March 11, 2012

This week saw the launch of ARMARAUDERS: THE LAST BATTALION a web comic and toy line featuring awesome giant robots. This is the first project from MECHA WORKSHOP, a group of robot enthusiasts led by renowned Transformers comic book artist, DON FIGUEROA, who received much acclaim for his TF art at both Dreamwave and IDW.

In the last year, there has been much talk of the rise of do-it-yourself franchise building. While creator-owned content is nothing new to the world of comic books, up until a few years ago, artists were still reliant on making deals with middlemen for distribution. The internet has changed much of that. The World Wide Web is indeed worldwide and content can now reach all four corners of the globe either through strong marketing or word-of-mouth. This is easier said than done since the increased ease in creating and distributing content naturally results in increased competition. The two biggest issues facing the world of online comics are: 1. the glut of content (the fight for eyeballs is fierce) and 2. a sound business model (figuring out a price point that allows creators to remain competitive but also earn worthwhile revenue.)

Armarauders deals with these two concerns in interesting ways. First and foremost is that Don Figueroa brings a lot of cache to any project he’s involved with. The Transformers comic books in the last ten years or so saw some very high quality art. Many talented artists demonstrated outstanding mech draftsmanship and rendering, none more so than Mr. Figueroa. The acclaim for his work is completely justified. His robot designs are always not only beautiful, but functional – ready to be produced as toys. He has a profound appreciation of the modern history of mech design and designers. Mr. Figueroa is really a kind of mad scientist of robot drawing, with insane detail that obviously is correctly existing in three-dimensional space.

With Mecha Workshop, he has surrounded himself with people with similar appreciation and understanding of not only of robots, but of robot toys. The quality of the comic will certainly be matched by the quality of the toys that go along with it.

And this leads into the way in which Mecha Workshop looks to solve problem #2. Creating a franchise and monetizing it are two different things, especially if artists are concerned about retaining ownership and control. Both the web comic and the motion comic of Armarauders: The Last Battalion will be completely free. Moreover, it is being released in English, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The business model for the project is to essentially use the comic as advertising for the toys. I find this very interesting. History is filled with tales of artists going unrewarded and being taken advantage of for characters and content they created. The internet makes it so that this can largely be a thing of the past.

I want to see Armarauders and Mecha Workshop become successful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the bigger a hit it becomes, the more awesome toys will be made from the series. Second, it will demonstrate, even cement, the notion that artists wield much power in the modern age.







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