The Future of Storytelling with GlobalComix own Chris Carter
The world of comic books is changing, and there are more ways for people to read stories — both printed and digitally. One of the big players for indie comic books online is GlobalComix, which has been around for a while, and is one of the go-to platforms for comics, graphic novels, Manga, and web comics.
Right now, comic fans can visit GlobalComix and for a subscription fee, enjoy thousands of comic titles from all over the world — and from your next-door neighbor. Thanks to their web interface, GlobalComix titles are available to be read on desktop, tablet, and phone. But soon, all this will change.
Recently, the company announced that they would soon release a version of their interface which will operate natively on iOS and Android. This will mean that users will be able to pinch-and-zoom the images and read in landscape mode with two pages side-by-side. Users will be able to flip down Manga and Web comic stories as well. These are just a few of the advancements to the user interface that will be rolled out to users soon. But perhaps the most important feature will be the “discovery” of new titles. Instead of relying on categories, think Netflix-style suggestions.
I was lucky to score an interview with the CEO of GlobalComix, Chris Carter. Mr. Carter has been very busy lately, both building the new application, and preparing new titles for onboarding into the GlobalComix platform.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: I have been kind of following with admiration what you guys been up to. I know GlobalComix is working on an app for iOS and Android. Can you tell us how is the app coming along?
CHRIS CARTER: It’s coming along phenomenally. We’re closing in on a release. Obviously, we’ve opened the closed beta signups. There’s not a lot of screens and experiences that are not done yet. And the way we thought about application development was because we did such a long and deep and rich due diligence process in the design phase, and in the UX (user interface) phase.
And so, at this time, the majority of functionality of the app is in there. I’ve been using the app since December. And when I read on GlobalComix, now I’m reading exclusively in the app.I can tell you that when I’m on the phone, it will handle [portrait] orientation, just as well as [landscape] orientation. Depending on your preference as a reader, you can read non-vertical titles in single-page mode or double-page mode. It feels really, really, really amazing.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: That sounds great. I listened to a recent podcast from our friend Gamal Hennessy, and he talked about GlobalComics eventually having exclusive deals with big-name creators. These could be your “Stranger Things” or your “Squid Game,” meaning that it would be a comic that be exclusive to your platform, that would be must-read.
We’ve thought a lot about that, and the last thing that we want to do is open up with a bunch of GlobalComix originals that compete with all the creators and partners that we’re onboarding to the platform in the first place.
It’s hard for a week to go by and have someone … whether it’s coming in Comixology context, or it’s Webtoon or at some other platform, talking about this concept of originals. Comixology has done originals and Webtoon’s version of originals is [where they] sign a creator exclusively and then also enforce guardrails on their comics creation.
I think one of the big differences for how we think about the world and how we think about GlobalComix’s role is that we’re not really just creating a platform, we’re trying to create an ecosystem. When you take that perspective on building a business, then you need to look at the health, like the feasibility of all of your constituents, not just how much money can you extract from people coming to your app or your platform, right?
Then all of this is very, very important to us. Because, what happens if we sign [an exclusive deal] right now that becomes our flagship? It means that it incentivizes us to promote that over other people’s stuff. Right? It kind of makes it so that it becomes the GlobalComix Comics — and then there’s everyone else.
Now, I don’t think that in the long term, having GlobalComix originals is a bad thing. But I do think that as we’re gearing up for this app launch, this ecosystem needs to reach an equilibrium before we introduce something like that.
First, before we go down that route, how do we get there? Well, there are multiple ways of thinking about how you bring content onto your platform, whether it’s exclusive or it’s original. You can look at other platforms where people build audiences, like TikTok for example, right? Like Twitch’s partner program is limited-window exclusivity, and then you can go out to other things. Then you have your affiliate as the first tier.
So those are actually two different things: partner and affiliate with different requirements and such, and I like that idea of offering choice to creators. Do you want to use GlobalComix as one of many? Sure, go ahead. Do you want to use GlobalComix as your exclusive distribution platform? Well, we should find a way to make that worth your time also.
Then do you want to make comics specifically for GlobalComix? GlobaComix Originals would be… we have this idea. We’d [be] working with writers and with themes and we’d come up with this concept that you know, as constructed end to end, something that we create, originally.
But, I’m [not] in a rush for that. Again, going back to the ecosystem… that is much more important early on, for everyone to find reward and success. For us to make sure that our discovery mechanisms are working. And that random creators have just as much opportunity to publish digitally as a bigger publisher, right? So, when we know that all of that is working, we can safely introduce, you know, more in-house and bespoke and original content.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: OK. That makes perfect sense. A recent story in ComicsBeat said that with Comixology fading you guys are a bright spot where and you’re picking up the slack. Do you feel like that, GlobalComix could fill the void that Comixology has left? They’ve ceded the space and there’s room for a new player to step up…
I’ll frame it differently to you. I would love to have all of the world’s comics and all languages available for everyone to read at their fingertip, right? Whether you’re reading vertical scroll, or you’re reading Marvel, DC, “Spawn”, “Asterix” or whatever. If I looked at it from that lens, I’d very much think that we’ve been setting ourselves up for that exact thing.
