There are scores of great webcomics to read from indie cartoonists on these internets. There are also tons of great mini comics on sale from cartoonists at CAFs. But what if you can’t get to a CAF or want a more curated portal to help you find good stuff? Zco.mx (pronounced zee·com·ics) is a new site that offers a curated list of cartoonists with selected digital offerings, all available to read for free — but you are also encouraged to make a donation. Comics are downloadable as CBZ files via torrents or DC. I’m not super crazy about that format, but the reader on the site itself works very smoothly, and I don’t have any room on my iPad anyway.
The first email I got regarding this site was from the great David Lasky (The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song) who has a colored collection of some short comics from about 10 years ago. It’s called Manifesto Items-003 and I easily dontaed him a buck for his comic. (Next time I’ll send more but that’s the default.) There are dozens of cartoonists on the site, including Ines, Estrada, Roger Langridge, Andrea Tsurumi, Sam Sharpe and more to come.
The site is billed as being a “not-for-profit comics-sharing website” and there is a page with expenses—a little more than $1200–which is pretty cheap to set up such a great looking and functional site — it works way better than Marvel’s that’s for sure.
There more on the “about” page:
Most paper and digital comics use the “buy before you try” model, where buyers purchase a book without knowing exactly what they’re getting. In general, this means that sellers depend on marketing to overcome a buyer’s reluctance to purchase unfamiliar content. zco.mx hopes to use the appeal of a “try before you buy” model, which cartoonists are already using when posting work online or giving it away for free. Many comics are digitized and available on P2P networks, which is appealing to readers because they can try the material before purchasing. If a book is great, the reader can decide to purchase a paper copy. The goal is to develop a readership first and create secondary streams of income through paper copy sales, collectable items and commissions. If self-publishing cartoonists worked together, the “try before you buy” method could generate a huge amount of goodwill and community support. zco.mx offers a platform for this exchange, including ways to support cartoonists’ work directly.
While this was clearly a cooperative effort, the FAQ also mentions who is behind zco.mx:
Jim Karsten and Steve Blatchford write the code, but zco.mx is very much a group effort. Curation of European cartoonist is by David Schilter of kuš! komiksi. Many people have contributed to the project thus far; too many to list everyone. Here are a few who need mentioning: dfkt, Chuck Forsman, Kevin Huizenga, Marc Bell, Jordan Crane, Tony Zuvela, and Sara Rozenberg.
Lasky has more on his plans and the site on his LJ (!!!) page. Pro tip: get of LJ and MySpace while you’re at it.
Zco.mx made me want to stop working on the Beat and just spend the day buying indie comics and reading them until I was sick and tired of comics. That’s a good thing. If you like the idea, go buy some comics, and donate a little to the site, as well.