept or comic was posted to the site, older or newer than the time span the user filtering the gallery provides. GENRE filters stories by the category its creator(s) have assigned it to (Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, SciFi, Slice of Life, Super Hero and It’s Complicated). SEARCH scans the text of the tags, synopsis and reviews of stories for the keywords provided by the user filtering the gallery.

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GALLERY fILTERING: CONCEPTS AND COMICS(CONTD.)
PITCH In is a search solely within concepts. Any concept not posted with a request for help by its creator(s) is not displayed, results can be further refined by what particular skill(s) is needed to complete the concept. AvAILAbILITY is a search solely within comics based on the manner of delivery the creator(s) have chosen to provide their comic to the reader. The gallery icons for concepts and comics are similar in that both include a 160x85 pixel thumbnail image provided by its creator(s), the title of the story and display the average rating the story has received from creators in the community. Gallery icons for concepts which are open for another creator to pitch in are tagged with an ‘FPC’ label in the upper right hand corner of the thumbnail.

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STRUCTURE Of CREATOR WORk

GALLERY fILTERING: CREATORS
In is a search solely within concepts. Any Creator galleries, like those of concepts and comics, can be filtered by rating, date and searching for keywords. Unique to the creator gallery is the search for skills. SkILLS are the talents related to comic book production that each creator purports to possess. It is the converse of the pitch in search within the concept gallery. The creator icon contains the avatar for registered users of the site, their username and a creator rating which is an average of his or her average concept and average comic rating. To the right of the avatar are the icons for the creator skills the creator claims to have (3D, Colorist, Inker, Penciler and Writer).

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WEbSITE NAvIGATION

COMIC: AvAILAbLE IN STORES
Comic books available in store offer only a preview of the story to creators and viewers for free through the iPaper viewer or by selecting the download link. The full version is on sale in ‘brick and mortar’ retail stores, displayed and mapped through the ‘Find Stores’ link. This is the most complicated of the availability methods since it requires the would-be reader to go offline to purchase this story. The comic’s creator(s) have either paid to have their work printed and sold through third party retailers, or have made a deal with a comic book publisher. This method has a great deal of potential for development since it can provide a platform for print publishers to advertise their books to a largest audience than may otherwise be exposed to their retail line.

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INITIAL WORk

THE EvERYDAY COMICS WIDGET
The existence of the Fast Pitch Comics Project is due in large respect to the Everyday Comics Widget, a project for Dr. Janet Murray’s Principles of Interactive Design course in the spring of 2007. The goal of the project was to bring the power of syndication which existed with the comics sections of newspapers to digital, web-based comics. With print comic strips the creator sells their work to the syndication company which groups together the work of many comic artists and sells them to individual newspapers for publication in their daily paper, at which point the comics reach the reader. Digital publication circumvents this power structure (Creator... Syndicator... Newspaper... Reader) by making the work available directly to the reader through the creator’s website. However, this direct connection sacrifices the benefits of bringing different comics by different creators together in one space. Readers lose the convenience of centralization and most visit multiple websites to read multiple comics. Creators reduce the possibility of cross-pollination with the audiences of other comic strips.

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THE EvERYDAY COMICS WIDGET (CONT.)
Digital end-runs around this problem of decentralization have included web comic communities that support multiple artists on a single site and “rings” that link different comic websites together along a virtual path. Both of these solutions are flawed attempts to bring the print model of syndication to online strips because they ignore the empowerment of the reader on the web to serve as the final arbiter of what content reaches them. Everyday Comics is a desktop widget powered by the Yahoo! Widget engine. It serves as an aggregator of web comics from multiple websites, drawing information about them in via RSS feeds. Centralizing information about these comics allows them to be previewed in a central location. Once a comic is selected for reading the user is directed to the comic’s “home” website. The RSS feed of information is controlled by the user of the widget. If he or she wishes to have a particular online strip available for preview the strip’s URL is entered into a list stored in the widget. If the URL is removed the strip is no longer aggregated by the widget.

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fROM RANSOM TO fAST PITCH
In the fall of 2007 this project was proposed as Ransom Comics, because of its use of the Ransom Model (also referred to as the Street Performer Protocol) as a means of releasing completed works through the site and providing its creators with revenue. During the early stages of developing the site’s architecture in January of 2008 it became apparent that this name highlighted what is only one feature of one section of the website. Changing the title of the project and the website to Fast Pitch serves to reinforce its focus which is “pitching” comic book concepts and getting help to improve and complete them quickly.

