Up until about maybe 8 months ago I pirated nearly every single issue of comics I read.
Since the beginning of the year I have been seeing a lot of people posting and talking about piracy as it relates to comics but I feel that none of the posts I read had any real bearing because they were for lack of a better term older people and hadn’t grown up in the culture of the internet and piracy, so I feel this post will act as both my personal history with comics as well as how I went from pirating nearly everything to buying what mattered to me.
I was born in 1986 and my first comics was given to me in an Easter Basket, which was 4 issues wrapped in Plastic that used to be sold at the grocery stores and it was a Star Wars Shadow of the Empire comic, random issue of 90s X-Men, the issue of Kirby’s Kamandi with the giant Crab on the front, and a Spiderman comic about Carnage and the Silver Surfer.
So I am going through high school at the height/collapse of Napster the rise of KaZaa and the million other software like it. Kids still selling custom CDS to other kids for 5 dollars in the hall. I had also found anime online for free during this time, and in short succession watched AKIRA, Ghost in the Shell, Hellsing, Vampire Hunter: D and Ninja Scroll in like a week and a half and it changed the way I viewed animation. It also introduced me to the concept of movies/tv/music for free on the internet and the fact that everyone at school was doing it.
Cue going away to school for a program that looking back was a bad idea, what the school had was a DC++ server and some students who paid for extra internet on top of the school connection so this thing was full of everything imaginable. At which time I was into Naruto, my roommate had volumes of Berserk and was reading this thing called One Piece. I started on both of those from him and One Piece is the closest thing to action series cocaine I have ever read it is very easy to devour that stuff and I did. People talk comics piracy but manga piracy is something else entirely, it is all available streaming online whenever you want and if one site gets closed down 3 more spring up. However the thing is the fan base at least here in North America don’t even consider the fact that what they are doing may be illegal on a conscious level.
So then you get onto the internet to find the latest chapters of One Piece which leads back to leaked spoilers of the next weeks Shonen Jump and back to the websites where fans congregate. That leads to sub forum or thread about American comics and right into comics piracy. That spirals off into other sites and you talk with more people and then you find large groups of people talking about comics weekly that no one has paid for.
At one point this was the folder I had organized off to comics.
It is fucking crazy to think about. Also I should note that while this part was happening I was buying things I really enjoyed at the local Chapters (the LCS in my neighborhood is okay but I hadn’t found it and it is really out the way).
What I found was interesting smaller press books and I was gifted a tablet for Christmas and it really pushed it over the edge because I reached a point where I was taking comics for granted because there was no effort or cost in getting them but now using Comixology and Paypal and Kickstarter and Amazon to find interesting books that I would not have found on the sites that scan things I have started to have more appreciation for the books that I do read. This also had the benefit as I also found more and more about the unsavory practices going on at the larger companies I was able to wash my hands of them relatively easily.
I love comics more than I ever have and I am reading what I buy and only buying what is worth the time and it is great. I guess I got off lucky because my dalliance with big two characters was brief so I didn’t have any time to make any real connection to any characters and I have been someone who followed creators from the first.
I am kinda afraid for the generation that follows me because the impetus is there especially in this digital age to be entirely raised in an environment where piracy is the norm and that is a strange thought.