Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Are Digital Comics the Future? Part One

I'm not going to mince my words here - Comic books, or at least printed comic books are dying. Sales of single issues are dropping at an unprecedented level and show no signs of slowing down while the 'writing for the trade' mentality adopted by many writers means that 'floppies' (single comic books for the uninitiated) are rapidly decreasing in importance, being replaced by their harder backed cousins. Something needs to be done of course; Sales of collected editions are more closely guarded than single issues but it has to be assumed that they are not faring much better, despite being a lot more trendy and accessible. So what is the answer? Can anything save modern comic books from the malaise that they are currently steeped in?

Two words - Digital. Comics. Yes that's right, Digital Comics. I will admit that I have viewed Digital Comics with the same level as scepticism as most other comic book fans, remaining unconvinced that reading a comic on a screen can accurately replicate the comic book reading experience cherished by many (myself included). However, the sad truth is that aiming comic books at die hard comic readers is perhaps no longer enough. There clearly aren't enough, in the Direct Market at least, to attain the sales that the major comic book companies quite clearly crave. The answer is to preach to the uninitiated. Marvel and DC in particular, in the form of the successful film adaptations based on their characters, have the perfect point of entry for new readers. As of yet however, this has not been taken advantage of as much as it could have been.

For me, the main problems with attracting new readers to comic books seem to be twofold; Price and accessibility. Paying $3.99 or £3.00 for 22 pages of content is clearly not something that many comic-novices would choose to do, particularly given that many people choose not to pay at all for films, television or music, choosing instead to illegally download. The problem is exacerbated when you consider that legally downloading also seems a much more attractive proposition than walking into a shop and buying a few comics. A quick browse of the iTunes store reveals that for the price of one 22 page comic book from my local comic shop (roughly 5-10 minutes of entertainment) you can buy one episode of popular TV series House (roughly 45 minutes of entertainment) with around 50p to spare. Clearly something does not compute.

So what exactly are Digital Comics, and can they save the comic book industry? Find out next time on Josh On Comics! (Too cheesy? I think so...)