Watermarks & Watersheds

This month's photo feature started with a simple letter...

Can you tell me more about this poster such as is it in any past issues of comic books and who the artist is? It looks like the Artist who designed this poster is named Vint or Virt.

We get a lot of this sort of question, and we're always happy to help out. In this case, this is the cover from a 1995 collection of Spidey mini-posters, reprinting classic Spidey art. This was the cover, which was drawn by Vince Evans.

What's really interesting is that when I opened the image in PaintShopPro, it came up with a copyright symbol, which on further indication showed that the image contained a digital watermark, belonging to a company called MediaFlex.

Watermarking is a very interesting technology which allows you to digitally 'sign' pictures invisibly, in such away that even fooling around with the image doesn't normally remove the watermark. Cool, eh?

This is even more interesting when you look at the fact that when Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man #1 sold out a couple of months back, they decided to release the book on-line on their web-site. What's really strange is that the decision to make it available free doesn't seem to have done any harm to the value of the actual paper comics - judging by eBay, where regular issues of Ultimate Spider-Man #1 are already selling for US$10, and the alternate covers are up at US$20 minimum.

So what's my point? Well, it's this. Comics have survived assaults from the movies, from TV, and from home video games. Now they're facing off against The Internet - where people expect things for free, delivered in under 30 seconds. How will an expensive, slow-moving medium compete?

I'm not completely sure. But I'm fairly confident that comics will adapt a little, compete a little, and absorb a little... and that in ten years time, comic books will still be with us. Would I pay money to read an electronic comic on-line? I don't think so. Does my monitor look, feel, smell like a comic book. Not today, it doesn't. Maybe on-line comics will make a part of the picture, and maybe digital watermarks will fit in somehow - hey, I'm not psychic. But there'll still be comic books. Betcha.

[Ed - Note: MediaFlex's website is no longer up.]