There’s been a lot of talk t few weeks about DC Comics’ decision to relaunch and reboot all their major characters starting in September. My initial reaction to this was highly negative. “I’m too old for this shit” essentially. A whole new continuity to learn? No thanks. Then I got over my continuity bias and started looking at things a little differently. Some of these books actually look pretty interesting. Decluttering continuity isn’t always a bad thing and really mixing up the characters will hopefully result in some fun, new stories (like Martian Manhunter joining Stormwatch and being part of the DCU). The goal for this relaunch seems to be getting new readers by either appealing to a potential reader’s (not just comic fans, but anyone) genre of preference (everything from big time superheroes and westerns to horror and sci-fi comics have been announced) or appealing to comic readers in the know by tossing out juicy names like Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Grant Morrison. I’ve read a lot of talk about how some creative teams and projects seem doomed to failure, but my general thought process right now is “Let’s wait and see.” September is pretty far away after all.
The other–and I think larger and potentially more important–announcement to come out of the reboot is the fact that all of these new comics will be available in a digital format the same day that they’re available in comic shops (a practice dubbed day-and-date on the nets). I know other companies have done this already, like Archie, but to see one of the big two companies doing so will be very interesting. I’m assuming this digital venture is an effort to get normal people to know about this relaunch and comics in general. You like the new Green Lantern movie? Check out the comics on your iPad!
Last week, Bleeding Cool posted a rumor that DC might actually be creating commercials to attract an audience. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I am in complete favor of this practice. Getting the word out to people about how easy it can be to read your company’s comics could be a huge boon right now. There’s lots of theories as to why the general public doesn’t read comics: they don’t know comics exist, there’s no comic shop nearby, they don’t care, they’ve got other entertainment to keep them busy, etc. Commercials would go a long way to helping a few of those problems while digital distribution would deal with another. The necessity of getting those commercials in front of a wide variety of people is also important. Is there a western on TV? Try and get your western comic advertised in that time slot. Hey, WB has the money to try, right? I would also try and get the commercials in front of or behind some podcasts to reach out to early adopters of tech products (Diggnation, Totally Rad Show, that kind of thing).
Overall, I love the idea of digital comics. Last year I wrote a post about how much I enjoy the GIT Marvel comic book DVDs. These are discs with simple PDF versions of every comic from a particular character or book from his first appearance to the then-most recent (circa 2005). I’m now the proud owner of four of these: Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four/Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider. I’ll probably never have time to read through all those comics, but I like the fact that I could if I wanted to. Anyway, being cheap, I’m a fan of getting a lot of comics for not a lot of money. As such, the idea of paying a couple bucks per digital comic just doesn’t excite me very much (not having an iPad also kind of puts the kibosh on that I guess).
So, is there a digital set-up that I would like aside from DVDs? Yeah, I’ve actually long hoped for a kind of comic book subscription service. This could be something through a particular comic company or maybe even a comic shop (I don’t know how that would work, but you get the idea) where you pay one flat fee and have access to all kinds of comics. I personally don’t need to keep the digital versions, so assuming I could read them easily on my computer/tablet/future-goggles, I’d be happy. At this point, I’m done being a comic book collector and just want to read stories. If it’s something I really do like, I’ll probably pick up or Swap for the trade.
Also last week, Brigid Alverson over at Robot 6 asked “Would you buy a digital comic book subscription?” My initial answer was “Definitely,” but then I read on and the piece set up a slightly different scenario than I imagined. Essentially, this idea would be to pay a yearly fee for one particular book, like getting a mail-away sub back in the day. I would be less inclined to get in on something like this for the exact reasons brought up in the piece: the inability of comic people to hit deadlines. If I’m getting less than 12 comics for my sub, but I’m still paying for all 12? Not cool. But it would be an interesting step. Maybe if the overarching subscription system wasn’t available, there would be one for say a group of titles like Batman or X-Men.
I think this is another thing comics will have to deal with–DC specifically–if they really want to compete with/move and shake alongside TV, movies, podcasts and the like. Scheduling is super important, especially to legitimately new readers. We’ve been programmed to expect new stuff on a pretty consistent schedule as a general public, but if you really start messing with that (say something like Dark Knight) those brand new readers will absolutely find something else to go look at. Comics need to be thought of not just as a niche market aimed at collectors, but as a legit form of entertainment that can be easily digested (whether that be thanks to product availability or story accessibility).
At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out. As someone who doesn’t read new comics on a regular basis, I don’t feel like I have as much of a dog in the fight with this. Were I a regular buyer, I’d probably be looking at the list of new books a lot more closely, making a list of the ones I’m most interested in/seem the most important and checking that list against my comics budget. It gives me a headache even thinking about it, so I’m going to stop and go watch some TV.