Comic Publishers Fail to Embrace Digital at Their Own Peril

Engadget says that, if digital format has an advantage at a time when Coronavirus has led to a lockdown, the comic book industry appears to be making itself look all the more absurd by rejecting it:


…Less logical is that, unlike literally every other media industry, the product wasn’t simply released digitally to consumers stuck at home. Instead, the entire comics world is on hold. […]

But what do you do when there are no brick and mortar stores to sell to? Apparently you just don’t sell products at all. Anything that was scheduled for a physical release from Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse is on the back burner, either rescheduled for a later date or placed in limbo. Some digital-first titles like Freedom Fighters: Rise of a Nation will still be up for purchase on ComiXology and Kindle, but anyone looking forward to Batman #92 is out of luck until April 29th, at the earliest.


If they’re talking about the Tom King-penned Batman series, few are looking forward to it, and any admiration he might’ve once had outside the industry among customer bases has since collapsed, after he not only scrapped a marriage between Batman and Catwoman, but worse, took to slaughtering characters in the Heroes in Crisis miniseries, made Wally West out to be a criminal, and to date, it hasn’t been mended. So I wouldn’t consider recommending that particular book, if I were them.


But, if it matters, of course there’s a valid argument in favor of digital itself, if that’s really what it takes so customers can at least get all this stuff in spite of the lockdowns. Plus, if it leads to a cheaper solution, then obviously the publishers aren’t taking it. They have a big chance to do something creative that could aid their business, and opportunity’s being missed.


The article also says:


Between the Diamond stoppage and so many stores shutting their doors, it makes sense that many people are predicting that “comics are dead.” Comics and the shops that sell them share a long history, which has created a strong sense of camaraderie. The direct market helped mold the biggest four companies — DC, Marvel, Image and Dark Horse — and created the culture around them, too. The stores were what helped Marvel stay afloat when it was in trouble after a string of bad decisions in the ’90s and ’00s. Retailers and publishers mingle socially all the time as well, at conventions and retailer summits. It’s not just business at this point, it’s personal. The comics industry is built on loyalty.


See, that’s the problem. Loyalty to corrupt mainstream publishers who’ve foisted tons of bad stories upon them over the past 2-3 decades, which overshadowed the better ones, wouldn’t make the pamphlet copies returnable, yet the store managers are supposed to put up with that? I find it odd how the article refers to the specialty stores as Marvel’s element for survival, when they could just as well have made the full shift to paperback/hardcover even then, and had their books visible to a wider audience while still maintaining sales at specialty stores all the while, which the columnist could just have easily offered as an opinion, discussing what could’ve been or should be done, yet they take the easy route and make it sound like this was the only way they can do things.

And now, a lot of publishers are once again missing huge opportunities to take steps that could help them out of their dire straits, though if it’s mainstream superhero fare we’re talking about, they got almost nothing to look forward to anyway, except company wide crossovers that crowd out stand-alone storytelling.


Hmm, maybe that explains everything.


Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1