Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I Remember when Comics used to be 2 Dollars!

How much more expensive can comics get? $2.99 was always my cut-off for a 22-page comic. Sure 3 bucks isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, but there are so many comics available why stick around for long on something for that price? A 6-issue storyline is going to run you around 20 bucks. You might as well wait for the trade at that price. At least you won’t have to flip through a ton of ads and wait god knows how long for the book to actually come out. Plus by the time the storyline ends there’ll be plenty of reviews to look at before you really decide if you want to buy the thing. And if you really want to save some money, order your trades online at a place like InStockTrades and pick it up for like 10 bucks.

Now I’m more likely to drop 3 bucks for an independent comic than I am for a comic from the Big 2. In my opinion the Indie guy earned the extra buck while the Big 2, with more hype, more ads and shoddy scheduling have to prove themselves a bit more to me. Sure the Indie book might wind-up sucking just as much as the Spider-book but I just feel a little better about giving my hard earned money to an indie book than a corporate comic. My li’l way of stickin’ it to da man, you might say. (The Man stuck it to me for 7 years so what the hell.)

This topic makes me think about the future of digital comics as well. While I really believe that web comics like those on Ac-Ti-Vate are providing the model for self-publishing online, the future of mainstream comics online is still a murky one. Recently Top Cow announced that they would be providing digital downloads of their books through the website IGN. For a Buck you can download a PDF iTunes style but the catch is… all downloads will be at least one-year behind their new releases. Now while I know this basically the first time a “mainstream” company is doing this, I have to say they’ve screwed this up in a major way. I understand that they’re protecting the retail comic shops by keeping the books a year behind, but who the hell is going to download a year old Top Cow book for a dollar? First off, reading a standard comic book as a PDF file is a major pain in the ass. Second, printing 22 pages of a full-color comic is a giant waste of ink and with the price of your standard ink-jet printer toner, forget it. Third, this is Top Cow. I defy you to not find a Top Cow book in any 50-cent bin and I’m not talking about a Top Cow book from last year (which will surely be in there) I’m talking about last month’s Witchblade. Which apparently they’re still publishing and Michael Turner isn’t penciling. This isn’t going to work and nobody is going to care.

Mainstream books have to take their web comics to the next level. Offering old books or chunks of current books isn’t making a big impact.

How can they make their web comics significant? Offer something online that readers can’t get anywhere else. A daily strip that is New. Tell something that happened between the pages of the current issue of Amazing Spider-Man. It can’t hurt to try. Pay a creative to create a webcomic. You won’t have to pay for printing costs so what the hell?

Comics are going to need to change soon if they’re going to survive in their current stapled form. More needs to be offered if they’re going to gain new readers and keep them. Not to mention if they’re going to get old readers like myself.

Thanks for reading, folks and feel free to add your thoughts… this is a topic that spurs my inner geek.



Jared said...

Wow! The internet, comics, and commerce. Those are some big topics. I'm going to have to write my own piece on it someday when I think through a plan. A plan I won't be able to pull off not being a big corporation and all but what the hell. Meanwhile I don't think Marvel or DC will ever be leaders in on-line comics. They just are not entrepreneurial enough to do it. They have the capital and the popular characters but lack the vision. They also don't want to piss off the comic shops. I don't blame them but that is a big ball and chain when it comes to on line sales.
I think for now it's going to be the small time merchandise and ad based model that will be the only one that is successful. Even if only in a small way.
Three bucks is also my limit when it comes to main stream comics. If prices keep rising and sales keep dropping I fear that John Babcock's prediction that comics will eventually become a fine art practiced by a small number of people making no money at it will come true.

RandyG said...

I'd love it if you did write a piece about it, I'd love to hear it. It's a shame that the Big guys don't have the forsight to try something new. Again, its not such a crazy thing to try. It can't be worse than most of the crap they staple together on a monthly basis.

And what's John Babcock up to? Now he was a cranky letterer.