I’m really not on top of this whole “digital comics” thing.

§ June 3rd, 2011 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 11 Comments

Just to clarify…I don’t really think we won’t get an Action Comics #1000 when the time comes. That’s still about eight or so years off, and I’m sure between the restart at #1 and then, DC will revert to the original numbering on at least some books, following Marvel’s strategy of riding out that sales boost from a new first issue, and replacing it with another sales boost by switching back the numbering just before a round-numbered anniversary issue. So honestly, that’s not a real criticism…I was just being facetious.

And speaking of the relaunches…pal Dorian pointed out to me that this line-wide reversion to #1s is more about creating a promotional push for the digital-release plans than about making any kind of sales improvement in the direct market. And…yeah, I hadn’t really been thinking about it from the digital side, but of course that makes sense. Pretty much no matter what, the direct market isn’t going to grow, or at least grow quickly enough to keep the publishers happy (brief spurts of media-driven sales aside). The primary print sales strategy of late is extracting more money from the same folks…no one thinks a half-dozen Avengers or Green Lantern titles are bringing in new readers. It’s just getting the same ol’ Avengers or Green Lantern fans to dig a little deeper (or, more likely, drop another marginal book) to afford yet another negligible variation on a title they’re already reading.

In contrast, the digital initiative could potentially reach a much larger audience that would never set foot in a comic shop, and the additional incentive of “hey, get in on the ground floor” with the first issues may help. Whether this leads to more readers seeking out print editions in shops, or just subsidizes the print editions to keep prices down for just a little longer, or whether anyone will bite at all, or whether it just saves the scans_daily folks a step, I’m not sure. We’ll see what happens, of course.

The pricing for digital releases has been announced, and just from my limited observation of the response, people don’t care for the price levels being offered. (Basically, same price as print edition, dropping a dollar after a month.) Of course, the general reaction to pricing for any online entertainment that’s anything other than “free” tends to be abject horror*, and I suspect at even the frequently-suggested 99-cent price point there wouldn’t still be some headshakers moaning “too much, too much,” but…well, not sure what people were expecting. If DC undercut the comic shops, retailers would’ve raised holy hell, I’m sure, and they can’t afford to alienate those folks just yet. Especially if this whole digital thing falls flat. But…yeah, it could be over before it begins if people reject the pricing.

Boy, some insight, huh? “IT’LL WORK UNLESS IT DOESN’T.” Man, I have no idea what’s going to happen. My gut feeling is that print sales will bump up briefly, then fall back to normal, with a lot of culling of the weaker titles right quick, while digital sales will be okay, but not outstanding, with pricing being cited as the primary obstacle. Maybe a discounted digital subscription will be offered as response, assuming it can get by under retailers’ radar. Basically, I see business being as usual, with a few months of annoyance all around mixed in there while everything shakes out.

Anyway, you probably have seen DC’s announcement of some of the new titles and creative teams, and…well, surely this will be the Aquaman series that will catch on! And as a Firestorm fan, I’m looking forward to another series with the character, especially one written by Gail Simone.

There’s a new Hawkman series, too, and this is one of those cases where a full-on from-scratch reboot would probably be doing the character a favor. Hawkman doesn’t need the last couple of decades’ worth of mishmashed continuity issues weighing him down…he just needs to be awesome. “Flying dude dressed as hawk fights crime with a mace” – that’s all you need, man.

However, if you want a complete list of all the titles from The New DC, I believe Bully the Little Stuffed Bull might have that for you. #27 is the best. The. Best.

* I’m exaggerating slightly for humorous effect. Please do not “um, actually” me, or I will have you…dealt with. Remember, I’m friends with a stuffed bull.

11 Responses to “I’m really not on top of this whole “digital comics” thing.”

  • Roger Green says:

    Whatever the motivation, I STILL hate the renumbering thing.

  • Bear says:

    Has DC said HOW they plan on reaching these “new readers” they’re hanging all their hopes on?

    Unless the average person suddenly starts reading comics sites or is interested enough to click onto one of the mainstream news sites reports of this, how are they even going to know they can buy Superman #1 in September?

    The comics themselves aren’t as interesting as the story behind them. I look forward to seeing the sales figures for the September and especially the October books.

    Oh, but, uh, fingers crossed that it brings hundreds of new customers into your shop, Mike!

  • Billy says:

    If Netflix can offer me all the movies and TV I can watch for $9/month, why can’t DC offer me all the comics I can read for the same?

  • Harvey Jerkwater says:

    “Please do not “um, actually” me, or I will have you…dealt with.”

    Indeed. For then will come the richly deserved WELL, SMACKTUALLY!

