I’ve had an iPad since last Christmas– but until we started IMJ Capsule Reviews™, I’d only downloaded two 99¢ comics… But I hadn’t read either of them. I started to a couple of times…
Anyway, that’s all changed now. I’m on the Comixology app all the time, looking at different books and whatnot. This past Tuesday, I kept checking for new comic releases. I kept popping on and off the site, wondering when the new books would be released… Until, 3 hours later I mentioned my frustration to Jose and he reminded me new comics come out on Wednesday. Hey, cut me some slack… I’m new to all this shit, kidz! I don’t go to comic shops anymore. I get all my crap trucked in… Or over Wi-Fi.
Sitting at the computer shaking my head at my latest stupidity, I started to wonder about the different download services. So I went looking around, seeing what other people thought. There’s tons of different comic book apps. What I could tell almost instantly… There’s been a massive shift in both opinion and attitude toward digital in the past year. People started out very skeptical– worrying if their downloads would disappear in a puff of digital smoke if Comixology folded, etc. Others couldn’t make sense of a Marvel app that wouldn’t play well with the other services. (No shock there– the company still insists on a separate Diamond Previews catalog every month and once embarrassingly attempted to distribute their own comics to various degrees of hilarious/disastrous results.)
But the skeptics seem silent now. Comixology supposedly designed the Marvel app and the two services apparently play nice with each other now. Dark Horse has a good app too– a little clunky in spots… It drives me nuts when I have to be in one certain section of the DH app to get a drop-down menu that allows me to look at new comic releases. Then when I finally do get there, anything released in the last two weeks is still considered “new”… And if they’ve decided to release a Trade or Manga volume for the first time on digital– a five-year-old book suddenly has a big blue “New” banner on it too. That design decision almost caused me to purchase something I already own twice. Hmmm… Maybe a red banner with the words “New to Digital” might be more appropriate for these older books?
Another big thing that’s changed… Comixology seems to be the default destination for a lot of people who’ve become frustrated (or downright pissed off) at their comic shops. I saw a post from a poor fella who said he’d ordered all of the DC New 52 books he wanted in advance– only to not get five of the hottest titles… Because the store said they’d made a “mistake” when ordering. He said he accepted that, until two weeks later multiple copies of ALL FIVE showed up behind the store’s counter priced at $15 to $25 each. He noted in one comment he thought his shop was staffed by a bunch of dicks– as they also charged him 25¢ to bag and board each comic he purchased.
The post brought a fusillade of commenters commiserating with the poor guy… But unlike the responses you normally see on other sites like, say, Inveterate Media Junkies– the other collectors were not telling this abused customer to just change shops… They were urging him to go digital. “No bags and boards needed, Bro!” and “Comixology doesn’t sell out of digital files, Dude!” were just two of several pro digital responses.
A day later, the put upon fan processed all the support his comment had engendered and wrote, “I’m in!”
And this is exactly what the number crunchers at these corporate-owned publishers want. You can believe that jive about digital “bringing back lapsed collectors” all you want. While it’s true (digital is bringing previous collectors back to the hobby), this is not the final or primary objective for the companies that are digitizing their funny books. The Big Boys want to go all digital all the time… Possibly only leaving the higher-priced (and much more lucrative) Hardcover and Trade Paperback Market as the only format future collectors will be able to enjoy comics that are actually printed on paper.
Think about the advantages to publishers: Digital does away with the massive cost of printing, shipping product from the plant to the distributor and then shipping the same books to comic shops. It also does away with a decent percentage of the comics irreparably damaged during these various modes of transit… And, most importantly, all the “little people” in-between that take their cut before the books finally reach consumers– further diluting publisher profits. In short, if Marvel and DC have their way– the only thing involving paper in the production of a comic book will be the actual Bristol board art pages and the creators’ contracts. (Hell, most people don’t even get checks as payment anymore– they’re all paid by automatic bank drafts.)
In the meantime, digital offers several bonuses to the casual collector (someone who could care less about having a CGC entombed copy of any comic book): No more time-consuming trips to the shop, no more surly comic store owners or condescending staff, no more “shortages” of suddenly “hot” books, no more mountains of cash wasted on costly ga$oline… And most importantly (to some) no more space needed to store their collections.
