Dig Comics: The $250,000 Question
Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.
A lot of people have been asking why Dig Comics’ goal on Kickstarter is $250,000, mostly because they think that’s too much to ask for a comics documentary.
Well, here goes…
First of all, it’s not just our budget which is lofty, it is our mission: to get America reading comic books again. This is our sincere quest. This is what we have been fighting for for years. And we are up against a lot. Most of you know the parade of factors which killed the comics audience. The political demonization of comics which occurred in the 1950’s, marring their reputation in the public view to this day. The utter disappearance of comics from the marketplace, due to everything from distribution debacles to the speculation bubble. The unfortunate business decisions, one after another, over a period of decades, including self-censorship, the disposal of virtually every genre save one, and the nurturing of a fetishistic insular culture which discouraged “outsiders” from taking a look at comics.
All that and more add up to a VERY big mountain to overcome. And despite the best efforts from within the comics industry, one still to be conquered. So the only way this will get done is work from outside the world of comics.
Think about it for a second.
Ecotourism didn’t become a huge global business because scientists and activists published papers and gave seminars and appeared on talk shows to preach the virtues of environmental protection. It happened because passionate filmmakers made really cool nature shows and documentaries, in a really fun way, that offered a window to unexplored worlds. Snorkeling and scuba is so common now, every single tropical cruise ship has outings – a very lucrative business. And they can all thank Jacques Cousteau and his pioneering undersea films for that. African safaris got big after shows like Wild Kingdom exposed us to the Serengeti. Over the years, all that bloomed to entire networks like Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. And then people go interested in actually checking these places out. This industry of exploration to unseen worlds have bloomed into everything from Amazon rain forest trekking to ice climbing in the Arctic. Truly, a transformative effort to say the least.
NONE of this came from tight little circles of like-minded interests. ALL of it came from well-produced, passionate, engaging, infectious audio-video pieces properly distributed on popular platforms. And they all cost a LOT of money to make.
There has been no shortage of comics documentaries. Many of them are very good. Most of them are done on shoestring budgets – and it shows. Yes, they can be very interesting – to me – but I already love comics. To folks who could care less, what are they seeing most of the time? Talking head interviews, some inserts, it can be pretty cool to those of us in the know. But how to reach beyond the converted? How will we get the casual non-comics-fan viewer to stop flipping channels and check out our work? Where will the buzz come from? What will get kids, guys, gals, moms, dads, bored construction workers, tired executives to offer us their eyeballs and their minds? It has to be more than JUST our passion.
Look, I’m not a comics professional. I can’t draw and haven’t broken in as a writer. But I am a filmmaker. And I know how to get people’s attention. Part of it has to be a compelling host, which people tell me, I can be. But again, think about it. If Anthony Bourdain did a cooking show where he just sat and talked to chefs in a room, occasionally showing us a plate of food, you think people would watch his show? Sounds BORING, right? But Bourdain never stands still. He takes his cameras to other cultures, introduces us to remarkable people in their restaurants, in their kitchens, in their cities and nations. And how about Michael Moore? You think a quick shot of him sending an angry letter to a corporate executive would have nearly the effect on a viewer that storming the headquarters of major multinational with a guy dressed as a chicken did? These guys travel places, with a professional crew in tow, with top notch filming equipment. Don’t take it for granted – the stuff looks good. Viewers stay put and pay attention because these filmmakers take their crews to awesome places, put resources into professional editing, pay hefty licensing fees to share relevant footage and images, and polish up the work in post production so it’s easy to absorb, pleasing to the eyes and ears.
And people – all that takes MONEY.
Look, if you want just another comics documentary that comics fans will get all giddy about and never reach outside our crowd, do me a big favor – don’t donate to us. We ain’t what you’re looking for.
If you share our dream of seeing the American comics audience grow 2, 3 – 10 times bigger – then please, join us and give as much as you can. Dig Comics will be dynamic, offering wonderful visions from places like Japan and France where the comics scenes are as big as rock concerts. We have to go to New York and visit all those awesome people and places that helped comics come to life. We need to go to “America,” that place between New York and Los Angeles where comics are so invisible and see what happens when we engage the everyman with the world they are missing. Attractive elements like strong graphics, animated sequences and quality licensed footage and images will all help keep people’s attention. That is how films and TV find audiences. It’s just how it’s done. And I want to find new audiences for comics.
Last thought – the $250K we seek will be more like $190K after we lose Kickstarter’s cut and fund the rewards. The current budget offers reduced crew salaries and ZERO pay for myself. The budget is dedicated not to making us rich, but to creating something which will FINALLY make a difference in the sad state of affairs which is comics’ far-too-low position in popular culture. I hope you will help us make a difference.
Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.