This year at NYCC one of the hot topics for discussion was the growing popularity of digital comics and what they might mean to the future of the hobby. The question of whether or not Digital Comics would become part of the retail landscape has already been answered. They are here to stay. Look at the home page right here at CBJ and you will see a link to a digital comics vendor.
The question of digital comics breaks down into two parts, aesthetic and financial.
Let’s talk bucks first.
Digital comics make all the financial sense in the world. They are ridiculously cheap to produce and distribute when compared to their printed counterparts.
Both digital and print comics are created in the same way. Someone writes, someone draws, someone inks and someone edits. No difference.
However it changes drastically from there. Take print first:
Presses and press time needs to be secured and the comics must be physically produced at some cost per copy to the publisher. Press/printing time is NOT cheap.
Physical Comics are printed on PAPER. Again, not cheap.
Physical comics use INK.
Physical comics use staples.
They have to be broken down, packed in boxes, sealed, stored, inventoried,
shipped, and in some cases returned.
Some copies are damaged, destroyed or stolen in this process.
As someone who works in Logistics and transportation I can tell you that NONE of that is cheap. It’s why you pay so much for your copy of Fear Itself!
Another thing about physical comics…you have to leave your house to get them. For those of us who live close to a comic shop this is actually FUN, but for many collectors who do NOT have a shop readily available, collecting becomes a very arduous task. Those collectors have to travel around looking for their books, or subscribe to the comics they want. They generally won’t have the books on a Wednesday AND they pay shipping more often than not.
Physical comics take up a HUGE amount of space. Don’t believe me? Come by my house and I’ll give you a tour of the “dungeon”, IF you can actually fit down there! It’s wall to wall comic boxes with no end in sight. That ALSO costs me money as I pay for every square foot of my house just like anyone else with a mortgage.
I never ran the numbers but I would bet it costs me several hundred dollars a year to store my comics, between the above mentioned space, comic boxes, boards, bags, and shelves etc. I own upwards of 15,000 comics now and they are ALL bagged and boarded. If you want to make sure your comics STAY in good shape you need to do REPEAT this process for all of your books every few years. YOW!
Digital comics won’t deteriorate. They will look EXACTLY the same 100 years from now as they do the day they are created. The don’t get ripped. They don’t get musty. They don’t get water damaged.
Again, digital comics make all the financial sense in the world.
BUT, I’ll take print thankyouverymuch.
Why? If Digital Comics are all THAT why would I EVER want an archaic, nasty, soot ridden, (ugh!) PHYSICAL comic?
Here is why…
Physical comics are self contained. They ARE the app and I don’t need a gadget to read them.
You can HOLD a physical comic in your hands, turn the pages and lose yourself in other worlds on a lazy afternoon at the beach, or in the car, even on the POT! Anywhere.
You can fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.
You can carefully maintain it in mylar and proudly display your collection to your friends.
You can physically flip through your boxes of comics, reliving the halcyon days of yore (or mine) when you first obtained these multi colored beauties.
You can get your favorite creator to sign your physical comics….if you’re nice!
Yes the DIGITAL image may never fade while the physical one DOES, but the physical comic just looks better to me. Sort of how some people swear that vinyl sounds better than a CD or digital recording.
Physical comics are collectable. Someday you might sell them for a profit. Maybe not. But it is a lot of fun grading and pricing them!
I spent several happy hours yesterday putting my NYCC purchases into bags and boards and then nesting them in their proper boxes while taking another look at each and every one. Can’t do that with digital. I suppose you can create a new folder on your computer from time to time but it ain’t the same!
Same Day (when there ARE same day) Digital comics COST roughly the same as physical comics. Why would I spend the same money for a DC as a PC? (I suspect that, before too much longer, digital comics released the same day as their physical counterparts will cost a lot less than the hard copies.)
I do think that, for the foreseeable future that digital and physical comics will co-exist. Each format has it’s virtues.
Digital in particular means that ANYONE can publish, which is a wonderful opportunity for creators AND fans.
Physical comics have all the strengths, and flaws, of being tangible, which is actually a virtue in itself.
So fold your comic and stick it in your back pocket AND fire up digital on your iPad.
Either way…it’s COMICS!!