Ping, Comics, Context And Character Devotion

In reference to yesterday’s Apple announcement of integrating Ping with iTunes, I saw a comment on Twitter that Ping would be a great thing for comics.

For Independent comic books*, Ping (or a similar technology) would be excellent.  However, when it comes to mainstream / American super hero comic books**, Ping as it exists today would be lacking because it does not have context on character devotion.

Unlike music, which is based on artists and genres, comic books have the added dimension of characters (and the devotion that fans have for them) that require context.

In music, listeners follow artists and genres.

There are fans of, for instance, Dave Matthews Band (they exist) and there are fans of “jazz music.”

Dave Matthews Band fans (again, they do exist) would probably try other bands that were similar in sound, like their opening act or someone on the same label as them.  “Jazz music” fans might use the label of a musician they like to find other similar musicians or bands.

With mainstream / American super hero comic books there is the added dimension of the characters and the devotion readers have towards them.

Characters are a lot like sports teams.  Their fans range from the casual to the obsessive and it’s not until you talk to them can you get an idea as to where they fall.  That said, if someone’s avatar is a picture of Deadpool, then it’s pretty obvious.  But that’s like saying that everyone who wears a New York Jets jersey knows who #51 is.

Characters are fictional constructs.  They only exist when creators give them life.  And depending on the creator, it can be awesome.  Or it can suck.  The problem is that readers who follow a particular character knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) have a blind devotion that Ping does not have enough data (context) to accurately reveal to the community.

How many Superman, Green Hornet, Deadpool, etc. titles are there in a given month?

Tons, and they are published en mass because there are readers who will buy them based on the character on the cover, regardless of what are on the pages in between. These are their “stories.”

So, is someone following Superman because they are a fan of All Star Superman?  Or are they following Superman because they buy every book that he’s in?

The problem with a technology like Ping is that there is a post-purchase rationalization (again, like sports) where even when it is knowingly bad, the response would be “it wasn’t bad” or “it was a fun” and that creates an even greater credibility factor that Ping can not analyze without the reader acknowledging that, ‘Yes, I’ll buy it if it’s got Psylocke in it.’

It gets even further complicated when you think of the rich histories of some of these characters and the multiple interpretations given to them which extend that devotion.

Another layer, a “character devotion” tag if you will (one to five stars), would need to be added for it to provide context and that could potentially make this an awesome technology for mainstream / American super hero print and digital comic books!

*for Independent comic books, technology like Ping would work because it’s primarily creator- and genre- driven, and even in the case of characters like Hellboy, it’s the same writer/artist teams (or if its not, there’s at least oversight by the creator).

**I didn’t get into the topic of licensed properties (like Star Trek), but the same can be said about those.  Outside of Buffy, which is run by the creator, so many of these are hit or miss depending on who is at the helm from day to day.


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One Response to “Ping, Comics, Context And Character Devotion”

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