I think certain other platforms have maybe not set themselves up as much for the success of a creator base or multiple different comic types. The Japanese Manga… Korean Manhwa, or Chinese [Manhua] for that matter, as well as the printed versions format from Europe and the U.S.
With our app, you can discover stuff from a neighbor that you didn’t know was making comics, and in the same beat, be like, “Okay, well, I’m gonna read stuff from my top favorite publishers, and those are all in my library, and you get notifications and alerts and updates for creators you’ve followed.”
So absolutely. But we’re not coming at it from the perspective of competing with ‘Platform X.’ We come at it from the perspective that we just want to offer all comics to everyone, because that’s what we want to do.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: How many how many titles do you have now?
CHRIS CARTER: 28,000 books. And we [have] almost 20,000 books from some sources that just haven’t been published yet. We’re gonna have to get that done very, very quickly. And in the months after the app goes live.
You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number doubling within years.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: So how many employees do you guys have? This is a huge project. The GlobalComix website has four or five employees listed, and I just don’t believe it.
CHRIS CARTER: The About Us page really needs to be updated. I haven’t updated that since 2020. And it’s not accurate. We have five full time people at this time. We have myself… I’m Founder, CEO, main and only engineer and I built the entire platform. But, I’m not building the app — thank god! We have an external development team that’s doing that for us. They’re absolutely amazing.
We have Eric Tapper, who is our head of business development and partnerships. He was employee Number One, he was actually paid full time before I was. He started in January of 2020. We have Kevin Van Ness, who is our Director of Community and Kat Jackson, who’s both a creator in our community as well as a community manager on our team.
We recently brought a friend of mine on board full time. His name is Scotty Szul. He’s our VP of product, UX and Brand. He’s someone that I’d worked with for multiple years in a previous company and a former life as it were.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: Just five people? That’s amazing. I saw on the on Twitter that the folks who run the Kickstarter for comics program are in Tokyo for the next couple of weeks. It got me thinking that, as you mentioned that the Japanese view comics differently than we do in the in the U.S
In a big way, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is wonderful. Because it’s finally putting heroes on the screen and telling comic-accurate stories. There’s this big halo effect where people are paying more attention to comics, and the sales of DC and Marvel are increasing.
I was thinking, that GlobalComix makes it possible for folks to read comics without having to enter the comic book store. Do you think that with innovations like that, that comics will not be considered “just for kids” anymore in the U.S.?
CHRIS CARTER: Yeah, I pretty much would like to be a driving force in doing exactly that and achieving that. I liken the comics industry to the gaming industry. If you look at where the gaming industry was in, I don’t know, say, the start of the century, right? Where gaming was still “Oh, you’re a gamer, right? You’re a nerd.” And you look at gaming now. And it’s like, some of the richest people in the world, they’re playing video games for an audience of like millions of people, right?
Then there’s comics … how do I say this so that I don’t step on people’s toes. The comics community, over time, has, unfortunately, in many cases had tendencies of self-seclusion. And having this misconception, you know, like, if you’re not in the comic industry, and you don’t know what happened in book number 757 of Y series, then you’re not a good enough comic fan, right?
That whole concept of fandom has pushed away people as part of it. I have friends who did some testing on this, who would go down to a local comic book store and pretend to be a complete newbie and be like, asking questions and then being turned away and mocked by the store proprietor. And I think, “This is not the best the industry can offer up.”
I think that what digital does is offer the first point of contact. It’s one thing you can do in the safety of your own home, and in the privacy of your own confines. It also has the absolute lowest barrier to entry. So, if you combine that with the ease of access and make discovery really, really, really powerful… Then what you can start doing is you don’t need to market comic books, you market stories, right?
I have a couple of stories that you would love to read, and then I can send you a link and you can jump on and get started that way. And, if we take that approach, I’m expanding beyond the core traditional fandom right away. It’s just a matter of reframing the conversation from “are you a hardcore comic book nerd?” to, “Oh, do you like cool visual stories? If so, I’ve got a recommendation for you.” If we can do that enough at scale, and certainly not just us, then we elevate the comic industry to a new level.
My wife is Japanese and her parents were born in Japan. I can come downstairs and see my father-in-law laying on the couch reading Manga on his iPad, and my mother-in-law reading Manga on her phone. I can see that happening elsewhere in the world. Because stories and visual storytelling, and the appreciation thereof, isn’t exclusive to Asia. It’s just that the barrier to entry, and the stigma that’s been associated with it, has made it such that people shut down the idea before letting the interest take root.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: Gotcha. I started laughing when you when you said the “mocking.” When I was maybe 13 or 14, I used to go to a comic book / baseball card store. They had an old issue of “Daredevil,” and he had the yellow costume. And I said “Wow, Daredevil in yellow? I’ve never seen that before!” and they laughed at me and said “the younger generation doesn’t know the Daredevil started with the yellow costume!”
CHRIS CARTER: I’m sorry man. That sucks!
INDIE COMICS ZONE: Yeah, well… I guess I was really into it, because I kept going back! But I really like your vision. I hope it happens.
