The Pirate As Archivist: Reading Digital Comic Book Scans

Presentation by Darren Wershler (Concordia University).

Affordable high-quality colour scanners, cheap storage media, open file formats, peer-to-peer networking, file storage locker services and high-bandwidth home connections have all contributed to the online availability of magazines and comics from the early decades of the 20th century. In some cases, entire print runs are available through various file locker sites, or are collated together into downloadable torrent files. In other cases, such archives are often available as gray-market DVD sets through online auction sites such as eBay. The question is, what is a scholar to do when confronted with such an artifact? Is a set of digital scans an “archive” in the traditional sense? Why does eBay describe them as “counterfeit” when the digital copies are clearly not attempting to pass as the original magazines? How do we deal with the materiality of lossy file formats, low-quality scans, colour correction and retouching? How can we describe the editing practices of pirates, which often include removing advertising and editorial sections, and the inclusion of graphic signature pages? And what are the ethics of studying an object that would not exist without copyright infringement, yet is likely unavailable in any library on the planet? This paper attempts to grapple with these issues, using several gray-market DVD sets and online collections as examples.

Darren Wershler (aka Darren Wershler-Henry) is the Concordia University Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature (Tier 2). He works with the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) group, and is also part of the faculty at the CFC Media Lab TELUS Interactive Art & Entertainment Program. Darren is the author or co-author of 12 books, most recently, Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg (U of Toronto Press), and Update (Snare), with Bill Kennedy.

Darren Wershler presents at "Network Archaeology."

One comment

  1. Pingback: Sorting Network Artifacts, Part 2 | Words in Space

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