If you have been coming here now for the last couple weeks, and I know there are some of you out there, then you obviously want to hear what I have to say. Now it's my turn, I need your opinions: Digital Comics Yes or No?
By digital comics, I don't mean Marvel's Digital Comics. I discovered those a while back and they were great, but never in succession, rarely encompassing an entire story, and for good reason. If they gave you everything, you wouldn't go buy the back issues, right? Wrong. It never once made me entertain the thought of going out and buying a ton of back issues I can't afford anyhow.
So I looked around, hoping to uncover the magical comics Itunes. Never found it. In fact, I found an absolute lack of any other type of digital comics anywhere. I was prepared to pay. I literally spent three or four days looking for anything. I have to admit, I had no clue what I was about to discover.
I stumbled upon a blog article about comic torrents and it more or less pointed the way to the digital comic motherlode. I am not going to link to it myself for my own reasons, but if you want to find it, it is out there. These sites have essentially any comic you want, all in scanned digital form. There are specialized readers, downloaders, sites full of everything you could want, and even forums for requests.
The first thing I downloaded was "The 100 Greatest Comics Ever". It had pretty much every comic you could want from a historical standpoint. First appearances of every one of the major characters in comicdom and plenty of offbeat, but influential comics too. Download after download, miniseries after miniseries, creator run after creator run. I was in comic heaven. Missed part of Infinite Crisis? It's right there. Missed the Moon Knight issues of Civil War? Click here to download. The first 800 or so appearances of the Legion of Superheroes? Got it. I was now 80 gigs deep in comic history.
Then came the problem. I felt bad about it. I felt like I was cheating someone, but couldn't figure out exactly who. I didn't download new comics, I still go to my local comic shop every Wednesday like a cow to financial slaughter. My pull list is 15 comics deep (counting Countdown 4 times), that's around 50 bucks a month, and that does not include all the specials, Civil War tie-ins, 52, Countdown, etc.
I can hear it now, "Suck it up, it's only a few hundred dollars a year, if you can't afford that, you need to rethink your hobbies." That's great and everything until your wife tells you that she is pregnant with your third child. And your unemployed (gainfully though!). A job is not a problem for me, the ones I want just don't pay more than my unemployment check I am guaranteed for the next 5 months.
So, yeah, I can afford my pull list, but it gets harder and harder to justify buying the plethora of other comics that come out each month that aren't on it. Especially now with my daughter coming into her own as a comic fangirl. She's 5 and asks about the "Fantassick Fo" constantly, her favorite easily being Thing. Action figures, Archie comics Wolverine bobbleheads add up pretty quick, too. I love Wizard mag, she loves ToyFare, so I get them both. I spend upwards of $60 to $80 a month on comic books and related items. It is totally worth it.
So where is all this rambling going to? The multitudes of damn near necessary comics that I can't afford every week are sitting there free. I refuse to make excuses about being able to read classic comics I would otherwise be completely incapable of reading. I was too young to read Neal Adams on Green Lantern. Batman: The Dark Knight escaped me at the time as a cultural milestone. I have read both of these now and am a better and bigger comic fan for it. But downloading the new ones bothers me.
Teen Titans #47
I enjoy Teen Titans but just not enough to have it on my pull list. It agonizes me sometimes because I have always followed them and would love to continue but I just can't afford to add any more. Issue #47 however, crosses over with Countdown. Now I am fully aware that it is the type of story that it is not necessary to read to comprehend Countdown, but we all know that it is difficult to knowingly ignore a comic that is tied into an ongoing series like that. DC and Marvel know it too.
So I decided I was not going to buy it. I downloaded it. And I still can't figure out who I am cheating. Adam Beechen, the writer? I don't think they get paid per comic sold, and besides, I wasn't going to buy it. DC Comics? As I said, I wasn't going to buy it. Myself? In a small way, yes, there is something about holding a comic in your hands and feeling the paper and seeing the richness of the color, something the scans have a hard time reproducing on a laptop. But I can get over myself. So who got cheated, who got robbed? The way I see it, no one, in fact, I can almost see a benefit to all this.
If you could preview a comic (other than standing at the rack) for a small price, would you? I know I would. Why can't the comic companies come up with a simple interface, like Itunes, and use it to allow us to either (1) preview a comic in hopes we would buy it or (2) outright sell back issues online?
(1) Simple, with digital rights management setup in a number of other industries, the comic industry can too. Music labels are able to allow you to download a track or even an album full of songs that "decay" on your hard drive. They come with a preset amount of time that they are available to you. After that, they erase themselves.
What people generally say to denigrate this is "Those hackers will always come up with something to defeat anything we do". And you know what, they are right. Hackers will always come up with a way to defeat something. But if they are willing to do that, they won't be paying either way. So why not ignore them, and concentrate on the people who are willing to pay?
(2) If that isn't what would work, and if the technology is too much or something, then just sell back issues outright online. Come up with a user friendly interface, a user friendly comic book reader (or use current formats available and buy them out) and offer only comics that are (upcoming arbitrary number) 3 weeks old. Keep them available for another 3 weeks or longer, but take them offline eventually.
Me personally, if I do want to read a story that intersects with another one, like Teen Titans #47, I don't really have a problem waiting a couple weeks or so. Not being able to read it though because of my personal financial situation is unacceptable to me.
For option (1), charge $0.99 for one week access to said comic. Watermark them or something so they can't be reproduced and pirated.
For option (2), charge $1.99, put the adds in there, offer digital specific adds, whatever floats your boat. But don't charge the full amount. For one, they are back issues at this point, and two, I would have to believe that the amount of work you put into it would be cheaper than distribution across the country. Give us a break.
Now I know that some readers are comic shop owners and see this as an attack on there business, but I don't believe it is at all. If I go download Teen Titans #47 and enjoy it more than another comic on my pull list, I will replace it, or wife willing, add it. If the option is not there though, there is no way I will/can do that. Also, I simply would not pay 2 to 3 dollars every month to buy a comic a few weeks late that is available to me instore. Like I have said, there is an intimate experience in reading a comic book that is in your hands.
So, what say you, The Comic Rack faithful (all 5 of you! I kid, I kid.)? I know you are not the most commenting people, but I would love to hear what you have to say about this. I personally think that digital comics, done the right way, could be an important part of the future of the medium.
If you got this far, thank you.