Brian K. Vaughan’s “The Private Eye”, all digital, name your price!

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Artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan launched a comic last month through their website Panel Syndicate. Creators launching comics isn’t revolutionary, in and of itself, but this launch was a little different. Allow me to quote…

Welcome to Panel Syndicate, where artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan deliver original comics directly to readers around the world, who pay whatever the hell they want for each DRM-free issue. Our first new storyline is THE PRIVATE EYE, a forward-looking mystery we created with colorist Muntsa Vicente. Set in a future where privacy is considered a sacred right and everyone has a secret identity, The Private Eye is a serialized sci-fi detective story for mature readers.

Go back and read it again, I underlined it and everything. They’re not kidding, I paid exactly $3 for issue one and when issue two came out I did the same. Where’d that money go? It went to the guys making the comic. Inconceivable! Ok I know this isn’t the first pay what you wish situation, PWYW (pay what you want) has been around a while. Every “freeware” program has been distributed under that idea. As far as I can tell software companies worldwide never jumped on the bandwagon. But BKV is big, he’s a crazy popular writer with a serious following, if Radiohead can pull this model off then Mr. Vaughan should make real bank.

The real question of course isn’t “how much was it?” but “how good is it?”

Friends. Comic fans. It is good. Really good.

I read the first issue when it came out, in March, and immediately liked it but not knowing if it would still exist in a week I held back. With the release of issue two I can truly say this comic is great and I can’t wait for the story to continue.

The Story:

“A Detective story set in 2076, when everyone in the United States has a secret identity. Our protagonist is a member of the paparazzi, outlaw private investigators who dig up the kind of personal dirt no longer readily available through search engines. It’s a mystery with lots of masks, but no superpowers.”

Our main character The Private Eye is an unlicensed journalist, which in the US in 2076 can get you killed, or worse. The Press seems to have become an arm of the government and unauthorized snooping just isn’t tolerated. Everyone has secrets, everyone wears masks, nobody looks too deep. Our man gets paid to ignore all that and get answers.

Written in the style of the best pulp novels we have a shady P.I., a mysterious girl (or two), and a murder. This time set in a beautiful and kaleidoscopic Los Angeles. Let’s check out a preview of issue one,

 Cover01_color Issue01.01_eng

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Now that I’ve got your attention. The site to get this gorgeous, well written, sure to be a classic is panelsyndicate.com. The price? As much or as little as you want. Let’s be honest BKV could walk into the offices at Image and say that he’d like to make a comic and they’re pretty sure to give him the green light. So why this model? They say several times on the site that there are no plans for a print version. Why? Well one reason is in the afterward of issue one: “When I (BKV) told Marcos I was thinking about a comic set in a futuristic U.S. that no longer used the internet, his first suggestion was that we should make the story exclusively available online.” “This is what it’s like collaborating with Marcos Martin”.  Ok then, why the PWYW thing? Well he goes on to say; “I was intrigued by Marcos’ idea of a place where we could offer our new work to readers around the world the second it was finished, DRM-free, in multiple languages, for whatever price each reader thought was fair.” I think just the intent under which this book is released is a good enough reason to toss in a couple of bucks.

So, you’ve heard about the book, how good I think it is, the cool business model you’d be supporting by buying a copy. Yet you’re still here, reading this article (well you are aren’t you?)

Oh I get it you’re waiting to see what issue two looks like? Well then,

here’s a sample of some of the extraordinary exteriors in issue two,

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and here we have the classic someone gets the drop on the P.I. scene, or do they?

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Issue two ups the ante, changes the game, adds a twist. And according to the afterward in issue two the story gets even stranger from here on out.

Join me in helping to support a really good comic, with a really cool business model. I give Issue #1 of The Private Eye 4 out of 5 stars. Issue #2, 4 out of 5 stars and the series so far a 5 out of 5!

On a personal note though this could be t.m.i. but here goes. My return to comics should be attributed, in part, to my pirating my way into the middle of Y – The Last Man. Brian K Vaughan knocked it out of the park with that series. It was so good it made me want to buy comics again. So the fact that he’s doing something so different from everyone else, putting the reader and the product ahead of the profit makes me want to support him all the more.

And yes I have bought Y- The Last Man, seemed only fair.

The Private Eye
writer: Brian K Vaughan
artist: Marcos Martin with Musta Vicente
publisher: Panel Syndicate
release date: Issue #1 March 2013, Issue #2 May 2013
price: PWYW (pay what you want)
age: Mature
genre: Sci-fi, Detective story

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