Top Cow's New Strategy: Give New Comic Books Away (With Some Help From Kickstarter)

Top Cow describes their plan to give away, via print and digital, the first five issues of the rebooted 90s classic "Cyber Force" -- using Kickstarter as partial funding -- as "unprecedented and revolutionary." And they might have a point. From their Kickstarter page:

"By funding this project, you will help Top Cow (along with comic shop owners in the US, Canada & around the world, Diamond Comic Distributors, our digital partners, and others) produce and give away the first full five issue story arc of the brand-new Cyber Force full color ongoing series. Sure, we could have done this the tried-and-true method and given our awesome hardcore fans a Cyber Force series that they’d be excited about, but we saw an opportunity to change how mainstream comics are produced and reach both new readers and lapsed fans. This isn’t just about making an amazing, action-packed comic series. It’s about changing the landscape of mainstream U.S. comics!"

This seems like a plan that would  encourage more readers to try "Cyber Force," get more warm bodies into comic retailer stores to pick up their free issues, and drive more eyeballs to Top Cow's digital offerings. The hardcore Top Cow fans fund the Kickstarter (which has alreday cleared $11K+ of its $75K goal within one day) and get cool premiums and exclusive items. And everybody wins.

The only "downside" -- if you can call it that -- to this entire endeavour is how it highlights the fact that in the future, the only way to get people to try new comics -- or buy "monthlies" in general -- might be to use a combination of giveaways and Kickstarter dollars.

While "Cyber Force" is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, I refer to it as "new" both because Top Cow seems to be "rebooting" it in some way, and that I assume many new or lapsed comic readers might not be familiar with the story or characters. What better way to introduce the "Cyber Force" world to readers than literally giving away the comic? Bonus: added exposure can also help the possibility of getting the series developed for movies, TV and even video games. The single issue "artifact" becomes a promotional vehicle that outweighs any costs incurred by the publisher (I would assume that even with the Kickstarter money to pay for the premiums, Top Cow still has to "eat" some of the cost for the free issues). The fact is: there should be much more free comics such as this, not just from the "Indies" but from the Big Two as well. And if I was a betting woman, I'd figure there most certainly will be in the future.

Ironically, as Top Cow jump-starts the evolution of the comic book with this plan, the "Cyber Force" comic itself encompasses issues of evolution and adaption:

"The big idea is that for the first time in history, mankind and his intelligence is outpacing evolution. It takes nature thousands of years to adapt to changes and the things we’ve accomplished technologically in just the past 100 years have thrown our ability to evolve, and in turn survive, completely out of whack."

That could describe the current state of the comic book industry, in flux and coming to grips with new methods of funding, formatting, and distribution.

You can fund the first five (free) issues of the new "Cyber Force," by Marc Silvestri, Matt Hawkins, and Khoi Pham, by visiting their Kickstarter.

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