Webcomics have been around in various forms since the 1980's, with varying degrees of success. Marvel and DC's forays into the world of cybercomics have been mixed at best with both publishers seeming hesitant towards the idea. Marvel experimented with Cybercomics - that is original flash animated online comic strips - from 1996-2000, before the companies financial worries saw the idea abandoned. Most comic book fans have an aversion to the idea of digital comics and I have generally shared that attitude, never being able to imagine reading a comic book on a computer screen. Sure I have done it before and it hasn't been too bad, but to me nothing can replace the feeling of holding the comic itself in your hands.
So why do I think that digital comics could save the industry when I'm barely even interested in them myself? The sad answer is that people like me (and probably you) are not who comic book companies need to be targeting. Like it or not, the world of comic books needs fresh blood. The industry has been shedding readers for decades and the trend has to stop somewhere if it is to stay alive.
Digital comics tick all the right boxes for me, in particular for users of the ipad; The comixology app features over 2,000 comics from 40 publishers, including the 'Holy Trinity' of Marvel, DC and Image. The devices slick interface allows for a truly ingenious reading experience, that potentially rivals the act of reading a comic book itself! Crucially the app also features 160 free comics. For me this is exactly what is needed for new readers, perhaps brought in by the myriad films and television series' based on comic books. Marvel and DC's digital download service also offer a similar feature, and with the sad social stigma around comic books, a free sample might be necessary to encourage many to take the plunge and give them a try. The fact is that comic books are not impulse buys anymore - to get hold of them you need to find a specialist shop and pay often in excess of £3 for a single issue.Digital comics allow potential customers to browse from the comfort of their own home, with affordable costs of around the £1-1.150 mark for a single issue.
If it sounds like I'm advertising digital comics that's because...I am. If you know anyone who is vaguely interested in super heroes or any of the various comic book adaptations on TV or cinema screens, chances are they will at least be curious about the possibility of seeing these characters in their 'original' forms. With free samples on offer there really is no excuse for them not to at least check out a couple of digital comics. Who knows, they could become a new comic book reader?
There is still some work to do, but if the major comic book companies can tap into digital comics in the right way they could bring in countless new costumers. Used in conjunction with the vast array of blockbuster comic book movies comics could finally become socially acceptable. It seems unlikely, even to an optimist like myself. But we can dream right?