The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Digital Comics’

Because that’s not a topic I haven’t talked to death about

Posted by Matt on September 2, 2011

Hey, how about them digital comics?

I think Dustin Harbin brings some good points to the fore. At the very least, it’s a lot more considerate of what the stores and publishers want than people like me with our “it’s obvious, you dumb idiots!” diatribes. The fact is, Marvel and DC (and even the alternative publishers to a lesser extent) probably have every reason to be scared of losing the direct market, because it’s the only market they have right now. Until digital is a sure thing, and who knows what will convince them of that, they will be cautious, and make their digital offerings overpriced and out of date. I’m not saying they’re not stupid for being so hesitant, but there are rational reasons why they aren’t pursuing this avenue.

Then I remember what Warren Ellis said not too long ago, and he’s also right. Even if these publishers do get digital comics going, until they actually start commissioning original stories (that actually take advantage of being on electronic screens connected to the Internet) to be sold on them, they will be second-class, an afterthought. It makes me wonder why, if they are so afraid of making their direct market books available online and hurting the specialty stores, why not make your digital comics new ones instead? I mean, if the quality’s there (well, relative quality for some of them), then it won’t take as long for initial skepticism and brushing off as “silly experimental side projects” (which will inevitably happen) to subside. So you can try out the digital format, and won’t have to undercut DM until you have to (which will also inevitably happen).

I can see why they might scoff at this idea, though. Aside from that initial dismissal, there might be problems finding creatives to work on them, and it would really need some Grade A talent to make people really take notice (or it could take finding some new talent that could pull off something new and amazing, but that`s far less likely). Second, since these would be different books than the `main` lines, some readers might think they are superfluous. Even if DC published a Batman comic digitally, if it wasn’t THE Batman comic, then it might get ignored. This wouldn’t be a problem if the comics were really new, but readers probably would ignore them anyway, as they do with most new concepts in print. Neither of these are problems for publishers who aren’t reliant on established properties and hype, but those same publishers can’t buy New York Times headlines and get the idea out there. I want the alternative press to pursue this option too, but unfortunately they can’t quite get the blogs talking, and I think that’s something that needs to be done to get the rest of the pack to come out of their glossy paper shells.

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All this digital/print comics derpderp really makes me appreciate my webcomics to-read list. They may just be scraping by a lot of the time, but they get to keep their integrity and avoid all the dumb bullshit the rest of the industry spews.

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In related news, DC’s starting their new universe now. In the first issue of JLA: not a whole lot happens. Oh boy.

They also apparently set up some Dame-us Ex Machine in Flashpoint, who reset the universe for some reason and is now showing up in other comics. Like they’re preparing for something. Or making an exit strategy in case they have to. Real show of confidence for your big change-up in either case, guys. Either you’re going back into big crossover mode, or you think there’s a chance that you’ll need to go back to your old horrible universe if your new horrible universe doesn’t pan out. Neither option is terribly inviting to new readers, now, are they?

I’m honestly surprised by the number of people apparently upset by the new status quo. They really need to explain what it was they were getting out of the old one that makes it so sad if it goes away. I mean, the retconning nonsense DC is doing is utterly nonsensical patchwork, but again…how is that different than it was before?

They probably have a point when they say that this won’t really do much good to attract new readers, at least past the first three months or so (especially if JLA is indicative of anything, pacing and general quality-wise). It will almost certainly end up as just another short-term boost in sales before they plummet back to the same levels as a few months before, just like everything else DC and Marvel do. So what was the point of it, then? Well, there probably is no point, although it’s nice to see them acknowledge some of the problems that they aren’t going to do anything about. Pointless or no, though, is doing nothing really better than trying something slightly (very very slightly) different, even if they end up with the same results? At least one shows a little bit of thought on the publisher’s part. And really, who gets hurt here? A tiny cult of lingering carrion feeders? And even to them, how many amazing wonderful stories set in the old DC continuity are they going to be missing because of the reboot (recognizing that several books had to have certain runs and story ideas cut off because of it)?

I’ve heard a couple of people suggest that DC should have made an Ultimate-style line. This is a bad idea because (1) DC has tried that about two or three times now, and aside from getting an all-time great story and a curious relic of Frank Miller’s descent into insanity, nothing came of any of them, and (2) look at what actually happened to Ultimate Marvel: hot shit for a couple of years, and now…god, I don’t even know (I think the new Ultimate Spider-Man kid is a great idea, though: if you’re going to have two Spider-Man comics, might as well make them as different as possible. Plus, I’ve been convinced that a black kid being Spider-Man just makes sense). It’s pretty much verbatim what I said in the digital comics part of this post: once you start dividing it into “the REAL X” and “the other X”, it’s the latter that will get short shrift eventually. The Ultimate comics are pretty superfluous now (even more so because the ‘real’ Marvel universe began to look more and more like it over the last couple years), and would be the same deal for DC (again). Plus, this is far more headline-grabbing, no?

Plus plus, who cares what happens to the DC universe, what with all its five billion Legion of Superheroes timelines.

So basically I point is that the old DCU was a wretched thing, and putting it down was the most humane thing DC could have done. But apparently they still think they should make sure they can dig up the corpse if they need to. If it comes to that, though, maybe they should fucking give up.

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Posted by Matt on February 12, 2011

I like digital comics discussion, don’t you?

Item! Diamond is going about digital comics the wrong way! What a shocker, the monopolists controlling the comic shop system may not know how to, or want to, succeed in the case of digital distribution! Woo.

The thing is, I can see the ghost of a decent idea here. Could comic shops also be able to sell digital comics, in a way, as well? Why not? I wouldn’t be against record stores selling MP3s in some way, either. It could just be a further expansion of their market (although, really, the only reliable future I see for the comic shops that will survive the great digital massacre to come will be the ones who primarily sell graphic novels and collections, the things that people will likely still have a taste for in the future). But in reality, the idea of paying 2 bucks for an unlock code at the shop IS pretty stupid (why go out of your way to do that? What would the advantage of doing that over just buying it over the actual app/service?). And getting the same thing when you buy a print copy for an extra 99 cents is maybe even more stupid; considering the disposable nature of the pamphlet format, why would you want both? So you can throw out the paper version and still have the story on hand? Why buy the print version at all, then? Plus, if you’re going to try to sell people on that, you might as well do it for free, as an incentive to get the print comic.

And, of course, there is the topic of Marvel and DC’s current wading in the digital market rather than diving into it. Those two are stuck on the same chain of fuckery as Diamond; Diamond controls the distribution of their mainstream comics, and so all three of them are stuck serving the comic shops, so the comic shops can in turn serve them. The thing is, if the publishers weren’t so servile to the distributors/shops, they would be the ones to benefit from a major digital move. Periodical comics are a marginal industry, and at this point are way too costly to be the impulse purchases they probably should be (4 bucks for the bigger-name Marvel comics? Fuck off). They can sell their throwaway books for a decent price in a convenient place (I.E. not just in scattered niche locations), and they could probably make some real money off of it. Alas, we are not there yet.

We’re stuck in this weird little interzone where Marvel and DC are afraid of jumping into the modern world, even though they have nothing to lose (I don’t think either company’s profitability would budge either way if they simply stopped publishing their comics completely). Are they scared of pissing off the shops? The fans? Diamond? Like they’ve had much of a problem with fucking people (I.E. creators) over before. So why placate this dying minority?

The answer is, as many already know, that they don’t care about their comics. Certainly not enough to put any effort into convincing people to buy them (the odd space filler article in major newspapers about some pointless ‘big event’ notwithstanding). So why would do anything other than the most basic approach to this new distribution model?

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