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May 03

The Future of Comics? Man, I Hope So!

I found an interesting blog post by Erik Larsen about the future of comics at Comic Book Resources via @bclevinger on Twitter:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24545

It’s a little long, but I highly recommend reading it.

The long and the short of it is that Larsen advocates moving to a model more in line with the one used in Japan, but with a franchise or character focus. I have to say, I dig his idea. I’m one of those that only buys trades. It just isn’t monetarily prudent (in any economy) to shell out between $2 and $5 for something I can consume in 10 minutes or less and often with no significant plot development – or just enough to be really, REALLY frustrating! Even worse is the fact that fully half of a comic’s content these days is devoted to advertising so you’re not even getting full value for your money… okay, it’s probably not “half”, but it sure feels that way!

So other than the fact that I’m both a comics fan and a miser, why do I think it’s a good idea?

I’m a total Batman fangirl. Ask anyone who knows me. If there was a weekly digest of Batman comics with a lead story about the Knight-of-my-Heart, and supplemental stories that focused on – or fleshed out – the other (not Robin!) characters in the Batman universe, I would go for it.

No.

That’s a lie.

I would eat that shit up.

With a spoon and sprinkles.

And if it was available in digital format, say on a Kindle? I would be in hog heaven – mostly because the bibliophile in me wouldn’t really consider the digests “collectible”. I certainly wouldn’t oust my hardback copy of Hush, my library edition Hellboy collections, or my Penny Arcade collections to make room for a relatively low-quality comic digest; especially if it were published with the frequency Larsen advocates.

What I would do, is buy them, read them, recycle them, then anxiously wait for the inevitable trade to come out so I can have the whole story in one cleanly bound presentation that I can read over and over again. Considering this potential life cycle, having the digest in digital form makes a lot of sense (for me): I can keep it around for as long as I want without devoting space on my already crammed bookshelf and, long-term, I’d expect to replace it with a trade anyway, so it’s no-big if I accidentally delete the file, it gets corrupted, or somehow or another I manage to screw my ability to read the digital file.

The greatest advantage, as Larsen points out, is that I’d be able to try something new – either a new title or a new character – and get my feet wet with no extra effort or monetary investment. Not only would comic companies get my money for the digest, if I liked a new character well enough, they’d get my $20-$40 when I finally decide it’s worth to make some room on the shelf for that new trade.

The bottom line is that the digest-style paradigm Larsen proposes focuses on quality, well-known content bolstered by lesser known franchises, minor characters who get a chance to shine, and independent properties. It gives people what they already know they want, but it also lets them try something new in a way that is very low-risk for both the consumer and the publisher, which (potentially) gives quality, independent work that otherwise would have been rejected as “too risky” for publication a chance to be seen, which gives me more – and better – comics to read.

Even my miserly ways wouldn’t be able to stand up to such obvious high-value return on a relatively modest financial investment.