Digital Comics need a revolution, badly!

Digital Comics: Why is this concept so difficult?

Ever since I cracked my first comic I was fully invested in the notion of keeping up with storylines and major events. From the weekly Spider-man comics to who the Avengers were beefing with that week, I couldn’t get enough. Fast forward to the age of the ubiquitous smart phones and tablet computers, and the seemingly easy access to not only books, but also comics especially. As time had gone on I lost my dying need to read the standard weekly. I would just hold out for the large events or just buy the trade paperbacks, or TPBs. Buying trades has become the optimal choice, as I hate having to wait so long to get a full story arc. Give me 20+ issues bundled together and a quiet afternoon and I am all set. I read Marvel’s Fear Itself in one sitting because of the convenience of just having the book in its entirety, minus the side stories, at my fingertips. So trades are the way to go! YEAH! Problems solved, right? Not quite.

In January of 2008 a funny thing happen to the world of movies and television. A little thing called Netflix Instant Streaming became unlimited. For a few dollars a month you could watch as much as you could handle. This was revolutionary. Netflix is far from perfect, but their idea was/is sound. So I ask, why not do this for comics? Right now the two largest comic publishers, Marvel and D.C., do offer digital comics to their customers. However, both fail tremendously at bridging the gap between the loyal buyers of the Spider-Man weekly and the person who just buys the occasional TPB. Marvel offers a yearly digital subscription that is $60 a year. That’s it? Shut up and take my money! I can download and read unlimited comics for only $60 a year!!! This is awesome…why isn’t everyone doing this? There are a few problems with this Netflix-esque plan. You don’t get the new comics when they come out…okay. You also don’t get the full catalog of past major events…okay. You don’t get all of the past issues in the standard series either…WHY WOULD I BUY THIS?

You wouldn’t buy this and neither would I. The push for digital comics seems so halfhearted from the big publishing houses. Where they could both be covering significant ground in increasing readership they both would rather keep prices artificially high on digital comics, and inconvenient to buy. I get the notion of wanting to keep people going into comic shops. However, I don’t go to many these days and I don’t suspect others do as well. With mammoth companies like selling TPBs it makes little to no sense for the average Joe to find a comic shop when he can buy them from his laptop without leaving the couch.

So enough bitching and complaining, how do we fix it? Here is my proposal for each big publishing house:

  • Monthly subscription for $10 unlimited comics (billed monthly, no contract)
  • Yearly subscription for $70 unlimited comics (billed one time, no contract past 1 year)
  • All weekly back issues over the last 5 years are available immediately, with older issues being digitized and made available as the companies work to put their full catalogs together. (This will take time, understandably).
  • All major events (i.e. – Civil War, Secret Invasion, Infinite Crisis) from the last 10 years, made available immediately.
  • All comics exist in publishers network cloud with user’s ability to save offline/locally.
  • Universal user interface and information available on desktop as well as mobile devices.
  • Social media component: Share recommendations with friends via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

So there is my general outline for what could be done to enhance the digital comic experience. I don’t think it would kill off comic shops if anything it would get more folks reading. The smaller publishers should also have an ability to join into a single interface like a Netflix for indie comics. We have unlimited services for movies, television shows, music, and even books (libraries*…old school, SON!) why not comics. Its time the medium that promotes futuristic ideas gets into the business model of at least present times. Thoughts?

*I am aware that libraries carry TPBs but its hardly the massive selection we all would like to see.