A few years ago I heard something great: Marvel Comics was putting some of their old comics on the internet for me to read. No, this wasn’t a BitTorrent type of thing; this was Marvel Comics (registered trademark, copyrights, the whole nine yards®). When I tried it out, my first reaction was awe. I could read over 2,500 past Marvel titles for a measly $4.99/month! Are you kidding me? I started out by reading all the Age of Apocalypse comics, then slowly worked my way through classic runs like Peter David’s “Incredible Hulk” and Frank Miller’s “Daredevil.” This actually led me to stop buying analog Marvel comics (because I no longer had the time or resources) and solely read comics online. Marvel does a great job of posting modern comics only a year or so after the comics initially debut in collected trades. So I was able to read Civil War, Secret Invasion and World War Hulk a little later than most but at a fraction of the price. It’s almost like a DV-R for comics.
Of course, it’s not the perfect solution. For the sake of completeness, here are some of the pros and cons of Marvel Digital Comics:
(1) The ability to catch up with older stories without having to track down & buy the issues.
(2) Can’t emphasize this enough: it’s cheap ($4.99 a month; $30+ a year).
(3) The user interface is tremendous.
(4) Variety: There are now over 10,000 issues to read.
(1) Immediacy: You do have to wait (sometimes a year or more)for new story lines and issues
(2) Some buggy issues (though these seem to have been cleared up recently)
(3) Cannot read with the iPad (ed.note: This is my LARGEST issue with Marvel Digital Comics)
(4) Not enough issues I care about
After perusing a few thousand issues over the past two years, I went to look for DC’s offering in the digital comics space. I definitely wasn’t pleased with what I found. DC was selling new issues digitally. There did not seem to be any back issues (I was looking for Detective Comics; I had planned on reading all 500 or so in a month… I was sorely disappointed). Additionally, I recently found that other comics are available via an app on your iPad called comiXology that offered same-day-as-print issues from a variety of publishers in addition to Marvel and DC like Dark Horse, Image, Valiant etc.
So, it seems that most comic book publishers are only selling new comics digitally, with Marvel being the only one the only one allowing their older comics to be read digitally. What does this mean? Will digital comics replace floppies? Does it mean that Marvel will move away from Digital Comics Unlimited? Will DC have a DC Comics Unlimited? What do Dark Horse, Image, Boom etc fit in??
I’ve read a number (two) of articles on the future of digital comics and I just do not believe that digital will ever take the place of paper comics. I still get Batman monthly, though I get it analog because I don’t want to pay for a digital copy. It’s a shame that DC doesn’t offer readers with an unlimited digital options; I’d gladly wait a year to read something if it mean I could fall down an unlimited comics rabbit hole for a few hours every so often.
So, if I had my druthers, I would propose that the major comic publishers get together and do what Marvel has already done: a year or two after the initial publication of the comic (and associated trade), the comic is available on a digital site for people to read for a monthly fee. This could be the future of comics! For those that still want the books the day they hit the stands, go buy the book from their local comic shop! But for the comic book fans who can’t drop $45 a week on books and don’t even have the time to read them if we did, a catch-all subscription program would be a Beyonder-send.
Why isn’t this happening now? I believe publishers think that they can get more loot from publishing comics by paper than they can get from digitally providing them. Not everyone has a computer or the ability to get access to digital comics. Some people (yours truly) will not buy paper books and will wait until the digital comic is released (thereby depriving the publisher of revenue) (ed. note: Cruel).
So perhaps the future of comics that I would prefer will not come to pass. I understand the comic book publisher is in the business of making money (not pleasing thegreekdog), so I’m not going to gripe too much. But DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc should know that I’m not reading their books, I’m reading Marvel books. My allowance of comic book funds goes to Marvel Digital Comics and classic trade paperbacks. It doesn’t go to monthly paper comics or digitally downloaded monthly comics. Some would label me a philistine. But I’m hardly that. I’m old school. I’m not on Twitter (ed.note: But I am! Follow me @imperviousrex!!). I don’t use Facebook (ed. note: We are! Follow us at facebook.com/modernborefare). I want good stories and will seek out the best, most efficient way to get them. I could never buy 200, much less 10,000 comic books but in a way, Marvel Digital Comics allows me to do that for a low monthly fee & opens up the vaults to let me read those stories that I would otherwise not read. SO in my mind, I think that means they win the comic book publisher battle.
Note: In a turn of high hypocrisy, I refuse to read digital novels.