In the story I posted on Tuesday about local comics retailers' thoughts on digital comics, I linked to this page. It contains a now-pulled 4chan thread where someone illegally uploaded local artist Steve Lieber's graphic novel Underground (a book that, it so happens, was written by another local creator, Jeff Parker).

That whole 4chan thread is worth reading, but here's the short version: Lieber found out about the book being bootlegged, bravely waded into the comments, and—for I think the first time in the history of the internet—turned a potentially contentious thread into a civilized conversation about comics, publishing, and how people discover new media. He won the 4chan people over, you guys. That deserves some kind of medal. When "Internet Man," the poster who uploaded the pages, offered to take 'em down, Lieber declined:

I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to show people my work. Let's leave 'em up.

I got into most of my favorite bands after hearing them on 3rd generation cassette mix-tapes or my crappy alarm clock radio and getting curious enough about them to go pick up a CD or see them live. It feels like a safe bet that things will eventually work the same way with the stuff that I do. Like I said on twitter yesterday, I'm willing to trust that Jeff's and my readers will compensate us for the work.

Since then, Lieber and Parker have made the book officially available online ("Give it a read! If you want to pay, Use the paypal button").

Ha! What a rube, right? Well, no. Today, Boing Boing pointed out that Lieber recently posted this chart, comparing Undergound's sales after it was uploaded to 4chan to Underground's sales after it was reviewed on Boing Boing.



Obviously, having your entire book available for free online doesn't work out this well for most creators—but still, for just about everyone who downloads and/or makes comics, there are things to learn from here.

For readers, it's a reminder that stealing shit frequently affects actual people and not just faceless corporations. For creators and publishers, it's a reminder that it pays to interact with the people who read your stuff, regardless of how they're doing it. If there's one big takeaway from this, I'd say it's a comforting one: If people like someone's work, at least some of them are willing to pay the creator for it—even if they've already gotten it for free.

This all feels suspiciously like progress.