If you’ve watched any overlong episode of the regrettable, detestable SyFy series Collection Intervention (hosted by Elyse Luray– two parts holier than thou former auction house employee, one part shaming Mother Figure), you’d think the major thing impairing collectors is lack of space to store their massive amounts of shit… Oh, and their significant others– again usually apoplectically pissed because the collections are overtaking their homes/lives. Of course, the show only focuses on extreme geek versions of people who could just as easily be featured on the equally insipid TV “reality” series Hoarders.
Elyse’s usual response to these sad folks and their overstuffed houses? Sell half of what you own– to dealers/shops that specialize in raping cash-poor collectors… Or go to a flea market or warehouse show and peddle your stuff to people who have no intention of paying you close to what your prized collectibles are really worth.
I almost birthed a herd of cows when Elyse arbitrarily told an avid comic collector he needed to sell half his collection to please his fiance– then took him to a warehouse show to do just that. I was then never more proud for a stranger, when he backed down from selling his prized books for peanuts… But that didn’t stop the folks behind Collection Intervention. Sensing our intrepid hobbyist would not sell his stuff, they trucked in his favorite comic book writer– James Robinson– who spent a few minutes regurgitating the show’s reason for existing… And looked like he couldn’t wait to get the hell outta there. So, of course, between Elyse’s seemingly unstoppable passive/aggressive prodding, his fiance’s constantly sour face and James Robinson’s token appearance– the dude finally gave in… And traded 8 long boxes of some of his favorite comics to a shop owner for an ungraded copy of Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181.
Never once did anyone try to reach a middle ground and ask something like, “Hey buddy, why don’t you go rent a space in a nice climate controlled storage facility? You know, it’s much cheaper than you think!” Course, if they did that– there would be no show.
Yet lots of collectors– and their wives/fiances/significant others– watch this silly shit and think, “Damn! We could get rid of all these boxes and put them in an iPad!” Which, of course, makes comic book companies even more money as people begin to replace their previously purchased comics with newly purchased digital files. I know a guy who’s replaced almost his entire collection with files on his iPad. (No discounts for lots of digital product either– especially if you are a Marvel Zombie looking for recent back issues.)
The thing I noticed on Comixology the other day– more and more older comics and series are popping up weekly… Making it easy for collectors to do just what I described above. Think people won’t do it? Do I need to pull out the Album to 8-Track to Cassette to CD to Digital File model to convince you? Despite what the Music Industry tells you, most people don’t illegally download anything. Many music lovers have purchased at least 9 copies of some albums, like say, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Okay, I admit that last example was personal. I wore through three albums and two cassettes– then bought two CDs (after losing one) and then one digital file of the album– then another file when they decided to digitally remaster the damn thing– adding heretofore unreleased live tracks.
The point is, the seemingly endless back catalog of comics owned by these Publishers (and I use the term “owned” loosely) is very valuable and it will ALL be digitized and put up for sale on an internet near you sooner rather than later. The digital age of comics is here– whether we like it or not. And every one of these comic store owners who childishly dick around valuable customers over shitty copies of a New DC 52 comic? Those men and women are helping digital rise more than they will ever know… Until their shops become bigger ghost towns than they already are and the owners are forced to close due to slow sales.
Finally, I can’t help but think about another guy posting on one the boards I was hopscotching around. He said digital’s biggest problem for him was… Wait for it… Accessibility. Because he doesn’t have to make a special trip to a store and stand in front of a cash register with a massive stack of comics in his hands, he gets “in trouble” on Comixology by always spending over his weekly budget… Because everything just looks so damn tantalizing and inviting.
All he has to do is press one button… And he owns a comic book. He doesn’t have to physically reach into his wallet and count out the money. It’s all so easy. I feel for ya, friend. I’ve spent the last five weeks doing the exact same thing on the exact same site. Buying books I think I’ll want to review, only to decide against them after the purchase is complete… Or buying a book I do want to review– only to realize I should probably purchase a few more back issues to give me a full, fair overview of what I am about to review. And look… There they are!
Another $3.99 out the door– and it’s only a click away from flying out of my wallet.