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CODE

CREATOR DB
CREATED AT STARTUP SERVER CONTROLED
Creator ID# Date Joined Concept ID#s Comic ID#s Collaborator ID#s Review ID#s Feature ID# Favorite Concept ID# Favorite Comic ID# Favorite Creator ID#

Must have initial value Initial value is NULL Initial value is 0

USER CONTROLED REQUIRED User Name Password E-mail VOLUNTARY Location Postal Code DOB Weblink Avatar Skills Bio Tags

SERVER CALCULATED GIVEN TO THE USER
Total # of Concepts Avg. Concept Rating Total Concept Reviews Total Concept Views Total Concept Favorites Total Concept Downloads Total Concept Diggs Total Concept deli.cio.us Total # of Comics Avg. Comics Rating Total Comics Reviews Total Comics Views Total Comics Favorites Total Comics Downloads Total Comics Diggs Total Comics deli.cio.us

GIVEN FROM THE USER
Total # of Concept Reviews Avg. Concept Rating Total Concept Reviews Total Concept Views Total Concept Favorites Total Concept Downloads Total Concept Diggs Total Concept deli.cio.us Total # of Comic Reviews Avg. Comics Rating Total Comics Reviews Total Comics Views Total Comics Favorites Total Comics Downloads Total Comics Diggs Total Comics deli.cio.us

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SERvER DATAbASE & fUNCTIONS

CONCEPT DB
CREATED AT STARTUP SERVER CONTROLED
Concept ID# Date Posted Creator ID#(s) Creator Role(s) Concept File ID# Review ID#s

Must have initial value Initial value is NULL Initial value is 0

USER CONTROLED REQUIRED Concept Title 1 Creator Synopsis Concept File VOLUNTARY PitchIn Roles PitchIn Request Thumbnail File Tags Genre

SERVER CALCULATED GIVEN TO THE USER
# Reviews of Concepts Avg. Rating Concept Views Concept Favorites Concept Downloads Concept Diggs Concept deli.cio.us

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DATAbASE STRUCTURE & SERvER fUNCTIONS

COMIC DB
CREATED AT STARTUP SERVER CONTROLED
Comic ID# Date Posted Concept ID#(s) Creator ID#(s) Creator Role(s) Comic File ID# Review ID#s

Must have initial value Initial value is NULL Initial value is 0

USER CONTROLED REQUIRED Comic Title 1 Creator Synopsis Comic File Delivery Method(s) VOLUNTARY Genre Thumbnail File Tags In-Store / Order Info Paypal Link RANSOM Ransom Amount Amount Received Paypal Link

SERVER CALCULATED GIVEN TO THE USER
# Reviews of Comic Avg. Rating Comic Views Comic Favorites Comic Downloads Comic Diggs Comic deli.cio.us

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DATAbASE STRUCTURE & SERvER fUNCTIONS

REVIEW DB
CREATED AT STARTUP SERVER CONTROLED
Review ID# Date Posted Creator ID#

Must have initial value Initial value is NULL Initial value is 0

USER CONTROLED REQUIRED Review Text Review Rating

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STUDYING SIMILAR WORkS

DC COMICS: zUDA COMICS
zudacomics.com is the web comics division of the legendary American comic book company DC Comics (part of Warner Bros. Entertainment and Time Warner). The site was announced with an open call for web comics in July 2007, and debuted its initial slate of offerings on October 30, 2007.

Zuda is centered around promoting and paying unsigned or “under-signed” comic book talent by accepting creative submissions from anyone, anywhere. The site’s launch announcement describes its advent as “the submission doors open and they don’t ever shut - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” Eight screen shots of work are to be included with each submission. From these submissions a DC editorial board selects ten works and presents them for public vote. Each month’s winner (as well as up to six “instant winners”) earn a one year contract to produce web comics for Zuda.
Laura’s Bazaar by Axel MEdelin Machain ZudaComics.com, DC Comics

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SIMILAR WEbSITES

DEvIANT ART
deviantart.com is an online artistic community website founded in August of 2000. The site allows writers and artists of almost any genre online to present and talk about their work. The site is currently visited by 1.5 million individuals per day, viewing 35 million pages. As of October 2007 the site consists of over 5.7 million registered users and over 44 million submissions, receiving around over 60,000 submissions per day.

Memberships to the site are available in 1 month ($4.95), 3 month ($7.95) and 12 month ($29.95) installments. Paying members (known as ‘deviants’) to sell their works through a revenue sharing system. A chat room protocol is available for users to ‘meet’ and communicate in real time.

Pancho-Villa’s profile page DeviantArt.com

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COMIC SPACE
comicspace.com is a social network site for comic book fans and comic book creators. According to the site’s mission statement “It’s kind of like MySpace, but for comic enthusiasts.” The site launched in December of 2006 following the standard social networking site conventions of personal pages with a brief description of the user and a list of “friends.” Subsequent additions to the site have provided for the hosting of original stories and art, along with the buying and selling of original works by paying users. The site lacks public review of works posted other than adding a piece to the viewers “favorite” list or attaching a comment to the piece.

Hanna_MewMew’s profile page comicspace.com

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SIMILAR WEbSITES

START MY SONG
Start My Song is a web service and community for songwriters. The core problem it addresses is that through traditional avenues of promotion new artists are required to send demos of their music to a large group of music labels, record producers and other musicians. The Start My Song site allows a central location for songwriters to post their material on a site designed for music industry insiders to browse fresh material. The site currently accepts finished songs, beats, melodies, lyrics and sheet music under various file formats from registered users . This “community” is not a true social network, but more of common ground to store files. To prevent users from receiving spam a $5 charge is placed on inquiries to any member. Users are charged $10 for every song, lyric and beat they upload.

Start My Song, landing page startmycomic.com

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SIMILAR WEbSITES