This September has played host to a seismic shift within the comics industry… or has it?
I remember May 31st like it was yesterday. Back in a world where comics were either digital or print and often changed back and forth but were rarely both right off the bat. May 31st was the day DC Comics announced it was going line-wide simultaneous-print-and-digital release and September 7th was the first day that an entire line of superhero comics from a print publishing company was available digitally. The argument as to whether or not this would mark the end of print comics’ profitability, at least in the direct market specialty retail setting, began again in earnest.
I create comics, edit comics, and review comics. The last for www.LongandShortbox.com, the second on a freelance basis, and the first for Pronto Comics, as well as for myself. But I pay my bills by selling comics. I have watched this potentially paradigmatically huge month in the comics industry from the real front-lines: comics store retail. I work at Manhattan Comics & More on 23rd street and Madison avenue in New York City.
I recommended my boss order less considering that a portion of our usual customers may choose to download their DCs to save (a) money, (b) time (c) space, or (d) all of the above. My boss chose not to. He chose to trust DC Comics’ marketing strategy and the potential maximum exposure and buy MORE.
In fact, he was entirely right. Some of the series that a wide swath of the regularly non-comics reading population would lean toward, for example: “Batman & Robin” and “Detective Comics” and some of the series that were unknown quantities but sleeper hits, for example: “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing” are sell-outs for us.
Comic-books that are available for download at the same price at the same time from the comfort of every customer’s home, and should logically sit on the shelf, are selling out.
Why? Well, I suppose part of it is the ‘event’ nature of it. DC Comics succeeded in putting the word out in the wider media. They even took the plunge into advertising for their superhero line on TV. I’ve been demanding that for almost two years now and I am majorly encouraged to see this! Several of my new customers came in after reading about DC’s big relaunch in The New York Times!
People will still choose print.
People will still come to a retail location.
People will try (superhero) comics.
Whether or not this is a whole new dawn for the print comics industry is yet to be seen. And what it means for small but growing organizations like Pronto is a question unanswerable for even further down the line. But watching DC’s New 52 released titles fly off the sheles day-by-day, telling my customers: ‘Yes, you can download these comics. You can even do it through us with a link on our website!’ and knowing that Pronto’s comics are available both in my store and through various digital channels gives me great hope. Great hope for the future of comics.