This past weekend, Atomic Comics, one of the world’s largest chain comic book shops announced that they had filed for bankruptcy and were closing up all four of their shops for good. A nervous rumble went throughout the comic community. Fans and industry figures alike began, not for the first time, to predict the end of print comics in favor of digital readers. For years now, comic book publishers have been testing the digital waters to see how the hobby will survive in the modern age of e-readers. Most major comic companies already offer comics for your iPad, desktop, or smart phone via apps like Comixology. Marvel Comics has a popular unlimited desktop-only subscription services that allows fans to read thousands of back issues with only a single monthly charge. Most of these digital forays have only offered back-issues to keep from upsetting comic book retailers who are the major source of income for the publishers.
The latest venture into the digital arena will change the digital landscape next week when DC Comics’ releases ‘Justice League’ #1. This landmark issue, a part of DC’s ‘New 52’ company-wide relaunch, will mark the beginning of a bold new marketing strategy for DC. With this issue, all of DC’s comic books will be release day-and-date in both print and digital format. That means that you’ll be able to download the comic to your e-reader on the same day that the print version is available at your local comic shop.
The same group of people who have been proclaiming the death of print comics claim that day-and-date digital publishing is the nail in the coffin for traditional comic shops. However, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio says this isn’t the case. DiDio has even been touring print comic shops to show retailers a way that they can set up stations within their shops to sell digital comics to their customers and pocket 30% of the revenue.
Despite all the talk of digital comics eliminating print, DC’s ‘New 52’ may actually have the opposite effect, at least if pre-order figures are any indication. DC announced yesterday that pre-orders for the new ‘Justice League’ #1 were up to 200,000 copies. In addition, six other #1 issues in DC’s relaunch have already broken 100,000 pre-orders. To put this in perspective, the biggest event comic of the last six months, Marvel’s ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ #160 in which Spider-Man was killed, only sold 160,000 copies and most comic issues barely break the 60-70 thousand sales mark each month. Also important to note is that these pre-order figures don’t even take into account digital sales. These numbers are based on print copies only!
Obviously the pre-order figures are up due to these issues being part of a widely touted event that has everyone, including some non-comic readers, curious. But if DC can keep some of these readers after the initial blast, then their gamble in relaunching an entire universe of beloved characters will have paid off big time.
What do you think? Does day-and-date digital sales signal the end for print comics? Are these pre-order numbers an indication that traditional comics will survive or even thrive in this modern age? Do you plan to buy your comics in print? Digital? Both?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.