My question is, when I log in to the current GlobalComix website, I see the same like six issues promoted. There is a little green indicator that says just updated. Will the new app give me Netflix-style suggestions? You know, for the next thing that I want to read that is similar to “Fight Girls?”
CHRIS CARTER: Yes… and here’s how I describe it. Right now, if you look at every other platform or every other comics site, everyone has their genres, and genres are the usual suspects, like the same 20 or 25.
That has been a big annoyance for me. So, with GlobalComix and discovery… I’m sure you’ve seen this on the web already, there are themes, genres, art styles, formats, layout, etc. Because we have that ridiculous level of ontology of metadata, we’re actually able to make really good recommendations on similarity scores.
We can understand the difference between a comic that is a Western style, versus a Western / Manga style, and we can make recommendations based on that. And that is actually like when you read on the web now. If you’re reading on a desktop browser, if you scroll down, and you see “here’s other comics you might like”, that’s using the similarity scoring algorithm.
What does discovery look like in the app? There’s three parts to it — there’s browse and explore, which is choose your own adventure. And then there’s a part which is curated by us, and then parts personalized for you. It’ll look at things like your reading history and your interests, which you get to choose when you onboard into the app. Plus it looks at where you leave comments, in addition to genres and themes you read.
It also makes recommendations based on creators or publishers. Even if you don’t have the latest series from AWA in your library, if they published it and you’re following them, you’ll see that show up when it’s new.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: What was it like for you to get the Asterix library on your platform? You’ve said a couple of times that you got started reading comics through Asterix. I wondered what was it like for you to get the get that that title on your platform?
CHRIS CARTER: I mean, it was awesome, right? I thought “Oh my God, this is great. I can reread everything that I read when I was a kid!” Unfortunately Papercutz doesn’t have the rights to Asterix worldwide, just U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. So it was bittersweet, because on one side — yes, we have Asterix and I can share that with some people, but I can’t share it with everyone yet. There’s a couple of Manga like that [I’d like to include]. And my next U.S.-based book that I personally want, that I grew up with as a kid, is “Spawn.”
INDIE COMICS ZONE: That’d be huge! I read it said that you worked in translation technology, and so, I’m assuming that at some point, we will start to see titles from Japan and Korea and even China flow into GlobalComix. But you know, I can’t read Chinese, Japanese or Korean. Will GlobalComics eventually provide Manga from Japan in English?
CHRIS CARTER: If I can have my way I’d like to have Manga from Japan available in as many languages as possible. For example, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, and Mandarin. I would like to have every comic in every language and while I can’t divulge too much, I can say that I certainly am working towards that kind of a future. Language should no longer be a barrier to people discovering great stories.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: Gotcha. The Tower of Babel for comics, right? Without all the destruction…
CHRIS CARTER: It’s easy to say that, but it’s also important to keep in mind that translation isn’t just translation — it’s localization. And that is an art form. The unfortunate reality that I’ve found is that very often, the official translations read and sound worse than the ones that are done by community translators that are super into it.
My background wasn’t so much in the technology space as much as we had this community of 25,000 translators, who were crowdsourcing localizations. As much as getting things translated is an objective, it also needs to live up to the expectations.
I should say that it’s not just about quality, but … the cultural expectations of what words you localize into. Examples would be… comments very often tend to be less formal. It’s more of a casual way of letting you know people are having conversations. And it’s not bound by things like, “Oh, can’t say that word officially, because of age rating and printed books and whatever.” It’s translated as how the character would speak and behave given their personality, very often.
As we go further down that path, and continue working with some more publishing partners for rolling it out, I’m sure there’s some amount of it that becomes apparent early on with tests. We need to make sure that we hit the nail on the head on a per-story basis.
INDIE COMICS ZONE: Gotcha. That’s, so there’s a lot of decisions a lot of a lot that goes into that — beyond just a simple translation.
I wanted to end this because my audience are creators, they’re the folks that are, paying $400 for 150 paper copies of their comics so they can pass them out at their local cons. So, I wonder… how does GlobalComix balance all of the growth of titles, and new partners, and still be a place for new creators?
CHRIS CARTER: I want to understand the question. What do you mean by “balance?”
INDIE COMICS ZONE: You’ve got huge global aspirations. GlobalComix has such big plans… how do you remain available to the little guy or anybody who has a has a story to tell?
CHRIS CARTER: Here’s a very interesting fact. Usually, titles in Asia have a weekly release cycle. There are big names that suck people in. They consume all of that in a matter of 30 minutes to an hour on a Thursday or Friday. So what do they do for the rest of the week?
This is where that user data actually comes into play. [Users] actually find stuff [that is related to their] particular interest. It would be literally impossible for us to serve a global audience of a wild variety of interests, if we focus only on big folks, because they’re not going to be the ones that tell all of the different variations of stories that the random person in Norway or Italy or France or wherever are interested in.
It’s not even a question of balancing the little guy versus the big guy. We think about it from the perspective of how we match people with the stories that they would like, and that could just as well be from the little guy as from the big publishers.
I did ask Carter if the web version of GlobalComix would be available still after the iOS and Android app is launched. He did confirm that the browser-based version of GlobalComix will continue on. Be sure to follow GlobalComix on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates.