The New York Times Magazine has discovered Platinum studios. Writer Ben Ehrenreich seems to be fascinated by the fact that Platinum’s Scott Rosenberg made a movie deal for Cowboys & Aliens based on a few slim threads of a storyâ€”basically, no more than the title and a few character sketches, if the magazine is to be believed. If that’s true, maybe I should clear out my half-baked-ideas drawer and head West.
Ehrenreich’s article raises the question of what exactly constitutes a “comic” when he writes
For most of the intervening years, â€œCowboys & Aliensâ€ did not exist as a published comic. Platinum didnâ€™t bother printing any of its comics, in fact, until late last year, when â€œCowboys & Aliensâ€ became its first property to exist in tangible, paper-and-ink form.
Elsewhere, Ehrenreich lists “Web comics” as one of a variety of “potential marketing manifestations” that also includes films, television, print comics, and “all manner of branded trinkets and trifles from playing cards to coasters.” Which begs the question: When is a comic a comic? When someone comes up with the idea? When it first becomes available to the public? Or when the ink hits the paper? Looked at another way, because of the way he juxtaposes them, are print and web comics equivalent to one another, but on the same level as TV and movie adaptations and lunchboxes?
In the case of Cowboys & Aliens, the lag between web and print publication wasn’t that great. According to the Times article, Scott Rosenberg first pitched the idea to movie studios in 1997, but the webcomic version didn’t appear until September 2006 and the print version appeared that December. It’s not like the webcomic had been around for years, building a following, before it was finally released in print. But still, when Ehrenreich and Rosenberg talk about how well the comic is doing, they talk about print copies, not page views, as if the webcomic was just another step on the road to print.
On a side note, Ehrenreich makes reference in the article to the controversy about the marketing of the print comic, which raised a few eyebrows earlier this year; Dirk Deppey has an entertaining summary at his blog, Journalista, if you want to know more about that.