D.Rey here. Okay folks, this is going to be a long one, split into two parts, but bear with me. I know a few of you have heard by now DC comics’ plans for September. For those in the dark, DC plans to relaunch all their books, in September, with issues #1s and a same time release for digital distribution, meaning those with an iPad or some similar kind of tablet can actually buy them on the Apple store for the regular cover price, or wait a month and buy them at half price. This is considered by them to be a perfect jumping on point for many new readers. This might be the ballsiest move a comic book company has ever done. And it’s gotten some people up in arms. And I was one of them at first, but I’m not anymore. In fact, I’m kinda excited. You see, this Digital Launch is something that quite frankly, something that was inevitable. The median age for comic book readers are 30-40 now, and well… The industry is not getting new readers. Everyone likes to come up with their own reasons, but I believe, and I always will believe that it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one likes to talk about.
Um, wrong gorilla. The proverbial one.
The simple fact is that comics are expensive. They’re no longer the cheap and affordable hobby they were when we were younger. (Gawd, I’m old.) And comic stores are becoming more and more rare, as many close up shop. In addition , comics are also becoming inaccessible. You have no idea where to start. And this is a problem that even affects long time comic readers like me. A month ago, my friend and I traveled to the comic store, and we walked around for like a half hour, having trouble finding stuff to buy. It had been so long since we made it to the comic store, we didn’t know where to start. (And not to mention, what was going on didn’t appeal to us, which I’ll get to in a moment.) You need a jumping on point for readers, and if life long comic book readers like myself were having problems finding something to read… What the hell chance does an average customer off the streets have? It’s hard to guide the new readers in the right direction, and everyone’s tastes are different. So it’s hard for the potential new buyers, it’s hard for the publishers, and it’s hard for the poor comic shops that have to struggle to make ends meet. What comics did I end up buying? Well, I bought that Captain America comic I ranted about last time, a beautifully drawn trade paperback called Sky-Doll by a pair of Italian creators, and an awful Batman comic, with beautiful art but the story was so horrible, I ended up taking a white out pen to the word balloons so I can look at it without getting angry.
Which brings me to what I think is the biggest problem that comics have… A lot of them are just written horribly. For every Gail Simone, there’s at least six or more writers who put out such preachy, condescending dreck that makes the worst episodes of Law and Order look like brilliance-incarnate. The industry likes to talk about how wonderful that writer is, but when you read the work, it’s preachy misogynist nihilistic navel gazing in spandex costumes. I’m not going to get into this too much, but it needs to be said that this is a big problem with comics that a lot of fans talk about, but the publishers do not. They assume that ‘pissing off long time readers = sales’ and it does in the short term, but in the long term… Well, ask a typical former Spider-Man fan what they think of Carlie Cooper. There’s a good reason Linkara is so popular. He has a lot work with.
Now, I’m a long time DC fan and I’ve always been one, since I saw that a man could fly when I was four. This digital downloading plan they got? It’s been coming for a long time. DC isn’t even breaking new grounds here, but they’re the biggest people to do this. Hell, webcomics have been garnering larger audiences than some printed books for some time now. Every unique page view is a reader. Now I know, you’re saying “That’s different,. You’re giving away content for free. They’re trying to sell it.” You’re right, it is different… But in the end, a reader is STILL a reader. If I was to ask you about the recent events in webcomic Menage a 3, and then ask you about recent events in X-Men… I’m willing to bet the majority of you would be able to tell me what’s going with Gary and Zii than you could tell me with whatever the hell is up with vampire Jubilee. (Or the very least, you can find out faster.) And that’s what it comes down to… If you don’t have readers, then you don’t have customers and that’s because a lot of their comics are inaccessible, due to price, availability or content.
See, digital comics are not going away and neither are printed books. People need to get that fear out of their heads. Print is not dying, but it might be de-prioritized. This new digital plan eliminates the printing costs and the distribution issues. What we have to remember is that this is new territory. It’s risky, but also an exciting game changer. Much like how MP3s weren’t the end of music, but it did indeed change things. (Whether for better or for worse, depends on your point of view.)
But plan is far from flawless and I’ll get into that next time, as we talk about Barbara Gordon, Superman’s underwear, and why I learned to stop worrying and learned to love Gail Simone.