The Private Eye, art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

Investigating Vaughan & Martin’s The Private Eye

Panel Syndicate breaks all the rules with its indie digital comic

Traditionally, the act of buying comic books has been pretty straightforward: you either went down to your comic book shop of choice and grabbed your books on a Wednesday or jumped onto a digital marketplace such as ComiXology or and downloaded your books digitally. In both these situations, the cost is determined by the publisher or store owners and you weren’t able to (until very recently) download a copy of the book you bought.

That all changed when Panel Syndicate, a collective of creators including writer Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Saga, Y: The Last Man), artist Marcos Martin (Marvel’s Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man), and colourist Muntsa Vicente, released the first issue of their “pay what you want” digital comic The Private Eye in 2013, which will be wrapping up the planned 10-issue run soon.

The Private Eye, art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente
It’s the end of the world as we know it

The Private Eye is set in a world where the internet as we know it, ceases to exist. The cloud has burst, and with it all the world’s most personal of information. The result is a place where people keep what little privacy they have by wearing masks in public and keeping to themselves as much as possible. Specifically, the story follows P.I., (Patrick Immelmann) a man who has made a living uncovering the past for money as a member of the paparazzi. It’s certainly not all sunshine and rainbows for our him as Immelmann is quickly caught in the middle of a murderous conspiracy.

The writing of the series can absolutely be held up alongside the best of Brian K. Vaughan’s work mentioned above. It’s contemporary and very relevant to our current digital culture. The characters have personality and feel alive within the world Vaughan has created on paper. Marcos Martin, the artist of the series, delivers the work of his career which, for a book delivered in such a risky, new way is somewhat surprising. Martin’s clean, smooth lines are perfectly complimented by colourist Muntsa Vicente with colours that pop and burst off every single page. You really can’t do the art of this series justice without seeing it and, given that it’s a fully digital experience, it’s worth noting that there’s clearly been a huge emphasis on making this series explode on a digital surface like an iPad.

To that end, there’s a little more going on here under the hood than just selecting really eye-catching colours. Every single page of The Private Eye has been sized specifically for a widescreen monitor or tablet experience with everything appearing in a landscape view to avoid any needless twisting and turning of the device or application as well as eliminating the need for any sort of guided mode, similar to what is offered in the ComiXology or Marvel apps.

The Private Eye, art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

I’ve mentioned several times now that The Private Eye redefines the digital comic buying experience. It does so in a number of ways including the release of books on a basis of “when it’s done” schedule as opposed to any sort of regular monthly release. Readers have never really waited much longer for a new issue than any typical series and, the major advantage to this idea, it’s allowed the same creative team to work on the book without any need to switch artists or writers because of a deadline. Also, because of less restrictive releases timelines, the creators are allowed as much time as they need to really fine-tune scripts or artwork and really deliver an amazing experience.

Let’s talk price

The second big change brought to the table by The Private Eye is the pricing. While most often books are priced by the publisher and then handed down to shops in both digital or print format, The Private Eye is sold using a “pay what you want” model. If you enjoy the book and want to support the creators of the book directly, you can do just that. If you’re not sure that the book is for you, you can download an issue and see for yourself, free of cost. Although, if you like what you read and decide to continue following it, I’d strongly encourage you to pay something to the creators and support what they’re doing. A book like this is a very big deal. It’s crucial that we ensure something like this isn’t a fluke. Again, if you enjoy it, please buy it. On average, comics run for about $3 or so, which this title is more than worth.

The Private Eye, art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

In an industry that has struggled to adapt to the digital age, The Private Eye stands as an example of what can work. It allows creators to make their books as accessible as possible, to fully transact and engage directly with their fans to deliver exactly what fans want. It’s a very aware, very engaging story that is sure to please fans of Brian K. Vaughan or Marcos Martin’s previous work.

You can learn more about the comic and grab the issues themselves through Panel Syndicate.