A little history here. In the 90s when comics got huge for that one brief period, I had been collecting for a while. And I watched and participated in the transition from the old days of newsprint to the first stages of modern comics with high quality paper and digital inking. I saw Photoshop replace markers as the go-to coloring tools for comics, and I was there when that bubble burst and the industry nearly collapsed in on itself. I saw the 2 big dogs get their props for Killing Superman, starting the Age of Apocalypse, Breaking Batman and I saw Wolverine get the adamantium ripped out of his body. It was an exciting time to be a collector.
It was also 20 years ago. And like everyone else I grew up between then and now. And while the concept of collecting. was great when I was a teenager. I wanted to be a part of those pieces of comic history. I reveled in things like my Wolverine #1, my first appearance of Hobgoblin in ASM, and even got into the ancillary market with things like trading cards focused on Marvel characters. I enjoyed collecting these things and they became a part of my life I would always treasure.
Now though, collecting isn't the appealing concept it was when I was a teenager. By the time I was in my early 20s, I was starting to think about marriage, raising a child, buying and building a home. And I did those things. Fast forward 20 years later though and I sit here a 40 year old man who still loves the sequential storytelling that comic books offer. I find it exciting just like I did when I was younger. What I don't enjoy though, is the collecting aspect of the hobby. Don't misunderstand, collecting is a great hobby. But I now have a house full of not only my stuff, but the rest of my family's stuff as well. Bringing home 10 or so comics is now an almost stressful occurance because I honestly just don't have the facilities to keep them in pristine condition so they end up in a closet, on a shelf, bagged but not boarded and I don't really care to bother with "preservation" anymore. I don't have time or the inclination to do so. I should be the target for the digital comics. I love the stories, I love the art, I love comics. But I don't care about owning them anymore.
Marvel and DC both have not figured out the digital comics market in my view. They both offer their books in digital form, but they're the same high price as they are in the comic book store and you don't own the physical copy. How does this make ANY sense at all? Don't get me wrong, comics nowadays are pretty awesome. The high quality of the paper inks and colors are amazing. And I get why people would want to own these as physical items. But for those of us who aren't interested in collecting anymore, or who don't have the space to store them anymore, why would I pay the same high price for no physical product? It doesn't make sense. It's the big guys trying to move their product into a new market and that's fine. But it's a different audience. I don't know anyone who boasts about their digital comic book collection. Servers fail, hard drives crash, these digital comics are not worth buying at the same price as the paper versions. It's just not a value to the consumer.
I think digital comics have a place in this world and I know they have an audience. But Marvel and DC need to realize that it's not the same audience who goes out and buys books every week. Sure there will be crossovers, but they need to start marketing to the comics reader instead of the comics collector in their digital spaces. Offer me a blanket subscription cost that gives me access to all the digital stuff in your store and I'm on board. I'll buy that even if the price is a little inflated. And I'll keep that subscription going as new books are released. I may even try new comics I never would have wanted to read otherwise.
Let the standard business for collectors stay where it is, but start marketing your digital business accordingly. Because as it is right now, I'm severely NOT interested in paying $4 to read something online when I could pay the same amount and own it. Even unprotected in a closet there's still that chance that in 40 years my daughter could find it and maybe it might have increased in value to a degree. Even though I don't want to be a collector per se, I still see that as the better value for that $4. And sure, it's neat when you offer a download code with the book, but what purpose does that really serve? Maybe some readers will buy the book, punch in the code so they can read it on their iPads and Kindles, but that's still just giving a perk to the collector market and offers nothing to the person who only wants to experience your stories.
This is a time where the big publishers are stepping into new territory. They have the production side of things down. Each company has great artists, great characters and interesting stories to tell and products to sell. I just hope they can adapt to a new business model in their digital online spaces because as it stands, I personally see little value in digital comics in their current form. And I truly truly hope that they can change my mind on that in the coming months.