I've been reading comics for while, OK, longer than that, a long time. I drifted away for a bit when my favourite comic shop closed down (Kathies in Plymouth, you guys rocked!) and I was living in London on a teeny budget. I occasionally grabbed a new graphic novel or picked up a few issues when something caught my eye, but I've not been the comic consumer that I once was for some time.
Then I bought an iPad.
Overnight I was downloading issues (mostly free ones) like some superhero junky, to see how they looked, what the experience was like, was it as enjoyable as flicking through the pages of a freshly bought, still sealed Amazing Spiderman? Apart from the fact that they are missing the almost ubiquitous 'Got Milk' ads, I enjoy the digital comics a lot. Both the Marvel and DC readers are good, in fact I think Comic Zeal is even better, and has a few nice features, but essentially, it looks like I'm back in the market, my girlfriend will be soooooo happy.
Well, i say im back, I may have more expendable cash that the younger me, when I'm not splashing it on various other money eating habits, but I'm not too enamoured with a digital comic costing £2.99. I mean 3 quid? I could almost believe it if it was a paper vsn, wrapped is glistening cellophane with mandatory cardboard back, ripe and ready to slide into the comic box along with with its brothers and sisters. But a digital vsn, though convenient and awesome and modern etc etc should surely be cheaper, shouldn't it? Look at Wired, a digital magazine subscription that I quite frequently treat myself to, at £2.49 for a magazine that you would struggle to read in its entirety in a normal week, with digital video, animated graphics (and ads funnily enough) and more articles than you can shake a stick at. It blows a comice, that lets be honest might last 10 minutes (maybe if you're Ralph from the Simpsons) clean out of the water.
Stephen Lindsay, the independent comic creator who's responsible for 'Jesus Hates Zombies' makes a good point about the type of readers that Marvel & DC have to cater for:
“the comic industry really has three sets of consumer[s]: those inside the industry who buy comics to support one another, the casual reader, and the collector.” He said collectors don’t care about in-app subscriptions because “they always have, and always will, want the printed book” because the “ownership of it means something”
I guess I have moved from collector to the casual reader, but I wont be casual for long at costs like this, because, as Darrell Etherington at gigaom.com, "with individual titles costing between $1 and $3 for about five to 10 minutes of enjoyment, it quickly became a habit too costly to keep up." Surely they have to go the way of subscription? I wouldn't notice £15 a month if i had 15 new (decent sized) new titles appearing on my iPad each month...
Which leads me to the original reason I started this ramble in the first place, DC's new 52 release. Some are saying its a misguided attempt at attracting new, younger readers, by re-inventing their core characters (52 of them if you hadn't guessed). Will making Superman younger and wearing a tight t-shirt, appeal to the teenage masses? Im not sure, lets hope the writing is good, really good, and Jim Lee pulls out the stops like the old days. Marvel got a lot of stick recently by making the new Spiderman Black/Hispanic, but at least its gutsy. Making Wonder Woman wear long leggings is hardly competitive.
There's a very good article here, at Forbidden Planets UK blog, but essential there is a big concern amongst comic fans that DC have 'flipped out' and may not have the depth of talent to cater for 52 new releases. I am hoping that DC take this opportunity to sync up the release of the digital comics (now confirmed) and make the costs a great deal more attractive, after all, if they aiming at a younger market, then the price needs to be compelling, and it's this younger market which will dominiate the digital comics sales figures... OK, with some help from me too.