    Eh, $1.99 per issue is better than $2.99…and I don’t give a rat’s butt about getting ’em right as they come out…hm. I say hm.

    Like the rest of you, I wonder how DC will publicize this. The internet’s capacity for drowning out everything with noise is unparalleled. If word gets out widely, it could work. But it’s gotta get out widely. Let’s see. Warner Bros. could have it plugged discreetly on The CW’s shows: “Gossip Girl” characters download the latest issue of “Firestorm” onto their iPhones as they chat about Chad Squarejaw and Johnny Hairdo? It could work.

  • De says:

    Billy: I’m just as puzzled as you. Marvel allows me to do just that. While I would prefer to read the comics on my iPad instead of the laptop, I do appreciate the opportunity to subscribe and read all I want. Sometimes the content available is a little puzzling (for instance, a storyline might be missing a couple of issues or all of a miniseries might not be there), but the breadth of material is terrific.

    I love digital comics but I think $2.99 is way too much. Every once in a while I might bite at the $1.99 price point but I pretty much jump at 99 cents. When DC ran its Blackest Night promotion (on Black Friday), I bought all of the miniseries and specials I had originally skipped.

  • Rob March says:

    As one of the old guys here, I’ve yet to be sold on many electronic media pricing plans (excepting computer games). E-books for $10 when I can often buy a hard copy for less? Ummm, no (at least I’ve heard the e-lending is finally becoming a reality, because that was another huuuuuge negative point for me). I still buy CDs, because it usually works out better on a cost per track, but I’m a luddite here as I still like the album as a unit of artistic measure.

    Comics for $0.99 might work for me, though. The few freebies that I downloaded from Comixology were pretty good. I read Elephantman #1 that way, and really liked the way it zoomed in and out from the panels in a way that enhanced the narrative. All that said, I still like to hold the books in my hands, and being able to lend them to my friends. Mike doesn’t have to worry that I’ll suddenly disappear from the shop anytime soon. (Sorry, Mike.)

  • Anonymous says:

    I hate to admit it, but it looks like Swamp Thing was better off trapped by Vertigo after all, or are Hellblazer and House of Mystery getting rebooted too?

  • Casey says:

    I’m gonna go total optimism:

    This’ll go down in history as the moment comics went mainstream.

    Now ten years from now you’ll know I was a time-traveler.

  • Steven E. McDonald says:

    There’s some indication that DC’s actually trying to develop a strategy to color outside the lines, and back up retailers somewhat on the digital initiative — there’s going to be a variant of Justice League #1 that’s polybagged with a download code, so the purchaser can get both the book and the download for $4.99, or either one for $3.99.

    What they need to do, though, is get into the gift card racket. Give the retailer something to sell. Also, do the download code thing for trades — SPANDEX PERVERT ASSKICKERS: BOOTS UP THE KHYBER would have issues 1-6 plus a download code for issue 7. Or a second version where the contents of the book can be downloaded for, say, $4.99 more. I’d be delighted to have, for example, SHOWCASE volumes that had a download component. Or pitch counter-saleable packages that would be some kind of reprint single issue with a download code tipped into the back page that would let you download a SHOWCASE or ESSENTIAL phone book, *especially* if it was a character or series that wouldn’t get enough love in dead tree format to justify printing it, but would justify the prep for inventory for downloading.

    Also, more formats. Disc, stick, SD card.

    Right now the digital market’s a bit iffy — not everyone has an iPad or a device able to handle digital comics, especially in color. Lots of Kindles, non-color Nooks, eReaders (I have the latter,a nd love it.) It can be catered to effectively, though, and built, and it doesn’t require the screwing of retailers to do that, as I think DC have realized. The thing is…the comics market has been in a slow death spiral for quite some time, and something *has* to be done.

  • BobH says:

    I’m still kind of holding out the hope that for ACTION and DETECTIVE they just don’t include them in the September #1 wave, and just put them on hiatus for a few months and restart them in a few months continuing the proper numbering. I don’t really care that much, but I’d prefer that to a #1 relaunch and later renumbering.

    $2 seems fine to me, though I’m not really the market in terms of the content (so far one announced creator is someone I would buy an ongoing book from, and he’s paired with a writer I wouldn’t) and technology (no smartphone, no tablet, and I like paper). Obviously cheaper would be better, but you don’t want to undervalue your product, and that $2 gives them a lot of flexibility to do brief selected 1/2 price sales, like they’ve been doing, and the probably inevitable subscriptions and bulk sales of full storylines that will be coming. In any case, they’ve been selling under this price paradigm for over a year now, so presumably have some actual sales numbers behind their decision to expand it linewide, so maybe it’ll work for them.

  • Bully says:

    I prefer the Golden Age SPANDEX PERVERT ASSKICKERS.